Home » Did The Daytona 24 Hour Race Actually End After Only 23 Hours? An Explainer

Did The Daytona 24 Hour Race Actually End After Only 23 Hours? An Explainer

24 Hours Of Lemans Timing Final Ts
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Ah, the 24 Hours of Daytona. Or the Rolex 24 At Daytona, if you’re slavishly attending to the wishes of sponsors. You’d think, stumping up your hard earned cash for a ticket, that you’d be getting yourself a full slab of 24 hours of racing. Especially with a famous watch company as the title sponsor! And yet! Spectators, commentators, and teams were all astounded when the lead car took the checkered flag at 23 hours, 58 minutes, and 24 seconds. Say what!?

As seen on the telecast, in the dying moments of the race, everything got a bit odd. The timing screen on TV read “2 LAPS TO GO.” The clock on the track had not yet reached the 24-hour mark. Typically, the white flag, indicating the last lap, would be shown when there is less than 1 lap’s worth of time remaining on the clock. This has the drivers hit the 24 hour mark during their last lap.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

But that’s not what happened. Instead, the white flag was shown with just under 3 minutes remaining in the race. With the leaders lapping at well under 1:40, that would see the lead cars finish before the 24 hour period had elapsed. And that’s precisely what happened, with the checkered flag flying a lap after the white flag, with Felipe Nasr taking the victory in the No. 7 Porsche. Commentators across the world were flummoxed, fans confused, and even Nasr himself didn’t know what was going on. He kept his foot in it, completing another lap at racing speed just in case, not wanting to give up the win to the hard-charging No. 31 Cadillac coming up behind. Meanwhile, the Porsche drivers in the pits looked confused as to whether they’d even won the thing or not.

The internet raged with speculation and condemnation in the wake of the event. On Monday, IMSA finally released a statement explaining what had occurred.

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Due to an officiating error in race control, IMSA inadvertently announced and subsequently displayed the white flag with under three minutes remaining in the race. At the end of the lap, the race-leading No. 7 GTP car then received the checkered flag with 1 minute, 35.277 seconds still remaining, ending the race short of the planned 24 hours by effectively one lap.
Based on Article 49 of the 2024 IMSA Sporting Regulations and Standard Supplementary Regulations, should the checkered flag be inadvertently or otherwise displayed before the leading car completes the scheduled number of laps or before the prescribed time has been completed, the race is nevertheless deemed ended when the flag is displayed.
Had normal procedure prevailed, the white flag would have been shown one lap later. Speaking to The Autopian, an IMSA spokesperson explained how things are supposed to go.
Normally, when it is determined that the time remaining by the time the leader reaches the start/finish line is less than the time it takes to complete a lap, race control calls for the leader to be shown the white flag. After the leader takes the white flag, race control calls for the leader to receive the checkered flag at the completion of the lap.
Basically, the race is supposed to cross the 24 hour mark on the last lap. Sometimes, it’s almost close to perfect—like in 2022, when the Acura ARX-05 of Meyer Shank Racing won with a race time of 24:00:23.026. 2021 was even closer, finishing at 24:00:14.673. Races have finished early before, but usually for more legitimate reasons than a silly mistake. In 2019, the race ended after 21 hours and 59 minutes due to heavy rainfall. The Konica Minolta Cadillac took the victory that year, piloted by none other than F1 luminaries Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi, along with Renger van der Zande and Jordan Taylor.
Ultimately, IMSA followed a fairly common procedure once the wrong flag was shown. Typically, in motorsports, when the checkered flag flies, the race is over. It doesn’t matter if it’s too early, the flag ends the race. The idea is that it to continue the race would be unfair to drivers who saw the flag and stopped racing.
Similar events have occurred before in other series. Famously, Formula 1 made a foul-up at the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix, when the checkered flag was shown early. Due to the mistake, the race was classified as ending the race on lap 68 instead of lap 70. Confusion reigned across the track as some drivers continued lapping at full speed while spectators around the circuit were celebrating. Controversy surrounded model Winnie Harlow, who had been the celebrity guest honored with waving the checkered flag. An investigation indicated that Harlow was innocent, having been incorrectly instructed to display the flag early by race officials. Nonetheless, she received a torrent of hate online even after being exonerated.

 

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A post shared by ♔Winnie Harlow♔ (@winnieharlow)

In the end, the extra lap would not likely have made much difference to the outcome of the race. Nasr had a decent gap to the Cadillac behind, after all. At the same time, you never know. Maybe one of the lead cars would have speared off in the penultimate corners under pressure, or any one of a million other possibilities.
What it did get us was a bunch of irritated fans making light of the situation. Enjoy a sampling of a few memes that came out of this embarrassing snafu.

While it wasn’t a huge deal in this case, such mistakes tend to leave fans uneasy and unsatisfied. IMSA will likely be taking a hard look at what happened this weekend to make sure it doesn’t happen again. There’s a simple fix, though, that should make everyone happy. Next year, it’s going to be the 24 Hours And One Minute And Thirty Five Seconds of Daytona. Easy.
Image credits: IMSA, Wherever Peter Got That Neat Stopwatch Image
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Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
25 days ago

Because 23 hours and 58 minutes at Daytona just doesn’t sound right.
Hey where’s my final 2 minutes? I want to see the manager.
Hey auto racing is like the NBA it’s only the final 2 minutes that and you eliminated them.
Maybe they should have just sold two extra minutes of commercials?

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
25 days ago

A couple thoughts.

First, the final-lap white flag seems to be a purely American idea. No series that I watch outside of the U.S. uses it. I’m not saying someone grabbed the wrong flag, but would it have even been an issue if someone wasn’t trying to figure out when to display the white? The field is full of international racers, I don’t think the absence of a final-lap white would have confused them any.

Second, all the timed races in the junior series I watch are always a specified period, plus a lap. So the clock expires, the leader crosses start/finish, and thus begins the final lap of the race. There’s no reason the 24 can’t adopt this procedure to eliminate any possible confusion.

Third, it’s not so clear to me that an additional lap or two would have retained the finishing order we saw. Nasr was quite obviously pushing a tired car and worn tires quite hard still, as he knew the Cadillac was coming quickly. He had at least one big whoa moment coming into turn one, and were it not for some ill-timed traffic on what proved to be the final lap, the finish could have been much closer. Given another lap (or two), I like the Caddy’s chances.

Last edited 25 days ago by Matt Sexton
Abdominal Snoman
Abdominal Snoman
25 days ago
Reply to  Matt Sexton

Even in the US I find it unusual. In all the endurance races I’ve done (nothing fancy, just Lemons and WRL) the white flag signifies that there’s a safety vehicle on track ahead of you. Sometimes with a red cross, but usually not.

Strangek
Strangek
25 days ago

I watched an absurd amount of that race, it was awesome even with the weird ending.

Angular Banjoes
Angular Banjoes
26 days ago

If it was the Seiko 24 At Daytona, this never would have happened.

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
26 days ago

Maybe Rolex needs a co-sponsor more experienced in counting to help them out with that. Maybe Texas Instruments? Or Sesame Street, featuring The Count?

“Two, two laps to go, a-ha!”

Last edited 26 days ago by Totally not a robot
rctothefuture
rctothefuture
26 days ago

What I thought was funny was the international streams had no idea what was going on. They were saying “2 laps to go!” and then it ended and they were extremely confused. Made for a bit of good TV for a moment.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
26 days ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

For those of us stateside, it was just as weird. The implied question mark in the announcers’ voice (“checkered flag?!”) was quite clear.

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