On Friday’s edition, the NASCAR America crew discussed the favorites for Sunday’s Brickyard 400. And not surprisingly, Jimmie Johnson is the easy pick — but there are a few other drivers who could contend.
The Ford EcoBoost V6 twin-turbo engine put in the back of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs has been developed for years with Ganassi’s Ford-Riley DP program.
Sunday in the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix, the first of two two-hour races, the new Ford banked its first win courtesy of that engine making some incredible fuel mileage.
Richard Westbrook brought the No. 67 Ford GT home for his second straight win in Monterey, having also won overall here last year with Michael Valiante in a Corvette DP.
Westbrook took over the No. 67 car from Ryan Briscoe and proceeded to run 52 laps on a single fuel stint, for an hour and 17 minutes into the two-hour race.
“We’ve been waiting for this win for a long time,” Ford Performance director Dave Pericak said post-race.
“I think it’s great that it came as a fuel economy win. It’s great for Ford EcoBoost, because that’s what it’s all about, but this is really a boost for the team going into Le Mans. We’ve been working up to this point to showcase the car’s durability and I think this is what the team needed to go to Le Mans.”
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. The bad thing is we don’t have much time to celebrate. Le Mans is coming fast.”
“It’s a great win for our employees who have been watching us and turning us on and it’s a good way to keep up the momentum going into the big race.”
Here’s quick reactions from the @CGRSportsCar and @FordPerformance Twitter accounts in the immediate aftermath:
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff praised Nico Rosberg not only for his flawless display en route to winning Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, but also for managing an issue on his power unit that could have ended his race.
Mercedes has struggled with the reliability of its power unit so far this season, with defending champion Lewis Hamilton suffering failures in qualifying for both of the last two races.
Rosberg suffered a dip in pace midway through the second stint of the race in Sochi that saw his lead over Hamilton dip from 12 seconds to just 7.5 seconds.
Hamilton ultimately had to back off due to a water pressure issue on his own power unit, but Wolff revealed after the race that Rosberg also had to manage a problem on his car.
“That race was anything but plain sailing today – it was a pretty stressful experience to get both cars home, and there was a point when we thought neither of them might make it to the flag,” Wolff said.
“First of all, congratulations to Nico, he did a perfect job all weekend and controlled the race from the front once again. He didn’t put a foot wrong.
“When we faced an issue on the MGU-K during the middle part of the race, he was able to do all the necessary steps to keep it under control and bring it home.
“As for Lewis, he drove brilliantly. Some really good, aggressive passing manoeuvres and clever racing brought him to P2 – and he was just getting his head down to charge when we saw a water leak and he was losing water pressure.
“The only thing to do was ask him to back off to bring the car home and fortunately that meant the situation stabilized but cost him the chance of racing Nico. No doubt he will be thinking about what could have been today – but it was a fantastic recovery after such a tough moment in qualifying yesterday.
“A one-two finish is always something special and to be savoured, especially with the performance advantage we enjoyed this weekend. We are pushing hard this year and finding the limits of our car – but we need to get on top of our issues so the drivers can battle it out on track themselves.
“That’s what we all want to see and what we will be working hard to achieve in the coming days before Barcelona.”
Two first-time 2016 winners emerged in the first of two two-hour IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races at the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Michael Shank Racing ended a four-year drought dating to 2012 in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, when the team won the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona, to win overall and in Prototype with Ozz Negri and John Pew in the team’s No. 60 Ligier JS P2 Honda.
“It was a Honda day at Laguna Seca,” the eponymous team owner, Shank, told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam in a not-so-subtle jab at their Japanese rivals, before confirming the team will miss the next round at Detroit owing to its 24 Hours of Le Mans preparation.
Meanwhile courtesy of a strategic gamble and an excellent amount of fuel saving, Richard Westbrook brought the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT home to its first win since the car’s debut earlier this year at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Westbrook took over from Ryan Briscoe on the team’s first and only pit stop, then proceeded to run 52 laps on a stint to the finish, making it home on fumes.
Two quick passes by Negri following the second restart of the race on Lap 29 saw him emerge at the front of the field, having restarted in third.
“I feel at home when I’m working with them, working with John,” Negri told IMSA Radio. “I’ve been going at it and thinking about it since my first practice. It worked! We pushed hard on the out laps.”
Negri got around first Eric Curran for second in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, then race leader Sean Rayhall in the No. 0 DeltaWing DWC13 coupe shortly thereafter.
Negri’s closest challenger had been the polesitting No. 55 Mazda Prototype, started by Tristan Nunez and finished by Jonathan Bomarito.
But fuel issues on the first stop and then a spin by Bomarito when just behind Negri with just under 50 minutes remaining halted that car’s charge. The team opted not to take tires on the second stop and Bomarito fell back to fourth the remainder of the race.
Ryan Dalziel and Marc Goossens came from a pre-race penalty assessed for being late to the grid, starting from pit lane, to finish second after a great drive in their No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP. Goossens held off Curran for second; Curran shared his car with Dane Cameron.
After the No. 55 Mazda and DeltaWing, contact between Joao Barbosa and Ricky Taylor took those two Corvette DPs out of contention and the No. 70 Mazda, then driven by Joel Miller, lost drive up the Corkscrew with a failed oil pump.
The GTLM race was a bit more straightforward; Westbrook got around teammate Joey Hand in the final 10 minutes to take the race lead.
Hand and Antonio Garcia, in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R, both pitted when trying to make the race on one stop. Westbrook made it home.
“They’ve had a helluva 3-4 months,” Westbrook told IMSA Radio. “When they tell you a number it’s like, ‘You’re killing me.’ But you adapt to it. Car was good. It was so tight at the end. So relieved to achieve something so quickly. The future looks bright.”
Scuderia Corsa, which grabbed the pole in class, scored a GTLM career best second place with Daniel Serra and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the No. 68 Ferrari 488 GTE.
Porsche fought through pace issues all weekend to survive any trouble with its No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, driven by Earl Bamber and Fred Makowiecki, to finish third.
GTLM is off until after Detroit owing to the Le Mans break, with its next race early July at Watkins Glen.
Valtteri Bottas admitted that he had more than finishing fourth in mind during Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, but took the positives from his best race of the 2016 Formula 1 season so far.
Bottas started second in Sochi thanks to Sebastian Vettel’s grid penalty, and managed to hold off Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen through the opening stint of the race before making his first pit stop.
However, Hamilton was able to pass Bottas within two laps of emerging from the pits, while Raikkonen made a longer first stint work well to get ahead of the Williams driver.
Bottas was unable to keep up with Raikkonen for the rest of the race, eventually finishing 18 seconds behind his compatriot in fourth place.
“The beginning of the race was pretty good and we managed to defend against some of the quicker cars behind,” Bottas said.
“I think being aggressive with the early pitstop was good but unfortunately the cars with more pace managed to get through, and at the end of the race there wasn’t much happening for me.
“All-in-all the team has done a good job this weekend. It’s positive to get a lot of points for Williams. There’s definitely progress, this is a good track for us so that helped, but we just need to keep improving.
“I definitely had more in mind today than fourth so we need to keep pushing.”
Williams continued its run of getting both cars into the points at every race so far this season as Felipe Massa finished fifth, also enduring a rather lonely race.
“I think it was a very positive weekend for us and a very positive race,” Massa said. “I would have loved to finish fourth and not fifth, but that’s just part of the game so I’m happy with the result.
“We managed to score a lot more points than Red Bull, and that’s the target for us right now. They have a very good team and a very good car, but we need to keep believing. This weekend was a very good weekend so we need to keep fighting like that.
“I think for the team the best position was fourth and fifth. Valtteri was able to manage the tires better here, whilst I was able to manage them better in China. That’s the way it goes, but today’s result is very good for Williams.”