39 Times around the Clock

As I was preparing for this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona Grand-Am Sports Car race, I started thinking about the past classics I've witnessed in Daytona. By my calculation, this year's race was 39th time I've braved the deceptively chilly Florida weather to watch the sports cars wind through Daytona's "roval" road racing course.

Beginning in 1965, when my family had just relocated to Daytona Beach, my father took me to my first Daytona Continental, a 12 hour event which saw Ken Miles and Lloyd Rudy prevail in a Ford GT-40. Not only did this race mark the first time I took a camera to a race track, but it also inspired a ton of artwork that I produced in my 2nd grade classrom, just down Volusia Avenue from the speedway. I must have been impressed by Shelby Daytona Coupes, as most of my drawings seems to have featured them.

I remember sitting in the grandstands at the entrance to the infield with my father on a cool evening during the 1967 race when the Porsche 906 of Walter Habegger crashed, flipped and exploded into flames right in front of us. As the car burned with the driver inside, I remember my father reaching over and covering my eyes when it looked like the worse could be happening, and I recall the feeling of elation when the driver was able to extricate himself and run from the wreckage, relatively unharmed.

After we moved to south Florida in the early 1970's, there were a few dark years where we were able to travel north for the Daytona 500, but could not swing the trip to the sports car classic, then in 1977, having obtained my driver's license and the confidence to make such a long road trip, me and my friend ken Breslauer, now of Sebring fame, made our triumphant return to the event to watch Hurley Haywood, John Graves and Dave Helmick triumph in a race that saw Paul Newman co-drive a Ferarri to a 5th place finish.

Attending Daytona Beach Community College as a photography student in the early 1980's I attended the race for the first time as a credentialed member of the media. Working as a stinger for UPI, and the Associated Press, I got to witness (and document the beginings of the IMSA GTP era.

The open cockpit World Sports Cars replaced the GTP's in 1994 and continued snapping away.

Not only did the 2001 race mark my first event as the official photographer for Grand American Road Racing (one of the best things that's ever happened to my photo career), but it also marked the great Dale Earnhardt's first and only appearance in the race, co-driving a Corvette with his son.

So with Joao Barbosa, Terry Borcheller, Ryan Dalziel, and Mike Rockenfeller going to victory in this years' event, another chunk of sports car history has been added to my ever-growing sports car racing photo archive, not to mention a 39th installment in my round-the-clock memories of Daytona!


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www.bcpix.com is the online home for the photographic archive of Florida-based photographer Brian Cleary. At this portal not only can you search and browse an ever-growing collection of photography covering more than 30 years, but many of the images are available for online purchase as editorial images, commercial images and/or personal use prints.