Photo courtesy of IMSA

Corvette Racing building for Rolex 24 three-peat at 2017 Roar

Leave a comment

While racing other teams is one thing, racing teammates can oftentimes be more rewarding – or frustrating.

Such was the case for Corvette Racing’s two cars in last year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

When the checkered flag fell, the two cars finished 1-2 in GT Le Mans (GTLM) competition, with the No. 4 team of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler earning a 0.034-second win – the closest finish in Rolex 24 history (including all classes).

Coming in a close second was the No. 3 team of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller. Garcia and Magnussen were part of the class-winning Corvette in the 2015 Rolex, meaning Corvette Racing is now going for three in a row in sports car racing’s most prestigious race later this month.

Both Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs are back this year – and with the same intent in mind in the Rolex 24 later this month: to beat the other, as well as all the other teams that will be participating.

To see what they have collectively, both teams will be taking part in this weekend’s three-day Roar Before The 24 at DIS.

“We’ve been able to accomplish a lot in our testing in October through December, which will bode well for how we approach the Roar,” Gavin said in a release. “We know how well the Corvette C7.R works at Daytona so we’re heading there with a lot of confidence.”

Added Milner, “The performance of Corvette Racing last year was outstanding, and that is evident by the success we enjoyed. In this class, you have to keep striving to maximize every opportunity you can. That’s why the Roar is so important if we want to continue last year’s momentum into another strong Rolex 24.”

Winning last year’s Rolex 24 was like a rocket being launched from nearby Cape Canaveral. Not only was it the first Rolex win for all three drivers, they moved on to win the next race, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

In addition, the team went on to capture checkered flags at Lime Rock and Road America to ultimately lead Gavin and Milner to the 2016 GTLM Driver’s Championship, as well as lead Chevrolet to win the Manufacturer’s title.

“Everything seems very positive going into the Roar,” Fassler said. “We saw last year how important it is to turn lots of laps in order to arrive at a good baseline for the race. We are of course hoping to repeat that again.”

That won’t be the case if Garcia has anything to say about it. He gave Gavin all he could handle in the closing laps of last year’s Rolex and definitely wants to see that outcome turn out differently in 2017.

“I feel like we are very well prepared for this year’s Roar at Daytona,” Garcia said. “Corvette Racing has won the last two years there in GTLM and the nature of the track seems to be very good for us. This is an important three days coming up with not a lot of time for any other big changes to the car once we return for the race. The goal is to leave the Roar with a good plan and setup for the Rolex 24.”

The Rolex 24 – and the Roar – are integral parts to Corvette Racing’s legacy. The team’s first-ever race came in the 1999 Rolex and has gone on to compete in 170 events worldwide – with 102 victories, including five in 2016. Corvette Racing also has earned 11 Manufacturer and Team championships in the American Le Mans Series and WeatherTech Championship, three overall wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and eight wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“At this point, the guys are totally motivated an anxious to get back on the track to defend all our 2016 championships,” Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan said. “I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be the best year of competition yet in GTLM!”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Indy Carb Day Special (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS – Alongside NBCSN’s coverage of Carb Day practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, we have the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, which this week features interviews from Indy 500 media day leading into Carb Day.

Anders Krohn is back in action, ahead of a busy day for him as he will be in the booth calling the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires’ Freedom 100.

Interviews took place with Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon and Fernando Alonso. Alonso’s coverage highlighted media day, as there was an absurd number of people populating around his station on Thursday.

Dixon has the pole for Sunday’s race, with Carpenter starting second, Alonso fifth and Andretti eighth.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


It’s ‘Indy Leist’ – Matheus Leist, Carlin dominate Freedom 100

Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS – Brazilian rookie Matheus Leist has his first career victory in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires following a flag-to-flag victory in the No. 26 Carlin Dallara IL-15 Mazda from pole position in the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It was a tough race, we had the pace and the car was just amazing. It was just an amazing race. It’s my first race on an oval and I couldn’t be happier,” Leist told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt.

The usual photo finishes that have been a staple of this race ceded to Leist’s dominance, with a win by 0.7760 of a second over Aaron Telitz, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires champion posting his second podium finisher of the year.

Telitz edged Dalton Kellett for second at the line by just 0.0641 of a second. Both drivers took shots at Leist but were unable to pass him.

“Definitely an exciting finish. I was trying to get around Matheus. Our car was good in traffic but they were more trimmed out. When I got alongside, I couldn’t get him,” Telitz told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis. “I had limited opportunities. I wore off my front tires, then went more aggressive on my roll bars. We had a great car but not the car to win.”

“It was a great move by Aaron. I had a big run on Leist and have another photo finish. I was trying to play with the apron. Aaron got me – it was great pass by him,” Kellett told Hargitt. “We go slower. It makes for great drafting.

Meanwhile with Kyle Kaiser and Nico Jamin having anonymous finishes in ninth and 10th, and with Colton Herta crashing out on the first lap, it’s brought the championship even tighter.

Herta’s boom-or-bust rookie season in the No. 98 Andretti/Steinbrenner Racing car rolled on. After starting second, the 17-year-old ran on the outside of teammate Dalton Kellett through Turn 2, but spun after contact between the two – and collected teammate Ryan Norman in the No. 48 car in the process. Kellett was lucky to avoid damage to the right front wheel and suspension, which touched the left rear of Herta’s car to send him spinning.

It shifted the order with Zachary Claman De Melo moving up to second off the start behind Leist, with Kellett third, Neil Alberico fourth and Aaron Telitz in fifth. Kyle Kaiser and Nico Jamin noved up to ninth and 11th from 11th and 13th in the incident, respectively.

“Well, I don’t know if I can say what he was thinking!” Bryan Herta, Colton’s father, told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt. “It’s a shame. They both had great cars. Looking at it, maybe he didn’t know Dalton was still on the inside. It’s not how you want to start the race. Unfortunately he is out early.”

Both drivers were understandably disappointed, but relieved to be OK after being checked and released from the infield care center, cleared to drive.

“I’m fine. Little X-Ray. No problem. I saw (Kellett) but I don’t really know what happened. I need to look at the data and video,” the younger Herta told Beekhuis.

Norman told Beekhuis, “I’m physically fine, but just really disappointed. It was our highest starting position. Wrong spot at the wrong time. Andretti gave me a great car all month. We’ll come back stronger at Road America.”

Kellett, post-race, told Hargitt about the incident: “I’m on the inside, it’s the first lap, caught some dirty air, I understeered up into him and that collected him, and collected Ryan. You never want to have contact with your teammates. At least we’ve got a podium finish.”

The restart occurred at the conclusion of Lap 5, and start of Lap 6, after the first and only caution flag of the race.

By Lap 15, Leist led by 0.6077 of a second but Kellett, Telitz and Alberico had moved up to second, third and fourth with Claman De Melo falling back from second down to fifth.

At half distance Telitz moved within striking distance of Leist into second. At the halfway mark it was Leist 0.3486 of a second ahead of Telitz with Kellett, Alberico and Claman De Melo in the top five.

Leist pulled away from there and the only photo finish this time around was for second, as Telitz got Kellett right at the line. The gap was a huge one by recent Indy Lights standards, 0.7760 of a second to Telitz and 0.8401 to Kellett.

Alberico and Santiago Urrutia, who started 12th but moved forward during the race, completed the top five.

Forgettable races occurred for points leaders Kaiser and Jamin, who ended ninth and 10th. Unofficially they still sit 1-2 in points with 151 and 137, Herta falls to third with 129 while Telitz and Alberico (122) and Leist (121) are within range.

Bourdais, Coyne upbeat during Carb Day practice check-ins (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS – Sebastien Bourdais hopes to be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, just over a week after his accident left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in an accident in qualifying.

The Frenchman has already been released from IU Methodist Hospital on Wednesday and during NBCSN’s coverage of Carb Day practice, checked in with the booth crew to update his recovery progress.

“I think I’m doing as well as I could have ever hoped for,” Bourdais told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee. “My surgery went well. I was walking two days after the wreck. It’s been a little weird! But the pain is managed.”

Team owner Dale Coyne also checked in on Bourdais’ progress as well.

“He’s feeling good. He moved out of hospital Wednesday,” Coyne told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt. “If all goes as planned, we’ll get him out here Sunday.”

As for when Bourdais can return to the cockpit?

“The surgeon said he’s out for season… of course Seb says he wants to do Le Mans!” Coyne laughed. “It’s going to be a long recovery. But Sonoma? Maybe.”

Also during the segment, NBCSN pit reporter Jon Beekhuis noted an older specification rear wing configuration on the back of Bourdais’ replacement, James Davison’s No. 18 GEICO Honda. This should help Davison on Sunday.

Hinchcliffe engine issue hits Carb Day practice, as Castroneves leads

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS – Helio Castroneves has led the final one-hour practice session ahead of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, in the No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet, but it’s a Honda that made the bigger news during the extended session.

Another Honda engine issue – at least the eighth this month between the INDYCAR Grand Prix, practice and qualifying – now struck James Hinchcliffe during the final 20 minutes of the session in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

Heading into Turn 3, Hinchcliffe’s gold and black car took on a distinctly white hue by contrast, as smoke billowed out the back of the car. It littered the track between Turns 3 and 4.

Yet as Hinchcliffe, the 2016 race polesitter explained to NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt, the timing was as good as it could have been considering had it happened later it would have been in the race itself.

“I felt what the engineers would call a suboptimal rapid negative acceleration heading into Turn 3,” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN. “We’ve had some issues across the Honda camp. It’s less than ideal.

“I felt bad going into 3. I hope we weren’t leaking too badly. I’m happy it didn’t happen 20 minutes later, that would have been Lap 5 of the race. We’ll get an engine, we’ll put it in. But that was by far the best we’ve felt on the 5 car all month. Let’s put this thing to bed. The car feels really good in traffic.”

Hinchcliffe will start 17th on Sunday. He ended his truncated practice in 14th.

Photo: IndyCar

Behind another gold car – the gold-and-white No. 3 car of Castronves – Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan completed the top three, with Scott Dixon and Fernando Alonso completing the top five.

Speeds are below.