Johnson stays ahead of crash-filled finale, wins at Daytona (VIDEO)

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In a green-white-checkered finish, Jimmie Johnson stayed ahead of multiple melees that ensued on the final lap to win the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway – becoming the first driver to sweep both the Daytona 500 and DIS’ summer 400-miler in the same year since Bobby Allison did it in 1982.

Johnson led 93 of 160 laps en route to the win, which increased his lead in the Sprint Cup championship to 49 points over Clint Bowyer.

“I don’t know if I really made a bad move tonight, so I’m pretty proud of that,” Johnson told TNT in Victory Lane. “I had a great horse to ride…When I was growing up in California, I watched Bobby Allison and I remember where I was the day [Bobby’s son] Davey passed away. That’s how much the Allison name meant to me.

“To do anything that Bobby’s done is pretty special.”

Kevin Harvick was third, followed by Bowyer in fourth and Michael Waltrip in fifth.

Johnson was leading Tony Stewart when the first of two multi-car incidents on Lap 161 was triggered by contact in Turn 1 involving Casey Mears and Carl Edwards. Because it took place well behind the leaders, NASCAR opted not to throw the yellow and let the field race to the checkered flag.

That battle went to Johnson, but as the five-time Sprint Cup champion was crossing the line in first, another wreck was happening farther back in the tri-oval. The second incident appeared to begin with contact between Danica Patrick and David Ragan, which turned Patrick into another car. When the smoke finally cleared, ten cars were involved in the crash, including Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman.

Multiple reports from NASCAR and media members at Daytona say that all drivers involved in the last-lap incidents are OK.

The G-W-C finish came about after two previous accidents within the final 11 laps.

With five laps to go, Johnson and teammate Kasey Kahne were battling for the lead when third-place driver Marcos Ambrose made contact with the five-time Sprint Cup champion in an apparent attempt to pass in the middle lane. That sent Ambrose into Kahne, who was sent skidding hard into the backstretch wall to bring out what would be the final yellow of the night.

“Jimmie moved up and blocked the outside row coming, so at that point, I had the lead,” Kahne told TNT. “I had followed Jimmie a lot throughout the race and felt really good, and the next thing I know, I get slammed. That’s kind of how these [restrictor-plate] races go – you don’t have a lot of control over some of the things that happen here.”

The Johnson/Ambrose/Kahne dust-up followed a multi-car incident with 11 laps to go that brought out the red flag. Coming out of Turn 4, Denny Hamlin tacked left then shot right into the tri-oval wall. Matt Kenseth barely dodged Hamlin but A.J. Allmendinger was unable to and sent the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into the air briefly before it came to rest on the infield grass. The spinning Kenseth would collect Jeff Gordon and Dave Blaney as well.

Hamlin and Allmendinger were eventually checked and released from the infield care center.

IMSA: Rolex 24 Team Preview – GTLM

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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MotorSportsTalk’s Kyle Lavigne continues the team preview of entries for the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. At nine entries, it is the smallest of the three classes entered in this weekend’s Rolex 24 and down from last year’s 11 entries, but past events indicate it may be the event’s most competitive class.

The 2017 Rolex 24 saw four different marques from four different teams battling for the GTLM win late in the race, with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing taking the win with Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. And in 2016, Corvette Racing saw its No. 3 and 4 entries duel to the checkered flag, with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Marcel Fassler victorious in the No. 4 machine.

Below is a breakdown of the teams entered in the GTLM class.

Corvette Racing
Car: Corvette C7.R
No. 3 (Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller)
No. 4 (Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler)

Outlook: Corvette Racing has been a perennial powerhouse in GT racing over the entirety of the 21st century, and that isn’t something that’s likely to change. Coming off their 13th championship last year – Garcia and Magnussen took home last year’s GTLM driver’s crown – Corvette Racing now hunts for its fourth Rolex 24 triumph.

With an unchanged package that is proven to be both fast and reliable, Corvette Racing looks set to again feature prominently in the GTLM battle. Barring problems, both cars should be battling up front for the win.

BMW Team RLL
Car: BMW M8 GTLM
No. 24 (Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus)
No. 25 (Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi, Bill Auberlen, Philipp Eng)

Outlook: Of all the GTLM entries, BMW Team RLL sees by far the most change to its program. Out is the M6 GTLM and in is the brand new M8 GTLM. Jesse Krohn, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus, Philipp Eng and Connor De Phillippi are all new drivers to the team, while veteran Bill Auberlen will only contest the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events in 2018.

At the Roar Before the 24, the program appeared to lack speed. Sunday qualifying, to decide pit stall and garage selection, saw the No. 25 qualify the better of the two BMWs, but one second slower than the next quickest car – the BMW set a 1:45.056 for seventh in GTLM, behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, which set a 1:44.037.

It remains to be seen if there is more speed in the BMW machines, but they remain the most unproven of the GTLM entries. A victory seems out of reach at the moment, but that could change if the package improves.

Risi Competizione
Car: Ferrari 488 GTE
No. 62 (Toni Vilander, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Davide Rigon)

Outlook: Risi Competizione came excruciatingly close to winning last year’s Rolex, but a late-race battle between James Calado and Dirk Mueller, of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, saw Mueller come out on top, while Calado was shuffled back to third by the time the checkered flag fell.

They did not win an event last year, but this is a team that knows how to win big races – they have previously won the Motul Petit Le Mans – and should once again prove to be a major player in the GTLM battle.

The only major change comes in their driver lineup, with Alessandro Pier Guidi and David Rigon joining the lineup and Giancarlo Fisichella departing. But, with Calado and Toni Vilander returning to anchor the driving team, this change is not expected to slow the team down. Expect them to battle at the front all race long.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Ford GT
No. 66 (Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais)
No. 67 (Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon)

Outlook: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing returns to the Rolex 24 as defending race winners – Hand, Mueller, and Bourdais delivered the victory in 2017. Further, they return with the same driver lineups and car they used. In short, every indication is that they enter this year’s event as favorites to repeat.

The Roar Before the 24 gave further evidence of this. Both of the cars were among the quickest in every session at the Roar, and Sunday qualifying saw its No. 66 end up at the top of the board, with the No. 67 in third.

The GTLM field is strong all the way around, but this team is likely the favorite entering the event.

Porsche GT Team
Car: Porsche 911 RSR

No. 911 (Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki)
No. 912 (Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Gianmaria Bruni)

Outlook: Porsche GT Team brings with it a star-studded driver lineup that features former class winners of the Rolex 24, former overall winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and a ton of all-around talent.

The team finished a close second at last year’s Rolex 24, with the No. 911 entry, behind the race-winning Ford from Chip Ganassi’s stable. Later that year, they visited victory lane – Porsche finished 1-2 at Lime Rock Park, with the No. 911 taking the victory – proving that the mid-engine 911 RSR is more than up to the task and gives the team everything they need to be contenders.

Porsche will have a fight on their hands, but this is a team that expects to compete for a victory, and they did win this event in 2014. They round out a titanic GTLM grid and should be a fixture throughout the day.

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