IndyCar title contenders could get whittled down at Sonoma

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After Mid-Ohio in 2012, there were just three races remaining in the IZOD IndyCar Series season. After Mid-Ohio this Sunday, there are five left in 2013.

Here’s a few championship tidbits to note from that:

  • With five races to go in 2012, Ryan Hunter-Reay actually led Will Power by 34 points, 335-301, following his third consecutive win of the season in Toronto.
  • A mechanical failure that hit Hunter-Reay at Mid-Ohio dropped him to second in points, 5 behind Power (379-374).
  • Next race in Sonoma, Power extended the lead from 5 to 36 (422-386) as Power finished second and RHR collided with Alex Tagliani.
  • Hunter-Reay closed the gap down to 17 points with a win in Baltimore and overtook Power at the last race.

This year, Hunter-Reay still has a chance, but he’ll have to claw back almost double the deficit to Power’s Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Castroneves leads Scott Dixon by 31 points (453-422) with RHR third, 65 back on 388. Marco Andretti still holds an outside shot at 76 points back with 377, but needs help, especially as he is yet to win this year.
  • Like at Mid-Ohio, Sonoma has been a Penske/Ganassi stranglehold for the last six years. Penske has three straight wins at the track. Andretti (2006), Dixon (2007) and Castroneves (2008) have a win apiece; Hunter-Reay has yet to finish better than eighth in six prior Sonoma starts. Andretti’s win in ’06 was the last outside the Penske/Ganassi stable.
  • With Castroneves not having failed to finish a single lap this year and with only one finish outside the top-10 (13th at Brazil), he’ll need to hit trouble to allow the Andretti Autosport pair into contention. Wins for Dixon though, can carry him past with the 10-plus point gap between first and second.

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.”