Cameron, Team Sahlen on pole for GRAND-AM at Road America

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Dane Cameron won the pole for tomorrow’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series event at Road America, the first of two big sports car races taking place this weekend at the Wisconsin road course. Cameron put the No. 42 Team Sahlen BMW/Riley he co-drives with Wayne Nonnamaker at the front of the VisitFlorida.com Sports Car 250 grid with a track-record lap at 2 minutes, 0.028 seconds.

That marks a bit of history for Team Sahlen, which becomes the first team to earn poles in all four of GRAND-AM’s major classes: The Rolex Series’ Daytona Prototype and Grand Touring, and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge’s Grand Sport and Street Tuner.

Joining Cameron and Nonnamaker on the front row will be the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli. Taylor got the No. 10 machine to second on the grid thanks to a lap of 2 minutes, 0.575 seconds.

The Chip Ganassi Racing No. 01 BMW/Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas will roll off third, followed by the No. 4 8Star Motorsports Corvette DP of IndyCar’s Sebastien Bourdais and Emilio DiGuida in fourth. Rolex Series points leaders Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel will start seventh in the No. 2 Starworks BMW/Riley.

In GT, the pole went to the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 of Leh Keen and Alessandro Balzan. Keen set a GT track record with a lap of 2 minutes, 11.183 seconds, enabling the No. 63 to beat the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 of Paul Dalla Lana, Bill Auberlen and Billy Johnson for P1 in the class.

The No. 70 Speedsource Mazda6 of Tom Long and Sylvain Tremblay claimed pole in GX with a lap of 2 minutes, 19.310 seconds.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.