IndyCars - The off-season: Series news and comment until the March 2014 kick-off


#440

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It’s TIME!..for the first big race of the 2019 motorsport season…the Rolex 24 at Daytona…

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2019 is the 50th anniversary of the International Motor Sports Association - aka IMSA - the premier sanctioning body for SportsCar competition in North America. And IMSA is kicking off their 50th season by once again sanctioning one of the world’s great endurance races, the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

This is the 57th iteration of this race and this year there are 47 cars in four different classes entered. Here is the 2019 class picture:

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So, let’s GO!

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#441

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It’s TIME!..for the first big race of the 2019 motorsport season…the Rolex 24 at Daytona…(part 2)…

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It’s the first race of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the first of the four Michelin Endurance Cup races - the endurance racing championship within the IMSA championship. This is one that great drivers from all disciplines the world over want to try and want to win, and that includes IndyCar drivers - a LOT of them, every year - and that is why we follow the Rolex 24.

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There will be two races this weekend - the Rolex 24 at Daytona, starting on Saturday and ending on Sunday, and the first race of the Michelin Pilot Challenge series, the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona on Friday, and IndyCar drivers, past and present, will be in both. Let’s see who they are, starting with the WeatherTech series:

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DPi class - IndyCar driver Mike Conway will be an add for Daytona in the # 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R. for Action Express. his co-drivers will be regulars Filipe Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa and fellow add Christian Fittipaldi. Fittipaldi, who started his long and distinguished career as a Champ Car star, is ending it this weekend. This is his last race.

Mike Conway

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IndyCar driver Juan Pablo Montoya will drive the full season in the # 6 Acura ARX-05 with co-driver and former champion Dane Cameron, for Acura Team Penske. Added in for Daytona will be IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud.

Juan Pablo Montoya (left) and Simon Pagenaud

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IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves will be in the other Acura Team Penske car for the full season, the # 7 Acura ARX-05 DPi, with co-driver and former champion Ricky Taylor. Added in for Daytona will be IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Helio Castroneves (left) and Alexander Rossi

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Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr were the 2018 IMSA P-class Champions in the # 31 Whelen Cadillac DPi-V.R. for Action Express. Felipe returns for 2019 and his all-season co-driver will be Pro Mazda alum Pipo Derani, while Eric will be the add for all 4 Michelin Endurance Cup races.

Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani

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Pro Mazda alum Will Owen is running the full season for Juncos Racing in their first year campaigning the # 50 Cadillac DPi-V.R. Added in for Daytona are Agustin Canapino, IndyCar driver Rene Binder and fellow IndyCar driver and 2017 Indy Lights Champion Kyle Kaiser. All of these drivers are either current or former drivers for Juncos in other series. Rene is slated to do all 4 Michelin Endurance Cup races in the car.

left to right, Will Owen, Rene Binder and Kyle Kaiser

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Indy Lights alum Juan Piedrahita is slated to drive the # 84 Cadillac DPi-V.R. for JDC-MIller Motorsports as an add for Daytona to the regular squad of Stephen Simpson and Simon Trummer. Also added for Daytona will be Chris Miller.

Juan Piedrahita

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Indy Lights Champion and IndyCar driver Tristan Vautier will be in the other JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R., the # 85, for the full season with co-driver Misha Goikhberg. Formula 1 legend and IndyCar driver Rubens Barrichello is an add for Daytona, along with GP3 young gun Devlin DeFrancesco.

Tristan Vautier (left) and Rubens Barrichello

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LMP2 class - IndyCar driver Sebastian Saavedra will be an add in the # 18 ORECA 07 Gibson for DragonSpeed, with regulars Roberto Gonzalez and Pastor Maldonado. Also added for Daytona will be Ryan Cullen.

Sebastian Saavedra

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2018 IMSA Prototype Challenge Champion and Pro Mazda (now “Indy Pro 2000”) driver Kris Wright will drive the # 38 ORECA 07 Gibson for Performance Tech Motorsports at Daytona. His co-drivers will be season regular Kyle Masson and adds Cameron Cassels and Dr. Robert Masson. Indy Lights driver and 2017 PC class Champion James French is slated to be the regular in this car, along with Kyle, for the rest of 2019, but he’s not in the car at Daytona.

Kris Wright

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Brit Ben Hanley will be an IndyCar driver in 2019 for the first time. He is an add for Daytona in the # 81 ORECA 07 Gibson for DragonSpeed, helping out regulars Henrik Hedman and Nicolas Lapierre. Also added in is Aussie James Allen.

Ben Hanley

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#442

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It’s TIME!..for the first big race of the 2019 motorsport season…the Rolex 24 at Daytona…(part 3)…

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GTLM class - Two-time IndyCar Champion Alex Zanardi will come to Daytona as an add in the # 24 BMW M8 GTE for BMW Team RLL. Co-drivers will be team regulars John Edwards and Jesse Krohn and fellow add Chaz Mostert of Supercars fame. The car is fitted with a special steering wheel so that double-amputee Zanardi can compete. (see post # 342)

Allesandro Zanardi

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Connor de Phillippe - a Pro Mazda alum and also a Team USA Scholarship WINNER - will be a season regular in the # 25 sister BMW M8 GTE for BMW Team RLL. Co-driver for the season was supposed to be Tom Blomqvist but the Englishman is having visa problems and will be replaced with Brazilian Augusto Farfus for Daytona, at least. Daytona adds for the car will be Philipp Eng and Indy Lights / IndyCar driver Colton Herta.

Connor de Phillippe (left) and Colton Herta

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4-time IndyCar Champion Sebastien Bourdais will jump into the # 66 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi for Daytona, helping out regulars Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller. This same teaming has been very successful at both Daytona and Le Mans in the past.

Sebastien Bourdais

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The sister car, the # 67 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi, will be piloted by IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe for the season, with co-driver Richard Westbrook. Added in for Daytona will be 5-time - including 2018 - IndyCar Champion Scott Dixon. As with the other Ford, this teaming has yielded a lot of success at both Daytona and Le Mans.

Ryan Briscoe (left) and Scott Dixon

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GTD class - Scott Hargrove - a Road to Indy ace driver and the holder of multiple Porsche Cup titles - will run the full season with fellow Canadian and 2018 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada Champ Zacharie Robichon, driving the # 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R for PFAFF Motorsports. Added in for Daytona will be Lars Kerns and Dennis Olsen.

Scott Hargrove

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New IMSA team AIM Vasser Sullivan will put IndyCar driver and broadcaster Townsend Bell in the # 12 Lexus RCF GT3 for the season, with co-driver Frankie Montecalvo. Added in for Daytona will be Jeff Segal and Indy Lights driver Aaron Telitz, the 2017 Pro Mazda Champion. This is the only all-American team on the grid.

Townsend Bell (left) and Aaron Telitz

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In the sister car, the # 14 Lexus RCF GT3 for AIM Vasser Sullivan, the drivers for the season will be IndyCar driver Jack Hawksworth and Richard Heistand. Added in for Daytona will be Nick Cassidy and the very versatile USF2000 alum Austin Cindric.

Jack Hawksworth (left) and Austin Cindric

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2017 Pro Mazda (now “Indy Pro 2000”) Champion and Indy Lights driver Victor Franzoni will drive the # 13 Ferrari 488 GT3 for Via Italia Racing at the Roar, along with co-drivers Chico Longo and Marcos Gomes. These guys are coming off a spectacular WIN at the 500K of Sao Paulo in a Lamborghini Huracan GT3, also for Via Italia Racing (see post # 351). Also driving at Daytona will be Andrea Bertolini.

Victor Franzoni

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#443

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It’s TIME!..for the first big race of the 2019 motorsport season…the Rolex 24 at Daytona…(part 4)…

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IndyCar driver Katherine Legge will campaign for the full season in the # 57 Acura NSX GT3 for Heinricher Racing w / Meyer Shank Racing with co-driver Jackie Heinricher, but Jackie is out for Daytona with a back injury, so 2-time GTD-class Champion Christina Nielsen will substitute at Daytona. Added in for Daytona will be former IndyCar drivers Ana Beatriz and Simona de Silvestro. Beatriz will also do Sebring, Watkins Glen and the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

left to right, Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz and Simona de Silvestro

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In the sister car, the # 86 Acura NSX GT3 for Meyer Shank Racing, IndyCar alum AJ Allmendinger returns to drive for MIke Shank for Daytona, with co-drivers and team regulars Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher. Also added in will be Justin Marks.

AJ Allmendinger

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Next, let’s see the IndyCar folks in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race, the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona, to be held on Friday;

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Grand Sport class - Road to Indy ace driver and multiple Porsche Cup title-holder Scott Hargrove will pull double duty, as in addition to his debut in the GTD class of the WeatherTech series, he will also debut in the Michelin Pilot Challenge in the # 13 Porsche Cayman GT4 MR for AWA. His co-driver will be fellow Canadian Orey Fidani.

Scott Hargrove

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Also pulling double duty this weekend will be multi-talented USF2000 alum Austin Cindric. Not only will Austin be in the WeatherTech GTD class for AIM Vasser Sullivan but he will also campaign the # 22 Ford GT4 Mustang for Multimatic Motorsports - a duty he has done in years past. His co-drivers will be Chase Briscoe and Billy Johnson.

Austin Cindric

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Champ Car veteran driver Jan Heylen will drive the # 28 Porsche Cayman GT4 MR for RennSport 1. His co-drivers will be Charlie Luck and Fred Poordad.

Jan Heylen

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USF2000 alum and Porsche Cup champion Jesse Lazare will once again team with fellow Canadian Porsche Cup driver Corey Fergus in the # 69 McLaren GT4 for Motorsports In Action, as they did in 2018 with great success.

Jesse Lazare

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Touring Car class - USF2000 driver Russ McDonough will drive the # 12 Audi RS3 LMS TCR for eEuropartsDotCom ROWE Racing. His co-driver will be New Yorker Ryan Nash.

Russell McDonough

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Indy Lights driver Shelby Blackstock will drive the # 37 Honda Civic TCR - a new car make to the series - for LA Honda World Racing, with co-driver Tom O’Gorman.

Shelby Blackstock

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Driving the LA Honda World Racing sister car, the # 52 Honda Civic TCR, will be Road to Indy Shootout participant and Team USA member Colin Mullan - a WINNING veteran of the now-defunct ST class from 2018. His co-driver will be Max Faulkner.

Colin Mullan

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Pro Mazda alum and paraplegic Michael Johnson will once again drive the # 54 Audi RS3 LMS TCR for JDC-Miller Motorsports, using hand controls. MJ’s co-drivers will be Stephen Simpson and South African Mikey Taylor. Simpson and Johnson earned 8 podiums last season, including their first series WIN.

Michael Johnson

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Thursday will be a day of a lot of practice for all classes and both series racing this weekend, as well as qualifying for all classes and both series that will be racing - a very busy day!

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#444

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Thursday at Daytona - lots of practice and qualifying…

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Both the cars from the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and from the Michelin Pilot Challenge series held practices today and also qualified for their respective races. The Weathertech series held 2 practices followed by qualifying and then ended the day with another practice in the night and under the lights - as the 24 hour race demands. The fastest times of the day in all but the GTD class were posted during qualifying. Let’s see who did what, starting with the DPi class:

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DPi class - during the qualifying the 26-year-old standing record for Daytona in any kind of car was finally broken by Oliver Jarvis in the # 77 Mazda RT24-P for Mazda Team Joest with a new track record of 01:33.685s for a speed of 136.792mph. Oli beat out former champion Ricky Taylor, qualifying the # 7 Acura ARX-05 for Acura Team Penske, by 0.188 seconds. 3rd on the starting grid will be the other Acura Team Penske car, the # 6, thanks to the qualifying efforts of IndyCar driver Juan Pablo Montoya.

Co-drivers in the # 77 are Tristen Nunez, the other season regular, and Daytona adds Timo Bernhard and Rene Rast. Co-drivers in the # 7 Acura are fellow regular and IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves and Daytona add and IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi. Co-driver in the # 6 Acura are fellow regular Dane Cameron and Daytona add and IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud.
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The holder of Daytona’s track record - Oliver Jarvis for Mazda Team Joest
OliPole

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LMP2 class - During qualifying James Allen posted the TOP TIME of the day and got on pole in the # 81 ORECA 07 for DragonSpeed with a time of 01:35.904s for a speed of 133.627mph. He was able to out-qualify Gabriel Aubry in the # 52 ORECA 07 for PR1 / Mathiasen Motorsports by 0.523 seconds. The 3rd-fastest time on the day was posted in the evening P-3 session by IndyCar driver Ben Hanley in the pole-sitting # 81 for Dragonspeed, while P3 for qualifying was Dragonspeed’s other ORECA, the # 18, thanks to season regular Pastor Maldenado.

Co-drivers in the # 81 are regulars Henrik Hedman and Nicolas Lapierre. co-drivers in the # 52 are regular Matthew McMurry and Daytona adds Mark Kvamme and Enzo Guibbert, while co-drivers in the # 18 are Roberto Gonzalez, the season regular, and adds Ryan Cullen and IndyCar driver Sebastian Saavedra.

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LMP2 pole-sitter and TOP TIME of the day for Aussie James Allen
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GTLM class - It was veteran Nick Tandy who pulled down pole and the day’s TOP TIME in the # 911 Porsche 911 RSR for Porsche GT Team with a time of 01:42.257s for a speed of 125.325mph. He was on top of 2018 Champion Jan Magnussen in the # 3 Corvette C7.R for Corvette Racing by 0.326 seconds. Qualifying P3 was IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe in the # 67 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi.

Nick’s co-drivers in the # 911 are fellow regular Patrick Pilet and Daytona add Freddy Makowiecki. Co-drivers in the 'Vette are fellow regular and 2018 Champion Antonio Garcia and the add for the 24, German MIke Rockenfeller. Ryan will drive with fellow regular Richard Westbrook and Daytona add Scott Dixon, the 2018 IndyCar Champion.

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Nick Tandy grabs yet another pole for Porsche GT Team
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GTD class - The TOP TIME of the day for the class was posted in the night, in the P-3 session by BMW great Bill Auberlen in the # 96 BMW M6 GT3 for Turner Motorsports with a time of 01:45.165s for a speed of 121.859mph. Bill was able to top the pole-sitting time of Marcos Gomes, driving the # 13 Ferrari 488 GT3 for Via Italia Racing. Marcos’ time was 01:45.257s for a speed of 121.753mph. The 3rd-fastest time of the day was again in the P-3 session and it was posted by Daniel Serra in the # 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3. P2 in qualifying was Ben Keating in the # 33 Riley Motorsports / Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3 and P3 on the grid will be Trent Hindman in the # 86 Acura NSX GT3 for Meyer Shank Racing.

Co-drivers in the # 96 are Robby Foley, Dillon Machavern and Jens Klingmann. Co-drivers in the # 13 are Chico Longo, Andrea Bertolini and IndyCar driver Victor Franzoni. Co-drivers in the # 51 are Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda. Co-drivers of the # 86 are Mario Farnbacher, Justin Marks and IndyCar alum AJ Allmendinger.

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On the pole in GTD class is Marcos Gomes for Via Italia Racing - first time at Daytona.
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#445

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Thursday at Daytona - lots of practice and qualifying…(part 2)…

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Next, let’s look at the performances of the Michelin Pilot Challenge series, through 4 practices, followed by qualifying, starting with the top-performing Grand Sport class and ending with the Touring Car class:

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GS class - following the 4 practices the TOP TIME of the day was posted in qualifying by Paul Holton in the # 75 Compass Racing McLaren GT4 with a time of 01:52.143s for a speed of 114.277mph - a new track record. He bested the qualifying time of Corey Fergus in the # 69 McLarent GT4 for Motorsports in Action by a healthy 0.804 seconds. P3 on the grid was Christian Hohenadel in the # 57 Winward Racing / HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG.

Co-driver in the # 75 is Kuno Wittmer . Co-driver in the # 69 is IndyCar driver Jesse Lazare and co-driver in the # 57 is Bryce Ward.

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The pole-sitting / record-holding McLaren GT4 of Compass Racing
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TCR class - Again following the 4 practices the TOP TIME of the day was posted during qualifying and on the pole is IndyCar driver and paraplegic Michael Johnson who drove the # 54 Audi RS3 LMS TCR for JDC-Miller Motorsports with a time of 0 1:58.433s for a speed of 108.208mph - again, a new track record. Michael beat out Lee Carpentier in the # 10 eEuropartsDotcom ROWE Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR by a healthy 0.852 seconds. P3 on the grid will be the # 84 Atlanta Speedwerks Honda Civic TCR, thanks to the efforts of Brian Henderson.

Co-drivers in the # 54 are Stephen Simpson and Mikey Taylor. Co-driver in the # 10 is Kieron O’Rourke and co-driver in the # 84 is Todd Lamb.

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Michael Johnson takes pole and the record for JDC-MIller Motorsports
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On Friday the Michelin Pilot Challenge guys will have a final practice, followed by a practice by the WeatherTech gang. Then, the Michelin guys will hold their race, the BMW Endurance Challenge At Daytona.

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#446

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The Missus is retiring…

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IndyCar driver Graham Rahal’s wife Courtney Force, announced on Thursday that she is going to retire from competition in the NHRA Funny Car division.The reasons given were a bit cryptic, as she stated, “This was a personal choice as I feel I’m ready to see what the next chapter in my life has in store for me, while spending more time with family.”

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Courtney Force
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The immediate rumor - shot down by the family - was that Courtney was pregnant. Apparently not so, though it may be that Graham and Courtney are planning on a family. Force says she is not going to entirely leave the NHRA but rather just stop driving. Her sponsorship will now go to her sister Brittany Force - a great driver in her own right. .
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The 30-year old is the most successful female Funny Car driver in the sport’s history and one of the sport’s biggest draws. The NHRA is going to miss her being in the car.

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#447

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Mike’s out - British IndyCar driver Mike Conway will not be at Daytona, after all…

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Endurance specialist Mike Conway was supposed to be one of the adds for the # 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R. for Action Express at the Rolex 24 at Daytona but apparently Mike’s people didn’t put in for his visa to come to the States early enough, as he doesn’t have the dingus in hand to get here in time for the Saturday / Sunday race.

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Mike Conway

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Typically, it takes about two months to get approved and Mike was late. He’s not the only one. Also failing to get a visa is Tom Blomqvist who was supposed to race for BMW Team RLL in the # 25 BMW M8 GTE in the GTLM class. He is being replaced by Augusto Farfus for Daytona, but should be here for Sebring, in early March.

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Rather than replace Mike the Action Express boys will run instead with just three drivers - regulars Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque and the other add, Christian Fittipaldi, making his last SportsCar start before retiring. Mike is going to be the add for the other 3 Michelin Endurance Cup races.

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#448

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Friday at Daytona - two final practices and then a race!

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The day started out with the Michelin Pilot Challenge guys doing a final practice, followed by the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship gang doing their final practice. Let’s see who was on top for each, starting with the Michelin guys:

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Grand Sport class - Jeff Westphal in the # 39 Audi R8 for Carbahn Motorsports was TOPS in time in the final practice, laying down a time of 01:53.101s for a speed of 113.309mph. He topped USF2000 alum Jesse Lazare in the # 69 McLaren GT4 for Motorsports in Action by a mere 0.030 seconds. 3rd fastest in the final practice was the series class champion in 2018, Owen Trinkler, in the # 46 Team TGM Mercedes AMG.

Co-driver with Jeff is Tyler McQuarrie. Co-driver with Jesse is Corey Fergus and co-driver with Owen is fellow 2018 Champion Hugh Plumb.

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The class-leading Audi for Carbahn Motorsports

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Touring Car class - Todd Lamb took the # 84 Honda Civic TCR for Atlanta Speedworks to the top in the P-5 practice with a time of 02:00.620s for a speed of 106.246mph, besting the time of Mat Pombo in the # 73 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic TCR by 0.026 seconds. The new-for-2019 Hondas in this class are going great. 3rd fastest in the P-5 session was the sister car, the # 37 Honda Civic TCR driven by Indy Lights veteran Shelby Blackstock.

Co-driver for Todd is Brian Henderson while Mike LaMarra drives with Mat Pombo and Tom O’Gorman drives with Shelby.

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The Atlanta Speedworks Honda - TOPS for P-5

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The IMPC guys will race this afternoon - 4 hours worth - following the final WeatherTech practice. Next up, the WeatherTech gang hold their final practice of the weekend before the start of the Rolex 24…

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#449

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Friday at Daytona - two final practices and then a race!..(part 2)…

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Following the IMPC guys the WeatherTech gang held their final practice and we have the TOP THREE from each class, starting with the DPi class.

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DPi class - As if to show it wouldn’t matter, the boys in the # 5 Cadillac DPi-V.R. for Action Express shook off the news that Mike Conway wouldn’t be helping them this weekend (see post # 409) and Filipe Albuquerque set the fastest time of the practice with a time of 01:34.358s for a speed of 135.816mph, besting the time of Olivier Pla in the # 55 Mazda RT24-P for Mazda Team Joest by 0.400 seconds. 3rd fastest was the other Action Express Caddy, the # 31 with Pro Mazda alum Pipo Derani at the wheel.

Co-drivers with Filipe are season regular Joao Barbosa and the add, Christian Fittipaldi. Co-drivers with Olivier are season regulars Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell, while helping Pipo in the race will be fellow regular Felipe Nasr and add Eric Curran.

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The Mustang Sampling Caddy - tops for the P-4 final session
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LMP2 class - It was Enzo Guibbert in the # 52 ORECA 07 Gibson for PR1 / Mathiasen Motorsports who topped the P-4 session with a time of 01:36.433s for a speed of 132.894mph. Enzo beat out the # 81 DragonSpeed ORECA driven by Nicolas Lapierre by 0.565 seconds. 3rd fastest on the session was Roberto Gonzales in the other DragonSpeed car, the # 18 ORECA 07.

Co-drivers with Enzo will be Matt McMurry, Gabriel Aubry and Mark Kvamme, while co-drivers with Nicolas are Henrik Hedman, James Allen and IndyCar driver Ben Hanley. Gonzales will share the car with Pastor Maldonado, Ryan Cullen and IndyCar driver Sebastian Saavedra.

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TOPS in P-4, the # 52 for PR1 / Mathiasen

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GTLM class - Frederic Makowiecki continued the speedy ways of the # 911 Porsche RSR for Porsche GT Team with a TOP TIME of 01:42.478s for a speed of 125.055mph in the P-4 session, besting the time of Dirk Mueller in the # 66 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi by 0.143 seconds. 3rd fastest in the session was 2018 Champion Jan Magnussen in the # 3 Corvette C7.R for Corvette Racing.

Co-drivers for Freddie M are Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet. Co-drivers for Dirk are Joey Hand and IndyCar driver Sebatien Bourdais, while the other guys in the Corvette are fellow 2018 Champion Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller.

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The # 911 has been fast through all four practices, and remains so.

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GTD class - It was Pedro Lamy in the # 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 who was the rabbit in the P-4 session, with a time of 01:44.632s for a speed of 122.480mph, besting the time of New Zealander Nick Cassidy in the # 14 Lexus RCF GT3 for AIM Vasser Sullivan by 0.214 seconds. 3rd fastest in the final session was Marco Seefried in the # 540 Porsche 911 GT3 R for Black Swan Racing.

Co-driving the Ferrari with Pedro will be Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Daniel Serra, while co-driving with Nick Cassidy will be Richard Heistand and IndyCar guys Jack Hawksworth and Austin Cindric. The other guys in the Black Swan Porsche are Timothy Pappas, Matteo Cairoli and veteran Dirk Werner.

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The Spirit of Race Ferrari rises to the top

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Following the P-4 session for the WeatherRech gang the Michelin Pilot Challenge series took to the track for the 4-hour BMW Endurance Challenge At Daytona…

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#450

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Friday at Daytona - two final practices and then a race!..(part 3)…

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At the end of the day the Michelin Pilot Challenge series held their first race of the 2019 season, the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona - a 4-hour endurance race with both classes on track at the same time. When the dust settled the WINNERS in the Grand Sport class were the guys in the pole-sitting # 75 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, Paul Holton and Kuno Wittmer. The pair lost the lead and suffered through 8 cautions at times to emerge victorious after Holton retook the lead with minutes to go.

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The # 75 McLaren GT4 - 1st WIN of the season.

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Coming home P2 was the # 99 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 for Automatic Racing, driven by Gary Ferrera and Kris Wilson. Wilson got into a great battle with USF2000 alum Jesse Lazare in the # 69 McLaren GT4 for Motorsport in Action in the final laps and beat Jesse to the end by a TEENSY 0.007 seconds as the # 69, co-driven by Corey Fergus, pulled in P3.

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The Grand Sport WINNERS Paul Holton (left) and Kuno Wittmer
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In the Touring Car class the WINNERS were the new kids on the block, the # 37 Honda Civic TCR of LA Honda World Racing, driven by Tom O’Gorman and Indy Lights veteran Shelby Blackstock, besting their teammates, Mat Pombo and Mike LaMarra in the # 73 Honda Civic TCR - a great start in the series for the new mark. P3 on the podium were Nick Galante, James Vance and Jared Salinsky in the # 23 Audi RS3 LMS TCR for Fast MD Racing.

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The WINNING Honda Civic TCR for LA Honda World Racing

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Pole-sitter Michael Johnson in the # 54 Audi TCR got into a fierce battle for the lead for the first hour of the race with Lee Carpentier in the # 10 eEuroparts Audi TCR. As the two cars entered the bus stop corners around lap 17 they touched each other and both sailed into the wall. Carpentier soldiered on for a while longer but Johnson’s car was unable to rejoin the fray, ending the promising day.

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WINNERS in the TCR class Tom O’Gorman (left) and IndyCar driver Shelby Blackstock
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The next race for the Michelin Pilot Challenge series will be a 2-hour race, the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring, on the same weekend as the 12 hours of Sebring.

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On Saturday the last event of the weekend, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The race starts at 2:35 pm EASTERN time. Coverage, all EASTERN time:

Saturday

2:00 - 5:00pm - NBC-SN
5:00pm - 9:00pm - NBC Sports App - free to NBC-SN viewers
9:00pm - 12:00am - NBC-SN

Sunday

12:00am - 3:00am - NBC-SN
3:00am - 6:00am - NBC Sports App - free to NBC-SN viewers
6:00am - 3:00pm - NBC-SN

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Here we go!

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#451

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So…what doe s a nice Swiss gal do to relax before a race?

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IndyCar / Supercars driver Simona de Silvestro hops on a jet and goes to Vail, Colorado to reconnect with her inner slope-shusher.

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Simona

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The “Swiss Missile” will start her first Rolex 24 at Daytona on Saturday, driving the # 57 Acura NSX GT3 for Heinricher Racing w / Meyer Shank Racing with Christina Nielsen and fellow IndyCar gals Katherine Legge and Ana Beatriz. Good luck, ladies!

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#452

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In 2018 at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Indy Lights Race 2…

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…young Colton Herta, driving for Andretti Autosport, battled with Santi Urrutia for Belardi Auto Racing late in the race for the lead. Three laps from the end, the two car touched each other going into Turn 1 and Santi spun out, giving Herta his second WIN of the weekend. Coming home P2 on that day was Aaron Telitz for Belardi and P3 was Victor Franzoni for Juncos Racing

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left to right, podium of Aaron Telitz, Colton Herta and Victor Franzoni
Lights

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On Saturday, all three talented drivers will be making their Rolex 24 at Daytona debuts, with Aaron co-driving the GTD-class # 12 Lexus RCF GT3 for AIM Vasser Sullivan, Colton co-driving the GTLM-class # 25 BMW M8 GTE for BMW Team Rahal and Victor co-driving the GTD-class # 13 Ferrari 488 GT3 for Via Italia Racing. Look for them.

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Good luck, gentlemen!

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#453

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It’s known in auto racing lore as simply, “The Pass”…

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In 1996 at Laguna Seca, Alex Zanardi, driving an IndyCar for Target Chip Ganassi, passed Bryan Herta for Team Rahal for the lead and the WIN on the final lap and in the infamous turn known as “the corkscrew,” making both the two drivers and turn itself more famous - MUCH more famous.

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Take a look:

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On Saturday, Alex Zanardi, now a double amputee, will be making his debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, co-driving the GTLM-class # 24 BMW M8 GTE, utilizing hand controls to replace his legs, lost in an accident years after “the pass”.

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Good luck, Alex!

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#454

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Easily, the most daring driver at the 2018 Indy 500 was Alexander Rossi…

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…driving for Andretti Autosport, as the Californian 3rd year IndyCar driver made pass after pass that could not be made by mere mortals, leading many to suspect that Rossi has made some sort of pact with the Devil.

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Take a look:

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On Saturday, Rossi makes his debut with Acura Team Penske at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, co-driving the # 7 Acura ARX-05 in the DPi class. Rossi is replacing another IndyCar driver from the 2018 Rolex 24, Graham Rahal. Graham was LOVED by Acura Team Penske. Every stint he drove he made up spots and passed many cars, taking the car to the lead at one time. But the 2019 iteration of the car is too small for the tall, tall driver to fit in. So, Graham out and Alexander in.

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Good luck, Alexander!

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#455

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Following a Vice-Championship in IMSA Prototype Challenge in 2017…

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…while driving in the MPC class, Kris Wright moved up to the LMP3 class in 2018 and creamed the competition, with 6 podiums and 2 WINS in six races, driving a Ligier JS P3 for Extreme Speed Motorsports and taking the title with 20 points to spare - all while simultaneously driving for BN Racing in Pro Mazda with 11 TOP TENS.

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Kris in his Ligier for ESM

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Kris Wright

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On Saturday, the Russia-born American will make his debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona as a co-driver in the # 38 ORECA 07 Gibson LMP2 for Performance Tech Motorsports.

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Good luck, Kris!

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#456

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2017 Indy Lights Champion Kyle Kaiser is known for his excellent car control…

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…and it was never more apparent than in the rain at Watkins Glen in his championship season. Watch here as the young Californian ace saves the car numerous times with his quick hands:

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On Saturday the 22-year-old will be making his debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, co-driving the # 50 Cadillac DPi-V.R. for Juncos Racing in the DPi class.

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Good luck, Kyle!

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#457

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The 57th Rolex 24 at Daytona is over…

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…and a lot of teams and drivers are grateful, as the last 9 hours of the race were under rain conditions - conditions that got so bad the race was red-flagged twice, with the last time almost 2 hours to the end. Thus the race ended under a red flag and the leaders at the time it was shown are the class WINNERS. Let’s see who they are:

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DPI class and overall - The # 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. for Wayne Taylor Racing takes the cake, with Fernando Alonso the driver when the race was stopped. Sharing the podium with him will be fellow add Kamui Kobayashi and team regulars Renger Van der Zande and Jordan Taylor.

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The Wayne Taylor Racing Caddy - P1 overall and in DPi class

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P2 at the end was the # 31 Whelen Cadillac DPi-V.R. for Action Express, driven by Felipe Nasr at the end, and with co-drivers Pro Mazda alum Pipo Derani and add Eric Curran. P3 was the # 7 Acura ARX-05 DPi for Acura Team Penske, with IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi driving at the end and co-driven by fellow IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor. All three cars were on the same lap at the end.

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LMP2 class - The WINNERS are the # 18 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 Gibson, with IndyCar driver Sebastian Saavedra driving at the end. His co-drivers were fellow add Ryan Cullen and regulars Pastor Maldenado and Roberto Gonzales. The boys WON by 4 laps.

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The DragonSpeed ORECA 07 Gibson - TOPS in LMP2 class

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P2 at the flag was the # 38 ORECA 07 for Performance Tech Motorsports, with Cameron Cassells driving. His co-drivers were Kyle Masson, Robert Masson and IndyCar driver Kris Wright, while P3 went to the other DragonSpeed car, the # 81 with Henrik Hedmen in the car at the end. His co-drivers are Nicolas Lapierre, James Allen and IndyCar driver Ben Hanley.
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GTLM class - The WINNERS were the boys in the # 25 BMW M8 GTE for BMW Team RLL, with Augusto Farfus driving at the end. Co-drivers were fellow add Philipp Eng and IndyCar drivers Connor de Phillippi and Colton Herta.

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The BMW Team RLL # 25 - WINNERS in GTLM class

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P2 at the end was the # 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE with James Calado bringing it home. Co-drivers are Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina and Alessandro Pier Guidi, while P3 went to the # 912 Porsche 911 RSR for Porsche GT Team with Laurens Vanthoor in the car at the red flag. His co-drivers are fellow regular Earl Bamber and add Mathieu Jaminet. All three cars were on the same lap at the end.

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GTD class - The WINNING car - for the 2nd year in a row - was the # 11 Lamborghini Huracan Evo GT3 for Grasser Racing Team, with Christian Engelhart the survivor in the car at the end. His co-drivers are Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bortolotti and Rik Breukers.

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The GTD class WINNERS for the 2nd year in a row, the GRT Lamborghini

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P2 at the finish was the # 29 Audi R8 LMS GT3 for Monoplast by Land with Danny Morad at the wheel for the finish. Co-drivers are Christopher Mies, Ricky Feller and Dries Vanthoor, while the P3 car was the # 12 Lexus RCF GT3 with Jeff Segal driving at the end. His co-drivers are Frank Montecalvo and IndyCar drivers Townsend Bell and Aaron Telitz. All three cars were on the same lap at the end.

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continued…

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#458

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The 57th Rolex 24 at Daytona is over…(part 2)…

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The 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona WINNERS in class, left to right, the four guys from Grasser Racing Team, the four from Wayne Taylor Racing, the four from DragonSpeed and the four from BMW Team RLL:

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Rolex%20winners

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It was another great Rolex 24, despite having to eventually bow to Mother Nature. Most of the race was the typical first-class racing we have come to expect and it is no surprise that all four class-winning cars were also in the mix for the whole race.
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The IndyCar contingent did GREAT, as usual, with 3 P1s, 2 P2s and 5 P3s. They were:

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P1s - (left to right) Sebastian Saavedra, LMP2 class, and Connor de Phillippe and Colton Herta, GTLM class

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P2s - (left to right) Pipo Derani, DPi class, and Kris Wright, LMP2 class

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P3s - (left to right) Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi, DPi class, Ben Hanley, LMP2 class…

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…and Townsend Bell and Aaron Telitz, GTD class

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Perhaps the two biggest heartbreaks of the race were the fates of the # 24 BMW in GTLM class and the # 57 Acura in the GTD class.

As legless driver Alex Zanardi was trying to put his special hand-control steering wheel on the steering column, the team simultaneously dropped the car down off the jacks and the steering wheel broke pins inside which also damaged the column. The end result was that after Zanardi’s stint, the car needed to have a new column put in, losing 3 laps in the process. The car ran splendidly late into the race but they never made that deficit up.

IndyCar driver Alex Zanardi

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The all-female team in the # 57 Acura for Heinricher Racing w / Meyer Shank Racing ran great all race, almost always in the TOP TEN and frequently in the TOP FIVE. In the overnight and in the rain, IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro took the car from P12 to P5, when she handed it off to IndyCar driver Katherine Legge. Unfortunately, while running in the worst of the rain, 5 other cars spun in front of Legge and she had to run off the track to avoid them, tagging a wall in the process. The car was repaired and rejoined, but in P15 in class. It ended the race, once again with Legge on board, in P13.

The good news is the same squad is planning on an assault on the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans, if things come together again.

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The # 57 squad
LM24Allfemale

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That’s it for the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona. The next race for IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be the 12 Hours of Sebring, March 13-16, along with the Michelin Pilot Challenge series and the IMSA Prototype Challenge series.

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We have two CONFIRMS for USF2000 in 2019…

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First, Marotti Racing, the 2-time Indy 500 entrant team, has decided to go racing in USF2000 in 2019 and they picked a good driver to start their program in 19-year-old Jason Reichert. Reichert was one of the 20 entrant in the 2018 Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. As we detailed in post # 306, Reichert got his entry ticket by being the 2018 SCCA National Run-Offs Champion for Formula Continental but he was also the 2018 Champion of Pacific F2000, driving a 2.0 liter Van Diemen RF03.

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Jason Reichert

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The Van Diemen is the car that was the USF2000 series staple for many years and Jason will have to acclimate himself to the new Tatuus USF-17 car, which is better in all respects, but he will not have to learn how to go fast and race. He’s already a proven WINNER

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Jason in his Van Diemen for DFR

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Next, Jay Howard Driver Development has announced their first driver for their new USF2000 effort and it is Christian Bogle from the 2018 FIA F4 United States JHDD squad. Bogle will contest both the F4 United States Championship and the USF2000 Championship programs in 2019, giving him maximum open-wheel seat time with the team.

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Christian Bogle

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Christian joined JHDD’s F4 program late in the 2018 season and drove 8 races for them. The plan for the double workload in 2019 is maximum exposure to junior open-wheel. Said the Las Vegas native, “I was able to learn so much from Jay and his team on car setups, car control, and overall improvement of my race craft (in 2018). I am really excited to have a seat in Jay’s 2019 F4 and USF2000 race teams. This extra seat time by running two series will accelerate my learning curve and allow me to advance my racing career.”

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IndyCar driver Jay Howard advising Christian in 2018
JayChristian

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These two join already CONFIRMED Alex Baron for Legacy Autosport, Jack William Miller & Eduardo Barrichello for Miller Vinatieri Motorsports, and Colin Kaminsky & Yuven Sundaramoorthy for Pabst Racing.

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More confirmations will come, soon.

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