CONCORD, N.C. – Members of the racing community from around the world have descended on Daytona Beach, Florida, for the annual Rolex 24 at DAYTONA race. A 24-hour race isn't for a faint-hearted driver, and the same can be said for the pit crews at the event.
Fielding Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Ally teammates are members from Hendrick Motorsports who have an extensive collective history in racing. Hendrick Motorsports vice president of competition Chad Knaus said he personally selected some of the pit crew members who will help Johnson and the No. 48 team for the 24-hour race.
“I picked them because of their diverse background,” Knaus said. “Scott Honan is athletic; he’s got some road racing experience and he’s got a passion for it. Michael Carber is just a great all-around mechanic and racer. It seems to me that if you get a racer, he can adapt to just about any environment, so I felt like Michael would be a good asset to us. Cal Stewart is a really good engineer and he has a passion for road racing, as well. Plus, he’s young and athletic. And then we have Orane Ossanski, and I feel like he, once again, is very multi-faceted. He's mechanically inclined, an athlete, young and part of our current pit crew with the No. 24 car.”
Honan volunteered to be on the No. 48 pit crew and was tabbed to be the rear-tire changer. He called the race a bucket list item and credited working as a jackman for 17 years as the reason he's in shape for the event.
“It wasn’t a big step to go about doing this adventure,” Honan said. “It was more of, ‘Here’s the crash course of learning how to do it.’ The nice part is, being a jackman and now a tire changer, I didn’t have to unlearn anything. It was basically just letting your athletic ability come out and utilizing what your body knows how to do, then learning the fundamentals of the actual pit stop.”
The cars for the Rolex 24 are vastly different than NASCAR Cup Series cars. Honan and the rest of the pit crew will be working on a Cadillac DPi-V.R that requires different preparations than a Cup car. Even with the unique mechanics of the DPi-V.R, Knaus said the team performed exceptionally well during the Roar before the 24 last Sunday, which sets the lineup for the main race.
“It’s pretty intimidating when you go down there because it’s a completely different environment,” Knaus said. “The cars are so unique and there’s a lot of activity. It’s tough for somebody to realize how different it is from our sport. There’s a lot of stuff happening, so I think they did pretty well.”
Honan said working on the car is similar to riding a bike – once the crew got in a rhythm it’s about keeping the stamina up. The group will be out on pit road for the entire 24 hours and are expected to perform at least 42 pit stops. With the fuel capacity of the Rolex cars lower than Cup cars, the teams will be pitting every 35 minutes.
“The whole night, you’re going to be out there,” Honan said. “You’re going to cat nap, they say. Jimmie was like, ‘You’re going to learn on the fly. You got to listen to your body and take care of the nutrition side of things.’ You got all kinds of things that are going to happen that you can’t really train for.
“You need to make sure you eat. Make sure you drink. If you can doze off for 10-15 minutes, doze off for 10-15 minutes between stops and get your bearings. You won’t make it without trying to sleep.”
Chase Elliott's team earned the pole for the race, and Johnson's group will start sixth out of 50 teams. The Rolex 24 begins on Saturday, Jan. 30 at 3:40 p.m. ET will end Sunday, Jan. 31 at 3:40 p.m. ET. The race will be broadcast on both NBC and NBCSN throughout the 24 hours. Click here for the full broadcast schedule.