Rolex 24-hour race starts today
January 30, 2016
The green flag will wave over a field of 54 cars in the 54th annual Rolex 24-Hour endurance classic today at 11 a.m. The start airs on Fox Sports 1, with coverage throughout the race alternating between Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2. There are some interesting facts about this year's event. The race will mark the return of the Ford GT, the reincarnation of the fabled Ford GT40 that beat Ferrari at Lemans some 50 years ago. Chip Ganassi will field two of the cars in the GTLM class where they will compete with Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche, and BMW entries. The sanctioning body for the race, International Motorsports Association (IMSA), has brought the class rules for GTD class into compliance with the international GT3 specification, making the series more attractive to the various manufacturers. As a result, this year's race will see increased participation from Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, BMW, Audi, and Corvette. This makes GTD the most heavily populated class with 22 entries.
In the Prototype division, the formerly dominant Daytona Prototypes have their hands full with the P2 prototypes, and even the strange-looking DeltaWing have been on a par with them in pre-season testing. Veteran driver and multiple champion Scott Pruett has left the Ganassi team's Fords, and wheels a Corvette Prototype for Action Express Racing this year. The Ganassi's "star car" will feature the same crew who won overall last year, IndyCar stars Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan paired with NASCAR aces Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray. A.J. Allmendinger is the only other NASCAR regular in the field, driving a Ligier P2 for Michael Shank Racing. A number of current and former IndyCar drivers are also slated to drive.
Last Saturday NASCAR added the most recent inductees into the Hall of Fame in Charlotte. They were track owner and innovator Bruton Smith and drivers Curtis Turner, Bobby Isaac, Terry Labonte, and Jerry Cook. Here are some facts about all of them:
Bruton Smith heads up Speedway Motorsports International (SMI), the second-largest track conglomerate on the NASCAR circuit after the France-owned International Speedway Corporation (ISC). SMI's eight tracks are: Charlotte, Texas, Las Vegas, Sonoma, Atlanta, Bristol, Kentucky, and New Hampshire.
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Smith is known for making his tracks over, sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars. Las Vegas and Sonoma are two prime examples.
Curtis Turner is one of the legends of NASCAR. Known as much for his partying as for his racing, he scored 17 victories in 184 starts in the top NASCAR series (then known as the Grand National division). In 1956 he dominated the Convertible division, scoring 16 poles and 22 wins. He was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998. Turner was killed in a plane crash in 1970.
Bobby Isaac won 37 races in NASCAR's top series, including 11 in 1970, the year he won the championship. His name is inextricably associated with the No. 71 K&K Insurance Dodge. Prior to racing stock cars, Isaac successfully competed in the Modified division. Isaac passed away after suffering a heart attack during a Late Model Sportsman race in 1977.
Terry Labonte won two championships in NASCAR in 1984 and 1996 when it was the Winston Cup. He won 22 times in 890 starts, plus 11 wins in the then Busch series as well as a win in what was the Craftsman Truck series. He's also a two-time IROC champion. His career spanned the years from 1978 to 2014, when he ran his last Cup race at Talladega.
Jerry Cook won six championships in the Northwest Modified division from 1971 to 1977, missing only the 1973 title. After hanging up his helmet, he became the series director of the Whelen Modified Tour when it was founded in 1985. At age 72, he still functions as the series' administrator.
Finally, there's good news for local open-wheel racing fans, as the BCRA Midgets will return to Fernley 95A Speedway on April 23.
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