Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Chaotic finish sees Corvette snatch unexpected Road America win

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – We wrote this morning that Corvette Racing hadn’t won at Road America since 2008, when Jan Magnussen and Johnny O’Connell did so in the old American Le Mans Series GT1 class in a Corvette C6.R.

Corvette ended its eight-year drought with its second straight and fourth overall win this year with the No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, Corvette’s first at Road America in the class now known as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans class, but whose predecessor in ALMS was either GT or GT2.

Gavin hasn’t won at Road America since 2007, Milner since 2008 – then in what was GT2 with BMW. This is also the fifth different GTLM manufacturer to win at Road America in the last five years (Corvette 2016, Porsche 2015, Ferrari 2014, SRT Viper 2013, BMW 2012).

And quite how they did it was an incredible story of its own.

The No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT dominated most of the day in class and Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook looked poised to win their fourth race of the year, all in the last five races.

But courtesy of a full-course caution inside the final two minutes following apparent contact between PC class competitors Renger van der Zande (No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09) and Stephen Simpson (No. 85 JDC/Miller Motorsports Oreca FLM09) at the Carousel, that spiced things up for an incredible final run to the flag in the last six and seven minutes and change.

So at the restart, Westbrook led the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander, the No. 911 and 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSRs of Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki, respectively, and Milner in the No. 4 Corvette.

At that moment, Milner and Gavin’s lead in the points would have only been one point, 255-254, over Westbrook and Briscoe. When the No. 4 car ran sixth earlier in the race, it would have made the points deadlocked.

Then things got crazy. Westbrook moved several times while trying to defend the lead on the restart.

Tandy was attempting to deliver the No. 911 Porsche its first win since Long Beach and nearly passed Vilander in the process at Turn 5. But contact between the two cars sent Tandy around on corner exit, and with Westbrook also getting a bit of damage, his hopes took a hit.

Behind them all, Milner and a stealthy John Edwards in the No. 100 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM – a car snakebit by bad luck this year – got around the second Porsche, the No. 912, for position.

With a lap to go it was Westbrook, Vilander and Milner with Edwards fourth and Makowiecki fifth.

Then Milner got Westbrook on the final lap into Turn 5, as Westbrook got hamstrung by PC traffic. And that only became possible after Milner got into second once the Mazda of Tristan Nunez hit Vilander at Turn 1. That took Vilander and Risi out of the equation.

Milner’s pass nets Corvette’s pair an unofficial 13-point lead over Westbrook and Briscoe, with “Westy” limping the Ford home for second.

Edwards came home third, netting he and the No. 100 BMW for he and Lucas Luhr both their first podium and first top-five of the season.

The No. 912 Porsche was fourth ahead of the Risi Ferrari, an unrepresentative fifth for the car driven by Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.