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!

IMSA online – IMSA, Info, Schedules, Results

Peacock TV – Online subscription

Daytona International Speedway – Raceday Info and Schedules

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.

“Next Gen” NASCAR Cup Car new for 2022 – See more at NASCAR.com

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.

Let’s go local. Let’s go racing.

Let’s face it. Despite “The Weekend”, the Super Bowl is one day. Racing practically fills 4 weeks at Daytona from the Roar. the Rolex, the Clash, the Duels, the 500 and the Cup Road Course. Throw in the Dixie Vodka at Homestead and you have 5 weeks of racing in Florida.

One weekend in Tampa for the Super Bowl up against all that racing… And we still have barely heard a word from major news. No news anchors discussing their take on Corvettes winning over world wide competition or Acura and Wayne Taylor bringing home a 3rd trophy in a row… No attention on Chase Elliott or Jimmie Johnson competing at the Rolex… No predictions on what commercials will air during the Daytona 500… No talk for weeks about the competitors, the changes in the season or, for that matter, anything to do with racing.

They gave racing some lip service when NASCAR placed a ban on the confederate flag and the reports of the noose incident last year. You would think, even with that, there would at least be some interest on Bubba Wallace and his new team, 23XI Racing, with owners Denny Hamlin and NBA Hall of Famer, Michael Jordan. No mention of 7 time Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson not running NASCAR and focusing on Indy…

Nauseating minutia for weeks on the Super Bowl… Speed Weeks gets nothing…

OK… Fine… We’ll take award wiining country music artist, Luke Combs, and the Daytona 500, and all that goes with it, as something so special it’s above the realm of the average “talking head”. We’ve had the Roar and the Rolex and we’re ready for the green flag to fly on the Busch Clash at DAYTONA (Tuesday, 2-9). The week continues with the Bluegreen Vacations Duels at DAYTONA (Thursday, 2-11). Friday and Saturday, the 12th and 13th, we’ll have the ARCA Menards Series, The Camping World Truck Series and the XFinity Series.

Sunday the 14th… Valentine’s Day… We’ll take the Daytona 500 and roll on with our 10 month season of motor sport. We’ll take the laps… The average talking heads can stay on script while we go racing and stay fascinated by shiny things going fast.

Now… There are some changes to tuck in your head. We all know Jimmie Johnson retired from full time NASCAR Cup racing. We’re not going to completely rule out that he’ll take the seat from time to time. Alex Bowman will take over the #48. The #88 is out for 2021 but Hendrick brought back the #5 with Kyle Larson at the wheel and back in the NASCAR field following the virtual racing vocal lack of judgement in 2020.

As mentioned, Bubba Wallace is in the #23 for 23XI Racing with team owners Hamlin and Jordan. Petty Motorsports has placed Erik Jones in the iconic #43 as Christopher Bell takes over the #20 at JGR. The Stewart-Haas #14 will have Chase Briscoe in the seat as Clint Bowyer takes a spot in the studio broadcast. The #42, taken over last year by Matt Kenseth, will feature Ross Chastain for 2021.

If you had signature hats for these drivers or numbers, you’ll need new ones… Or be really good at embroidery…

It’s race week at Daytona. Time to put men in tights and football away and go for the checkered flag!

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.

Visit Spotterguides.com to get your PDF copy for the ROLEX 24

Its a week away from the ROLEX 24 and what do we know…? If the qualifying run in the Motul Pole Award 100 was any indication we’re in for some good racing to officially open the IMSA season book for 2021.

We’ve seen Jimmie Johnson wrestle with the ALLY #48 Cadillac. With NASCAR in his rear view and some INDY action on the horizon Johnson is using the ROLEX to get some wheel time variety. He’ll have some experience sharing the driver seat with Kamui Kobayashi, Simon Pagenaud, Mike Rockenfeller. All have 24 hour Daytona experience and multiple series history for road racing. The off track conversation should also be fun with Japan, France, Germany and USA mixing accents.

Action Express is backing the ALLY #48 but also have 2020 NASCAR Champion Chase Elliott in another Cadillac, the Whelen Engineering #31. He’ll be joined by Action team drivers bringing lots of experience to keep Chase on track. Pipo Derani, Felipe Nasr and Mike Conway have years combined to push the competition.

Meyer Shank Racing will be putting commentator and driver A.J. Allmendinger on track with previous ROLEX 24 winner Juan Pablo Montoya. Beyond Montoya’s multiple series skill set, the Sirius XM / AutoNation #60 Acura will seat Dane Cameron and Olivier Pla.

What else…? INDYCAR is well represented for the ROLEX. There are very talented female drivers sharing the seat of the #88 GTD Team Hardpoint Porsche. Katherine Legge and Christina Nielsen share the car with Rob Ferriol and Earl Bamber. The GTD class is also the most crowded with 19 cars in the field.

The LMP3 class is being added to the main event for 2021 making five series running in the ROLEX 24. Previously, LMP3 had run with a Prototype Challenge event. All five classes ran practice in the Roar Before the 24 and the Motul Pole Award 100, which is also a new qualifying segment for 2021.

For the pole, Action Express #31 came across on top after starting at the rear of the DPi class. A weight penalty put them back. The advance to the front in the short order of the qualifying race shows the strength of the #31 team as a preview of the ROLEX 24.

DPi: #31 Action Express / Whelen Eng. (Felipe Nasr, Mike Conway, Pipo Derani, Chase Elliott)
LMP2: #52 ORECA of PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen)
LMP2: #52 ORECA of PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen)
GTLM: #4 Corvette C8.R (Nick Tandy, Alexander Sims)
GTD: #96 BMW M6 GT3 of Turner Motorsport (Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley)

The first race of the season… OK – In reality it was the second race but does the ROLEX 24 really count?

Sure, team points and such come into play but the ROLEX 24 is such a hooplah of drivers mixed in from other series and it throws a wrench into the works for the Grand-Am regulars who open their seats for these interlopers. After all, Juan Pablo Montoya was in the seat of the Ganassi 01 Telmex BMW when it crossed for the win. The rest of the season is on the shoulders of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas while Montoya chases the NASCAR circuit.

So – The Circuit of the Americas was the first race of 2013 that put all the season regulars on the track without distraction of visitors. It was also a big run for Grand-Am as the course in Texas is brand new with barely a scrape following the Formula 1 Grand Opening in 2012. (more…)