TUSC: Friday Roar News and Notes (UPDATED)

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Several signings have been officially announced yesterday and today for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Here’s a quick roundup:

  • Sage Karam’s tease of a “Christmas gift” came to fruition on Friday with the news the Firestone Indy Lights champion will co-drive the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost Riley Daytona Prototype. Ganassi’s longtime NASCAR driver, Jamie McMurray, is the fourth driver to round out the lineup alongside full-season drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.
  • The second CGR car may be the better overall endurance lineup, with two of Ganassi’s full-season IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan joining new NASCAR recruit Kyle Larson and Dario Franchitti’s younger brother Marino in the No. 02 car. Larson and Karam will each be making their 24-hour race debuts.
  • As we hinted yesterday, 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will return to SRT Motorsports for endurance races with Rob Bell the second endurance driver in the GTLM class SRT Viper GTS-Rs. Hunter-Reay joins full-season drivers Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goossens in the No. 91, with Bell alongside Kuno Wittmer and Jonathan Bomarito in the No. 93.
  • Alex Brundle has officially been confirmed in Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s No. 6 ORECA 03 Nissan alongside Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr. Tom Dyer joins the trio for the test. Additionally, the Pickett team has become an official partner with Nissan, and drivers from the Nismo Global Driver Exchange Program will race at further TUDOR Championship endurance races.
  • Per Sportscar365, John Martin will join the Frisselle brothers/Stefan Johansson/Fabien Giroix lineup in the No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP for Daytona, and IMSA Prototype Lites champion Sean Rayhall will step up to a full season effort in the No. 87 BAR1 Motorsports PC car.

Here’s a list of pre-new year driver and team combinations, and a link to the Roar entry list. Meanwhile in series announcements, Tully’s Coffee has been announced as Official Coffee of the TUDOR Championship & a Proud Partner of IMSA.

Tully’s was a sponsor for the then-called Dempsey Del Piero Racing team in 2013 with proposed investment from Michael Avenatti, but Avenatti did not drive another race for the team after Monterey in May. Avenatti has resurfaced with the new GB Autosport team, which fields the No. 81 Porsche 911 GT America in the GT Daytona class, with co-drivers Damien Faulkner, Bob Faieta and Patrick Huisman.

Times from this morning’s first session are linked here, via IMSAtiming.com.

This post will be updated as further announcements roll in.

Valiant efforts from Hunter-Reay, Dixon come up just short at Road America

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Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon drove about as hard as they possibly could during Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, and they both drove nearly perfect races.

Hunter-Reay took advantage of Will Power’s engine issues on the start to immediately jump into second, and stalked pole sitter and leader Josef Newgarden from there, often staying within only a couple car lengths of his gearbox.

Dixon, meanwhile, had a tougher chore after qualifying a disappointing 12th. Further, he was starting in the same lane as Will Power, and when Power had engine issues when the green flag waved, Dixon was one of several drivers who was swamped in the aftermath.

Scott Dixon had to come from deep in the field on Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix. Photo: IndyCar

However, as is his style, he quietly worked his way forward, running sixth after the opening round of pit stops, and then working his way up to third after the second round of stops.

It all meant that, after Lap 30, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay, and Dixon were nose-to-tail at the front, with the latter two in position to challenge for the win.

Yet, neither was able to do so. Hunter-Reay never got close enough to try to pass Newgarden, while Dixon couldn’t do so on either Hunter-Reay or Newgarden. And, neither driver went longer in their final stint – Dixon was actually the first of that group to pit, doing so on Lap 43, with Hunter-Reay and Newgarden pitting together one lap later.

And Newgarden pulled away in the final stint, winning by over three seconds, leaving Hunter-Reay and Dixon to finish second and third.

It was a somewhat bitter pill to swallow, with Hunter-Reay noting that he felt like he had enough to challenge for a win.

“I felt like we had the pace for (Newgarden), especially in the first two stints,” he asserted. “I really felt like it was going to be a really good race between us. Whether it be first, second, third, fourth stint – I didn’t know when it was going to come.”

He added that, if he could do it over again, he would have been more aggressive and tried to pass Newgarden in the opening stint.

“In hindsight, I should have pressured him a bit more in the first stint,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “We were focused on a fuel number at the time. Unfortunately that Penske fuel number comes into play, can’t really go hard.”

Dixon, meanwhile, expressed more disappointment in the result, asserting that qualifying better would have put him in a possibly race-winning position.

“I think had we started a little further up, we could have had a good shot at trying to fight for the win today,” he expressed.

The disappointment for Dixon also stems from the knowledge that his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda had the pace to win, especially longer into a run.

“The car was pretty good on the long stint,” he asserted. “I think for us the saving grace was probably the black tire stint two. We closed a hefty gap there. We were able to save fuel early in the first stint, which enabled us to go a lap longer than everybody, had the overcut for the rest of the race.

“I think speed-wise we were right there. Had a bit of a crack at Hunter-Reay on his out lap on the last stint there, but cooked it too much going into (Turn 14), got a bit loose, lost momentum. That would have been really the only chance of passing him.”

Dixon remains in the championship lead, however, by 45 points, while Hunter-Reay moved up to second, tied with Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi.

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