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Corvette Racing hungry to get back on track Sunday at Watkins Glen

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Will getting back to home cooking lead to some better cooking back on the racetrack?

That’s what Corvette Racing hopes for both this weekend in the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen race this Sunday at Watkins Glen International.

The Corvette team didn’t do as well as it might have liked during the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans – primarily owing to a challenging Balance of Performance in the GTE-Pro class.

The trio of Antonio Garcia, Ricky Taylor and Jan Magnussen finished seventh in the legendary endurance race in their No. 3 Corvette C7.R (No. 63 at Le Mans). Meanwhile the sister No. 4 car (64 at Le Mans) crashed out in the morning hours after a rare error by Tommy Milner.

But on a brighter side, Garcia and Magnussen are past winners of the Sahlen’s Six Hours, having done so in 2014, Corvette Racing’s first appearance at The Glen.

And now that they’re back on U.S. soil, Corvette Racing is looking at Watkins Glen to get back to its winning ways this season.

“It is a short turnaround from Le Mans but we have the best team to get our cars ready,” Garcia said. “Watkins Glen ranks high on the list of favorite tracks for just about all drivers. It has speed and a lot of heritage.

“Jan and I were fortunate to win there together before in the Six Hours; we’re hopeful that another will jumpstart our season. Our Corvette has been quick all season in the WeatherTech Championship. We need one complete race with good execution and we’ll be in great position.”

Heading into this weekend’s event, the fifth for GTLM on the IMSA schedule, Corvette Racing has the points lead in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in several categories, including GTLM and Endurance Cup driver standings (Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin), Manufacturer (Chevrolet) and Team GT Le Mans.

“When I was growing up, the three tracks I remember were Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen,” Milner said. “It’s one of the ones where I haven’t won.

“We’ve had great run so far this year with our Corvette in the endurance events with the wins at Daytona and Sebring. So we are in a good position. (WGI is) super-fun to drive and really quick. I’m excited to get there and see what the track is like with the new surface.

“We have a championship to be concerned about, so a win would be great. Le Mans is always such a big draw, and a lot of energy and effort goes into that. But now that it’s over, all the focus goes back to the U.S., and our main job there.”

Another thing in Corvette Racing’s favor is that a six-hour endurance race like Sunday’s plays to its strengths and also kicks off a stretch where the team potentially could earn as many as three wins in as many races in the next four weeks, with races at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Lime Rock Park to follow soon (July 10 and 23, respectively).

If that were to happen, it would go a long way towards getting closer to a number of championships, obviously.

Milner and Gavin, who will drive the No. 4 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Corvette C7.R at Watkins Glen, are looking for their third combined win of 2016. They’ve already won in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona and then the following week in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Those two races, along with the Sahlen’s Six Hours, are also part of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, a four-race series-within-a-series that is capped off at Atlanta’s Petit Le Mans.

Garcia and Magnussen, who were runners-up to their teammates at Daytona in the closest finish in the event’s history, are currently third in the Endurance Cup standings.

The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen is slated to take the green flag just past 10 a.m. ET on Sunday.

“We’re all looking forward to returning to The Glen, which should be even quicker with the all-new surface,” Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan said. “We have had some success at Watkins Glen in the past, and our endurance record speaks for itself. We’ll be ready!”

2016 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – GTLM Standings (After four of 10 events)

Driver Standings Team Standings Manufacturer Standings
1. Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner – 130

2. Earl Bamber/Frederic Makowiecki – 118

3. Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook – 115

4. Giancarlo Fisichella/Daniel Serra/Toni Vilander – 113

5. Bill Auberlen/Dirk Werner – 113

T6. Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen – 110

1. No. 4 Corvette Racing – 130

2. No. 912 Porsche North America – 118

3. No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing – 115

4. No. 68 Scuderia Corsa – 113

5. No. 62 Risi Competizione – 113

6. No. 3 Corvette Racing – 110

1. Chevrolet – 130

2. Porsche – 127

3. Ferrari – 120

4. Ford – 115

5. BMW – 112 

Corvette Racing at Watkins Glen

Year Class Drivers Result Car Notes
2014 GTLM Garcia/Magnussen 1st Corvette C7.R Team’s first race at WGI
GTLM Gavin/Milner 4th Corvette C7.R
2015 GTLM Garcia/Magnussen 4th Corvette C7.R
GTLM Gavin/Milner 7th Corvette C7.R Retired (accident)

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).