The 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona offered plenty of racing action over the past weekend, with Juan Pablo Montoyo of the Chip Ganassi Racing Team taking the checkered flag in the 51st edition of this popular annual event. It was Montoya’s third overall win in Daytona, and a fifth for teammate and lead driver, Scott Pruett, putting him on a par with Hurley Haywood’s record for wins in the two-day endurance race. Together with Charlie Kimball and Memo Rojas, Montoya and Pruett proved to be a winning combination crossing the finish line close to 22 seconds ahead of defending champion AJ Allmendinger of Michael Shank Racing.
Run on a 3.56-mile course combining an infield road course with parts of the NASCAR tri-oval, the 24 Hours of Daytona started in 1962 as a three-hour sports car race called the Daytona Continental, with points counting towards the International Championship for GT Manufacturers. The event became the Daytona 2000 in 1964 and the 24 Hours of Daytona between 1966 and 1971 before changing to the 6 hours of Daytona in 1972 because of the fuel crisis of the time as a result of the OPEC oil embargo. The race never took place in 1974, but resumed as the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1975, with the name later changing to include the names of various sponsors, including Pepsi and SunBank. Rolex has been the sponsor since 2002
The off-season timing of the Rolex 24 affords many top drivers the opportunity to participate, and it is generally a star-studded event. With teams consisting of between three and five drivers, world-class participants from other types of racing often sign up for the race. NASCAR drivers have included Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Petty, Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon, while Indianapolis 500 winners to participate include Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, Buddy Rice, Juan Pablo Montoyo, Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish.
NASCAR and Hewlett-Packard have joined forces to develop a unique resource to serve the partners and fans of America’s favorite motorsport – the NASCAR Fan and Media Engagement Center. The innovative technology platform, which will provide near real-time analysis of NASCAR happenings, was unveiled on Monday January 14, with the endorsement of NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France who was quoted as saying that NASCAR believes the system “has the potential to be the best of its kind in sports”. France was joined by HP Enterprise Services Vice President Charles Salameh in the ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony to open the center based at NASCAR Plaza in Charlotte, NC.
Located on the 8th floor of NASCAR Plaza, the Fan and Media Engagement Center (FMEC) features all-glass walls, thirteen HP displays with the latest touchscreen audio visual technology. Custom designed by HP, the system is capable of processing significant amounts of data and presenting it in a format which is relevant to fans and the NASCAR industry. Salameh noted that the FMEC allows “real-time data capture and analysis across a wide variety of media, traditional as well as digital”, also pointing out that the information can be “tailored to specific audiences within the industry”.
The FMEC took eighteen months to develop with the goal of benefiting all parties involved in NASCAR racing – tracks, teams, broadcast partners and sponsors – to receive detailed information on how the media and fans are reacting to events, almost as they happen. All going well, race tracks will more effectively be able to track how effective ticket promotions are, while new sponsors will get feedback on how they are perceived in this fast-paced sport, with a host of other applications available. Broadcasters will even receive feedback on which camera angles are most appreciated by fans. The gathering and input of information from all media sectors will give NASCAR the opportunity to respond quickly to any controversies or erroneous media reports.
At the ceremony France noted that the FMEC will allow the NASCAR industry to interact with fans in ways that had never been dreamed of before and this will be done “in real-time, in almost every medium, all over the country”. No doubt fans are looking forward to seeing this new NASCAR innovation in action.