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The long haul: A day in the life at the 24 Hours of Daytona

24 hours of racing goes by faster than you think. Let's take a look at how we spent that time, whether it's up against the fence or hanging out in the pits.

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Andrew Krok
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If you don't stay up as long as possible during the 24 Hours of Daytona, you're not doing it right.

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While it may not be as packed-to-the-brim as the Daytona 500, this daylong endurance race is still a popular event.

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Before the race begins, thousands of fans in the infield are able to get up close with the cars.

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Shortly before the race begins, everybody is guided off the track so the teams can get ready.

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But before the race begins, every team starts in the garage, where the crowds get their first look at this year's contenders.

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Acura made its mark on Daytona with the maiden voyage of its NSX GT3.

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Running in the GTD class, the NSX GT3 is a mish-mash of production parts and high-end racing upgrades.

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The body panels might look the same, but they're made entirely of carbon fiber.

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The brakes have been upgraded, and the hubs were swapped out in favor of center-locking units.

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The two NSX GT3s ran this year under Michael Shank Racing.

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The team included talent from many other series, including IndyCar's Ryan Hunter-Reay.

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This steering wheel costs between $30,000 and $40,000.

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If you look really hard, you can see the carbon fiber weave underneath the livery.

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The livery is a vinyl wrap applied directly over naked carbon fiber.

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There's an engine in there, somewhere.

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In fact, this is the same 3.5-liter V6 that's in every production NSX, just without the hybrid system.

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With hours to go before the race, engineers ensure everything is ready to roll.

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Not everybody gets to walk into the garages, but Acura was nice enough to let us poke around.

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The intake on this GTD-class Lexus RC F is huge.

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This was Lexus' first race for its car, as well.

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Not every garage is action-packed, though.

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Porsche's garage was surprisingly quiet in the hours leading up to the race.

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BMW's latest art car, a GTLM-spec M6, hopes it can live up to the words slapped on its side.

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Yet another car made its IMSA debut here, as well -- the Mercedes-AMG GT3.

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It's low, it's wide and it's damn near terrifying.

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This isn't your average Lamborghini Huracan, if you couldn't tell.

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Fan favorites abound, including the usual stable of Ferrari racecars.

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If you didn't think these cars ran low to the ground, this picture ought to prove you wrong.

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Ford's GT returned to Daytona, looking to make up for its dismal showing the year prior.

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The ubiquitous Chevrolet Corvette C7.R was ready to show the new kids who's boss.

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Mazda's brand new prototype racer came out, as well.

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The front end is significantly closer to the street car's aesthetic than it was before.

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That's probably not the most effective place to put the engine, Cadillac. Perhaps you want it in the car.

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A lucky few are granted access to hang out in the pit tents, where teams pore over data from start to finish.

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Before their stints in the car, other drivers sit atop the telemetry to monitor the race and stay abreast of any major changes.

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Everybody in the pits waits patiently until it's time to spring into action.

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When it comes time to prepare for a pit stop, the team nears the wall, grabbing the parts necessary during the stop.

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One person is in charge of fuel, and another in charge of tires. There's even a person dedicated to ensuring the air hose doesn't get tangled up everywhere.

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As the car arrives, the pit crew is ready to gas it up and replace the tires.

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They move so fast, even a quick shutter speed can't keep them in focus.

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The air hose connects to an onboard jack system that lifts the car up.

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The fuel and air hoses are the last to be removed, and the car peels off to rejoin the race.

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It may only take a minute, but it's one very long minute for the crew.

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Here's a set of slicks that are no longer slick after a stint on the track.

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Most fans don't watch the race from the pits, though -- they catch it from the fences right next to the track.

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Fans with expensive cameras line the fencing, hoping to grab a solid shot of their favorite car as it comes by.

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Those with experience bring a step stool that lets them stand over the fencing.

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Shooting at night requires a mixture of experience and luck.

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Manually set the focus for the spot on the track where you expect to get the best picture, and snap away.

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You'll want to pan the camera to match the cars roaring by, so your background gets blurry but the car stays in focus.

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Not every shot turns out good, but the ones that do really give a sense of the speed these cars carry.

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The noise is something else.

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Every car has a different note, from the flat bleating of the Ford GT to the insanely loud rumblings of the Corvette C7.R.

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BMW's art car, with "FAST" emblazoned on the side, proved anything but, with a mediocre finishing position.

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Acura's NSX GT3 excelled during the night, when rain forced some of its more powerful competitors to struggle with traction issues.

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If you don't want to shoot from the sidelines, you can head up to the grandstands, but then you're fighting with the safety walls.

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A bit of luck can still produce some good photos, though.

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Before you know it, daylight arrives, but roughly one-third of the race remains.

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While nighttime might produce better looking pictures, shooting in the daytime is so much easier.

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At the least, you can figure out which cars are screaming up toward the camera, instead of squinting into headlights and guessing.

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Many will catch a few hours of sleep overnight, but many more will stay up and watch the entire race.

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I took a two-hour nap during a period of heavy rain and constant full-course cautions. That's the time to do it.

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As daylight broke, the rain went away, and the track began to dry.

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Once daylight arrives, it's a matter of ensuring the cars remain reliable for the last few hours.

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Not everyone wins the 24 Hours of Daytona, but finishing the entire race is a victory in and of itself.

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