Less speed means no Toyota drivers in Top 5 at Pocono

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Was this weekend a success or a failure for Toyota Racing Development at Pocono Raceway? It depends on how you look at it.

With TRD’s decision to de-tune their engines for this weekend’s race as well as next weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway, the lack of horsepower proved costly as no Toyota drivers cracked the Top 5 in yesterday’s Party in the Poconos 400 – the first Sprint Cup race this year that didn’t see a Toyota driver finish there or lead a lap. Kyle Busch had a shot at a Top 5 at the end, but lost multiple positions on the final restart and wound up sixth.

But then there’s the fact there were no blown TRD motors for the first time in three weeks, which should be heartening for the manufacturer after another recent spate of high-profile engine failures.

TRD is striving for more reliability, which means everything in a series that puts consistency over all else. As we mentioned earlier this weekend, horsepower and performance has not been the problem for Toyota, but those two things mean nothing if all of their cars can’t be there at the end of the day regularly fighting for wins and Top-5 and 10s.

Still, at Pocono, the horsepower deficit didn’t make things easy for their drivers. Take Denny Hamlin for instance, who can ill-afford any problems with his engines as he tries to race for a wild-card berth in the Chase but nonetheless always wants to run up front.

“I think all of us had to play defense on the straightaway which is really tough, but I made the best of it,” said Hamlin, who finished eighth. “It’s about where I thought we would end up, but we need wins and we’re going to have to be aggressive and do everything we can to do that.”

With the Sprint Cup regular season now in the second half, Hamlin appears to be feeling more pressure to get himself into Chase contention (although for his part, he contended yesterday that he was “very optimistic” about his chances). But TRD knows that all the speed in the world will be of no help to Hamlin or their other drivers if the motors keep going back to the garage in smoking heaps.

It’s better for them to get their issues sorted and sacrifice a bit now – in hopes of  a championship payoff later.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III