Photo courtesy of IMSA

Gavin, Milner cap off banner season for Corvette Racing with title

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Pretty much everything that could go right did for Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and the Corvette Racing team in the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

The duo won their second driving title as a pair, having also done so in 2012 in the American Le Mans Series’ GT class.

Chevrolet won the GT Le Mans manufacturer’s championship (its 11th as a brand), Corvette Racing won the team title and then all three entities won their respective titles in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.

“We’ve done it all!” Gavin, co-driver of the No. 4 Corvette C7.R exclaimed after another podium finish in Saturday night’s Petit Le Mans to cap off the campaign.

It was the No. 4 car’s seventh podium finish of the year and perhaps the most surprising after a weekend pace deficit – however slightly – to the rival Ford GT from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, which ultimately won the day.

They duo even survived their third driver Marcel Fassler running into a sign, not for the first time this year, which has become an inadvertent good luck charm.

“It was a bit of a roller coaster race for us,” Gavin explained. “It was something where we had our mind on winning the championship and the way everything turned out with 67 (the Ford of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe), and that got taken care of, so we had to switch to win the race!

“Yeah he did,” Gavin added of Fassler hitting a sign in Turn 1. “But that’s a good luck charm! At Sebring he hit a sign and we won… and Daytona he blew the stop sign at the end of the pit lane. So that’s kind of a standard thing for Marcel.

“It was tough and aggressive out there. Traffic was crazy and wild at times. But it was an immensely enjoyable day. Ultimately we came away winning the championship, so my second one with Tommy and it’s pretty special.”

Milner then served to look back at the year at large. The seven podiums featured four wins – each of them special.

Gavin delivered one of the all-time greatest finishes in sports car history in the season opener when he edged the sister car driven by Antonio Garcia by just 0.034 of a second, a Rolex 24 at Daytona record.

Then the trio followed it up for the team’s second consecutive “36 Hours of Florida” sweep by winning the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.

In July at Lime Rock Park, Gavin brought home the 100th win for the Corvette Racing program, for a team that has won races stretching back more than 15 years.

And then two weeks later in the next race at Road America, Milner put in the comeback of his life to launch from fifth to first in the final laps to steal a shock win there, and one that hugely swung the momentum of the GTLM championship for the year as Ford had dominated the midsummer stretch.

“You look at the year, and we ticked the big boxes – you always want to win Daytona and Sebring. But Le Mans was a bit of a low point,” Milner said.

“Still, at that point, we were still at 99 wins for the team, and it’s one of those things we didn’t talk about it much. But deep down – whether it was me and Olly, Jan (Magnussen) or Antonio, we wanted to be in the car to get the 100th.

“It was one of the craziest races in my life at Elkhart Lake to get the win there. I compare it to as a kid playing baseball, in the bottom of the ninth, the bases loaded and you hit the home run. That’s the best way to compare it.”

The Corvette team won five races out of 11 in class, with the Garcia/Magnussen car having won at VIRginia International Raceway.

That led the class as Ford won three times, Porsche twice, and Ferrari once. BMW was the only full-season manufacturer in GTLM that did not get on the scoreboard.

It was a banner year with only the Le Mans disappointment – Ford and Ferrari had the field covered on pace and the dreaded Balance of Performance – serving as a downside compared to the rest of the year.

“Road Atlanta was like a lot of races this year, where it just worked out in our favor,” Milner said.

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).