The 2018 Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona wrapped up nearly a week and a half ago and if you follow IMSA racing you’ve likely seen your fair share of media recaps already. That said, I’m not going to post my average at best photos from the 56th running of this Florida endurance classic. Rather, I’m going to recap the race from a different perspective that you surely haven’t seen – that of a six year old attendee.
Attending a race like the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona is a bucket list item for most sports car enthusiasts – a race most would like to attend at least once in their lifetime. In the case of my son, he’s already been twice and he’s only six years old! I can’t say he’s hooked on cars just yet, but the fact that I’ve got him to attend the better part of two 24-hours races without too much whining is a good start, right?
Last year he was kept entertained by his buddy who attended with us, but this time it was just Benjie, Grandpa and me. It would be a true test of his automotive attention span. Fortunately, it started out on an unexpected good foot. We started our day during the pre-race grid walk. This presented an opportunity to see the cars up close and mingle on the serious banking Daytona International Raceway is known for.
The day had just begun and I was a little annoyed when Benjie immediately started asking for his iPad. I ignored his first couple requests, much like he ignores most of what I ask him, but finally I said, “no you can’t watch movies on your iPad now.” He rebutted, “but dad, I want to take pictures of the race cars.” I was blown away and felt a little bad. It was a proud moment for a racing obsessed father. I hoisted him on my shoulders so he could have a better vantage point and he immediately started snapping away photos. What follows is a subset of his pictures from the grid walk and Prototype parade.
Eventually officials cleared the grid and it was time to catch the start of the race. We did so at the Mazda hospitality setup (shout out to all the good folks at Mazda), which served as our home base for the entirety of the weekend. It provided good opportunity to sit, eat, catch up with old Mazda racing friends, view the trackside excitement and catch video commentary from the impressive video wall. Walkabouts to different turns and attractions always ended with a trip back to the Mazda home base to recharge our appetites, our legs and of course Benjie’s iPad.
Naturally with a six year old in tow, we had to check out amusement area at the track. It served as a great carrot to motivate long walks throughout the infield and around the track. We caught a great view of the track form the ferris wheel and couldn’t leave without dropping several dollars on the balloon dart booth. Benjie was pretty happy with the novelty stuffed animal fish he “won” in his five-dollar carnival game.
We stuck around the track a couple more hours then headed to the hotel for the night. Based on my father-in-law’s Apple watch we had walked over 10-miles. No wonder we were tired. While Grandpa and Benjie caught some ZZZ’s at the hotel I loaded up on caffeine at Starbucks and headed back to track to catch a few hours of night racing.
The next morning we all returned to track to catch a couple hours of racing before calling it a weekend. The previous day really wore Benjie out and we didn’t make much past 11am on Sunday. After the race I asked Benjie a few questions about the weekend. I’ve listed some of the questions and responses below.
What was your favorite part of the race weekend?
“When we were watching the race early on the second day from the Grandstand. I could see the cars really well and it wasn’t too crowded.”
Here’s one of the videos he took from the grandstand. You’ll notice his finger obscures the lens at times. Clearly he’s learned that from his Grandma (my mother). For the life of her she can’t shoot an iPhone video without her finger’s obstructing the lens.
What was your least favorite part of the race weekend?
“Walking around everywhere. It took a long time.”
I don’t blame him. We walked over 10 miles the first day.
What was your favorite car?
“The one that turned it’s headlights into eyes. It was green on the outside.”
What was your least favorite car?
Benjie points out a photo of and describes the Risi Competizione Ferrari: “It’s just like a plain car. It’s not very cool and doesn’t look like a race car”
What was your favorite food?
“The peanut M&M’s from the Mazda hospitality center.”
Grandpa squirreled away a handful of them in his jacket pocket. Every now and then he’d pull out a few to provide supplemental walking fuel.
What was your least favorite food?
“The apple from the Mazda hospitality center because it started out bad and only got worse with every bite. It sort of got really old.”
I can’t fault him. When you have a bottomless pocket full of peanut M&M’s even the most delicious apple can’t compare.
Would you go back to the race again?
“I would go back with you, Dad, but I wouldn’t want to go there with my sister.”
What is your favorite picture that you took?
Benjie points to a picture of three GT cars lined up on the grid comprising the # 69 HART Racing Acura NSX, # 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan and #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX.