Rolex 24 GTD class pole winner, others penalized (UPDATED)

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UPDATE (8:58 p.m. ET): Post-qualifying inspection failures have resulted in three cars having their Rolex 24 at Daytona qualifying times disallowed, including the GTD class pole-winning No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8.

Christopher Haase had taken the No. 48 to P1 on the GTD charts but IMSA officials found an unapproved rear wing endplate on the Audi and have subsequently sent it to the rear of the field for Saturday’s race.

Another quick GTD machine, the No. 46 Fall Line Motorsports Audi R8, has suffered the same fate because of a ride-height violation. The car had originally qualified third in the class.

Finally, the No. 78 Starworks Motorsport Prototype was popped in inspection for both a ride-height violation and the use of an unapproved aerodynamic device. Brendon Hartley had originally put the No. 78 third on both the overall and Prototype grids.

With all of that taken into account, the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia (GRAND-AM GT driver’s champion Alessandro Balzan/Toni Vilander/Jeff Westphal/Lorenzo Case) has been elevated to pole in GTD. Corsa’s sister Ferrari, the No. 65, is now second on the class grid, and the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 shall line up third.

As for the Prototype grid, everyone from fourth on back will now move up one position.

GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing took the overall and P class pole position in the hands of Alex Gurney, in the No. 99 Corvette DP. Before the penalty to the Starworks No. 78, Gurney’s lap of 1:38.270 led seven straight Daytona Prototypes, with the DeltaWing eighth in the hands of Katherine Legge and the fastest P2 car only 11th, 1.5 seconds behind the overall pole.

Colin Braun followed up his early pace in the day’s two practice sessions to earn the PC class pole in his No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09. Braun, a veteran of several Rolex 24s in DPs and GT cars, said he was adjusting to racing at Daytona with the expanded field of vision from an open cockpit car.

In GTLM, the No. 91 Viper GTS-R, driven by Marc Goossens, posted a flier of 1:44.506 to lead one of the factory Porsche 911s, the second Viper, the No. 4 Corvette C7.R and second Porsche in the class top five.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.