February 3, 2016
You know this wasn’t going to end well! Sometimes you are in the right spot at the right time. This was turn five late in the race just before Kyle Larson hit the wall ending the #02 Chip Ganassi Racing team’s chance for a repeat win in 2016. HTF Motorsports photo
The Many Hours of Daytona
The constant growl of race engines filled the air at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.The sound became like a backdrop on a stage where one of the most famous endurance races for sports cars in the world was taking place.
The journey for fellow reporter Phil Miller and I began when we left Portland last Wednesday and were greeted by 65 degree rainy conditions in Florida. I drove our rental car to my brother Bill’s house in Winter Park which became our headquarters for the next four days.
Before joining Woodland native Jason Griffeth for lunch at the Daytona Brickyard Grill, we ventured to the ocean so that Phil could get his nose and lungs filled with the salty smells of the beach. Miller Motorsports photo
At the Daytona Brickyard Grill with Jason Griffeth. Miller Motorsports photo
Intrepid reporter Phil Miller and I were greeted by warm rainy conditions on day one (Thursday) at the track. HTF Motorsports photo
After eating the best hamburger I have every had at the Daytona Brickyard Grill, Phil and I returned to see what $400 million did to the venerable old speedway. The answer was a modern motorsports stadium. Stadium is the official name the folks at Daytona now refer to in any conversations or written correspondence about the track.
Night-time view of the Sunoco “injector” where race fans enter the stadium. Once on the main floor, large gathering areas or concourses await the fans with amenities such as souvenir shops, food, and rest rooms . Five injectors fill the front of the stadium. The other injector sponsors were Toyota, Chevrolet, Florida Hospital and Fox. HTF Motorsports photo
Luxury suites above the front stretch. HTF Motorsports photo
Toyota Representative Alan Johnson with the 2015 Sprint Cup car in the Toyota injector at Daytona. HTF Motorsports photo
The infield area featured car corrals of all types from Audi to VW. This area contained several lowered rat rod type VW bus examples. HTF Motorsports photo
Friday Racing; Ferrari Challenge and Continental Challenge 200
Sunny warm weather greeted us at the stadium as we viewed many of the static displays and met with team mechanics who were busy getting ready for the race the next day. The Fan Zone area featured a variety of vintage race cars for viewing.
1965 Shelby Mustang part of the Vintage race car exhibit. Miller Motorsports photo
Interviewing two-time 24 Hours of Daytona winner and Motorsports Ministries President Terry Borcheller. Borcheller is an active driver and coaches Ferrari Challenge proteges. Miller Motorsports photo
Two-time Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona Winner
Motorsports Ministries offered several chapel services throughout the weekend. Phil and I were able to attend the Friday service at the Media Center. The message was delivered by Terry Borcheller, President of Motorsports Ministries and sports car driver. Borcheller has won the Rolex 24 of Daytona twice, has five LeMans starts, 27 Rolex Grand Am wins, and currently coaches drivers in the Ferrari Challenge Series.
“Throughout the weekend I am involved in Motorsports Ministry,” said Borcheller after the chapel service. “We work with different teams who may be having difficulties within the race weekend. Any injuries that happen, we do visitations at the hospital. We hold chapel services and do the invocation before the race.”
Borcheller works closely with the Teen Challenge groups near his home in Vero Beach and throughout Florida.
Marine Staff Sargent Liam Dwyer prepares for the Continental 200 Improved Tuner (IT) race at Daytona. Dwyer lost his leg in Afghanistan. HTF Motorsports photo
Marine Corp Amputee Races
You may have read about the Liam Dwyer story, seen the Mazda ads, or the ESPN feature about the former Marine Corp member. I observed him pre-race on the grid taking the time to speak to several folks who were inspired by his story including one young man who was in a wheel chair. It is reported that he does this wherever he races.
One young lady who is doing her doctoral dissertation on Motorsports and Physical Therapy mentioned using him as a resource in her preparation of the work.
Dwyer laughed when she asked what he would recommend, “Don’t go to Afghanistan and step on an IED!”
IMSA Fan Friendly Features
Before every IMSA race fans are invited onto the grid to meet the drivers in addition to an autograph session for their top series drivers.
Brian Price of Shelbyville, Tennessee now living in Jacksonville, Florida said, “I’ve always been into NASCAR and dirt track racing. I think the dynamics of LeMans type racing is way better than those.”
“The experience and being able to see different portions of the track instead of just sitting in a seat is overwhelming. And them opening up the grid is a better experience overall.”
I suspect the larger crowds at NASCAR races do not allow the same close contact with drivers and cars that IMSA promotes. My guess is that there were maybe 20,000 fans at the 24 Hour races and the Daytona 500 will easily exceed the 100,000 plus mark. The Fan Zone area was packed at the IMSA events so it must be extremely tight quarters at the 500.
Tyler Eirth crewmember of CORE Autosports based in Rock, South Carolina prepares the PC ORECA class race car for the race. The team moved to position one just before their engine blew after five and one-half hour mark. HTF Motorsports photo
And the Main Event
Crowds for the start of the 24 hour endurance race were dramatically larger for Saturday. Parking was at a premium and the garage area was crowded since fans were able to purchase a garage pass for only $10 for the weekend. The pre-race activities increased as the 2:40 pm start time got closer.
A before shot of the Action Express Team Whelen Engineering Corvette Daytona prototype before the race. Driver changes were being practiced. Look for this car later in this episode. HTF Motorsports photo
“Said Heads” clown around with Stevenson Motorsports owner John Stevenson second from right. Left to right Dion von Moltke, Boris Said, Stevenson, and Kenny Habul of the Sun Energy Audi R8 which finished 8th in class and 22nd overall. HTF Motorsports photo
AJ Allmendinger provided a humorous twist to the race story when he asked to get out of the car during his stint because he had to pee. With another driver in the car named Pew, I am sure he did not want to stink up the cockpit. The team eventually dropped out of the race and finished 50th. Miller Motorsports photo
A crowd favorite was the Panoz Motorsports Delta Wing God Bless America racer. The car was driven into the lead by Katherine Legge. Andy Myrick slammed the car into the back of a stalled car in turn one on lap 119 early in the evening putting the car out of the race. HTF Motorsports photo
Pre-race hype centered around the return to sports car racing by the Ford Motor Company with Ford GT. Many teething problems surfaced in the debut of the two cars relegating them to 31st and 40th. The team was by far the largest in the pits. A bunch of money was spent I am sure. HTF Motorsports photo
Corvette Racing Pratt Miller team finished 7th and 8th in the closest finish in IMSA history. The margin was .034 seconds after 24 hours of racing. Big screen photoshot by Miller Motorsports
The Patron Honda HPD Ligier Prototype 2 was the first P2 car to be the overall winner of the race finishing 26 seconds ahead of the Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype. Miller Motorsports photo
Some cars looked sharply different at the end of the race for example the sixth place Whelen car featured at the beginning of this episode. A pit fire during the race blackened the side of the car. HTF Motorsports photo
The end result of the Kyle Larson off road excursion in turn 5. The Ganassi team put the car back together in time to finish 13th overall. HTF Motorsports photo
Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 made its debut in the race. This is the team which Geoffrey Eason from Episode 82 worked for a few years ago. Problems relegated the #6 team to 32nd place and 15th in class. HTF Motorsports photo
A big thanks to my brother Bill Hale for allowing us to stay with him and family in Winter Park. Thanks also to Phil Miller for helping to gather stories and photos. This track is too large for one reporter. I also want to thank you for putting up with the delayed publishing of this week’s blog. Please help by sharing this episode with as many of your friends as you are able.
As I always say “Let’s go racing”
Soli Deo Gloria