Command to start engines given for Nationwide race at Richmond (UPDATED, 10:20 p.m. ET)

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UPDATE (10:20 p.m. ET): And finally, at long last, the command to start engines has been given at Richmond International Raceway. A competition caution will be thrown at Lap 40 tonight, and teams are not allowed to get fuel until that point of the race. Be sure to keep following MotorSportsTalk for coverage this evening.

UPDATE (9:55 p.m. ET): The Air Titans continue to work, but pre-race ceremonies have been completed for tonight’s ToyotaCare 250.

UPDATE (9:30 p.m. ET): The aforementioned big shower was a quick one as well, and the Air Titans have been able to make significant progress drying out Richmond International Raceway.

Additionally, NASCAR has confirmed that driver intros are set to take place very shortly.

If there are no more pop-up showers, that could mean the ToyotaCare 250 will finally see the green flag within the hour. Fingers crossed.

However, another race on tonight’s schedule at RIR will not go off as scheduled. The K&N Pro Series East was set to run after the Nationwide Series but will instead have its race tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. ET according to reports.

UPDATE (8 p.m. ET): Another big shower has likely pushed the start of tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Richmond International Raceway back even further.

Here’s how it looks from the eyes – or more likely, the phone – of Motor Racing Network’s Dustin Long:

NASCAR had hoped to get pre-race ceremonies underway at 7:45 p.m. ET, so all the drivers had to do was start engines when the track was dry. Instead…

This afternoon’s qualifying for the ToyotaCare 250 ended just before the rains started to soak the 3/4-mile bullring. In addition to delaying the Nationwide race, the rain scratched qualifying for tomorrow’s Toyota Owners 400 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Brian Scott is on the pole for tonight’s race, while Kyle Larson got the pole for tomorrow’s race after running the fastest lap in today’s first Sprint Cup practice session.

But for now, the only vehicles running at RIR are the Air Titans…

In case you want to keep track of the weather, here’s the current radar from the National Weather Service. When we get updates on a new timeline for tonight’s event, we’ll pass it along.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds