NASCAR season is just around the corner

Engines were roaring around Daytona International Speedway to kick off Speedweeks 2018. The Rolex 24 at Daytona is one of the most important endurance races in the world. It draws drivers from all over the world and every type of racing.

There are three groups of different cars that race the same time on the same track. There is approximately 20 mph difference in speed between the classes. This makes for action-packed racing as the faster cars race around the slower classes. This race is sanctioned by the International Motor Sports Association. The three divisions are the Daytona Prototypes, the GT LeMans series and the GT Daytona series.

The Prototype class cars are very technically advanced full custom-built race cars with engines from various different manufacturers. Audi, Mercedes, Ford and even Cadillac are involved in this class.

Cadillac has emerged as a powerhouse force in sports car racing. Action Express Racing put together a group of talented racers and coupled with strong Cadillac power they had captured the pole position for the race. When the green flag flew at 2 p.m. on Saturday, driver Pilipe Albuguerque set sail and during the first part of the race they pulled out to a two-lap lead. Co-drivers for the team were Joao Barbosa, and Christian Fittipaldi. This team dominated the event and even with an overheating issue they grabbed the overall race and class win.

The next class had the powerhouse Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs. These cars have dominated the GT LeMans class. These two team cars traded the lead with the car driven by Richard Westbrook, NASCAR Truck series star Ryan Briscoe, and Indy star Scott Dixon as the class winner.

The final class, the GT Daytona class, features cars such as Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Corvettes. This class featured a brand new winning manufacturer. Lamborghini and Grasser Racing won the class victory with drivers Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bartolotti, Franck Perera and Rik Breukers. Their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 was class of the field but it was a close race with four cars still on the lead lap after 24 hours.

Fifty cars took the green and as the checkered flag flew 24 hours later, a new record for both laps and distance had been set. There were only four full-course cautions and, even battling off and on rain showers, more than 3,070 miles and 808 laps were completed by the number 5 Cadillac Prototype.

All the racers carried a special memorial decal to one of the greatest American race drivers. Dan Gurney passed away at age 82 and he was considered one of the most talented driver/car builder and designer in all of motorsports. Dan won the three-hour Continental race at Daytona in 1962 as he crossed the finish line powered by only the starter motor.

Gurney won in Formula 1, Indy cars, NASCAR, Can-Am and the Trans-Am series. His All American Eagle race cars were winners wherever they competed. He was the first driver to win in all these divisions and remains one of only three to have ever done this. The others were Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya. He was responsible for several firsts in aerodynamics. He was the first to use a full-face helmet in Formula 1 in 1968. He is also credited with being the first driver to spray champagne from the victory podium. Dan Gurney was the epitome of an American Racing Legend.

Now for some local racing news, longtime competitor and multi-time track champion Dave Defibaugh has joined forces with Rob Smith and will be piloting the number 83 Gunslinger by Shaw open-wheeled modified. Final sponsorship details are still being worked out. Rob and David want to thank Jason Brookover, RPM Racing Engines, Preston Todd, Oil Spot, Tammy King, Fast Eddie, D&B Enterprises, Chenoweth Electric, Quick Time Suspension and other future sponsors. This should be a very strong team this season.

Dirt action will be picking up in Florida these next few weeks. I’m going to try to bring all the results from these great events. In a few short weeks NASCAR stock cars and trucks will be screaming around the high banks of Daytona, and at the end of that super straightaway there’s Another Left Turn.