The sun is out and it definitely is warming up at Daytona International Speedway for Friday’s schedule of Grand-Am Rolex Series final practices and qualifying for the 47th anniversary of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It was in the mid forties for the first Rolex Series practice.
The Brumos Porsche Riley Daytona Prototypes continue to dominate the field. The No.59 car, raced by JOAO BARBOSA, TERRY BORCHELLER, JC FRANCE, and HURLEY HAYWOOD, was again fastest in the session, and still fastest overall with a new high of 126.940 mph/1:40.961 seconds. The sister Brumos car has the pole for Saturday’s 24 hour race.
Half the 51 car field sat out the 45-minute practice. Only eight of the 19 DP’s were on track. Eighteen of the 31 GT’s turned out, and Orbit Racing No.35 was the fastest GT with drivers LAWSON ASCHENBACH, HIRAM CRUZ, OMAR RODRIGUEZ, MILO VALVERDE and LANCE WILSEY.
It might have been a cold track, cold tires, all or none of the above, but BILL LESTER spun out and crashed in the Bus Stop, damaging the front end and frame of No.45 Victory Junction-Orbit Racing BMW Riley Daytona Prototype. Team principle PETER BARON, said he wouldn’t know if it could be fixed until it was assessed after getting off the flat bed tow truck. Lester was not hurt.
Lester is the full time Grand-Am Rolex driver for the team. He had been with Southard Motorsports last year, but the team closed down before the end of the season and he is not looking back, but rather forward. Lester, the only African-American driver in the field, was pumped about just coming back from the Presidential Inauguration, which he said was an incredible experience.
The Victory Junction team is the rebirth of the former SAMAX DP team. PETER BARON is still involved with the team. KYLE PETTY is involved also. He said JIM FRANCE, Vice Chairman and Vice President of NASCAR, wanted something special for the #45 car and team. The drivers this weekend are Lester, Petty, LEO HINDERY Jr, and DARREN MANNING. Hindery said he will only race the Rolex 24. It is still being worked out which races Manning will drive and how many drivers, two or three, will be at the other races.
Petty said he will run as many Rolex Series races as he can, but he is concentrating on this race. He may run some of the Grand-Am companion races – still not sure. He feels sports car racing has been on the rise for the past five or six years. The talent in this race is deeper than anywhere else. The cream of the crop come to race at the Rolex 24.
Petty said he is not ready to retire, but smart enough to know he needs to be elsewhere. He is focusing on his broadcast career, this season working with TNT and SPEED TV. His duties will include covering some of the Grand-Am races. Petty joked that SPEED needed a different accent to work with DAVID HOBBS (veddy British, don’t you know, from Upper Boddington) and CALVIN FISH of Norwich in the UK. Petty said his goal is to keep the message going about Victory Junction Camp. He is taking a page from CLINT EASTWOOD’s book – “Celebrities should take their jobs seriously, but not themselves.” Petty said he didn’t consider himself a celebrity.
Petty said we (motor racing) are in the entertainment business. He’s passionate about his camp, which is for terminally and critically ill children. His camp changes peoples lives.