Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Pre-Rolex 24 notes include return of Gidley back at track

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The reveal of all 55 cars competing in this weekend’s 55th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona headlined Wednesday’s activity, with all cars confirmed in their full liveries and regalia.

Meanwhile, later this week, Memo Gidley will make a triumphant return to Daytona International Speedway this week, as he and wife Mari will attend this weekend’s Rolex 24 as guests of IMSA.

Those two are among the key notes going into this weekend’s race, but not the only ones.

Gidley sustained a number of injuries in a devastating crash in the 2014 Rolex 24, the first race under the auspices of the newly merged IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Photo courtesy of IMSA
Photo courtesy of IMSA

While he hasn’t raced competitively since, the likable Californian has been well on his road to recovery in the intervening three years. He’ll make a visit to the media center on Thursday and later in the week, plans to visit with doctors and staff at Halifax Health Medical Center, where he was transported after the incident and spent several days undergoing treatment for his injuries.

“Daytona is a special place for me and I’ve been wanting to get back as soon as I was healed,” Gidley said in a release. “It’s been a long recovery journey, and a big part of my motivation was to be here now. The healing has gone so well and I’ve been cleared by doctors to drive again.”

Here’s some of the other news items or quick quotes from team releases that have come in, in advance of the Rolex 24:

  • On Wednesday, the full field of 55 cars assembled for a group photo on the pit lane at Daytona. Last year’s class champions took the front row, with the remaining 51 cars filling in behind.
  • On Tuesday, Corvette Racing and SONIC Tools announced a partnership, which sees sponsorship on the team’s Corvette C7.Rs and an outlet for SONIC Tools to display and sell its line of precision-crafted tools. Corvette goes for its third straight Rolex 24 win this week, and more info on SONIC Tools’ rapid growth is linked here.
  • tristannuneztomlongMazda Motorsports has a number of nuggets it released on Tuesday. The team will have a large rice spoon (called a skakushi, pictured right) in their pit box for the Rolex 24 weekend. In Japanese culture, the spoons are talismans for good luck, victory, business prosperity and a safe household. The spoon was brought from the Miyajima Temple in Hiroshima, Japan, by drivers Tom Long and Tristan Nunez with Mazda Motorsports boss John Doonan after a recent Mazda fan festival near there. The characters on the spoon read “Certain Victory” and “Must Win.”
  • The manufacturer also revealed the number of either Mazda Road to Indy and/or Mazda Road to 24 graduates in this year’s Rolex 24; a total of 54 drivers have driven some sort of Mazda on their way up either of the parallel ladders prior to competing in the Rolex 24. Two NASCAR spotters, Tim Fedewa and Tyler Green, will join Mazda’s two primary spotters this week.
  • Speaking of spotters, Performance Tech Motorsports will have Kenton Koch back this week, albeit not in a car but only on the spotters’ stand. Koch, one of sports car racing’s up-and-coming young talents, won’t have a chance at an encore win in the PC class.
  • Interestingly, all three Cadillac DPi-V.R entries see the former Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing teams now entered as their sponsor name. The pair of AXR entries are entered as the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac and No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac, respectively, while WTR’s car is the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. Keen-eyed observers of the series will note the changes, while for Cadillac’s debut, this marks an interesting approach to have their teams identified as such.
  • AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology will have its paint on several cars, including those from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Scuderia Corsa and Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian. C360R continues with AERO in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ranks.
  • In the “as the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 GTD entry ranks turn” department, a couple quick changes occur with Brandon Gdovic (fourth driver for DAC Motorsports) and Michele Beretta (No. 61 GRT Grasser Racing Team entry, replacing Christoph Lenz) now in for the race. Grasser also comes here after racing in the Dubai 24 Hours two weeks ago.
  • Quick notes on one of the other Lamborghinis, the full-season entry from Change Racing. The team here again has the youngest driver entered in Kaz Grala, who just turned 18, and back for a second season. The team’s partnership presence comes with new support from Forza Motorsports/Turn 10 Studios, and continuing support from Monster Energy, Orion Lighting and Lamborghini Carolinas. Grala shares the No. 16 Huracán with Jeroen Mul, Corey Lewis and Brett Sandberg for one of the most youthful lineups on the grid.
  • This is the 23rd entry for Alex Job Racing in the Rolex 24, coincidentally with the team running the No. 23 Audi R8 LMS for Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, Frankie Montecalvo and Pierre Kaffer. Hard as this may seem to believe, this is Montecalvo’s GTD debut in the race; the Bayshore Racing driver previously raced a PC car here in 2014.
  • An interesting note from veteran motorsports journalist Jonathan Ingram about the legend that is Bob Riley: The head designers at Dallara (Luca Pignacca), ORECA (David Floury) and Onroak Automotive (Nicolas Clémençon) have a combined total of 46 years of experience – which falls five short of Bob Riley’s 51 years since the Lynx B Formula V first appeared. Including Riley Technologies, all four companies will have prototypes debuting in the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona in the new DPi era.
  • The incomparable Andy Blackmore’s designs and Spotter Guides for both the WeatherTech and Continental races is linked here and available for free download. Also free and available? IMSA Radio’s session by session broadcasts, which you can listen into via radiolemans.com.
  • Mobil 1 The Grid’s preview of the race with Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin, who edged Antonio Garcia a year ago in the thrilling battle of the two Corvette C7.Rs in GT Le Mans, is below.

More to follow as the weekend progresses. In the interim, here’s a look through our other Rolex 24 posts so far:

P/PC car-by-car preview
GTLM car-by-car preview
GTD car-by-car preview
Without a Shank seat, Allmendinger opts out of Rolex 24 pursuit
Nearly a dozen IndyCar drivers, only Gordon for NASCAR, set for Rolex 24
Four Ford GTs determined to rise to top of GTLM crop at Rolex 24
First taste of tantalizing new prototype battle set for Rolex 24
Post-Viper, the new Mercedes-AMG era begins for Bleekemolen, Keating
Handful of changes identified on Rolex 24 entry list
New GTD manufacturers add intrigue to 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona
Porsche sets sail for new voyage with new 911 RSR into 2017
TRG, Porsche reunite, Buckler looking to recapture glory once more at Rolex 24
Kanaan set for banner January with Race of Champions, Ford GT debut
Roar Before the Rolex 24 recap, notes, musings, observations
Roar Before the Rolex 24 WeatherTech, Continental test results
Jeff Gordon embracing Rolex 24 return with Taylors, Cadillac
Dario Franchitti named grand marshal for Rolex 24 at Daytona
Roar Before the Rolex 24 preview, pre-test notes

NHRA Bristol: Schumacher, Capps, Coughlin Jr. take home wins

Tony Schumacher, from left, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Ron Capps. Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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You’ve heard of classic rock, right?

Well, Sunday’s 18th annual Fitzgerald USA NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tennessee) Dragway was classic drag racing – old school style, you might say.

Drivers who have combined for 14 national championships between them emerged at the top of the heap, with eight-time champ Tony Schumacher taking Top Fuel honors, former champ Ron Capps took Funny Car honors and five-time champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. grabbing Pro Stock honors.

In Top Fuel, Schumacher earned his sixth career win at Thunder Valley, as well as his first win overall of 2018.

Known as “The Sarge” due to his U.S. Army sponsorship, Schumacher marched through the field to reach the Winner’s Circle.

Schumacher (3.946 seconds at 313.58 mph) defeated Mike Salinas in what would prove to be Schumacher’s third final round of the season and the 150th of his career.

He now is 6-2 in career final round showings at Thunder Valley.

“We have had little things bite us this season, but we knew we had to overcome adversity and we knew we had a great car that was capable of winning,” Schumacher said. “I’m proud of my team for sticking to our plan, and I know our team is going to be a factor for the rest of the season.”

Schumacher was the No. 2 qualifier in the race and defeated Terry McMillen, Pat Dakin, points leader Steve Torrence and Salinas to take the win.

It was the first runner-up finish of Salinas’ career, defeating Leah Pritchett, No. 1 qualifier Clay Millican and Scott Palmer before meeting Schumacher in the final.

In Funny Car, like Schumacher, Capps won for the first time this season on the NHRA national event circuit. It was also his second consecutive win at Bristol, having won last year’s event there.

Capps earned the 59th win of his career with a pass of 4.234 seconds at 296.37 mph, defeating Bob Tasca III.

Capps also earned Don Schumacher his 300th career nitro victory as a team owner.

“This is a great facility, and when you roll into this place you get a special feeling,” Capps said. “Getting to the Winner’s Circle at a track like this is even more special because you feel like you really had to earn it, and this weekend I am proud of what my team accomplished in some tough conditions.”

Capps went to the top of the Funny Car mountain starting from the No. 11 qualifying position, defeating 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, 2017 Funny Car national champ Robert and J.R. Todd before defeating Tasca in the final round.

Capps qualified 11th for the event before defeating John Force, defending Funny Car world champion Robert Hight and J.R. Todd on his path to Winner’s Circle.

Tasca was the No. 4 qualifier and defeated Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and points leader Courtney Force to reach his first final round since at Seattle in 2013.

In Pro Stock, Coughlin earned his second win in the last three races. It took an effort of 6.709 seconds at 205.10 mph to defeat points leader Greg Anderson in the final round.

“My team has made some transitions this season and now we are running much faster, and it feels pretty great to be on the right track now this season,” Coughlin Jr. said. “Winning at Thunder Valley is historic and it feels fantastic, so to be crowned a champion here is really special.”

Coughlin qualified No. 2 and beat Tommy Lee, Chris McGaha and Drew Skillman en route to overtaking Anderson in the final round.

Anderson now has two runner-up finishes this season, but continues to seek his first win of 2018.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule moves on to its 12th race of the season – the halfway mark of the 2018 campaign – next weekend at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, from June 21-24.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Tony Schumacher; 2. Mike Salinas; 3. Steve Torrence; 4. Scott Palmer; 5. Pat Dakin; 6. Doug Kalitta; 7. Antron Brown; 8. Clay Millican; 9. Brittany Force; 10. Leah Pritchett; 11. Shawn Reed; 12. Richie Crampton; 13. Dom Lagana; 14. Bill Litton; 15. Terry Totten; 16. Terry McMillen.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Ron Capps; 2. Bob Tasca III; 3. Courtney Force; 4. J.R. Todd; 5. Robert Hight; 6. Jack Beckman; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 8. Cruz Pedregon; 9. Tim Wilkerson; 10. Del Worsham; 11. Jonnie Lindberg; 12. Shawn Langdon; 13. Jim Campbell; 14. Matt Hagan; 15. John Force; 16. Jeff Diehl.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jeg Coughlin; 2. Greg Anderson; 3. Tanner Gray; 4. Drew Skillman; 5. Erica Enders; 6. Vincent Nobile; 7. Tim Freeman; 8. Chris McGaha; 9. Jason Line; 10. Bo Butner; 11. Alex Laughlin; 12. John Gaydosh Jr.; 13. Wally Stroupe; 14. Alan Prusiensky; 15. Deric Kramer; 16. Tommy Lee.

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SUNDAY’S FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Tony Schumacher, 3.946 seconds, 313.58 mph def. Mike Salinas, 5.251 seconds, 152.18 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.234, 296.37 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.300, 286.98.

PRO STOCK: Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.709, 205.10 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.741, 205.07.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Mike Salinas, 4.023, 295.53 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.011, 287.72; Scott Palmer, 4.017, 304.39 def. Bill Litton, 4.172, 261.07; Clay Millican, 4.018, 295.14 def. Terry Totten, 4.542, 182.58; Tony Schumacher, 3.917, 316.82 def. Terry McMillen, 5.112, 141.40; Antron Brown, 3.897, 316.82 def. Richie Crampton, 4.057, 297.22; Doug Kalitta, 3.998, 286.38 def. Brittany Force, 3.942, 307.51; Steve Torrence, 3.970, 303.71 def. Shawn Reed, 4.018, 283.25; Pat Dakin, 4.015, 307.30 def. Dom Lagana, 4.107, 272.12; QUARTERFINALS — Salinas, 4.035, 299.20 def. Millican, 9.938, 76.57; Palmer, 4.067, 302.41 def. Kalitta, 4.292, 230.92; Schumacher, 4.028, 288.64 def. Dakin, 4.041, 298.14; Torrence, 4.232, 253.33 def. Brown, 5.090, 155.65; SEMIFINALS — Salinas, 4.042, 301.07 def. Palmer, 4.356, 211.89; Schumacher, 4.038, 297.02 def. Torrence, 4.104, 254.04; FINAL — Schumacher, 3.946, 313.58 def. Salinas, 5.251, 152.18.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.757, 227.23 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 5.978, 124.51; Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.169, 307.65 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 4.382, 262.18; J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.213, 300.26 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.362, 252.61; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.133, 303.09 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.183, 289.82; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.582, 229.00 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 5.030, 159.02; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.243, 296.37 def. John Force, Camaro, 5.824, 128.57; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.283, 281.30 def. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.569, 266.37; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.253, 291.26 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 5.381, 142.06; QUARTERFINALS — C. Force, 4.197, 298.14 def. Johnson Jr., 5.139, 158.45; Tasca III, 4.233, 292.90 def. Pedregon, 5.757, 126.33; Todd, 4.203, 295.92 def. Beckman, 4.333, 277.49; Capps, 4.208, 299.33 def. Hight, 4.233, 300.73; SEMIFINALS — Capps, 4.242, 298.93 def. Todd, 4.372, 285.65; Tasca III, 4.219, 298.60 def. C. Force, 4.271, 286.62; FINAL — Capps, 4.234, 296.37 def. Tasca III, 4.300, 286.98.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.739, 204.45 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.776, 204.45; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.736, 205.32 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.729, 204.88 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.726, 203.95; Tim Freeman, Camaro, 6.787, 202.58 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.823, 201.94; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.754, 205.13 def. John Gaydosh Jr., Chevrolet Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.715, 204.23 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 9.845, 93.14; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.716, 204.35 def. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 7.027, 176.70; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.719, 205.10 def. Tommy Lee, Camaro, Broke – No Show; QUARTERFINALS — Gray, 6.789, 204.94 def. Freeman, Foul – Red Light; Coughlin, 6.740, 205.26 def. McGaha, 16.733, 48.09; Anderson, 6.723, 204.73 def. Nobile, 6.755, 204.29; Skillman, 6.727, 203.98 def. Enders, 6.743, 204.54; SEMIFINALS — Coughlin, 6.750, 204.51 def. Skillman, Foul – Red Light; Anderson, 6.768, 204.91 def. Gray, 6.764, 205.19; FINAL — Coughlin, 6.709, 205.10 def. Anderson, 6.741, 205.07.

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UPDATED POINTS STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 896; 2. Clay Millican, 786; 3. Tony Schumacher, 760; 4. Doug Kalitta, 717; 5. Leah Pritchett, 663; 6. Antron Brown, 588; 7. (tie) Brittany Force, 552; Terry McMillen, 552; 9. Scott Palmer, 461; 10. Mike Salinas, 421.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, 937; 2. Jack Beckman, 736; 3. Robert Hight, 717; 4. J.R. Todd, 694; 5. Ron Capps, 693; 6. Matt Hagan, 669; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 606; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 508; 9. John Force, 502; 10. Bob Tasca III, 500.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, 823; 2. Tanner Gray, 768; 3. Vincent Nobile, 758; 4. Erica Enders, 738; 5. Drew Skillman, 679; 6. Jeg Coughlin, 671; 7. Chris McGaha, 659; 8. Bo Butner, 642; 9. Deric Kramer, 627; 10. Jason Line, 569.

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