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Jeff Gordon joins Wayne Taylor Racing for Rolex 24 at Daytona

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Wayne Taylor Racing has announced that four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will join its line-up for the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, racing in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.

Gordon retired from full-time competition at the end of 2015 season before making a series of stand-in appearances through 2016 for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The American will now return to Daytona for the Rolex 24 in January, racing alongside Max Angelelli and brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor.

Here is the release in full.

Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, who was part of the driver lineup when Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) competed in its very first race in 2007, returns to join full-time co-drivers of the all-new No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R Ricky and Jordan Taylor and veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli for next month’s 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 2017 season opener.

Gordon, who has 805 career Sprint Cup starts with 93 victories and championships in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001, retired from full-time competition in 2015. He co-drove to a solid podium finish in his only career sportscar event – the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona – alongside Angelelli, Jan Magnussen and team owner and three-time sportscar racing champion Wayne Taylor in the No. 10 WTR prototype.

“I really enjoyed racing in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2007 with Max, Wayne and Jan,” said Gordon, now an analyst during NASCAR on FOX broadcasts. “When I announced I would no longer be competing full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, my hope was that I would get an opportunity like this to compete again in such a prestigious event – with Konica Minolta and Wayne Taylor Racing – with the hopes of winning it this time. I know that Ricky and Jordan are super-fast, and I believe it will be a very strong combination.”

The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team has been a fixture on the Rolex 24 podium in recent years, finishing second in 2013, 2014 and this season and crossing the finish line third in 2015 before being penalized for a drive-time violation one week later. This year’s runner-up finish included Formula 1 veteran Rubens Barrichello in the driver lineup and the 2013 runner-up effort included then-reigning IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. Team owner Wayne Taylor, who co-drove in his final career Rolex 24 during the team’s runner-up finish in 2014, won the prestigious event alongside Angelelli and Frenchman Emmanuel Collard in 2005 en route to that season’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship.

“We are excited to have Jeff back in the lineup with us for the 2017 Rolex 24,” Taylor said. “He was with us when we started this race team back in 2007 and he helped us finish on the podium. We have kept in close touch ever since and have always been looking for another opportunity to have him join our driver lineup. That opportunity is finally here after his retirement from full-time competition in NASCAR and we are very much looking forward to working with him again.”

Ricky and Jordan Taylor, who each have 14 major North American sportscar victories, co-drove to three wins this season – at Long Beach, California, Detroit, and Austin, Texas. They finished third in the WeatherTech Championship standings with the final two events at Circuit of the Americas. In addition to their runner-up finish at the season-opening Rolex 24 this year, they added podium finishes at Bowmanville, Ontario and Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and Road Atlanta.

“Having Jeff Gordon join the team is really a dream come true for all of us,” said Ricky Taylor, who co-drove the No. 10 prototype full-time with Angelelli from 2010 through 2012 before joining his brother the past three seasons. “It is a huge compliment to how well-respected the team has become over the years for someone with the history and career of Jeff Gordon to want to be a part of it. For me, it will be surreal to drive alongside a legend and I can’t wait to hear all of the stories he has to share from his years of racing. I’m sure he will be a great addition to the lineup and hopefully we can all get our first Rolex 24 win together.”

“It’s really exciting to have Jeff Gordon coming on board with us for Daytona next year,” said Jordan Taylor, who co-drove the No. 10 prototype to the 2013 Rolex Series driver championship with Angelelli in 2013. “It used to be common to have NASCAR guys joining teams for the Rolex but, over recent years, it’s become less and less frequent. Jeff Gordon is a name that everyone knows worldwide. He is one of the biggest names in motorsports. He drove with my dad and Max at the Rolex back in 2007, so it’ll be cool to have a 10-year reunion with him and the team. Sportscar racing offers a unique perspective for drivers, where we have to share the same car. I can’t wait to compare notes and feedback with such a legend of our sport. It’s going to be an experience of a lifetime.”

Angelelli, one of the winningest drivers in sportscar racing history with 27 career victories and 72 podiums, was particularly ecstatic to co-drive once again with Gordon.

“I think it is exceptional to have Jeff back with us after 10 years,” said Angelelli, who in 2014 stepped out of his full-time driving role with WTR, the organization in which he has been a partner with Wayne Taylor since 2007. “In a way, I’m such a fan of his, but I look forward to sharing our new Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R racecar with him, discussing our setup and race strategy. It was great the first time – we might have won that race if some things would have gone our way. Now that it’s happening again, with the new car, it’s going to be absolutely great.”

The 55th Rolex 24 is set for Jan. 28 to 29, 2017, with the annual three days of Roar Before the 24 testing set for three weeks prior.

John Force has a job for soon-to-be retired Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Photo courtesy John Force official Twitter page
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The battle for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s post-retirement services has begun.

And leave it to none other than 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force to be the first to offer Junior a job.

As a Funny Car driver, of course.

Look at the plusses: they both drive for Chevrolet, they both like beer, Junior wouldn’t have to worry about turning left or right (on road courses) any more, he’d be able to stay on the straight and narrow (drag strip, that is) and …

Perhaps the best thing of all, he could ultimately become Force’s replacement as the most popular driver in NHRA drag racing when (or if) Force ever decides to retire himself.

Check out Force’s job offer:

Several current or former Verizon IndyCar Series drivers also took to social media to pay homage to Junior — including another member of the Force family, son-in-law Graham Rahal, who is married to drag racer Courtney Force.

 

 

 

Loftus Robinson Rejoin Dreyer and Reinbold Racing for Indy 500

Photo: Dreyer and Reinbold Racing
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Indianapolis-based real estate developer Loftus Robinson will rejoin Dreyer and Reinbold Racing for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The relationship between Loftus Robinson and DRR goes back to 2015, when they first partnered for the “500.” The partnership continues for 2017, with Sage Karam piloting the effort for the second consecutive year.

“Being an Indianapolis-based company, we felt it has been important to partner with another local company, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, in the famed Indy 500,” said Drew Loftus, co-principal of Loftus Robinson. “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has served as a great backdrop for our business’ growth. We have enjoyed our relationship with Dennis and his racing team. They have built a tremendous infrastructure to assist us and our partners through the event. We’re anxious to see Sage back on track in the No. 24 DRR Chevrolet this May.”

Team co-owner Dennis Reinbold echoed Loftus’ enthusiam. “Loftus Robinson has been one of the Indianapolis area’s top young commercial real estate companies in recent years and we are very pleased to have them back in 2017 with our Indy 500 entry,” he explained. “Loftus Robinson has utilized our racing team’s participation in the world’s greatest auto race to formulate strong relationships with their business partners as well as developing new clients right at the track. We hope to put them in victory lane on May 28 with Sage at the wheel.”

Practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil begins on May 15.

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JR Hildebrand cleared to return for Phoenix

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After sitting out the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama last weekend, JR Hildebrand will be able to return to action for this weekend’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN), after being cleared Tuesday to drive.

The primary driver of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing sustained a broken bone in his left hand in a final lap accident at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 9, after a collision with Mikhail Aleshin. He was re-evaluated upon returning to Indianapolis and was not cleared to drive for the Barber Motorsports Park race.

Hildebrand was on site in Birmingham, Ala. in a driver coach role for Zach Veach, who filled in for his Verizon IndyCar Series debut. Veach started and finished 19th in his first start.

For Hildebrand, the return to Phoenix comes after he paced the series official preseason open test there in February, and comes as a great opportunity to come back from a challenging start to the year. Hildebrand had nondescript runs of 13th and 11th in the first two races but was 11th in points after Long Beach, although he fell to 21st when he missed Barber.

“It’s been a tricky couple of weeks working through this injury, I’m certainly anxious to get back in the car!” he said in a release. “I feel like I’m far enough along to be able to go for it this weekend in Phoenix. I know we’ve got a good program; I want to be able to come through for the team at an event where we should be strong. The competition there is tough, I expect we will really have to be on our game over the course of the weekend. I’m looking forward to getting back in the Fuzzy’s Vodka car! Everyone has been super helpful and I appreciate the hard work that everyone has put in to be able to get me back in.”

Meanwhile team owner Carpenter makes his first start of the season in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet as part of his oval-only program.

Spencer Pigot will be back in the No. 20 car at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 13, before Carpenter’s back in for the rest of the month of May leading up to and into the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

IMSA: Henzler, Bonanomi called up for drives at COTA

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Two fill-in drivers have been confirmed for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s next race at Circuit of The Americas, on May 6.

Wolf Henzler will deputize for Kevin Estre in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, while Marco Bonanomi will make his IMSA Prototype class debut as a fill-in driver for Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson.

Henzler will be in the No. 912 car alongside Laurens Vanthoor in GT Le Mans in the first “standard” two-hour, 40-minute race of the season, the Advance Auto Parts Showdown, as Estre will be on FIA World Endurance Championship duty the same day in the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps with Porsche’s GT Team there.

Henzler’s absence means if TRG runs its Porsche 911 GT3 R at COTA in the GT Daytona class, Kevin Buckler would need a replacement for him.

There’s another potential fill-in-for-WEC driver scenario needed if Alegra Motorsports, the Rolex 24 at Daytona winners, were to run in GTD as well. Thus far Carlos de Quesada’s team has run Daniel Morad and Porsche factory driver Michael Christensen in its No. 28 Porsche in GTD through three races, but with Christensen and Estre set to share the No. 92 car at Spa, a replacement would need to be sourced there.

Bonanomi is the second replacement that is confirmed though. The Italian, who made one prior IMSA start since the 2014 merger with Fall-Line Motorsports in an Audi R8 LMS Ultra, will fill-in for “TKS,” who returns to England to take care of his mother, who is battling cancer.

“Tom will unfortunately miss the next race at Circuit of the Americas. He needs to be able to spend time back in the UK with his mother who is presently undergoing treatment for cancer,” said team principal Bobby Oergel.

“As all the drivers who have driven with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports know, once you’re a part of our team, you’re family, and Tom is a big part of this family. It’s unfortunate that he will miss a round of the championship, but we know that family comes before racing, and we’re happy that he is able to take the time he needs to be with his family during this time.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Tom and his mother, and we are praying that she will be cancer free in the near future.”

Bonanomi has tested with the car and will share the car with Jose Gutierrez, who missed Long Beach as Will Owen filled in for him there.

“I was very happy to receive the call from PR1 to drive at their test at COTA. It was my first time driving the Ligier, but I think the test was very positive,” said Bonanomi.

“We tested some set up changes for the race that I think will be very good. The track itself is very demanding on the car and tires, especially with the extreme temperatures that can be present. The first practices during race week will be very critical to get everything just right in terms of set up, but after the test, I think we should be pretty close.”