UPDATED: Coke Zero 400 resumes after rain delay

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UPDATE 9 (12:08 pm ET): The Coke Zero 400 has resumed after about a 22-minute rain delay and resulting red flag race stoppage. Matt Kenseth is back at the front of the field, followed by pole sitter David Gilliland. The big question now is how long will it be before the next rain stoppage. Rain is visible on the National Weather Service radar, but we should be able to get perhaps to Lap 50 before we need to worry about more rain. Remember, this is a 160-lap race, so drivers only need to get to 81 laps (one lap past halfway) for it to be an official race if rain continues to be an issue going forward for the remainder of the day. The NWS is still predicting 60 percent chance of thunderstorms this afternoon.

UPDATE 8 (12:01 pm ET): Drivers are back in their race cars and track dryers are on their way back off-track. We expect engines will be fired momentarily and cars will be back on-track. We expect at least one, possibly two pace laps before the green flag falls for the second time today.

UPDATE 7 (11:53 am ET): Although sun is showing on the front stretch, the race remains under red flag conditions. However, there’s more bad news — aka RAIN — on the horizon, based on National Weather Service radar.

UPDATE 6 (11:36 am ET): The race has been red-flagged due to rain on Lap 11. Cars are back on pit road and some are having tarps placed over them.

UPDATE 5 (11:35 am ET): The race remains under caution and SportingNews.com’s Bob Pockrass is reporting that NASCAR has told the Air Titan track dryers to “power up.”

UPDATE 4 (11:26 am ET): Mother Nature has once again stepped in the way of NASCAR’s Coke Zero 400. The race is under caution after just six laps as rain has again begun to fall, primarily in turns 1 and 2. Oddly, the sun has again popped out around Turns 3 and 4. Matt Kenseth is in the lead, while pole sitter David Gilliland has dropped to second.

UPDATE 3 (11:22 am ET): We are underway for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Clean start. Track looks dry. Now the big question is how long will Mother Nature cooperate? Will teams’ strategy be solely to get to halfway in the event more rain comes? If that’s the case, this could become a sprint to an 81-lap race (one lap past halfway of the scheduled 160 laps).

UPDATE 2 (11:17 pm ET): Sun is shining on the frontstretch of the massive 2.5-mile, high-banked Daytona International Speedway and the green flag is still waiting to fall. There are reports of sprinkles around the track. After the lights on the pace car were turned off and it appeared we were ready to go green, the lights are back on the pace car for at least one extra pace lap.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms this afternoon and 40 percent in the evening.

UPDATE (11:10 am ET): The command to start engines has been given and we’ve begun pace laps.

NASCAR vice president of operations Steve O’Donnell just tweeted that rain is outside Turns 1 and 2.

ORIGINAL STORY: The good news: The rain-postponed Coke Zero 400 is due to start shortly after 11 am ET this morning at Daytona International Speedway.

The bad news: Rain is once again in the forecast. The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather warning for Daytona Beach and points south.

While the skies have been partly sunny for much of the morning, dark clouds are definitely on the horizon west of Daytona Beach.

A check of the NWS radar at 10:50 am ET shows a storm cell due west of Daytona and moving northeastward. However, once that cell were to pass, there’s little chance of rain for at least the following few hours. There are storms on the west coast of Florida, but it’s too early to predict if they’ll go cross-state and impact the Daytona Beach area or not.

The race is due to be televised on TNT, which could result in a Heidi-like backlash from viewers, as Lord of the Ring: The Fellowship of the King began at 9 am ET and is slated to run until 12:45 pm ET. It’s expected the network will switch to the NASCAR telecast at 11 am ET. There will be no pre-race show, with the green flag slated to fall some time around 11:10 to 11:15 pm ET.

We’ll be back with more race and weather updates as they become available.

 

Hamilton: ‘Super-tight’ between Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull in Hungary

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Lewis Hamilton is braced for a tough fight in his bid for a sixth Formula 1 victory in Hungary after Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari ended Friday’s practice running evenly-matched for pace.

Daniel Ricciardo led Red Bull to the top of the timesheets in both FP1 and FP2, but with just half a second separating the top six drivers in the second session, there is still plenty to play for at the Hungaroring.

Hamilton wound up fifth in FP2, but feels there is still the pace in the Mercedes W08 car to bounce back on Saturday and continue his stunning Hungaroring record.

“It wasn’t the easiest start to the weekend, with the conditions very gusty. We end the day in fifth but there’s clearly good pace in the car,” Hamilton said.

“It’s super tight between Ferrari, Red Bull and ourselves at the top of the leaderboard, so it’s looking like it will be an exciting weekend. That should be good for the fans.

“There’s some more work to do overnight to fine-tune the balance to get the car just where we want it and I believe the pace is in there.

“We just need to unlock it ahead of qualifying because every tenth is going to be crucial with three teams in the mix.”

Mid-Ohio returns to IMSA schedule in May 2018

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will make its return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar in 2018, marking the first time Mid-Ohio has been part of an IMSA calendar since the 2014 merger that brought together the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series.

Mid-Ohio’s return to the calendar will occur in May 4-6, 2018, and will serve as the venerable Lexington, Ohio permanent road course’s kickoff to its new season.

It’s been since 2013 when GRAND-AM last competed there and 2012 when ALMS did, and from 2007 through 2012 ALMS was always on the same weekend as the Verizon IndyCar Series raced at the track.

More to follow…

Acura moving ahead to solidify NSX GT3 customers in 2018

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Acura Motorsports is moving ahead with plans to get its first NSX GT3 customers to race in North America, as well as worldwide, following Thursday’s formal confirmation of the manufacturer announcing it will sell the NSX GT3.

The two teams who have developed and run the car this year, Michael Shank Racing (IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona class) and RealTime Racing (Pirelli World Challenge GT class) had team principals Shank and Peter Cunningham on hand today at Mid-Ohio to describe the work they’ve done in the process of getting the car ready for customers in 2018.

Shank highlighted the customer service performed by Honda Performance Development when he ran a Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 prototype in IMSA in 2015 and 2016.

The media availability this morning at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course stopped short of confirming both teams will continue their own programs with the NSX GT3 next year, which would be customer-based and not factory as they are this year. That being said, both teams are working with Acura and HPD as they develop their 2018 programs.

Steve Eriksen, vice president and COO, Honda Performance Development, updated the production process in terms of getting NSX GT3s delivered to prospective customers.

“The production timeline and development was moved forward well ahead of Thursday’s announcement,” Eriksen told NBC Sports.

“That was done on purpose; the production was done well in advance to respond quickly when we get inquiries. The goal now is to move from interested parties to serious parties.”

Eriksen confirmed all four existing chassis, plus spares, run by Shank and RealTime this year are owned by HPD. It will be up to HPD to determine the path forward for those chassis after the respective seasons conclude.

For IMSA, the season finale is at Petit Le Mans on October 7 at Road Atlanta, and PWC’s last event of the year is a week later with the eight-hour SRO Intercontinental Challenge on October 15 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey.

Today’s media availability came a day after Acura confirmed the car will be available for sale worldwide at a price of €465,000 ($545,000).

This occurs after a year where there’s been more than 50,000-miles of on-track development between the two teams.

Shank has already delivered the car its first two wins in its inaugural season of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition. The Pataskala, Ohio-based team is working to figure out its 2018 plans, with Shank preferring to focus on his sports car component first before adding any potential IndyCar program.

Here’s slightly more info about that from the release:

The NSX GT3 is eligible to race in more than two dozen FIA-sanctioned racing series around the world, including:

  • The Pirelli World Challenge and WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series in North America
  • The Blancpain GT Series and 24 Hours Nurburgring in Europe
  • The Blancpain GT Series Asia and GT Asia Series
  • The Super GT GT300 class in Japan
  • The Australian GT Championship
  • The Intercontinental GT Challenge

Additional options and complete customer support, including parts and service, training and engineering services are available.  Orders for the NSX GT3 are being taken now by HPD, responsible for sales in North America, at AcuraClientRacing.com.  JAS Motorsport is responsible for NSX GT3 sales in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, excluding Japan.  MUGEN is responsible for sales in Japan.

Pagenaud paces Mid-Ohio opening practice

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Defending Verizon IndyCar Series and Honda Indy 200 champion Simon Pagenaud paced opening practice for this year’s occasion, posting a quick time of 1:04.9079 at the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Pagenaud, in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, sits third in this year’s championship with 404 points. Interestingly his only win this year has come on the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway back in April.

Graham Rahal, the 2015 Mid-Ohio winner, was second in the session in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at 1:04.922. Marco Andretti made it into third in his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda at 1:04.9814.

The top nine drivers down to Scott Dixon in ninth were separated by only 0.3241 of a second and all 21 drivers bar JR Hildebrand were within one second.

Other than a near miss when Helio Castroneves almost hit Esteban Gutierrez exiting the Keyhole, there were no issues in the session and no red flags.

Second practice runs from 2:15 to 3 p.m. ET and local time.

Times are below.