Photo courtesy of IMSA

Taylors, Cadillac complete ’36 hours of Florida’ sweep at Sebring

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SEBRING, Fla. – The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R engaged in a neck-and-neck battle with another Cadillac in Saturday’s 65th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac, and for the second time in as many Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races to kick off the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, the Wayne Taylor Racing team emerged on top.

They won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in dramatic and emotional fashion, but today’s triumph at Sebring was a bit more straightforward. It does see the two sons match their father Wayne as winning Daytona and Sebring in the same year, which he did in 1996.

Jordan and Ricky Taylor led most of the race with new third driver Alex Lynn adding to the effort on his U.S. race debut; Lynn stepped into the seat vacated by the now-retired Max Angelelli. Lynn had one or two minor moments getting through lapped traffic but otherwise matched “Max the Ax” from a pace standpoint to add to the Taylors’ charge, after qualifying an unrepresentative sixth on the grid.

Ricky Taylor brought the car home to the victory over Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 Cadillac by 13.614 seconds after 348 laps of racing around the 3.74-mile, 17-turn, Sebring International Raceway. Barbosa shared his car with Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque.

The second Action Express car, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac of Dane Cameron, Eric Curran and Mike Conway, completed an all-Cadillac podium in the Prototype class. That car was delayed after an early spin between Curran and Johannes van Overbeek in the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi, which ultimately cost Curran two laps and the team spent the rest of the race playing catch-up.

In fourth after running their own flawless race, but lacking the consistent and sustained pace to match the Cadillacs, was the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson of Stephen Simpson, Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller. This gives the John Church-led team its second top-five in as many endurance races to kick off the season.

Those were the only four cars of the 11 in the marquee Prototype class category that did not encounter some sort of issue during the day. Both Mazda RT24-Ps, both Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis, and the LMP2-spec Rebellion Racing and Visit Florida Oreca 07s and the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 all hit some sort of misfortune on the treacherous Sebring circuit.

Prototype Challenge also saw another team repeat from Daytona, with Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based Performance Tech Motorsports adding a Sebring win with three of the same four drivers as at the Rolex 24. A clean, almost effortless run saw James French, Pato O’Ward and Kyle Masson take the No. 38 Oreca FLM09 to the team’s second win on the trot after not having won previously since 2013 on the streets of Baltimore.

Starworks Motorsport soldiered on to finish second with its own trio of young guns, Garett Grist, Max Hanratty and Sean Rayhall. Both BAR1 Motorsports cars also finished, with the No. 20 car delayed a bit behind the No. 26 car. For the maligned PC class in its final year, it was a nice surprise to see all four cars finish the race and not cause any of the six full-course cautions.

The GT classes resume alongside with the Prototype class at Long Beach next month, while Prototype Challenge is off until Circuit of The Americas in May.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.