Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona Attracts a World Class Field
The 2018 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona may truly be this year's "Race of Champions". Typically, it is impossible to host an event where the world's best racecar drivers fill the list of entries. Conflicts in racing schedules and the overly possessive demands of sponsors tend to make races like this impossible. Maybe the 55th anniversary of endurance racing at the 3.56-mile road course was just destined for greatness. Utilizing portions of the NASCAR tri-oval and infield road course, the race has had numerous sponsors over the years. However, for the past twenty-five years, the winning drivers in all classes have received a Rolex Daytona watch from the title sponsor.
Inagural 3-Hour Daytona Continental
The inaugural event in 1962, then called the 3-Hour Daytona Continental, was won in unique fashion by the man known as the "Greatest American Racer". To be scored in endurance racing, the car must cross the finish line at the end of the designated time for the event. After dominating the race, Dan Gurney felt the engine in his Lotus 19 fail with minutes to go. Considered by many to be one of the smartest men to ever turn the wheel, Gurney watched the final laps from the top of Daytona's high-banked turn four. When the time expired, he let gravity pull him to victory as he took the checkered flag with a dead engine.
Top Entries for the 2018 Rolex 24 of Daytona
This year's field for the 24-hour event will include many superstars from IMSA, Indy Car, NASCAR and Formula One. It's not the first time a former World Champion F1 driver has graced the field, but it is rare in today's world of binding contracts that an active driver has been allowed to do so. But, making history and expanding the scope of racing on the world's stage is what Fernando Alonso is all about. The popular Spaniard made history last year when he opted to skip the Monaco Grand Prix and race at the Indianapolis 500 on the same weekend. To the cheers of the American fans, Alonso led the race before retiring with engine failure. Joining the Formula One driver in this year's field will be Indy 500 champions Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya; 2017 IMSA champion Ricky Taylor; IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud; former Rolex 24 winners Graham Rahal and Scott Pruett; Mazda factory driver Joel Miller; and NASCAR road-course specialists A.J. Allmendinger and Justin Marks. The 56th Rolex 24 at Daytona start time is 2:40 pm on Saturday, January 27th.
Photo courtesy of dreamstime.com