It's barely been three months since the 2012 racing season ended for the sport's major series, but it has seemed like an eternity for hard-core racing fans, waiting for the new season to begin.
This weekend, their long wait was over as the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona marked the beginning of the 2013 racing season. Itwas the 51st running of the twice-around-the-clock Daytona classic, first won by Dan Gurney in 1962.
Unusual among racing series, the Grand-Am series begin its season with the longest, toughest race of the year.
Last year's series co-champion and four-time Rolex 24 winner, Scott Pruett led a trio of BMW-powered Daytona Prototype cars to the first three starting positions in a field of 56 entries for the race.
While there were more than 70 lead changes during the race, Pruett and his team-mates, Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas and Charlie Kimball, were in the same position at the end of the 24 hours. Montoya drove the final stint, regaining the lead with just a few laps to go, after both front-runners had to pit for fuel.
Max Angelelli drove a Corvette-powered DP car to the finish in second place and A.J. Almendinger drove his Ford-powered car to third, all within a minute of each other after 24 hours.
Audi R8s finished first and second in the GT class, while the Ferrari 458 Italia of Canadian-based AIM Racing claimed third.
A Porsche Cayman won the new-for-2013 GX class.
The field was filled with well-known drivers from other series, including Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastian Bourdais, Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Charlie Kimball and Justin Wilson and A.J. Almendinger, who co-drove the winning car in last year's race.
The start of the season for other major racing series won't be far behind.
NASCAR's Daytona Speed Weeks begin on February 15, culminating in the Daytona 500 on February 25.
The ALMS season begins with the 12 hours of Sebring on March 16 – the last chance for fans to see the mighty LeMans LMP1 cars, including the R18 e-tron, competing in this race. With the merger of Grand-Am and ALMS, beginning in 2014, those cars will no longer be eligible.
Formula 1 fires up again the same weekend with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Then the IndyCar season begins a week later on the streets of St. Petersburg on March 24.