Nunez, Bomarito deliver Mazda’s first Prototype podium in Detroit

Photo: Mazda Motorsports

Mazda Motorsports finally secured its first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship podium with its Mazda Prototype, powered by the Mazda MZ-2.0T engine, at of all places, Belle Isle Park on the streets of Detroit.

Not bad considering the two drivers who banked the third place – Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito – were sidelined in Detroit last year as the then-No. 70 car now was temporarily parked while Mazda determined which engine would be in the back of the car. The team ran the SKYACTIV Diesel powerplant last year but also tested the gasoline-powered AER engine in the second half of the year in preparation for its presence this year.

Alas, both Mazdas stayed out of trouble on the streets of Detroit and following an early race collision between the Nos. 31 and 90 Corvette DPs from Action Express Racing and Visit Florida Racing, the path was opened for the Mazdas to bank two top-five positions and move into podium contention. The Mazdas stayed slightly ahead of the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda during the weekend, which had a mixed crew and a new driver with Katherine Legge making her team debut in place of John Pew, who was at Le Mans preparing for the Test Day.

It was a huge bounce back after a missed opportunity at Mazda’s “spiritual” home track of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey in May. Nunez had the pole in the No. 55 car but with an oil pump failure sidelining the sister No. 70 car of Tom Long and Joel Miller, then a bad pit stop and a spin hitting the No. 55, the car was resigned to fourth place.

Saturday in Detroit the Nos. 55 and 70 cars ended a better third and fourth.

“It’s pretty unbelievable. I can’t believe it happened that way,” Nunez told NBC Sports post-race. “We ran our race with no mistakes and a great pit stop. We weren’t gonna make the same mistake as at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. So it’s learn and move on. The guys gave us a great race car. It was great to get through traffic. This is what happened. First podium, and there’s many more to come.”

Bomarito explained why this result was so surprising given the physical nature of the track.

“The Detroit track is just incredibly bumpy for our cars. It’s very physically demanding, not merely because of the G-forces but the forces going down your spine and through your neck,” Bomarito said. “There are a lot of hard-hitting bumps that take a toll on you. You really have to be focused to get through those physical issues. But when you’re on the podium, you always feel a little better!”

With more flowing road courses at Watkins Glen International and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park coming up, the Mazdas could be positioned for greater success at tracks that suit their car better.

“There’s some great tracks coming up for this package. We got our first podium out of the way at a place we never thought we’d get it. It should be great momentum for the rest of the season,” Nunez said.

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change