Great runs for Kimball, Hildebrand, de Silvestro at Fontana

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Three of IndyCar’s younger stars had nights to remember, if results to forget, in the MAVTV 500 season finale.

Simona de Silvestro, 25, posted her best career oval finish of eighth for KV Racing Technology. Meanwhile Charlie Kimball and JR Hildebrand were Honda’s last two bullets for the manufacturer’s championship, but potential race-winning efforts went away in the last 100 miles, and left Chevrolet to collect the title for the second straight year.

De Silvestro owed her eighth place, from 16th on the grid, more to the high attrition rate. Her No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva Chevrolet was one of six cars caught up in the Lap 111 crash, but she spun to avoid it and lost a handful of laps fixing the car. As it was good to go, she could collect laps and gain confidence on an oval.

“It was the longest race of my life!” she exhaled after the race. “You know 250 laps on a short oval go by quickly, usually. We started up OK but got caught up in the crash and the car was a little bit bent up. I spun to avoid it and yeah, it just kind of happened in front of us. But we kept going and finishing eighth was pretty crazy! We didn’t have the speed but we had the luck, which sometimes you need.”

Considering her checkered history with ovals, I think it’s fair to say she was due a bit of good luck. Her fifth consecutive top-10 finish carries her into the offseason a career-best 13th in points (was 24th last year) as she and her management team explore their options.

Kimball, 28, got another top-10 finish in P10, his 10th of 2013 in what was a career year for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing driver as he won his first race (Mid-Ohio) and finished ninth in points. But on this night, despite leading three times for 22 laps after starting fourth, a late-race engine failure cost him a shot at his first oval win.

“We were able to run up front and prove that the No. 83 Novo Log FlexPen car was quick,” said Kimball, who had a great battle with Helio Castroneves in the waning stages. “It was unfortunate to have a mechanical failure that close to the end.  We had a good restart, the car was just getting better and better and we were in good shape for the end of the race.”

Hildebrand, 25, started 15th and ended 11th in the No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda with the same mechanical issue that happened at nearly the identical moment as Kimball’s. A free agent for 2014, Hildebrand did himself no harm for team owners seeking a potential shoe next year.

“We had issues with cooling all night and we ended with like 30 or 35 to go,” he said. “One of the sides of the car was getting super hot. The car was kind of slow for a little while but we were flat out, so weren’t losing that much ground. Then that restart, everything cooled down. It may have heated up, or just let go.

“But it was fun. We definitely could have finished top five. I know, I know it… it’s definitely a bummer (for Honda). It felt good to have a good run.”

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 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


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