The Rolex 24 at Daytona is particular sufficient that it doesn’t want a pair of NASCAR champions to spice up its enchantment. The race is for the perfect on the planet, within the most interesting efficiency autos, in entrance of auto fanatics celebrating the beginning of the racing season.
The Rolex doesn’t want Chase Elliott or Jimmie Johnson.
As a substitute, each champions really feel the should be right here.
The gritty, twice-round-the-clock journey by way of Daytona Worldwide Speedway is a celebrated occasion that pulls pure racers able to competing in something with 4 wheels. Johnson and Elliott need in on the motion, despite the fact that it means giving up an open weekend for an extended grind in an unfamiliar automotive.
The headliners of this weekend’s race at their core wish to be often called racers past NASCAR.
Elliott was already NASCARs hottest driver earlier than he gained his first Cup Collection title final November in what was Johnson’s remaining NASCAR race. The title gave Elliott the cache to step exterior inventory vehicles. He’s 25 and desires to race something he can.
Over the past two months, Elliott ran an excellent late mannequin on the Snowball Derby in Pensacola, a dash automotive in Oklahoma for his first Chili Bowl,and subsequent is his first time in a sports activities automotive on the Rolex.
He desires to form himself as a real racer, the type who can and can race something. He was mentored by his Corridor of Fame father, Invoice Elliott, who had his personal pursuits exterior of NASCAR.
After I was a child rising up, he wasnt actually a automotive man. He loved airplanes and bulldozers, he might drive all that stuff, proper? Like, if it had a motor, he might function it it doesn’t matter what it was,” Elliott mentioned. I believe that very same factor applies to the racing aspect of issues. Simply be various. Get in as a lot stuff as you may get in.
Johnson desires the variety he couldn’t have throughout his run by way of NASCAR’s report books. He will probably be a 45-year-old IndyCar rookie this season operating avenue programs and ovals, a schedule that gave him time to return to the Rolex for the primary time since 2011.
Johnson began on dust bikes in California and would have been an IndyCar driver if not for the Nineteen Nineties shift of alternatives to NASCAR. It was a enterprise determination that paid off with a record-tying seven titles, however little free time for the daddy of two to sort out his bucket record.
His first yr of semi-retirement begins with a stacked lineup of drivers: Johnson is sharing the automotive with Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, two-time reigning Rolex winner Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller, a former Rolex and Le Mans winner.
The No. 48 Cadillac is within the Rolex solely to win. It’s a one-off Motion Specific entry fielded in a partnership between NASCAR chairman Jim France and Rick Hendrick, who despatched Chad Knaus among the many handful of Hendrick crew members helping the entry. Ally, a prime Hendrick sponsor that backed Johnson his remaining two NASCAR seasons, is funding the Rolex experience.
Johnson is the weak hyperlink in his lineup, so Motion Specific used Sundays first-of-its-kind qualifying race as a observe session. He received practically 100 minutes within the automotive, in moist situations, too, because the crew didn’t hassle to race for the championship factors on the road.
Elliott is within the different Motion Specific automotive, the one which races the total season for the championship and needed these factors. So he was sidelined within the qualifier by common driver Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr, who gained the pole to provide Elliott a Rolex 24 entrance row begin to add to the resume.
All of it makes for an uneven highlight for Elliott and Johnson, simply two sightseers in a discipline of sports activities automotive superstars. The shift of the eye is nice for the Rolex, even when the race that begins Saturday doesn’t want the validation.
Daytona is our crown jewel, the largest race of our season, defined Derani. The visibility they bring about, the data they bring about from different collection, expertise it’s all the time nice to have and its going to be nice enjoyable sharing the expertise with these guys.