Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona after 23 hours — one hour left to checkered flag

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Our next update will be after the conclusion of the race at 2:30 p.m. ET. Please check back then.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona has less than one hour to go, and excitement and anticipation is building to see who the winners will be in the three classes.

Here’s the leaders for Prototype, GTLM and GTD:

Prototype

No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi, Felipe Albuquerque

No. 54 Core Autosport, Oreca LMP2, Colin Braun

No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing DPi, Mike Conway

GTLM

No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford GT, Ryan Briscoe

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

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

GTD

No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Team, Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Mirko Bortolotti

No. 86 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian, Acura NSX GT3, Alvaro Parente

No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, Jeroen Bleekemolen

Of note, one thing that could impact the final hour of the race is rain. It began to rain lightly with about five minutes left in Hour 23. The weather forecast/radar indicates a large storm to the west of Daytona.

Below is a report on notable happenings from Hours 21 through 23:

IT’S A NEW RECORD

Given that there have only been four full-course cautions (for 28 laps) thus far in the first 23 hours, a new record for most laps and longest distance run in the Rolex 24 appears very likely.

By comparison, last year’s race had 21 full-course cautions that impacted nearly half the race (298 laps).

ACTION EXPRESS NO. 5 BOUNCING BACK FROM OVERHEATING ISSUES

The No. 5 Action Express Mustang Sampling Cadillac Dpi came into the final four hours of the race hopefully having overcome what had been a troubling overheating issue between Hours 17 and 20.

“It seems to be under control,” one of the three co-drivers, Christian Fittipaldi, said on FS1. “We’re trying to make it as much as we can. … After we came into the garage, we think we found the solution and now we’re just working according to our expectations.

“If you look at it historically, this race has a lot of yellows. But for one reason or other, we’ve had, what, 2-3 yellows? This thing has turned into a 24-hour sprint.

“At some point, the machinery is going to give because we’re used to having a lot more yellows than what we’ve had. At the end of the day, it’s the same for everyone and we just need to make the best of what we have.”

ALONSO GOAL GOES FROM WINNING TO JUST FINISHING

With the No. 23 United Autosports Ligier LMP2 Prototype suffering a number of issues during the first 20 hours, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso has had to adjust his hopes and expectations for the remainder of the race.

“I think now the goal has shifted to just finish the race, my first 24-hour endurance race,” Alonso told FS1. “We have too many issues to have any possibility to fight for a top position. The puncture, the brakes then the throttle, a little bit of everything.

“The pace was there. We didn’t have the pace in practice and qualifying, but today we were very competitive. We were second-third fastest. At least a podium was a possibility.

“It was a shame but nevertheless, I’m having fun. I’m sad when there’s a driving change, I don’t want to get out of the car because when I’m driving it, I’m enjoying it. It’s been a nice experience. Hopefully, now we’ll see the checkered flag. That’s the goal.”

Alonso put to rest speculation about whether he’ll be back to try the Rolex again.

“It’s been a good learning experience and I can’t wait to have another go-round in the 24 Hours,” he told FS1.

PAUL TRACY TALKS ALLMENDINGER, CASTRONEVES

Former IndyCar driver and current NBC Sports IndyCar analyst Paul Tracy had a number of interesting things to say during an interview on FS1.

Among the topics he discussed:

* On A.J. Allmendinger: “This is no slight to A.J., but I think if he had not been stuck in mediocre Cup programs the last five, six years, I think he could have done amazing things in road racing, IndyCar, maybe even get to Formula One. But he went the Red Bull route and kind of got stuck in this no-man’s land of NASCAR. I think, his career, with so much more results, I think he could have had had he not gone in that direction.”

* On Helio Castroneves switching from IndyCar to IMSA: “Obviously, those guys are in their 40s now, so it’s not going to go on forever in IndyCar. The talent level now in the younger guys that are coming up like (Josef) Newgarden, those guys are the best of the best. No doubt that Castroneves still has as much speed as anyone out there, he was almost on the pole for this race. So, changing from one type of car to another and then immediately almost being on the pole the first race, he’ll continue to run in this until whenever he wants to stop driving. Until he tells Roger (Penske) one day, ‘Hey, I’m going to hang up my helmet,’ he’s got a ride.”

SCOTT PRUETT PREPARES TO SAY GOODBYE FOR THE FINAL TIME

Scott Pruett is in the final hour of his 50-year racing career.

Pruett will retire after today’s checkered flag drops. He looks loose and relaxed and even with how key this race is to him, he’s still the quintessential teammate.

“It’s been business as usual,” Pruett told FS1. “We’ve had just an up-and-down time, coming out of the box Lexus was running real strong, running top 2 and top 3 with both cars, had some issues, stayed in the top 5, had some other issues. But it’s been great. You never know what’s going to happen in this race.”

While trying to put his retirement aside until the race is over, Pruett still did get a little wistful talking about being at Daytona one last time for one last Rolex 24.

“The memories here, the experiences here, the fans here, are second to none,” he told FS1. “I’m so proud to be a part of it. For my last race, I couldn’t think of any better place to be.”

Pruett isn’t scheduled to have one final stint in the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3, but that could change. He knows the significance of finishing for teammates David Heinermeier Hansson, Dominik Farnbacher and Jack Hawksworth for the overall IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship points.

While it would be a great way to finish his career driving the last laps of today’s race, Pruett is still the consummate teammate.

“It kind of depends on how things unfold,” he told FS1. “They wanted to (have him drive) but because of rotations and some other stuff, and these guys are with Lexus and 3GT focus and doing the best they can in the championship for the whole year, we’ll see how it goes.

“I’m ready to go in if they need me.”

PENSKE ON ACURA TEAM DEBUT

It won’t be the finish that Roger Penske and everyone associated with the new two-car Acura Team Penske wanted, but he’s looking to going forward.

“I think the race has been amazing, fast cars, everybody’s been racing hard the whole day and night,” Penske told FS1 “We had an alternator go out on one of the cars and Helio got hit, but for us, if we can finish the 24 Hours and we know we have some speed in our cars, we’re looking forward to get to Sebring (next race on the IMSA schedule).

“But this is a great test for us, endurance, our pit crews and for Acura to have something as good as they’ve given us is terrific.”

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.