Random Thoughts On The Rolex 24

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While it isn’t an IndyCar race, it’s always fun to watch the Rolex 24 and lately – I’ve been posting random comments about it. It may not be to the extent that I do an IndyCar race, but I’m not near as well-versed on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as I am the NTT IndyCar Series. But with so many current and former IndyCar drivers in the event, I enjoy commenting on it.

Much to my wife’s dismay, I spent most of my waking hours this weekend watching the Rolex 24 at Daytona. OK, I missed the first three hours because I attended the funeral of a co-worker and then watched my No.1 Tennessee Basketball Vols win again; but when that game was over, I turned on my Apple TV and caught up on what had been happening in the daylight hours on the NBC Sports App. When it moved back over to NBCSN at 8:00 pm Central, I flipped over to cable to continue watching.

Susan inexplicably asked how long I was going to watch. When I responded with “Whenever I fall asleep”, she got up and went into the bedroom to watch something else. I finally went to bed after dosing off a couple of times. When I awoke around 6:00 am Sunday morning, Susan was already up. Imagine the look I got when I picked up the remote and put the TV back on the race. When it was obvious that the race was under a red-flag for heavy rain, it was suggested I change back to what she was watching.

When I saw on social media that the race would re-start around 8:00, she relented and we watched the race until the end. Perhaps you experienced something similar in your household.

For the record, the overall race winner was the Cadillac-powered team of Wayne Taylor Racing, with Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande, Kamui Kobayashi and Fernando Alonso. This gives Alonso a victory at Le Mans and the Rolex 24 within a twelve month period. Alonso will be making his second attempt at the Indianapolis 500 this May.

If it were not for all of the current and former IndyCar drivers in this race, I’m not sure I would be as interested in it. I would probably watch it, but without near as much interest. I cannot count how many drivers with IndyCar experience were in the race, but I had a rooting interest in Acura Team Penske. They had two cars in the Daytona Prototype International (Dpi) class with two IndyCar drivers in each. The No.6 had Juan Montoya and Simon Pagenaud behind the wheel, while the No.7 featured Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi. If you know my allegiances in the NTT IndyCar Series, you probably would not be shocked to learn that I was pulling for the No.7 car.

The rain came overnight and was the cause for a very disjointed morning of racing. Treacherous conditions had many drivers questioning why they even started back after the red flag. It was a series of a few green-flag laps at a time, interspersed among many caution periods and two red-flag periods. I know many fans don’t like watching racing in the wet. Personally, I love it. It’s like watching a football played in snow or in the mud. It adds another dimension and makes drivers adapt. Those who can, usually succeed.

Fernando Alonso apparently put on a clinic in the rain during the overnight hours. Watching replays brought images of Ayrton Senna to my mind.

But then the second red-flag came out and that was essentially it. Rossi and Acura Team Penske never had a chance to challenge for the win, but in all honesty – I don’t think they had the speed.

Other class winners with IndyCar ties included Colton Herta driving one of the two BMW-powered GTLM cars for Rahal Letterman Lanigan; and Sebastian Saavedra driving the DragonSpeed LMP2 car.

It was an anti-climactic end to what could have been a very good race, but Mother Nature won out. Still, it was good to have a heavy dose of racing as we in Nashville are bracing for some winter weather tonight. Now we wait for the NTT IndyCar Series to host Spring Training at COTA in a couple of weeks for our next racing fix.

TV Coverage: For the past few years, this race has been carried by FOX. I have Comcast Xfinity as my cable provider and they never carried FS2. Unfortunately, FOX tended to carry the majority of their broadcast on FS2. I could usually see the first two hours and the last three or four hours of the whole race. I couldn’t even watch the FOX Sports App since my cable company didn’t carry FS2. Now that NBC is covering the race, my cable company has added FS2 to our lineup. Typical.

NBC was dealt a tough hand with their first race having so much red and yellow-flag time. But I thought they did a phenomenal job with such a disjointed race. Although it had a goofy name, the Peacock Pit Box helped to give the booth announcers a break and it gave viewers a different perspective. I don’t know that they need it for their coverage of the much shorter Indianapolis 500 – but on a marathon broadcast like this, it worked well.

NBC was all-in on this broadcast. They pulled everyone from their IMSA, IndyCar and NASCAR broadcasting teams. From IndyCar, we heard the voices of Leigh Diffey, Paul Tracy, Townsend Bell, Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis and part-timers Kelli Stavast and Marty Snider. The all hands on deck approach paid off as they had, what I thought was, a superb telecast.

Of course, the biggest benefit to IndyCar fans was the fact that NBC will be broadcasting the Indianapolis 500 for the first time ever. That means that they were able to publicize the race throughout the broadcast – not only with commercials but with countless mentions that FOX could obviously not do.

Zanardi Feature: The best pre-recorded feature was undoubtedly the one covering the life of Alex Zanardi after his 2001 accident at the Lausitzring that severed his legs. He reflected on what his life would have been like had he not had the accident, not in a “why me?” manner – but in a way where he says the way he overcame his injuries have now defined him as a man.

His stints in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW were well-documented, but after his last stint – he admitted that he is still not used to the hand controls he has to use. Understandably, Zanardi drew more attention all weekend than even Fernando Alonso.

A look at Things to Come? As we all know, Alexander Rossi drives for Andretti Autosport in the NTT IndyCar Series. However, he will drive for Acura Team Penske in selected sport car races. The normally bearded Rossi is required to be clean-shaven when driving for Roger Penske, which makes him look about ten years younger.

It makes me wonder if this is a pairing that will one day cross over to The Captain’s IndyCar team. Rossi came to Penske through his association with Honda, and Team Penske is powered by Chevy in IndyCar. But these associations can change. Will Power is not a young man and can probably see his retirement from IndyCar just over the horizon. I’m still not convinced that Simon Pagenaud is on solid ground at Team Penske. A clean-shaven Rossi fits the mold of most Team Penske drivers. It would not shock me if Rossi drove for Team Penske in the NTT IndyCar Series before his career comes to a close.

Young at Heart: Speaking of Roger Penske, he battled the cold and then the rain – but reportedly stayed awake all night for the second year in a row, as he watched his team settle for third after a second rain delay. The man will turn eighty-two in a little over three weeks, but he seems to have more energy and enthusiasm than some people half his age.

All in all: Since I’m not a regular follower of sports car racing, it’s hard to get used to class racing, where all four classes of cars are on the track at the same time. The speed differential between the Dpi, LMP2, GTLM and GTD cars is just part of it and adds just another element. Still, it’s tough to remember that not every car is a direct competitor.

While I enjoy watching racing in the rain, the multiple yellow-flag and red-flag periods made it a tough watch. Still, to be watching racing in late January with a lot of familiar names involved, just made me want The Firestone Grand Prix at St. Petersburg to get here that much faster.

George Phillips

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2 Responses to “Random Thoughts On The Rolex 24”

  1. BrandonWright77 Says:

    Weird race for sure. NBC did a better job than Fox ever did but some of them still spent more time chit-chatting about racing in general than actually calling the on-track action and that’s a pet peeve of mine. Brian Till and Calvin Fish especially.

    I get it that there’s a lot of time to fill, especially during a 24 hour race, but they’ll be busy chit-chatting while overtakes for position are happening and then half a lap later “Oh, that was a pass for position”. I love Dale Jr. as a commentator, glad he was there, but I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered someone that likes to hear themself talk as much as his buddy Steve Letarte does, and he almost never has anything interesting to say.

  2. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    Rossi is my favorite driver and while I greatly respect Penske I can never be for any driver who drives for them. So I’m hoping and really think that Rossi’s ties to Honda, which are huge, will keep him from ever driving for Penske.

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