TUSC: Action Express tops in opening test at Sebring

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The weekend was a big one for Formula One and NASCAR, but it was also important for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which staged its first open test of the winter at Sebring International Raceway. Topping the overall charts on both days of the test was the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype (pictured, from this past August at Road America).

On Saturday, Joao Barbosa led the way with an unofficial time of 1 minute, 53.266 seconds (118.871 miles per hour), and then on Sunday, IndyCar pilot Sebastien Bourdais took the No. 5 to P1 on the charts with a 1 minute, 53.748-second blitz (118.367 mph) around the famous Florida road course.

Both Barbosa and Bourdais were impressed with the newly modified Daytona Prototypes, which now feature bits such as a new diffuser, carbon brakes and a double-element rear wing.

“We were just bottoming out a little bit on the bumps in the first few laps, but we addressed that and the car felt really great,” Barbosa said to IMSA.com. “For the first few laps we have around here with carbon brakes, new aero and all the new stuff, it felt really good.”

“It’s a quicker car,” chimed in Bourdais. “I think we’ll gain about three seconds at Daytona. If we balance it, maybe there’s a bit more in it. The rear diffuser really helps set the back of the car down. These cars didn’t have much downforce before, but they have significantly more now.”

In all, over 2,800 laps and 10,000 miles were run in the two-day session at Sebring. Now, the TUSC heads to Daytona International Speedway for another two days of testing starting tomorrow.

The TUSC officially begins its inaugural season at Daytona with the Rolex 24 on Jan. 23-26, 2014.

An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing at Barber

SPOTTER GUIDE: All 29 of this weekend’s paint schemes

IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”