Petit Le Mans gets rolling at Road Atlanta

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The 2013 Petit Le Mans – the final race of the American Le Mans Series – is now underway at Road Atlanta. The race is expected to run for 10 hours or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Early morning rains soaked the 2.5-mile circuit, but the asphalt was in the process of drying as the field took the green flag at 11:30 a.m. ET. As expected, the Rebellion No. 12 Lola/Toyota of pole sitter Neel Jani and the Muscle Milk No. 6 Honda Performance Development ARX-03c of Lucas Luhr quickly ran off in the early going from the rest of the 34-car field.

But on Lap 6, Luhr was able to chase down Jani, popped to the inside going into Turn 10a, and made the pass to put Muscle Milk in the lead. Shortly afterwards on Lap 8, Jani brought the No. 12 to the pits in order to flip from the wet tires to dry slicks, but his car was dropped before the left rear wheel was on, causing a slow stop. However, Luhr too would have to pit for slicks on Lap 10, and although he had a smoother first stop, Jani was eventually able to get back to the overall lead.

Meanwhile, the GT fight quickly heated up between the Ferrari, BMW and Chevrolet camps. Pole sitter Matteo Malucelli (No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia) sustained rear end bodywork damage while battling for third with John Edwards (No. 56 BMW Team RLL) and Jan Magnussen (No. 3 Chevy Corvette), who is trying to claim the ALMS’ GT driver’s championship with co-driver Antonio Garcia this afternoon. That happened behind the two early class leaders, the No. 91 SRT Viper of Dominik Farnbacher and the No. 4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin.

As the race went past the one-hour mark, Jani was in the lead but then made contact with the No. 52 Prototype Challenge entry of Dane Cameron as it was coming out of pit road, causing suspension and radiator damage to that car. Jani was promptly hit with a 60-second stop-and-hold penalty for avoidable contact, causing him to lose the overall lead to Luhr in the No. 6 Muscle Milk car.

Your respective class leaders after one hour:

P1 – No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03c

P2 – No. 552 Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b

PC – No. 8 Bar1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09

GT – No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia

GTC – No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s INDYCAR race was postponed until Monday

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Here’s what several drenched drivers had to say after Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was postponed until Monday morning (11:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2018 pole winner): “It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us. We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns 1 and 2, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form. Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s that this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before, but it intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands. What happened with Will (Power), I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. A tough situation. Thanks for the fans that came out and supported us. Hopefully we’ll get some people back tomorrow and we’ll get the show in and put on a great event.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
“Tough day so far. We had some problems with our radio and fuel alarm, but otherwise the car was alright. It was just too dangerous out there, we couldn’t see anything, so I think they made the right call. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s just a real shame for everyone on the Verizon Chevy team. The car was good and we were doing our best out there, but it was really hard to see anything in front of me. The conditions were just so bad. As soon as I got to the frontstraight, the car just came around, and I tried to keep it off the wall, but it was hydroplaning and there was nothing I could do. I feel bad for the team and for the fans in this weather. Just too bad. Hopefully our luck can turn around when we get to Indianapolis.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Very difficult day for us. In the race we were 13th at the time and we had some electrical issues, so that caused us to pit and we lost a lap. Not the ideal situation, but we don’t give up. There’s still a race tomorrow and we’re going to go for the most points. Anything can happen.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue today, no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in today, but that’s life. We will go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want, but safety is obviously a priority. I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “As you could see on TV, if you couldn’t see the car, it was probably three times worse in the cockpit on the main straight or any straight. You had to completely trust the guys that they were accelerating. Never the less, I made good progress on the short stint and I made up a few positions.  The car was working well, but also was aquaplaning a lot, too, so I have to respect INDYCAR’s decision for everyone’s safety. Now we really need to concentrate on having a good car for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the fans that sat in rain all day, but thank them for their support.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a short day. In the beginning the conditions were not that good, but afterwards the conditions started to improve. The race was stopped, then restarted, and I think the conditions were not too bad at that point. Unfortunately, it was red flagged again and then cancelled for the day. It would have been nice to get halfway, but we will come back and try again tomorrow.”