Story and photo by Steve Zongker
In my last article I told you about the preparations I endeavored upon for a class championship winning team.
This past week I spent almost four days in Daytona at the “World Center of Speed” for the “Roar Before the 24”.
This was my first experience as a crew member at Daytona, and I was so excited that I could not sleep the night before. It was the equivalent of waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve!
Earlier in the week, I had been given a “crew info packet” via email which had an incredible amount of pertinent information. From what time to be at the track, to where to go to pick up your credentials, to where the team hotel was, and even what our team hauler would be parked at inside the paddock.
Before I could even enter the infield parking area of Daytona International Speedway, I was directed to visit the IMSA folks to get credentials and a parking pass. Believe me, the IMSA credentialing office was like being queued up in line at your local DMV. Lines extended out the door, and even around the building.
It took me almost an hour and a half just to get my credentials for the weekend. Some of the European teams that are only here for Daytona had been there for longer.
Next up was getting into the infield of Daytona, where you have to go through a couple of security checks to get through the tunnel at turn four. Finally, after a few misdirections, I was able to get to the appropriate parking area.
My info packet told me that I should be at the team hauler by 1PM in order for us to unload the trucks and get setup, yet once I got to the gate to enter the paddock, I was blocked by the security guard that told me, “You cannot enter until 1PM.”
For the next half an hour I began to notice more and more team crew members lining up along the fence line. To me, this truly seemed like the first day back at school. You know that feeling, the one when you haven’t seen you pals since the last day of school.
Finally 1PM came around and it really was like someone had gotten a hold of a starter’s gun at the 100-yard dash during the Olympics- people scrambling to get to their haulers, to begin the lengthy and arduous process of unloading for a race weekend.
If you have never had the privilege of watching teams unload their haulers, it is like a choreographed dance. Pit box, fueling rigs, carts, tool boxes, etc. come out before the cars even come off of the trucks.
For the next three hours our team set themselves up in the garage and on pit lane as well.
Even myself, the radio and communications guy, was busy setting up radios and headsets on two trucks, and the pit box.
This first day, there was no “on track” action as we were only allotted until 7PM that night to get our equipment setup for the next few days of testing.