| The Daytona Beach News-Journal
The first green flag of the 2021 racing season at Daytona International Speedway will drop this weekend, as IMSA haulers will descend upon the track Wednesday in preparation for the Roar Before the 24 weekend at Daytona.
Here’s what you should know before engines fire:
When is the Rolex 24?
The 59th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona is set for Jan. 30-31 (3:40 p.m.) and will kick off a hectic seven weeks at the Speedway that will include the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s second venture on the track’s road course, and Daytona Supercross.
While the Rolex 24 is viewed as the official starter race to the track’s motorsports season, it won’t be the first time the green flag waves.
New this year, the Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend has moved from the beginning of January to the weekend before the Rolex (Jan. 22-24), and will include a 100-minute qualifying race — the Motul Pole Award 100 — on Sunday that will set the Rolex 24 field.
Will there be fans?
The Speedway announced last month that it would allow a “limited” number of fans into the Roar and Rolex weekends, with COVID-19 protocols (health screenings, temperature checks, masks required) in place at all times.
Infield bleachers and frontstretch venue seating will continue to be general admission but with six feet of social distancing enforced between parties. Markers will be placed on the infield bleachers to identify where fans can sit and in standing-room-only areas along the road course fencelines.
While the UNOH FanZone will be open, the garages, paddock and pit-road areas will be closed to fans, along with the grid-walk and ballfield access.
Along with those experiences, infield tent camping, infield car camping, GEICO Park west tent camping and Café 24 breakfast area will also be closed to fans.
RV camping will also be allowed (a maximum of six guests per spot), but there will be no tent or car camping due to the shower facilities being closed. All campers must have self-contained RVs with toilet facilities on board, as well as other amenities.
Rolex 24 tickets and passes
Despite capacity restrictions, ticket packages are still available online at daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP
Two-day event passes start at $45 and include free tickets to the upcoming Roar weekend. Single-day passes to the Rolex 24 events are available Thursday (Jan. 28), Friday (Jan. 29) and Sunday (Jan. 31), and start at $10.
Single-day, 6-hour tickets (6 p.m.-12 a.m.) on the Saturday of the Rolex 24 will be available at the gate for $25.
If you’re just attending the Roar weekend, single-day tickets are available online and are $15 for Friday and Sunday, and $20 on Saturday. Kids 12 and under get in for free.
Roar Before the 24 entry list
This year’s Rolex 24 could be the most competitive yet.
A total of 50 cars have been entered into this weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24, IMSA announced last week, a significant increase from last season, when 39 cars made the trip to Daytona.
While driver names have not yet been confirmed by IMSA, several cars and driver teams have already been announced.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will return to the Rolex for the first time since 2011. Last year’s NASCAR champion, Chase Elliott, will be making his Rolex 24 debut, as well former Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon.
Elliott and Johnson will both be in the top-tier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class.
Roar Before the 24 schedule
9-9:45 a.m.: Practice 1 – Prototype Challenge
10-11:15 a.m.: Session 1 – Michelin Pilot Challenge
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Session 1 – WeatherTech Championship (All Classes)
2-2:30 p.m.: Practice 2 – Prototype Challenge
2:45-4:15 p.m.: Session 2 – Michelin Pilot Challenge
4:15-4:45 p.m.: Session 2 – WeatherTech Championship (GTD – Silver /Bronze, LMP3 – Silver<30/Bronze, LMP2 – Bronze)
4:15-5:30 p.m.: Session 2 – WeatherTech Championship (Restricted As Below)
4:30-5:30 p.m.: Session 2 – WeatherTech Championship (GTLM/DPi)
4:45-5:15 p.m.: Session 2 – WeatherTech Championship (GTD/LMP3/LMP2)
8:45-9 a.m.: Qualifying – Prototype Challenge
9:15-10:15 a.m.: Session 3 – Michelin Pilot Challenge
10:30-11:30 a.m.: Session 3 – WeatherTech Championship (All Classes)
12:50-2:35 p.m.: Race – IMSA Prototype Challenge At Daytona
3-3:15 p.m.: Qualifying – WeatherTech Championship (GTD – Silver/Bronze, GTLM – Any)
3:25-3:40 p.m.: Qualifying – WeatherTech Championship (LMP3 – Silver <30/Bronze)
3:50-4:05 p.m.: Qualifying – WeatherTech Championship (LMP2 – Bronze, DPi Any)
4:20-5:20 p.m.: Session 4 – Michelin Pilot Challenge
7-9 p.m.: Session 4 – WeatherTech Championship
10-10:20 a.m.: Warm-Up – WeatherTech Championship
10:35-11:50 a.m.: Session 5 – Michelin Pilot Challenge
2:05-3:45 p.m.: Motul Pole Award 100
2021 Rolex 24 schedule
Wednesday, Jan. 27
1:45-2:45 p.m.: Practice 1 – Michelin Pilot Challenge
3-3:30 p.m.: Practice 1 – Mazda MX-5 Cup
Thursday, Jan. 28
9-9:30 a.m.: Practice 2 – Mazda MX-5 Cup
9:45-10:45 a.m.: Practice 2 – Michelin Pilot Challenge
11:05 a.m.-12:05 p.m.: Practice 1 – WeatherTech Championship (All Classes)
12:25 p.m.-12:55 p.m.: Qualifying – Mazda MX-5 Cup
2:25-2:40 p.m.: Qualifying – Michelin Pilot Challenge (TCR)
2:45-3 p.m.: Qualifying – Michelin Pilot Challenge (GS)
3:20 p.m.-4:35 p.m.: Practice 2 – WeatherTech Championship
3:20-3:50 p.m.: Practice 2 – WeatherTech Championship (GTD – Silver/Bronze, LMP3 Silver<30/Bronze, LMP2 Bronze)
3:35-4:35 p.m.: Practice 2 – WeatherTech Championship (GTLM/DPi)
3:50-4:20 p.m.: Practice 2 – WeatherTech Championship (GTD/LMP3/LMP2 All Drivers)
5-5:45 p.m.: Race 1 of 2 – Mazda MX-5 Cup
7:15-9 p.m.: Practice 3 – WeatherTech Championship (All Classes)
Friday, Jan. 29
9:25-9:55 a.m.: Practice 3 – Michelin Pilot Challenge
10:15-11 a.m.: Race 2 of 2 – Mazda MX-5 Cup
11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: Practice 4 – WeatherTech Championship (All Classes)
1:35 p.m.-5:35 p.m.: BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona
Saturday, Jan. 30
3:40 p.m. to 11:59 p.m.: 59th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona
Sunday, Jan. 31
12 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.: 59th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona