Photo: Wayne Taylor Racing

IMSA: Van der Zande on the move to No. 10 Cadillac

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Renger van der Zande’s continued rise in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship rolls on with confirmation Friday morning he’ll take over as Jordan Taylor’s co-driver in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for 2018.

The rapid Dutchman made his name in IMSA competition in the now-defunct Prototype Challenge class from 2013 to 2016, winning that class title that last year, then starred despite a car disadvantage first with the Riley Multimatic Mk. 30 Gibson, then the Ligier JS P217 Gibson at VISIT FLORIDA Racing this year in his first year in Prototype.

Van der Zande’s pass of Dane Cameron at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca stood out as perhaps the defining pass of the IMSA season and helped position him for this opportunity. With VISIT FLORIDA’s support rumored to be waning and a vacancy at Wayne Taylor Racing’s team left by Ricky Taylor, like Cameron, going to Acura Team Penske, van der Zande now switches to the championship-winning seat in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) format.

“Renger was at the top of our list when it came to finding a replacement for Ricky and, after doing our due diligence to make sure he was free and clear of any other obligations, we decided to move forward to further the negotiations,” team owner Wayne Taylor said.

“We are absolutely thrilled that it worked out that he can join us. Because Ricky and Jordan were fighting for the championship until the last race, we couldn’t really announce anything about Ricky until the season was over, which had us a little concerned that it would be difficult to find a good driver.

“Based on everything we’ve seen, Renger is going to fit in well here. Speed-wise, he’s going to be good. I think he will be good on equipment. He has a great personality and fits in with the team and our sponsors really, really well. Konica Minolta and Cadillac and GM are all on board and are very excited. We are really looking forward to this.”

Van der Zande added, “Needless to say, I’m very happy to join the Konica Minolta Cadillac team – it’s a mega opportunity. I have to say, for me, being with VISIT FLORIDA Racing was a good step up from LMPC, and now joining a Prototype championship-winning team is very special. The atmosphere on the team is great. We are preparing to go full speed ahead for 2018 season, focusing on getting the drivers and the mechanics and everybody else working as a team. It feels like I’m jumping into a warm bath.

“In the last four years, my career went up from a guy trying to make a name in the sport to someone asked to race in the cars of championship-caliber teams. I feel very privileged to be in that position. Now, being contacted by Wayne and getting asked to drive for this championship-winning team, that’s the crown for driving all sorts of cars all over the world for so many years.

“Yes, there will be pressure on the track, and even more by replacing a family member. But pressure is always there – it doesn’t matter. I’m the type of driver who’s willing to take the risks. Of course, you have to be smart and do it in a clever way, but I’m racing the way I’m racing and I think it’ll fit very nicely.”

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.”