Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona after 17 hours — less than 7 hours remain

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Our next update will be around 10:30 a.m. ET. Please check back then.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona is 17 hours in, with seven hours remaining, and the overnight hours saw a major shift in fortunes for some heavy hitters.

Currently, Christian Fittipaldi leads overall in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi, with teammate Mike Conway running second in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac, making it an Action Express Racing 1-2 as the race enters its final seven hours.

The class leaders for Prototype, GTLM and GTD are below.

Prototype

No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi, Christian Fittipaldi

No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing DPi, Mike Conway

No. 32 United Autosports Ligier LMP2, Hugo de Sadeleer

GTLM

No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford GT, Richard Westbrook

No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, Joey Hand

No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, Antonio Garcia

GTD

No. 48 Paul Miller Racing, Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Andrea Caldarelli

No. 86 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian, Acura NSX GT3, Katherine Legge

No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, Adam Christodoulou

 

Below is a report on notable happenings from the overnight hours.

Troubles for Acura Team Penske

Both of the Acura Team Penske ARX-o5s have hit major problems after running in the top five. The No. 6 machine was the first Penske entry to be bitten as Dane Cameron brought the car back to the garage with an alternator problem.

The car did return to the race, but sits 24 laps down to the race leader.

The sister No. 7 entry, with Helio Castroneves behind the wheel, was running a strong second, the only other car on the same lap as the leader, but contact with the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac did significant damage to the car, forcing Castroneves to take it behind the wall.

Both cars currently running outside the top ten in the Prototype class, 11th for No. 7 (13th overall) and 12th for No. 6 (15th overall) and are down 23 laps and 24 laps to the leader.

Alonso, United Autosports Suffer Brake Problems

While the No. 32 Ligier from United Autosports sits a strong third, the sister No. 23 Ligier encountered major brake problems overnight. Fernando Alonso was forced to bring the car in for an unscheduled pit stop after initially reporting the issue, with the team eventually going behind the wall for repairs.

The car, with Alonso back behind the wheel, sits 26 laps off the lead in 13th (17th overall).

Tequila Patron ESM, Spirit of Daytona Both Out

A couple of strong dark horses in Prototype suffered major mechanical problems overnight that forced them to retire from the race.

The No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac, which led early and was running strongly among the frontrunners, suffered an engine problem that forced them to the garage. A short time later, the team announced they would be unable to continue, citing a misfire.

Similarly, both of the Tequila Patron ESM entries were running strong, marching their way forward after both cars started at the back of the Prototype class. But, both cars suffered terminal mechanical problems, a gearbox failure on the No. 2 and an engine problem on the No. 22, and both retired in the early morning hours.

Fords Dominating GTLM

The Ford GTs from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing have dominated the GTLM running so far, leading much of the way since the race began. Both cars sit 1-2 at the time of writing, with the No. 67 of Richard Westbrook now leading the No. 66 of Joey Hand. However, Corvette Racing continues to lurk behind them, with Antonio Garcia sitting third in the No. 3 C7.R.

GTD Still Close As the Final Seven Hours Begin

The GT Daytona class is still a wide-open contest with the top six cars all running on the same lap as the final seven hours begin.

The GTD leader is now Andrea Caldarelli in the No. 48 Lamborghini for Paul Miller Racing.

Running second is Katherine Legge in the No. 86 Acura NSX for Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian. Adam Christodoulou runs third in the No. 33 Mercedes for Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports.

Of note, the No. 29 Monteplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 had been the dominant car in GTD through the first half of the race, but a “nuclear penalty” for a balance of performance violation saw them serve a five-minute penalty that dropped them from the lead. They currently sit eighth in GTD.

Live timing can be found here.

Hour 16 standings

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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.