DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Tucked in the back corner of an outpost paddock at Daytona International Speedway stood Jim Farley, the chief executive of Ford Motor Company, leaning against a cart having a casual conversation with the heads of the Wood Brothers Racing team.
Farley was wearing a firesuit and hardly looked the part of a high-powered business executive.
On Saturday, he was a racer.
The 60-year-old made his professional racing debut with a 12th-place finish in the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge at Daytona. An accomplished historic racer, Farley drove a Multimatic Motorsports-run Ford Mustang GT4 in the GSX class of the support race during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona test session.
ROLEX 24 DETAILS: How to watch, entry lists schedules for the IMSA season opener
It was the first sprint race in the new multiclass series that features Bronze- or Silver-rated drivers.
Farley tried to fly under the radar and roam Daytona as any other “gentleman driver” and not the head of one of the most active automakers in motorsports. As his Twitter bio indicates, he certainly is a longtime racing fan.
Today would have been Carroll Shelby's 100th birthday! He continues to guide my decisions. We're going back to LeMans with a Mustang to compete against Ferrari. Carroll would love that.
Happy 100th my friend. We miss you! pic.twitter.com/edGuyjnhkT
— Jim Farley (@jimfarley98) January 11, 2023
But he’s still the head of Ford, and that’s why Eddie and Leonard Wood traveled from Friday night’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina, to Daytona to watch Farley race.
Across the speedway in his motorhome, Roger Penske and Tim Cindric watched Farley race on a massive TV screen with timing and scoring of the event on a second screen.
“I should have used a fake name on the entry form,” Farley joked to The Associated Press.
He said motorsports is a vital part of Ford Motor Co., particularly in employee morale. Ford last year won the Daytona 500 with Austin Cindric and the NASCAR Cup championship with Joey Logano.
“It’s so good that he’s interested,” Penske said of Farley racing at Daytona. “It’s good for Ford because he understands what motorsports means to the company. You know, both General Motors and Ford have the top leadership really invested into motorsports and how it can evolve in making a better car.”