The 36 Hours of Daytona
Daytona is a special place. I should preface this with the disclaimer that I don’t think all tracks are special. When you travel to the same tracks for 20+ years some of them become downright painful ( I’m talking to you mid-ohio).
Daytona, Indianapolis, Lemans these tracks have a special feel to them. Something about the history and the challenge of just getting there puts a different vibe in the air. From drivers to the crew, everyone seems to have a shared respect for what it takes to compete at these particular venues.
Daytona is unique due to the banking and high speeds needed to just get around the oval. Turn it into a 24-hour long endurance event and you’ll add additional stresses to the people and machines. I have “lost” this race many times, from crashing on the first lap to running out of fuel on the last. Neither is desirable but I would take the former over the latter any day. There is no worse gut punch than investing months of prep and hours of racing, only to end just short of the checkered flag. As mechanics, we always count these long races a success when the car crosses the finish line. Finishing order aside, if the car does its job for 24 hours we have achieved something special.
So why the 36 hours of Daytona? I remember over the years people commenting on how hard it must be to perform as a mechanic and pit crew member for 24 hours straight. I always thought how great it would be if it was “only” 24hrs. When you add in the early morning arrival to the track and the teardown and pack up after, you’ll be lucky to hit some type of bed 36-40 hours after your last sleep.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! I have been fortunate enough to be on winning teams at Daytona three times in my career, two of those wins were overall wins. I am proud of this and still use the experience as a model when tackling other big things in life. Assess the situation, form a plan and start grinding. Win or lose there will be satisfaction in achieving something many won’t attempt.