Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona after 20 hours — less than 4 hours remain

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Over 20 hours are in the books for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. But, while there are less than four hours remaining, there is still plenty of racing left to run, and with more frontrunners encountering problems, the race is far from over.

The class leaders at the Hour 20 mark are below.

Prototype

No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi, Joao Barbosa

No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing DPi, Felipe Nasr

No. 54 CORE Autosport Oreca 07 Gibson, Romain Dumas

GTLM

No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford GT, Sebastien Bourdais

No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, Scott Dixon

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

GTD

No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Franck Perera

No. 86 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian, Acura NSX GT3, AJ Allmendinger

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

Action Express Continues to Lead, But Problems Start to Surface

The two Action Express Racing cars still run 1-2 overall, but both have experienced cooling issues as the race heads to its closing stages.

The race-leading No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi took advantage of a full-course caution to make a quick dive into the garage area to check engine temperatures and add water. While the trip took many by surprise, it appeared to only be a minor check to add water and the car quickly rejoined, maintaining its lead. Joao Barbosa is currently at the helm.

However, the sister No. 31 Cadillac, which at one time was within half-a-second and pushing for the lead, was forced to spend a little extra time in the garage fighting the same issue, and actually lost three laps in the process. Still, the No. 31, now in the hands of Felipe Nasr, runs second.

Behind them, a new challenger has emerged in the No. 54 CORE Autosport Oreca, which moved into third after the No. 32 United Autosports entry encountered problems. Though four laps off the lead, the No. 54 machine, currently with Romain Dumas at the controls, could capitalize if the aforementioned issues for Action Express surface again.

Fords Continue to Dominate GTLM

The two Ford GTs from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing remain dominant in GTLM, but are running nose-to-tail and poised to stage an intra-team battle for the GTLM win. Currently, the No. 66 leads, in the hands of Sebastien Bourdais, with Scott Dixon running second in the No. 67.

However, Corvette Racing is still in contention, the No. 3 C7.R running third and still on the same lap as the Fords. Mike Rockenfeller is currently at the wheel.

Lamborghini, Acura, and Mercedes Doing Battle for GTD Lead

The close GT Daytona battle sees Lamborghini, Acura, and Mercedes emerging as the frontrunning marques, with the top four in class all on the same lap.

The No. 11 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 from GRT Grasser Racing Team has moved into the lead with Franck Perera.

However, the Michael Shank No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 from Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian is running a strong second, overcoming a brief off-course excursion after driver Katherine Legge was bumped off track by the No. 38 Performance Tech Racing Oreca as they approached the International Horseshoe.

Legge quickly regrouped and did not lose much time. AJ Allmendinger is now at the helm.

The No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini sits third, with Andrea Caldarelli at the wheel.

The No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports runs fourth, having recently spent time in the top three as well, with Luca Stolz now in control.

Below is a report on other notable happenings.

Wayne Taylor Racing Out After Several Tire Failures

A number of Prototype entries have experienced tire problems in the first 20 hours of running, but Wayne Taylor Racing has probably been hit the hardest. Suffering no fewer than seven punctures, they had their latest one late in Hour 17, forcing Renger Van Der Zande to once again bring the No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R back to the garage.

Team owner Wayne Taylor subsequently retired the car, citing the aforementioned tire problems and an inability to determine a solution to prevent them.

United Autosports Hits More Problems

United Autosports’ No. 32 Ligier had been running a strong third, behind the top two Cadillacs from Action Express, but a clutch problem forced an unscheduled pit stop for repairs.

They were able to rejoin relatively quickly, but dropped to fifth, seven laps off the lead. Paul Di Resta is now behind the wheel.

Live timing can be found here.

Hour 20 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.