Cheez-It 355 at The Glen

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen

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With multiple teams having targeted Watkins Glen International as an opportunity to make the Chase, Sunday’s Cheez-It 355K at the New York State road course is shaping up to be quite a race.

Obviously, this is a big one for guys like Marcos Ambrose, Tony Stewart, A.J. Allmendinger, and Martin Truex Jr., who are all buried so far down in the standings to the point where they’re not making the post-season without a win.

Meanwhile, winless drivers Matt Kenseth (+78 points above 16th) and Ryan Newman (+52 points above 16th) still have good holds on the 12 and 13 seeds in the Chase Grid.

However, behind them are five drivers – Clint Bowyer in 14th, Kyle Larson in 15th, Greg Biffle in 16th, Kasey Kahne in 17th, and Austin Dillon in 18th – that are separated by just 29 points.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the notes and numbers to keep in mind as we head into Round 22 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series…

WATKINS GLEN-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Scott Products Chevrolet)
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 9.2
· Average Running Position of 13.5, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.7, seventh-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.842 mph, seventh-fastest

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 STANLEY Ford)
· Two wins, five top fives, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 6.8
· Average Running Position of 8.6, second-best
· Driver Rating of 120.1, second-best
· Series-high 125 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 120.616 mph
· 425 Laps in the Top 15 (78.4%), 10th-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· One top five, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 19.8
· Driver Rating of 91.8, 10th-best
· 47 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 364 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.901 mph, sixth-fastest
· 475 Laps in the Top 15 (58.4%), eighth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· Two wins, four top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.1
· Average Running Position of 10.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 113.3, third-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 120.107 mph, fourth-fastest
· 616 Laps in the Top 15 (75.7%), third-most
· 175 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Kelloggs/Cheez-it Ford)
· Four top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.8
· Average Running Position of 12.6, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.6, eighth-best
· 15 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 405 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.630 mph, ninth-fastest
· 588 Laps in the Top 15 (72.2%), fourth-most
· 178 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)
· One top five, four top 10s
· Average finish of 19.5
· Average Running Position of 15.5, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 87.0, 12th-best
· 11 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 374 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.598 mph, 10th-fastest
· 416 Laps in the Top 15 (57.6%), 11th-most
· 158 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· One win, two top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 13.1
· Average Running Position of 15.7, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 88.3, 11th-best
· 10 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 390 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.442 mph, 11th-fastest
· 480 Laps in the Top 15 (59.0%), seventh-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.8
· Average Running Position of 10.2, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 100.6, sixth-best
· 27 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.971 mph, fifth-fastest
· 637 Laps in the Top 15 (78.3%), second-most
· 188 Quality Passes, second-most

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· Three top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 6.5
· Average Running Position of 12.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 102.8, fifth-best
· 29 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.842 mph, eighth-fastest

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Code 3/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Five wins, seven top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 7.9
· Series-best Average Running Position of 5.7
· Series-best Driver Rating of 120.4
· 106 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 120.465 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 678 Laps in the Top 15 (93.6%)
· Series-high 195 Quality Passes

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· Three top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 12.4
· Average Running Position of 12.0, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.8, ninth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.400 mph, 12th-fastest
· 519 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9%), sixth-most
· 179 Quality Passes, third-most

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Watkins Glen International Data
Season Race #: 22 of 36 (08-10-14)
Track Size: 2.45-miles
Number of Turns: 7
Race Length: 90 laps / 220.5 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Watkins Glen
Tony Stewart……………………….. 120.4
Marcos Ambrose………………….. 120.1
Kyle Busch…………………………. 113.3
Juan Pablo Montoya…………….. 110.5
Brad Keselowski………………….. 102.8
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 100.6
AJ Allmendinger…………………….. 94.7
Carl Edwards………………………… 94.6
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 92.8
Kurt Busch……………………………. 91.8
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Watkins Glen International.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 128.241 mph, 68.777 secs., 08-09-13
2013 race winner: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 87.001 mph, (02:32:04), 08-11-13
Track qualifying record: Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 128.241 mph, 68.777 secs., 08-09-13
Track race record: Mark Martin, Ford, 103.030 mph, (02:11:54), 08-13-95

Watkins Glen History
· After several events were held on the streets of Watkins Glen, a permanent facility was opened in 1956.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was in 1957, won by Buck Baker (83.064 mph, 8/4/57).
· After a six-year absence, NASCAR returned to The Glen in 1964 and 1965.
· After a 21-year absence, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returned to The Glen, and has run one race a year there since 1986.

Watkins Glen Notebook
· There have been 31 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen International, one race per season.
· The first NSCS race at Watkins Glen was scheduled for 101.2-miles in 1957, the second race was 161.7-miles (1964) and the third race was 151.8-miles (1965). Every race since has been scheduled for 220.5-miles.
· 252 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen; 152 in more than one.
· Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip and Terry Labonte lead the series in starts at Watkins Glen with 22 each. Jeff Gordon leads the series among full-time active drivers with 21.
· Buck Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Watkins Glen in 1957 with a speed of 87.071 mph. Driver/owner Buck Baker went on to win the inaugural race from the pole.
· 19 drivers have Coors Light poles at Watkins Glen, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin with three each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with two.
· Mark Martin is the only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver to post consecutive Coors Light poles at Watkins Glen (three) – 1993, 1994, and 1995.
· Youngest Watkins Glen pole winner: Kyle Busch (08/15/2011 – 26 years, 3 months, 13 days).
· Oldest Watkins Glen pole winner: Morgan Shepherd (08/13/1989 – 47 years, 10 months, 1 day).
· 18 different drivers have won at Watkins Glen International in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, led by Tony Stewart with five wins.
· Jeff Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in road course wins with nine (Sonoma, five; Watkins Glen, four); Tony Stewart has the second most road course wins all-time with seven (Watkins Glen, five; Sonoma, two).
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison holds the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series record for the most wins at a single road course track with six – Riverside International Raceway.
· Four drivers have posted consecutive wins at Watkins Glen, including three consecutive by Mark Martin (1993, ’94, ‘95) and Jeff Gordon (1997, ’98, ‘99). The other two drivers to win consecutive races at Watkins Glen are Tony Stewart (2004, ’05) and Marcos Ambrose (2011, ’12).
· Youngest Watkins Glen winner: Kyle Busch (08/10/2008 – 23 years, 3 months, 8 days).
· Oldest Watkins Glen winner: Geoff Bodine (08/11/1996 – 47 years, 3 months, 24 days).
· Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing are tied for themost wins at Watkins Glen in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with six:
o Hendrick Motorsports: Jeff Gordon (four), Tim Richmond (one) and Ricky Rudd (one).
o Joe Gibbs Racing: Tony Stewart (four) and Kyle Busch (two).
· Six different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Watkins Glen; led by Chevrolet with 16 victories; followed by Ford with seven, Pontiac with four, Toyota with two and Buick and Mercury each have one.
· Nine of the 31 (29%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Kyle Busch in 2008.
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (nine) than any other starting position at Watkins Glen.
· 11 of the 31 (35.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen have been won from the front row: nine from the pole and two from second-place.
· 21 of the 31 (67.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen have been won from a top-five starting position.
· 22 of the 31 (70.9%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· None of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Watkins Glen was 18th, by Steve Park in the 2000.
· Brad Keselowski and Mark Martin lead the series in runner-up finishes at Watkins Glen with three each.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-five finishes at Watkins Glen with 12; followed by Ricky Rudd with eight. Tony Stewart leads all active drivers with seven.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen with 16; followed by Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace and Tony Stewart with 10 each.
· Tony Stewart leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Watkins Glen with a 6.286.
· Brad Keselowski leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Watkins Glen with a 6.500.
· All five of the active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Watkins Glen participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane.
· Kevin Harvick (2006) competed at Watkins Glen five times each before winning; the longest span of any the five active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Watkins Glen without visiting Victory Lane at 18. Nemechek is followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth with 14 each.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen is the 2001 race won by Jeff Gordon over Jeff Burton with a MOV of 0.172 second.
· There have been two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Watkins Glen (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): 2005 (90/92) and 2011 (90/92).
· Only one of the 31 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen has been shortened due to weather conditions – the 1992 race – only 51 of the scheduled 90 laps were completed.
· The 8/14/2011 race was the only NSCS race at Watkins Glen that has been postponed to another date due to weather (8/15/2011).
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen six times; most recently in 2008.
· One active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has posted his first career win at Watkins Glen: Marcos Ambrose (08/15/11).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Watkins Glen with 233 laps led in 21 starts.
· Danica Patrick and Patty Moise are the only two female NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers to compete at Watkins Glen International.
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NASCAR in New York
· There have been 66 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among 15 tracks in the state of New York.
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· 185 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as New York; 11 of them have posted at least one victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
· Only two of the New York natives have won at Watkins Glen International in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Geoff Bodine (1996) and Steve Park (2000).
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Berlin Formula E race set to change location after city senate vote

BERIN, GERMANY - MAY 21:  In this handout image supplied by Formula E, Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA), DS Virgin Racing DSV-01 and Sebastien Buemi (SUI), Renault e.Dams Z.E.15 lead at the start of the race during the Berlin Formula E race on May 21, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by LAT/Formula E via Getty Images)
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Berlin’s Formula E race is set to change venue ahead of its third edition in June after the city senate voted against keeping it in a downtown location.

Berlin featured on the first Formula E calendar back in 2015, hosting a race around the site of the disused Tempelhof Airport.

When the site was turned into a refugee camp following the migrant crisis that hit Europe last year, an alternative location was found in the city center.

A circuit was constructed in downtown Berlin around Strausberger Platz and using Karl-Marx-Allee, with the race and location proving popular for the Formula E fraternity.

However, the race caused disruption for local residents, prompting city officials to vote against the event staying in the same location for its third edition on June 10.

“We are in constant dialogue and cooperating with local authorities to determine the final location of the race and are thankful for the continued interest and support shown from the mayor to host a race in the city of Berlin,” a spokesman from Formula E told NBC Sports.

This is not the first time that Formula E has been forced to change the location of a race due to local pressure, with the London ePrix dropping off the calendar at the end of season two after multiple court battles to keep the event at Battersea Park.

AP Interview: Formula One’s new owners plan U.S. street race

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 23: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Manor Racing MRT-Mercedes MRT05 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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LONDON (AP) Formula One’s new owners plan to add a street race in the United States in an attempt to improve a sport which they feel stagnated under Bernie Ecclestone’s control.

Chase Carey, who ended Ecclestone’s four-decade reign as F1’s chief executive, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the sport will no longer be run as a “one-man show.”

Carey, though, will be as dogged as the 86-year-old Ecclestone in negotiations with circuits, insisting that less-lucrative races in heartlands like Britain will have to prove they can become more profitable rather than being allowed to renegotiate hosting fees.

International sports and entertainment firm Liberty Media, which is controlled by 75-year-old tycoon John Malone, completed its takeover of F1 on Monday from investment fund CVC Capital Partners.

Driving growth in the United States is seen as a priority for Liberty, which also owns baseball’s Atlanta Braves and has investments in cable TV companies. F1 currently only makes one stop during the season in the United Sates – to Austin, Texas – but adding a street race is high on Liberty’s agenda.

“We would like to add a destination race in the U.S. in a location like New York, L.A., Miami, Las Vegas,” Carey said in a telephone interview. “We think we can create something that will be a really special event. Obviously the U.S. is all upsides for us. We haven’t invested in the way we need to build the U.S. market.”

The sport has remained stuck in the past, making “events feel a little tired,” while the modern media landscape was not grasped by Ecclestone, according to Carey.

“Bernie really ran a one-man show,” Carey said. “I don’t plan to run a one-man show.”

Although Ecclestone remains on board as an honorary chairman and will be an F1 adviser, power clearly now rests with Carey, who is a veteran Fox executive.

“The last half dozen years I think the business has not reached its potential,” Carey said. “With all the things you need to do to be competitive in an increasingly fragmented online world, you need an organization doing many things at the same time.”

Ecclestone was criticized for overlooking historic popular race venues to move into new, wealthier markets including Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Azerbaijan, which held its first race last year. The German Grand Prix has been dropped from the 2017 calendar because of Hockenheim’s financial difficulties, while the British race at Silverstone is at risk because of hosting costs.

“Western Europe is important for us and to some degree we have to engage to make those races bigger and better than they are while respecting their heritage,” Carey said, while ruling out cut-price deals to keep historic races.

“We are willing to invest in the sport but we are the new guys so everyone wants to come in and figure it’s a chance to renegotiate. So I don’t think that’s the right mindset. We think these races (in places like Britain and Germany) should be bigger and more profitable and we are willing to work with promoters to figure out how to achieve that. That’s our goal.”

The takeover, which gives F1 an enterprise value of $8 billion and an equity value of $4.4 billion, comes as the series is poised for a shakeup.

Changes such as wider tires, car design, louder engines, and more overtaking opportunities are set to make F1 more exciting in a bid to win back a large chunk of unhappy fans amid flagging attendances at some races.

“We can certainly do things to make the race day more engaging, more exciting – make the race itself more exciting,” Carey said. “I have gone around and talked to lot of people and hear many of the same things about predictability, rules too complicated, engineers overtaking drivers, the engines could be faster, louder, cheaper.

“And so there are a number of things we can do to improve the race, the race day.”

Such as tapping into the “excitement and buzz” found at the NFL’s showpiece game and turning races into week-long festivals in host cities.

“What I would like to have is 21 Super Bowls,” Carey said. “Priority 1 is to make the races bigger and better. We have some great races like Singapore, Mexico and Abu Dhabi but we have to make all the races have an energy and excitement that really makes them unique events.”

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

FIA welcomes Liberty Media’s arrival

xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 15, 2015 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has approved Liberty Media Corporation’s acquisition of Formula 1 in its first formal comments after the change.

In a statement released Tuesday, the FIA and its president, Jean Todt, sought to thank Bernie Ecclestone for his governance over his 40-year rein at the head of the sport.

Meanwhile there was also a small word of welcoming to the new group, led by F1’s new chairman/CEO, Chase Carey.

The full statement is below:

The world governing body of motor sport, the FIA wishes to thank the outgoing CEO of the Formula One Group, Bernie Ecclestone for more than 40 years of dedication to the FIA Formula One World Championship and as a member of both the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council.

The FIA was responsible for creating Formula One when it established the first regulations for the category in 1946.

The Federation remains committed to regulating the FIA Formula One World Championship fairly, safely, and in the best interests of the sport – as it has strived to do since its inception 67 years ago.

The FIA President, Jean Todt, congratulated the new owners of the Formula One Group, Liberty Media Corporation.

“As Formula One’s governing body, the FIA would like to welcome the new CEO, Chase Carey and his entire team to the Championship.

“The whole FIA organization is looking forward to working closely together, with the common goal of improving and growing the sport further with the support of the highly recognized skills of Liberty Media Corporation in the media and sport domains.”

2017 Rolex 24 car-by-car preview: GTLM

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No. 66 Ford GT and No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM. Photo courtesy of IMSA
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MotorSportsTalk’s Tony DiZinno takes a look through the entries for the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, car-by-car. Here’s a look through the first of two GT classes, the GT Le Mans class. Roar Before the Rolex 24 times are listed.

An 11-car grid features one new car (the new mid-rear-engined Porsche 911 RSR), one set of new entries (the pair of Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GTs, to make a four-car total phalanx of Fords) and seven remaining leftover entries from last year from Corvette, Ford, BMW and Ferrari.

No. 4 Corvette C7.R. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 4 Corvette C7.R. Photo courtesy of IMSA

No. 3 Corvette Racing
Car: Corvette C7.R
Drivers: Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller
Roar Time: 1:44.738 (7)

Outlook: The No. 3 Corvette took the 2015 Rolex 24 win, although that seems a relative eternity ago after Garcia’s nail-biting loss to Gavin 12 months ago. The trio on the Danny Binks-led No. 3 car would be a popular winner, if it could deliver Corvette Racing its third straight Rolex 24 win.

No. 4 Corvette Racing
Car: Corvette C7.R
Drivers: Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler
Roar Time: 1:44.717 (5)

Outlook: The defending race and class series champions return an unchanged lineup and car that is once again one of the favorites, albeit hoping to win by a slightly bigger margin this go-around than the 0.034 sliver of a second last year. Fassler was lucky to escape a fuel-induced fire that ignited the car at the Roar.

No. 19 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 19 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM. Photo courtesy of IMSA

No. 19 BMW Team RLL
Car: BMW M6 GTLM
Drivers: Bill Auberlen, Alexander Sims, Augusto Farfus, Bruno Spengler
Roar Time: 1:44.764 (8)

Outlook: It’ll be interesting to see how new BMW recruit Sims gets on, and to see what the reaction is to the John Baldessari-designed “Art Car” livery that adorns this entry.

No. 24 BMW Team RLL
Car: BMW M6 GTLM
Drivers: John Edwards, Martin Tomczyk, Kuno Wittmer, Nicky Catsburg
Roar Time: 1:44.692 (3)

Outlook: Proof that test times mean nothing, BMW was one and three at the Roar last year and exactly nowhere at the Rolex 24. It was a frustrating 2016 campaign for the team and this new lineup, with Tomczyk and Catsburg as new additions, look to bolster Edwards and Wittmer in this entry.

No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE. Photo courtesy of IMSA

No. 62 Risi Competizione
Car: Ferrari 488 GTE
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander, James Calado
Roar Time: 1:44.705 (4)

Outlook: Risi enters with a significantly better turn of fortune this Rolex 24 compared to last year when they were scrambling to get their new 488 GTE. With the team scoring a popular win at Petit Le Mans to end 2016, look for them to come out firing with the good all-‘rounder of a car and a lineup that’s achieved numerous 24-hour wins at Le Mans before.

All four Ford GTs. Photo: Wes Duenkel/Ford Performance
All four Ford GTs. Photo: Wes Duenkel/Ford Performance

No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Ford GT
Drivers: Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais
Roar Time: 1:44.719 (6)

Outlook: This trio got the 24-hour win that counted just a bit more in 2016 at Le Mans, and are much better prepared for this year’s Rolex 24 after a year’s worth of testing, running and reliability pitfalls now hopefully behind them. Bourdais and Hand have past overall wins at Daytona and look for class wins to match.

No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Ford GT
Drivers: Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon
Roar Time: 1:44.380 (1)

Outlook: It’s a slight change for the team that nearly won the GTLM title last year overall with Dixon now moving into the GT at Daytona after running DPs for years. Never had a chance to contend last year after early reliability woes, and should be much better sorted this go-around.

No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK
Car: Ford GT
Drivers: Olivier Pla, Stefan Muecke, Billy Johnson
Roar Time: 1:44.808 (9)

Outlook: Pla’s bounced around various prototypes in recent years at Daytona (OAK, Krohn and Shank all in Onroak chassis), Muecke primarily in Astons before making his first Ford start last year, and Johnson has always seemingly got last-minute deals without much of a chance to showcase himself in the factory GT ranks. This is perhaps the most well-rounded sports car-only lineup of Ganassi’s quartet this month.

No. 69 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK
Car: Ford GT
Drivers: Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell, Tony Kanaan
Roar Time: 1:44.645 (7)

Outlook: As the only one of Ganassi’s four lineups that’s new as a collective unit this year, this is likely the slightest of underdogs among the Ford GT “fearsome foursome.” Tincknell’s blossomed into a star, Priaulx’s reliable and so how Kanaan gets on in his Ford GT race debut will be the target to watch.

Nos. 911 and 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR. Photo courtesy of IMSA
Nos. 911 and 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR. Photo courtesy of IMSA

No. 911 Porsche GT Team
Car: Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Patrick Pilet, Dirk Werner, Fred Makowiecki
Roar Time: 1:44.874 (10)

Outlook: The first of the two mid-rear-engined new 911s features Porsche returnee and new factory driver Werner back alongside past GTLM champion Pilet, the 2014 Rolex 24 champ, and the enigmatic Makowiecki. Given the new variables, it’s hard to project a debut win for this trio.

No. 912 Porsche GT Team
Car: Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre, Richard Lietz
Roar Time: 1:45.037 (11)

Outlook: The No. 912 car ensures the No. 911 isn’t alone in new components. Audi GT3 ace Vanthoor makes his Porsche factory debut while the fast, fearless Estre has received the privilege of a full-time race seat, after mistakes occurred in his all-too-few U.S. opportunities last year. Lietz is then the Porsche factory veteran here. A podium would be a good result on debut.