Miller (2nd from right) with the Dempsey Racing team at Road America two weeks ago.

Sports car community reflects on Roger Miller’s passing

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The racing fraternity, and the niche that is the North American sports car community, is a tight-knit bunch. So it came as a shock to most to hear of the passing of Roger Miller, son of Utah business legend Larry H. Miller, after this weekend’s GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race in Kansas. Roger Miller was 45; he was a regular in CTSCC and made several starts in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS class, in both cases, in a Ford Mustang Boss 302.

Although this is by no means exhaustive, here are some quotes and tweets remembering Miller that have emerged over the last two days.

QUOTES FROM DEMPSEY RACING TEAM

Patrick Dempsey: “The news hit us all hard, a shocking and deeply sad loss of a dear friend. We can’t express enough our sorrow and sympathy for Roger and his family. He was an integral part of our team and, more significantly, such a great friend for much longer than that. Our relationship with Roger and his family started at Miller Motorsports Park several years prior to racing with him and it was always a pleasure. Just a fantastic person, great teammate, and I am so glad, Joe, Ian and I and other members of our team were able to spend some time that will now be cherished with Roger just two weeks ago at Road America.”

Joe Foster: “What a shocking loss to all of us. Roger was a friend and I so enjoyed his passion for all things friends, family and racing.  While not losing focus on family and business, Roger had put a huge effort into his on-track performance and had made big progress.  Patrick and I really enjoyed his company at the races along with Cheri and the kids.  I am just numb and I can only think of his family at the moment.”

Ian James: “Devastating news, Roger was without doubt one of the nicest people I have had the fortune to call a friend. Generous almost to a fault, always making sure everybody else had what they needed, and a burning passion for racing that was unrivaled. He started racing later in life but he just kept getting better and better every race, I will truly cherish the good times and his ever present smile that would brighten anyone’s day. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wonderful family that he cared so much about.

TWEETS

Al Carter (@alcarter3): Hard to believe the surprising news of the passing of Roger Miller. Condolence to his family and all those he knew.

Tyler Cooke (@TylerCooke116): Still can’t believe the news of Roger Miller passing yesterday. We raced with him at Kansas. #RIP

Turner Motorsport (@TurnerMotrsprt): Extremely sad to hear unexpected death of Roger Miller, a friend and racer in the Grand-Am Series. Thoughts and prayers with his family.

Scott Maxwell (@smaxwell27) Thoughts go out to all the friends and family of Roger Miller. He will be missed.

Gunnar Jeannette (@gunnarjeannette): Really sad to hear of the passing of Roger Miller. He was a great guy & passionate racer.

Calvin Fish (@calvinfish): Shocked to hear of passing of @continentaltire driver Roger Miller. Just so so sad, great guy with lots to live for.Thoughts to family #RIP

Pirelli World Challenge (@WCRacing): Our condolences to the friends and family of Roger Miller. You will be missed by your racing family. @NASAUtah @rlmlr

Andy Lally (@AndyLally): Really sad to hear of the passing of Continental driver Roger Miller this morning. A very passionate racer and great guy. RIP.

Jeremy Scott, MRN Kansas pit reporter (@jscottontheair) : Wow, sad news to hear that Roger Miller has passed away. This after finishing 11th in yesterday’s CTSCC race. Prayers to the Miller family.

Matt Cleary, Sunday Group Management (@sundaygroup): Very sad news of Roger Miller passing. His dad was big reason  for Mustang Challenge @FordRacing

Spencer Ryan Hall (saltcityhoops) : Sorry to hear about the passing of Roger Miller, the son of Larry H. Miller. He was a father of 9 kids & a 28-year employee w/ LHM companies

David Locke (lockedonsports, Jazz announcer): Stunned to hear news of Roger Miller’s passing.  Always enjoyed our talks about technology and cars.  Deepest thoughts to Miller family. DL

Ryan Eversley (@ryaneversley): I’ve just learned that Roger Miller who races in our @CT_Challenge has passed away. We just raced together yesterday in Lambos and CT. #RIP

Hamilton: Monaco ‘the unicorn of races’ in F1 career

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Lewis Hamilton has called the Monaco Grand Prix the “unicorn” of races through his Formula 1 career, having claimed only two wins in 10 attempts around the streets of the principality.

Three-time F1 champion Hamilton is a resident of Monaco and has regularly been in contention for victory, but only reached the top step of the podium in 2008 and 2016.

Both wins were hard-fought, with his 2008 victory coming after an early pit stop due to a puncture. Last year, Hamilton pounced on a mistake by Red Bull to jump ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and take his second Monaco victory.

“I’ve not won here many times. With the pace I’ve had over the years, it’s always proven to be, not the Achilles heel, but the unicorn of races,” Hamilton said.

“That one that just always gets away from you. There’s definitely been, I would say, at least two – maybe three – that I should have had but other things came into play.

“But I’m grateful for the ones I’ve had. Not many people can say they have a Monaco Grand Prix win under their belt. And especially the way those two wins came about in 2008 and 2016.

“Sometimes quantity isn’t everything. Those were real quality races that I really earned, so I’m proud of those ones.”

Hamilton made a strong start to this weekend’s running in Monaco, leading first practice on Thursday morning.

Ganassi heads into Memorial Day weekend with three points leads

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INDIANAPOLIS – Three entirely different types of cars, series and racing formats have produced similar results for one team going into Memorial Day weekend, easily the biggest racing weekend of the world on the racing calendar.

Chip Ganassi Racing heads into the 101st Indianapolis 500 (Verizon IndyCar Series) and Coca-Cola 600 (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) with the points lead in these two championships with Scott Dixon and Kyle Larson. That marks the first time in the team’s 20-plus year history it has held each championship lead simultaneously.

And for good measure, the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team leads in the FIA World Endurance Championship GTE-Pro class going into that series’ marquee race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which takes place June 17-18.

It’s only in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where the team sits second in the GT Le Mans class, that a Ganassi car and driver (or drivers) don’t have the points lead.

In IndyCar, Dixon moved into the points lead – albeit unofficially, as IndyCar doesn’t release updated points until after the Indianapolis 500 – following his pole position secured Sunday for next week’s race. He gained 31 more points than Simon Pagenaud and went from 10 down (191-181) to 21 ahead (223-202) going into the race. Oddly though, despite five top-fives in as many races since Ganassi switched to the Honda aero kit and engine package, Dixon is yet to win!

In NASCAR, Larson’s storming start on the strength of one overall win plus two additional stage wins sees him 44 points clear of Martin Truex Jr. (475-431), with Brad Keselowski the only other driver within 100 points. Larson has not finished worse than 17th in 11 races this year in his Chevrolet. Jamie McMurray sits fifth in the points, as well.

And in the WEC, after two races, the trio of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell and Pipo Derani won the 6 Hours of Silverstone to kick off the year in their No. 67 Ford GT. They hold a two-point lead over the pair of AF Corse Ferrari drivers, heading to the double points Le Mans race.

In IMSA, the pair of Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand sit six points (124-118) behind Corvette’s Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen after four races. Mueller and Hand co-drove with Sebastien Bourdais to win at the Rolex 24 at Daytona; Mueller and Hand will have a new teammate at Le Mans while Bourdais recovers from his injuries sustained in an accident in qualifying at Indianapolis.

Although Ganassi is split between three bases – its IndyCar and IMSA arms are stationed in Indianapolis off Woodland Drive, its NASCAR hub is in Charlotte and its WEC hub in partnership with Multimatic is in the U.K. – the one team spirit is fully present as all three teams, and three manufacturers, are off to the strong start.

AVONDALE, AZ – APRIL 29: Scott Dixon of New Zealand, driver of the #9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda greets fans as he is introduced to the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway on April 29, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“It’s important to win… and it’s important to lead a championship,” Ganassi managing director Mike Hull told NBC Sports about the strong start.

“That’s an enormous motivating factor for everyone that works on our product, no matter if it’s IndyCar, NASCAR, WEC or IMSA. It validates the volume of work that people do for your race team. That includes the people who are visible and work really really hard, under the three locations, in order to achieve success.

“It represents what teams of people can accomplish when they work together.”

Ganassi, who celebrated his 59th birthday on Wednesday, is yet to win a NASCAR championship at the Cup level but Larson is presenting his best chance. It’s been in IndyCar where the team has had its greatest success, with 11 championships between 1996 and 2015. Ganassi has won multiple sports car championships in IMSA’s past iteration as the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, and won Le Mans last year but are yet to win a WEC title.

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – APRIL 14: The Ford Chip Ganassi GT of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell and Pipo Derani drives during practice for the FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone on April 14, 2017 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

As Hull deadpanned, leading now is nice, but it’s at the end of the year when it actually matters.

“What has contributed to all that, is challenge,” Hull said. “When passionate people are challenged, what they come to realize quickly is achieve any amount of success on a daily basis on Sunday. We enjoy challenge; we love challenge, change and we love working together. That’s a perfect combination.

“We’re really excited when you’re leading the championship, but let’s be honest… you want it on the last lap of the last race.

“It’s positive and an optimistic start. We just need to keep to working at it, for the end of the year.”

Hamilton leads first Monaco F1 practice, Button makes solid return

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Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel’s ongoing battle for supremacy in Formula 1 continued during first practice for the Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday morning as the duo locked out the top two positions.

Hamilton and Vettel have won four of the opening five rounds of the 2017 season and look set to enjoy a season-long fight for the championship, representing Mercedes and Ferrari respectively.

Hamilton drew first blood in Monaco, turning in a best lap of 1:13.425 around the tight streets of the principality to finish two-tenths clear of Vettel at the top of the timesheets.

The session saw Mercedes and Ferrari run close once again, yet Red Bull was also able to get into the mix at the head of the field with Max Verstappen finishing third-fastest, three-tenths of a second off the pace. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo was fifth-fastest.

Valtteri Bottas was fourth in the second Mercedes, but Kimi Raikkonen was less able to match his teammate’s pace, coming home seventh for Ferrari, half a second down on Vettel’s time in the same car.

Toro Rosso and Force India both had impressive sessions as both teams got their drivers into the top 10. Daniil Kvyat was sixth for Toro Rosso as teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. was ninth, sandwiched by Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon for Force India.

Jenson Button’s first running in a 2017-spec F1 car was impressive as he finished 14th for McLaren ahead of his one-off grand prix return. The Briton turned in 31 laps in total and lapped less than two-tenths of a second slower than teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, proving he has lost little of his touch over the winter.

Running in Monaco continues with second practice live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Thursday.

Sebastien Bourdais released from IU Methodist hospital; begins rehab

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INDIANAPOLIS – Sebastien Bourdais only posted just yesterday that he was “unable to go for a run” – his spirit and humor clearly not affected despite sustaining multiple pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in his crash during qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in the No. 18 GEICO Honda on Saturday.

On Thursday, his post revealed even better news: he’s been released from IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, and will be set to fly home soon to Florida for his rehabilitation.

Bourdais’ place in the race at Dale Coyne Racing will be taken by James Davison, but judging by this first round of leaving, the Frenchman is keen to begin the recovery process as quick as humanly possible.