Pure Michigan 400

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan

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One of NASCAR’s fastest tracks is coming up this weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway plays host Sunday for the Quicken Loans 400.

With a wide racing surface, sweeping corners, and long straightaways, MIS emphasizes sheer horsepower.

With no restrictor plates to hold back performance, drivers are often going well north of 200 miles per hour into the turns.

But those high speeds put lots of stress on their equipment, particularly the engines. Reliability in that department is always critical but especially so at this track.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics, here’s everything you need to know for Round 15 of the 2014 Sprint Cup regular season…

MICHIGAN-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Military Salute Ford)
· Four wins, 10 top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.2
· Series-best Average Running Position of 8.3
· Series-best Driver Rating of 110.0
· 311 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 1,261 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 177.840 mph
· Series-high 3,047 Laps in the Top 15 (86.1%)
· 849 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), second-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Two wins, four top fives, nine top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 21.2
· Average Running Position of 15.5, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.6, 11th-best
· 174 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 2,165 Laps in the Top 15 (61.2%), ninth-most
· 550 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· One win, four top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 16.5
· Average Running Position of 14.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 92.0, seventh-best
· 137 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 1,249 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.018 mph, seventh-fastest
· 2,386 Laps in the Top 15 (67.4%), sixth-most
· 669 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard / Superman Chevrolet)
· Two wins, six top fives, 10 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 16.3
· Average Running Position of 12.8, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.0, fifth-best
· 182 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· 1,379 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.234 mph, fifth-fastest
· 2,347 Laps in the Top 15 (66.3%), seventh-most
· 749 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
· Two wins, nine top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.3
· Average Running Position of 10.2, third-best
· Driver Rating of 104.7, third-best
· 198 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 1,290 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.639 mph, fourth-fastest
· 2,925 Laps in the Top 15 (82.7%), second-most
· Series-high 850 Quality Passes

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Two wins, 18 top fives, 25 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 12.5
· Average Running Position of 14.4, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 89.8, ninth-best
· 159 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 2,195 Laps in the Top 15 (62.0%), eighth-most
· 609 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota)
· Two wins, five top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 15.0
· Average Running Position of 14.2, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 89.7, 10th-best
· 98 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 176.841 mph, ninth-fastest
· 1,913 Laps in the Top 15 (60.9%), 11th-most
· 633 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet)
· Four top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 16.8
· Average Running Position of 11.5, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 101.4, fourth-best
· Series-high 357 Fastest Laps Run
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.796 mph, second-fastest
· 2,583 Laps in the Top 15 (73.0%), fourth-most
· 691 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet)
· One win, seven top fives, nine top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 16.4
· Average Running Position of 15.6, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.3, 12th-best
· 170 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 1,340 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.130 mph, sixth-fastest
· 2,033 Laps in the Top 15 (57.4%), 10th-most
· 665 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Two wins, 12 top fives, 18 top 10s
· Average finish of 9.6
· Average Running Position of 10.0, second-best
· Driver Rating of 105.6, second-best
· 164 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.665 mph, third-fastest
· 2,868 Laps in the Top 15 (81.0%), third-most
· 801 Quality Passes, third-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· One win, 12 top fives, 20 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.7
· Average Running Position of 12.7, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.9, sixth-best
· 100 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.009 mph, eighth-fastest
· 2,447 Laps in the Top 15 (73.3%), fifth-most
· 685 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Brian Vickers (No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota)
· One win, two top fives, eight top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 14.9
· Driver Rating of 91.5, eighth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 176.779 mph, 12th-fastest

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Michigan International Speedway Track Data
Race 15 of 36
Track Size: 2 Miles
Banking: 18 degrees in turns, 5 degrees in frontstretch, 2 degrees in backstretch
Frontstretch Length: 3,600 feet
Backstretch Length: 2,242 feet
Race Length: 200 laps/400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Michigan
Greg Biffle – 110.0
Matt Kenseth – 105.6
Carl Edwards – 104.7
Jimmie Johnson – 101.4
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 97.0
Tony Stewart – 95.9
Kyle Busch – 92.0
Brian Vickers – 91.5
Jeff Gordon – 89.8
Denny Hamlin – 89.7
(Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races among active drivers at MIS)

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Carl Edwards, Ford, 202.452 mph, 35.564 seconds (06/14/13)
2013 race winner: Greg Biffle, Ford, 139.278 mph, 2hr52min19secs
Track qualifying record: Joey Logano, Ford, 203.949 mph, 35.303 seconds, 08/16/13
Track race record: Dale Jarrett, Ford, 173.997 mph, 2hr17min56secs, 06/13/99

Michigan International Speedway History
· Michigan International Speedway sits on more than 1,400 acres in the “Irish Hills” of Southeastern Michigan. Ground-breaking took place on Sept. 28, 1967.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan was held June 15, 1969 – won by Cale Yarborough at a speed of 139.254 mph.
· The track was known as Michigan Speedway during the time Roger Penske was the primary owner (1996-99).
· The two-mile speedway underwent a repave in 2012.

Michigan International Speedway Notebook
· There have been 89 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway since the first race there in 1969. Other than 1973, which had just one race, there have been two races each season since 1969.
· The first race was 500 miles in length; the second was scheduled for 600. The track was re-measured to 2.04 miles for the last race in 1970 and both races in 1971 – with the race distance being 402 miles. All other races have been scheduled for 400 miles.
· 366 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway; 269 in more than one.
· Bill Elliott leads the series in starts at Michigan with 61. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 42 starts.
· Donnie Allison won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Michigan in 1969 with a speed of 160.135 mph.
· 45 drivers have Coors Light poles at Michigan, led by David Pearson with 10. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five.
· Six drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Michigan. David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Michigan with five; fall 1976 through 1978.
· Four active drivers have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Michigan: Terry Labonte (1983 sweep), Bill Elliott (1984 sweep and 1988 sweep), Bobby Labonte (2003 sweep), and Brian Vickers (fall 2008 – 2009 sweep).
· Youngest Michigan pole winner: Joey Logano (08/16/2013 – 23 years, 2 months, 23 days).
· Oldest Michigan pole winner: Mark Martin (08/19/2012 – 53 years, 7 months, 10 days).
· 35 different NSCS drivers have won at Michigan International Speedway, led by David Pearson with nine wins; Greg Biffle leads all active drivers with four.
· Eight drivers have posted consecutive wins at Michigan International Speedway, including four consecutive by Bill Elliott (1985 sweep and 1986 sweep).
· Youngest Michigan winner: Joey Logano (08/18/2013 – 23 years, 2 months, 25 days).
· Oldest Michigan winner: Harry Gant (08/16/1992 – 52 years, 7 months, 6 days).
· Roush Fenway Racing has the most wins at Michigan in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 13: Mark Martin (four), Greg Biffle (four), Carl Edwards (two), Matt Kenseth (two) and Kurt Busch (one).
· Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Michigan; led by Ford with 34 victories; followed by Chevrolet with 20.
· 17 of the 89 (19.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Joey Logano in 2013.
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (17) than any other starting position at Michigan International Speedway.
· 25 of the 89 (28%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from the front row: 16 from the pole and eight from second-place.
· 67 of the 89 (75.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Six of the 89 (6.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Michigan was 32nd, by Mark Martin in the spring of 2009.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in runner-up finishes at Michigan with eight; followed by Darrell Waltrip with seven.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough leads the series in top-five finishes at Michigan with 21; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 18.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Michigan with 31; followed by Bill Elliott with 29.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Michigan with a 9.292.
· Carl Edwards leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Michigan with an 8.316. Matt Kenseth (9.621)is the only other active driver with an average finish in the top 10.
· All active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Michigan International Speedway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Tony Stewart won at Michigan in his third appearance, the fewest previous starts among the active NSCS winners.
· Kevin Harvick competed at Michigan International Speedway 19 times before winning in the fall of 2010; the longest span of any the active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Among the active NSCS Michigan winners Kevin Harvick (19), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (17) Kyle Busch (13), Jeff Gordon (11), Brian Vickers (11) and Joey Logano (10) all made 10 or more attempts before their first win.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Michigan without visiting Victory Lane at 40.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway was the June 10, 2001 race won by Jeff Gordon over Ricky Rudd with a MOV of 0.085 second.
· There have been two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Michigan International Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): fall of 2011 (200/203); and fall of 2012 (200/201).
· Four of the 89 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the event on 6/18/2006.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway four times; most recently the spring of 2008 race.
· Three drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Michigan International Speedway: Jeff Burton (8/18/1996), J.J. Yeley (6/17/2007) and Marcos Ambrose (6/17/2012).
· Two active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver have posted their first career start at Michigan International Speedway: Carl Edwards (8/22/2004) and Landon Cassill (6/13/2010).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Michigan with 954 laps led in 42 starts.
· Four female drivers have competed at Michigan International Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie, Robin McCall, Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick. Of the four female drivers to compete at Michigan, Guthrie has the best finish (10th), but Patrick has the best average finish (18th).
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NASCAR in Michigan
· There have been 94 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at four racetracks in Michigan.
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· 98 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Michigan.
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Verizon’s “Lunch with Legends” returns at Watkins Glen

TORONTO - JULY 10:  Dario Franchitti of Scotland driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara and Helio Castroneves of Brazil driver of the #3 Team Penske Dallara Honda chat before warm up for the IZOD IndyCar Series Honda Indy Toronto on July 10, 2011 in the streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Franchitti and Castroneves join Bobby Rahal for Verizon event on Friday. Photo: Getty Images
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This weekend at Watkins Glen International, Verizon will host another of its “Lunch with Legends” series – which have also occurred at a couple other events this year, notably at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Road America.

The Verizon IndyCar Series’ title sponsor works to bring fans access while also bringing together legends of the sport for a panel Q&A discussion, hosted by NBCSN contributor Robin Miller.

This week, it’ll be Bobby Rahal, Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves having the discussion from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. ET. Castroneves will be checking in after first practice; Franchitti serves as Chip Ganassi Racing’s driver advisor and coach while Rahal fields a singleton entry for Graham Rahal, the Texas race winner.

And while it’s usually members of the paddock that check this out, Verizon is also opening this up to fans. A note on how is below:

As part of the Verizon Inside Indy program that gives fans incredible access to the sport, we’re letting 10 Verizon customers (plus a guest) join us for the Lunch with Legends. We’ll be looking for the fans on Friday and upgrade them on the spot, similar to how we provide fans access to Verizon Pit View.

The event takes place in the Watkins Glen Media Center, on the Great Room, Second Floor.

CJ Wilson Racing secures its elusive first GS win at VIR

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Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Go figure in a race that featured a 52-minute red flag for near-hurricane like weather conditions that the sun would finally shine on CJ Wilson Racing in the GS class of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.

Wilson’s team, which won last year’s ST class championship with Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer in a Mazda MX-5, made a big switch this year to step up to GS, with Marc Miller and Danny Burkett in its primary No. 33 ONE Capital/Motor Oil Matters car, and purchased two new Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsports.

Miller and Burkett have been podium regulars this year starting from the opening race at Daytona, but their first win has eluded them until Saturday. The cruelest loss came at Watkins Glen; Miller seemed primed to win there but ran aground of slower MINI ST class traffic, and lost out to Bodymotion Racing.

Bodymotion and Multimatic Motorsports had swept the season up until Saturday at VIR but courtesy of Miller passing Billy Johnson in the Multimatic Ford Shelby GT350R-C to start the final stint, and then maintaining the gap from there, the CJWR maiden GS victory was finally achieved.

That stint followed from Burkett, the Mazda Road to Indy veteran-turned-sports car rising star, keeping the car on the road until the conditions shifted on a dime from sunny and cloudy to Noah’s Ark-level downpour at the Alton, Va. 3.27-mile road course.

Where the Andris Laivins-led team was probably smartest was early; the team was among the first to switch onto Continental Tire wet-weather tires, which proved prescient as other struggled to limp back to the pits on slicks before the race was red flag.

“This was probably one of our most difficult races because we had to deal with a monsoon!” Miller admitted. “We faded early as Danny struggled a little bit with the balance of the car, but we had set it up for long runs so we kind of expected that it would be towards the middle of Danny’s stint before it got better but we never got that opportunity.

“The great call that they made was that we took the earliest opportunity to get Continental rain tires on the car and they are excellent in conditions like the ones we had. They are super predictable and very stable.

“When Danny got out and I got in I was hoping it was going to stay damp the rest of the way. I thought that was our best opportunity for victory given that we are just not as quick on the short runs, it takes us four or five laps to get going. I was able to put the move early on Billy and that felt just awesome!

“We were getting great forward bite out of the corners so I could square it up and go, that is really what made the difference. And thanks again to the CJ Wilson Racing crew, the car set up was awesome. We’re so happy to get our first GS win and we are also hoping to do three in a row this year like everyone else seems to be doing. I’m definitely looking forward to the next race.”

Burkett’s win comes a little more than a year after his major sports car debut, when he podiumed at Watkins Glen International in similarly tricky conditions in a BAR1 Motorsports PC car, co-driving with Martin Plowman and Matt McMurry. He dabbled in sports car racing last year but has been the full-time co-pilot of “Darth Cayman” in 2016.

“The conditions were challenging to say the least; it was kind of like driving in a hurricane, it was all about survival!” said the driver who’s nicknamed the “Manitoba Missile.”

“At one point, while on wets, on the front straight I hit a puddle, aquaplaned, and around we went. Luckily enough we didn’t hit anything but it was a total roller coaster of emotions because when that happened my heart sank. I can’t describe it, I can’t wait until we win the Championship.

“I have no idea how I’m going to be able to watch my own kids when they start racing!”

Wilson, who tries to attend as many races as his schedule allows when not a member of the Los Angeles Angels, has now added this win to his other racing accomplishments with his team, which continues its planned strategic growth in 2016.

“This is why we work so hard.  The tough races and close finishes have been difficult to take but I’m so happy for the crew,” he said.

“The way we have evolved as a team is definitely something to be proud of.  Danny and Marc have been great all year in the Cayman and to be able to stand on the top step of the podium with a race win is the biggest step we have taken all year. We have to look forward to our next race at COTA and I can’t wait to see everyone in the paddock.

“All of our partners that have gotten us to this point should feel just as proud, they’re a big part of this win too!”

Miller and Burkett are down 20 points to Johnson and Scott Maxwell with two races to go. Next up is the team’s home race at Circuit of The Americas, not far from its Austin headquarters.

The “three in a row” line mentioned by Miller owes to the fact Bodymotion’s pair of Trent Hindman and Cameron Cassels won Rounds 2 through 4 in a row, while Johnson and Maxwell won Rounds 5 through 7. This was Round 8, so if Burkett and Miller could emulate the three-peat, there’s a chance they could capture the title.

Lamborghini’s long, winding road finally leads to first GTD win at VIR

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Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Given its pace and pedigree of drivers, it seemed only a matter of time before the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 would win its first race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

But “only a matter of time” took until Round 9 of 11 this season following a number of unexpected surprises and growing pains that come with the step up into the series and GT Daytona category.

Lamborghini has worked to grow its North American race presence the last few years, particularly with the implementation and rapid growth of the one-make Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America series. Drivers like Kevin Conway, a past NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie-of-the-year, Justin Marks, Corey Lewis, Madison Snow, Andrew Palmer, Richard Antinucci, Edoardo Piscopo and others have passed through that series’ halls along with a number of gentlemen drivers. This year, Trent Hindman and Stefan Wilson have become some of the more known notables, while Shinya Michimi has dominated as the top pro in the primarily pro-am series.

While the Super Trofeo one-make series has been a hit, the Huracán GT3 program debuted this year at Daytona with a big splash.

Yet the splash of talent assembled though drove down a tortuous road to get to Sunday at VIRginia International Raceway.

Lamborghini began the year with three full-time cars: the No. 11 O’Gara Motorsport entry for defending GTD class champions Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, the No. 16 Change Racing entry for sports car ace Spencer Pumpelly and up-and-comer Corey Lewis, and the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing car for Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow.

Of those three, only Miller had top-level IMSA experience as a team, but by switching cars (from the Audi R8 LMS) and drivers (Sellers and Snow), they faced a steep learning curve with their new elements. O’Gara and Change, meanwhile, stepped up from Super Trofeo into the significantly deeper series.

Add in two other Konrad Motorsport entries for one-off starts in the opening two rounds of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup – plus all the extra third and fourth drivers – and on paper, the odds for Lamborghini to start strongly looked good.

The problem, of course, was that Lamborghini started too strongly.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona was an exercise in eyebrow-raising once the Lamborghinis showed their full hand in race pace, running significantly faster lap times from most of its drivers throughout the race. A final charge from Fabio Babini in one of the Konrad cars nearly saw that car win before a late splash of fuel was needed and it dropped to fifth.

It caught the eyes of IMSA, the sanctioning body, which imposed the following penalties on February 22:

Following observed performance during Round 1 of the 2016 Championship, IMSA has levied penalties under Sporting Regulation Attachment 2, Paragraph 2.9 against the following GT Daytona (GTD) teams 11, 16, 21, 28 and 48, as well as to the manufacturer, Lamborghini.

Each team was assessed a post-race penalty of a stop plus five (5) minutes which was added to each car’s finishing time.

The manufacturer penalty was assessed as a loss of Championship and North American Endurance Cup points and a $25,000 fine.

The sanctions from IMSA were not the only speed bump Lamborghini hit in this time frame.

O’Gara’s team dissolved in the blink of an eye after one race owing to other unexpected financial straits that hit team principal Tom O’Gara’s other businesses.

It left Sweedler and Bell without a home – let alone the crew – and produced a bit of a domino effect.

O’Gara team manager Shane Senaviratne restarted his US RaceTronics team – originally founded in 2005 – for Super Trofeo in early March. Meanwhile Sweedler and Bell found a last-minute home with Robby Benton’s Change team in a second car, albeit only on a race-by-race basis.

Bell told me in April after the O’Gara effort collapsed, “It’s been a weird first quarter of the year. Last December I would have told you I’d never had a more solid stable situation. Things got out of our hands a bit quickly. It took a while to get things back on track, but now we have.”

Things didn’t get particularly better at Sebring. There were six Lamborghinis – the five from Daytona with the Bell/Sweedler car now under the Change umbrella – plus the debut of the Dream Racing Huracán. Lawrence DeGeorge had a heavy testing accident in Dream’s Huracán debut but the car was repaired in time for Sebring.

The Bell/Sweedler debut saw the car run out of fuel once, then stay out in the rain once the conditions turned miserable and Bell lost control at Sebring’s notorious Turn 17, having aquaplaned. In the second Change car, Lewis got a penalty in-race for an improper pass-around of the pace car. Even though that car led, it triggered a penalty that cost them nearly two laps and took them out of contention.

So two races, one race full of post-race penalties, the second with in-race penalties, and a best finish of sixth (Miller).

Two top-10s followed in the next round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the Miller car seventh and the No. 16 Change car 10th. After a 15th-place finish, the Bell/Sweedler car was withdrawn, with Bell resuming to focus on his Indianapolis 500 effort with Andretti Autosport and his NBCSN TV commitments, while both he and Sweedler would focus on their 24 Hours of Le Mans encore effort with Scuderia Corsa.

Bell nearly won Indy, and Bell, Sweedler and Jeff Segal did win Le Mans in the GTE-Am class following an incredible effort.

Lamborghini’s plight continued, meanwhile, in GTD. Sellers delivered the manufacturer’s first pole at Detroit, but in an abnormal strategic move, it meant he – and Change, who’d opted to qualify Pumpelly – would be starting their lead pro drivers and finish their lesser experienced pro drivers, Snow and Lewis. Eighth and sixth in the race was hardly what either was looking for.

It took until Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for Lamborghini to get its first podium and top-five results. The Miller car was third, the Change car fifth. Dream Racing came eighth for its best result to date.

Despite a pole at Lime Rock for Change, Pumpelly saw the strategy go awry again and that car ended eighth. Miller was fourth. Road America failed to produce any top-fives on a track with long straightaways.

Snow, Miller and Sellers. Photo: Paul Miller Racing
Snow, Miller and Sellers. Photo: Paul Miller Racing

At VIR this weekend though it all came good – finally – for Miller and Lamborghini.The class of the field all weekend having led every session, Snow never put a wheel wrong while Sellers survived a brief off-course excursion and a last lap restart to secure the manufacturer’s first win in GTD.

Given the number of speed bumps it took to get there, it seemed the victory meant a lot to the Miller team, to Sellers and Snow and to Lamborghini directly.

“As far as Lamborghini’s first win, it’s a huge honor,” Sellers said. “When you think about being a young kid growing up, I think all of us dreamed about driving a Lamborghini. Being able to deliver their first win in IMSA is something pretty special. I’m glad that we at Paul Miller Racing could be the ones to do that for them, and I hope it builds our relationship and makes that stronger.”

“Our relationship with Lamborghini is very strong,” added team owner Paul Miller. “They really appreciate what we’ve done, our level of professionalism, the caliber of drivers in Madison and Bryan. Everything about our team is top drawer, and I think they are starting to recognize that even though we’ve lagged in the championship points. I think they realize we’re delivering a first class effort and finally showing the results that, frankly, should have been here all along.”

For Lamborghini itself, it means it’s finally arrived as a winner along with the other manufacturers in a stacked GTD class.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the Squadra Corse Lamborghini’s first win in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship,” said Lamborghini Squadra Corse’s Chris Ward. “The Paul Miller Racing team has done an outstanding job all season long.

“This has been our foundation year for a good springboard into what we hope will be a really successful 2017 campaign. We’ve formed a fantastic relationship not only with Paul Miller Racing but with all of our Squadra Corse supported teams.”

The best may be yet to come from here, if Lamborghini has ironed out all the first-year challenges that come with such a big step up.

Hinchcliffe gets call to dance on Dancing with the Stars

FORT WORTH, TX - AUGUST 27: James Hinchcliffe driver of the #5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda speaks during a media conference before the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on August 27, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
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Helio Castroneves has won three Indianapolis 500s, but it was his turn on “Dancing with the Stars” that had as much to do with vaulting him into the national consciousness of mainstream Americana – if not more so – as those three victories.

James Hinchcliffe, meanwhile, has the engaging, dynamic personality that has captured the hearts of the North American open-wheel paddock and fan base for nearly a decade. And he’ll get his own mainstream Americana chance on the next season of “DWTS.”

Hinchcliffe was announced Tuesday morning on “Good Morning America” as part of the new season cast for the new season of the ABC show, which premieres September 12. The report was initially identified by the Indianapolis Star.

“Well, I can honestly say this will rank just above the Indy 500 as one of the most nerve-wracking things that I’ve ever agreed to do,” Hinchcliffe said in a team release.

“Normally I’m used to working under pressure in front of a live audience, but I can’t see them, so this should be a totally new experience for me and especially as someone with no ability to dance whatsoever.”

The 29-year-old Canadian follows Castroneves as Verizon IndyCar Series drivers on the show; former NASCAR team owner and two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip was also on the show a few years ago.

Hinchcliffe sits eighth in points for the 2016 season driving the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. He has three podiums, including a hard-luck runner-up finish Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway by just 0.008 of a second to Graham Rahal, after leading from the restart and after the joke of him leading for 76 straight days in the race’s rain delay.

He also scored a famous pole position for this year’s 100th Indianapolis 500, a year after near fatal injuries sustained in an accident in practice in 2015.