The dilemma I face at races, especially the Grand-Am Rolex 24 at Daytona, is having enough time to do it all – observe, interview, photograph and write. There’s never enough time and often activities overlap, causing confliction syndrome. And where’s the time to write properly if the other activities are done well. So I ask… where’s the Pause Button?

Justin Bell/SPEED, Scott Pruett, Chip Ganassi
Justin Bell/SPEED, Scott Pruett, Chip Ganassi.
Photo by Lynne Huntting

Friday at Daytona International Speedway had a buzz – a different atmosphere from Thursday’s very long day with lots of track time and acclimation efforts.

The teams used Thursday to play ‘Getting to Know You, to Know All About You’ – with the cars, the drivers, the new track surface, and the interaction, chemistry and dynamics of a working team. Most of the teams were running with their Practice or Qualifying engines.

Soon after Qualifying many teams went to work on changing to their race engines. Most (45 of 49 cars) ran Night Practice for the experience – either to brush up or meet the Rolex Rookie obligation to run at night before the actual race. One notable exception to run was the Chip Ganassi Racing BMW Riley Daytona Prototypes. The team was making some changes that took the whole session.

The Rolex Garage closed at 9:30 pm, an hour after Night Practice ended, insufficient time to complete an engine change. So small wonder there were only 24 cars on course for the first of two Friday morning Practice sessions. – four DP’s and the rest GT cars.

Business picked up for the final Rolex Series practice, with 44 of the 49 entries on track.

Quick summary of those sessions: In Night Practice, A.J. ALLMENDINGER/No.6 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Ford Dallara was fastest DP, with BORIS SAID/No.94 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 as the fastest GT.

For the sparsely attended Friday morning session, SCOTT PRUETT/No.01 Chip Ganassi Racing BMW Riley was back on top after sitting out Night Practice, and the Brumos Racing Porsche 911 was the fastest GT, in fifth place.

Things picked up, figuratively, not literally for the final session for JON FOGARTY/No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley the top DP of all 18 on track. GT driver CRAIG STANTON/No.44 Magnus Racing Porsche was fastest in his class.

Reba McEntire, mother of CTCS Driver, Shelby Blackstock - who was at the Driver's Meeting
Reba McEntire, mother of CTCS Driver, Shelby Blackstock - who was at the Driver's Meeting.
Photo by Lynne Huntting

Friday was the day for a string of Press Conferences, announcements, pit tours, and more people showing up, some to be seen in the scene. It was getting closer to race day and the tempo picked up. It was buzz.

After each track session, the Rolex Series garage area was packed for an hour or so. It was almost rock-star fan crazy Friday with spectators crowding into every available spot, while teams with race cars, war wagons, tire carriers and other pit paraphernalia tried to wend their way through the masses. Vehicles were coming and going in every direction and I felt I needed a rear view mirror to protect my back. Serious lack of traffic control. People everywhere.

It all died down after an hour or so and several teams practiced their driver changes, which was fascinating to watch. One driver gets out, another gets in and a specified person is facilitating this – often the Crew Chief. More of his backside is seen than either of the drivers as he tucks in the driver and connects him up with belts, seats, harnesses, transponders, radio, etc. Each driver has a personal transponder which allows his name to be shown on the Timing & Scoring monitor when he is in the car. I keep saying he as there are no female drivers in the Rolex 24 this year.

MARTIN BRUNDLE/No.23 United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley has not raced at Daytona since 1990 when he came in second. There’s no rust falling off him. Brundle qualified the car Thursday and will start the race in ninth place in a field of 18 Daytona Prototypes. He won the race overall in 1998. Brundle hasn’t raced professionally – at least big time racing – for ten years. He has done some local 40-lap races with his son.

After Brundle’s driver change practice with teammates MARK BLUNDELL, MARK PATTERSON, and team owner, ZAK BROWN, Brundle confirmed a story I’d heard about how he got in driving mode after sleeping between endurance racing stints. TOM RYAN, a personal friend of Brundle from his home town – with nutrition and fitness background, worked out a getting-back-into-driving focus program for Brundle when he was racing with Jaguar. After waking up, Brundle (and his co-drivers) would work out on a stationery bike and punching bag – to get them into fighting mode, so to speak.