There’s lots of news coming out of Daytona this weekend.
Qualifying for the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 that goes to the post at Daytona International Speedway at 3:30 p.m. today (Saturday - Speed TV at 2:30 p.m. Eastern) resulted in an upset with Ryan Dalziel of Orlando capturing the pole in a Ford-Riley Daytona Prototype.
Rounding out the front row will be a Corvette DP with driver Max Angelelli at the wheel.
In the GT class, the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche and driver Andrew Davis won pole over the Woodbridge-based No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD with Ferrari and driver Jeff Segal.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a great result for a new team.
For me, however, the most important headline was that A.J. Foyt had to cancel acting as Grand Marshal for the 50th anniversary of the iconic event.
God’s own A.J. Foyt is the last American hero. It is not Junior Johnson, who really didn’t do much. Foyt won Indy four times and he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona. He won the Daytona 500 stock car race and more midget and sprint car races than you can count.
In battle, he was braver’n Dick Tracy and you didn’t mess with him if you were smart.
But A.J. is 77 now and had a knee operation the other day and infection set in. He sent his regrets with the following words:
"I am really sorry that I can’t be there this weekend for the Rolex 24. I was really looking forward to it because I thought it was a great honour to be asked to be the Grand Marshal of the 50th Anniversary of that race and I considered it to be one of the great highlights of my career.
"I feel so bad that I let everyone down. I was also looking forward to seeing some of my old friends and the race cars that I drove in that race. It was going to be a really fun weekend for me but I guess I’ll be watching the race from my hospital room — yep, the doctors pulled rank on me. And I hate to admit, but I think they’re right — this time. I’d like to wish everyone a safe race and I’ll be with you in spirit."
A.J. Foyt is a giant among men and there are not many like him left in the world.
Meantime, Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr., in a Jack Roush Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R, won the first official race of the 2012 season Friday by finishing first in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series BMW Performance 200.
Top Canadian in the field was 2011 Continental Tire GS champion Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto, driving a BMW M3 with American Billl Auberlen to a seventh place finish in a race that saw six caution flags. Twenty-five of the race’s 58 laps were run under caution. Nobody was injured, although several drivers were taken to hospital for checkups after crashing.
– David Empringham and John Farano, both of Toronto, were 12th in a Porsche.
– Scott Maxwell of Toronto was 16th in an Aston Martin Vantage.
– Jean-Francois Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres was 25th in a Porsche.
– Fraser Wellon of Mississauga and Frank Rossi of Kleinburg were 26th in a Porsche.
– Taylor Hacquard of Vancouver was 31st overall and fourth in ST class in a MazdaSpeed3.
– Michael Valiente of Vancouver finished 50th (23rd in ST) in a Honda Civic.
– Brad Wood of Brantford was classified 58th (28th in ST) in a Honda Civic.
– Ashley McCalmont of Ancaster was credited with a 73/36 result in a Camaro.
– Emanuel Anassis of Montreal was credited with a 77/37 result in a Mustang.