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TUSC: Team Sahlen drops Prototype program for 2014; MacNeil, Keen team up at Alex Job Racing

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The new Prototype class for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship has taken a blow this weekend, as Team Sahlen has announced that it will not be running its two-car Daytona Prototype program in the TUSC’s inaugural season.

Last month, the team had said it would field the same No. 42 (pictured) and No. 43 BMW/Riley Daytona Prototypes in 2014 that they fielded in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series this past year. Wayne Nonnamaker and Dane Cameron were slated to drive the No. 42, while Joe and Will Nonnamaker were to drive the No. 43.

This past year, Wayne and Cameron logged two Top-5 finishes en route to 10th in the Rolex Series DP championship, with Cameron almost securing a win for the No. 42 at Road America before a gearbox failure knocked him out late. Joe and Will finished 16th in the standings.

“We’re still going to be racing somewhere within the IMSA family, and believe very heavily in the direction the Frances have taken the series,” Will Nonnamaker told RACER Magazine’s Marshall Pruett. “We will be back next year, and will announce those plans in the next few weeks.”

As for where the Sahlen camp will end up in 2014, that remains to be determined.

Cooper MacNeil, who enters the TUSC after winning back-to-back driving titles in the American Le Mans Series’ GTC category, will once again be behind the wheel of the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche next year. But he’ll have a new partner.

Leh Keen, the 2009 GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT champion, is now on board at AJR, replacing Jeroen Bleekemolen as MacNeil’s teammate. Keen and MacNeil worked together during the latter’s 2012 GTC title run, and together, they won three races that season (Lime Rock, Road America, Virginia).

Now, they’ll focus on becoming the first champions from the TUSC’s GT Daytona (GTD) class.

“We get along really well and he’s a damn good driver,” MacNeil said of Keen in a statement. “He helped me win my first championship in 2012 and we will try our best to do the same in 2014.

“At the same time, I’m upset to see Jeroen become my competition, because I really liked him driving with me, not against me. But I wish him the best with Viper.”

As for Keen, he’s happy to be able to continue his history with the AJR camp.

“I really have to thank [sponsor] WeatherTech and Alex for bringing me on board for the full season,” he said. “My history with Alex shows how strong our relationship is and he runs the best program out there.

“Next year will be extremely competitive, but with a car like the new 991, a team like Alex Job Racing, and with Cooper as my co-driver – we have won championships in the past and will be going for the first GTD championship ever.”

Bottas confident after strong qualifying in Sochi

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 10:  Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Williams drives during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 10, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Valtteri Bottas is confident of scoring a good result in tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix after qualifying third at the Sochi Autodrom on Saturday.

Bottas finished as the ‘best of the rest’ in Q3 behind the leading Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, beating the Ferrari drivers to secure P3 for the start of tomorrow’s race.

After a difficult run of form, Bottas believes that he can capitalize on this good qualifying result and make the most of the Williams car’s suitability to the track in Sochi.

“It was a strong job by the team today,” Bottas said. “We managed to set-up the car well and maximize our performance.

“I felt very good in the car all day and managed to get in a rhythm quickly and put in consistent lap times despite the limited number of laps we had completed in practice.

“Tomorrow is where it really matters but I have put myself in a very good position to capitalize.”

Bottas’ teammate, Felipe Massa, was less impressive in qualifying as a mistake and traffic caused him to drop out in Q2, finishing P15.

“I made a mistake at turn eight in my first timed lap in Q2, and then in my final two attempts I came up against a lot of traffic which lost me a lot of time,” Massa explained.

“On my final run my tires were gone at the rear and that was the end of my chances. It’s a shame and I’m very disappointed, but I have a quick car around here so we need to have a good strategy and use our pace to move up into the points tomorrow.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.

GP2: Rossi victorious again in shortened Sochi opener

2015 GP2 Series Round 9. Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia. 
Saturday 10 October 2015. 
Alexander Rossi (USA, Racing Engineering) celebrates his win on the podium.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service. 
ref: Digital Image _SBL3610
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Alexander Rossi claimed his third win in as many GP2 Series rounds in Saturday’s feature race at the Sochi Autodrom.

Since winning the last feature race at Monza in Italy, Rossi has made his Formula 1 debut with Manor and also raced for the team at the iconic Suzuka Circuit in Japan.

As part of his deal with Manor, Rossi has returned to GP2 for this weekend’s round in Russia as he bids to finish as runner-up to impending series champion Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was expected to be crowned champion on Saturday, but Rossi managed to delay the Belgian’s celebrations by storming to victory as darkness forced officials to shorten the race.

Carnage on the first lap saw four drivers retire from the race, with damage caused to the barrier at turn 3 by Jordan King resulted in a 30 minute red flag delay.

Once the race restarted, a shortened distance of 15 laps was confirmed, but full points were still to be awarded.

Pole-sitter Alex Lynn managed to pull clear through the first stint, and after falling behind Rossi in the first round of pit stops, the DAMS driver regained the advantage soon after.

However, when Lynn crashed out, Rossi was able to pull clear of the chasing Pierre Gasly and Vandoorne just behind to record his third win in as many race weekends by three seconds.

Rossi will start tomorrow’s sprint race from eighth place on the grid which is reversed, handing pole to Frenchman Arthur Pic who finished P8 on Saturday.

You will be able to read all about Alexander’s success in his exclusive NBC Sports blog on Wednesday. To read his pre-Sochi thoughts, click here.