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24hrs at Daytona Intl Speedway

The Rolex 24 is an absolute must-see race. It doesn’t matter if you’re a casual fan, a longtime enthusiast, or totally new to the sport… the 24 Hours you spend at Daytona is an awesome thing to experience. I remember attending my first 24 back in 2017 and my eyes lit up when I first saw the track. Driving past those giant grandstands and then going through the tunnel under Nascar 1 & 2 brings you into the infield where the roads are lined with RVs, tent campers, vendors, car corrals, and some pretty impressive spectator cars as wellEvery year this event has grown in attendance, car count, and popularity. I always consider the 24 to be the Superbowl of American Sportscar racing, as many of the same drivers and teams in this race also compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Indy 500, F1, Nurburgring 24, and the Spa 24. 

The lineups for this race are always top class and it makes for a great weekend of on-track action. Over the years, IMSA has done a great job of allowing fans a chance to see the cars, drivers, and teams up close in the paddock, bringing in a new generation of fans in this new ‘Golden Era.’ 

The series has the Roar Before the 24 the weekend before the race, along with the event at One Daytona across the street from the track, where some teams wheel over the cars so anyone in town can see what IMSA is all about. 

Looking back on the 2024 Rolex 24, I can honestly say this year stood apart from the others. An overall attendance record, perfect weather, and a star-studded grid made this race one for the ages. Being at the event Thursday-Sunday allows fans to explore all parts of the track, with lots of on-track activity all weekend. This year the crowds were bigger than I’ve ever seen as I snaked my way along the infield section. You will definitely get your miles in throughout the weekend, so it’s best to pace yourself at a track like this. Unless you’re important, you won’t have a set of wheels to get around. 

I find it easy to exhaust my creativity during a weekend like this, and some warm weather, it makes lugging gear around that much worse. It’s funny actually, you will head into the weekend thinking you have all these spots to check out and this and that, and before you know it, you’ve hit every part you can in just one day. It helps with the support series’ like MX5 Cup and Michelin Pilot Challenge is running as well, as you’re able to just hang out at a spot for 20-30 minutes before switching it up. Daytona certainly has a ton of great places to shoot from the spectator areas, and it’s great for trying multiple types of shots from the same turn. As mentioned before, it’s important to not get totally burnt out before the 24 Hour even starts, so just relax and take it all in. 

Race morning arrives and from 6am to well past the start of the race, fans begin filing into the infield and grandstands. My group and I are usually able to secure tent camping and infield parking spots Thursday morning, which is perfect to avoid the hordes of fans trying to get in on race day. When the green drops at 1:40 (should really be 2:40 because 24, but whateveryou become overwhelmed by the 60 motors that roar into Turn 1, and soon realize that for the next 24 hours, you’re in a bowl of chaos and can barely hear yourself think. You can’t hear the P.A. system calling the race because the cars are too loud and you barely have any cell service, but you do have TV boards and the scoring towers to keep track of the race. I started the race up in section 383 of the grandstands, moved around up there for about an hour, and then headed back down into the infield. Plan on bringing a step ladder of some kind to see over the fence along the infield section, I even bike lock mine up to it if I don’t feel like carrying it somewhere. Other spectators are usually pretty cool and will allow you on top of their RV for you to try some new angles. Throughout the first hours of the race, I walked the infield and up on the garages as the sun set on a track. By nightfall, everything just seems to come to life with the lights on, brakes glowing, grills smoking, the Ferris wheel lit up, and the traditional fireworks show. Finally calling it quits at around 3:30am, I took a nap for a couple hours and continued on at what little sunrise we had the next morning. The 24 hours take a toll on everything from the cars to the pit crews, with the morning revealing who had survived the night. Body panels are taped up, cracked, and dragging. Lights are covered in rubber, bugs, and oil. The wheels might not match and the liveries are peeling off, but if your car is still running, you have a shot. For the last 6 hours, it truly becomes an all-out sprint to the end. The fan zone is jam-packed with spectators as everyone waits to see the checkered flag. After it all, the cars are wheeled back into the garages, with the class winners getting their Rolex Daytona watches at victory lane. 

Ending on that, the 2024 24 Hours of Daytona will be one that I’ll always remember. Already looking forward to next year

This post contains original work by Matt Ciara who attended the race as a spectator and is a contributor of this blog. For inquiries regarding this blog entry, please contact us directly. Click his bio below to visit Matt’s site.