The twice around the clock racing spectacle was celebrated for the 58th time a couple weeks ago.
For those who don’t know, the Rolex 24 Hour race is an International Motor Sports Association sanctioned endurance race held at Daytona International Speedway every January.
It is the first automobile race in the United States every year, so it officially kicks off the automobile racing season!
The Rolex 24 Hour race (also known as the Rolex or Rolex 24), is one of the most prestigious endurance races in the world, with the others being the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, and of course the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. These three races make up the triple crown of sports car endurance racing.
Drivers from all over the world flock to the Eastern Florida coast to try and survive the 24-hour challenge and win a coveted Rolex watch.
Now before anyone thinks, “how does someone race for 24 hours straight? That’s not healthy!”, let me clarify, nobody races 24 hours straight.
Each car consists of three to four drivers who will race a couple hours at a time. Each team is different, so their driving stints could be 2 hours each or 3 hours each. It depends on the team.
So, driver X will start the race at 1:40 p.m. on Saturday, race until let’s say 4:40 p.m. (given it’s a three-hour stint), and then won’t return to the car until 1:40 a.m. (given there are four drivers on the team).
So that is how that works for the drivers. Usually, pit crews aren’t so lucky.
Pit crews typically will get little to no sleep. However, in sports car racing, there are less pit stops. So, crewmembers could sleep in between driver changes, but even then, it’s not much downtime.
The Daytona International Speedway, known for its chaotic NASCAR events on the 2.5 high banked superspeedway, gets a small makeover for the Rolex 24.
A lot like the Charlotte ROVAL that NASCAR races on in October, the Daytona road course uses both the NASCAR trioval, and a challenging infield road course.
The course layout gets extended from 2.5 to 3.56 miles. Features include the NASCAR high banks, a back straight bus stop chicane, and as stated above, a tight infield section.
One of the biggest challenges of the whole race doesn’t even include the track, it’s the time. Late January in Florida is almost a 50/50 split as far as night & day.
So, drivers have to deal with almost 12 hours of night racing, and racing at night at Daytona isn’t like NASCAR. The whole track’s lighting is set to half power.
Now, don’t forget that these sports cars do have headlights, so the whole course could be pitch black (like how Le Mans & Sebring is run), and the race could go on.
But the almost 12 hours of night racing is mentally tough, since it seems to drag on. Night racing at Daytona for the Rolex 24 kills a driver’s moral and usually causes drivers to make a mistake.
Once the sun starts to rise on the second day of racing, team and drivers start to feel the pressure as the end is in sight. If you are a car/driver that is in position to possibly win, the nerves start to stir up.
It amazes me still to this day how a 24-hour race can have such a close finish. One would think that a leader would win by so many laps or minutes ahead of their competition.
This year, however, the closest gap was 13 seconds after 24 hours of racing.
Anyways, it was an amazing race, and now it’s time to start getting ready for NASCAR. The season starts up this weekend on Feb. 9, 2020!