Here are the challenges Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson will face in the Rolex 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Amongst myriad methods the Rolex 24 at Daytona will be an excessive however blissful rush of sensory overload for Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson, what might top the list?

How about race traffic – a response that may appear odd to long time NASCAR fans.

Elliott, a winner at Talladega Superspeedway and regular competitor on the circuit’s greatest and fastest tracks, and Johnson, a two-time Daytona 500 winner, are well versed in running a breakneck speed while slicing through enormous packs of vehicles at Daytona International Speedway.

However the Rolex 24 will resemble racing NASCAR to the nth degree.

HOW AND WHEN TO VIEW THE ROLEX 24: Set up, TELEVISION information, begin times, entry lists, more

In signing up with 2 Action Express Racing Cadillacs currently bursting with elite roadway racers, the 2 Cup Series champs will browse hugely divergent speeds, 5 classes of unique vehicles and a lineup of approximately 200 mostly unknown chauffeurs who come from worldwide with foreign accents and special designs.

And it will take place throughout 24 grueling hours on the World Center of Racing’s other design, the 12-turn, 3.56-mile roadway course that includes the infield and much of the 2.5-mile oval that Elliott and Johnson understand so well.

Action Express group supervisor Gary Nelson, a previous NASCAR champ himself, has actually equated those stock-car experiences into an example to coach his star crossovers on getting adapted to the heavy blockage, which he thinks will be their greatest obstacle at the Rolex 24.

CROSSING OVER: A take a look at the NASCAR and IndyCar chauffeurs in the 59th Rolex 24

“I’m telling both Chase and Jimmie that imagine you’re on the track racing with all your Cup Series drivers and all of the Xfinity drivers and all of the Truck series drivers and all of the K&N Series drivers – all at the same time,” Nelson informed NBC Sports with a chuckle. “There’s going to be a huge difference in speed and closure rate and talent among the different drivers.

“If I lose a couple of seconds waiting to get on a straightaway to pass this particular driver because I’m not sure if he’s going to leave me room, that decision helps you win the race here. If you rush it, like you would if you’re running a 500-mile race, you could find yourself with damage that costs you the race. Patience has got to be key to get through this.”

Neither is ignoring the obstacle of doing Daytona, especially Elliott.

The Hendrick Motorsports chauffeur is the ruling king of the roadway in NASCAR, with 4 successive triumphes on the circuits that needed left and right turns.

However despite the fact that he won at the Daytona roadway course last August, he has no additional self-confidence entering his Rolex 24 launching in a high-performance cars and truck unlike anything he ever has actually raced.

“No, not really, this is a very different deal,” Elliott informed NBC Sports. “All these guys are very good and drive these types of cars all the time. They have all the small little things that make you great inside a car, all those little nuances to manipulate things and find that last 2%.

“I’ve never even driven one of these things, so it’s going to be a steep learning curve for me. I’ve accepted that. I’m looking forward to the challenge for sure and just trying not to mess it up too bad for my teammates.”

Though Johnson is making his 8th effort at the Rolex 24, it’s his very first in a years, and the high-level models drastically have actually progressed through generations of technological advancement (and a cars series merger), assisting shave almost 10 seconds off lap times with enhanced braking and a smoother trip that rewards high aggressiveness.

“It’s a very fun car to drive, lots of downforce, lots of speed,” stated Johnson, who will be teamed with Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Rockenfeller and Simon Pagenaud in his familiar No. 48 that will be a one-off entry. “This race has a special place in my heart, and I love to be a part of it.”

The seven-time champ and Elliott appeared to adjust well Friday on the very first day of Holler screening.

<em>The No. 31 Cadillac that Chase Elliott will be driving in the Rolex 24 at Daytona was in the hunt for the DPi championship last year through the Twelve Hours of Sebring finale (Brian Cleary/</em>
The No. 31 Cadillac that Chase Elliott will be driving in the Rolex 24 at Daytona remained in the hunt for the DPi champion in 2015 through the Twelve Hours of Sebring ending (Brian Cleary/

Making 27 laps in the No. 31 Cadillac DPI-V.R that he’ll share with Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Mike Conway, Elliott explained his continuously enhancing lap times as “a whirlwind. The faster you go through some of these sections, the better it drives. I’m trying to get that through my head a little bit.”

Stated Johnson, who made 12 laps: “It’s an awesome race car. We have an amazing driver lineup.”

Each Action Express cars and truck paced a practice (Kobayashi in the very first session; Conway in Session 2), declaring the groups have the setups and skill to contend for a general success.

Nelson stated he at first fidgeted about how Elliott and Johnson would adjust to the foreign aspects of carbon brakes, paddle moving and traction control when they hopped into the GM racing simulator with a standard setup from Nasr and Derani, the group’s full-time chauffeurs.

“I thought we might be there a while to have to really teach those things to Chase and Jimmie, and in five laps, they were right there,” Nelson stated. “They were able to just pick it right up. It’s unbelievable. These guys are professionals.”

As Elliott and Johnson prepare to race the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Champion season opener Jan. 30-31, here are some obstacles they’ll deal with in maintaining with the world’s finest cars chauffeurs:


The Cadillacs are a world apart from the Camaros that Elliott and Johnson raced in Cup in 2015. The lighter DPi cars and truck (by about 1,200 pounds) will be far more active through the turns while filled up with additional downforce.

They likewise will have supreme stopping capability, permitting Elliott and Johnson to bring greater speeds through the corners in tight sectors and likewise brake much deeper than in the Cup race on the very same course.

Nelson stated it’s one of the numerous distinctions in the cast-iron brakes utilized in Cup vehicles vs. the lighter carbon-fiber brakes of a cars. And though the carbon brakes provide much higher accuracy braking, they likewise need a mindful strategy of using pedal pressure to slow the cars and truck without shedding excessive downforce

Rolex 24 IndyCar NASCAR
IMSA Test, Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL, Dec 2020. (Image by Brian Cleary/

“Carbon brakes have a whole different warmup and peak performance time,” Nelson stated. “It ramps up a lot different on a cast-iron brake, but then it holds differently and drops off differently when it gets real hot. Your car is stopping so much faster with the carbon brakes, but it’s also losing downforce much faster. When you double or lose half your speed, your downforce changes by a factor of 4.

“So the braking can be really great at 200 mph, but you’ve got half that traction from downforce when you get down to 100 mph, so you have to modulate the brake pedal to compensate for the ramp-up and bite or effectiveness of the brakes, and at the same time, you have to modulate for the loss of downforce, which is huge if you’re a stock-car driver trying to learn that.”

Since the braking ideas are comparable, Johnson is leveraging his Rolex 24 venture to likewise assist in his adjustment to a part-time IndyCar schedule this year.

“The brakes are really the weakest link on a NASCAR vehicle,” he stated. “You create lap time exiting the turn in a NASCAR vehicle. This downforce world of sports cars and IndyCar is the other way around.

“The technique of applying the brakes and then how you trail off them and throw the car at the center of the turn is where the magic is. It’s easier said than done.”

NBC Sports expert Townsend Bell, who will be driving a Lexus in the GTD department for the 3rd successive year, stated completion of the braking zones in Turns 3 and 5 will be vital.

“For Chase, a big adjustment is the initial application of brakes, because in a stock car, you have a lot of weight transfer to the front end, and you have to ease that transition more,” Bell stated. “In a prototype, it’s a much more instant feeling, like using the fast dimmer on a light switch. It’s a much slower dimmer on a stock car. It’s a lot to get adjusted to, but if you know how to win like Chase does in the Cup Series, you’ll figure that out quickly.”

There’s practically excessive to find out with the innovative electronic controls of the DPi cars and truck, which has a guiding wheel equipped with adjustable settings for handling (consisting of power steering).

“The feel of the car can change tremendously by moving these knobs around,” Nelson stated. “But the thing that put Jimmie and Chase at ease was we have a telemetry screen that tells us where every one of those knobs is positioned at all times. So they can’t get off base very far before we see it on the telemetry screen in the pits, and we can tell them.

“So once they learn we’re able to look over their shoulder as if we’re riding in the back seat, all of a sudden, they get comfortable with the ability of us to keep them from messing up.”

Unlike the handbook (and error-prone) treatments of depending on control panel lights and a tachometer needle in NASCAR, there likewise is a button that makes speeding in the pits difficult no matter just how much the chauffeur stomps the accelerator.

However that may be the only setting that intrigues Elliott, who stated he isn’t preparing to fiddle with his space-age wheel alternatives.

“I think I’m going to be such a big variable in the car and getting around this racetrack in something new, I honestly think the worst thing I can do to myself would be to start messing with settings,” Elliott stated. “I think I’m probably going to mess myself up and probably slow down more than I’m going to help myself.

“So whichever guy gets out of the car in front of me, I’m probably not going to touch anything when I get in and just try to focus on driving and figure it out from that side.”

Having actually gotten to play with comparable guiding wheel changes in IndyCar screening, Johnson stated with a laugh that he is attempting “to push on Chase to twist some dials, because there are many driver aids built in there.

“I know it’s a bit overwhelming trying to get your senses and mind up to speed in the car,” he stated. “There are some longer straightaways (at Daytona), which are nice because you can complete your thoughts and look down at the wheel.”


Getting quickly in and out for chauffeur swaps likewise will be amongst the in-race difficulties for Elliott, who never ever has actually shared an automobile prior to however is positive of adjusting well (the group started practicing modifications Friday).

“There’s no excuse for it to take any longer than a pit stop should,” Elliott stated. “I think they can typically change before they fill it up with fuel, so there’s no excuse for us being any slower than that.”

It’s one of numerous methods he is anticipating to be leaning on his extremely achieved colleagues. After a 20-minute initial chat with his co-drivers – 2 locals of Brazil and another from England – Elliott stated they were “super friendly and understand I’m all ears and want to learn. It seems they’re willing to do that and kind of walk me through this as I learn to get up to speed. I’m going to give everything that I have to not try to mess up because I think they can easily go win this race without me.”

Elliott likewise is conscious that his cars and truck will be completing for the champion post-Daytona (unlike Johnson’s trip). “I respect that, and so I just want to do my part and play whatever role they ask me to play,” he stated. “I don’t want anything special. I’m just happy to be here for the opportunity.”

Nasr, a Solution One veteran who jokes about being Elliott’s “lucky charm” having attended his triumphes at Daytona and the Roval (“I’m hoping he can do the same in our car”), stated the group will supply Elliott with as much details as possible however likewise isn’t stressed over his efficiency.

“It’s going to be a lot different than his NASCAR car,” Nasr informed NBC Sports. “The way it feels, the brakes, the power, the handling. But I see no problem at all for him to get up to the grips of the car and being up at speed. He’s got enough time and enough practice, and everyone is looking forward to having him on board.”

The very same is true for Johnson, who currently has excellent relationships with Rockenfeller and Pagenaud. The 2019 Indy 500 winner is “happy and honored I can give Jimmie advice on road racing” after Johnson had actually offered him numerous ideas on oval racing (Pagenaud’s partner is from Johnson’s home town of El Cajon, California, where she ended up being buddies with Johnson’s sibling, Jesse).

Kobayashi, a two-time safeguarding Rolex 24 winner, stated the most crucial aspect is the group “sharing good information. I knew Jimmie had the talent, that why he’s a legend in NASCAR, so I’m not at all worried about the performance. It’s just very important to share information to win this race.”

Among Johnson’s greatest issues is the race’s length and 3:40 p.m. start, a couple of hours behind the midday green flags for his previous endurance races. “I’ll never forget the feeling of fatigue when you get near the end of the race and now to have the race to start and finish so late in the day, that adds a few more hours of being awake and on your feet,” he stated.

A veteran of the Boston Marathon and Ironman 70.3 triathlons, Johnson currently has the physical and psychological physical fitness for the Rolex 24.

“Nutrition, hydration and all that comes into play, but the thing I really love the most about it is just understanding how far you can push yourself,” he stated. “And in a 24-hour car race, you’re going to be challenged and taxed in ways you just can’t prepare for and expect.

“In doing the Boston Marathon and the 70.3, I’ve been in the hurt locker and looked at quitting. It’s been right in my face, and I chose not to, and I feel like there’s just something really big in that mentally that carries over to the day job and over to car racing.”


However in some cases the technique will be not pressing the limitations throughout the heat of fight versus the slower LMP3 and GT vehicles (whose lap times can be more than 10 seconds slower).

Johnson stated discovering how to handle traffic “is really the art of being successful in any 24-hour race.

“Thankfully I’ve had experience, and I know the areas where I’ve had success, and also know some areas where I’ve made mistakes,” he stated. “But it’s really tough because the lower division cars, their performance on the brakes and through the corners is pretty impressive. We don’t have much of an advantage there.

“Chase and I have less experience with it, but it’s something we all have to deal with, and I’ll just continue to tell myself it’s a very long race, and you’ve got to keep it on the road.”

It isn’t always an occurrence that can impact a chauffeur even the carefully tuned anticipation every lap to evaluate traffic while preserve competitive lap times.

“Yes, these boys can drive, but you get in these moments when you’re thrown that curveball of someone doing something you’re not expecting,” NBC Sports expert Calvin Fish stated. “Not locking up the brakes or releasing too early, that’s the key. Particularly for Chase in a championship-contending car that needs points on the board coming out of the race.”

NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500
Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson invested 5 seasons together as NASCAR Cup Series colleagues at Hendrick Motorsports, which was bookended by Johnson’s seventh champion in 2016 and Elliott’s very first title in 2015 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

Bell, who enjoyed Kyle Busch adjust to traffic in 2015 as a GTD colleague, stated the Rolex 24 will be “a big jump in road course performance for Chase.

“It’s those surprise moments in multiclass traffic. If you’re by yourself turning laps, you’re getting into a rhythm of putting together the braking zone, apex, exit and getting that consistent and refined. Suddenly, you have traffic in front of you, a moment happens, and that percussive feel and rhythm gets thrown off.”

Will Elliott psychologically get ready for those sorts of minutes or simply attempt to respond when they take place?

“That’s a great question,” he stated with a laugh. “I have no idea. You hear about it and watch it on TV, but making lap time out on the track by yourself is one thing that’s a hard thing to do as is.

“To try to make time with people in your way and navigating traffic all at once brings a great challenge and is a big aspect of this event, so I’ll just have to figure it out as we go.”

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.