NASCAR does its best endurance racing imitation with Chicago delays

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It seems hard to believe considering the official time of its race was 3 hours, 10 minutes and 56 seconds. But from when the scheduled green flag was supposed to take place for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway and when the checkered finally flew, it was nearly a 12-hour marathon.

The race was supposed to green shortly after 2:00 p.m. ET, 1:00 p.m. CT and local time. The first batch of rain and track-drying caused more than an hour delay before the initial green flag. Then of course, after 110 laps of racing, came the long delay of 5 hours, 10 minutes and 21 seconds before an eventual – and merciful – restart.

By that point in the night, past 10:00 p.m. ET and 9:00 p.m. CT, you wouldn’t blame the competitors, the media, or the fans who had stuck around through the delay for hoping that the race would run 24 or so more laps – to hit the half distance mark of 134 laps – and call it a night as an official day. Yet it was at that point the rain gods held off and the race ran to its conclusion, with several Chasers having issues and Joe Gibbs Racing’s pair of Chase-eligible Toyotas posting a 1-2 finish, led by Matt Kenseth.

The time was past midnight E.T. and 11:00 p.m. CT, and NASCAR had done an equivalent day to legendary 12 Hours of Sebring – except not racing for all 12 hours consecutively as they do in central Florida every March.

You don’t necessarily have the opportunity to appreciate endurance racing, and some of the competitions like Sebring, and like the 24-hour races in Daytona and Le Mans, from a casual NASCAR perspective until you see a day like today take place where it becomes a marathon thanks to adverse weather conditions.

And even so, 12 hours isn’t 12 hours because you have hours of pre-race festivities ahead of the race and all the post-race debrief afterwards.

It’s a very tired NASCAR press corps today, you’d imagine, and should realistically be a day of rest. The NASCAR community has earned it after the last week and a day.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.