Allmendinger back for Penske at Fontana (UPDATED)

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AJ Allmendinger will race for Team Penske in the IZOD IndyCar Series finale – and with sponsor IZOD, which had backed him earlier this year.

“I’m looking forward to racing the IZOD Chevy in the IndyCar season finale,” Allmendinger said in a team statement. “It’s always a great opportunity to compete for Team Penske and I had great time and a solid result racing the IZOD car in the last 500-mile race back in May at the Indianapolis 500. Hopefully, we can close out the season with another good finish for Team Penske and for Chevrolet.”

The ‘Dinger, who has made five prior starts this year (Barber, Long Beach, Indianapolis, Detroit doubleheader), will put his Penske Racing winning streak on the line in the No. 2 IZOD Chevrolet as a third entry alongside Helio Castroneves and Will Power.

Shell confirmed the move via its Twitter page: “Looking forward to seeing @AJDinger back in the No. 2 @penskeracing #IndyCar at @ACSupdates !!” as did Penske Racing president Tim Cindric: “@AJDinger are you ready to put your @penskeracing winning streak on the line @ACSupdates ??”

Castroneves lost his points lead in Houston and now trails Scott Dixon by 25 points entering the MAVTV 500 on October 19 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Allmendinger starred in his Indianapolis 500 debut, leading 23 laps and finishing seventh. But his most recent IndyCar outing was a disaster in Detroit, with two first-lap crashes on back-to-back days. Adding insult to injury, he was driving a car sponsored by Quicken Loans in a race where that was also promoted by Penske, and sponsored by Quicken Loans.

But he’s redeemed himself with wins in his last two starts for Penske in the NASCAR Nationwide ranks. He won at Road America in June and Mid-Ohio in August.

Now, he’ll play gunner to Castroneves and Power for 500 miles on October 19.

UPDATED: Allmendinger’s sponsor will be IZOD, not Shell/Pennzoil as originally stated.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.