Auto Racing Gets off to Early Start With Major Events
- Four significant and diverse racing events are on the calendar for January.
- The races include off-road (Dakar), dirt open-wheel (Chili Bowl), rally (Monte Carlo) and sports car (Rolex 24 at Daytona).
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — The Rolex 24 at Daytona will cap a busy month of January, getting the new auto racing season well under way, on Saturday and Sunday, January 26-27 at Daytona International Speedway.
Already contested by that time will be the 34th Dakar Rally, currently under way (January 5-19) in South America; the 27th Chili Bowl Nationals, a signature event for U.S. open-wheel Midget race cars in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with its feature event on Saturday night, January 12; and Round 1 of the FIA World Rally Championship, the 81st Rally Monte Carlo, in Monaco on January 19.
The race at Daytona is the 48th at the twice-around-the-clock distance and the 51stt since sports cars first competed on the 3.56-mile course that includes much of the iconic 2.5-mile, high-banked oval which is the venue for the Daytona 500 stock car race.
The first two races, in 1962-'63, were three-hour events called the Daytona Continental. The race was expanded to a 2000-kilometer distance for its 1964-'65 runnings, and except for a six-hour race in 1972 and a cancelation in 1974, it has been run as a 24-hour race every year since 1966.
This year's race will be the last under present sanction of the Grand-Am Rolex Series, which after 2013 will merge with the American Le Mans Series, uniting major road racing in the U.S.
The Chili Bowl is made up of five nights of racing held at Tulsa Expo Raceway, a quarter-mile dirt oval inside the QuikTrip Center at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds.
Kevin Swindell is three-time defending champion of the "A" Feature, the first threepeat winner in Chili Bowl history. Swindell is the son of five-time Chili Bowl winner and three-time World of Outlaws champion Sammy Swindell, who finished 2nd in last year's main event.
The event attracts some of open-wheel racing's biggest stars — and some of its former stars, such as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standouts Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne, plus World of Outlaws winged sprint-car drivers Sammy Swindell and Daryn Pittman. Dirt late model ace Rick Eckert, big-block modified and dirt late model star Tim McCreadie and a long list of others, challenge USAC regulars Jerry Coons Jr., Levi Jones, Tracy Hines and others.
The Dakar Rally was formerly known as the Paris-Dakar Rally and covered a course from Paris, France, to Dakar, Senegal, in North Africa. It was canceled in 2008 because of terrorist threats and this will be the fifth event held in the Western Hemisphere on the South American continent. This year's race started in Lima, Peru, and will conclude in Santiago, Chile, covering nearly 5,000 miles over public roads and off-road terrain. Motorcycles, quads, cars and heavy trucks compete in the event.
Rally Monte Carlo is back on the WRC calendar after being absent, running instead as part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge schedule in 2009-2011. Sťbastien Loeb won last year's race for CitroŽn en route to his ninth consecutive WRC championship title.
The twisting, up- and downhill streets of the principality of Monaco and roads in southeastern France, was first staged in 1911 and has been contested 79 times since its inception. The course usually includes sections of dry and wet pavement, plus snow and ice.
Edmunds says: There's plenty of motor sports on tap before the stock cars return to Daytona for two weeks of preliminary events leading up to the February 24 Daytona 500.