DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Christian Fittipaldi will be putting in a few hours of extra work during the final start of his racing career.
With Action Express pulling Mike Conway from its No. 5 Cadillac DPI, the team will attempt to defend its Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona overall championship with Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque – the same trio that won last year’s race.
Conway encountered travel delays while trying to depart from England. “With the delay, it became obvious that he could not make the trip to Daytona in time for the final practice session,” team manager Gary Nelson said in a release. “We all decided that it may be best for the 5 car to race the Rolex with Christian, Joao and Fillipe. We will continue to work with Mike in other events in the 2019 endurance championship.”
Fittipaldi said the change probably will affect him the most because he was planning to be in the car only twice over the course of 24 hours. Now he will be driving at least three stints lasting somewhere from six to eight hours. Albuquerque likely will handle the largest workload at eight to 10 hours.
“We’ll try to run longer stints in the evening,” Fittipaldi said. “We’re still debating a little bit. A lot can happen depending on the pace of the race is and depending on how the conditions are and the wear on the tires. We sort of adjust according to the race. It’s not carved in stone.”
There was a surprise farewell party Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway for Fittipaldi, who turned 48 last week.
“In a way, last night was good because now I got over it,” he said. “So in my mind, I know it was official before. Now it’s official. This is done. Let’s just think about the race and see what we can get out of it, and that’s it. So just enjoy myself, but at the same time, take it as serious as possible and try to get a fourth win. That’s why we’re here. We’re not here to keep pound around in circles.”
Fittipaldi, who has eight victories over the past five years in IMSA, said he will “probably be more busier than when I was driving” as he will continue as a Cadillac ambassador and test driver after retiring.
At the Roar test at Daytona three weeks ago, he said he was “happy, sad, at peace with myself. I think that’s the most important. But if you ask me are you going to miss it? Shit yeah. If I tell you I won’t miss it, I’ll be lying. I did this 38 years of my life. How can you not miss something that you did 38 years of your life? It’s not humanly possible.”
The versatile veteran of IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula One said he hasn’t planned how he will fill the void left by racing.
“That’s a very good question, but always in life, when one chapter closes, another one opens,” he said. “So I’ve always known, not since beginning when I was 15 years old, but when I started understanding more about life, that I wouldn’t be a race car driver until I was 90 years old. At some point, this chapter is going to close, and some other opportunities are definitely going to show up.”