Weekend wrapup: Somber days for F1; Logano keeps rolling in NASCAR Chase

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The Japanese Grand Prix weekend saw four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel announce his departure from Red Bull, and Lewis Hamilton continue his momentum in this year’s championship with a win over Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg.

All of which has now been rendered inconsequential for sad reasons, as Marussia driver Jules Bianchi – who delivered a thrilling drive at Monaco this year to give his small team their inaugural World Championship points – is now fighting for his life.

One lap after Adrian Sutil had spun off and hit the tire barrier at Suzuka Circuit, Bianchi lost control of his car and hit the recovery vehicle that was trying to lift Sutil’s Sauber and bring it behind the guardrail.

Bianchi was taken via ground to the Mie General Hospital and underwent surgery for a severe head injury per the FIA. Meanwhile, podium celebrations for Hamilton, Rosberg, and third-place finisher Vettel were subdued.

“Everything that happened with the racing on track is secondary today,” Vettel said following the race.

Two days later, the racing world is still waiting for some piece of good news on Bianchi’s condition (Marussia has asked for patience on that subject). But for the Frenchman’s on-track peers, they’ll eventually have to put the situation aside – not forget – and get back to work. The Russian Grand Prix at Sochi is less than four days away.

F1 took another blow as well besides Bianchi’s horrible wreck. Andrea de Cesaris, who started 208 Grand Prix over 14 seasons and raced for teams such as McLaren, Jordan, and Tyrrell, died in a motorbike crash on Sunday in Italy.

#ForzaJules. Rest in peace, Andrea. Our thoughts and prayers are with both of their families.

MORE FROM SUZUKA: Felipe Massa on dangerous conditionsNiki Lauda has no concerns on race procedureFerrari goes pointless for first time in four yearsJenson Button gives McLaren a boost with fifth-place run.

On the other side of the world, NASCAR had a tough act to follow in Kansas City.

The week had started with a win for the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. Then one day later, the Royals rallied to win the American League Wild Card and went on to a 2-0 lead in the AL Division Series by the time the Sprint Cup Series was set to stage its Contender Round opener at Kansas Speedway (hours after the checkered flag, the Royals would finish off the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS with a Game 3 win).

But NASCAR’s Chase delivered a compelling race that featured big trouble for several big names such as defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Brad Keselowski.

Surviving it all was Keselowski’s Team Penske amigo, Joey Logano, who held off yet another valiant effort from gonna-be-a-spoiler Kyle Larson to earn his second win in the Chase  – and more importantly, a ticket to the Eliminator Round.

Logano was cognizant of the trouble that his championship rivals were having on Sunday, but he said that didn’t stop him from going for victory even though he was already likely to be in a good points spot.

“When I see other Chase guys having troubles, that’s when you say, ‘Holy cow, this is really about a solid finish here today – you know how the race goes second, third, fourth, fifth-place finish would be great,'” he said. “It sets you up pretty good for getting to the next round. But you dangle a checkered flag in front of me, I’m going to go.

“We were able to have a fast enough car that I knew we could do it. I wasn’t going to put my car in a bad spot but I was going to be aggressive about it and try to put other people in a bad spot to make those passes. We were able to do that today.”

Meanwhile, next Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway now looms large for the aforementioned Dale Jr., Johnson and Keselowski, who face big points deficits behind the eighth-place Eliminator cutoff.

And Junior already has his mindset ready if this Twitter reply to NASCAR on NBC analysts Jeff Burton and Kyle Petty is an indication:

MORE FROM KANSAS: Hendrick Motorsports’ rough outingKyle Busch gets best-ever Cup finish at KansasKyle Larson’s first win is comingMartin Truex Jr. earns season-best resultStory remains the same for Kevin Harvick.

16 years after taking the inaugural Petit le Mans himself, Wayne Taylor saw his sons, Jordan and Ricky, pick up a Petit victory of their own.

The Taylor brothers became the first American-born overall winners in the race’s history on Saturday night, co-driving the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP with Max Angelelli to an 11-second victory over Action Express Racing’s No. 5 Corvette DP after 10 hours around Road Atlanta.

AXR didn’t leave empty-handed though as their full-time duo in the No. 5, Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, clinched both the drivers’ and team championship during Saturday’s event.

They also earned a $100,000 bonus by capturing the team title in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s North American Endurance Cup, a “series within a series” comprised of four iconic events: The Rolex 24 at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, 6 Hours of Watkins Glen, and the Petit.

The Verizon IndyCar Series had several of its stars also on the Petit grid. That contingent was led by KV Racing Technology pilot Sebastien Bourdais, who contributed to AXR’s second-place finish with the No. 5 car.

MORE FROM PETIT: DeltaWing soars to best-ever result on home ground

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, points

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

POINTS: Standings after Rolex 24 at Daytona l Michelin Endurance Cup standings l Daytona endurance points

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.