The expression, "You had to be there," was never more true than when applied to this weekend’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
If you go elsewhere on the Internet, you will undoubtedly find reports of this race that will make it sound like it was edge-of-your-seat.
But, if truth be told, it was pretty ordinary stuff. Yes, there were some spins and crashes, several cars caught on fire, a guy was running out of gas so drove into the paddock for a fill-up just as you and I might pop into a Petro-Canada and there was a bizarre incident in which a driver thought there was a problem with the car and the team told him to go to the garage, only to find nothing wrong so they sent him back out and he was driving the car that finished second and might – might – have won if he/they hadn’t have been so bone-headed.
But . . . even with all that, there just didn’t seem to be any drama to this race. There have been lots of 24s more exciting than this one. And the car-count at the finish was a bit of a downer – only seven of 15 prototypes were still running and 16 of 29 GT cars.
Maybe it was the weather. It was cold, windy and sometimes wet and that set the tone for the marathon that was eventually won by the first-time-together team of Joao Barbosa of Portugal, Terry Borcheller of the United States, Mike Rockenfeller of Germany and Ryan Dalziel of Scotland driving a Riley DP powered by a Porsche engine that came from an independent builder rather than the factory.
The start on Saturday was a sign of things to come. For the first time in the history of the event, they started under yellow because the track was wet from rain. It’s bad enough when there are yellows during a race; yawns well up almost immediately when the whole thing starts under caution.
Anyway, the pizzazz pretty much went out of this contest at about the one-third mark when the powerhouse No. 02 Chip Ganassi/Felix Sabates BMW Riley Daytona Prototype being driven by the blockbuster team of Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Jamie McMurray dropped out after the car’s engine went kaput.
After that, the Barbosa-Borcheller-Rockenfeller-Dalziel team assumed the lead and, except for pit stops, was never in any real danger of not winning.
Second-place in the race went to the Ganassi/Sabates BMW Riley DP driven by Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Max Papis and Justin Wilson, which finished about 50 seconds behind the winners. (Yes, it was Wilson who reported a problem with the car and was ordered to the garage, only to be ordered back out on the speeedway. As I said, bizarre, but at the end of the day, nobody pointed to this as being particularly significant so far as the eventual outcome was concerned.)
Third place – as mentioned, four laps behind – was the BMW Riley DP of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Christophe Bouchut, Lucas Louhr, Scott Tucker and Richard Westbrook.
Eighth overall, but first in the GT class, was the Mazda RX-8 driven by Jonathan Bomarito of Monterey, Calif., Nick Ham of Evergreen, Colo., David Haskell of Plantation, Fla., and team owner Sylvain Tremblay of Sunrise, Fla., but prior to 1990 of Montreal.
(It’s interesting that two of the four winning team owners this weekend – Tremblay in the Rolex GT class and Karl Thomson in Friday’s Continental Tire Challenge ST class – have Canadian roots. Quebecker Tremblay only moved to Florida when he started his sportscar-racing preparation business; Thomson continues to operate his team out of Toronto.)
Second-place in the GT class (and ninth overall) went to the Porsche GT3 car driven by Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Seth Neiman and Johannes van Overbeek while third-place in GT (and 10th overall) was won by Ted Ballou, Kelly Collins, Patrick Flanagan and Wolf Henzler.
I’m always assured by people who attend this race that, while there are few people in the grandstands, there are always 50,000-plus in the infield. As I’ve never been to the Rolex, I can’t dispute those statements except to say that if there were 50,000 in the infield this weekend, they sure did a good job of hiding themselves.
And how did our Canadian drivers do?
Here’s the rundown:
– Top Canadian was Mark Wilkins of Toronto, who co-drove a Ford Riley DP to fifth in the race and fifth in class with Americans Burt Frisselle, Ozz Negri and John Pew.
Wilkins and Bu. Frisselle (as distinct from his brother, Br. Friselle, who also races in Grand Am ) normally drive for Woodbridge-based AIM Autosport but AIM decided to skip the Daytona 24 this year in order to concentrate on the rest of the Rolex championship.
– Michael Valiante of Vancouver (co-driving a Ford Riley DP with Americans Mark Patterson, Brian Frisselle and NASCAR star A.J. Allmendinger) finished seventh in the race and seventh in class.
– Scott Maxwell of Toronto (co-driving with TV’s Patrick Dempsey and two other Americans, Foe Foster and Charles Espentaub) was 13th overall and 6th in the GT class in a Mazda RX-8. Maxwell did double-duty this weekend, also driving in Friday’s Continental Tire race (see post below).
– Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto (co-driving a BMW M6 with U.S. residents Boris Said, Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand) was 15th overall and 8th in the GT class.
– The Maple-Leaf adorned Team Canada – Bullet Racing’s Porsche GT3, featuring Ross Bentley, Sean McIntosh, Darryl O’Young and Steve Paquette of Vancouver and Kees Nierop of Kelowna – finished 20th in the race and 13th in the class.
Unfortunately, their moment in the sun involved a lengthy – but televised – pit stop after the car was in collision with the Allmendinger-driven Ford Riley prototype that was racing near the front of the pack and suffered a flat (shredded, actually) right-rear tire as a result that pretty much ended any hope that team had of winning.
– Dave Lacey of Toronto (on a team with Americans James Gue, Leh Keen and Don Kitch Jr.) was 22nd overall and 14th in the GT class, also driving a Mazda RX-8.
– Darren Law of Phoenix (okay, he’s on this list because he was born in Toronto . . .) co-drove a Porsche Riley DP to a 26th-place finish (11th in class) with fellow U.S. residents David Donohue, the legendary Hurley Haywood, Burch Leitzinger and Raphael Matos.
– Mike Forest of Edmonton (co-driving a BMW Riley DP with Americans Ian James, Bill Lester and Dion von Moltke) was classified 27th in the race and 12th in the prototype class.
Logana wins all-star race; Ranger finishes 15th
Okay, Joey Logano won the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, Calif., Saturday night. Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., finished 15th (out of 40) and was on the lead lap of the 225-lap showdown when the checkers flew.
But I have complaints. (Editor’s note: So what else is new?)
First, this race is called the "Daytona 500" of the short-tracks. The idea is to bring together the champions from all of NASCAR’s regional series (the Canadian national championship is a regional series, in NASCAR’s eyes) and to have one big runoff.
The field is filled out by regulars from NASCAR’s Southwest Tour series (the race is held in their territory, after all). One or two others get dispensation for one reason or another. But the bottom line is this: the Toyota All-Star Showdown is a race for minor-leaguers looking for a major-league payday. Most of the participants are semi-professionals.
So, my first nit is this: what was Joey Logano doing in this race? He was the 2009 rookie of the year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. He’s a highly-paid, full-time, top-of-the-mountain stock car racer so what was he doing out there beating up on all those little guys?
Second, the next time they do this race, will the powers-that-be at Speed TV remind the announcing and production crew that an international audience is watching and to please explain a few things – starting with who is starting where.
You’d have thought they thought the race was being shown on a local station in the Los Angeles area instead of on Speed, which goes all over North America. The announcers talked about some of the drivers as if they were household names. They frequently made mention of the fact it was an all-star race but not once did they identify the stars and say what they had done to deserve participating.
And the worst sin of all? They started the race without presenting a starting lineup.
Surely they can do better than that.
Ranger started 25th (I found that out because they did get the running order working early in the feature) and wound up 15th. He earned $12,000.
Strange car, strange track, little practice. Good for him.