Photo courtesy United Autosports

Rayhall: Title time in Portugal

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Editor’s note: Sean Rayhall, one of America’s rising driving talents, will file a series of blogs throughout the year chronicling his season in the European Le Mans Series, co-driving with John Falb at Zak Brown and Richard Dean’s United Autosports team in its Ligier JS P3.

His sixth blog is simple: they won the LMP3 championship, and here’s the recap (previous blogs are linked here; SilverstoneLe MansRed Bull RingPaul Ricard, Spa).

We rolled into this weekend in Portimao, Portugal needing a mistake-free race in order to clinch the championship. With how wild the race was at Spa, this was a bit of a taller order than it seems. It was nice to have my girlfriend Bailey with me this weekend, which helped my peace of mind.

We had a lot of oversteer in the car initially which wasn’t going to be comfortable for four hours, so United Autosports went to work dialing us in to have a good race car on old tires. It turned out that ultimately was the case, and we weren’t sure how qualifying was going to go, but we knew over four hours we would be in the hunt.

Qualifying was shortened by red flags, which unfortunately only gave us one timed lap, and a few others were able to get two. We would’ve started on the front row but I went a little wide in Turn 1 which violated track limits, and deleted our only lap. Therefore we had to start dead last behind all the GT cars. That was a bit devastating, but I had a lot of faith in our team and the race pace we had shown that all was going to be alright in the end.

Nerves were flying Sunday morning, but I knew we just had to go to work and things would play out alright. I picked car by car off and ended my double stint in second place after starting 17th in LMP3. It was a mega feeling getting out of the car after one of the best races we had put together so far.

John worked really hard getting himself into the lead, but ultimately didn’t have the pace over the last hour to hold off our teammate Christian England (co-drove with Wayne Boyd and Mark Patterson) in the No. 3 car, which ended up giving us a P2 finish and the championship.

I really can’t put into words how special this was for us and the team. Everyone was in absolute tears of joy, minus our engineer “G-Baby” (Gary Robertshaw) who simply refuses to show emotion… but he gave us a smile which was plenty enough for me.

Every single person on the United Autosports crew won this championship out of sheer dedication and hard work, and I can’t thank them all enough for the work and talent they brought to the table this year. When days didn’t go our way, we all dug in and worked even harder, and that’s what champions are made of.

I want to thank you all for following this year and being a part of the biggest accomplishment in my racing career yet! It means more to me than you could ever know. Oh.. and you can bet we had one or more drinks at the banquet. The celebration was mega!

Stay tuned for 2018… but I can’t wait to see what we do next.

IndyCar star Scott Dixon to test skills on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Scott Dixon will be the latest IndyCar driver to enter the realm of reality TV when he auditions in Indianapolis next week for “American Ninja Warrior.”

The four-time IndyCar champion, nicknamed “The Iceman,” thought it sounded fun when he was approached with the idea of trying out. As the competition has drawn near, Dixon is wondering what he got himself into.

“I feel a lot of pressure on this one,” Dixon told The Associated Press before heading to this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. “When it got to be about a month away, I figured I should start training for it, and it’s pretty hard stuff.”

IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan all auditioned for the show, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of obstacle courses in qualifying rounds across the country. None of IndyCar’s contestants advanced out of the first round and neither did NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Dixon’s appearance comes about the same time the Game Show Network has Sebastien Bourdais as a guest host for “Daily Draw” for the entire week leading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Most recently, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly teamed to finish fourth on “The Amazing Race,” and James Hinchcliffe was a runner-up last year on “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves is a former “DWTS” winner.

Dixon, the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 who ranks fourth on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, is accustomed to success. But the New Zealander not so sure he’s going to become the next great ninja. Most of his fitness work focuses on endurance training, and preparing for the obstacle course has taken Dixon out of his element.

“It’s not my wheelhouse,” he said. “This is agility kind of stuff and I’m looking forward to the process. I’m not looking forward so much to the failure, because it’s going to happen at some point, so I guess I just have to make the most of it and enjoy the experience.”

Dixon was famously robbed at gunpoint in the drive-thru of a Taco Bell last year hours after he won the pole for the Indy 500. Asked if his ninja training will have him better prepared should that happen again, he did not think so.

“I suppose if I run away it would help,” Dixon said. “But I don’t exactly have a ninja toolkit to get me through that situation.”