As the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship moves into its next 50 years, there was no better way to start 2020 than with a thrilling Rolex 24 At Daytona last month.
When the race began, a prestigious list of 997 drivers had won at least once in what is now known as the WeatherTech Championship. Twenty-four hours later, five had earned a Rolex watch for the first time, pushing the total over 1,000 winners.
The 1,000th winner officially happened as the DragonSpeed USA’s No. 81 ORECA LMP2 07 captured the victory in the LMP2 class at Daytona. While Colin Braun owned multiple IMSA race wins prior to the Rolex 24 – 17 to be exact — all three of his teammates – Ben Hanley, Harrison Newey and Henrik Hedman – had never visited the top step of an IMSA podium.
That has changed. As the checkered flag waved, Hedman and Newey sat on pit road, and watched Hanley drive the No. 81 ORECA across the finish line to claim their first-ever class win in the WeatherTech Championship.
“Collecting the iconic watch and being a part of the IMSA history was a dream come true,” said Hanley. “The whole DragonSpeed crew were faultless and went to show how strong the group is. We are on a high heading into the Twelve Hours of Sebring and just can’t wait to get back on track looking for another win.”
It was only Hanley’s third-ever start in the premier series, and for our purposes, it made him IMSA race-winner No. 1,000.
Rookie driver Newey was even “newer,” as this was his debut WeatherTech Championship race. His last name is a familiar one to race fans, as his father, Adrian Newey, is a renowned IndyCar and Formula 1 engineer who currently serves as chief technical officer for the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team.
This Rolex 24 win, however, is a clear boost to Harrison Newey’s efforts to make his own name in the sport.
“When you look through the names that have won over the years, it’s pretty special,” said 21-year-old Newey. “With the number 1,000, it’s just extra cool. It’s a nice number. It’s got a nice ring to it.”