Larger than expected crowds arrive for Rolex 24

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.,None —

Thousands of race fans have flocked to Daytona Beach for the Rolex 24 races.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the event, and as a result it is attracting record crowds to the Daytona International Speedway.

Officials say they did not expect this many people, and because the Rolex 24 is the first of many races there until the Daytona 500 in February, they think it is a sign of a successful racing season ahead.

It is already the largest attendance in history for the 24-hour race in Daytona Beach, but no one can tell you that better than Ruben Ledesma, a Porsche owner, who says he helps run the largest private car club in the world.

"Since I've been coming here, since 1970, this is the largest turnout that I have seen," said Ledesma.

Back-to-back races will be held at the Daytona International Speedway from now until the Daytona 500.  It is called ‘Speedweeks,’ and the local convention and visitor's bureau says it usually draws 250,000 people to area businesses.  However, those businesses are hoping to see more fans this year because of the surprisingly large turnout.

"The first couple days we've seen it pop up a little bit stronger than it has the last couple years.  It's been great for the community," said Larry Contrucci, Ker’s WingHouse Regional Manager.

Businesses like the WingHouse had to stay open after-hours on Thursday night to accommodate 50 people who were still there at closing time.

“It was a great night,” said Contrucci.  It's been a super day today and we're looking for a huge night tonight."

At the speedway, even more tickets are selling out, including passes for all four days of the Rolex 24.  And the big race everyone is waiting for, the Daytona 500, has not even started yet.  The Rolex 24 gets under way on Saturday and finishes 24 hours later on Sunday.