Motorcycle stars Ricky Carmichael, Scott Russell and Jason Pridmore were at Daytona International Speedway on Monday – on four wheels.
The motorcycle legends were shaking down a Spirit of Daytona Racing Daytona Prototype during the first day of a three-day October Test Days session in preparation for a potential run in the 47th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona sports car classic on Jan. 24-25.
More than 20 sports cars were turning laps on the 3.56-mile road course as part of a three-day test that will include two evening sessions. For Russell and Carmichael, it was their second sports car test at DIS while for Pridmore, it was his first.
All three motorcycle stars have been testing at other road course facilities as they look to make an attempt to compete in the upcoming Rolex 24, the grueling and challenging twice-around-the-clock challenge.
In recent years, the Rolex 24 has turned into an All-Star race showcasing different competitors from different racing series. But having the trio of motorcycle legends in Carmichael, Russell and Pridmore in the star-studded field is unique.
All three riders carry a strong tradition of success at Daytona International Speedway. Russell, whose nickname is “Mr. Daytona,” is a five-time Daytona 200 By Honda winner, a record that he shares with Miguel Duhamel.
“This is one of my favorite races to come watch,” Russell said. “For years, I just thought how cool it would be to be out there. To have the opportunity is just amazing for me. I pinched myself everyday to make sure this is real.”
Carmichael, who has retired from Supercross and is now pursuing a NASCAR career, is a record five-time Daytona Supercross By Honda winner and is nicknamed G.O.A.T – the Greatest Of All Time.
“It’s neat to be here and see it from this angle,” Carmichael said. “I’ve been around the motorcycle stuff for so long. This is a racer’s heaven for sure. It’s awesome to be able to have done it on a motorcycle, do it on a Daytona Prototype and next on the list is a stock car.”
Jason Pridmore anchors the trio of motorcycle champions with two 750 Supersport victories at Daytona.
“It’s exciting because we’re all nervous,” Pridmore said. “We’re all scared. I don’t think any of us will lie to you. We’re all a little bit nervous for what we’re getting ourselves into. There’s a lot of respect for the guys that do this full time.”
All three riders are being tutored by sports car veteran Guy Cosmo for the potential Rolex 24 start. Having Cosmo showing them the ins and outs of sports car racing at DIS has been a huge asset for Carmichael, Russell and Pridmore.
“There’s zero ego involved here I think between all three of us,” Pridmore said. “We just want to learn and we got a great guy. Guy Cosmo has helped us so much. You’ve got to give full credit to him. He has really helped us. The whole team has been very accommodating. There all a bunch of motorcycle heads any way. They all knew who we were when we came which is nice. It’s made it very comfortable.”
Russell, a native of Conyers, Ga., has regularly attended the Rolex 24 and only dreamed of competing in the race. So far, he is enjoying the challenge of learning something new.
“It’s a great challenge to come in cold like that with no real car experience,” Russell said. “I don’t think any of us have much car experience. You got a lot of great drivers in this series and I look forward to chasing them around and trying to see if I can get my times down to where they are. It’s such a new challenge for me. It’s great.”
If any of the three motorcycle legends have an edge on learning the Daytona Prototype, it might be Carmichael. The native of Havana, Fla., is pursuing a NASCAR career with Kevin Harvick Inc. and has competed in the NASCAR Camping World East Series as well as recently in the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Talladega Superspeedway.
But even with some stock car experience, Carmichael says that himself, Russell and Pridmore are pretty much on the same playing field.
“I do have some time from racing stock cars,” Carmichael said. “I’ve got quite a bit more seat time than these guys but unfortunately not in this kind of car. We’re all about even in this Prototype car. It is comforting to know we’re all on the same playing field. It’ll be fun and we can learn together.”
This is the first of three off-season tests for the Rolex Series at Daytona. Teams will test with 2009 tires Nov. 11-12. A star-studded lineup is expected for the Jan. 2-4 session, the last major session prior to the 2009 season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
This week’s three-day session will continue through Wednesday. The sessions will be open to the public, with fans able to view testing from the Sprint FANZONE with a $10 Daytona 500 Experience tour-only ticket. Fans who have already purchased tickets to the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona will be admitted free.