Starting in 2000 and for the next 5 years, I drove the Pace Car for the Grand AM Rolex and Motorola Cup race programs at race tracks all over North America. Corvette ZR1, prototype Thunderbird, Mustang SVO, Focus SVT and many more – the pace cars used either traveled with the Grand Am Series or were provided by the race track – usually due to sponsorship agreements such as the Toyota at Road America.
At the 2004 Rolex 24 Hours Race at Daytona, there was some very heavy rain in the middle of the night that resulted in what was called ‘weepers’ along the front straight of Daytona. Tim Dale and I were on our second 4 hour shift that started at 1:00 am and we were dispatched at approximately 2:30 am to pick up the field under a Full Course Yellow and bring them around through pit lane until the water on the front straight issue was resolved. We picked up the field at about 2:30. Fast forward to ~4:45 am and here we were, still circulating around the track at 65 mph with the field behind us! As we came off NASCAR Turn 4, where we were supposed to be turning to go through pit lane, Tim suddenly started yelling at me – “Turn Left!! Turn Left!!” Turns out that the boredom of driving/droning for almost 3 hours around Daytona at 65 mph in the early morning darkness had caught up to me and I was pretty much sound asleep!! Fortunately, Tim had noticed and started hollering at me as we were just about to take the field down the front straight straight into all of the service trucks that were working hard to try to dry up the pavement!! That would NOT have been good!!! I yanked the wheel left to head down the pit straight, the Race cars behind me followed and the day was saved!! The ‘downside’ was that Tim – who has some track experience himself – used the opportunity to critique my line for the remainder of our shift using the excuse that he wanted to make sure he kept me awake!!!
The other issue that was becoming more urgent was that I needed a bio break really badly and I called in to Race Control to say that we were running very low on fuel and needed to swap out with another pace car and crew. The second pace car came onto the track and we waved everyone by us to follow behind him on the back straight. Once everyone was past us, we beat it into pit lane, screeched to a stop in front of the gas pumps and I ran into do what I really need to get done!!
One of those stories that don’t get told on TV! Great times!! 🙂