DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Rolex 24 race weekend has arrived as thousands of fans head to the Daytona International Speedway.
The Rolex 24 twice-around-the-clock endurance event begins Saturday. The race starts Saturday at 2 p.m. Besides the 24 hour racing, folks can enjoy carnival rides, a Ferris wheel, participate in the Daytona 5K on Saturday morning and a fireworks show Saturday night.
2016's race marks the 53rd anniversary of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It also will showcase new changes since the Daytona Rising project began.
Fans packed the Daytona International Speedway pumped for the Rolex 24 but also excited about the stadium itself.
"It's just remarkable the change that they've made here," said Jack Rahmes.
From the seats to the amenities, race fans told News 6 they couldn't get enough.
"It's much easier to get around for all the fans," said Rahmes.
The Daytona Rising Project started in July of 2013, and $400 million later, "You're standing right now in the world center of racing," said Joie Chitwood III, President of DIS.
Fans along with racing legends were enjoying the experience.
"It's probably the prettiest stadium I've ever been in and I've been in a lot of them,"
said AJ Foyt, Motorsports Hall of Famer.
Foyt, along with Jamie McMurray also spent the day at the Speedway and donated a piece of motorsports history for everyone to see.
"This isn't like anything any race fan will have ever experienced. It's hard for me or for anybody else to sell you on it or to explain how awesome this is. It's just one of those things for you to come and see for yourself," said McMurray, a former Rolex 24 & Daytona 500 Champion.
Driving a Porsche 911 in the GT Le Mans class, Nick Tandy posted the fastest lap around the 3.56-mile road course on Thursday. But because the race director declared "variable conditions" before qualifying, Tandy will start well back in the field.
Mikhail Aleshin earned the pole with a ninth-place qualifying effort.
Aleshin, driving in the top Prototype class, averaged 101.882 mph and covered the course in 2 minutes, 5.793 seconds. Tandy was more than 4 seconds faster, but it didn't matter.
Tandy will start behind 13 Prototype entries and eight Prototype Challenge entries.