Racing season begins today
January 26, 2013
The 2013 racing season officially starts today when the green flag waves for the start of the 51st Rolex Daytona 24 endurance race. SPEED will televise a good portion of the race, with coverage from noon until 8 p.m. and resuming at 6 a.m. Sunday and taking us to the finish. It will be the race’s final year with the current car classes, as the merger of Grand Am and the American Lemans series will bring us more variety and an expanded field for 2014.
There are 17 Daytona Prototypes in this year’s field, with the Chip Ganassi Racing entry of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas on the pole for today’s start. Juan Pablo Montoya will join the duo for this race. The other Ganassi entry qualified second-fastest, and will be piloted by Joey Hand, IndyCar stars Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, and NASCAR’s Jamie McMurray.
Defending champion Michael Shank Racing will return with a two-car effort, featuring NASCAR regulars A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose and IndyCar driver Justin Wilson. Defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will be aboard the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette prototype and NASCAR Camping World Truck regular and former Formula 1 pilot Nelson Piquet Jr. will co-drive another Corvette prototype for Action Express Racing. These familiar names will join the Grand-Am stars, including Alex Gurney and Tom Fogarty along with Memo Gidley aboard the Gainsco-Stallings “Red Dragon” prototype in the grueling 24-hour contest.
One of the most interesting things about endurance racing is the variety of classes all running together. Speed differentials between the prototypes and the GT classes are huge, which can lead to some pretty hairy situations. I have driven in a few shorter enduros myself, and racing with your competition while keeping an eye on your mirrors for the faster cars keeps you on your toes.
The GT class is a battle of the manufacturers, with 36 entries from Chevrolet, BMW, Audi, Mazda, Porsche, Dodge, and Ferrari vying for the top spot this year. Porsche teams dominate numerically, with Audi and Ferrari the next most-represented brands. Clint Bowyer will join Michael Waltrip in the AF Waltrip Ferrari 458 Italia. It will be Bowyer’s first time in the car, while Michael has driven it at both Daytona and Lemans. Single teams will represent Corvette, Viper, Mazda and Camaro.
The new Gen-6 NASCAR Sprint Cup car has shown great promise in testing at both Daytona and Charlotte. Drivers are comfortable with the car, and most report that it is much more aerodynamically stable than the previous design. The first real test will be when the green flag drops on the Sprint Unlimited race (formerly known as the Shootout) on Feb. 16. If there is lots of side-by-side racing and passing, as expected, NASCAR will let well enough alone. However, if the racing is boring or if one manufacturer has a definite advantage, expect some tweaks to the rules as early as the Daytona 500.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck series will make history on July 24 this year, running on the dirt at Eldora Speedway. It is the first time since 1970 that a major NASCAR series has run on dirt, and with six months to go there are only a few seats still available. Some track changes are underway to accommodate the Trucks, although installation of SAFER barriers is not in the plans.
The latest in the NASCAR soap opera “As the Wheel Turns” has 2013 Sprint Cup rookie of the year rivals Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. romantically linked. Patrick, who filed for divorce from her husband of seven years earlier this month, has confirmed that she and Stenhouse are “dating”. If it comes down to a fight for rookie honors and points late in the season, things could turn nasty for the lovebirds.
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