Remembering Enzo Ferrari, 25 years on

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Enzo Ferrari, the enigmatic founder of the world’s most famous car brand and racing team, passed away on this day 25 years ago.

Respectfully referred to by those around him as ‘Commendatore’ (commander), Ferrari preferred the humbler term ‘Ingegnere’ (engineer). Born in the northern Italian city of Modena in 1898, Ferrari raced cars himself until the early thirties, while working for Alfa Romeo.

Ferrari formed his eponymous company in Maranello two years after World War Two ended. Now campaigning his own cars, they were on the grid for the second round of the new world championship at Monaco in 1950.

The following year they won their first race, at Silverstone. With characteristic melodrama Ferrari “cried for joy”.

“But my tears of enthusiasm were mixed with those of sorrow,” he added, “because I thought ‘today I have killed my mother'” – referring to the defeat he had inflicted on the Alfa Romeo team.

Ferrari was afflicted by personal and professional tragedies. Alberto Ascari won the championship for Ferrari twice in the fifties, but died testing a Ferrari sports car in 1955.

The following year Ferrari’s son Dino died at the age of 24, suffering from muscular dystrophy. Another son, Piero, was born to another woman and only officially recognized after the death of Enzo’s wife Laura in 1978.

By this time Ferrari himself was an increasingly rare presence at F1 races. A ceremonial visit to practice for the Italian Grand Prix was the only time he watched his cars in action away from the factory and test circuit.

His death in 1988 came during a difficult season for his team. McLaren had swept the board and scored their 11th win in as many races at the following round in Belgium. But at Monza fortune smiled on Enzo’s cars.

A rare engine failure sidelined Alain Prost’s McLaren, and two laps from home Jean-Louis Schlesser blundered into Ayrton Senna’s path, taking him out of the lead. That left Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto to score an emotional one-two for Ferrari on home ground – a fitting farewell to the Ingegnere.

Here he is in a rare appearance in an advert for Goodyear tyres from 1988:

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?