The GRAND-AM Rolex Series signs off as a series this weekend before the merged Tudor United SportsCar Championship premieres in 2014.
This marks the last race for the foreseeable future where it will just be Daytona Prototypes in the top class, before the fusion of DPs and P2s and the DeltaWing from the American Le Mans Series in 2014.
Here’s a look at the protagonists for this year’s DP championship battle:
It’s Wayne Taylor Racing’s to lose. Jordan Taylor is only 22 but drove with the will, resolve and determination of a champion the last two races at Kansas and Monterey, leading the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide/Toshiba Corvette DP to back-to-back wins. He and Max Angelelli enter with an eight-point lead, and Angelelli is the defending race winner at Lime Rock with Taylor’s older brother Ricky. Prohibitive favorites if they stay out of trouble and within range of their rivals.
For Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, it’s the “drive for five.” The pair of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas have won the last three consecutive, and four of the last five, Rolex DP titles in the No. 01 Riley BMW. They’re second and eight points back. A win (35 points) and fifth (26 points) or worse for the No. 10 Corvette nets them yet another crown.
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing could secure its third DP title with a bit of bad luck affecting the two cars in front of them. Despite only one podium finish in the last seven races, Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney have stayed close to the title lead and enter Lime Rock 11 points back. They need their second win in the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” and for both of the two in front of them to finish seventh or worse.
Action Express’ No. 5 Corvette DP has one of its two drivers who could win the title, Christian Fittipaldi, but not co-driver Joao Barbosa. The pair were split earlier this year and Fittipaldi has two more points. He needs a win and the other three ahead to finish 10th or worse to pull off the crown.
Starworks Motorsport is still mathematically eligible but at 20 points back, the No. 2 Riley BMW pair of Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel would need to hope for early-race chaos that eliminates all cars ahead of them before completing 30 minutes, the minimum time needed to score points.
1. Jordan Taylor/Max Angelelli, 304
2. Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas, 296
3. Alex Gurney/Jon Fogarty, 293
4. Christian Fittipaldi, 291
5. Joao Barbosa, 289
6. Ryan Dalziel/Alex Popow, 284
Racing is reaction. A split-second hesitation means missing the holeshot. A decision about how hard to charge into a corner, side-by-side another rider, is made without bothering to engage one’s consciousness. The tiniest things make the biggest difference. With a late-race pass at Daytona in the Monster Energy Supercross series, Eli Tomac wrested the lead from Ken Roczen and broke a tie atop the points standing. But just barely.
Tomac is the defending winner of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championship. In fact, he enters with the last three titles to his credit, but the Supercross championship has eluded him.
“This wouldn’t be about beating Ken,” Tomac told NBC Sports. “This would be about getting that first Supercross title. I feel like it’s the most wanted title that we have currently in our racing. It’s the one sponsors look at the most, so I want it really bad. It doesn’t matter who I’m battling with, I want to be that guy with the (red) plate at the end of the year.”
Daytona was Round 10 of what was supposed to be a 17-round Supercross season. After a winner was crowned in the indoor arenas, the riders would have moved to longer, faster outdoor tracks. They would have had two weeks to prepare for Motocross.
If the past three seasons are an example, the Motocross season is of little concern. Tomac dominated that series and has amassed 23 career wins there.
The story has not been the same in Supercross. He finished second in the 2015 and 2017 standings. He was third in 2018 and then back up to second last year. But while he keeps coming close, he’s had to watch as two new winners were crowned in the past two years.
Jason Anderson took the title in 2018, which was a bit of a surprise.
Last year was even more shocking as Cooper Webb entered the season without a single Supercross victory and left with the championship.
Tomac has the wins. Daytona was his 32nd in Supercross series. He’s simply missing the big red plate that signifies the championship to hang on his wall.
“I’ve been able to accomplish everything I can except get the championship,” Tomac said. “I have so many race wins and I look at those more than the second-place finishes in the championship. Second-place in the championship, people don’t remember. Some people remember race wins.
“Most of the time, they remember the championship.”
“Going back to the Daytona race, it’s a track that requires a lot of patience, even though I didn’t start up front,” Tomac said. “You’re always going to make mistakes, you just try minimize them as much as you can. That’s where I made the majority of my passes: from guys making mistakes. That was my game plan going into the race, to try and have a mistake-free ride.
“In my mind, I’ve put in all this work to get into second-place at this point and then I see Roczen in front. I feel like I can keep digging at that point. I had more in the tank, so I didn’t want to stop. I never do unless I’m in the lead. So that was my mindset.”
Roczen finished less than a second behind to hand the championship lead back to Tomac by a narrow three-point margin.
“(Roczen is) a competitor that you can trust,” Tomac said. “That’s the nice thing about racing Ken is that he’s predictable. There are certain riders on the track that you may not even be comfortable going on to the next jump with. If I’m going to be battling guys, Ken is a great competitor to go against.”
And then racing came to a screeching halt as the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic required all live events to be postponed so fans could practice social distancing.
After Daytona, seven more Supercross rounds were scheduled to be run with only a short break for Easter. That race should have come at about the two-thirds mark and as riders headed back to shorter, tighter tracks to end the season.
But the pandemic has made Daytona the final Supercross season before Motocross begins. And it might yet make it even more pivotal in both championships. With its long straights, Daytona is a hybrid that has as many characteristics in common with the outdoor season as it does with indoors. It provides a bridge between the two disciplines.
Supercross is mentally grueling. The tight confines of indoor arenas make it a technical track were the smallest bobble has the biggest impact.
Motocross is physically demanding. The toll on the body is intense, but after that season winds down, riders typically have several months to recuperate before heading into the next year.
In 2020, riders will have to shake off the dust and take their battered bodies back inside and refocus that mental energy.
“It’s going to be hard to manage your energy levels and just go and race all the way through September and October, if that happens and If everything stays somewhat current now,” Tomac said. “You’re going to have to have a lot of long-game in mind. That’s going to be key because the Motocross season wears on you physically.
“It’s going to be really tough to make the transition. At the beginning of Supercross you always feel like you have a few races to get warmed up and in the groove. But at this point in the game if we race in September and October, there is no getting back in the groove. It’s totally new for everyone. The other positive is that I have the lead, even though it’s minimal. I’m in the best position I can be in.”
If Tomac can do what he’s done for the past three seasons, interjecting some outdoor races in the middle of Supercross could play to his advantage. A fourth championship, if that is what happens, will give Tomac a ton of confidence before the final rounds of the Supercross season occurs.
If he does not win the championship for the first time since 2016, he’ll be hungry. But one way or another, Tomac will convince himself that he is the rider to beat.
“(The lead) is the best position to be in and it may turn out have paid off very well to be in the points’ lead (after Daytona),” Tomac said. “There is so much unknown there.”