Story by Vickie Miller. Photo courtesy Karen Koch

This past weekend was the 54th running of the Rolex 24 International Motor Sports Association WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series race. IMSA series classes include the Prototypes, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona.

While the January month-end weekend is primarily referred to as the “Rolex 24”, there is a 2-1/2 hour Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race on the Friday of race weekend.  For CTSCC series racing with two classes: Grand Sport and ST Street Turner.

Along with the Ferrari Challenge races, the Rolex 24 weekend is always full of excitement (did you see the finish between the Corvette racing teammates!!??) and a little humor.  I think even Patrick Lindsey, in the Park Place Porsche; can chuckle at his “off course excursion”.

From the time I first pass through the Turn 4 tunnel of Daytona International Speedway on Thursday of the Rolex 24 weekend, I always feel like “something” is going to happen.  I don’t know what, I don’t know when, but I will leave that tunnel having a new racing experience.

I could not have guessed that three little words would change the race so drastically. Three words, which at the track I have heard many times but this time the silence was devastating … “full course caution”.

When the #8 Starworks Motorsports PC car spun, stopped and could not get started, I immediately thought of the #99 Gainsco DP accident during 2014 Rolex 24 where driver Memo Ridley found the stopped Ferrari in the middle line of the horseshoe.

Thank goodness Chris Cumming, driving the #8 Starworks Motorsports car did not have the same injuries as a result of the #0 Delta Wing, driver Andy Meyrick launching the PC car off the ground and into the air.  I spoke to Chris on the pit road after the accident and he mentioned having a headache…no wonder!

While cars coming around the turn were able to split and drive around #8 car, it is my understanding the radio was not working for Andy.  What a heartbreak for both cars but especially the Delta Wing when Katherine Legge drove that car like the champion she is and showed just what this team and car could have done.

I will leave the rest of the racing recap to the experts like John Dagys and Marshall Pruett.  Now to switch gears and introduce you to two amazing people I met this weekend, who could not be more opposite but both every enjoyable.

During the Daytona Rolex 24 rain storm on Thursday, I had the pleasure to chat with Tequila Patrón ESM driver Luis Felipe Derani, aka Pipo.  No, I did not ask him about Pipo.  While this was the first time I met Pipo, this was not the first time I had seen him race.

While driving with #26 G-Drive Ligier ­­­­in FIA WEC series, I saw his team podium at Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, Circuit of the Americas and Bahrain.    Pipo mentioned the win at Fuji was just out the G-Drive’s reach due to a bad tire choice and a couple of mistakes, but for his first year in WEC, he is not complaining.

So why did I want to interview Pipo?  I saw him on the podium several times in 2015, he was new to IMSA, and of course, he’s from Brazil.  Pipo raced Brazil Formula 3 on his home circuit of Interlagos.    Pipo raced his first time ever at DIS and will be a newbie at the upcoming Sebring race, too.

After a nice talk about Fuji and Bahrain, I started with my typical hard-hitting questions, but let me preface this by mentioning while Pipo is extremely polite, he is also very quiet, so my normal driver chat was brief.

  1. What is your favorite country to visit?
  2. Between Fuji and Shanghai, Pipo spent a little time in Thailand and would love to return for a long vacation.


  1. What race would you love to watch as a fan?
  2. Super GT series in Japan


  1. What race is on your bucket list?
  2. Sebring. To Pipo, the Sebring weekend has always been a great event and a place used by many manufacturers to conduct testing.  (Since I talked with Pipo before he won Rolex 24, he might have responded DIS track instead!)


1. Do you have any pets?

2.Pipo has two dogs a Golden retriever named Semba, and a French bull dog named Gnocchi. Pipo shared that Gnocchi                 is a very funny dog and loves to fart and snore!


  1. If you could spend the afternoon with anyone, who would it be and what would you do?
  2. Take his girlfriend on a surprise vacation where they have never been before. Pipo is all about new adventures.  Which is one reason he mentioned Sebring earlier.  He love going to new tracks, new cities, and new countries.


Please follow this driver and team at this website

Facebook and  Twitter                        @PipoDerani               @PatronESM


Now let’s switch gears one more time and meet a woman whom I hope will inspire you as much as she did me. If you are like me, in past years when I renewed my state driver’s license and was asked if I wanted to be an organ donor, I replied no, because I really didn’t understand the process and that just seemed easier.

I never really researched organ donation, but heard “stories” of how your organs could be used or harvested for anything like research, experiments, etc. Also, I never knew anyone who was on a wait-list or received an organ donation, so it was a process which was never “personalized” for me.

That all changed at Sebring 2015, when I wondered into pit road for the finish of the IMSA lights race.  I was there to see 8 Star Motorsports driver, Christian Potolicchio, but another tall young man caught my attention.   I had heard his name before and was honored to finally meet Kenton Koch.

It wasn’t long after Sebring, I found myself cheering for Kenton at Road America and Watkins Glen.  I was happy to get to know him a little better at each race.  He shared with me his family’s journey for his mom’s need for a new heart.  At long last, I would learn more about this incredible mom.

Now let’s meet this inspirational woman, Karen Koch.  While I had met Karen at Kenton’s races, on Saturday of Rolex weekend, I caught up with her at Marilyn’s, the track catering restaurant and we had a very nice chat.   I invite you to read her story.

In the fall of 1999, Karen started to noticed being short of breath, some chest discomfort that would come and go and feeling fatigued, but with a son racing and a daughter also into sports, Karen just thought it might be from the stress of working and running kids to various appointments.  Normal busy mom daily routine.

She exercised and maintained a healthy diet, what could possibly be wrong. After a year and a half of dealing with the symptoms, Karen decided to follow up with her doctor. On Valentine’s Day 2001, she was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

From that day forward she started her long fought journey which began with medications, many trips to the hospital, being placed on heart monitors, and going through three different defibrillators.  Karen’s condition finally stabilized with medication and was able to live somewhat of a normal life again.

With the arrival of Spring 2011, Karen noticed a significant change in how she was feeling and it was not in a good way.  The doctor’s watch her very closely.  Her heart was having a hard time keeping up with her pace and she had to start slowing down.  That bought her a little bit of time.

In April 2013 the doctor’s decided it was time for her to be evaluated for a heart transplant. Over a several month process, she would endure many medical tests and trips to the hospital but worse of all, the waiting.  Karen is a very courageous woman dealing with the acceptance of the hand she was dealt.

Finally in July 2014, she was officially added to the transplant list.   Now more waiting, which for Karen was a 6 month of coming to terms with her condition and the outcome outside her control.  January 13, 2015 a match was found which meant a family lost their 20-year-old daughter.  Karen has no information in regards to the young lady or her situation.

During this whole adventure, Karen actively read pages of research and found out so much information about organs and donation because knowledge is power!  Factors in the process to determine if Karen was a match included blood type, body size, anti-bodies count and heart donor location.  A heart cannot be outside the body more than 4 hours, so the location had to be close.

Once the heart arrived at Karen’s hospital, the organ still needed to be examined before the procedure was given the “green flag”.   Once cleared by the doctor, the heart was all Karen’s. Since the long operation and now a year later, Karen has faced several infections and will be taking anti-rejection medicine for the rest of her life.   Karen’s follow-up doctor visits have gone from twice a week to once a month to now every 3 months.

Since receiving her new heart, Karen has found a love of baking and she feels the donor girl was “athletic”.   Either due to the medications Karen was on before the heart or since, Karen has a heighten sense of smell and is turned off by the smell of beef!  She was always a meat and potatoes girl, but now she eats more chicken.  I think the cows at Chick-fil-A would approve!

As Karen told me her story, I couldn’t help thinking about a person who was going through cancer treatment of being diagnosed, to coming to terms with the inevitable struggle, the getting sick, have more bad days than good, the paperwork, the trips to the hospital, the medications, just basically having your life totally changed from what you wanted or what you expected.

So, why did I sit and talk with Karen and write this story?  Racing is truly a family and a community, and one person hurting causes up all to feel pain.  Now the racing family has a direct link and a name to a person who benefited from organ donation.   I signed up on August 26, 2015 to be an organ donor.   I am hoping just one person will read this, and also become an organ donor.

My disclaimer.  While neither Karen nor I are medical professionals in any way, if you are experiencing any medical issues, please seek the advice of a trained doctor.   Karen’s symptoms may mean a totally different diagnosis to someone else, but don’t wait to seek help.

Here are some resources which provide more information:

To learn more about Karen’s story

To sign up to become a donor  

To learn more about Kenton    

Also follow Kenton on Twitter:           @KentonKochRacin     and Facebook

Now my honest opinion about a few points about the weekend which you won’t read on any IMSA website for DIS Facebook page!  The Untold Story!


Some things at DIS will not change like unnecessary long lines at the entrance gates, expensive barely edible track food, locked pedestrian gates, local police officers trying to mentally direct traffic with hands firming in pockets, while cars back up through the intersection, and fans without credentials on pit road and wearing shorts.

Each year brings new surprises to a visit to the self-proclaimed “World Center of Auto Racing”.  In my opinion, the world is in trouble.  This year the winner for the “most random rule of the day” was no umbrellas on rainy day Thursday, but only if you went in the center part of the main gate.

If you entered to the side of the main gate, no problem.  If you entered in via one of the three garage gates, no problem.  Keeping in mind, all gates took to you to the same area. But if you followed the signs and the young lady requesting people to enter through the center of the main gate to have your bag checked, you were greeted with a surprise, “no umbrellas”.

This was me.  I made the mistake of following the rules.  That won’t happen again. I took the option of dropping my umbrella in the bushes, along with the other 10 people who followed the rules, by the front gate in hopes it would be there when I returned at the end of the day.

While I was unable to enter the gate with my umbrella, I was informed I could walk 5 feet to the DIS gift shop inside the gate where DIS staff were eager to take my money and I could buy an umbrella.  How convenient!  I am sure the person who thought up this money making scheme is now the VP of Marketing at DIS.   I guess DIS is struggling to find creative ways to fund the “Daytona Rising” project, which I will spare you my comments on that idea. #Failure

When I returned home, I decided to review the admission gate entry policy listed on the DIS website.  While many of the “not allowed” items listed did openly make it past the admission, garage and pit gate, for some reason my umbrella was the only “not allowed” item which was prohibited.

The other random change I notice this year was the attachment to the outside of your windshield of the infield parking sticker.  While the admission gate worker put the parking sticker on the outside each time I arrived, once parked, I immediately removed and attached to my dashboard on the inside.  I remembered to do this Thursday and Friday after parked.  I forgot on Saturday so, of course say it with me, the parking sticker was stolen.

Last year, I remember watching cars being towed from the infield parking area which had no parking sticker.  One car was towed with the owner screaming out the front window!  Now that was funny.  So with my parking sticker gone, shades of being towed danced in my head.  Thank goodness my car was not towed, so DIS missed a money making opportunity by getting a kick-back from the towing company. Better luck next year!

My troubles were not contained to the track.  On Friday, I decided to go through Starbucks for a coffee before heading to the track.  While in the drive-through lane, a small Chevy truck decided to ignore my horning blowing and the woman waving her arms on the sidewalk, and backed up right into me.  Of course, the driver had no insurance and it wasn’t her car.  Seriously?!!?!?!


With his first ever race at Daytona International Speedway, Kenton Koch won his first Rolex 24 race.  As the podium celebration was taking place, I wondered how his mom’s heart was taking the excitement!

Thank you all for reading and I welcome your comments. I have no affiliation with IMSA, WeatherTech, etc. just a fan. There are many blogs and websites where you will find statistics, results, and scoring from the race; this is “just the way I see it”. Got a response? Follow and tweet me @Viclovesracing