Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand Am Road Racing
June 30, 2010
J.J. O'MALLEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this Special Edition NASCAR Grand-Am teleconference. As we get ready for Saturday's Brumos 250 at Daytona International Speedway, the 100th race for the Daytona Prototypes.
Joining us today are David Donohue and Hurley Haywood, who have played key roles in the development and evolution of the Daytona Prototype concept. Donohue is one of only two drivers who have been in all 99 DP races, joining former rival Darren Law, who currently co-drives with David on the No. 59 Brumos Porsche/Riley. Among his victories is the 2009 Rolex 24, which was selected as one of the ten-most memorable DP races.
Haywood, the lone five-time winner of the Rolex 24, sketched out the DP concept on a cocktail napkin. And he came up with a name for the class, and he was the first overall winner in the Daytona Prototype at Homestead Miami Speedway, and he also won the 2009 season finale at Homestead in a pinch hitting role.
David, thanks for joining us today as we get ready for Daytona, and then your home track, New Jersey Motorsports Park on July 18th. Having been there with the DPs all the way, what are your thoughts on the 100th DP race?
DAVID DONOHUE: Thanks for having me, J.J. It's funny, thinking back with more 20-20 hindsight than what we have today, everybody thought we were crazy back then, brand new concept. Never been tried before, really starting with a clean slate.
And I was fortunate enough to be in on the almost on the ground floor. Not quite as much the ground floor as Hurley Haywood, my teammate and boss. But I was there when the first car was getting put together and sat in it before the body work was ever created and so forth and did the early test before the 2003 Rolex 24.
So back then everyone thought we were nuts. And that the thing wouldn't last, and here we are today, 100 races later, almost 100 races later, and the series obviously has proven its worth.
And as probably the most competitive road racing series in the country.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Hurley, you're not driving this weekend, at least that's the current plan. I'm sure he has his suit and helmet stashed away if he's needed at the last minute. Hurley, we've seen Brumos win the 2009 Rolex 24, and your partner team, Action Express, won here in January. Is there anything you've taken from those victories that can help lead to success here this weekend?
HURLEY HAYWOOD: Well, J.J., we know that the Brumos cars and the Action Express cars can be competitive on the ovals, Daytona and Homestead.
We have a problem when we get outside that window. And I think we found some interesting stuff of late. So I'm hoping that we're going to be competitive at all the races we go to in the future.
But as far as -- looking at just Daytona this upcoming race, we've always been good here. And I think we've got the setup, we've certainly got the drivers. Our only drawback here that's different than what we did in January is, of course, the weather.
It's hot, and the heat brings on a whole new set of problems. But history has told us that we've been competitive here. So I'm looking forward to this race. Hopefully this will be kind of our turnaround race. It's just about at the halfway point.
So hopefully the second half of the season will be better than the first half.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Questions?
Q. Outside of the world of sports car racing, the Brumos name, I don't know how big it is. But I know at least within our world it's almost like sports car royalty. Can you tell me what kind of reaction you get, be it at the dealership or traveling throughout the country, what kind of fans you have for the team and also for the team history that you encounter?
HURLEY HAYWOOD: Well, I'm kind of here at Brumos every day. So I'll answer that question. You know, Brumos has been racing since the mid-'60s, and we've been really lucky to win some big races and establish an identity which, as you said, is a dealership that's known worldwide.
Not only are we strong here in the United States, but we're strong all over Europe. And when people think of Brumos and the Porsche dealerships, Brumos immediately comes to mind. And I think it's in part because of that really classical paint scheme that we have developed. The late Bob Snodgrass was the one that led that color identification. And those red, white and blue colors are known throughout the world.
DAVID DONOHUE: I'd say from my perspective, because Hurley's grown up with Brumos, I've grown up admiring Brumos. And I can't possibly be more proud to wear those colors today. And, again, because wherever I travel in the motorsports community, when you say you drive for Brumos, it's a badge of honor right away. So I'm extremely proud.
Q Just curious if David could talk about some of his first memories coming to Daytona International Speedway. And, Hurley, if you could follow up with some of your early memories from those times you were talking about in the early '70s.
DAVID DONOHUE: For me, my first experience at Daytona was way premature, believe it or not. It was in an open cockpit prototype, Porsche 966, which was a derivative of the 962. And I basically went from a showroom stock car to this GTP car.
And I was pretty much blown away approaching turn 1 nearly 200 miles an hour because I didn't realize how far ahead you had to look. I almost missed the turn a bunch of times.
It's like one of those places like Indianapolis, when you go through the tunnel, there's just an electricity in the air. You don't realize how big the place is, both physically and emotionally and the aura of the facility itself until you actually set foot on the premises, on the ground.
And to drive that pavement, which is probably some of the places, the exact same pavement my father drove on, is really something special. And now the Rolex 24 has become a who's who of motorsports in the wintertime since everyone else has the season off at that point. And all these really good competitive teams need extra drivers. So it creates a great opportunity and just adds to that whole legendary status of the racetrack.
This July race coming up adds a very unique challenge, because it's very similar to the Rolex 24, except for the heat, which not only changes the effects on the driver physically, but the setup as well and the car's performance.
HURLEY HAYWOOD: I sort of reiterate that comment that David made. I remember very distinctly driving through the tunnel for the very first time. Daytona actually was my very, very first race of my career. And I was there for a regional race at the Paul Whiteman, I think it was in the middle of the summertime. I forget which month. But I remember rolling through that tunnel, coming up into the Speedway and going, you know, "Oh my God, what am I doing."
And I remember distinctly going into turn 3. Back then we didn't have a bus stop to slow you down. So you were booking even in a 911 you were doing close to 170, 170 miles an hour. And I mean, I just was blown away. At the same time I was just intrigued by the whole track, by just everything about that place. And it's kind of ironic that my home track has also been one of my most successful tracks.
And I've won a whole bunch of races down there. I think the only guy that's ahead of me is the late Dale Earnhardt. So it's just really a treat. Every time I come down there, my heart starts to beat a little faster. And even though I'm not driving anymore, you know, anything can happen.
My guys might trip out of the trailer and guess who's standing by with his helmet.
DAVID DONOHUE: Or Hurley might trip them out of the trailer.
HURLEY HAYWOOD: You better watch it. Be very careful. (Laughter).
Q This is both for Hurley and David. You both have impressive careers. What has been the toughest race of your career, and other than the heat, what are you going to encounter, what will the drivers encounter in this race at Daytona?
HURLEY HAYWOOD: People ask what's the most difficult race you've been in. And every one is difficult. You're trying your best to win. And you've got a whole barrage of things that are always going against you, and you have to overcome all those obstacles to get to victory lane.
I think the 24-hour races are the most difficult, because you have 24 hours of things that can go wrong. And when you get all of those things right, it's a real feather in your cap. It's one of those things, even though 24 hours is a long time. In the '70s and early '80s, we used to do those races, Peter and myself, by ourselves. Just two guys. Peter and myself.
And you would never think about doing those in today's atmosphere. The cars are difficult to drive. They're hot. There's a lot of forces that are going on. So it wears the guys out after two or three hours you're ready to get out of the car.
But it's just -- you just try to get all of the things right. And that's the thing that's hard. If I had to pick a race, one race that was the most difficult, I think it was the '77 Daytona win, because I did an eight-hour shift, which was completely illegal back then, but my guys that I was driving with said we don't really want to drive at night. So I wasn't left too much of a choice.
And I would get out of the car and switch helmets and jump back in again. And you never -- you were young and never really thought about it. That was a difficult race for us. But we won. So that kind of sticks in my memory bank.
DAVID DONOHUE: For me, this year in the Brumos 59 has been a struggle since Homestead to be honest with you, and it seems like every race has been the most difficult one.
But the Rolex series has become so competitive, and you can tell by the lap times. It's just like Cup, when you're out there, you might be in fifth position or sixth or even further down, but you're fighting for that position. If you relax for just a second, you lose it and you just move backwards. Or worse, you get freight trained by a bunch of cars and move all the way to the end of the grid.
So our races are much more challenging than when I started racing in all different series earlier in my career. This is definitely the most challenging series I've ever been in.
As far as this weekend is concerned what the drivers will face, now, this will be one of our shortest races, typically anyway. It is because Daytona is a fast track in overall average speed, the mileage goes by relatively quickly. It's also a track that doesn't typically see a bunch of full course cautions, just because the track lends itself to the cars getting out of the way and if there's any kind of a problem or an accident or a car broken, they can get out of the way without causing a yellow, which is good for non-stop action.
But the heat could cause a problem for some guys. It plays into the strategy how long guys want to stay in the cockpit. This race has often been run at night for us, but this time starting at 11:00 in the morning.
So I suspect it to be about two hours. And getting a driver change in there, I can see a one-stop race. So it's going to be even more of a sprint race than any other race we'll see this year.
So I don't think you'll see too many guys giving ground from the drop of the green flag. They're going to be fighting for every inch of track and every position they can get.
Q I got a kick out of you remembering '77, Hurley. You forget the scrum part where your guys got all around you while you changed that helmet so the officials wouldn't see it. Nonetheless, in the last 24 hours, the rules changed and some points got hit -- excuse me -- taken away from and somewhat tightened up the championship. But you guys last year were on the receiving end of some of those rules changes. I've encountered people already in the last 12 or 14 hours who have cheered the rules change and others who have not so much cheered them as much as empathized with the parties on the receiving end. And I'd like your comments on that, having recognized that y'all went through similar circumstances last year?
HURLEY HAYWOOD: Well, I think the awareness that there was something funny going on is way late. One of the great things of Grand-Am in this kind of racing is that it's supposedly supposed to be really, really tight. And when you have one team that sort of walks away with all of the races, and really if it hadn't been for a mistake on Ganassi's part at Daytona and the crash they had at Lime Rock they would have won every single race this year.
And those kind of things just cannot be allowed to happen. And in our case, we won by fractions of an inch and got slapped with a penalty that basically affected us the whole entire year. So I can see why they would be a little skittish on enforcing rules. But they really, they need -- I know they walk a fine line, and they do a good job. And their jobs are not easy. But that kind of dominance was pretty visible to everybody. So I'm glad they took action on it.
DAVID DONOHUE: I think Hurley summed it up. Of course, we were extremely disappointed last year with the way we were treated. And that sort of thing is outside our control. And it hurt us all year, for the first half of the year we had seemingly a different package every race. Like they couldn't make up their mind.
In the end we had more than we started with, and we had more than we could ever use. And I'm not really sure how to comment on what's happened in the last 24 hours. I know kind of what's happened but I don't know much of the details. But it is disappointing to see one team run away with it if they have some sort of unfair advantage. But if they're doing their homework and -- I think they had an advantage. But it's hard to not penalize -- it's hard to penalize a team when they're just doing a really, really good job.
And sometimes it's a lot easier to edit than it is to create. And a lot easier for us to pass judgment when we're really not in the know of some of the details that's going on. So Grand-Am doesn't have an easy job. It's easy to criticize them. I'm really not sure what else I could say in regard to all that.
I'm just not as informed as I should be to make a legitimate comment.
Q I appreciate your comment, but especially editing instead of creativity, that's one I need to use on my editors. I hadn't thought about that one before.
DAVID DONOHUE: That comes from redoing my dad's book. (Laughter).
Q My first question is, how does the earlier start time affect your strategy for this weekend?
HURLEY HAYWOOD: Well, the strategy, whether we start at 11:00 in the morning or it used to be at night, the difference is not that great. It's still crazy kind of hot. You've still got humidity. Even though it's a little bit cooler, maybe by five to ten degrees cooler. That really doesn't translate back into the setup of the car much.
You know, hopefully it won't rain. But if it does rain, I think that's not a bad thing for us. It's just a bad thing for the spectators to watch it in the rain. But for us it's not so bad as at least we've done this race in the rain before at night. And that's pretty miserable?
So at least if it rains, it will be at least light. We just gotta kind of play it by ear. And hopefully we'll have a good package that will give David and Darren the tools they need to win. And I think the 9 car with the Porsche V8 is going to be strong also. So I'm looking for both cars to be very competitive.
DAVID DONOHUE: I think from the standpoint of the weather and the rain, what I've noticed at places like Watkins Glen when we run with Cup and it rains and we go out, the fans are especially appreciative. Because if they're out there in the rain, they want to see some race cars go around.
And we go out and race in the rain, and they seem to love to see that. So for some of those that do brave the weather, they'll probably be thankful that we're out there giving them something to look at.
And we do fare well in the rain in general. So if it's not raining and it's just sunny and hot, I suspect the track will be really greasy. So this will be really a true test, I think, as one of the hotter races so far this year to see who can hold on the grip the longest. So it's a bit of an unknown for us.
We tested recently and it was rather hot. And we were slipping and sliding all over the place. So whether that was a characteristic of that one day at that one track or if that's what we're going to experience at Daytona, what that could do is mix up what happens up front and throughout the field.
As far as strategy is concerned, like I said before, it's going to be flat out from the drop of the green flag, more so than probably any other race because the duration of this race is so short.
Q With you guys having the flat 6 in the 59 and the 9 car having the V8, have you been able to share setup notes at all this year?
DAVID DONOHUE: To some degree, yes. The guys on that team -- there's two teams. We are kind of under the same roof. But the ties between us are almost more personal because they were our teammates last year and for years before that.
So the crew guys on that car are actually the crew guys that were on the 58 for the Rolex win last year. So there are things shared, whether it's identical or not. Sometimes it is; sometimes it isn't.
But it's more kind of comments in characteristics. For one thing, Joe, Al and Terry tend to like things a little bit different than Darren and I anyway. So the cars ultimately end up a little bit different. But it is nice to have someone else to bounce ideas off of and maybe even share data with.
Q David, I know a lot is being made about this being the last race on the Super Speedway before the repaving. We use both the infield road course, which was repaved in around '05 plus the oval. What's your thoughts racing on the oval surface for the last time? And what changes do you think that will make to the race we'll see in the '11 Rolex 24?
DAVID DONOHUE: It's tough to say until you actually experience it. For us, it's much less of an ordeal than it is the Cup guys and the Nationwide guys and so forth because the banking is more or less a glorified straight for us. We're flat out and we can change lanes without much issue because our cars make more downforce and they're lighter and so forth.
So the bumps really have more of an effect when it rains. Believe it or not, even where the trucks cross over, which is between turn 4 and the tri-oval, it's a pretty nasty bump right there for us because we run pretty stiff compared to the stock cars.
But I don't see there being a huge change for us, except for under the braking for the back chicane, and probably even less so for the turn 1 brake zone. Probably pick up some there, but probably not much change for us.
HURLEY HAYWOOD: I also heard a rumor that they were going to move the bus stop, make it a little closer coming out of turn 2. So that will change things a little bit.
But I think the main thing will be just the grip level. So even though we're pretty used to the way the cars feel on the banking right now, I think with the new pavement, there will be more grip and faster times. I think the times will definitely be faster with the new surface.
I miss the bumps, though. David's been putting me under a lot of pressure to come back and get in at least one or two stints next year in the 24-hour race.
DAVID DONOHUE: Come on, everyone, help me out there.
HURLEY HAYWOOD: If I do that -- I know that pavement pretty well.
DAVID DONOHUE: Now you have to experience the new.
HURLEY HAYWOOD: Yeah, right.
Q Hurley, considering we're talking about the 24, probably the most bonded race, 24-hour race in the history of mankind, and I do think that. When you look at today's DP times, we're 100 DP races into this thing. And when we started this gig in 2003, people were really, the criticism was high. Let's put it that way. And one of the criticisms was the lap times of the car. And here we are with an old pavement that's now going out. And to be replaced by a new pavement. The lap times are coming down into the range that are actually beating most of the 1980 and 1990 GTP cars out there. Where do you think that lap time will go with the new pavement?
HURLEY HAYWOOD: As I said, it will be faster than the lap time now. The lap time in 2010 at the 24-hour race will be slower than the lap time that the guys will be able to do in 2011. I'm almost positive of that.
So, you know, it's just the evolution. The cars have gotten better and better and better. The formula is getting stronger and stronger. So I would have never thought that that would be the case. I never would think that these cars would have been able to duplicate the times of a DP or a GTP car. But they're quick. We're going faster than we did with the DP cars.
So on the same surface, a little bit different bus stop configuration now. But you know the times are quicker. But that goes -- tire technology and just the evolution of development allows that to happen, with in some cases half the horsepower.
DAVID DONOHUE: Our car's just becoming more -- all the cars are becoming more and more efficient, if you will, and that's one of the comments this past Rolex 24 that Butch Leitzinger had, he was surprised that back when he was running with Dyson in the Rolex 24 and the Riley and Scott cars, they were in the 170 range and here we are three miles an hour under 200 miles an hour, with 200 less horsepower.
So the top speed differences are just enormous. And it's not really caught by the cameras, because where we see top speed in the tri-oval, the camera's down there kind of in turn 1 and watching us get on the brakes. So when I watch it on TV it doesn't look like it's 197 miles an hour. But that's kind of where all the cars are. They're anywhere from 195 to 197 top speed. And that again shows how tight the field is when you got that many cars with -- when you look at the packages and how differently set up they are and they all end up within the same three to four miles an hour top speed at the end of the straight.
Q To add to that, Butch Leitzinger competed in 2004 and 2005 with Elliott Ford, Robinson, and Jimmie Johnson finishing second in the race in 2005 in a Crawford. So he's even got a feel for not only what the GTP cars did with Dyson and them, but he has a feel for how the DPs were when they were in their infancy. And now, of course, again in their later years. I thank you for that information, gentlemen.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you very much, David and Hurley.
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