January 26-29th of 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the Daytona 24 Hours (Currently and for a long time the Rolex Daytona 24). This race means a lot to me for so many reasons. First of all, when I was only 2 years old, my Dad took me to Watkins Glen International to watch the now defunct IMSA Camel Continental. It was from these early exposures to sports car racing that I dedicated a significant portion of my life to being a race car driver. The Daytona 24 was the highlight race for this series, so I would always watch as much of it as possible growing up. When Speedvision (now Speed) first came to TV, I used to watch the entire 24 hours of coverage and fall asleep on the couch. I love sports car racing, especially endurance racing. As this was the 50th running of the event, many of the former winners had been collected and put on display. Some of my favorite cars growing up were there, bringing back incredible childhood memories. Some include the following:
In addition to these great childhood memories, I also have amazing personal memories from being at the track. When I lived in FL for a few months looking for sponsorship and driving race cars, I got to go to my very first Daytona 24. I was up the whole night and missed maybe 1 hour due to a nap in my car. This is just how I like to do the Daytona 24. It’s not just about seeing great cars, it’s about having a cool and intense experience.
Other memories include being a driving coach for a “pay driver” of whom there are many. He was not embarrassing as a driver (but with a bit of an inflated sense of his speed) and I considered him a good friend at the time (although that has changed). He seemed to listen to me due to my expertise. It’s rare that he listens to anyone, so I supposed that’s a compliment. I also had the pleasure of bringing my one and only with me. Those are great memories of sharing something that means a lot to you with someone who means the most to you. The second year we went wasn’t always rosy, but it did wake me up a little bit (although it turns out I needed a little more waking). As hard as subsequent times have been, I have great memories from those events like falling asleep together on the plane, meeting in pit lane in the middle of the night, and explaining things that I love and her actually caring (or maybe pretending to, she’s very sweet like that).
So, it’s pretty obvious I love this race. There was no way I was going to miss the 50th, even if it meant I had to provide “alternative to class” assignments to my classes. Everyone gets a pass every now and then, right? I brought my friend (also a racing fan, but more of an Indy fan) with me this time. Once again I got to experience sharing something I care about, but I assure you it’s very different when they’re your friend and not your one and only. He wasn’t quite the trooper either, as we got a hotel and shared a rental car, so I missed more of the race than I ever have in person.
It was still a great event to attend. Big anniversaries like this are so special to be part of. I hope that I get to celebrate the 75th and, if I’m very lucky, the 100th running as well. The race was the closest in history for both classes, so it was a great event for the promoters, the fans, and the drivers. One a side note, the winner of the GT class happens to be someone I used to race against very successfully. I can’t help but admit that I did experience a little heart tug with that one. But life isn’t fair and it’s still an honor to know that but for a few different opportunities that could have been me also. Being at the track also reminded me that but for a few different choices on my part and some advice that should have been neglected, my current life would also be very different in a positive way.
Rambling aside, what a great event and a trip well worth it! The return trip was a little scary (standby all day and almost not getting home), but I have stories for years to come and perhaps something I could share with children if ever I have them. More scholarly, political, thoughtful posts are coming, so be on the lookout for those in the near future.