Ganassi falls short in bid to stop Penske pole streak

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The Verizon P1 Award should probably be rechristened the “Penske P1 Deathgrip Award,” at least until someone ends the team’s current pole position streak, which stands at eight races after Will Power’s latest triumph Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Penske’s only obstacle Friday during qualifying for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis at IMS was Chip Ganassi Racing.

The Firestone Fast Six saw the field whittled down to all four Penske drivers and the Ganassi duo of Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon. Dixon hasn’t had a pole since Iowa last year, and Kanaan last started P1 at Richmond International Raceway in 2008.

Neither driver snapped those stretches.

Dixon qualified second to Power with a time of 1:09.7156, while Power earned his 38th career pole.

“We tried to get tricky in Q2 on used reds (tires),” Dixon said. “Didn’t get the start of laps together. We needed another tenth (of a second). I think we just got past the start/finish line by 0.13, so we just made the start of that lap. Definitely a nail biting situation. Unfortunately it bit us.”

Any team would be biting its nails were it in a prime position to end Penske’s front row dominance that stretches back six races to Auto Club Speedway in 2014. In this case, Ganassi did.

“(Power) converted and made it through. (The) car is generally pretty good,” said Dixon, who was fastest in the second practice session on Thursday. “Don’t think we had enough for pole. Power did a really good job. Wasn’t too clean on getting all my laps together.”

Kanaan finished with a fastest time of 1:10.2772 and will start sixth Saturday, behind Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud, the defending race winner.

“We started the weekend with big problems. We finally got it together,” said Kanaan, who thanked Dixon for sharing his setup with Kanaan’s No. 10 Chevrolet team. “We finally put his setup on. We started the weekend a bit behind already.

Kanaan is pleased to be starting sixth after being 21st at one point in the qualifying session.

“We saw what happened in Barber,” Kanaan said. “People saved tires. It will be hard. I knew when I made to the Fast Six I wasn’t going anywhere. Those (Penske) guys were in another level. We have another night before tomorrow.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.