31st January 2010

Rolex 24 Cranks Up Daytona Speedweeks

posted in Car News Articles |

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Speedweeks, with its origins in the early 20th century when the sands of Ormond and Daytona beaches were used for winter land-speed record trials, gets underway with the Rolex 24 sports car endurance race this Saturday and Sunday.

Fifty-one years ago, competition moved from the beaches to the 2.5-mile, high-banked Daytona International Speedway and its 3.56-mile road course, which includes most of the tri-oval and a section that winds through the sprawling track’s infield.

Three years later, a three-hour sports car race was added to the schedule of events headlined by the Daytona 500. It has grown to the twice-around-the-clock contest that has become an internationally known event, with a list of winners including names such as Gurney, Hill, Bandini, Foyt and Andretti.

The stature of the race has been altered by its alignment with NASCAR-affiliated Grand-Am, which emphasizes restraint of spending and technological innovation. The race will not feature the sports prototypes that compete in the world’s premier endurance race, France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

But this year’s race will include a star-studded cast, including Indianapolis 500 winners Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti; four-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson; Formula 1 veteran, Rolex 24 and Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya; and sports car standouts Hurley Haywood, Butch Leitzinger, David Donohue, Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor.

Haywood, a five-time winner of the Rolex overall title, is competing for the final time in the race. He will be a co-driver of the Brumos Racing Porsche Riley entry with defending champions Donohue and Darren Law, plus three-time winner Leitzinger and Raphael Matos.

The race gets the green flag at 3:30 p.m. EST Saturday.

Inside Line says: Grand-Am’s rules restrictions are antithetic to many sports car racing traditionalists, but the series has produced some entertaining competition. — David Green, Correspondent

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