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Bell, Sweedler join Alex Job Racing for full NAEC program

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Alex Job Racing has confirmed that Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler will be part of its line-up for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, starting with the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month.

AJR will field a new Audi R8 LMS for the rounds at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta, with Frankie Montecalvo set to join Bell and Sweedler for the events. Audi ace Pierre Kaffer will be the team’s fourth driver for Daytona.

Bell and Sweedler have formed a potent partnership in recent years, scoring class victory at Daytona and winning the Patron Endurance Cup in 2014, winning the IMSA season-long title in GT Daytona in 2015 and then the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year in the GTE Am class, all in Ferraris.

However, Bell and Sweedler won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in an AJR Porsche in 2012 (in the then-American Le Mans Series GTC class), in what was Bell’s endurance race debut.

“It feels like coming home,” NBCSN IndyCar analyst Bell said in a release. “My first sports car team and my first sports car win with AJR at Sebring. I am so happy to be back.

“They are such a talented and experienced team that I am sure we will fall right back into the winning routine. I am looking forward to driving the Audi R8 LMS.

“Big thanks to everyone at Audi of America for helping us make this possible. It looks to be a very competitive and reliable piece.”

“It is nice to come full circle and be back with Alex Job for 2017,” Sweedler added. “I won my first big race with AJR at Sebring five years ago, so it is nice to be back in the family.

“The Audi R8 LMS is a great endurance package. Frankie is a welcome addition with a lot experience and speed. Townsend and I have had a lot of success in the longer races over the past four years and we are looking to continue winning with AJR, Audi and Frankie.”

Of note, there’s also been three other Rolex 24 and season confirmations in the last week or so:

  • JDC/Miller Motorsports has confirmed a full-season lineup of Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg with Chris Miller third driver for the Patron Endurance Cup races and Mathias Beche the fourth driver in the team’s No. 85 Oreca 07 Gibson.
  • Stevenson Motorsports has a single Audi R8 LMS for at least Daytona (the team ran two cars last year), with all four of its 2016 full-season drivers, Andrew Davis, Robin Liddell, Lawson Aschenbach and Matt Bell in the renumbered No. 57 entry. Stevenson will reveal the rest of its 2017 program after Daytona.
  • The TRG Porsche 911 RSR will carry the No. 991, a departure from the de facto trademark No. 66 for Kevin Buckler’s team when it was with Porsche, or No. 007 as it’s had in recent years with Aston Martin. The team has confirmed a full-season Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge entry with Craig Lyons and Kris Wilson sharing an Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the series’ GS class.

Red Bull Air Race: Yoshi Muroya joins Sato as Japanese champs at Indy

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool
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Takuma Sato isn’t the only major Japanese athlete to take home top honors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. Countryman Yoshihide Muroya joined him in that on Sunday after winning Red Bull Air Race at IMS, and the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in the process.

Fittingly, the 101st Indianapolis 500 champion was there on site to join him in the celebration.

Muroya flew with a track-record run in the final and erased the four-point deficit to points leader Martin Sonka. The record run came after a disappointing qualifying effort of 11th in the 14-pilot field in the Master Class.

A day after the win, Muroya joined Sato in heading to Sato’s new Verizon IndyCar Series team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s, Indianapolis-based shop.

A few social posts from Muroya’s victory and the subsequent celebration are below.

CHECKING OUT EACH OTHER’S RIDES

ASTLES BREAKS THOUGH AS WELL

Muroya wasn’t alone among big winners at the Speedway. In the Challenger Class, Melanie Astles of France became the first woman to win a major race at IMS, and is the first female winner in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

Nine women have competed in the Indianapolis 500 (Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge) and Mann is the first woman to have been on the pole position at IMS, having done so for the Freedom 100 in 2010 in Indy Lights.

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool