Potential win for Junior stopped by battery issues

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A battery failure quickly became much worse for Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose bid to win last night’s NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway turned into his worst result of the Sprint Cup season.

Earnhardt was running third until Lap 187, when he brought his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to the pits for an unscheduled stop due to a loss of power. After switching to the back-up battery, he returned to the track only to be hit with a pass-through penalty for speeding onto pit road by NASCAR; Earnhardt’s gauges were off as he was entering the pits, making him unable to determine how fast he was going.

However, his crew chief, Steve Letarte, decided to give his driver fresh tires on his return to the pits. That’s not allowable per the NASCAR rulebook, which says all drivers that earn a pass-through penalty must go all the way down pit road without stopping. That forced a third trip for Earnhardt to the pits, and by the time it was over, NASCAR’s most popular driver was five laps down in 35th.

“All the gauges just went haywire and so I couldn’t read the gauges to really diagnosis what was happening,” said Earnhardt, who gained one of his laps back before finishing 29th. “But once you start to think about it, you are like, ‘Well, if all the gauges are going bad, we have electrical issues.’ Then you go right to the battery. The thing quit running going into (Turn) 3 and I couldn’t stay on the track if it wasn’t the battery — we would have stopped on the track and lost all those laps.

“I came down pit road, sped, no motor, no [tachometer]… Figured out by the time I got to the pit stall, it was the battery.  We changed the switch over to battery two, get fired up, take off, come down pit road and change tires, came down pit road and serve the penalty, and that was the night.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, points

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

POINTS: Standings after Rolex 24 at Daytona l Michelin Endurance Cup standings l Daytona endurance points

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.