24 Hours Down… Checkered Flag
The race has ended and what an ending it was. I would have never thought when I came to Daytona to take part in the 24 hour endurance race that it would come down to a green-white-checkered finish. It’s pretty astonishing to think about when you look back at all the events that took place over the past day. Cars have been in and out of the race, entire brake systems have been changed, leaders have gone laps down, and fog caused a 3 hour caution period. Still, despite the 721 laps ran and the 2,566.76 miles traveled, the race came down to 4 cars on the lead lap going for it on the absolute last lap of the race.
The #02 team put in a valiant effort all race long. They changed brakes, splitters, and solve assorted other issues over the course of 24 hours. Ultimately, a late pit stop would keep them from victory lane. All the drivers were still quite proud of the 2nd place finish (except Juan Pablo who said “Come on, I’m here to freakin’ win”).
The #10 car battled all morning and afternoon long trying to get back on the lead lap and they came very close numerous times. Ryan Briscoe and his co-driers Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli, and Ricky Taylor would end the day in 5th position just one lap down.
Justin Wilson and his Michael Shank Racing teammates chased the lead lap most of the race as well. Still, they finished a respectable 7th place.
Just a couple spots behind Justin and his teammates was the #95 driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay and Raphael Matos. Their car went down a couple laps early on in the race and bounced around from 13th place to 10th place for most of the 24 hours. At the end of the day they crossed the start finish in 11th position.
E.J. Viso and his Starworks Motorsport #2 team battled several mechanical issues all race long. They finished the race, but in a tough and hard earned 32nd position, 144 laps down.
The real story of the day was the #01 Chip Ganssi Racing with Felix Sabates Daytona prototype. Graham Rahal and his teammates Scott Pruett, Joey Hand, and Memo Rojas were a force to be reckoned with all day long. Despite losing the lead as a result of a late race penalty for hitting pit equipment Graham and crew were able to propel the car back to the front and ultimately victory lane.
A proud day for Chip Ganassi as he continues to dominate all the various forms of motorsport in which his teams participate. Many members of the media have been calling this the “Chip Slam” in regards to the fact that in 1 year his teams have won the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, the Grand-Am Championship, the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship, and as of 3:31 this afternoon the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Very impressive to say the least and I’m extremely excited to see how his INDYCAR program will run this year. One more interesting tidbit… 30 years ago Graham’s father Bobby Rahal won this exact race.
Overall, it was a great race, an incredible experience, and something I’ll never forget. If you ever get the chance to attend this event… do it. Try your best to stay up for the entire race and make sure you walk to every corner you can. As for now… it’s time to sleep.
23 Hours Down 2:30 PM:
1 hour to go and IZOD IndyCar Series driver Scott Dixon is in a commanding position in front of the field. Scott has been super quick all day and night and looks poised to stay out front.
Not far behind in 4th place is Scott’s teammate, Scott Pruett, who’s trying to work his way back through the field after his co-driver Joey Hand received a stop-and-go penalty after hitting pit equipment.
Just behind Pruett is Ryan Briscoe’s co-driver Max Angelelli in the #10 SunTrust Racing Dallara. Ryan had this to say when asked about his thoughts of the race so far:
“We definitely tested the equipment because I don’t think I’ve done a lap today at 80 percent; it’s been 100 percent all day long, all night long. I’ve done three long stints now, and every single one they told me to push as hard as I could. It’s been frustrating because the second time I got in the car we got all the way to just one lap down, and then we had another issue with a wheel. We’ve been catching up, the car is really strong. The car felt fast, with really good traction. The car’s good. The brakes have been really consistent. The battle continues. We’ve got a long way to go.”
A.J. Allmendinger is behind the wheel of the #6 and is currently in 7th place but is gaining on the 6th place car of Ricardo Zonta. Ryan Hunter-Reay’s teammate Richard Westbrook is in the #95 and holding steady in 11th place. E.J. Viso is in 32nd position in the #2 Starworks Motorsport Daytona prototype.
1 hour to go and it’s going to be a close race. Recent cautions have bunched the field up even more. Be sure to keep your eyes on the #01 and the #10 as they’re going to be pushing as hard as they physically can to get towards the front. Look for an exciting finish!
21 Hours Down 12:30 PM:
This race has turned into quite a battle. All the drivers on track are pushing as hard as possible. Juan Pablo Montoya put on quite a show in the #02 with some extremely close racing. There was plenty of contact all around the circuit and later on he began to battle with Joey Hand in the #01 car. Juan came in and swapped seats with Jamie McMurray.
Jamie stayed out for a relatively short stint and just recently pitted and swapped spots with Scott Dixon. Dixon is now in the lead and pushing hard to extend his gap. The #01 was in the lead but during the last round of pit stops the #01 hit a piece of pit equipment while exiting and received a stop and go penalty as a result. They are currently in 4th place.
Ricky Taylor is behind the wheel of the #10, being co-driven by Ryan Briscoe, and they’ve been making substantial gains since my last post. They currently sit in 6th position (up from 10th). Michael McDowell is in the middle of his stint in the car he’s sharing with Justin Wilson and they are right behind the #10 in 7th position. Ryan Hunter-Reay continues to hang on to the tail end of the lead group in 12th position. E.J. Viso is back in the car and is currently in 32nd position. Patrick Dempsey’s team seems to have corrected their issue as they’re currently 4th in the GT class.
We’re coming down to the wire… stay tuned!
19 Hours Down 10:30 AM:
The sun is out and shining brightly and we’re back to sustained green flag racing. We’ve had the occasional short caution for debris and car stalls but nothing compared to the 2 hour and 45 minute yellow we had earlier today. Here’s some interesting facts regarding the 24 hours of Daytona and cautions:
In 1976, the race was stopped for 2 hours and 40 minutes due to contaminated fuel.
In 1983, the race was red flagged for 53 minutes due to heavy rain.
In 1989, the race was red flagged for 3 hours, 58 minutes due to fog.
In 2004, the race was red flagged for 2 hours, 52 minutes due t heavy rain. (This followed a three hour caution period!)
The long night is starting to catch up with drivers and crew as many are getting extremely tired.
Patrick Dempsey was leading the GT class for a significant length of time but unfortunately was forced to go behind the pit wall for repairs. He’s rejoined the race but is currently in the 3rd position in the GT class and 17th overall.
Juan Pablo Montoya continues to lead the race in the #02 while Joey Hand is in the #01 giving chase. They look to be the most dominant cars on track at the moment.
Justin Wilson headed to the pits and took over the driving duties for the #6 from Michael McDowell. He’s currently running in 5th place and A.J. Allmendinger will be returning to the car momentarily.
Ryan Briscoe is currently behind the wheel of the #10 SunTrust Racing Dallara. He’s laying down some very fast laps lately (almost 3/4 of a second faster) and looks to be really turning it on late in the race. Raphael Matos took over the #95 Michael Shank Racing Daytona prototype and is presently in 12th place.
16 Hours Down 7:30AM:
Well it’s been about 5 hours since I last checked in with you and I’d love to have some very exciting news for you but unfortunately it’s been a rather boring morning. About 3 hours ago an extremely dense fog set in here in Daytona. When I say dense, it was so thick you could barely see the cars on track.
As a result we’ve also been under caution for the past two hours and 45 minutes. The sun has come up over the last couple hours and it appears as though the fog is lifting at a rapid pace. They just announced that the race will be returning to green flag conditions in about 5 minutes. The INDYCAR competitors in the race continue to run strong. Scott Pruett is behind the wheel of Graham Rahal’s car and is currently pacing in 2nd position. Dario is holding in the 4th position, Michael McDowell runs in Justin Wilsons ride in 5th position, Max Angelelli took over for Ryan Briscoe and is in 10th place, Ryan Hunter-Reay is in the cockpit and will restart the race from 13th position. Enzo Potolicci is in the car for E.J. Viso and is currently cruising in 37th position.
11 Hours Down 2:30AM:
At this point there have been 12 cautions and that trend doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. As you can probably imagine, driving a race car for 24 hours causes bits and pieces to rattle and vibrate their way loose. As a result a TON of debris is scattered across different portions of the track throughout the course of the event. Usually this doesn’t matter too much as the cars tend to brush the debris away from the track. Occasionally debris comes off in big chunks and brings out full-course yellows. 6 of the 12 cautions tonight have been entirely because of debris.
Cars continue to go behind pit wall for repairs. Many seem to be having brake troubles and as a result have been replacing their entire braking systems. Obviously, this race is hard on brakes. Currently the cars have done close to 400 laps, which is about 1,400 miles. If you’re close enough to the cars you can actually hear which teams brakes are starting to fail.
The IZOD IndyCar Series drivers are putting in a stout effort thus far. Justin Wilson was leading but his team just pitted for a drivers change subsequently relinquishing the lead (Currently 5th place with A.J. Allmendinger driving). Graham Rahal is hustling the #01 around the track and is holding strong in 3rd place. Ryan Briscoe is back in the cockpit for another stint and is chasing Allmendinger from the 6th position. The #02 being driven by Scott Dixon once again is running in 7th place. Richard Westbrook just recently took over for Raphael Matos and he is attempting to catch back up to the lead pack from the 17th position. E.J. Viso gave the wheel to Alex Popow and they continue to struggle in the back in 42nd place.
One more interesting fact… former IZOD IndyCar Series team owner and world-famous actor Patrick Dempsey and his teammates are currently leading the GT class in their #40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8.
8 Hours Down 11:30 PM:
The on-track aggressiveness continues to plague the race thus far into the night. There’s been several yellows since my last post and several more teams have gone behind the wall to repair damages sustained.
Ryan Briscoe stopped by the media center after his stints and when asked how his car was during his time behind the wheel he responded:
“Our car was fast for sure. We are lacking a little bit of top speed which was frustrating and you don’t like running on the inside of the track. It was hard to stay calm with 20 hours to go, you want to race. But, there is a long way to go. The car was really solid. It was great that the guys kept us in front with a pit stop and with a driver change. All the boys are doing a great job and hopefully we can stay off the GT cars, there is a lot of action going on out there. It is still so early. Hopefully we can keep the car clean and if we do, the car is very fast.”
Ryan clearly seems confident in their chances heading into the rest of the race. Currently the #10 is in 10th place with Max Angelelli behind the wheel.
Chip Ganassi racing is back in the lead after the #01 car had to do an early gearbox change as they were hitting the rev limiter while on the straights. Quite an impressive drive from the #01 crew. Dario Franchitti is once again behind the wheel of the #02 and is currently chasing the top 5 from 6th position. Justin Wilson is about 28 seconds behind Dario running consistent laps. In 24th position is the #95 with Ryan Hunter-Reay currently taking over driver duties. E.J. Viso is also on track, but struggling a bit in 45th place.
4 Hours Down 7:30PM:
The race is now 1/6 of the way done and it certainly has had plenty of action.
Multiple front runners have been in and out of the garage. Jimmy Johnson and his team have just recently gone behind pit wall to fix an apparently failing brake system. The cars are fully into night racing now and will stay that way for the next 10 or so hours. The trend of drivers complaining about the aggressiveness on track continues as Jimmy Johnson remarked that he had to stop himself from spinning another driver who was frustrating him.
Currently, former Indianapolis 500 winner, Buddy Rice is in the lead. Ricky Taylor is behind the wheel of the #10 being shared with Ryan Briscoe and they are currently in 4th position. The #01 currently being operated by Memo Rojas is in 6th place, expect to see Graham Rahal behind the wheel soon. Juan Pablo Montoya has taken the wheel of the #02 from Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti and is currently chasing the lead group from 10th position. Justin Wilson’s teammate Michael McDowell has taken over the driving duties for an hour or so and is holding steady in 2nd place. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Raphael Matos’ #95 Level 5 Motorsports prototype currently has Richard Westbrook behind the wheel and is at the tail end of the leading prototype pack in 13th position.
Oh and not to be forgotten…. The fans are still going strong.
1 Hour Down 5:15 PM:
Prior to the green flag I had the chance to head down to the grid to check out the cars before the race began. It was PACKED. Wall to wall people and trying to get close to our drivers was no easy task.
Bobby Rahal was with Graham giving him advice prior to the start.
The field left the grid and bunched up preparing to go around the clock twice. The SunTrust Racing #10, which is being co-driven by Ryan Briscoe, would start from the second position right along side the pole sitter and new track record holder Jorg Bergmeister in the Flying Lizard Motorsports Daytona prototype.
There was some hard racing for the first few laps and a caution came out early as a result of a few GT class cars coming together in the bus-stop. The Ganassi cars were, as always, towards the front fighting for the lead. Ryan Briscoe’s teammate Max Angelelli was also battling at the front. There has been quite a bit of hard fighting happening on track. Drivers have been coming into the media center after their stints remarking about how “silly” and aggressive drivers are being on track. Max Angelelli seemed to think it was only going to get crazier as the track is going to cool down with the sun going down and the cars are going to get quicker.
Unfortunately the #02 being driven by Scott Dixon was forced to pit early from the lead pack on lap 30 after a tire failure. Currently the IZOD IndyCar drivers are in the current positions:
P.6 – Ryan Briscoe #10 SunTrust Racing
P.10 – Justin Wilson #6 Michael Shank Racing
P.11 – Graham Rahal #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
P.12 – E.J. Viso #2 Starworks Motorsport
P.19 – Dario Franchitti/Scott Dixon #02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
P.26 – Ryan Hunter-Reay/Raphael Matos #95 Level 5 Motorsports
DRIVER AUTOGRAPHS 1:30 PM:
The driver autograph session that just ended this morning has to be one of the more impressive fan turn outs I’ve ever seen. (Second only to the Indianapolis 500 driver autograph session). Thousands of fans lined up to have a chance to get a picture and an autograph from their favorite drivers.
Patrick Dempsey was on hand to sign some autographs as were all of our IZOD IndyCar Series competitors.
RACE DAY MORNING 12:00 PM:
It’s race morning here in Daytona and I was rather surprised at the amount of fans heading into the track early this morning.
Endurance racing requires a high level of preparation and from what I’ve seen here so far, endurance tailgating needs the same amount of planning. Grills are being loaded up with charcoal, shelters are being constructed with everything from tarps to tents, and coolers are being filled and iced down. I hadn’t really been thinking about what it would be like to be fan at a 24 hour race as I’ve been mainly focused on the INDYCAR drivers. It must be quite an experience to start the “party” at 3:30pm and challenge yourself to carry through to 3:30pm the next day.
The teams have been putting the final touches on the cars for the green flag this afternoon. Some are still finishing putting all the pieces together while others are already filling the cars with fuel.
The race should be very interesting. E.J. Viso, who joined the team late in the day yesterday, will take the green flag this afternoon for what will be only his fifth lap ever in a Daytona prototype. E.J. was only able to turn 4 laps yesterday so he’s going to be learning on the fly today and tonight. Viso is a quick and aggressive driver so be sure to keep an eye on him. Justin Wilson’s team is full of very strong road course drivers. All of them have open wheel backgrounds and I’m sure they’ll be on the move early in the race. Obviously you can’t forget about the Ganassi cars. The #02 has five wins at Indianapolis across the 4 drivers and the #01 is last years Rolex Series champion (as well as employing Graham Rahal as a co-driver). The energy is ramping up here in anticipation of the start of the race. I hope you’re all as excited as I am.
Stay tuned… I’ll be back in a couple hours with another update!