Wayne Taylor Racing gets another oh-so-close finish in Rolex

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Wayne Taylor Racing’s Corvette ended the Rolex 24 at Daytona in better shape than three of its drivers.

Max Angelelli parked the No. 10 car on the Daytona International Speedway road course during the cool-down lap, was helped out and transported to a local hospital for evaluation. IMSA officials said he was “conscious and stable,” but offered no further details about his condition.

Angelelli was behind the wheel for the final hours of the endurance race because brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor were feeling ill. Jordan spent the last two weeks dealing with an undisclosed illness, and Ricky woke up with stomach issues Sunday morning.

The only healthy teammate was former Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello, who was added to the team just days before the twice-around-the-clock season opener.

Despite the health issues, the team notched its fourth consecutive podium finish at Daytona.

Maybe even more impressive, Wayne Taylor Racing ran a trouble-free race for the fourth straight year. But the drivers were hoping for more than another oh-so-close finish.

“I think you can imagine how frustrating it is, but it’s part of the sport,” Jordan Taylor said. “This year I think it’s especially tough because we did have a flawless race and the car that won had two penalties and went off and had all sorts of issues. We feel like we did the best we could, same as the past four years.

“Four years without a mechanical issue, without losing a lap, without going behind the wall, is quite an accomplishment for the team.”

Wayne Taylor Racing also finished second in 2013 and 2014. The team crossed the finish line third last year, but was later penalized and stripped of its third-place spot.

IMSA ruled that Jordan Taylor violated the drive-time rule late in the race, finding he was behind the wheel more than four hours during a six-hour period. The team was dropped from third to last in the 16-car class.

The team bounced back this weekend, but didn’t have enough speed to keep up with the No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry. The ESM Honda was the fastest car in the field, turning such quick laps that it was able to overcome a slew of miscues and claim the coveted Rolex watches.

“I think the most important thing for us is the team,” Ricky Taylor said. “I think that a winning performance once again. We never went back to the garage. The guys had awesome pit stops, the strategy. I think we spent four minutes less in the pits than the other cars. … We weren’t really racing (ESM), but for us we’re very disappointed to have another great run without a watch.”

The biggest problem the team faced on the track was getting Barrichello comfortable in the car. Barrichello, who’s considerably shorter than his teammates, struggled to find a rhythm.

“I drove for an hour and a half, and it looked like I was driving a Formula One for like 24 hours,” he said. “So I was pretty tired.”

The crew decided to use team owner Wayne Taylor’s old seat, which Barrichello said allowed him to be a “little bit more competitive.”

“I’m sorry that I didn’t get to drive much before because I really wanted to help it further, but I think the team did a fantastic job,” Barrichello said. “We had the fastest (Daytona Prototype) on the track and it was nice just to be able to be with all of them. I hope to be back. I love the series and I did enjoy my time with the team.”

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”