Podium of Thoughts on 2021 24 Hours at Daytona
1. Don't Bet Against Wayne Taylor: He can win with a Pontiac. He can win with a Cadillac. He can win with an Acura.
He can win when he's driving. He can win with both his sons. He can win with one of his sons. He can win with none of his sons.
He can win swapping in and out drivers. He can win by multiple laps. He can win by mere seconds.
Wayne Taylor Racing just simply wins at Daytona. Again and again and again. Three years in a row. Four of the past five years. Five in total.
Wayne Taylor has demonstrated what Roger Penske has shown for decades. The three keys to racing success is preparation, preparation, preparation.
Getting the Acura cars so late in the year, Taylor did not worry about running them. He had his team concentrate on preparing them. Only finally turning a wheel at a test at Sebring just three weeks before the green flag at Daytona.
"To win the 24-hour, the one thing you have to do is make the car bullet-proof," Taylor said. "You only need to come in for tires, fuel and driver changes. If you come in for anything else, in today's world, you lose the race."
WTR will probably go down as the most successful family run racing operation in motorsports history. Mainly thanks to the man on top.
"I always say about anything in life, nothing is rocket science," Taylor said.
He's right. Everything in life ... and racing ... is preparation, preparation, preparation.
2. Scintillating Duels: Kobayashi vs. Dixon. Kobayashi vs. van der Zande. Magnussen vs. Rossi. Albuquerque vs. van der Zande. Corvette vs. Corvette. No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 vs. No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3.
We all already know nowadays endurance racing is simply a very long sprint. Even over a 24-hour race. The days of running well under 100% capacity for 90% of the race are long gone. It's all out, all the time, thanks to the amazing reliability of racing cars in this century.
However, we have not seen the likes and number of on track battles which took place this past weekend. The drivers were going at it hammer and tongs, even in the dead of night.
It was absolutely fantastic for a racing fan. It was absolutely horrifying for a team owner. But, for the most part, it was good clean, hard nosed racing, revealing the speed and handling of the cars along with the utmost talent of the drivers.
It makes watching long distance endurance racing a thrilling experience. No longer does your attention drift off since there is no longer a droning on of cars simply circulating the track.
They are racing throughout. Proof that racing can be better than the so-called "good old days." And we hope it continues.
3. How Long Is This Race?: Everyone is supposed to know it's a 24 hour race. But, Some folks appear to be really confused.
Some apparently think it's 24 minutes. Or, 24 seconds. Or, maybe some think it's a countdown, like T-minus 24. That seemingly is the only way one can explain the odd occurances so early in the event.
Before it even got started, the lone Mazda DPi (speaking of which, how is Mazda going to expect to do much of anything this year competing with just one entry?) couldn't even get out of the pits to start the pace laps.
Before the GT field got to the start line, Bruno Spengler rammed his BMW M8 GTE up the butt of the WeatherTech Racing's Porsche 911 RSR-19 (a very brave attempt by Cooper MacNeil to run an independent GTLM effort), eventually ruining both those cars' chances at any decent result.
It didn't take long before two LMP3 (in their endurance debut with mixed reviews) cars got together. Ironically, the only two Duqueine M30-D08 chassis in the field. The No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports car did recover to eventually finish third, but seven laps behind the class winner. The No. 7 Forty7 Motorsports entry eventually dropped out.
It's 24 hours. As in one full day. At the very least, give your car a fighting chance by getting off the grid, not ramming others before the line, and not crashing so early.
Lobotomy of the Race Award: NBC. Not to the announcers, as they were just following orders -- we hope -- but to the producers who turned America's longest sports car race into the longest advertisement for NASCAR.
Over and over and over again it was rammed down our throats that there were three NASCAR drivers in the race. Never mind the fact that all three were the slowest -- some by a significant margin -- on their respective teams. According to NBC, they were god-like chariot drivers.
Oh sure, they mentioned other drivers, though seemingly more so if they came from Indy car or Formula 1, than if they were full time sports car drivers. But as soon as they could, right back to talking about the NASCAR drivers.
Just so we wouldn't miss the point, they made sure their two former NASCAR driver commentators -- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kyle Petty -- talked plenty about their experience as a NASCAR driver in the 24 hours and what it meant for a NASCAR driver to run the 24 hours.
There were amazingly skilled drivers displaying amazing driver performances, but NBC kept wanting to talk about those slow NASCAR drivers.
At 2:00pm ET when the broadcast reverted back to the main NBC network for the final two hours of coverage, we all knew what was going to happen. Sure enough, for the lead in of that final two-hour segment they only mentioned three drivers. One guess who those three were. (Hint -- they were the slowest on their respective teams.) And one guess who was the first driver they interviewed in that segment.
It was insufferable.
Fans tuning into the race, even on NBC, know enough about racing to know a lot of the other drivers and teams and cars. NBC treated them like they were lobotomized. Sorry NBC, it was you who were lobotomized.
Special Mention: Kamui Kobayashi. Is he just about the most exciting driver to watch in a prototype car? Entertaining as all get out. No need to say anything else.
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