UPDATE: Truck racing at Eldora underway; 5 heat races, LCQ in books

Leave a comment

UPDATE: 8:50 p.m. ET: The final five qualifiers for the main race have been determined after the Last Chance Qualifier. Brennan Newberry won over Jeff Babcock, Jason Bowles and Justin Jennings.

But the hero of the race, and the fifth and final qualifier, was Norm Benning. Benning (No. 57, right, shown in practice) would not be denied as he slipped, slid and bounced off the wall in an effort to hold onto fifth place after a restart.

“I just never lifted. I love Tony Stewart’s track. I’ve been waiting for this race since the day of the announcement,” Benning said to SPEED Channel pit reporter Ray Dunlap.

Clay Greenfield, Jimmy Weller, Bryan Silas and Joe Cobb came up short of making the race. Also caught out was JR Heffner, who headed to the pit lane immediately after the start.

**

UPDATE, 8:15 p.m. ET: The five qualifying heat races are in the books. Here’s a recap.

Ken Schrader backed up his fastest lap in qualifying with a win in the first of five heat races. He’ll start on pole for the main feature later Wednesday night. JR Heffner (finished second) and Jimmy Weller (sixth) were sent to the last chance qualifier.

The first caution of the heat races flew in heat two, for a quick spin by Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. with three laps to go. Despite a late charge from Matt Crafton on the lowest line of the track, Justin Landers held off for the win ahead of him in the heat race. Jeff Babcock (fifth) and Norm Benning (seventh) had to race through the LCQ.

Timothy Peters led flag-to-flag to win heat three, while Kyle Larson held off Jason Bowles in a battle for the transfer spot in third place. Bowles (fourth) and Clay Greenfield (seventh) went to the LCQ.

In heat four, Kenny Wallace took the win, Max Gresham (third) transferred in and Brennan Newberry (fifth) and Joe Cobb (seventh) went to the LCQ.

Jeb Burton held off Ryan Newman in a side-by-side battle in heat five. Newman was the transfer driver with Justin Jennings (sixth) and Bryan Silas (seventh) sent to the LCQ.

The starting lineup for the 15-lap last-chance race: 1. JR Heffner, 2. Jeff Babcock, 3. Jason Bowles, 4. Brennan Newberry, 5. Justin Jennings, 6. Jason Weller III, 7. Norm Benning, 8. Clay Greenfield, 9. Joe Cobb, 10. Bryan Silas.

**

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ dirt race at Eldora is underway. The heat races are about to begin after qualifying, where Ken Schrader was the fastest qualifier.

Schrader, though, will have to race his way in via his heat race or a last chance qualifier as he is not one of the 20 of 30 trucks locked into the race from owner points.

Here’s the race format:

  • Five qualifying heat races. 8 laps apiece. Only green flag laps count. 7 trucks in each race, with the top 5 advancing to the feature.
  • Last chance qualifier. 15 laps. 10 trucks entered. The top 5 advance.
  • Mudsummer Classic Feature: 30 trucks to start. 150 laps. Segments of 60, 50 and 40 laps.

IMSA: Rolex 24 Team Preview – GTLM

Photo courtesy of IMSA
Leave a comment

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.

Follow@KyleMLavigne