Hooniverse Rolex 24 Week: A Redeux: The Kid, This olelongrooffan and the Pits

Not quite three years ago, just barely a week into this olelongrooffan’s acceptance by the Hooniverse Overloads into this World of All Things Hoon, I posted this about a trip my nephew, thejeepjunkie’s son, the Kid, and I had during a trip to the pits during the Rolex24 at Daytona, 2008. As this upcoming weekend is the 50th running of this race, I thought my fellow Hoons might enjoy this recap. The images are so 2008 but I am sure all ya’ll will get the taste of it. Have you ever been to the pits and garage area of the Rolex24 Hours of Daytona? At 2:30 am? Well this olelongrooffan has so join me as my 15 year old nephew and I watch those Hoons in sleep deprived action! My brother, thejeepjunkie, called me earlier this week and told me, “Congratulations on getting admitted to the Hooniverse blog.” I told him yeah, this olelongrooffan is pretty stoked about it also. That and a buck will get me an ice cold Diet Coke. We had a chuckle about that. Little did this olelongrooffan know, at that time, I would get the Charles Barrett Seal of Approval. He told me I should post about the trip his son, the Kid, and I took to the pits Rolex24Hours at DIS a couple years ago. Well, Hoons, as most of my stuff is, this will be a bit long and I’ll try to combine those two parts into one to satisfy my fellow Hoons slacker reading pleasure. A short, simple background. The Rolex 24 Hours has been running at DIS for nearly 50 years. It started out as a 12 hour race in 1962 and won by non-other than the esteemed Dan Gurney. A few years later it was expanded to 24 hours. The race, literally, runs nonstop from 11am on Saturday to 11am on Sunday. Most teams have 4 drivers, but some have more or less. For the remainder of the races in the season, most teams have just 2 regular drivers. For the Rolex24, drivers from almost all of the other racing series join these teams. In the past, Max Papis, Boris Said, Dale Earnhardt Sr and Jr, Jimmy Johnson, Kasey Kane, Juan Pablo Montoya and many others have raced in this race. It is pretty cool to see them all. The race is run on the entire NASCAR track at DIS plus an infield road course. In all, I think there are something like 75-80 cars in this race in two classes. The Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT class. The DP’s are one off, they all have the same body style but chassis and motors are up to the owners. Supposed to save bucks this way. The GT class consists of Porsche 911’s, Vipers, Ferraris, Corvettes, and Mustangs and more. The two classes race at different speeds, with the GT’s being slower. As a result, when a DP approaches a GT car, the GT must move over and let the DP by. You think, “This is not a big deal.” Until I point out that oftentimes, two GT cars are battling for position when the DP shows up. The trick for the lead GT driver is to let the DP car by but not his opponent, the trailing GT. It is a blast to watch and observe different tactics, at least for us. There are actually three winners in this race, Class winner in DP, Class Winner in GT, Overall winner. Each driver with the winning teams gets a Rolex watch. Oh yeah, this the Grand Am Series, similar to the ALMS Series but not nearly as technologically advanced. For the many years, a friend of ours has had a concession at DIS and during Speedweeks, the Rolex24, Daytona 500, the Brumos 250 and the (former) Pepsi 400. thejeepjunkie and this olelongrooffan become his employees on those race weekends and we enjoy passes that allow us everywhere, except the grandstands, we are there to work, afterall. Our buddy brings his motorhome out and we camp out in the infield with several hundred other motorhomes. thejeepjunkie and I are the camp stewards. I am the chef and he is in charge of basic camp duties, get the generator going, set up and take down chairs, police the campsite, well you get the idea. Our buddy never stays overnite. He lives in Ormond Beach and, I think, enjoys the party more than the race. thejeepjunkie, the Kid and I have been going to this race for quite a few years, (the Kid, now 17, was the only one of the three of us that year to recognize the car in the following image!) but this is that year was first year the Kid’s mom let him stay overnite. At 15, I would say that is about right. At some point, the three of us, along with a buddy of the Kid, camping with his dad in tent city, went to the pits but with only three sets of pit access credentials.

Along the way, we saw this Kodak DP spun out in the west horseshoe, yes the same horseshoe where thejeepjunkie got that tire a few years ago.

In the pits and garage area, we saw some pretty cool, and some not so cool, stuff, such as this not so cool DP

So sad, I hate to see this as this means less entertainment on the track. Unlike some forms of circle track racing, wrecks are not cool, just expensive. With reference to the crowds at the 24, think Maserati Quattroporte vs. Ford Taurus.

This was the pit stall for the #60 car, forgot what it is. Check out those computers. And to think, I am just really learning how to manipulate my way around a blog. Sorry about your luck my fellow Hoons.

I was going to tag this going but you can see what it is. Brumos is a high end sports car chain based in Jacksonville. Sadly, that was the first year in many Bob Snodgrass was not there. He passed in 2007.

If you look closely in the following image, you can see thejeepjunkie telling those mechanics how to change a radiator in this Porsche. No, not all Porsches are air cooled.

A year or two previously, he and I were in the pits watching a Ferrari wrench try to flatten a piece of steel by hammering on it in midair. thejeepjunkie grabbed a nearby jackstand and had the wrench put the steel on it and then hammer. Worked like a champ! One of the team bosses came over and asked what team he was with!

At one point, thejeepjunkie and this olelongrooffan appropriated seats on a cart while the Kid and his buddy went into the pits. the Kid had his Dad’s credentials while his buddy had a spare.

A few minutes later, they returned looking rather dejected. I asked why back so soon. the Kid related to us, sitting right there in that picture, upon passing through the second security station, they got stopped. The security dude asked the Kid’s name, and he said, “James Lee” while wearing Ed’s pass. Needless to say, his Dad and I burst out laughing. thejeepjunkie, to his credit, described the protocol for using fake passes, but did add that if he Kid ever did that to get booze, the sh** would hit the fan. Later the three of us are sitting in the motorhome, about 2:30am that Sunday morning, watching the race out the windows

and watching it on SpeedTV. the Kid looks over at me and says, I swear, “John-John, this is surreal”. I was floored. I was watching this boy become a man and he described the moment perfectly.

Of course, in this deep moment of mature reflection, this olelongrooffan said, “Let’s go to the pits”. And the Kid and and his Uncle John-John did. thejeepjunkie was to pooped from bossing around those Porsche mechanics earlier in the day and he decided to stay home with his friend Bud, under the Lite. So the Kid and I set off. On the way, again at the west horseshoe, we saw Chip Ganassi’s 02 car spun and being recovered. Guess we should stay away from that corner.

We got to see this Kodak car get a 20 minute brake job, rotors included, and yes, we saw this car come into the garage area, stayed for the whole show, and watched it leave.

It was the same DP we saw spun out in the west horseshoe earlier that day.

It is a real trip at this race. There are semi off duty crew members catching a quick snooze whenever and wherever they can. Mere yards from the active racetrack. Yeah, the noise is deafening. But they all have their headsets on and spring into action when called upon.

Shortly after this picture was taken, we walked down a few pit stalls and came across a guy, in the lower left of the following photo, working on a couple sets of tires. I asked him if they were heading to the truck, meaning wrecked out or terminal mechanical failure. He replied, no, the previous tenants of this stall were already in the truck. He worked for Mazda, the next booth over.

I told the Kid to head into that booth and up to the pit wall while this olelongrooffan kept talking to the Mazda dude. Suddenly, the Mazda dude took off his headset and put it on the Kid’s head, saying, “Don’t touch anything”. I was floored and the Kid didn’t know what to do. Unbeknownst to me, while he had that headset on, the Master of Operations came on the radio and said, “Next time around bring it in and we’ll take four tires and a change of drivers”. Once the Mazda dude saw all the activity in the pits, he snagged that headset off the Kid’s head and got to work, doubletime. the Kid looks at me and tells me what had happened. I was so excited for him. I suggested he go back up by the pit wall and hang out. You can see him in the above image sitting in the corner, but definitely not in trouble. Needless to say, we stuck around for that pit stop, and took pictures.

Check out the Kid’s sh** eating grin… and mine, too.

One of the best parts of this tale is this that #70 Mazda won First in Class. Now for the best part. As we are walking back to the motorhome, the Kid tells me, “Ya know John-John, I knew at the same time as everyone on that team they were going to come in.” I didn’t say anything and we continued to walk along, each of us in reflective thought. the Kid then gave me this biggest compliment I have received in some time. He said, “John-John, every time we hang out, we always do something fun.” Kid, just wait until the Amelia Island Concours de Elegance in March. Oh wait, that is another post. Just know Hoons, the Kid and this olelongrooffan, that night, were sure able to Celebrate Life.

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