Prototype testing canceled today after pair of airborne accidents Tuesday

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Scary news is emerging out of Daytona, site of the second two-day test for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, as during Tuesday’s first day of testing there were two airborne accidents.

The first involved Spirit of Daytona Racing’s Richard Westbrook, the Englishman driving a Corvette Daytona Prototype (shown right in 2013 configuration at Kansas). Speaking to Sportscar365’s John Dagys, Westbrook told him he had a right-rear tire failure at 195mph on exit to the tri-oval, with that proving the launching pad to a series of rolls after getting airborne.

Westbrook took to Twitter on Wednesday to offer thanks for all the well wishes after emerging, mercifully, unscathed.

The aforementioned “man hug” is mentioned thanks to a photo, shot by M. Stahlschmidt/Sideline Sports Photography, that has gone viral since being posted. The shattered DP sits restless with Westbrook and Darren Turner of Aston Martin Racing embracing to the side.

A less severe accident occurred later in the afternoon when Joao Barbosa had another reported right-rear puncture to his Corvette DP, the Action Express entry. Both cars were running in the updated aero configuration with more downforce from the rear wing, new diffuser and tunnels. Both drivers, fortunately, were uninjured.

As a result, IMSA took the decision on Wednesday to cancel the day’s testing for cars in the Prototype (DPs and P2s) and Prototype Challenge (PC) classes on safety grounds.

The DeltaWing LM13 Coupe, however, continued as its unique nature doesn’t directly align it with any prototype regulations. GTLM (American Le Mans Series GT) and GTD (Rolex Series GT, ALMS GTC) testing continued as scheduled.

The release from IMSA reads as follows:

Officials from the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and Continental Tire have jointly decided to suspend on-track testing of TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Prototype (P)  and Prototype Challenge (PC) race cars after issues were discovered during testing at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday.

IMSA and Continental Tire are analyzing the situation and working toward a solution. On-track testing will continue at Daytona on Wednesday for the GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes. On-track testing of the DeltaWing DWC13 prototype – which utilizes a unique tire and technical package – will also continue as scheduled.

With time ticking until the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Jan. 25-26, this test will have been a major eye-opener for series officials. It’s also a blessing that we aren’t writing about something worse, thanks to the structural integrity of the DP monocoque.

Danica Patrick to sign off driving career at 2018 Indy 500

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With her full-time career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now coming to an end, following the end of the 2017 season this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Danica Patrick is embarking on a new path in 2018 with the two biggest 500-mile races in North America.

Patrick confirmed plans to participate in North America’s most marquee 500-mile races, the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, during a press conference today in Miami. A team for the Indianapolis 500 has not been determined, and her options for the Daytona 500 are limited to NASCAR teams with three or fewer full-time cars, because a four-car full-time team cannot enter a fifth for the Daytona 500.

Patrick ended her full-time career in IndyCar after 2011 to head to NASCAR. She drove 10 races in 2012 before her first full Cup season in 2013, where she won the pole for that year’s Daytona 500 and ultimately finished eighth.

Her Cup career has seen her finish between 24th and 28th in points with seven career top-10 finishes, all between sixth and 10th place. She ranks 27th heading into this week’s finale too.

It was her IndyCar career though where she first entered the national conversation after a few years of apprenticeship driving for Bobby Rahal’s Barber Dodge and Formula Atlantic teams. A fourth place finish in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 with a number of laps led launched her into the racing stratosphere and helped produce the Indianapolis 500’s biggest rating in years.

Ultimately her best finish in the ‘500 in seven starts was third place in 2009, behind Helio Castroneves and the late Dan Wheldon.

She won at Motegi, 2008, for her first and only win in IndyCar.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 29: Danica Patrick, driver of the #7 Team GoDaddy Dallara Honda, makes a pit stop during the IZOD IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

A visibly emotional Patrick announced this was the end of her full-time driving career to kick off the press conference, but switched to her future plans once she got through the opening remarks.

Patrick “never thought” she’d do the Indianapolis 500 again but when tossing around future ideas, the concept of running both Daytona and Indianapolis came up.

“I never thought I would do it. I always thought never, but I never said never. Here I am,” she said.

“Out of my mouth came, ‘What about Indy?’ That was really the first sort of idea that got me excited. Let’s do it. I called Haley (Moore, longtime PR rep). What did I just say I would do? She said, ‘Hell yes that’s a good idea.’

“I’m still surprised.”

Patrick will need to participate in the Indianapolis 500 refresher program for drivers that aren’t full-time drivers, so that will provide her a couple hours additional track time before practice opens to the full field in mid-May.

The new 2018 Dallara universal body kit comes into being this year too, and Patrick thinks she has improved as a driver over the last six seasons to be able to come back.

“(Going) 240… it’ll be no problem,” she deadpanned. “It’ll take a bit of adjusting. It’s different for sure. But I think I’m a better driver now. It’ll take a bit of acclimating. Yeah, I would like to get in a car before I get to Indy.”

Patrick said running the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 “could” occur with her same teams she last ran with full-time, Stewart-Haas Racing and Andretti Autosport, respectively. But her options remain open for both.