By all the accounts, this past weekend’s Rolex 24 was a rousing success.
So, naturally, I’m here to tell those folks what they did wrong and how to fix it.
Well, not entirely. We’ll also reopen the suggestion box and dust off a fairly recent tip for IMSA’s stock-car cousins in the big GlassCar building on Speedway Boulevard.
Green, green, green …
‘Twas the year of the Rolex “24”
You gotta stick the landing. The prettiest routines of all-time go sour with a bumbling dismount.
Even the splashiest and best-attended* (* more on that to come) Rolex 24 has to cover a blemish when, technically speaking, it inadvertently becomes the Rolex 23:59.
Presumably, someone in Race Control has the duty to determine when the final lap arrives. With one eye on the track and another on the clock, you do some cipherin’. If the leaders are turning laps at, say 98 seconds, you make sure the final lap begins with less than 98 seconds remaining in those 24 hours — comfortably less, preferably.
With well over two minutes remaining as the leading prototype zipped past the flag stand, everyone (and I mean everyone) assumed the white flag would wave next time around — but about halfway through that lap, it was announced the checkers would be flying at lap’s end … with a decent amount of time left on the clock.
Tom Blomqvist, 2-3 seconds behind the leader, said he didn’t know until he was halfway through the east banking, approaching the final turn. He wasn’t going to catch Felipe Nasr unless Nasr messed up over a final lap, and while that’s unlikely but possible, we’ll never know.
Oh well, lesson learned, let’s assume. But if nothing else, it’s a marketing misfire since, as a couple of folks reminded me, should a race carrying a famous timekeeper’s name have such a problem?
At Daytona, head counts remain a secret
About that asterisk.
NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway — and their cousins at IMSA — don’t give attendance figures.
Various opinions and theories explain the long history of such things, and by now the explanation is the oldest known to man: “We don’t because we never have and that’s just the way it is.”
So for the umpteenth year in a row, we’re told the Rolex 24 enjoyed “a record crowd.”
Actually, it was labeled the “largest” crowd, so maybe they’re talking volume instead of numbers. Let’s just say the corndog stand always had a line.
For the Daytona 500, for instance, you begin at 100,500, because that’s the number of grandstand seats and those grandstands are full. But the Rolex is overwhelmingly an infield event for fans, and good luck putting a number on that.
Well, somebody could put a number on it, but they won’t and we know why. Just ’cuz.
This is why Roger Penske is Roger Penske
It was nice to see Roger Penske so jacked about his team’s Rolex victory, as well as his other car finishing fourth.
Penske’s team last won a Rolex in 1969, and the long drought was largely due to Roger not fielding a Rolex car for long chunks of time.
“To come back here and have both cars run for 24 hours and then win the race, it’s hard for me to believe it,” the Captain, who turns 87 in two weeks, told an NBC reporter just after the finish. “This goes down as one of the biggest wins we’ve had.”
Some undoubtedly looked at the excitement washing over Roger Penske and wonder why a man with all his history, all his success, all his varied business interests, and yes, all his wealth, would give such a damn about winning yet another automobile race.
There’s an easy answer to this and, frankly, this should be elementary stuff, folks.
All of Penske’s victories, championships and all of his blue-chip companies are most likely due to Roger’s give-a-damn.
All for hybrid tech, but …
Count me in among the growing number of Americans in favor of hybrid technology in automobiles. Particularly compared to the problematic electric car, from which the bloom is steadily fading (while “they” keep pushing them on us).
IMSA’s marquee prototype cars include some hybrid power throughout the innards, and that’s great, especially considering how racing technology often finds its way to our street rides.
But when they start talking about virtual fuel loads and percentages of hybrid-to-gas, and how it affects on-track decisions, you feel like you’re back in 11th-grade physics class hoping it’ll be a multiple-choice test, just so you have a puncher’s chance.
How about a Rolex-style all-skate for NASCAR and its three divisions?
Finally, it’s been a while since this was pitched — at least a year — so once more with feeling, as Jerry Lee would say …
How about a season-opening exhibition on Daytona’s Rolex road course featuring the past year’s playoff teams from the Cup, Xfinity and Truck series? Thirty-eight vehicles (16, 12 and 10, respectively), separated by a quarter-mile or so at the start, like the Rolex classes.
Talk about a showcase for those lower-rung sponsors and drivers.
There’d be a logistical issue since the infield portion of the road course is used for parking cars and RVs during NASCAR’s Daytona visits, but the Boys in Logistics have flexed their muscles a lot recently (the L.A. Coliseum, streets of Chicago, etc.).
Listen, guys, I haven’t trademarked this idea (yet), so consider it a freebie. And just because it wasn’t your idea doesn’t make it unworthy of thought.
Hell, it might even draw a record crowd!
— Reach Ken Willis at firstname.lastname@example.org