MotorSportsTalk 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona Saturday blog

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12:15 p.m. ET – More than 10 hours are in the books and the best part of the race has been a double-barreled scrap for the lead in two of the four classes.

Larson and Ricky Taylor exchanged the top spot several times with Larson ahead overall at the 10-hour mark.

Meanwhile in the GTLM class, five cars have traded the top spot. Right now, it’s Pierre Kaffer in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia on top.

This will be my last update in this post before doing a separate round of updates on Sunday… since it’s now Sunday.

11:11 p.m. ET – The race is back green after a yellow for the Action Express Racing Corvette DP, the No. 5 car that won last year, stopped on track with fuel pressure issues per IMSA Radio.

Meanwhile NASCAR star Kyle Larson is now behind the wheel of the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford.

10:15 p.m. ET – The race is past the eight-hour mark, I’m starting to get a little punchy, and the man, the myth, the legend that is Rommy – anyone who has been at a NASCAR, IndyCar or sports car race in years will know who he is – has taken over the Magnus Racing webcast.

Yes, there is still a race going on, but lord have mercy this is surreal.

9:25 p.m. ET – Francois Perrodo has not covered himself in glory this month at Daytona.

The French gentleman driver, paired with two Ferrari aces in Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander and former Rolex 24 overall winner Emmanuel Collard, spun at Turn 6 but then later attempted another baffling reentry into the track. In doing so, he took out a harmless and luckless Brandon Davis, who was in the polesitting No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

This is Perrodo’s second wreck this month after also crashing during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia.

While TRG-AMR team principal Kevin Buckler had every right to go off in a TV interview, he was very restrained and respectful under the circumstances.

“I don’t even know what to say. Francois something,” Buckler told FOX Sports’ Andrew Marriott. “How can you not see us coming in there? My god. Brandon had a great drive. Christina (Nielsen) was gonna get in. Riduclous. Gotta be real careful. No excuses. We worked for a year for this.”

With the TRG-AMR car now damaged, it brought out the sixth full-course caution of the race.

Meanwhile the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford has been in-and-out of the garage to make a splitter change. Tony Kanaan was running in second but lost a lap.

17-year-old Matt McMurry now leads overall in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda.

9:00 p.m. ET – One of the Mazdas is out. The No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D is officially out with what the team termed, comprehensive oil pump failure. Meanwhile the Magnus Porsche is back out after a quick gearbox change. Yes, it cost the team 27 laps, but as a full-season entrant it’s all about getting points.

Class leaders as the race nears the 7-hour mark include Joey Hand (P), Mark Wilkins (PC), Olivier Beretta (GTLM) and Ben Keating (GTD). Multiple cars in all classes – roughly two to nine cars per class – remain on the lead lap.

7:55 p.m. ET – Trouble has hit two engaging cars. Gearbox issues have sidelined the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America, then driven by Andy Lally, and apparent oil pressure issues have sent the No. 57 Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2 Judd, then driven by Alex Brundle, to the garage.

The Krohn car stands out for its “Krohn Green” livery and Magnus, which also has a shade of green along with gray and white on its car, has a 24-hour webcast it’s streaming during the race. These are two instances where it was not easy being green.

7:15 p.m. ET – Sage Karam is ridiculous, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Karam took the lead on the strength of a bonkers, three-wide outside pass around the outside of Taylor’s No. 10 and CGR teammate Jamie McMurray in the sister No. 02, while also in GT Le Mans traffic.

“It’s one of the craziest things of my career I’d say,” Karam said in the Daytona press room. “Jamie was in front of me. We got checked up, I went on the outside, took it, and it got kinda sketchy there. But I made it through in turn 1. We put in consistent laps from there.”

Karam led most of his stint until turning back to Joey Hand. Karam said he wanted “a massage and food” … and also wants to seal up a long-awaited full-season Verizon IndyCar Series deal.

“I’m pretty wound up. I’m fighting to get a full-season drive… hopefully in a Ganassi IndyCar,” Karam said. “So I’m driving pretty hard out there. And now I want a massage and to eat. And then sleep… I’m probably back in around 2 a.m.”

5:25 p.m. ET – The No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM HPD ARX-04b is also retired, with the team determining the cause of retirement.

Meanwhile we had a near disaster when Long Beach Grand Prix head and annual Daytona participant Jim Michaelian spun the No. 19 Muehlner Motorsports America Porsche 911 GT America at the first hairpin, and then attempted to rejoin by slowly going across the road and forcing Sebastiaan Bleekemolen onto the grass. Bleekemolen did well to avoid him but was a near Gaston Kearby-at-Sebring last year-esque type of maneuver.

Jordan Taylor, now in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP after taking over from brother Ricky led overall during the third full course caution – caused, incidentally – by Michaelian stopping again between oval turns 1 and 2. The field has now gone back to green.

4:45 p.m. ET – First confirmed retirement for 2015 is the No. 0 DeltaWing DWC13, unfortunate given the car’s early pace. Gearbox – a new one for this race – is the culprit. Only Andy Meyrick had the chance to drive, with co-drivers Katherine Legge, Gabby Chaves and Memo Rojas unable to have a shot.

4:30 p.m. ET – Two hours are in the books. And a monumental achievement has just been achieved, as Tom Long at one point took the overall lead in the No. 07 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D diesel prototype, for the developmental car.

The No. 0 DeltaWing and No. 98 Aston Martin are in trouble, and the No. 25 BMW got a left rear puncture that led to an irate Bill Auberlen – who went off on Porsche’s Nick Tandy on IMSA Radio.

Auberlen called Tandy an “idiot” live on air, and Tandy replied that this was another of the pair’s history of disagreements.

Did we mention we’re just two hours into this thing? For a bit of normality, Scott Dixon still leads for Ganassi, before NASCAR star Jamie McMurray takes over next.

3:35 p.m. ET – Full-course yellow number two has flown for a myriad of incidents. Damien Faulkner had a strange incident in the run into turn 1 in the No. 81 GB Autosport Porsche 911 GT America with his left rear bumper damaged. Andy Meyrick and Tom Kimber-Smith have both stopped on track at Turn 5, with Meyrick in the No. 0 DeltaWing DWC13 coupe and “TKS” in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09. Meanwhile the No. 31 Corvette DP and No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3 have gone to the garage.

Class leaders are Scott Dixon (P and overall), Johnny Mowlem (PC), Oliver Gavin (GTLM) and Jeroen Bleekemolen (GTD).

3:20 p.m. ET – Hello from Daytona Beach, where the first hour of the 53rd Rolex 24 at Daytona is in the books. The race is just back green following the first full-course caution for the stopped Audi R8 LMS of Satoshi Hoshino, driving the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports entry.

Three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon dominated the opening hour in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford, after taking the lead from polesitter Ozz Negri in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda.

Other class leaders at the one-hour mark included Johnny Mowlem (PC), Oliver Gavin (GTLM) and Daniel Serra (GTD).

More to follow throughout the day on MotorSportsTalk.

Alexander Rossi remains the story in IndyCar in 2019

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ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. – Alexander Rossi’s greatness was on full display Monday at Road America.

He started on the outside of the front row, drafted behind pole sitter Colton Herta at the drop of the green flag, pulled out a perfectly timed move to race side by side with Herta going into Turn 1.

By Turn 2 of the first lap, Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA Honda was out front and drove away from the field, easily winning the REV Group Grand Prix of Road America by nearly 30 seconds over Team Penske’s Will Power.

Rossi was so good, it appeared he was running on a different race course than the other 23 competitors. There was some outstanding racing throughout the field with 191 total passes, including 175 for position, but none of those passes were at the front.

According to Rossi’s engineer, Jeremy Milles, there was just one thing kept Rossi’s race from being deemed complete perfection.

“It we had stayed out two laps longer on the last pit stop, we would have led every single lap instead of Graham Rahal leading one lap,” Milless told NBC Sports.com. “It’s good to see when we give him a proper car, he puts it to work.

“He’s not like a lot of drivers.”

Rossi led 54 of the 55 laps in the race and defeated Power by 28.4391 seconds – a huge margin of victory by today’s standards. Back in 1982, Hector Rebaque defeated Al Unser by a full lap at the 4.014-mile, 14 Road America road course, but those were far different times than today’s very deep field in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Although it was Rossi’s second victory of the season and the seventh of his career, the 27-year-old from Nevada City, California, has been the driver everyone talks about in 2019. The win snapped a four-race streak where he finished second three times and fifth in the other.

Simon Pagenaud won the 103rdIndianapolis 500 on May 26, but the fans and media were talking about Rossi’s bold, daring moves, including some wildly aggressive passes down the front straight and to the outside in Turn 1.

Rossi had a fantastic car the next week in the first race of the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle but was burned by the timing of a caution period for a crash as his main challenger, Josef Newgarden, dove into the pit area to make a stop just before pit lane closed because of the caution.

Rossi had to wait until the pits were reopened to make his stop, and that put him behind Newgarden and ultimately decided the race.

After a fifth-place finish the following day in Race No. 2, Rossi was once again standing up in his seat and on top of the steering wheel in a tremendous battle with Newgarden at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8. Rossi tried his best to make his car stick on the outside lane going into Turn 1, but when he discovered the risk was much higher than the reward, he had to begrudgingly settle for second, finishing 0.816 seconds behind the current NTT IndyCar Series points leader.

Rossi left no doubt on his Sunday drive through the Wisconsin woods as he never was challenged.

In just three short seasons, Rossi has developed into one of the greatest drivers in a generation in IndyCar. He doesn’t even have 10 victories yet, and he already had the makings of a legend.

“It’s almost like Juan Pablo Montoya, when he arrived as a rookie, he was great immediately,” Rossi’s team owner Michael Andretti told NBCSports.com after the race. “Juan is one of the greats, and I think as time moves on, Alex will prove to be one of the greats.

“He is very aggressive, very calm, very confident, everything you want in a driver. He wasn’t racing anybody all day; he was just racing himself not to make any mistakes.”

For Andretti, this is a very important time in his relationship with Rossi. The driver’s contract concludes at the end of this season, and he is the focal point of speculation on where he will race in 2020.

Before Pagenaud revived his career with a sweep of the major events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Month of May, Rossi looked like “Penske Material” as the driver that would take over the No. 22 Chevrolet. After Pagenaud won the Indy 500, team owner Roger Penske assured him he would be back on the team in 2020.

Rossi’s loyalties lie with Honda. Both he and his father, Pieter, share a close relationship with the engine manufacturer that helped the former Formula One test driver at Manor find a full-time home in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Andretti told NBCSports.com on Friday that he was “optimistically confident” that he will re-sign Rossi once a sponsorship agreement with NAPA is completed.

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones

Andretti remains confident after Rossi’s win on Sunday.

“We’re getting there,” Andretti said. “I think we’re getting there. We are feeling pretty good about it.”

There are others, however, that aren’t as optimistic.

If Roger Penske wants a driver, who turns down an opportunity like that? After all, Team Penske is far and away the winningest team in IndyCar history, including a record 18 Indy 500 wins.

Think of these scenarios.

What if McLaren makes a substantial offer to align with Andretti Autosport for a full-time NTT IndyCar Series team in the future after McLaren’s debacle in this year’s Indy 500?

In order for that to happen, though, Andretti would have to switch to Chevrolet, because Honda ‘s parent company in Japan will no longer do business with McLaren.

The last time Andretti considered leaving Honda for Chevy, Rossi was set to leave Andretti to join another Honda team, Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports in 2017.

If Andretti Autosports and McLaren joined together, that would also mean the Andretti-aligned Harding Steinbrenner Racing would become a Chevy operation.

Honda could keep Rossi as one of its drivers by leading him to Chip Ganassi Racing. Five-time Cup Series champion Scott Dixon remains on top of his game, but it’s unlikely he will be racing Indy cars 10 years from now.

Barring unforeseen circumstance, Rossi will still be in the cockpit and winning races in a decade, and that would position Ganassi’s team for the future. The team’s second driver is rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who is currently racing with a one-year contract.

Even Rossi knows his situation for next year is complicated, which is why he chooses not to talk about it. He has developed a strong bond with Milless as his engineer and Rob Edwards (white shirt on left) as his race strategist.

Do both of those key members end up on a different team with Rossi? Edwards is a key member of management at Andretti Autosport as the Chief Operating Officer.

Rossi is as cerebral as he is aggressive. After his victory, when pressed upon his next contract, he concluded the conversation perfectly.

“I have no considerations,” Rossi said regarding his contract status. “It’s in God’s hands.”