TUSC: Rolex 24 Race Updates, Hours 1-12

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UPDATE (2:15 a.m. ET): We’ll start this update with further news on GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing driver Memo Gidley. The team recently tweeted that he’s undergone surgery on his left arm and left leg and remains under observation at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach.

As for the other driver involved in today’s violent third-hour accident, Risi Competizione’s Matteo Malucelli, no further word has been given on his condition outside of IMSA’s previous confirmation that he, along with Gidley, was “awake and communicating.” Of course, when we do receive an update, we’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, the Rolex 24 has crossed the halfway point with the twin Action Express Racing Corvette DP machines fighting it out with the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley/Ford Ecoboost for overall supremacy.

Ganassi’s sister car, the No. 01, has fallen 32 laps off the pace following repairs for damage to the right-front portion of the car. MRN Radio reported that driver Scott Pruett had something break on the car and then slammed into the outside wall while he was exiting the backstretch “bus stop” chicane.

Pruett was seeking to earn a record sixth Rolex 24 triumph, but it appears he’ll have to wait until 2015 to break that tie with fellow sports car legend Hurley Haywood.

Christian Fittipaldi, driving the No. 5 Action Express machine, gave up the lead to pit under green just before the 12-hour mark, handing the lead to Scott Dixon in the Ganassi No. 02. Tony Kanaan is slated to take over for Dixon at the next opportunity. The other Action Express machine, the No. 9 of Burt Frisselle, was second.

Also leading at 12 hours were Porsche North America’s No. 911 and 912 in GTLM, CORE autosport’s No. 54 in PC, and Level 5 Motorsports’ No. 555 Ferrari in GTD.

UPDATE (12:45 a.m. ET): It’s past midnight, but it’s not quite the 12-hour mark yet. Since we last checked in…

Sebastien Bourdais called some of the gentlemen drivers “terrorists” when it came to lapping them.

Scott Dixon is hunting down Joao Barbosa like a scalded cat.

Both SRT Vipers had issues that took them out of contention.

And RSR Racing’s No. 09 and Starworks Motorsport’s No. 78 have reached the end of the road.

Otherwise, it’s still rolling here in Daytona.

UPDATE (10:10 p.m. ET): It’s 10:10 p.m. in Daytona, and the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP leads overall. It’s in the hands of the young man with the mullet, Jordan Taylor.

Other class leaders are the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR (GTLM), No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 (PC) and No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 (GTD).

More than eight hours are in the books, officially one third of the 24-hour race. It’s dark, it’s cool, there’s been a number of contact incidents and a handful of yellow flags.

The top eight overall and prototypes and top seven in GTLM are all still on the same lap. The PC and GTD classes are a little more spread out.

UPDATE (9:02 p.m. ET): James Sofronas has been released from the infield care center after having the entire front end of his No. 32 GMG Racing Audi R8 ripped off in a multi-car incident that also caused then-race leader Max Angelelli to spin while avoiding the debris.

Sofronas appeared to be turned into the wall that separates pit road from the track in the infield section. Shortly after safety teams arrived on the scene, he climbed out of the wrecked Audi under his own power.

Angelelli managed to come through unscathed despite his spin, but wound up losing the lead. He has now been replaced in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP by Jordan Taylor, his 2013 GRAND-AM championship partner.

Mike Rockenfeller currently leads overall in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP. Other class leaders are the No. 3 Corvette (GTLM), No. 8 Starworks ORECA (PC), and No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi (GTD).

UPDATE (8:42 p.m. ET): IMSA has confirmed that Memo Gidley and Matteo Matucelli, the two drivers involved in this afternoon’s horrific accident during the third hour, are “awake and communicating and undergoing further observation” according to a tweet from its official account. IMSA adds that they will have more updates as they become available.

UPDATE (8:24 p.m. ET): NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson and four-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais have taken control of two of the top contending cars in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. However, Larson has had an inauspicious start to his sports car racing debut in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley/Ford Ecoboost.

Before the six-hour mark, Larson took over for 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan, who had been running second overall. But right after getting into the car, Larson got popped for speeding on pit road and had to come back to serve a stop-and-go penalty.

Shortly after that episode, the caution came out for debris with Larson having fallen to eighth while Bourdais was up to second in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP behind new leader Max Angelelli in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP. Before the yellow had come out, Angelelli had leapfrogged the AXR No. 5 in the pits while Christian Fittipaldi was making way for Bourdais.

After the green flag came out with 17 hours, 57 minutes remaining, Bourdais was dispatched by another IndyCar driver, Justin Wilson, now the current runner-up in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Riley/Ford Ecoboost.

Another NASCAR driver, veteran Jamie McMurray, has entered Ganassi’s No. 01 sister car to take over for Memo Rojas. Fox Sports reported that McMurray will be in the No. 01 for a triple stint.

Other class leaders include the No. 93 SRT Viper in GTLM, the No. 8 Starworks ORECA in PC, and the No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari.

UPDATE (7:15 p.m. ET): Back under yellow past the five-hour mark for an incident involving the No. 09 RSR Racing PC car, which stopped off course. The former class-leading No. 08, in the hands of Alex Tagliani, Conor Daly, Chris Cumming and Rusty Mitchell, was assessed a controversial three-and-a-half minute penalty for what was deemed an illegal pass-around. Wayne Taylor’s done his stint aboard his own No. 10 Corvette DP; Max Angelelli has climbed aboard that car. Class leaders are Action Express Racing (No. 5, Corvette DP, P); SRT Motorsports (No. 91, SRT Viper GTS-R, GTLM); Starworks Motorsport (No. 7, ORECA FLM09, PC); and Level 5 Motorsports (No. 555, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, GTD).

UPDATE (6:27 p.m. ET): Green-flag conditions have resumed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona after a short period of running under the yellow flag. An official update has not yet come in on Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli, both confirmed by IMSA to have been transported to Halifax.

UPDATE (5:34 p.m. ET): Multiple reports from Daytona state that both Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli are being transferred to nearby Halifax Health Medical Center, skipping the at-track medical center. Their conditions remain undisclosed at this time.

UPDATE (5:17 p.m. ET): A vicious accident involving the oncoming Memo Gidley in the pole-sitting No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP and a slowing Matteo Malucelli in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia has marred the third hour of racing at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The incident took place near the kink in the infield section of the road course and has brought out the red flag, stopping the race.

Safety crews are now on the scene at this time, with Fox Sports reporting that Malucelli has been removed from his car and put into an ambulance. Fox also relayed word of a conversation between Malucelli and a Risi Competizione team member, in which Malucelli said he had lost all engine power and was slowing down.

No word has been given on the condition of either Malucelli or Gidley. As soon as we get it, we’ll pass it along to you.

START, 3:30 p.m. ET: The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is officially underway. One accident, for the GTD class No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsport Audi R8 driven by Charlie Putman, brought out the first yellow flag. Despite heavy contact from an apparent tire issue, Putman emerged out of his car OK.

GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing’s polesitting No. 99 Corvette DP, started by Alex Gurney, led the majority of the opening hour overall. Other class leaders included RSR Racing (No. 09) and Starworks Motorsport (No. 8) in PC, the SRT Vipers (No. 93 and 91) in GTLM and a Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 (No. 48) and SMP/ESM Racing Ferrari 458 GT3 (No. 72) in GTD.

But at the one-hour mark, Action Express Racing (No. 5 Corvette DP) led overall with Joao Barbosa driving before the car needed to serve a drive-through penalty. SRT’s No. 93 (GTLM), Starworks’ sister No. 7 PC and the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America (GTD) were other class leaders.

The big mover was Starworks’ DP driver Brendon Hartley, who advanced as high as second overall in the No. 78 Dinan Riley after starting 64th overall.

Comedian Adam Carolla makes pro racing debut in Trans Am

Adam Carolla pilots the No. 33 GoShare Corvette at Willow Springs International Raceway. Photo: Burtin Racing
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As the host of such shows as CarCast, Ace on the House, and Adam Carolla and Friends Build Stuff Live, and with a massive classic car collection to boot, funnyman Adam Carolla is an unapologetic gearhead who is well-versed in the car industry. He even made a documentary honoring Paul Newman in recent years. However, he recently took his love of all things automotive one step further: he contested his first professional car race.

He joined the Burtin Racing team, which fields Corvette C7.Rs in the Trans Am presented by Pirelli West Coast Championship, at California’s Willow Springs International Raceway for the High Desert Challenge, the season opener for Trans Am’s 2017 season. He piloted their No. 33 GoShare entry as a teammate to Richard Wall, who signed as a last-minute entrant for team’s the No. 7 machine.

Carolla was not daunted by the challenge. He quickly came to grips with the 850-horsepower beast and qualified a solid fifth for the 100-mile feature. In the race itself, he worked his way up to third before facing a tough challenge from Trans Am veteran and former champion Greg Pickett, who previously ran the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing effort in the American Le Mans Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Photo: Burtin Racing

However, Carolla was unfazed by Pickett’s advance and he held off the former champion to claim third, not far behind teammate Wall, who crossed the line in second. Tomy Drissi won the event in the No. 8 Ghost in The Shell Chevrolet Corvette.

For Carolla, simply contesting the Trans Am event was an honor. “For me, Trans Am has always been huge,” said Carolla, who earned the COOLSHIRT Systems “Cool Move of the Race” award for his performance.

“I have old Trans Am cars from the 70’s and 80’s. I have some 2.5 (liter) Trans Am cars from the 70’s and I have Paul Newman cars that were raced in Trans Am. So just the idea of being asked to race in the modern Trans Am was a huge honor. Just being able to hold my own in modern Trans Am was exciting to me.”

Team owner Claudio Burtin was ecstatic with Carolla’s performance. “I think we all have to take our hat off to Adam Carolla on his debut in Trans Am,” he said of Carolla. “This is a fast and difficult track at Willow Springs, and the team is ecstatic with Adam’s podium finish. GoShare is thrilled with the results and we will work to improve one step higher on the podium next time.”

The Trans Am presented by Pirelli West Championships resume action on April 29-30 at Auto Club Speedway.

Preferred Freezer Services expands partnership with Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing

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Preferred Freezer Services, which has been a sponsor of Ed Carpenter Racing and driver J.R. Hildebrand since 2014, is set to expand its partnership with both driver and team. Hildebrand’s No. 21 Chevrolet with sport the white and blue Preferred Freezer Services livery at four races during the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, the first being at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 7-9. The expansion also includes the entire month of May, which will see the brand on the No. 21 for the INDYCAR Grand Prix and the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500. They will return as a primary sponsor for the Honda Indy Toronto in July and will be an associate sponsor throughout the season.

“Preferred Freezer Services was a big part of helping me get to running just the Indy 500 with ECR the first year in 2014. We’ve been fortunate to see the program grow and help it expand over the last few years,” Hildebrand said of the relationship. “I’m really excited to be able to continue that partnership and have them on board for a few more races this year! It is great to work with these guys again and I can’t wait to kick it off at such an awesome event as Long Beach.”

As Hildebrand explained, the partnership between sponsor, driver and team dates back to 2014, when Preferred Freezer Services adorned a then one-off No. 21 entry for Hildebrand, incidentally his first start for Ed Carpenter Racing. They expanded their partnership in 2015, adorning Hildebrand’s entry at that year’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Indy 500. Their presence grew even more last year, when they appeared on the cars of Hildebrand and Josef Newgarden at both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hildebrand has finished in top ten in the last three Indianapolis 500 mile races. However, his best finish remains his infamous second place at the 2011 race, in which he crashed in the final corner while leading, which yielded victory to Dan Wheldon.

Pippa Mann returns to Dale Coyne Racing for fifth straight Indy 500

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Dale Coyne Racing has confirmed Pippa Mann will be back in the team’s third car for the 2017 Indianapolis 500, which will mark her fifth consecutive year with the team and sixth start in the race overall.

She joins Sebastien Bourdais and rookie Ed Jones as Coyne’s three drivers in for the race, as the Coyne team is expected to focus just on these three after running four cars last year.

“I’m very happy to be rejoining Dale Coyne Racing for my fifth consecutive year with the team at the 101st Indy 500,” Mann said in a release.

“Dale has invested heavily in the team over the winter, and it’s an exciting time to be part of his organization. I’m looking forward to working with the same familiar faces from my 2016 campaign, like my race engineer Rob Ridgely, as well as working with the new members of the team, including my new teammates Sebastien (Bourdais) and Ed (Jones). I’m thrilled to be getting back on the race track this May for my sixth Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Mann continues her relationship with Susan G. Komen, the supporters of the pink No. 63 Honda for the last three years in an effort which first began in 2014.

As she’s done for the past four consecutive years, Mann will continue to raise awareness for the Get Involved Campaign alongside her racing program. This year, the campaign that raises money for Susan G. Komen® is partnering with Auction Cause, a premier cause marketing agency, that will run the auction on eBay for Charity. The campaign will launch May 1 and close the week following the Indy 500. The funds raised will be used to support Komen’s global breast cancer research, and community based programs throughout the U.S.

Komen continues as a key partner and Mann has announced another partnership with OrthoIndy, with further partnerships to be released soon.

“I’m also excited about the link up with Auction Cause and eBay for Charity this May,” she added. “They have so much experience running online campaigns, I feel like it’s a huge step for me, and for the Get Involved Campaign to partner with them. This new format has allowed me to reach out to more drivers, get them involved with more signed items, and I’m hoping we’re able to reach more race fans, and raise even more money for Susan G. Komen than we have ever done before.”

“It’s always a pleasure to have Pippa on board for the Indy 500 and to help promote the Get Involved Campaign, raising funds for Susan G. Komen,” Coyne said. “Pippa works hard every year to put together this program and to race in the Indy 500. With her perseverance and enthusiasm for our sport, it’s only fitting that we continue this relationship that started five years ago.”

Newgarden hails ‘spectacular’ Montoya after JPM’s first 2017 test

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At 26 years old, Josef Newgarden was watching Juan Pablo Montoya win races in CART, then Formula 1, then NASCAR as his own career was starting out.

When Montoya returned to IndyCar in 2014 at age 38, Newgarden was just 23, and the two had the chance to share a race track together for the first time.

After Newgarden’s subsequent rise over the years, he was scouted by Team Penske, and eventually signed to replace Montoya in the team’s No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

But Montoya remains part of the Team Penske landscape in 2017, driving the team’s fifth car during the month of May at both the IndyCar Grand Prix in Indianapolis and the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He’s also been mentioned as the leading candidate to drive with Penske’s highly likely but not officially confirmed future sports car program, which Penske discussed openly during a media roundtable at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener.

At last week’s test at Barber Motorsports Park, Newgarden and Montoya had the chance to work together as teammates and as Newgarden explained, having the chance to study his predecessor’s data was something he relished.

“Juan’s fun to be around. He’s an interesting guy,” Newgarden told NBC Sports. “He’s so competitive… and you can tell how competitive he is interacting with him. But it’s fun to look at his data, and have the privilege to look at that.

“I’m excited to see that at Indianapolis, because that’s the big race for all of us together at Team Penske.”

Montoya has mentioned his appreciation for Newgarden in the past, particularly after the two raced so closely for position at the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America last season.

Newgarden said he’s looked up to Montoya for years and seeing him in this element provided such a rare glimpse into his world.

“The level of respect I have for Juan is tremendous,” he said. “He’s been so spectacular, and is even more so on ovals. I’ll be so thankful to get the chance to look at his data.”

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Newgarden, who today is promoting the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (April 9, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and has that sandwiched in-between two tests at the Indianapolis oval. Team Penske used a team test last Friday and will be back in action as part of a Chevrolet manufacturer test on Saturday.

“It’s a great couple days to get my feet wet,” he said. “I hadn’t been around there with Team Penske yet. It’s good to get that type of knowledge early on.”