MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 28:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, climbs into his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 28, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
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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.

Butterball, Andretti Autosport extension is all gravy

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the #28 Andretti Autosport Honda Dallara, practices during Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Andretti Autosport and Butterball, a U.S.-based provider of turkey and poultry products, announced a new expansion of their partnership. The newly revamped agreement will see Butterball branding on all four Andretti Autosport entries in 2017.

“Butterball has been a great partner since 2014 and I’m really excited to have them on board again this year,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay. “They were with me when I won the Indianapolis 500 which was a really special moment for everyone involved. Hopefully we can bring them back into victory lane this year, not only at Indy, but throughout the season as well.”

The machines of Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, and Takuma Sato will feature branding just below the front suspension components. Per the announcement, the placement has created a new nickname for the assembly: “the Butterball Wishbone.”

“Butterball is extremely excited about our sponsorship with Andretti Autosport in 2017,” said Butterball CEO and President Kerry Doughty. “With the addition of the new Butterball Wishbone Sponsorship on all Andretti Autosport Indy cars for the 2017 season, we are expanding the tremendously successful relationship that began with Michael and Ryan in 2014 when we won the Indianapolis 500 in our first season.”

Butterball’s tenure with Andretti Autosport dates back to May 2014, shortly before Ryan Hunter-Reay claimed victory at the Indianapolis 500. Branding has been featured on Hunter-Reay No. 28 entry ever since.

Newgarden completes busy day in Detroit

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Josef Newgarden’s media prowess and charisma was again in full display on Thursday during a series promotional efforts for June’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

Specifically, Newgarden was in town for Detroit Grand Prix night at that night’s Pistons-Hornets NBA game.

The day began with Newgarden visiting a handful of Detroit news media outlets, where his most notable venture involved duking it out with Pistons mascot Hooper.

The day continued with Newgarden exploring more of the city, and getting in touch with its rock ‘n roll history.

That, Newgarden ventured to The Palace of Auburn Hills to the big promotional event of day, Detroit Grand Prix night. There, Newgarden was greeted with his own Detroit Pistons jersey and even tried a couple of half-court shots at halftime. However, he did not make any, making it less likely he’ll pursue a basketball career when he decides to hang up his helmet.

For an additional recap Detroit Grand Prix night, visit The Chevrolet’s Detroit Grand Prix twitter @detroitgp.

Entry lists revealed for MRTI Spring Training in Miami

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Kyle Kaiser in Miami, 2015. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The first real good, if not final, looks at the season to come in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires come with next week’s Spring Training, which sees four total days of action at the Homestead-Miami Speedway for all three rungs of the ladder.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will run February 27 on Homestead-Miami’s 1.5-mile oval and March 2 on the 2.21-mile road course. Meanwhile the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series will run solely on the road course over two back-to-back days, February 28 and March 1.

Indy Lights’ field seems closest to being finalized from this group, while Pro Mazda and USF2000 still have some gaps to fill.

In one other bit, Mazda will announce the teams of competition for its Soul Red-liveried drivers this year, all of whom won Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarships for their next step up this year. That’s why Aaron Telitz (Indy Lights), Anthony Martin (Pro Mazda) and Oliver Askew (USF2000) teams are listed as TBAs.

Anyway, quick notes:

Indy Lights (14 cars

All drivers on the Indy Lights entry list have been officially announced, and as noted, Telitz’s team is the only significant TBA of note. Car numbers are revealed for Zachary Claman De Melo and Matheus Leist at Carlin of 13 and 26 respectively, with the known in advance.

In terms of team breakdown, it’s four each at Carlin and Andretti Autosport (with Colton Herta’s No. 98 car an Andretti Steinbrenner Racing entry), Juncos Racing and Belardi Auto Racing each with two official cars and Team Pelfrey the lone one-car entry.

Of the 14 drivers, the field is split exactly in half between seven veterans and seven rookies.

Questions from here are whether one or two more cars not at this test will join the grid at St. Petersburg and push the number back up. Since the debut of the Dallara IL-15 Mazda in 2015, the St. Pete weekend has had 13 cars in 2015 and 16 cars last year, with this one falling in the middle.

Pro Mazda (6 cars)

In what’s very much a survive-and-advance season for Pro Mazda in the final year with its existing car, a small batch of cars come from Team Pelfrey, World Speed Motorsports and the team TBA for Anthony Martin for this test.

Within a 20-to-30-plus, multiple-class series of racing, six cars for one class wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. But six on their own for an independent series is certainly an issue. The number simply has to grow by St. Petersburg to at least eight at a bare minimum, the low-water mark last year, with 10 a significant step forward at this rate (the series had 12 cars at St. Petersburg last year).

USF2000 (22 cars)

Quite by contrast, the new Tatuus USF-17 premieres in USF2000 with 22 cars at this test and the potential of more cars by St. Petersburg (the series had 26 starters last year with two additional withdrawals).

Six returning drivers join 12 rookies and four TBAs on this list, all split among 10 teams. Dutch driver Rinus VeeKay, initially announced as driving for Benik in 2017, is listed in a third Newman Wachs Racing entry for this test.

Juan Pablo Montoya samples Risi Ferrari in Sebring IMSA test

during practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 10, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.
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One of the best drivers of his generation, Juan Pablo Montoya’s recent run of sampling a diverse amount of machinery continues with his testing debut in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE at this week’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship test at Sebring International Raceway.

Initially reported by Sportscar365, Montoya received the guest drive opportunity from an old colleague of his when he raced F3000. Team manager Dave “Beaky” Sims planned to put Montoya in for a few laps this afternoon to give him his first proper running in a GTE-spec car.

Montoya, a race winner in Formula 1, IndyCar and NASCAR, two-time Indianapolis 500 champion and past CART and F3000 champion prior to that, got into the low 2:00 range in his handful of laps before turning the car back to Toni Vilander, who will share the car for the March 18 race with Giancarlo Fisichella and James Calado. Times are unofficial because this is a series test.

Montoya’s race plans this year are thus far limited to the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in a fifth Team Penske IndyCar. He won the individual portion of the Race of Champions in Miami last month. He’s been linked to the rumored (by RACER.com and others), if not yet official, Penske Daytona Prototype international (DPi) effort.

A couple social posts from the Colombian’s run are below, including from Vilander, IMSA Radio pit reporter Shea Adam and IMSA timing & scoring provider Al Kamel Systems. More info from this week’s test will follow soon.

@Regrann from @imsa_racing – Juan Pablo Montoya turns a few laps in @risicomp's 488. – #regrann

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