Christina Nielsen, TRG-AMR stand on precipice of IMSA GT Daytona title

Nielsen at Detroit. Photo: Getty Images
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Christina Nielsen hasn’t won a race yet in the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season, yet stands one race away from the GT Daytona championship that would set several historical marks in the process.

Nielsen, 23, leads the GTD class by just one point over Christopher Haase and Dion von Moltke heading into this weekend’s Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta.

She co-drives with Kuno Wittmer, a midseason replacement for James Davison, and Brandon Davis in the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3.

If she holds onto the title – the easiest way to do so is by finishing ahead of the Haase/von Moltke/Bryce Miller No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS and No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia of Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and a third driver to be named later – she’ll be the first female driver to win a major North American sports car championship. Additionally, it would mark the first time Aston Martin does so as well, for the Kevin Buckler-led TRG-AMR squad.

“We are heading into the final race with only a one point advantage over our competitors so now the pressure is on us to finish ahead of the Ferrari and Audi at Road Atlanta to close out this championship,” Nielsen said in a team release.

“We are still entering the race as the class leaders and as drivers, this is what we dream of — a chance to win a championship in the last race of the season when everything is on the line. It’s exciting and a little nerve-wracking all at the same time. When I started with the team back in Daytona, I never believed we would be going into the last race in this position. The entire team has done such an amazing job to get us here and now we have to deliver.”

Wittmer, the team’s lead pro driver, came on board at Watkins Glen and has served as an invaluable asset for Nielsen since joining.

He won last year’s TUDOR Championship GT Le Mans title with SRT Motorsports, which withdrew its factory Viper GTS-R program at the end of the season.

“There is no playing it safe now as we have three cars separated by only four points,” Wittmer said. “Of course we have to be smart to save the car for the end of the race, but need to be on the podium and we know what is at stake.

“This is an amazing opportunity for all of us and the TRG-AMR squad have just been exceptional throughout the season and here we are…in a position to win it all. As a driver you just can’t ask for more.”

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.”