Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Taylor, Magnussen, Sellers score poles, plus Friday notes

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Ricky Taylor (Prototype), Jan Magnussen (GT Le Mans) and Bryan Sellers (GT Daytona) have the pole positions for Saturday’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix. The race airs at 1 p.m. PT and local time, 4 p.m. ET, live on FOX network.

Qualifying recaps ahead of the 100-minute race are below:

PROTOTYPE

Despite pre-race Balance of Performance adjustments meant to limit the Cadillac DPi-V.R’s acceleration off the corners, with gear ratio adjustments, the Cadillacs still controlled qualifying in the Prototype class.

Ricky Taylor took the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac to the top spot of the grid, continuing his utterly dynamic start to the 2017 season with a best time of 1:13.509 around the 1.968-mile circuit. It was his first pole since Circuit of The Americas in September last year.

Taylor, who shares the car with younger brother Jordan, are in search of a pair of three-peats: the two drivers have won at Long Beach each of the last two years, and have also completed a “36 Hours of Florida” sweep at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Christian Fittipaldi took the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac into second on the grid, as the Action Express Racing team continues in search of its first Long Beach win. Fittipaldi shares the car with Joao Barbosa and Fittipaldi clocked in at 1:14.193.

Mazda Motorsports, competing on home soil only about 20-odd miles north of its North American base in Irvine, Calif., stuck its No. 55 Soul Red Mazda RT24-P into third on the grid with Tristan Nunez at 1:14.393. The first of the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis was fifth, with Scott Sharp in the No. 2 car.

Neither of the two LMP2-spec cars was able to make much of an impression until the end, Misha Goikhberg popping off a late flier to move to fourth on the grid in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson at 1:14.408.

Rebellion Racing took the overall pole at Sebring while Cadillac, in Barbosa’s hands, took the pole at Daytona.

GT LE MANS

It was a chaotic qualifying session with Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R taking the pole position, while a crash for the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Richard Westbrook exiting Turn 5 brought the session to an early end with a red flag. Westbrook lost the back end of his Ford, which had already undertaken an engine change earlier in the day (see below), with his wing and left rear quarter panel littering the track.

Bizarrely, Westbrook’s teammate scuppered Joey Hand’s progress on a lap that could have been quicker than Magnussen’s, and left Hand shy of eclipsing Magnussen for the pole spot.

It means Magnussen has his first pole position since Virginia International Raceway last year, and also won pole here in 2014. He and Antonio Garcia won at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring last month, Garcia having completed what Magnussen called a “Superman” stint at the end to win.

The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander qualified third but had an incident during the session, Vilander having lost control of the rear end coming through Turn 9. But he made it back to the pits without any apparent damage.

With the sole Porsche that qualified (the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor) and lead BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM of Bill Auberlen in fifth, it made it five different GTLM manufacturers in the top five of class, separated by only 0.163 of a second.

The times? Magnussen posted a 1:16.909, with Hand at a 1:17.001, Vilander at a 1:17.043, Vanthoor at a 1:17.056 and Auberlen at a 1:17.072.

This tweet from @IMSA applies:

GT DAYTONA

Four pro drivers qualified in the top four positions during the GT Daytona qualifying session for the 100-minute race, with Bryan Sellers best of the lot in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3.

Sellers won the pole at the series’ most recent street race in Detroit last June, which was Lamborghini’s first pole in IMSA competition. Teammate and co-driver Madison Snow won the pole at Virginia International Raceway.

This sets up a scenario where Sellers will start and Snow will finish in the No. 48 car. Sellers’ best time was a 1:19.243.

Jack Hawksworth took the only 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 which made qualifying, the No. 15 car he shares with Robert Alon, in second place for the team’s third race start. Hawksworth was only 0.033 of a second adrift.

Daniel Morad in the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R qualified third, following that team’s late confirmation to race in this event. Morad shares the car with Porsche factory ace Michael Christensen.

The second Lamborghini in the field, the No. 16 Change Racing entry qualified by Corey Lewis who shares the car with Jeroen Mul, lines up fourth in the “Super Silver” entry while Ben Keating was best of the classic Silver drives in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3.

The second Lexus didn’t qualify as Scott Pruett sustained a heavy accident in the morning practice session at Turn 5, with heavy left side damage to the No. 14 car. The 3GT Racing team has been working all day on repairs, with the goal of starting the race from the rear of the grid tomorrow. Pruett shares the car with Sage Karam, the young charger.

VISIT FLORIDA OUT

Photo courtesy of IMSA

Owing to a brake issue, the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley Mk. 30 Gibson of Renger van der Zande and Marc Goossens is done for the weekend before it even begins. Van der Zande was driving at the time during the two-hour morning practice and the car went off into the Turn 1 runoff.

“Renger (van der Zande) had a brake issue going into Turn 1 and the car just wouldn’t get slowed down,” said VISIT FLORIDA Racing Team Owner Troy Flis. “We are relieved that he is okay, but it looks like we are done for the weekend. The damage got into the tub, and with this race being out on the West Coast, we just don’t have the access to resources that we’d need to continue this weekend. It is a shame for VISIT FLORIDA, but we’ll go back and look at what happened and work on our plan to come back stronger.”

This incident was one of several of note today, with others linked below.

OTHER NOTES

  • The No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT undertook a precautionary engine change between sessions today, but made it back out for qualifying.
  • The No. 911 Porsche GT Team had an accident before qualifying and did not qualify. Patrick Pilet shares that car with Dirk Werner.
  • Will Owen makes his IMSA debut this weekend in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson. The Castle Rock, Colorado native who went to school at TCU made a one-off appearance with Flying Lizard Motorsports in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at last year’s NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill, but has shifted to sports cars in 2017 with United Autosports’ Ligier JS P217 entry into the European Le Mans Series. The Mazda Road to Indy veteran raced three years, two in Pro Mazda and one in USF2000, and will head to Europe straight after the race Saturday night in preparation for the ELMS season opener next week at Silverstone.

2016 Knoxville Nationals champ Jason Johnson succumbs to injuries from sprint car crash

Photo courtesy Jason Johnson Racing official Facebook page
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Former Knoxville Nationals champion sprint car driver Jason Johnson has died from injuries suffered in a crash Saturday night in a World of Outlaws race at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway).

Known as the “Ragin’ Cajun” for his aggressive style of racing, Johnson, 41, passed away this morning, according to an announcement by WoO. He was one of the most respected and well-liked drivers on the circuit by both fellow competitors and fans.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson, a Eunice, Louisiana resident, was racing for the lead in the main event on the one-third-mile clay track with eventual race winner Daryn Pitman, when Johnson crashed on Lap 18 shortly after a restart.

Johnson’s car left the track surface in Turn 3 and flew through at least one billboard adjacent to the racetrack, according to media and witness reports.

It took rescue workers several minutes to extricate Johnson, who was taken by ambulance to a local hospital before being airlifted to Aurora Summit Hospital in Summit, Wisconsin, according to the Journal Sentinel report.

How many will remember Johnson:

Johnson, who won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals – the sport’s biggest race – in Iowa in storybook fashion, had been a primarily part-time racer on various sprint car circuits from 1998 until he went full-time on the Outlaws series, capturing Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.

MORE: Knoxville win should be big boost to Jason Johnson’s season, career

Johnson had 12 wins on the Outlaws circuit, including two victories this season.

The Journal Sentinel also posted a statement from SLS Promotions, which promoted Saturday’s race:

“Everyone at SLS Promotions offers our deepest, most sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to Bobbi Johnson (Jason’s wife), Jaxx Johnson (the couple’s son) and the entire Johnson family and JJR Racing team.

“Jason was a great competitor and true ambassador for the sport. It was an honor and a privilege to work with him during his time on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series trail. Jason will never be forgotten”

Other notables also commented on his death on social media:

According to the Journal Sentinel, Johnson is the second driver in four years to die at the small track northwest of Milwaukee. In September 2014, Scott Semmelann, 47, was killed there while practicing for an Interstate Racing Association event.

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