Thursday, February 3, 2011

Racin': Videos of The Rolex 24 at Daytona

Last weekend, Francis and I journeyed to Daytona Beach, Florida and Daytona Speedway for the 49th running of the annual, season-beginning sports car race. We left Seattle late Thursday night and arrived in Orlando around 7 a.m. on Friday, picked up our rental car and drove about an hour north to Daytona Beach. We spent much time walking around the Speedway which is truly immense. Once you see the videos you'll have an idea of just how huge it is.

On Friday afternoon they held the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, a race for two different classes of cars; Street Touring and Grand Sport (the hotter of the two). The race was either 2.5 or 3 hours long, I can't remember which. I also had not yet remembered that my Flip Mino HD was in the pocket of my vest, so there are no videos of that race.

We checked in at our hotel on the beach in Daytona Beach Shores after the race. It was fantastic. Right on the beach with nothing between us and the sand except for a patio with a hot tub and swimming pool built into it.

Saturday morning the weather was absolutely gorgeous; mid- to high-60s, no clouds and bright blue sky. There was a whole bunch of racing related stuff going on at the track, so we got there around 10 am. Little did Francis know that we wouldn't be leaving for another 13 hours! This was my third time at the Rolex 24, so I knew what a cool phenomenon a 24 hour race is; he had yet to learn.

For a good portion of the day we sat very high in the main grandstands, almost on the Start/Finish line and just 5 or 6 rows under the suites. All of the videos are taken from that vantage point. You can get a sense of just how big the place is when you see the videos. The main NASCAR oval is 2.5 miles around. The Rolex 24 uses all but about 100 yards of the track, but adds a long infield section for a 3.56 mile total lap length.

The first video was shot on Saturday afternoon after a full-course yellow (caution). The field gets all bunched up behind the pace car and as they come off NASCAR Turn 4 and onto the front straight, the pace car dives into pit lane and the field goes roaring by. Turn your sound way up and you'll get a sense of just how loud those suckers are!

The next video is also of a restart, this one taking place on Saturday night after another full course caution. I stayed with the lead car for a long portion of the complete lap so you could get an idea of how fast they are going and how big the track really is (and also how excellent our seats were).

The last video is the most unusual one of the trio. Every year during the running of the Rolex 24 at about 10 or 10:30 p.m. they have a fireworks show. It's not all that long (and I didn't capture the very beginning of it), but it's a pretty high quality show and it's all going on while the racers are screaming by at 160+ miles an hour on the back straight. The shoot the fireworks off from the middle of Lake Lloyd. I don't know if you noticed in the two earlier videos, but there is a lake, a 24 acre lake, along one side of the Daytona infield. When they originally built the track, they dug all the dirt to support the 31 degree banking in turns 1 -4 from the middle of the track. Once they saw the size of the hole, they decided to fill it with water. The lake is actually large enough for them to hold water skiing shows on (and they do). Anyway, the fireworks are cool and just a bit bizarre.

About a half hour later, after 13 hours at the track, Francis and I went back to our hotel and grabbed about 6 hours sleep. Sunday's weather was even better, being a bit warmer and with a bit less breeze. We returned to the track around 8 am after checking out of our hotel and still had 7.5 hours of racing left to watch. We only got to see 6.5 hours of it because we knew that we had to leave enough time to drive to and navigate the Orlando Airport for our 6 pm flight. The Rolex 24 is a cool event. I think Francis may be addicted; I know I am.

The really cool thing is that we get to run on that track in that configuration during One Lap of America 2011 in early May. I'll write more about One Lap in future posts.

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About Me

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.