Sports cars: Rebellion, Visit Florida teams confirm 2017 packages

Rebellion's 2016 car signs off next week. Photo: Getty Images
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A pair of prototype teams – one in the FIA World Endurance Championship and one in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – have firmed up their packages for their respective 2017 campaigns.

Both Rebellion Racing and Visit Florida Racing will be moving from different categories into the aligned LMP2-spec type of car in 2017 after running in LMP1 non-hybrid (privateer) and Prototype (with Daytona Prototype) configurations this year.

Photo: Rebellion Racing
Photo: Rebellion Racing

Rebellion, which announced last month it would not be running in LMP1 in 2017 and would instead switch to LMP2, has confirmed a move to the Oreca 07 chassis coupe. The team has ordered two chassis for next season. This replaces the outgoing Rebellion R-ONE AERs which ran in LMP1 in the WEC this year, with the team having cut back from two cars to one after the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“The 2017 LMP2 races are going to be ultra competitive and that makes choosing the right chassis partner very important,” said Rebellion team manager Bart Hayden. “With the R-Ones, we have appreciated the skill of the ORECA designers and we have witnessed the success of their “05” LMP2 chassis, so it was almost a logical choice for us to continue our association together.  We are excited by this new challenge and are looking forward to getting our hands on the first of our new cars.”

Photo: Visit Florida Racing
Photo: Visit Florida Racing

Back Stateside in IMSA, the Visit Florida team has confirmed the purchase of a Riley Technologies Mk 30 chassis with the Gibson engine. As IMSA prepares for the new Daytona Prototype international (DPi) direction, Visit Florida shifts away from the GM presence it’s had for years to the new global LMP2-spec platform. The Troy Flis-led team had been a stalwart with the Corvette DP car for the last five years.

“I’m really happy to have these big elements of our program finalized,” Flis said. “We did our homework about all the options, and we are very excited to be going this direction. Bill and Bob Riley have an incredible record of success, and the partnership they’ve established with Multimatic for this project only adds to what they are capable of.

“Having the Gibson and the WEC bodywork means that we’ve got a lot of options as this class comes to fruition and starts to develop. This is an exciting time for everyone in IMSA, and we are very happy to be this much closer to the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona.”

Visit Florida did not confirm its driver lineup within this release. Although with Tequila Patron ESM coming back to IMSA with a Nissan DPi program and Ryan Dalziel having driven for both teams this year – Visit Florida in IMSA and ESM in the WEC – he’ll be unable to drive for both again in 2017.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)