Sebring weekend, Friday notes

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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SEBRING, Fla. – Here’s a mix of news and nuggets from the ground at Sebring International Raceway, ahead of this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida.

The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Sebring 150 is now underway.

Other sessions that have already taken place this morning include the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship fourth practice and second races of the weekend from the Mazda Prototype Lites presented by Cooper Tires and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.

For Thursday’s notes, click here.

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship

  • Action Express’ No. 31 car, CORE autosport’s No. 54 car, the No. 25 BMW and the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini led fourth and final practice. Times are linked here. The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda returned to the track after its accident yesterday with repaired bodywork.
  • Both Action Express and CORE led all four practice sessions in P and PC. BMW led three of four sessions in GTLM, while Dodge led twice with Aston Martin and Lamborghini leading once apiece in GTD.
  • John Edwards of the No. 100 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM car made an intriguing note: the BMWs appear to be better at night than they do in the day and indicated the Porsche 911 RSRs were quicker in the day than they are at night. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.
  • Fresh reminder that the “Rock the Grid” concert happens tonight at the track. Here’s a link with more.
  • Ferrari debuts its new 488 GT3 worldwide this weekend, both here at Sebring in the GTD class and also in Melbourne at the Australian GT Championship.
  • Mobil 1 held its annual dinner to honor Corvette Racing on Thursday night. This year, there was a perfect occasion to celebrate – Corvette’s 1-2 finish in GTLM in a photo finish at Daytona.

Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge

  • Three cars moved to the rear of the grid prior to today’s race. The ST class polesitter, Tyler Cooke, moved to the rear in the No. 84 Bimmerworld BMW 328i in the car he shares with James Clay, per an engine. Meanwhile two other ST class Porsche Caymans, the No. 8 Rebel Rock Racing entry and the No. 18 Rennsport One car, had technical violations and were penalized all loss of times.
  • Early issues have struck the No. 56 Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman and No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5, two of the contenders for the ST class title. Eric Foss tweeted the No. 56 car he shares with Jeff Mosing was stuck in fifth gear, while Andrew Carbonell told IMSA Radio that apparent brake line issues have sidelined his co-driver Liam Dwyer.

IMSA Development and Single-Make Series

  • Lucas Catania took the win for NGT Motorsport in the second Porsche GT3 USA race of the weekend. Results are linked here.
  • JDC Motorsports took its second Mazda Prototype Lites win of the weekend with Austin Versteeg taking his first series win. Teammate Clark Toppe won on Thursday. Friday results are linked here.

More to follow later today.

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”