Chase Elliott breaks through for first Nationwide Series win

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Another member of NASCAR’s new generation has arrived.

Two weeks after Kyle Larson held off Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick to earn his inaugural Nationwide Series win at Auto Club Speedway, 18-year-old Chase Elliott has shown that he too will be a star to watch for years to come with a win tonight in the O’Reilly 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.

After running up and toward the front all night, Elliott got an outside run on Harvick and passed the Sprint Cup veteran for the lead with 16 laps to go.

He went on to take the checkered flag by 2.66 seconds over Kyle Busch, who was forced to start from the back after inspection issues kept him from setting a qualifying time.

Larson followed up his Fontana triumph with a third-place result. Harvick faded back to fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the Top 5.

“Unbelievable, man. I just – I can’t believe it,” a flabbergasted Elliott said to ESPN in Victory Lane. “Just to have the opportunity to come and race with these guys with JR Motorsports…To have this opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any racer that wants to try and make it to the top.

“It means the world for me to be here.”

In attendance for Elliott’s breakthrough were his parents, 1988 Sprint Cup champ Bill and Cindy, who were thrilled with their son’s performance.

“I felt like Chase could do it,” Bill said. “I’ve watched him run a Late Model car too much – I know. I feel like I know how good the kid really is, and I tell you what, to come here – I keep saying it – for never having been to some of these places like [Las Vegas], [Auto Club Speedway], and now here at Texas and come out and beat the kind of guys you’ve beat – I tell you what, you’ve done a heck of a job.”

Cindy, a longtime NASCAR photographer, said that she knew tonight belonged to her son.

“I can’t even describe it,” she said on pit road. “This is just a night to remember.”

Additionally, Elliott has taken a two-point lead in the Nationwide points standings over teammate Regan Smith, who finished seventh to ensure that JR Motorsports got all four of its cars in the Top 10.

Starting on pole, Harvick withstood several restarts to lead the first 87 laps of the night before Busch completed his charge by taking the point on Lap 88 shortly before a cycle of green flag stops.

Busch would regain the lead after the cycle ended. A caution at Lap 121 bunched the field up, however, and shortly after the restart with 75 laps to go, Elliott put on an impressive display to go to the front.

On Lap 133, Elliott was able to complete a pass of teammate/boss Earnhardt on the outside for second. Then, two laps later, he hunted down Busch on the inside of Turn 3 to become the new leader.

Around 50 laps to go however, Earnhardt began to reel in Elliott and was eventually able to pass him for P1 with 46 laps to go, showing his strength on the long runs.

But after falling back in the middle stages due to a “plowing” car, Harvick re-inserted himself into the battle for the win after a caution for a multi-car crash on Lap 169.

The subsequent pit stops under yellow brought the leaders to the pits, and benefiting from having the first stall out of pit road, Harvick leaped three spots to the lead by beating out Elliott, Earnhardt, Larson, and Busch.

With 23 laps to go, the green emerged again with Busch jumping to third position behind Harvick and Elliott with a great inside move.

He would peel second off of Harvick shortly after he gave up the lead to Elliott, but that would be as far as he got.

NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES
O’REILLY 300 – TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Unofficial Results
1. Chase Elliott, led 38 laps
2. Kyle Busch, led 38 laps
3. Kyle Larson, led 1 lap
4. Kevin Harvick, led 101 laps
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr., led 15 laps
6. Matt Kenseth, led one lap
7. Regan Smith
8. Ryan Blaney
9. Ty Dillon
10. Elliott Sadler
11. Brendan Gaughan
12. Brian Scott
13. James Buescher
14. Dylan Kwasniewski
15. David Starr, one lap down, led 2 laps
16. JJ Yeley, one lap down, led 2 laps
17. Ryan Sieg, one lap down, led 2 laps
18. Jeremy Clements, two laps down
19. Jeffrey Earnhardt, two laps down
20. Ryan Reed, four laps down
21. Josh Wise, five laps down
22. Dakoda Armstrong, five laps down
23. Trevor Bayne, five laps down
24. Eric McClure, six laps down
25. Kevin Lepage, six laps down
26. Joey Gase, nine laps down
27. Chris Buescher, Lap 167, Accident
28. Jamie Dick, Lap 164, Accident
29. Mike Harmon, Lap 131, Suspension
30. Tanner Berryhill, Lap 120, Wheel
31. Chad Boat, Lap 119, Accident
32. Mike Bliss, 81 laps down
33. Landon Cassill, Lap 66, Vibration
34. Robert Richardson Jr., Lap 52, Accident
35. Tommy Joe Martins, Lap 34, Brakes
36. Derek White, Lap 29, Transmission
37. Mike Wallace, Lap 23, Electrical
38. Derrike Cope, Lap 6, Engine
39. Matt Dibenedetto, Lap 5, Vibration
40. Blake Koch, Lap 2, Vibration

IMSA: Sebring test notes

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Ahead of next month’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, teams from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship took to Sebring International Raceway to round out a week of IMSA testing at the 3.74-mile road course.

Below are news highlights from Friday and Saturday at Sebring.

Derani Aiming for a Repeat of 2016 Victory

Tequila Patrón ESM’s Pipo Derani burst onto the American racing scene in 2016 with standout performances at the Rolex 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring to lead the ESM team to victory at both races.

His Sebring triumph was particularly impressive as he charged from fourth to first in the final ten minutes to secure the victory in one of the most thrilling finishes the race has ever seen.

Now two years removed from those successes, Derani appreciates the impact those 2016 triumphs had on his career.

“If you’re talking about sports car racing, you’re talking about Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans, Petit and those races that are known worldwide,” said the now 24-year-old Derani. “After winning Daytona and immediately coming here at Sebring – which if I’m not wrong, I was the first guy winning both on debut and the first Brazilian, probably to win back-to-back on those two races. It definitely changed my career. It opened many doors for myself and I’m really glad that it happened. Nothing comes easy. I’m really glad that ESM gave me the chance in 2016 to be in those races. Two years later, I can’t wait to win again.”

With testing now in the rearview mirror, Derani hopes he and the ESM team have found the right setup package to give them another chance at a victory.

“(Thursday) was a day that we managed to get a lot of information,” he explained. Most importantly, we ran a lot. We were out on track, and that is really good for us. Hopefully, this work is going to pay off really, really soon.”

United Autosports Continues American Odyssey at Sebring

Although two-time FIA Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso won’t be in the mix, United Autosports will be continuing the American adventure they started at January’s Rolex 24 with entries at the three other Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events in 2018, beginning with March’s 12 Hours of Sebring.

The No. 32 Ligier JS P217 Gibson will be the team’s entrant at the remaining NAEC events and they will look to build on a fourth-place finish at the Rolex. However, while fourth looks like a strong result, team co-owner Richard Dean felt a victory may have been within their reach.

“We were a little bit disappointed in the end, even though we finished fourth because I think with three hours to go we sat in third place and the two Cadillacs were looking like they were struggling, we felt like we had an opportunity that 24-hour races can give you,” said Dean. “But everybody’s got a story, so we came out of there with a fourth place.”

Drivers Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta returned to the team to complete the Sebring test, while Alex Brundle filled in for an ill Bruno Senna, who is scheduled to race with the team at the 12-hour enduro.

Dean emphasized, though, that Senna’s previous experience around the track should make up for his absence.

“Bruno couldn’t travel, he wasn’t well enough, and there was just no point in him getting on a plane and being ill here,” Dean asserted. “He knows the track. Of the three drivers we’ve got, he’s the one who needed the least laps around here.

Dean added that the team is beginning to get a better foothold on American soil, citing help from Andretti Autosport, which should improve their prospects for the remaining NAEC rounds.

“We feel a little bit more organized, we’ve got our own truck now, and we’ve got a little base here, and (Andretti Autosport) have been helping us out an awful lot, so our little collaboration or alliance with Andretti has certainly steadied the ship a little bit for us and helped us,” Dean said. “We’re excited to do these remaining races, and now that we’ve got Daytona experience with us, it’s definitely going to help us do a much better job in the approach for Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit.”

Lally Samples New Continental Tire Design

Continental Tire, the current tire supplier for the Prototype and GT Daytona classes in the Weathertech Championship, rolled out a new tire design for the Sebring test, and Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally was the first to sample it on Thursday.

“Basically, we’re all going through sweeps right now and feeling things out. What does the tire feel like when you’re in qualifying mode versus full-fuel mode?” Lally said after the initial running. “There are all sorts of stuff when you get such a change like what we’ve got here. This is a relatively big change for the GT cars. Maybe for the Prototypes, it’s not as big a change, but for the GT3 cars, it’s quite a different feel on the platform. We’re just going through that.”
The new tire design comes after a Rolex 24 that was plagued with tire problems, as several teams suffered failures, especially on the left-rear, during the 24-hour race. Wayne Taylor Racing even elected to retire their No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R after suffering five tire failures.
Miller, Bechtolsheimer Sample New CJ Wilson Racing Acura NSX GT3
Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer got to work quickly with new Weathertech entrant CJ Wilson Racing, with both drivers sampling their new Acura NSX GT3 on Thursday and Friday.
Miller is a veteran of GT3 machinery and has won big races before – he was a GTD class winner at the 2016 Motul Petit Le Mans. Bechtolsheimer, however, is all new to GT3 machinery, having primarily raced vintage cars along with forays into the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
“I’ve not driven anything close to a GTD car before,” quipped Bechtolsheimer. “The first time driving it properly here at Sebring is kind of fitting because the first time I drove a car on slicks was at Sebring two years ago in moving to Continental Tire, which was at least as daunting at the time as moving into GTD now.
“The first time I turned a lap or two in the car, even though I was just trying to figure out where all the switches were and so on, I straight away felt that this is a car that’s going to be fun to drive. It’s going to take me time to build up to be on pace, but it’s a confidence-inspiring car and its yeah, it’s a lot nicer than perhaps I was expecting.”
The Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring rolls off on March 17.