The Roar Before The Rolex 24, the annual three-day testing session in advance of the 51st anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 26-27, continued on Saturday, January 5, at the historic Daytona International Speedway.
As the skies cleared and weather continued to improve over Friday's conditions, more than 100 cars from GRAND-AM’s Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge teams turned laps on the 3.56-mile road course.
While Dane Cameron put the No. 42 Team Sahlen BMW Riley on top of the speed charts Saturday morning with a lap of 125.523 mph, Michael Shank Racing swept the second and third spots with the No. 6 and No. 60 Ford Rileys, respectively. Chip Ganassi Racing rounded out the top five with the No. 01 and No. 02 BMW Rileys.
Dario Franchitti, who will wheel the No. 02 entry with Scott Pruett, Jamie McMurray, Joey Hand and Scott Dixon, is pleased with the team’s progress but knows everybody is not showing all their speed yet.
“I think there’s a bit of sandbagging going on to be honest. Who knows?,” Franchitti said. “We’re quite happy with our pace and balance but I don’t think everybody has showed their hand.”
In the GT class, the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche was fastest with Patrick Long, who posted a speed of 118.045 mph and a lap time of 1:48.569.
In the newly formed GX class, Shane Lewis in the No. 16 Napleton Racing Porsche Cayman was fastest with a lap of 110.324 mph.
Brian Johnson, frontman for Australian rock band AC/DC, made his first Rolex 24 start in 2012 and finished a respectable 12th in the Daytona Prototype class. On Saturday morning in the media center, Johnson announced that he will attend the 2013 Rolex 24 supporting the No. 50 Highway to Help BMW Riley entry, which will be raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Foundation.
While he will not be in the driver’s seat this year, he is still passionate about the team’s potential with drivers Carlos de Quesada, Jim Pace, Byron Defoor and Frank Beck.
“I’m excited to be here but I’m a little sad that I can’t get in the car,” Johnson said. “Next year, I’m going to come back and frighten the hell out of everybody again.”
Johnson, an avid racer of vintage sports cars, reflected on last year’s start in the prestigious twice-around-the-clock challenge.
“I’ve never had so much with my clothes on,” Johnson quipped. “It was fantastic. It was the best 24 hours of my life.”
Johnson, who says he will be with the team “every step of the way,” expressed how great it feels to work with charities and be part of a positive movement.
“It’s a good, warm feeling,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to try.”
Daytona International Speedway is turning into a second home for Jamie McMurray. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver participated once again in the annual Daytona KartWeek in late December and is back at the “World Center of Racing” this weekend preparing for his fifth career Rolex 24 start.
He’ll return next week for Preseason Thunder testing with his No. 1 machine in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Later this month, he’ll compete in the 51st anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona and then Budweiser Speedweeks and the season-opening 55th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 24.
“I checked out of my hotel room on Monday and back in the same room on Thursday and then we’re coming back next week,” McMurray said. “I’ve definitely been down here a lot. I really enjoy coming down here. If you could pick a track to spend a lot of time at, Daytona is a really special place whether it’s karting, sports cars or NASCAR.”
The Roar Before The Rolex 24 continues on Sunday. Sprint FANZONE activities on Sunday include photographs in Gatorade Victory Lane with the Rolex 24 trophy and inspection viewing. Speedway tours will also operate from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. For a complete schedule, visit http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/Tickets-Events/Events/2013/Roar-Before-The-Rolex-24/Event-Info.aspx.
Roar Before The Rolex 24 tickets are $15 per day and 12 and under are free with a paid adult. 2013 Rolex 24 ticket holders receive FREE admission to the Roar Before The Rolex 24.
In addition, a section of the Oldfield Grandstands will be open free to the public with access available through the lobby of the Daytona International Speedway ticket office.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona, the kick-off event to Budweiser Speedweeks 2013, showcases the world’s best drivers competing against each other lap after lap for 24 hours on Daytona International Speedway’s challenging and demanding 3.56-mile road course.
Two-day tickets for the Rolex 24 At Daytona start at $35 and are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Fans can follow sports cars on Twitter at GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series (@RolexSeries) and the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge (@SUNOCO_UK). Fans can also stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest for all the latest news all season long.
The West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner will be attending the 51st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and will continue to provide coverage of the goings on of the Grand-Am Series as they build up to the new, unified series in 2014.
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