A couple of brief notes from the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship after the Rolex 24 at Daytona aftermath…
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing announced Wednesday the team will not take up its automatic invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team will instead focus solely on the TUDOR Championship season with its new ORECA 03 Nissan.
Per team principal Greg Pickett, there were a couple reasons to decide that now. The biggest issue from a tire standpoint was simply supply, with a significant increase to Michelin’s number of technical partner teams expected in Thursday’s entry release.
“Initially, even being able to get Michelin tires for Le Mans was a real problem,” Pickett explained via a team release, since the ORECA would need to be changed over from Continental to Michelin or another tire manufacturer for Le Mans.
“Michelin, our partner the last few years, said ‘no chance’. However, through the great efforts of Hugues de Chaunac of ORECA and the ACO, we had made some progress at the very end of the deadline period. Nothing for sure, but perhaps… We sincerely appreciated everyone’s efforts on our behalf.
“We’ve gone to Le Mans in the past and we know how much work it takes to get to and be well prepared for that race. We also know how much work it takes to fight for a championship, especially with a new car, which is why we’ve decided to solely focus on the TUDOR Championship this season.”
The team finished fifth at the Rolex 24, best overall of the teams from the American Le Mans Series and running a P2-spec car.
Additionally, Pickett’s third driver at the Rolex 24, Alex Brundle, will be in another Nissan-powered P2 car for further TUDOR Championship events this season.
The young Englishman, son of Martin Brundle, will race with OAK Racing at the three remaining Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events (Sebring, Watkins Glen, Petit Le Mans) and at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May.
OAK has confirmed Gustavo Yacaman for the full season in the No. 42 Morgan Nissan, but hasn’t named the other co-driver yet.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.