A little background. The Rolex 24 Hours has been running at DIS for something like 43 years. It started out as a 12 hour race but expanded to 24 hours a few years later. The race, literally, runs nonstop from 1pm on saturday to 1pm on Sunday. Most teams have 4 drivers, but some have more or less. For the remainder of the races in the season, most teams have just 2 regular drivers. For the 24 hours race, drivers from almost all of the other racing series join these teams. In the past, Max Papis, Dale Earnhardt Sr and Jr, Jimmy Johnson, Kasey Kane, Juan Pablo Montoya and many others have raced in this race. It is pretty cool to see them all.
The race is run on the entire NASCAR track at DIS plus an infield road course. In all, I think there are something like 75-80 cars in this race in two classes. The Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT class. The DP's are one off, they all have the same body style but chassis and motors are up to the owners. Supposed to save bucks this way. The GT class consists of Porsche 911's, Vipers, Ferraris, Corvettes, and Mustangs and more. The two classes race at different speeds, with the GT's being slower. As a result, when a DP approaches a GT car, the GT must move over and let the DP by. You think, "This is not a big deal." Until I point out that oftentimes, two GT cars are battling for position when the DP shows up. The trick for the lead GT driver is to let the DP car by but not his opponent, the GT. It is a blast to watch and observe different tactics, at least for us. There are actually three winners in this race, Class winner in DP, Class Winner in GT, Overall winner. Each driver with the winning teams gets a Rolex watch.
For the many years, a friend of ours has had a concession at DIS and during Speedweeks, the Rolex24, Daytona 500, the Brumos 250 and the (former) Pepsi 400, Ed and I become his employees and we enjoy passes that allow us everywhere, except the grandstands, we are there to work, afterall. Our buddy brings his motorhome out and we camp out in the infield with several hundred other motorhomes. Ed and I are the camp stewards. I am the chef and Ed is in charge of basic camp duties, get the generator going, set up and take down chairs, police the campsite, well you get the idea. Our buddy never stays overnite. He lives in Ormond Beach and, I think, enjoys the party more than the race.
Ed, James, and I have been going to this race for quite a few years,
but this is the first year Mom let James stay overnite. At 15, I would say about right.
At some point, the three of us, along with a buddy of James, camping with his dad in tent city, went to the pits but with only three passes.
Along the way, we saw this Kodak DP spun out in the hairpin, yes the same hairpin where Ed got that tire a few years ago.
In the pits and garage area, we saw some pretty cool, and some not so cool, stuff, such as this not so cool DP
So sad, I hate to see this as this means less entertainment on the track. Unlike some forms of circle track racing, wrecks are not cool, just expensive. With reference to the crowds at the 24, think Maserati Quatroroport vs. Ford Taurus.
I was going to tag this going but you can see what it is. Brumos is a high end sports car chain based in Jacksonville. Sadly, this was the first year in many Bob Snodgrass was not there. He passed in 2007.
If you look closely in this photo, you can see Ed telling the mechanics how to change a radiator in this Porsche. No, not all Porsches are air cooled.
At one point, Ed and I appropriated seats on a cart while James and his buddy went into the pits. James had Ed's pass while his buddy had a spare. A few minutes later, they returned looking down in the dumps. I asked why back so soon. James related, to us sitting right there in that picture, upon passing through the second security station, they got stopped. The security dude asked James' name, and James said, "James Lee" while wearing Ed's pass. Needless to say, Ed and I burst out laughing. Ed, to his credit, described the protocol for using fake passes, but did add that if James ever did that to get booze, the sh** would hit the fan.
But that is not the story this post is about.
As I mentioned, this was James' first time to stay overnite.
The three of us are sitting in the motorhome, about 12:30 that night, watching the race out the windows
and watching it on SpeedTV. James looks over at me and says, I swear, "John-John, this is surreal". I was floored. I was watching this boy become a man and he described the moment perfectly.
Of course, in this deep moment of mature reflection, I said, "Let's go to the pits".
And James and I did. Ed was to pooped from bossing around those Porsche mechanics earlier in the day, and decided to stay home with his friend Bud, under the Lite.
So James and I set off. On the way, at the hairpin, we saw Chip Ganassi's 02 car spun and being recovered. Guess we should stay away from the hairpin.
We got to see this Kodak car get a 20 minute brake job, rotors included, and yes, we saw this car come into the garage area, stayed for the whole show, and watched it leave.
Shortly after this picture was taken, we walked down a few pit stalls and came across a guy, in the lower left of the following photo, working on a couple sets of tires. I asked him if they were heading to the truck, meaning wrecked out or terminal mechanical failure. He replied, no, the previous tenants of this stall were already in the truck. He worked for Mazda, the next booth over.
I told James to head into that booth and we kept talking to the Mazda dude. Well, he took off his headset and put them on James' head, saying, "Don't touch anything". I was floored and James didn't know what to do. Unbeknownst to me, while James had that headset on, the Master of Operations came on the radio and said, "Next time around bring it in and we'll take four tires and a change of drivers". Once the tire dude saw all the activity in the pits, he snagged that headset and got to work, doubletime. James looks at me and tells me this. I was so excited for him. I suggested James go up by the pit wall and hang out. You can see him in the same pic sitting in the corner, but definitely not in trouble.
Needless to say, we stuck around for that pit stop, and took pictures.
Check out James' sh** eating grin...
and mine, too.
One of the best parts of this tale is this Mazda won First in Class.
Now for the best part.
As we are walking back to the motorhome, James tells me, "Ya know John-John, I knew at the same time as everyone on that team they were going to come in." I didn't say anything and we continued to walk along. James then gave me this biggest compliment I have received in some time. He said, "John-John, every time we hang out we always do something fun."
Wait until the Amelia Island Concours de Elegance next month.
But that is another post.