We don’t have any trips scheduled for the holidays this year, so I figured I’d fill the gap by revisiting a few of our past ones. My first one’s going to cover a more unorthodox trip completely unrelated to cruising, the one my daughter and I took to the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona for the 50th anniversary of the race. Yesterday I discovered Audi’s less than a week away from putting their Rolex 24 Motorsports Experience tickets on sale, and sitting here thinking of our last trip has me a bit nostalgic. I’ll be doing my best to pick up two of the Audi tickets as a Christmas present for Bayley and I, as the 2015 race happens to be the weekend she’s heading back to college. Fingers crossed 🙂 (Update: We’ve got the Audi ME tickets and will be enjoying the 2015 Rolex 24!)
I’ve been a fan of various forms of motor sport for years. Being that I tend to prefer road and street circuits, I generally follow F1, IndyCar and various forms of sports car racing. CART was my first love, and my interest grew from there. Honestly, if I didn’t need the paycheck, I’d quit my job in a second to stooge for whatever team would have me. I know people say it’s not the same when it’s your job, but I’d gladly do whatever menial task was needed if it meant I got to hear the roar of those engines every day, it’s most definitely my happy place. I’m lucky in that my daughter picked up the bug too, so we’ve been able to do some awesome father-daughter trips the past few years. Doesn’t hurt that it’s in her blood, as A.J. Watson was her great granduncle, and her great grandfather, Don Watson, loves to tell stories from their racing days when we’re up visiting. Her first trip with me was to the 2010 Grand Prix of Long Beach when she was in 8th grade, and she’s been hooked ever since.
The Rolex 24 had been near the top of my list of races to attend for several years. Shortly after tickets for the 2012 race went on sale, I decided to go for it. Bayley’s always been a trooper at the IndyCar street races I’d taken her to in Long Beach and Baltimore, staying at the track from open to close with me, and enjoying every minute of all the track walking we did. Being a 24 hour race was different, but she was just as excited, and agreed that once we were at the track the day of the main race, we weren’t leaving. With that discussion out of the way, I got us a set of 4 day race/garage passes and infield parking.
Since she was in school, we didn’t go down until Thursday, and missed one day of track activity as a result. I’d booked a cheap hotel for Thursday, Friday and Sunday night a few miles away from the track, so once we got down there we crashed for the night. Waking up Friday, we got to the track as soon as it opened, parked in the infield, and began to explore. It was a bit overcast and misty, but neither of us cared, we donned our ponchos and walked the garages. One of the cool things about a series like Grand Am (now IMSA/TUDOR) or the now defunct ALMS is the variety of cars. You get to see everything from a Camaro, Mazda, Ferarri, Audi R8, all the way up to the prototypes. For anyone new to the sport who’s having a hard time understanding the different classes, IMSA’s got a quick video explaining the current class setup here. The prototypes are some of my favorites, there’s nothing like being next to the track as one goes roaring by. Here are some shots of the garage from Friday morning.
In addition to the garage area, Daytona International Speedway offers quite a bit of other stuff to see and do. The Sprint FanZone’s got food and drink options, shopping, and a handful of cars on display. For this event, they had the Corvette ZR1 that lapped the ‘Ring in under 7m:20s, in addition to a few other cars on display in the FanZone and/or other manufacturer display areas around the infield. That, and something I wish I’d bought Bayley when she was a toddler. Should be easy to pick out which one that is:
We walked the infield multiple times, checking out the facilities, and watching various practice and qualifying sessions. After grabbing some lunch at one of the food areas in the middle of the infield, we settled in to the grandstands in turn 4 of the road course to watch some of the Continental Tire Series race. As an ex-MINI owner, I was happy to see a couple of those out on track, but in general the race itself was pretty good, with the overall victory going to Jack Roush Jr and Billy Johnson in one of the Roush Performance Mustangs. As it was ending, we decided to head out and have a little fun for dinner. With Orlando being fairly close (well, closer than it is from our house :)), we decided to hit Downtown Disney for dinner before heading back to the hotel to get some sleep before our long weekend of racing.
Coming up in part 2: All the fun (and lack of sleep) we had at the track on Saturday and Sunday! In the meantime, enjoy some more pictures from Friday!