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: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.