IndyCar: Byrd’s Racing plans Indy 500 return… for 2016

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The elements between the 1990s-early 2000s and modern day Verizon IndyCar Series for the Indianapolis 500 continue, with the news Monday that Jonathan Byrd’s Racing plans an Indy return.

Problem is, the sponsor’s release announces the return for 2016 – a full two years from now.

That year will mark the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 but given the brand’s heritage, having been part of the ‘500 for most of the 20-year period between 1985 and 2005, the decision was taken now for the Greenwood, Ind.-based operation to announce its return plans. It’s had 17 total entries in the race.

“From the beginning , racing has been part of the DNA of our business,” said Virginia “Ginny” Byrd, wife of the late Jonathan Byrd and owner of Jonathan Byrd’s, “and the Indy 500 has been an especially important part of shaping our identity in central Indiana.  The annual participation of the various Jonathan Byrd’s Racing teams in the Indy 500 from 1985 through 2001, and again in 2005, which allowed us to have a place in the event that has provided an identity to the City of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana, and to which hundreds of thousands of our fellow Hoosiers have such a strong emotional attachment, enabled us to connect with the greater central Indiana community in a profound way.  Since we have been away from Indy, I believe that connection has been missing.”

Ginny Byrd explained the rationale to announce now.

“Even though we won’t be back until the 100th running of 500 in 2016, we thought it would be good to make our efforts on this front public and to share this news with our customers and all those that have supported us over the years.  Not only does it give us something to look forward to, we have what I think is a brilliant plan in place as we will be taking steps to tie our brand to our participation in the Indy 500 in a very meaningful way.  Now that we’re going back, we intend to be there for a long time to come.”

As ever, a driver and the team partnership will be announced later on. It will be good to see an iconic name return to the Brickyard, even if the wait is for a couple years.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”