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ROLEX 24: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ron Fellows Lead Goodwrench Service Plus Team

6 January 2001

By David Treffer
Contributing Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel

The Earnhardts': Keys to a Corvette Victory at Daytona?

Last year the battle for the Rolex 24 Hour race boiled down to a shoot-out between Corvette versus Viper. At the end the Team Oreca Vipers were strong enough to withstand the Corvette challenge. This year's battle between the two GTS titans may not happen. None the less, two other manufacturers, Porsche and Saleen, will join the battle.

The Rolex 24 is not just any race. It is North America's only twice around the clock race for professional road racing. A driver can win a lot of races but if the Rolex 24 is not on the resume as a victory the career is not complete.

General Motors took on the task of putting a top team together for the 2000 season. GM recognized that Daimler/Chrysler was getting a lot of advertising mileage out of their Viper program. The Viper has been a success story on the showroom floor as well as the racetrack. Improving the breed through racing.

Ron Fellows and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (photo by David Treffer)

Now comes 2001 and the battle between Viper and Corvette may not materialize. Rumors have been circulating that the Viper team will make a last minute entry to defend their title. The Corvette team is preparing the assault on Daytona as if the Vipers will show up. Regardless, the Corvette Racing team will face strong challenges from Saleen and Porsche.

The Corvette Racing team will be fielding two cars for the 24 Hour race. Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins will drive the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C5-R while Ron Fellows, Chris Kneifel, Franck Freon and Johnny O'Connell will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet Corvette.

The Earnhardt's have brought a lot of attention to the Corvette Team as well as the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Earnhardt, Jr. commenting on the new team, "The whole car all around is different. We got a lot more grip, a lot more downforce. You can tell the difference in the acceleration and deceleration and how much air the car has on it versus our Winston Cup cars.

During the press conference Earnhardt Jr. was asked why he chose to drive in the Rolex.

"Chevrolet came to me two years and ask me what I thought about it. We're under a lot of pressure to drive Winston Cup cars. I think it's a lot of pressure. I was pretty intimated about the idea to come over here and drive something that I didn't have any experience in. The more we talked about it, the more I looked at the car and this type of racing, the more it intrigued me. I'm not trying to do any other type of racing. This is just a great opportunity. When my father got excited about it, that just pumped me up more. Everything he says and does I really believe in.

So come February 3 Corvette will once again take up the challenge of winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Having the Earnhardt's on board might be the keys to victory.

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.