Acuras 1-2 After 17 Hours

The yellow sky of sunrise reflects the course of the race, currently under its 15th caution. The number 60 Acura of Meyer Shank Racing leads the number 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing. Tom Blomqvist and Ricky Taylor are the respective drivers.

Both Cadillacs of Chip Ganassi Racing are out of contention. Just before midnight the 01 went behind the wall. It is back on track but running 37th overall, 22 laps behind. The 02 had a fuel pump issue just about 30 minutes ago and is currently in the garage.

Indycar drivers are having a mixed day. Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves drive for the leading Acura, and Alexander Rossi got his first stint in the second place 10 just before midnight.

The LMP2 team for which Rinus VeeKay drives is currently running second in class. The Dragonspeed entry with Indycar stars Pato O’Ward, Colton Herta, and rookie Devlin DeFrancesco is currently third.

The Andretti Autosport LMP3 entry is currently fourth in class, one lap down. Former Indycar driver Gabby Chaves is in the car at the moment.

The cold nighttime hours have produced lots of spinning cars, as expected. The current Daytona temperature is 34degrees F.

I will probably not have another up date until this evening. Thanks for following along this weekend. I have a feeling the ending is going to be wild.

Race Day- Chily Day, Cold Night Ahead

The 60th running of the Rolex 24 starts at 1:40 pm EST today. The temperature at the start will be in the mid 40’s and by the midpoint of the race the mercury will read low 30’s. By the end of the race temperatures will rise to the low 50’s.

How teams and drivers handle the tires after pit stops could be key to winning the event. I’m not sure if Michelin has a temperature threshold like Indycar has. Could we see a red flag due to the cold? My predictions follow.

Going into yesterday, I would have put Wayne Taylor Racing as the favorite for its fourth straight win here, but the dominance of the Cadillacs in Friday’s final practice makes me wonder if one of the Ganassi cars has an edge.

Watch for the Dragonspeed car number 81 in LMP2. The car has an Indycar all star squad of Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, and Devlin DeFrancesco. O’Ward had the fastest overall .lap in a Thursday practice session.

Andretti Autosport is my pick in LMP3. They dominated the qualifying race last Sunday. This class could be prone to a lot of attrition.

GTD Pro will go to the 63 Lamborghini. It is by far the class of this field. One of the Weather Tech Porsches should be the GTD champion. My pick is the 79.

Today’;s schedule and television times:

At the track:

10:30 AM – 11:15 AM IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Autograph Session – UNOH Fanzone

12:00 PM Crossover Gates Open for Pre-Race Access

12:00 PM Grid Opens for Fan Access to Pre-Race Ceremonies

1:15 PM – 1:40 PM Rolex 24 At DAYTONA Pre-Race Ceremonies

1:40 PM Start of the Rolex 24 Hours

I will report on the race progress when possible. If you are at the track, stay safe and warm.

Bourdais Leads Final Practice; Wickens Shines in Return

UPDATE: Mark Wilkins took over for To dry Wickens and finished third in the TCR class. Wickens gets a podium in his first race back.

Sebastien Bourdais led a Cadillac parade in the 01 for Chip Ganassi Racing with the fastest lap in this morning’s final practice. The session was run under cool, cloudy conditions and there was a brief light rain shower. The Cadillacs were ahead of the Acuras, the reverse of how practice has gone to date.

In LMP2 Phil Hanson led the way in the number 22 United Autosport Oreca. Rasmus Lindh was fastest in LMP3 in the Andretti Autosport number 36.

Mirko Bortolotti kept the number 63 Lamborghini (bottom photo) at the top of GTD Pro, and the 79 Porsche (top) driven by Julien Andlauer had the fastest GT. time.

Wickens Competitive in Return Race

Robert Wickens drove in his first competition since his accident at Pocono in 2018 in the BMW M Challenge for the Michelin Pilot Series. Wickens started seventh in the Hyundai Elantra, and moved fourth place early in the first hour of the four hour event. He ran as high as third. Near the end of his stint he had a spirited battle with a Bryan Herta Autosport teammate. Wickens drove for just a bit more than two hours. He showed that the talent which made him a star in Indycar is still there. This will be a fun series tom watch this year.

Wickens heads to turn four during the Michelin Pilot Challenge Race.

Rolex 24 Notes

Photo by Jake Galstad. You can’t miss this LMP2 car, driven by Indycar title contenders Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward along with rookie Devlin DeFrancesco.

Andy Blackmore has his Rolex 24 spotter’s guide. Andy does great work with these guides, and this one is one of his best. Right click the link to open it in a new tab.

Thursday’s Schedule

Thursday

8 AM GEICO Park West Tent & Infield Tent Camping Open

8:00 AM Parking Lot 4 Opens

8:30 AM UNOH Fanzone Gates Open

9:00 AM Parking Lot 1 Opens

9:00 AM – 8:00 PM Infield Midway Open

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Motorsports Hall of Fame Open in DAYTONA Ticket and Tours Building

9:00 AM – 9:30 AM Mazda MX-5 Practice

9:45 AM – 10:45 AM IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Practice

11:05 AM – 12:35 PM IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge Practice

12:55 PM – 1:25 PM Mazda MX-5 Qualifying

2:25 PM – 3:00 PM IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Qualifying

3:20 PM – 5:05 PM IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge Practice

5:30 PM – 6:15 PM Mazda MX-5 Race #1

7:15 PM – 9:00 PM IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge Practice

The highlight of tomorrow is the IMSA Weather Tech night practice. This will probably be my only chance to see race cars under the lights this year since Indycar has no night races planned.

I will also be watching the Michelin Pilot Challenge qualifying to see where Robert Wickens starts Friday’s race. Friday’s four hour race begins at 1:35 and will be on Peacock.

Weather Watch

Thursday looks like day of off and on rain, but it will be the warmest day of the weekend. Friday appears to be a dry day with a high of 64. Saturday- sunny with a high of 47, which is the usual nighttime low for the Rolex, dropping to 32 at night. Sunday-sunny with a high of 53.

If you are coming to Daytona for the first time, bring every coat you have. The ocean breeze intensifies the chill.

Get Your Daytona Tickets Now- For Next Year?

Yesterday and today, Daytona International Speedway has called me twice and emailed me about renewing my Rolex tickets for 2023. Seriously? This year’s race doesn’t begin for 68 hours and they want renewals now? A little pushy, I think.

Vautier Puts Cadillac on Pole for Qualifying Race

Image from IMSA website

Race: 100 minutes. Green flag 2:05 pm EST Peacock

Acuras dominated the practices, but a Cadillac took the pole for today’s qualifying race. The 100 minute event will set the grid for next Saturday’s 60th Rolex 24 Hour race at Daytona international Speedway.

Tristan Vautier set the fastest lap in the JDC-Miller number 5 Mustang Sampling car. The number 10 Acura from Wayne Taylor Racing will start second. Felipe Albuquerque was just 0.122 seconds behind Vautier. The 01 Ganassi Cadillac driven by Renger van der Zande looked on track to take the pole, but crashed in turn five near the end of the session. The red flag cost him his best lap. The car will start 10th.

Ben Keating will start from pole in LMP2. Keating will drive the number 52 and the number 5 DPi in the race, so his rides have the pole in two classes. I don’t know when Keating sleeps during this race.

Cameron Shields is on pole in LMP3 in car 26.

In GTD Pro, Alex Imperiatori leads an all Porsche front row to the green, while Kenny Habul took pole for GTD in a Mercedes. Habul was third fastest in the GTD classes. Tghe slight difference in speed between the GTD Pro and GTD cars should make for some interesting racing.

Gidley Returns

Yesterday’s Prototype Challenge race marked the return to competition of Memo Gidley, who was injured in a horrific accident at Daytona in 2014. His car rammed a stalled car, then he was hit from behind. I didn’t think he would ever race again.

Memo Gidley

Not only did Gidley return to racing, but he won the pole. His car led the majority of the race, with rookie Alexander Korbei driving the final two hours. The team finished third.

This has been an inspirational weekend with Gidley and Robert Wickens returning to action.

Sebring Preview: Derani on Pole

Photo: Michael levitt/Motorsport Images

Pipo Derani will start on pole for the 69th running of the Sebring 12 hour race tomorrow morning. His number 31 Cadillac edged the Acura of Ricky Taylor 0.09 seconds. in LMP1 qualifying. Jimmie Johnson spun in turn 16 coming to the checkered flag of the session. Johnson was not hurt, but the car suffered damage.

In GTLM Antonio Garcia put the number 3 Corvette on the pole. The Corvettes sport shades of silver this weekend. It will be strange not seeing a yellow Corvette in an endurance race.

Antonio Garcia takes the GTLM pole

Indycar Drivers Tune Up for Season

The race will feature a smattering of Indycar drivers. The shrinking IMSA fields mean fewer Indycar drivers than in past years. Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was with the number 55 Mazda last season, does not have a ride since the team cut back to one car for 2021.

Indycar drivers participating are mainly in the DPi class. They are:

01 Cadillac- Scott Dixon

5 Cadillac- Sebastien Bourdais

10 Acura- Alexander Rossi

48 Cadillac- Simon Pagenaud; Jimmie Johnson

60 Acura- Juan Pablo Montoya

The 01 is Chip Ganassi’s entry and the 60 is a Meyer Shank entry.

Former Indycar drivers Oliver Askew and Spencer Pigot are running cars in the LMP3 class.

Indy Lights driver Kyle Kirkwood will drive the number 14 Vasser-Sullivan Lexus in GTD.

TV Schedule: Fire Up Track Pass

While the race begins and ends on NBCSN the middle seven hours are on NBC Track Pass. You can also watch on IMSA TV and I highly recommend listening to Radio LeMans. The broadcast time, all Eastern:

.I hope that unlike the Rolex 24 Hour coverage we don’t have to sit through a Jimmie Johnson interview every 10 minutes. I’d rather watch the racing.

Some Thoughts on the Rolex 24

Photo: Nigel Cook/News-Journal

It was an all star race and it lived up to tis billing. This was a very good 24 hour race. It seemed as if every class had battles going on, several for the entire race. 807 laps completed with 10 caution periods is a substatntial lap count.

Want to win the Rolex 24? Join Wayne Taylor Racing. Yesterday’s win was the team’s third straight and fourth in five years. Taylor switched from Cadillac to Acura, hired a new pair of drivers, and still won.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s return to IMSA fell seven minutes short. The Cadillac was strong the entire race and had little problem charging to the front after pit stops and a drive through penalty. A cut tire with seven minutes left derailed the whole race for the team. They finished fifth.

Spencer Pigot and Oliver Askew had to get a lot of satisfaction winning the LMP3 class. Both drivers lost their Indycar rides in 2020. I hope their victory enhances their opportunity for an Indianapolis 500 entry.

Disappointed for Rinus Veekay. The Dragonspeed entry dropped out of the race after just 53 laps. He didn’t even get in the car.

Zach Veach’s bid for a good showing did not go well. His GTD Lexus had a host of issues and finished 13th in class, 64 laps behind the class winner.

One of the best stories of the was the GTD winner.Winward Racing, is a new entry stepping up from the Michelin Pilot series . A tremendous effort to come into the class with the biggest car count and several long time teams and win.

It is sad to see the end of the GTLM class. The Rolex 24 probably marked the highest number of entries for the soon to be extinct group. The Corvettes are the only full time entries. Their 1-2 finish in the class is a hollow victory. This class usually is the most fun to watch at the Rolex with close racing in cars fans can identify with. I understand that economics probably forced the decision, but I will miss this group.

Indycar Drivers Have Mixed Results

Alexander rossi and Helio Castroneves drove for the winning Wayne Taylor Racing Acura. Castroneves follows his 2020 IMSA championship with his first win at the Rolex24.

Rossi and Castroneves become the 14th and 15th Indianapolis 500 winners to also win the Rolex24.

Other Indycar drivers results:

Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson (Ganassi DPi) 5th overall

Sebastien Bourdais (JDC Miller DPi) 7th in class

Simon Pagenaud, Jimmie Johnson (Action Express DPi) 2nd overall

Juan Pablo Monoya (Shank DPi) 4th overall

J. R. Hildebrand (Audi GTD) 15th in class

Colton Herta (BMW GTD) 6th in class

NBC Coverage- Meh

I hope race coverage on NBC doesn’t indicate the kind of coverage we can expect for Indycar this season. I thought it was not their best effort.

There were lots of interviews with Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott. To be fair, Indycar drivers were interviewed as well, but Johnson and Elliott got more screen time than all the Indycar drivers combined. I respect what Jimmie Johnson is doing after a successful NASCAR career, taking a huge leap to Indycar and sports cars, but the coverage of him was excessive. Even after the race, he was the only runner-up driver who got an interview.

I felt the extensive focus on him slighted the full time drivers in the series, who work hard for probably little reward.

I understand that the prototypes are the big stars, but a little more time could have been spent covering the other classes. There was a great story with the winners of GTD which got only passing mentions.

A Title for Helio at Last

It appeared to be over almost before it had begun. Helio Castroneves watched helplessly from the pit stand as Ricky Taylor had trouble leaving the pits after the Penske Acura’s first pit stop 45 minutes into the 12 Hours of Sebring. A boost issue forced the car back to the garage and cost them 11 laps on track. They would need help to win the IMSA Weather Tech championship. The help came from an unlikely source.

Wayne Taylor Racing, starting the day two points behind the Team Penske duo, looked to be in a solid position to overtake the season leaders. A collision between Scott Dixon, in the Taylor Cadillac and Oliver Jarvis in one of the Mazdas, forced dixon to pit. The team needed to replace the radiator, putting them five laps behind. While still ahead of the Penske car, the Taylor entry couldn’t make up enough positions to gain the three points they needed for the lead.

With the focus on the two cars, the Action Express entry was now in a position to jump into the series championship. hey were well underway until the 10th hour, when Pipo Derani tangled with Juan Pablo Montoya in the other Team Penske car. Derani received a drive through penalty, ending the title hopes for Action Express.

Thus Helio Castroneves, in his final race for team Penske, finally won a title for the Captain. Castroneves had finished second seven times in Indycar for Penske despite three Indianapolis 500 victories and 30 race wins overall. Castroneves begins a new Indycar chapter in 2021 when he drives in six races for Meyer Shank Racing.

Helio’s perseverance in pursuing a championship is admirable. he put in a lot of hard work. It took a little longer than he hoped to finally realize one of his goals.

Indycar Well Represented at Sebring

Indycar drivers and team owners had a good day and night at Sebring. In addition to Castroneves winning the season championship for team Penske, Ryan Hunter-Reay drove for the winning Mazda entry, and Simon Pagenaud was a part of the Team Penske Acura entry which finished second. Two time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya also drove the runner-up car.

Meyer Shank Racing won the season championship in the GTD class with drivers Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry, edging Wright Motorsports by two points. meyer Shank will move to the DPi class next season, taking over one of the Acura entries. Will Castroneves be a part of this venture too?

The Michael Shank Acura, winner of the IMSA Weather Tech GTD title

Other Indycar drivers- Sebastien Bourdais finished fifth overall in his final full time ride. Bourdais will pilot the number14 for A. J. Foyt racing in Indycar in 2021.

Colton Herta ended the night fourth in class driving for RLL.