March 10, 2010
In the past, the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car series has run in conjunction with the Indy Cars at Homestead Motor Speedway. Until last year, the races were always held in March at the start of the respective racing series schedules, but when the IRL moved the Indy Car race at Homestead to October last year, the date for the Rolex series shifted as well. This year the Rolex series opted to move their date back to the traditional March date as a stand-alone weekend.
Ryan Hunter Reay
I’m not sure how well they got the word out, but I received a post card notifying me of the new race date about a month ago, but really did not consider going until the last minute and that was only because of the incredible deal of only $20 for a ticket and $10 for a Paddock Pass, a great deal.
I talked my co-worker Howard into driving up for the day on Saturday, which was another attractive feature as the 5 PM start time allowed us to drive up and back on the same day, thus negating the need to spend any money on a hotel and still getting us back to Key West before midnight.
We headed up early Saturday morning, stopping briefly in Islamorada at Founder’s Park where they were holding “Woofstock,” a music and arts festival that focused on dogs. We made a quick tour of the event, before continuing on to the Speedway.
Ryan Hunter Reay
Upon arrival it became evident that the Grand-Am series still has a lot of work to do in the marketing department. My estimate is that there was less than 2000 people total in attendance and many of them were exhibitors in the classic car show that was being held along with the race. The stands were virtually empty and there was hardly anyone walking the paddock. That was fine with me, as it seemed at times like we were having a private race event just for us. Even the old CART/IRL spring training events had bigger crowds.
The good news was that we had free reign of the entire place, being able to easily access any portion of the 2.3 mile, 11 turn road course with ease. We also had total access to the garages and the pits, so long as no racing was happening. I’m not a huge Grand-Am fan, but it was cool to be able to get so close and I even recognized many of the drivers from previous associations with Indy Car.
There were actually two races, the preliminary race was the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, a timed 2.5 hour race that was won by Jack Roush Jr. and Billy Johnson. It was pretty exciting and featured over 50 cars, which meant there was a ton of passing and action as the cars wound their way about the track.
2004 Indy 500 Winner Buddy Rice & Howard
Between that race and the feature event of the evening, we were able to go out on the track on the “Grid Stroll” which allowed fans to go out on the track as they were lining up the cars for the start of the race. Grand-Am racing is actually two classes of cars that race at the same time. The exotic fast and large Daytona Prototypes and the smaller less powerful Grand Touring class both share the track at the same time creating a lot of crazy passing.
Actor Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy) owns and drives one of the GT cars and he seemed to draw the biggest crowd of fans on the Grid. He actually drove fairly well in the race as well finishing 21st overall and 7th in the GT class.
The race itself was a timed event that lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes. Dominated early by the Brumos Porsche Riley team, the race was eventually won by the Ganassi team driven by Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. It was an exciting race as the last 20 minutes featured a dramatic charge by Brumos driver David Donohue who just could not get around Pruett.