New challenge awaits Rolex Series at Kansas Speedway

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With championship battles continuing to evolve in both classes, the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series has entered America’s Heartland for a Saturday night race on Kansas Speedway’s new “roval.”

Kansas now boasts a 2.37-mile road circuit that combines a six-turn infield set-up and a sizable portion of the familiar 1.5-mile oval that hosts NASCAR Sprint Cup action twice a year.

It’s the third new venue of 2013 for the Rolex Series, which has already made debuts at Circuit of the Americas (Austin, Tex.) and Road Atlanta (Braselton, Ga.).

After suffering a mechanical failure at Road America last weekend, the No. 2 Starworks BMW/Riley team of Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel saw their lead in the Daytona Prototype championship chopped to just four points over the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing duo of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.

Action Express Racing’s Christian Fittipaldi (-7 points) and Joao Barbosa (-9 points) are also within single digits of Popow and Dalziel with three races left in the season.

The Rolex Series’ Grand Touring championship is proving every bit as exciting as well. Consistent results toward the front have allowed the winless No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche team of Andy Lally and John Potter to keep hold of the top spot in the class.

But their lead is still just a slim seven markers over John Edwards and Robin Liddell in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro. Alessandro Balzan (-11 points), in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458, is also in on the chase as well.

According to the Associated Press, track officials are hopeful for a turnout of around 15,000 to 20,000 for Saturday night’s 2-hour, 45-minute race. A decent crowd can only help Kansas in its efforts to be included on next year’s inaugural schedule for the new United SportsCar Racing.

“They have to make some decisions for 2014 that are some tough decisions,” Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren told the AP’s Dave Skretta.

“As they try to figure out how they want to grow the series – what they want to do to bring [GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series] together – we just don’t know where we fit in that picture.”

Earlier tonight, Memo Rojas stuck the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing BMW/Riley on the DP pole for Saturday after notching a lap of 1 minute, 9.883 seconds. In GT, IndyCar veteran Alex Tagliani wheeled the No. 61 R. Ferri/AIM Motorsports Ferrari 458 to the pole with a time of 1 minute, 14.956 seconds.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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