It’s on! Temperatures are a little chilly for Florida but the racing is set to roll with the sun. Rain is not in the forecast for Daytona and the ROLEX 24 is on the grid with 61 entries over 5 classes. The driver list is deep with talent from across the motorsport spectrum. Once again, to get up to speed on who is driving what and how the colors and numbers play out, get the Official ROLEX 24 Spotter’s Guide from Andy Blackmore Designs!
Racing has already begun with IMSA as the Michelin Pilot Challenge / BMW M Endurance Challenge raced Friday, January 28. Porsche made a big appearance with their 718 Cayman GT4 placing 3 spots in the top 5 including the win with the #28 RS1 team in the Grand Sport class. Turner popped their #95 and #96 M4 machines in the third and fifth slots.
In the Touring class, KMW took the checkers with their #5 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce with spots two and three going to the Bryan Herta Hyundai teams.
Saturday racing will begin with the IMSA Prototype Challenge set for Saturday morning. For watching the ROLEX 24, the options present variety and choice. Flag to flag coverage is available on Peacock, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. An active subscription to a cable provider or a nominal fee may be required to watch this way. Broadcast times vary across standard NBC or USA TV.
Yes. Yes it is a bit confusing and just a little frustrating as NBC shut down NBCSN in favor of Peacock and the app pay gates. On the other hand, it is not expensive and their is a large variety of programming outside of IMSA.
Catch what you can as the ROLEX 24 goes green with the IMSA / WeatherTech schedule for 2022!
It’s time. Literally. This weekend the “Roar” is set for testing and practicing for the ROLEX 24 which goes green the following weekend. Next month, the Daytona 500 will start NASCAR with a new car design. With that, NASCAR is not heavily represented with the “Roar” and ROLEX this time around. On the surface, it would seem a good idea as some aspects of the “Next Gen” Cup Car are pulling from the IMSA racing style. As examples, consider the center hub wheels and the refueling system. NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion Austin Cindric may be a lonely representative racing a Mercedes in GTD Pro.
IndyCar, however, has a wider set of drivers ready to rolling out with the opening weekends for IMSA. Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR champion and current IndyCar driver, will drive with ALLY / Action Express. Defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou will be racing Ganassi Cadillacs with Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson. Meyers Shank Racing team mates Helio Castroneves and Simon Pageanud are running. Alexander Rossi is also in a seat for the ROLEX.
A big thing missing from IMSA for 2022 is NBCSports. NBCSN had been a staple on cable systems for quite some time. Now, in order to watch the bulk of IMSA racing, a pay gate subscription to NBC Peacock TV is required. Note that the late season NASCAR races will be on broadcast NBC or cable USA. The Peacock subscription is only $4.99/month and brings with it a lot of sport and entertainment, including expanded coverage of the upcoming Winter Olympics. It is, however, a bit of a kick to add yet another subscription to those most of us already have.
Some fans, based on social media discussions over the “ROAR” weekend, seem to be put out just as the season gets started. Beyond any perceived difficulties in watching the races, the “old ways” discussions are popping once again. What is it about race fans, surrounded by technology every day, that make them complain about change on every level? It has to be obvious that automotive technology has progressed to the point that there is no “going back” to racing like it was even 10 years ago. Computers, engineering and safety as a constant concern with competition have pushed all of motorsport to review everything that happens on race tracks.
This weekend, as the “Roar before” practices and runs some of the qualifying, IMSA has apparently stepped in with some changes. This has folks that are bigger fans of confrontation instead of competition throwing accusations and pointing fingers. It comes down to the “Balance Of Performance” to maintain a level field of competition. Fuel capacity changes along with some performance adjustments have some fans claiming this is an effort on IMSA to give advantages to certain manufacturers or teams.
Let’s be real, here… IF there was an effort to give an advantage to a team (or teams) by the sanctioning body (IMSA) that was so obvious that the average domestic beer consumer could see it then, certainly, the owners and drivers on site and being supplied with these rule changes would see it. The money and logistics involved in racing at this level would not allow BoP changes to make it unsustainable. No team is going to field a car if they can see from the onset there is no competitive chance on race day. Perhaps some race fans watch too much professional wrestling…
Corvette was given a slightly larger air restrictor… BMW has a bit more boost… Ferrari has a little more boost but also a weight increase… Fuel capacities were adjusted…
Obviously… The world is ending…
The ROLEX 24, despite these changes and the beer fueled criticisms, will run the last weekend of January. It is a an event full of variety, speed and color. Sixteen manufacturers, plus the prototype chassis suppliers, are represented with this endurance race to officially open the United States racing season. Check your Peacock status and let’s go racing!
2022 is starting much like 2021. This pandemic thing is still with us and causing all sorts of issues. How those issues play out as the racing season begins to look at green flags is yet to be seen.
However, some of the changes coming to racing within the sport are quite extensive. As January opens, the eyes turn to Daytona and IMSA / WeatherTech. The ROLEX 24 will see some changes in the classes such as GTD Pro instead of GT Le Mans. GT Daytona retains the designation from before. To review the classes and schedule for the upcoming season, check IMSA / WeatherTech online.
Daytona remains in focus, of course, as IMSA rolls out and NASCAR rolls in for the season opener Daytona 500. It is here that 2022 racing will showcase change on a scale unprecedented in NASCAR. The engineering and styling in the move to the 2022 Next Gen car far surpasses the changes that brought in the “Car of Tomorrow” over the familiar late model style. The 2008 CoT brought forth a new focus on driver safety with chassis, seating and cage enhancements. The Gen-6 Cup car that is being retired as of last season brought body shapes closer to manufacturer versions and put other progressions in place such as digital dash panels and more views on safety.
The Next Gen car making its debut in the Cup series is a leap in every way. The styling is meant to further represent manufacturer street versions. The body is now a composite of carbon fiber and plastic instead of sheet metal. Team fabrication shops will be focusing on Xfinity or Camping World series chassis as Cup cars will have a uniform central chassis that is the same for all. The front and rear suspension and drive train are also fairly uniform and bolt on to the common subframe. Independent suspension and rack and pinion steering change up the handling while a 5 speed sequential transmission replaces the 4 speed pattern. Larger brakes mean a step up to larger wheels. 18 inch aluminum wheels with a center axle lug replace the 5 lug steel wheels. This may be the most obvious change to fans as these wheels will look much different than before. The refueling system and wheel changes may resemble the pit stops of the sports cars which just ran a few weeks before at the ROLEX 24. Goodyear Eagles are still the tires on the track but with a wider stance and lower profile than before.
Fans should be excited for the new season and the changes. However, hangers on to the past still haunt the sport. Some just can’t get over the wall with the changes that have come along since the death of Dale Earnhardt. They can’t seem to grasp that time and technology have influenced safety and cost beyond the “good old days” and there is no going back. However, NASCAR can and should do a better job of bringing the personalities of the drivers and teams closer to the fans. Many tracks have embraced the concept with expanded access to garages and infield viewing. The fans follow drivers. The drama is not based on the cars but the interaction of the drivers is what pumps the attention of the fans. The tracks that do well have embraced the national aspect of the sport while inviting the local flavor of the fans in the area.
The local short tracks, the ovals from the hard pack dirt to the paved historic starters of the sport, are also gearing up for some performance changes. The fans may not notice but the teams and the drivers have been busy over the “off season” to make sure their cars are up to the match standards set in place for 2022. There are some body allowance rules and some chassis enhancements that will need attention before the first late model green flag drops for 2022. Hopefully, there has been some “catch up” time for the tires to get stocked for the demand. The late season of 2021 had races cancelled and tracks scrambling for tires just to make events on the basic level.
The costs of NASCAR sanctioned late model style racing has been a hurdle for many and low “car counts” at many tracks has been an issue. Fans want a show and 5 cars on track doesn’t really bring it. New rules are trying to address these cost issues but racing is often a money pit that is hard to fill. Tracks are looking at new events and new types of racing to bring in participants and fans. Drivers, tracks, sponsors and fans are facing some challenges but tracks are committed to push on.
INDYCar is putting off major changes to next year. An expanded hybrid engine system is expected. Formula 1 is putting a number of changes in place for 2022. Much like NASCAR, F1 is putting emphasis on competition and expanded safety. Aerodynamic downforce through wing and body shape design should enhance close racing with better stability. Larger wheels and low profile tires should also enhance handling and reduce heat in race conditions. The front wing and nose have a new design and the rear wing has rounded, rolled tips. F1 changes are targeted, like NASCAR, to engage racing from the driver to the fans.
Other series will likely have some changes. NHRA, for example, is expanding some options for engine performance in some of the classes. Rallycross is looking at some format changes to increase competition. Motorcycle racing from superbike to motocross may also make a change or two for the upcoming season but who can tell…? Those 2 wheel racers are a bit off to begin with…
Expectations are high for many. Short tracks, dirt tracks and other small and local racer venues are looking at their own challenges moving into the year. Drivers and teams are digging for sponsors to carry to the tracks but racing will need attendance to thrive. For 2022, racing fans should take a little time and visit the tracks that run every weekend instead of just holding out for the “Big Guns” in the national series to visit a handful of tracks.
Daytona is throwing a lot of “firsts” at us for 2021. The Daytona Cup Road Course wraps a month of racing in Daytona, going back to the “Roar” and Rolex for IMSA in January to the Clash, the Duels, the 500 and this, the road course. This year the schedule is Daytona times two for NASCAR points races to start as just one “first”. (Back to back Daytona 500 and Daytona Road Course one week later)
Of course, Daytona hosts the “first” points races for IMSA and for NASCAR.
IMSA-Rolex 24 and Wayne Taylor Racing. Yes, it was a third win for WTR but… 2021 marks the “first” year running an Acura powered DPi (Switched from Cadillac).
Kyle Busch won his second Busch Clash – but his “first” scheduled race with new crew chief Ben Beshore. (Beshore subbed for a few races in 2017)
Alex Bowman grabs the pole in the Daytona 500 – His “first” points start in the #48 replacing retired Jimmie Johnson (*Bowman had the pole in the #88 in 2018).
Michael McDowell makes his mark with his “first” Cup win at the Daytona 500.
Ben Rhodes gets his “first” Daytona win, and his “first” year of 2 wins, and his “first” 2 wins in a row – All at Daytona for the Camping World Trucks to start the 2021 points season.
Ty Gibbs wins his “first” Xfinity start – Xfinity Daytona Road Course.
Christopher Bell won the Daytona Cup Road Course – His “first” Cup series win.
Now… After a month of racing… We leave Daytona. However, the next race is still in Florida – At Homestead Miami. (A “first” for Homestead to immediately follow Daytona…)
The ROLEX 24 at Daytona marks the beginning of the American racing season. Their are 49 official entries across 5 classes. The BMW Endurance Challenge, set for Friday (January 29) features 42 entries. With all of these cars, a world-wide list of manufacturers and a who’s who tag on world class drivers, it is often difficult to follow.
To help, Andy Blackmore Design offers a top notch showcase of the cars and the drivers. The ROLEX 24 / BMW Spotter Guide for IMSA is a must have to follow along. The art is detailed, colorful and informative. The Blackmore Spotter Guides have been a premiere display for quite a while and available online at spotterguides.com.
We can focus on details of Balance Of Performance or which body style favors aerodynamics or if Jimmie Johnson will drive a Cadillac faster than Chase Elliott or how fast AJ Allmendinger can run from the driver door to the broadcast booth… But why…? For many, none of that matters. Watching some good racing and having an idea of what is going on is much more important.
The Spotter Guide helps. All of us are not caught up with every spec and every driver’s family tree. Watching some sexy cars make turns and getting a little drama out of the personalities is just fine with us.
2016 is on the track for racing. The ROLEX 24 opened the season with speed, splendor and color at Daytona and the Daytona 500 is rapidly approaching. Speed Weeks at Daytona always showcase some changes but this year there are some differences the casual, tune in and watch’em go fast’ fan might not catch right away.
For the obvious, let’s look at the #24. The famous driver isn’t the driver anymore. Jeff Gordon is out of the fire suit and into the broadcaster suit. Gordon will be in the booth joining the FOX Sports NASCAR broadcast team. He will still be at the track but out of sight, for the most part, as he adds commentary and insight to the broadcast viewers.
In the seat of the #24 will be Chase Elliott. The son of Cup Champion Bill Elliott is taking the #24 for his full time cross over season from the Xfinity series (2014 Champion). Fans will also see NAPA Auto Parts as a major player on the 24 Chevy.
Tony Stewart. It is his final year as he announced near the end of the 2015 season. The kick is he won’t be there to start the season at Daytona or for a good portion of it. He injured his back quite severely essentially in a dune buggy type vehicle incident in January. Stewart is in recovery but the injury presents a long trek back to the track. To start out at Daytona, Brian Vickers has been tapped to drive the #14. Ty Dillon has also been named to take Stewart’s car out when other series do not conflict.
Danica Patrick and the #10. She will still be out on the track as part of Stewart-Haas but the GoDaddy is gone. That easy to spot green is replaced by another major sponsor for 2016. Nature’s Bakery will take the primary location on the #10 Chevy. We’re looking forward to some free brownie snacks at the track!
Clint Bowyer. You may not notice it as the sponsor and the number remain the same for Bowyer in 2016. The #15, however, is off a Toyota and on a Chevy as Michael Waltrip Racing fell under at the end of the last season and Bowyer caught a ride, with his number and 5-Hour Energy sponsor, at the small HScott Motorsports. It is a one year run for Clint as he has also been tagged to join Stewart-Haas for 2017 and take over the #14 as Stewart steps away to engage further in the owner gig.
As for the actual racing there are two changes that will become more obvious as the season gets under way. First and more noticeable will be a little less traffic on the track. NASCAR has cut the running field down to 40 cars from the 43 that had been running for almost 20 years. This means some of those tag-alongs will have to really step up their game to make the field on any given race day. Most of the fans might not even notice the loss of three cars as they are watching the front anyway.
The other change falls on those races that face late race cautions. In the event of a green-white-checkered finish, NASCAR has set a distance marker so it is clear that the start is indeed fair and clean. If the lead car passes this mark the “green” start will be held to race. If their is another caution before the leader crosses that mark then there will be another shot at a clean start. This could happen as many times as needed. Cautions with just a few laps to go are not uncommon so this will likely be put to the test for the drivers and the fans.
Oh…. One more thing while we’re on it. Look for the Wood Brothers and the #21 Ford at every race this season. They will be running a full schedule for the first time in several seasons. Ryan Blaney has the wheel of the Motorcraft #21 as we give a nod to one of the iconic teams in racing.
Daytona with rain and a very late start was, from all accounts I’ve seen this morning, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s race from the start shortly before midnight.
His win was overshadowed (Junior himself was shaken and concerned) by the scene in his rear view. Pushing at speed and close quarter racing put the #11 of Denny Hamlin sideways on the apron as the #24 of Jeff Gordon and #3 of Austin Dillon went loose and essentially launched the #3 off the cars in front (#11 & #24) , tossed like a volleyball by the car behind (#15 Clint Bowyer), and went high into the turbulent air over the field.
Dillon was simply along for the ride as the field went by underneath the #3. The Daytona catch fence separating the race track from the grandstands caught the #3 with a sudden stop ripping the heavy chain link and shearing much of the car into shattered debris. What was left fell back out on the speedway sliding and spinning on the top as the #2 of Brad Keselowski, in a sideways spin, caught the #3 again sending it spinning with another jolt.
Teams from several cars ran out to the wreck. The seconds passed with molasses but one by one the thumbs were up signalling, amazingly… stunningly… thankfully…, that Austin Dillon was not only alive but seemingly OK and responsive.
Dillon was checked over at the infield medical center and released with a bruised tailbone and arm. Other bruises will likely reveal themselves over this week. The next race at Kentucky might be just a little uncomfortable…
Other drivers expressed their relief, and thankful amazement, that Dillon was OK. Some praised the safety advances that NASCAR and tracks have made. Some others mentioned concerns over the speeds in these situations in which airflow and circumstance can still lift a car.
All were concerned for the fans. No major injuries were reported from the grandstands but five were treated in the infield while one was was treated and released from an offtrack hospital.
The question remains for NASCAR… Where is the line that separates a fan-inspiring show from driver and fan safety? It is a difficult equation. For Austin Dillon, the other drivers and a dozen fans at Daytona, the sum of that equation, thankfully for now, came out OK. The variables remain and, hopefully, safety will always be the constant.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. Austin Dillon, however, won the standing ovation as he raised both arms outside of the shattered #3…