SPEED Set for 14 Hours of Live Coverage of Rolex 24 At Daytona
The historic Rolex 24 At Daytona kicks off the 2011 sports car racing season with 14 hours of live coverage from Daytona International Speedway starting Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. ET/Noon PT. This year's broadcast includes a special Rolex 24 preview show slated for Sunday, Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, which also premieres on FOX family network, F/X, Jan. 22 at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. P.T.
Long-time SPEED sports car racing voice Leigh Diffey anchors play-by-play coverage from this year's twice around-the-clock GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 opener. Handling lead color commentary are Dorsey Schroeder and Calvin Fish, while Bob Varsha and David Hobbs are set to host the race. Justin Bell, Brian Till, Chris Neville and Jamie Howe cover all of the pit road action from one of the sport's most revered tests of driving will.
The aforementioned Bell knows a little bit about what it takes to flourish through the ups and downs of major league endurance racing, competing in multiple events, including five-straight Le Mans with his legendary father, Derek, from 1992 to 1996, finishing third overall in 1995. He would eventually visit victory lane at Le Mans, winning the GT category in 1998, and finishing runner up the subsequent year. But the most excruciating race of his career might have come during the 2000 Rolex 24, when co-driving for Chevrolet's factory Corvette Racing team, Bell and his teammates wound up a bit shy of Team ORECA's highly successful No. 91 Dodge Viper entry.
"It's incredibly hard to do, and to win it, you have to be the best," Bell said. "It's one of the big ones to win, and if you meet anyone that's won it, you know how hard it was for them to do it. I remember in 2000, when driving with Ron Fellows, we lost it by 23 seconds. To win it, it would have meant more than you would have ever known, it would have been extraordinary. It is a hugely important race within the motorsports community."
Last year's overall winning team, the No. 9 Action Express Racing Porsche-Riley, anchored by drivers Joao Barbosa and Terry Borcheller, also has J.C. France joining the stable for this year's go. That team leads a high profile group of Daytona Prototype competitors including five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson (No. 99 GAINSCO Chevrolet-Riley), 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray (No. 02 TELMEX Target BMW-Riley), NASCAR, Formula One standout and 2000 Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 02 TELMEX Target BMW-Riley), NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver A.J. Allmendinger (No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Dallara), two-time IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon (No. 02 TELMEX Target BMW-Riley), three-time Indy Car Series champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti (No. 02 TELMEX Target BMW-Riley), 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice (No. 5 Action Express Racing Porsche-Riley), open-wheel stars Ryan Briscoe (No. 10 Suntrust Chevrolet-Dallara) and former Formula One driver Ricardo Zonta (No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford-Lola), just to name a few. NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan (No. 67 TRG Porsche 911 GT-3), SPEED personality and NASCAR Nationwide Series competitor Kenny Wallace (No. 4 TRG Racing Porsche 911 GT-3) and actor Patrick Dempsey, driving his No. 40 Dempsey Racing RX-8, are also going to mix it up in GT.
Defending Daytona Prototype champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas are teamed with open wheel star Graham Rahal and sports car driving veteran Joey Hand in hopes of returning the No. 01 Ganassi Racing BMW-Riley to victory lane, vying to restore the chemistry that pushed to overall Rolex 24 victories in 2007 and '08. Meanwhile, five-time overall winner and sports car racing legend, Hurley Haywood, throws aside retirement to get behind the wheel of the No. 59 Brumos Porsche GT-3. His entry makes the 39th time the 62-year-old racer has competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
"Every year, we seem to see an average higher speed for the race, especially if the weather's dry all the way through," Bell said. "The race is very fast these days. Daytona used to be littered with accidents from slower cars and the more gentlemen drivers, but that doesn't happen with the frequency it used to. It is now 24, one-hour sprint races. I think that's where you start to see the biggest differences between the drivers and teams. If you have a weak link on your team, you cannot win this race. Nowadays, there isn't that sort of mid-race lull that you used to get. Now, it's absolutely on it all the way through."
In addition to the linear network's presentation, SPEED.com has planned an extensive amount of Rolex 24 coverage from DIS; including daily storylines, photography, exclusive driver blogs and information from the Daytona Prototype (DP) teams of Chip Ganassi Racing, Michael Shank Racing/United Auto Sports and Flying Lizard Racing's new Daytona Prototype operation. On the GT side, the Brumos Porsche and Mazda teams are also going to be featured. The often requested ‘Ask the Driver' interactive Q&A is back, along at-track web video blogs.
Once live coverage signs off at 10 p.m. ET on Jan. 29, SPEED.com Auto Racing Editor Marshall Pruett takes over by hosting a live chat. And before the race begins, race fans can check out the car-by-car photo spotter's guide to identify all the newest paint schemes and combinations for 2011.
24 Hours at Daytona GRAND-AM Rolex Series - Live Coverage (All Times Eastern)
- Saturday, Jan. 22: (F/X) Grand Am: 24 Hours at Daytona Preview 11 p.m.
- Sunday, Jan. 23: (SPEED) Grand Am: 24 Hours at Daytona Preview 8 p.m.
- Saturday, Jan. 29: Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (The Start) 3 p.m. - 10 p.m. (Live)
- Sunday, Jan. 30: Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (The Finish) 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Live)