Red Bull drivers relishing return to COTA

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Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat are both relishing Formula 1’s return to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for next weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

F1 makes its annual visit to the USA next weekend with Red Bull facing an engine supply crisis for 2016 following its acrimonious year with Renault.

However, on-track, both Ricciardo and Kvyat put in good displays last time out in Russia, suggesting that Red Bull should comfortably hang onto fourth in the constructors’ championship for the remainder of the season.

Previewing the United States Grand Prix, Ricciardo was full of praise for both COTA and the city of Austin itself, saying that it is one of his favorite races on the calendar.

“I love Austin,” Ricciardo said. “Great track, great city, great food, great fans, great people in general, great hotel. Basically… great.

“For a modern-day circuit with lots of runoff, they’ve done the best job possible. They’ve created a track that’s safe but managed to ensure it’s still fun. It’s probably the best overtaking circuit on the calendar.”

Ricciardo sported some rather interesting facial hair for last year’s Austin race, and said that he may well try and rekindle the look for next weekend, as also shown on Twitter.

“I’ll probably do something – but no promises,” he joked. “Don’t want to put pressure on myself!”

Daniil Kvyat enjoyed his first run-out on a grand prix weekend at COTA back in 2013, and hopes to add to his good memories of the track this year.

“I made my F1 debut there and that was a big moment in my career,” Kvyat said. “The race last year was I would say unlucky in that we had really good pace but I had to pit for a vibration with the tyre after overtaking Kimi [Raikkonen], but yes, I have very positive memories of the circuit.

“I really like racing at COTA; the track is really good. It has a lot of high-speed corners, heavy braking, long straights, a bit of everything really, so it’s great for racing, very enjoyable.

“Sector One is exciting. There are a lot of high-speed changes of direction. It’s kind of like Maggots-Becketts at Silverstone and it feels great through there in an F1 car. The circuit also has a lot of changes of elevation, which is something I think every driver appreciates. It’s a good track.”

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.”