2024 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Penske Won, Brad Pitt Filmed a Movie, and 6 More Takeaways

Porsche/Juergen Tap

At his first overall victory in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, car owner Roger Penske confounded the highly-favored factory Porsches by snatching a win in his Chevrolet-powered Lola T70 Mk. 3B driven by Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons. That was in 1969, 55 years ago.

On a cool, sunny Sunday, this time with Penske leading the Porsche factory effort, Porsche Penske Motorsports won a second overall victory at Daytona over the Whelen Engineering Cadillac, which was leading until 45 minutes from the end, when a caution flag flew and the GTP cars peeled off to get enough fuel to finish the race. The #7 Penske Porsche 963 beat the #31 Action Express Cadillac V-Series.R back onto the track, and Felipe Nasr, driving the final stint in the Porsche, never looked back.

2024 Rolex 24 Racing Action mustang porsche
Eddy Eckart

“I’ll tell you, this goes down as one of the biggest wins we’ve had,” said Penske, who turns 87 in February. “When you think about 1969, when we won here with a Lola, things were a lot different in those days. Just to see the competitiveness now, where six- or seven-tenths of a second was the difference after 24 hours of racing, it’s unbelievable.”

Roger Penske Racing won by 30 laps, something that will never happen again at the Rolex 24, given the current level of competition. Of course, this occurred in an era when a Chevrolet Camaro entered by Randy’s Auto Body could finish 12th overall.

Yesterday, Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti’s Acura ARX-06 finished third, breaking Acura’s three-race winning streak at Daytona. Porsche 963s finished fourth, fifth and sixth. It’s a far cry from 2023, when the top Porsche, also a Penske entry, finished 14th, 34 laps off the pace.

In LMP2, the Era Motorsports Oreca/Gibson took the win—more about that victory in a moment.

2024 Rolex 24 Ferrari racing action
Eddy Eckart

In GT Daytona Pro, the Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 beat out AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R for the win. And in GTD (unlike in GTD Pro, the driver lineup of each entry in this class must include amateur drivers), Winward Racing’s Mercedes AMG GT3 won out over AF Corsa’s Ferrari 296 GT3.

In other news from the track:

Takeaway #1: The ending was confusing

Fans and drivers both were confused with the race’s finish, which seemed to come at least a lap early. The NBC broadcast said there were two laps to go, but the white flag flew almost immediately, and it seemed that the GTP cars had already begun their final lap.

Felipe Nasr, who was driving the winning #7 Porsche Penske 963, said, “I was confused, too. I don’t know if there were two white flags. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I was just focused on each corner, each braking and just clearing traffic and making sure there was no mistakes and taking the car to the end.” That’s why Nasr didn’t really begin slowing until it was clear that it was obviously time. “Yeah, you’ve got to keep on the throttle until it’s over.”

We’ve asked IMSA for an explanation, and here it is: “Due to an officiating error in race control, IMSA inadvertently announced and subsequently displayed the white flag with under three minutes remaining in the race. At the end of the lap, the race-leading No. 7 GTP car then received the checkered flag with 1 minute, 35.277 seconds still remaining, ending the race short of the planned 24 hours by effectively one lap.” According to the rules, IMSA said, the race ends when the checkered flag is displayed,  thus completing the Rolex (not quite) 24.

Takeaway #2: We never saw a proper Mustang-Corvette fight

The highly anticipated Ford vs. Chevrolet battle in GTD Pro never really materialized which, in reality, should not be surprising. Even though they have tested extensively, the Ford Mustang GT3 and the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R are brand-new cars, and there is something about the Rolex 24 to make even the most tested vehicles break. Or crash. The highest-finishing Mustang of three in the race came in sixth in class and 31st overall, in a 59-car field. The top Corvette finished fifth in class and 30th overall.

Both models were fast, and ran near the front in the early stages of the race. Both of the Pratt Miller Corvettes led for extended periods, but one suffered a cracked oil tank, and the other a power steering pump. The two AWA Corvettes were sidelined with a power steering issue in one car, an electrical problem in the other. One of the Mustangs was rear-ended by a Corvette, and repairs cost the car six laps.

Takeaway #3: Lexus had bad luck

Rolex 24 Lexus Lightened
Eddy Eckart

It was an unlucky outing for the two Vasser Sullivan Lexus RCF GT3 cars, one (#14) running in the GTD Pro class, the other (#12) in GTD. That car sat on the pole and led for multiple stints until it was hit by another car, damaging the rear bumper. But the car persevered and made it to the final pit stop still in contention when, leaving the pits, it burst into flames. Driver Parker Thompson got out and grabbed a fire extinguisher from a corner worker and put the fire out.

As for the #14, which is the IMSA class champion, it was leading in the first hour of the race when an LMP2 car spun and collected the Lexus. The car was repaired by was 36 laps down when it rejoined the race. “We have championship drive and we’re not going to let this race deter us from going on to achieve great things this year,” said driver Ben Barnicoat. “We’re going to get our heads down and get ready for Sebring.”

In happier Lexus news, Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson told Hagerty that Lexus will have a brand-new GT3 car, likely for 2026.

Takeaway #4: The winning LMP2 car was driven by a 17-year-old bound for NASCAR

Era Motorsport driver Ryan Dalziel Dwight Merriman Connor Zilisch
Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

The Era Motorsports car that won the LMP2 class had some experienced sports car racers, including Ryan Dalziel, who won the race overall in 2010, and in LMP2 in 2021. But making his first start in the Rolex 24 was Connor Zilisch, believed by some to be the Next Big Thing in stock car racing. He becomes the second-youngest driver to score a win at the Rolex 24 at 17 years and 191 days old; he’s just behind Michael de Quesada, who won the GT Daytona class in 2007 at 17 years, 63 days old. Zilisch signed a contract for this season with NASCAR’s Trackhouse Racing, and his schedule includes races in the NASCAR Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series races, along with starts in ARCA, the zMAX CARS Tour, Mazda MX-5 Cup series and the SCCA Trans-Am TA2 series.

“It’s been a wild last few weeks for me, and I’m not going to let my head get big. I’ve still got to put in the work. I’m only 17,” he said. “I can’t even rent a car. Dad has to do that for me.”

Takeaway #5: Brad Pitt got some filming done for his racing movie

2024 Rolex 24 Michelin challenge porsche brad pitt movie camera bumper
The #120 911 GT3 R with camera gear rigged up in the rear bumper. Eddy Eckart

The planned filming of the Brad Pitt racing movie, which is possibly called Apex, reportedly went well, with Pitt spending some time behind pit wall of the #120 Chip Hart Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, which was being raced by Wright Motorsports in the GTD class, finishing seventh in GTD, and 26th overall. The car carried cameras, shooting footage that is expected to be in the movie. That car had a twin in the garage; the actual film stunt car carries the names of the fictional Sonny Hayes (Pitt’s character), C. Kelso, and Patrick Long, who does actually exist.

Long, a former Porsche factory driver, doubled for Pitt in some of the filming during practice sessions, which began more than a week before the Rolex 24 and is expected to conclude on Thursday. Pitt has been spotted around Daytona Beach, and, oddly, at a laundromat in New Smyrna Beach with co-star Javier Bardem.

Takeaway #6: Attendance hit a record high

IMSA, the sanctioning body for the WeatherTech Sports Car Racing Championship, is owned by NASCAR, and they stopped giving attendance figures in 2013. But IMSA president John Doonan said that not only was there a record turnout for the Rolex 24, but also for Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge race and the Roar Before the Rolex.

The series is undeniably healthy, with 18 manufacturers participating, compared to two for IndyCar, three for NASCAR, with no additional manufacturers for those two series in sight.

Takeaway #7: The four-hour support race was a nail-biter

Speaking of the Michelin Pilot Challenge race, the four-hour event was held Friday afternoon, with a 45-car field. The race was a nail-biter to the end, as several of the leaders were in danger of running out of fuel before the checkered flag. In the last 10 minutes, leader after leader peeled off the track to get a splash of fuel, and at the end, the Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 718 GT4 RS was the last car standing, winning with a two-second lead over the Winward Racing Mercedes AMG GT4 car. Windward Racing, along with driver Daniel Morad, also won the GTD class in the Rolex 24 in a different Mercedes.

The Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup also squeezed in two races, won by Nate Cicero and Gresham Wagner. The aforementioned Connor Zilisch qualified his Miata on the pole for one of the races.

Takeaway #8: Where to catch the next action

The IMSA WeatherTech series is back in action with the second-longest race in its season, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway on March 16. At that race, Lamborghini will debut its new GTP car.




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    Well, I was excited about the Cadillacs being up front, and so was rooting for them, but I’ve been a Penske fan since way back when he was a driver, so I can still be happy about the outcome. In this day and age, with all of the technology at hand, someone still screws up and ends the race a lap early – unbelievable. I expect the Mustang vs. Corvette drama will not happen for at least a few more races – maybe not even until next year – but it’s coming!

    The race was good. I hope they can keep all of them close all year.

    The Mustang and Corvette deal was no big deal. Both are new cars and the Corvettes were taking the lead as late as 20 hours so they will be fine. The problems were with supplier parts and that can be easily fixes.

    Ford has a issue with deck lids as several came off during the race.

    I hope IMSA can find the footing to get back to the old Camel IMSA days,. That was a lot of fun and a ton of MFG money came in.

    The ‘closeness’ of the race was a creation by several ‘well-timed’ yellow flags…NASCAR anyone??? Maybe more exciting for some viewers, but also arbitrary to some degree. I also failed to see the white flag, but I would guess that was not deployed to have a more curated ending where Porsche and the Captain win (which is a suitable end), but the Cadillac was clearly faster; Cadillac got that rear brake hocus hocus figured out way better than the P-cars, just look at any footage from turn 1. Maybe IMSA can adopt points for stage wins and use a green/white checkered flag on a go-forward basis to really keep enthusiasm at its peak. How ’bout a playoffs for the final few races?? This one reeks of too much of France family management.

    It’s a bit hard to imagine the yellows were fixed by setting a factory Lexus on fire in the pit-out…but cool theory nonetheless.

    IMSA racing is almost always exciting. Having attended a number of these races I always find it hard to determine what GT cars belong in what class, although there are supposed to be distinctive different color schemes in specific parts of the cars to show the difference. One amazing thing I saw was the removal of a complete wheel brake assembly ( rotor, calipers, and pads ) and the complete replacement done in 40 seconds. The $ cost of such an assembly was even more amazing

    Teething issues for the Mustangs and Corvettes. Not a surprise with the cars being new. They’ll fix their short comings and in future meetings, I’m sure will offer bit more in head to head competition.

    One thing I live about sport car racing is that the GTD classes are actually cars supplied by manufacturers, unlike the no-longer appropriately named NASCAR (unless they change the meaning of the S to “spec”).

    Night racing, with the glowing brakes, is fantastic, and the ferris wheel was pretty cool, too! I loved watching it all, even if the overnight commentators on Peacock had rather thick accents.

    Please France Family (NASCAR) don’t do to IMSA what you did to NASCAR (ie. forgot your roots and try to go from racing to a “trendy happening”). Keep it PURE and it will develop along with the international aspect and those manufactures that participate will continue to grow.

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