IMSA Sporting Rules released post-Daytona test

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The Roar Before the Rolex 24 test has just concluded from the Daytona International Speedway. We’ll delve into today’s times either later today or tomorrow.

Additionally as the test has ended, IMSA, sanctioning body for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, has just released the 2014 sporting rules package. We’ll be able to explain this in full detail later this week. For now, here’s the release as sent out by IMSA:

International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) officials delivered the 2014 sporting rules package to teams participating in the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship as Roar Before The Rolex 24 testing wrapped up at Daytona International Speedway.

“The final component of the merger between the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series is now in place,” said Scot Elkins, IMSA vice president, competition and technical regulations. “Bringing together two series, which operated under markedly different rules, was a mammoth undertaking. We took advantage of the opportunity to closely examine the rules and procedures utilized by GRAND-AM and the previous iteration of IMSA to create a package that includes best practices from both.”

The 2014 IMSA Sporting Rules include many of the regulations and procedures announced last summer. Notable items introduced today include:

Points System/Procedures

  • The TUDOR Championship points system will be identical to the one utilized previously in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, with 35 points for first, 32 for second, 30 for third, 28 for fourth and 26 for fifth. Sixth place is worth 25 points with each subsequent finishing position decreasing by one point.
  • Drivers can be entered to drive a maximum of two cars. Drivers will be eligible for championship points and awards in two different classes from the same race if they complete minimum driving requirements in each and do not exceed the maximum driving time. Drivers entered in two cars in the same class at the same event will only receive points in one of the cars and must declare that car no later than one hour prior to the event’s first official practice session.
  • Drivers must participate in at least one practice, qualifying or warm-up session in every car in which they are nominated. They must complete at least three laps during a scheduled night practice for every event run partly at night in order to drive at night in the race.
  • Any car found out of compliance with the rules may be removed from consideration for prize money and points and other finishers advance accordingly.

Qualifying Procedures

  • Different drivers are eligible to qualify and start the race, similar to the procedure previously used by the ALMS. Starting drivers must be nominated no later than 30 minutes after qualifying ends.
  • Drivers causing a red-flag stoppage during qualifying will lose their fastest timed lap in the session. Drivers involved in incidents that cause qualifying to be abandoned will be placed at the rear of the starting grid.

Race Procedures

  • Cars must remain in position within their starting column until after they cross the starting line after the green flag is displayed. On restarts, overtaking may commence at the display of the green flag.
  • Pits will be closed at the time a full-course caution is announced.
  • If deemed appropriate, the race director shall authorize a pass-around for any car that has its class leader behind it.
  • P and PC cars will be permitted to pit on the first lap after the pits are declared open. Only GTLM and GTD cars are permitted to pit on the subsequent lap. Any car is permitted to pit after the first two class-specific opportunities are concluded.
  • Race control will authorize a Lap Down Wave By for any car behind the safety car that was not on the lead lap at the time of a full-course caution that is ahead of the first car in their class on the lead lap at the time of the full-course caution.
  • The class-specific separation for pit stops and the Lap Down Wave By are not in effect for any safety car period within 15 minutes of a previous green flag – including the race start – or during the final 30 minutes of the race.
  • Cars are not required to take the checkered flag on the race track to be eligible for a finishing position, points or awards.

The 2014 TUDOR Championship opens with the 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 25-26.

WATCH LIVE: IndyCar at Phoenix (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Coverage of the fourth round of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, takes place today starting at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com (stream link here). The coverage comes after an encore presentation of Phoenix qualifying, which begins at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Rick Allen will be in the booth with Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller will be in pit lane.

Coverage will run from 6 to 9 p.m. PT and local time, so 9 p.m. to midnight ET.

Each of the top three drivers on the grid, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and JR Hildebrand, seek their first wins of the year. The first three race winners start fourth (Josef Newgarden), 10th (points leader Sebastien Bourdais) and 11th (James Hinchcliffe).

Track position is expected to be key for the 250-lap race, the first oval event of the season, with passing projected to be difficult – albeit not impossible.

Beyond the top three, some of the other story lines to watch include these:

  • On the inside of Row 3, is Simon Pagenaud positioned to secure his first oval victory?
  • Will any of the Hondas be able to make significant inroads on the Chevrolets?
  • Is anyone going to be able to make enough gains on pit road to move up the order?

The starting lineup is below:

Monaco apartment bet gives extra spice to race for P5 in Russia

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Remember that episode of Friends where Joey and Chandler go up against Rachel and Monica in a crazy quiz that ends in them swapping apartments for a while?

Well, Formula 1 might be doing its own version on Sunday in Russia.

With Ferrari and Mercedes over one second per lap clear of the rest of the pack, the top four positions seem settled, leaving Williams and Red Bull to battle for P5.

Red Bull has been the third-quickest team for much of the season so far, yet Williams looks more competitive in Russia, with Felipe Massa charging to sixth place in qualifying to split Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

“I predicted them to be quick here. It’s been one of their stronger circuits the last few years, and Massa’s always been pretty handy around here,” Ricciardo said of Williams.

“He got close, split Max and myself. I expect that battle to remain tomorrow. Not expecting to have the battle for the win, I think that’s between Ferrari and Mercedes, but we could have a nice little battle within ourselves for the top five.”

To add an extra twist to things, it turns out that Ricciardo, Massa and Verstappen all live inside the same apartment complex in Monaco – so why not add some extra incentive to the battle?

“I was saying whoever maybe wins our battle tomorrow can get the… Massa or Verstappen, they’ve both got pretty good-sized apartments, so maybe they can give the winner their apartment for the weekend as a bit of a token gesture!” Ricciardo joked to NBCSN after the session.

“Yeah I can give a good party and I will join,” Verstappen added.

Massa laughed before saying: “I hope I will win and I cannot give!’

The race between Red Bull and Williams may be tight, but somehow we doubt remembering that the TV guide goes to Miss Chanandeler Bong or that his job is a transpon… transponster (“that’s not even a word!”) will be much help to Ricciardo, Massa or Verstappen on Sunday.

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix, Saturday edition (VIDEO)

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Life as a rookie in Formula 1 is always tough, but for Williams’ Lance Stroll, his arrival on the grid has been particularly challenging.

Entering F1 as its second-youngest debutant and after an extensive private testing program with Williams last year, big things were expected of Stroll when he made his debut in Australia.

However, his first three races in F1 have been far from ideal, all of them ending in retirement.

The DNF is Australia was the result of a brake issue, while incidents in China and Bahrain – both of which were hard to pin on Stroll – mean the Canadian is without a classified finish to his name.

So how has he dealt with the struggles? To find out, Will Buxton brings you a special edition of NBC Sports’ original digital series ‘Paddock Pass’ to lift the lid on Stroll’s start to life in F1.

You can watch the video in full above.

JR Hildebrand returns in career-best third on grid at Phoenix

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – The last first-time winner in the Verizon IndyCar Series came on an oval, when Alexander Rossi captured last year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

The guy who could well have captured his first career victory five years earlier in 2011, JR Hildebrand, remains in search of ‘ol first win number one. But he’s got a good chance to do so tonight in his No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, as he’ll roll off from a career-best third on the grid in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The qualifying result for Hildebrand eclipses a previous best set twice: fourth at Iowa in 2011, and at Fontana in 2012, both with Panther Racing but in separate iterations of cars. This marks Hildebrand’s first top-five start since that Fontana race in September of that year, and easily eclipses his other 2017 starts of 19th and 15th on the two street course races to start the year.

In some respects Hildebrand’s pace this weekend is not a surprise; he was the pace-setter during the open test here in February. However, after missing Barber owing to his broken bone in his left hand, the more important aspect of his performance this weekend is that he’s back on song and comfortable – best as he can be – for today’s 250-lap race.

“I think with the kind of injury that I’m dealing with and the surgery that I had, an oval definitely is a little easier just literally turning left versus turning right even,” Hildebrand said after practice, when he was second to Josef Newgarden – who will start alongside him tonight on Row 2.

“So it felt better than honestly I thought it would in practice. I didn’t have any, like, major issues. I got a couple of different braces that I’m kind of playing around with and stuff like that. But felt like I got it pretty dialed in. Feel good about qualifying today and then the race tomorrow as well.”

Hildebrand was in a unique situation at Barber where he watched someone else in his car – a situation he hadn’t been afforded since Panther showed him the door after the 2013 Indianapolis 500. His starts since, it’s been Hildebrand in either a fill-in or extra entry, usually at Ed Carpenter Racing.

“It was definitely different to be watching in that situation than it was last year, you know, or in years past when I’ve been stepping in for testing or whatever and doing that on behalf of other guys,” he said. “It was painful to sit there and watch, but I think was in the end the only, you know, feasible kind of way to get through that weekend.”

That being said, Hildebrand wound up playing the mentor role well to Zach Veach, who methodically and consistently improved over the weekend on debut. It flashed back nicely to Hildebrand’s own debut at Mid-Ohio 2010 under nearly identical circumstances.

“I filled in for Mike Conway at Mid-Ohio back in 2010 in sort of similar conditions,” Hildebrand explained.

“Yeah, I mean, knowing this was going to be sort of a short-term thing, in particular, I wanted for the team’s sake to be able to get as much as they could out of having Zach in the car in my absence. That in some ways sort of requires that Zach is up to speed.

“But being a driver myself, being in that situation before, I know that it helps a lot to have somebody that, you know, is kind of just there to help you through whatever those difficulties and challenges are.

“Barber is a really tough place. He had some testing time at Sonoma, which is not really super relevant going into Barber. And on top of that, like, we were not great there when we tested there previously.

“You know, he was in for an uphill battle going in. He had a great attitude about the whole thing. I thought he made evident progression through the weekend. You know, was definitely helpful for the team and did a good job for himself.”

Hildebrand also noted that he wouldn’t have been in this position in the first place had he not had the contact with Mikhail Aleshin at Long Beach that put him into the wall and caused the hand injury.

“Yeah, he came over and told me he didn’t block me while I was still sitting in the car. Then he got a penalty 30 seconds later for doing that. Whatever,” Hildebrand deadpanned.

“I don’t have hard feelings about it, for sure. But, you know, I think that there’s definitely a track record that, you know, he’s begun to build up.”

Hildebrand will look for his second career podium at least if he can finish where he starts – in a weird quirk, his only career IndyCar top-three finish has come at a race where there is not the traditional podium ceremony for top-three finishers, that aforementioned 2011 Indianapolis 500.

Tonight gives him a great opportunity to break that run of tough luck and get a result to match his determination and will to return.