It’s gone from freezing to merely frigid Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona setup day. The bright sun provides little warmth. Those brave enough to be out and about are bundled up well and good, with a lot of anonymous outer wear as they scurry about. No lingering today.
Cars are being set up and put together for the Grand-Am Rolex Series Scrutineering process, in readiness for Thursday’s practice and qualifying for the 47th anniversary of the legendary 24-hour sports car endurance race. Wednesday afternoon MARK RAFFAUF, Grand-Am Managing Director of Competition, conducted the obligatory Crew Chief meeting with printed race notes, starting out with “Play time is over.” The meeting was short and to the point, as Grand-Am had sent out the notes prior to the weekend.
This year’s race will start Saturday at 3:30 PM local/EDT, two and a half hours later than in the past. The move is for the benefit of the USA West Coast TV viewers, whose time zone is three hours earlier.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 51 cars entered in the race – 20 Daytona Prototypes and 31 GT’s. Among the entries are three new full-time Grand-Am Daytona Prototype teams. Penske Racing will run No.17 Porsche Riley with TIMO BERNHARD, RYAN BRISCOE and ROMAIN DUMAS.
Hoping that the Number 13 will be lucky, Beyer Racing, owned by JOHN BATOS, is running a Pontiac Riley with drivers JARED BEYER, and the two teenage sons of another DP driver/owner, WAYNE TAYLOR – JORDAN and RICKY. Not yet eighteen years old, Jordan might well be the youngest driver in the field.
Supercar Life Level 5 Motorsports No.55 BMW Riley is the third new DP team. It just added 2008 IRL Indy Lights champion, RAFAEL MATOS of Brazil to its already announced driver lineup of CHRISTOPHE BOUCHUT, SCOTT TUCKER, and ED ZABINSKI.
Penske had entered two cars, with the same driver lineup, with No.7 only running the Rolex 24. However, citing lack of sponsorship, Penske is withdrawing it. Earlier, it was rumored that Penske would run some of his other series drivers – NASCAR Sprint Cup racers KURT BUSCH and SAM HORNISH and IRL driver, HELIO CASTRONEVES, but that is not to be.
This is the first Grand-Am Rolex 24 for Penske Racing, but not it’s first 24 Hours of Daytona. This year is the 40th anniversary of Penske Racing winning the Daytona 24 in a Lola.
Another high profile other series driver, DANICA PATRICK, is not yet officially entered, but said to be racing in Childress-Howard Motorsports No.2 Pontiac Crawford DP with CASEY MEARS, ANDY WALLACE, and ROB FINLAY. Patrick becomes the lone female racer in the field.
Last year’s race started 66 cars. No doubt the economy has hard hit the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16, as it has with racing in general. Among the 2008 full-time Rolex teams missing this season are Autohaus Motorsports, Alex Job Racing, Cheever Racing, Riley/Matthews, Sigal Motorsports, and Southard Motorsports.
The Rolex Series cars will start the weekend Thursday with a 9 am practice.