Foyt team returns to top spot in time for Indy

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Four-time Indianapolis 500 champion A.J. Foyt is, obviously, very much synonymous with the legendary race. But despite his status as a Brickyard icon, his team hadn’t been atop the series championship entering Indy since 1979, when he himself was leading the USAC standings going into the 63rd running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

But thanks to his current driver, Takuma Sato, that drought has come to an end. Sato’s second-place finish on Sunday in Sao Paulo enabled him to assume the IZOD IndyCar Series championship lead by 13 points over Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti. In addition, Sato is the first Foyt driver to lead the series’ table at any point since Kenny Brack did it on his way to the 1998 title.

A team that had been condemned to back-marker status for years is now ruling the roost. It’s a sign of just how much the IZOD IndyCar Series has become an unpredictable free-for-all this season.

But it’s been a pleasure to watch from the observer’s standpoint. One can safely assume that it’s been especially fun for A.J. Foyt Racing, which is going full speed ahead into the event that made its namesake famous.

“I don’t think I’ve ever come down Gasoline Alley [at Indianapolis Motor Speedway] and had to take a left to our pit box,” said team director Larry Foyt in reference to the series’ top teams pitting near the end of pit road for the “500.”

“This team is really doing a fantastic job. Takuma is driving just amazingly. It’s been good going into the month of May. Obviously, this is a long month and anything can happen, but [it’s] always a positive to have good momentum going into Indy.”

As for A.J. himself, he was feeling well enough to attend last weekend’s Kentucky Derby following recent back surgery that had kept him from seeing Sato’s win last month at Long Beach (he watched the race on television from his home in Texas before going under the knife a few days later). He did not attend the Sao Paulo round because of the long flight’s potential for hindering his recovery, but he is set to return to his customary spot atop his team’s pit box at Indy.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”