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Start your engines: What you need to know about the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

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The 56th edition of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona once again promises lots of action and excitement.

The race starts this afternoon and will go 24 hours straight – and unless there is a full-course caution, cars will keep going no matter what, including racing in the rain.

Here’s a quick primer to give you the key details for today’s race:

RACE: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener – the Rolex 24 at Daytona

TIME: Race begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday and concludes 24 hours later at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

WEATHER: The race should be dry until around 10 a.m. ET on Sunday, when the Wunderground.com forecast says precipitation chances will be 25 percent, increasing to 48 percent and chance of scattered thunderstorms at 1 p.m. ET and with a good likelihood the race will finish wet, with rain chances increasing to 63 percent by 2 p.m. ET. The race concludes at 2:30 p.m. ET.

TV BROADCAST SCHEDULE:

SATURDAY

2-5 p.m. ET – FOX (green flag at 2:30 p.m. ET)

5-10 p.m. ET – FS2

10-11 p.m. ET – Fox Sports Go

11 p.m. – 12 a.m. ET – FS1

SUNDAY

12-8 a.m. ET – Fox Sports Go

8-10 a.m. ET – FS2

10 a.m. – 3 p.m. ET – FS1 (checkered flag at 2:30 p.m. ET)

RADIO:

* IMSA Radio (available online) will broadcast the entire race. Will also be broadcast via SiriusXM (Sirius Channel 138/XM 202/Internet App Channel 972).

TIMING & SCORING:

* Available on IMSA.com

NUMBER OF ENTRIES (50 total):

Prototype (20)

GTLM (9)

GTD (21)

TOP QUALIFIERS

Prototype class:

  1. No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac Dpi-V.R Cadillac Dpi – 1:35.083 — Jordan Taylor, Renger Van Der Zande, Ryan Hunter-Reay
  2. No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura Dpi – 1:36.090 – Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, Graham Rahal
  3. No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi – 1:36.194 – Filipe Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi

GTLM class:

  1. No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R – 1:42.779 – Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller
  2. No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford – 1:42.798 – Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais
  3. No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR – 1:42.927 – Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Gianmaria Bruni

GT Daytona class

  1. No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 – 1:46.049 – Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, Daniel Serra
  2. No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 – 1:46.502 – Miguel Molina, Ricardo Perez de Lara, Martin Fuentes, Santiago Creel, Matt Griffin
  3. No. 15 Racing Lexus RC F GT3 – 1:46.658 – Jack Hawksworth, David Heinemeier Hansson, Scott Pruett, Dominik Farnbacher

NOTES:

* First Rolex 24 race: 1962

* Most wins (driver): Hurley Haywood (5), Scott Pruett (5)

* Most wins (team): Chip Ganassi Racing (6)

* Most wins (manufacturer): Porsche (18)

* Grand Marshal: Chip Ganassi, who is also seeking his 200th career win as a motorsports team owner across all platforms, including IMSA, WEC, IndyCar and NASCAR

* One of the biggest names taking part in his first Rolex 24 is two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso

* Helio Castroneves makes his debut in IMSA as a full-time driver, moving from his previous career in IndyCar

* Acura Team Penske makes its official debut as a full-time IMSA organization, fielding two cars: No. 6 Prototype – Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud; No. 7 Prototype – Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, Graham Rahal

* Active Formula 1 Drivers (2):

Fernando Alonso (two-time World Champion, 32 career Grand Prix victories)

Lance Stroll (20 career Grand Prix starts)

* Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Winners (2): Juan Pablo Montoya (2 career victories), A.J. Allmendinger (1 career victory)

* Indianapolis 500 Winners (4): Helio Castroneves (3 victories), Juan Pablo Montoya (2 victories), Ryan Hunter-Reay (1 victory), Scott Dixon (1 victory)

* Verizon IndyCar Series Champions (4): Scott Dixon (4 championships), Juan Pablo Montoya (1 championship), Ryan Hunter-Reay (1 championship), Simon Pagenaud (1 championship)

* The field include 14 drivers who have won at least one IndyCar race, more than 30 drivers who have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and nine drivers who started the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

* Legendary racer Dan Gurney, who passed away on Jan. 14 at the age of 86, will be honored. Cars and drivers throughout the field will have commemorative car and helmet decals, the Fox Sports telecast has been dedicated to Gurney and a Sam Posey written and narrated tribute will close the Fox telecast following the race’s conclusion.

* The No. 30 Lola T70 that Gurney drove to victory in the 1966 Can-Am race at Bridgehampton, New York – the only Ford-powered car to ever win a Can-Am race – will lead the field around on its pre-race parade lap.

* Scott Pruett competes in the last race of his career. He retires after Sunday’s checkered flag. Pruett hopes to win a sixth Rolex 24, which would set a record for most championships by a driver. Pruett and his No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 racing team will start fourth in the GT Daytona (GTD) class.

* In case you’re wondering, yes, Jackie Chan Racing is partly owned by Chinese action movie star Jackie Chan.

NHRA shocker in Houston: John Force fails to qualify for first time since 2008, snaps 221-race streak

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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Sunday’s eliminations in the 31st annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston  just won’t be the same without John Force.

In one of the most stunning turn of events seen in the last decade-plus in NHRA drag racing, the legendary 16-time Funny Car champion and the sport’s all-time winningest driver on Saturday failed to qualify for Sunday’s main event of the race weekend.

It marks the first time Force, who turns 69 on May 4, failed to qualify for a race since Sept. 13, 2008 in Charlotte race, snapping a string of having made the eliminations in each of the subsequent 221 races until failing to do so Saturday.

“That is hard for me,” Force said after failing to go any faster than 222.29 mph in the four qualifying rounds for the race, two on Friday and the other two on Saturday. “You earn what you get. We didn’t put it in the show. We couldn’t get to half-track.

“We have had a lot of problems all year. At least I got my final shot to get in and I didn’t make it. I will be here tomorrow rooting on Robert, Courtney and Brittany (teammates Robert Hight and daughters Courtney and Brittany Force). I’ll be signing autographs for all the fans. I am sorry to all of you fans that I didn’t make it.”

Saturday’s failure to qualify marked only the 22nd time he’s DNQ’d in his 40-year professional drag racing career. He set a drag racing record by qualifying for 395 consecutive events from 1988 until April 2007.

“I am bummed that the boss didn’t get in. That was quite a streak he had going,” Hight said of hoss and father-in-law. “There is nobody better at rallying a team and leading a comeback than John Force.

“He loves the fight and he will do whatever it takes to get his team back on top. It really isn’t something to worry about because two of our Chevys are No.1 and No. 2 right now.

“We have good combinations and we just have to duplicate one of those set ups for John’s PEAK Funny car. He’ll be back next week in Charlotte.”

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As for the other classes (information courtesy NHRA Media Relations):Leah Pritchett set a new Top Fuel track record during the final qualifying session on Saturday to secure the top spot in Top Fuel heading into Sunday.Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fifth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Defending event champion Pritchett raced her Mopar Dodge dragster to a pass of 3.680-seconds at 326.00 mph. This is her first No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of her career.

“We’ve been developing our confidence the last couple of races,” Pritchett stated. “To be able to put it on the track is phenomenal. We know we need to be exceptional because our competition is exceptional.”

Pritchett will line up against Terry Brian in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Defending world champion Brittany Force locked-in the No. 2 spot after a 3.701 at 313.80 in her Monster Energy dragster. Tony Schumacher is seeded third and will face William Litton.

Hight’s final qualifying pass of 3.894 at 317.27 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro took him to the top of the Funny Car category. This is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season, second at Houston and 58th of his career.

“This is going to be a new ball game tomorrow,” Hight said. “With fresh asphalt and the sun being out; these cars are going to spin. It’s definitely going to be fun. Two of our Chevy’s are one and two (in Funny Car) which shows we have good combinations.”

Hight will face-off against Todd Simpson Sunday morning in the first round. Teammate Courtney Force sits in the No. 2 position with a pass of 3.911 at 295.14 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro and two-time world champion Matt Hagan rounds out the top three.

Anderson, four-time Pro Stock world champion, remained atop the field Saturday with his pass of 6.492 at 213.00 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro from the first qualifying session on Friday. He notched his third consecutive No. 1 qualifier of the season and is seeking his first victory of the year.

“I haven’t had great Sunday’s yet,” Anderson stated. “I know I’m going to break through one of these days though. The weather is going to be great again tomorrow. I feel good about it, I’m excited and so far it’s just been a great weekend.”

Anderson will race Steve Graham in the first round of eliminations. Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualified in the No. 2 position with a pass of 6.504 at 212.36 in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro and Tanner Gray is third.

Eliminations at the NHRA SpringNationals begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway.

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS FOR ELIMINATIONS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.680 seconds, 326.00 mph vs. 16. Terry Brian, 4.275, 284.62; 2. Brittany Force, 3.701, 320.20 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, 4.081, 287.17; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.703, 322.73 vs. 14. Bill Litton, 3.927, 306.60; 4. Billy Torrence, 3.737, 317.87 vs. 13. Kebin Kinsley, 3.819, 313.51; 5. Antron Brown, 3.740, 324.98 vs. 12. Terry McMillen, 3.783, 314.31; 6. Clay Millican, 3.746, 315.78 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.766, 313.73; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.748, 320.05 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.766, 316.23; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.754, 318.17 vs. 9. Steve Torrence, 3.759, 313.88. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Totten, 4.636, 216.34.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.894, 317.27 vs. 16. Todd Simpson, Dodge Charger, 4.318, 288.33; 2. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.911, 313.58 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.151, 283.49; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.913, 311.85 vs. 14. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.077, 305.77; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.918, 317.42 vs. 13. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.026, 308.99; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.918, 301.94 vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.017, 307.51; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.925, 311.41 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.994, 311.34; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.926, 313.00 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.989, 313.37; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.927, 316.52 vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.938, 314.09. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 4.341, 273.05; 18. John Force, 4.625, 222.29.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.492, 213.00 vs. 16. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.775, 205.60; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.504, 212.36 vs. 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.621, 208.65; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.507, 211.99 vs. 14. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.592, 210.93; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.513, 212.29 vs. 13. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.548, 210.67; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.518, 211.99 vs. 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.545, 210.50; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.525, 212.79 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.532, 212.73; 7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.527, 212.29 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 211.79; 8. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.528, 211.93 vs. 9. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.530, 211.33.