Grand-Am: The Human Interest Side of the Rolex 24 at Daytona

What Happens When It is the Little Things

9:29pm EST — On the way out of Daytona International Speedway after twenty-four hours of hard racing, a young boy and his family were exchanging stories about the weekend they had at the Rolex 24. That boy, eleven year-old Wyatt Peavy from Orlando, was thrilled, but had one complaint. He really wanted to be able to hang out in the hot pits next year, watching the teams change tires and re-fuel, see the drivers switch places and be even more in the thick of the action. As he bounced in his seat on the tram, the 01 Chip Ganassi team pushed their winning car past. They were on their way from Victory Lane to tech inspection. Those fans that saw the team and car go by gave a cheer and offered up their congratulations.

Wyatt Peavy & a Ganassi crew member's generosity.

What happened as the team hurried by Wyatt is an indication of how Grand-Am and the Ganassi boys do business: one of the crew members handed over his Victory Lane hat to Wyatt. It was an act without prompting and too quick for Wyatt to do more than yell “thanks!” to the man’s retreating profile. Some of the dirt the crew couldn’t get off after 24 hours of racing (despite the handy-wipes they broke out with a half hour left) remained in thumbprints on the hat’s bill.

The purse money may not be in Grand-Am, it may not be a series with the technological advancement of Formula1 or even ALMS, but damn if they don’t make the fans happy. A general admission ticket gets you into the garage, along with all the crew members, drivers, owners, and autograph hunters…you only have to be certain to keep an eye out to keep from being run over by someone in a golf cart or a Patrick Dempsey fangirl.

Grand-Am is something of an unsung series, just a national sportscar series that could pale in comparison to the possible gliz and glamor, except by those who compete in it. The 2011 Rolex 24 ended with a one lap sprint to see which of the top four cars could win. Five former F1 drivers, two multi-time IndyCar champions, multiple Rolex winners and Rolex series champions, Le Mans competitors, IndyCar drivers, NASCAR drivers, and young talent had driven those four cars with the backing of some seriously competitive teams, experienced and brand-new, all for a watch and bragging rights. In the end, it really is the little things: a Rolex, hard-charging racing, a commitment to generosity.

Pictures from throughout the weekend can be found through the following links:
Thursday: garage area and hot pits
Friday: qualifying, garage area, and hot pits
Saturday, garage area, hot pits, and pre-race activities
Saturday: racing, garage area, and hot pits
Sunday: racing, garage area, and hot pits (namely the Ganassi pit)
Sunday: step-by-step photos of pit stops
Sunday: post-race celebrations


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