Jim Pace, 1996 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall winner, dies after contracting COVID-19

Nate Ryan
·4 min read

Jim Pace, an 18-time starter in the Rolex 24 and an overall winner in 1996, is dead after contracting COVID-19, according to his family. Pace died Nov. 13 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Pace, 59, won the 1996 Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway in an Oldsmobile with Scott Sharp and Wayne Taylor (whose No. 10 Cadillac has won the past two Rolex 24s and was vying Saturday for the DPi title in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Sebring International Raceway).

It’s very, very sad news,” Taylor said in a tweet from Wayne Taylor Racing. “Hard to believe. Jim and I drove together and won at Daytona and Sebring in 1996. My condolences to his family. I always said he was one of the nicest people and one of the best teammates I ever had.”

<em>A member of the Wayne Taylor Racing crew wore a helmet carrying a tribute to Jim Pace at the Twelve Hours of Sebring (IMSA).</em>
A member of the Wayne Taylor Racing crew wore a helmet carrying a tribute to Jim Pace at the Twelve Hours of Sebring (IMSA).

Pace also won the Twelve Hours of Sebring in 1996. He was a GTU class winner in his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut in 1990.

<em>(Getty Images)</em>
(Getty Images)

After Saturday’s Twelve Hours of Sebring, Corvette Racing champion Jordan Taylor offered a tearful tribute to Pace in a postrace interview with NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch.

“What a sad start hearing the news this morning about Jim Pace,” Taylor said. “He meant a ton to my dad. He won this race with my dad back in ’96, and we’re just going to miss him.”

“Racer, teacher and loyal friend: These are three simple words to describe Jim Pace and the loss our sport feels today due to his passing,” IMSA president John Doonan said in a release. “When it comes to racing and driving, Jim did it all and saw it all.

“From a beginner to a champion, Jim counseled drivers on the path to the top after he himself rode that same journey. of us at IMSA are devastated by losing such a great champion and friend.”

Here’s the release from Sunday Group Management sent on behalf of the Pace family:

Jim Pace passed away on Nov. 13 in Memphis, Tennessee, after contracting COVID-19.

Pace was an 18-time participant in the Rolex 24 At Daytona from 1990-2016. He won in his first start, taking GTU honors in a Team Highball Mazda RX-7.

He began his racing career in Barber Saab in 1988, and quickly moved up to sports cars. He finished third in IMSA Camel Lights in 1991, winning at Road America in an Essex Racing Kudzu-Buick. He won the 1994 IMSA Camel GTU championship, winning three races for Leitzinger Racing at Road Atlanta, Indianapolis Raceway Park and Laguna Seca.

Pace took overall honors in 1996, driving with Wayne Taylor and Scott Sharp in a Doyle Racing Olds-Riley & Scott Mk III.

He followed up his 1996 Rolex 24 victory by winning the 12 Hours of Sebring in the same car with Taylor and Eric Van de Poele. The feat was nearly unprecedented.

Pace took his third victory of the season at Texas World Speedway, co-driving with Taylor. He finished ninth in the championship, scoring five podium finishes. Pace also participated with the team in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, co-driving with Taylor and Sharp.

Pace helped to sow the seeds of motorsport through his decades-long contributions at the Skip Barber Racing School, including providing coaching and advice to top talents on their way to IndyCar and sports car careers.

Racing through the decades, Pace never lost his touch for competition or feel for a car.

In recent years, he was part of 50-Plus Racing/Highway to Help, competing to raise funds for Alzheimer’s awareness. In the 50th anniversary of the event in 2012, he co-drove with AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson to a 12th-place finish. He finished eighth in the Prototype class in 2015 and 2016.

Pace had grown his role with Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) in recent years, acquiring an ownership stake in 2015 as well as continuing to foster the paddock experience as a coach and mentor.

In lieu of flowers, the Pace family has asked that donations be made to Wounded Warriors or Alzheimer’s Research in his name.

Arrangements for a service have not been made yet but a celebration of life service will be announced at a later date.

Jim Pace, 1996 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall winner, dies after contracting COVID-19 originally appeared on NBCSports.com