Dalziel was leading, and then hit more traffic. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Sellers, Dalziel’s Long Beach ‘double doubles’ with in and out of luck

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Two drivers, Bryan Sellers and Ryan Dalziel, have histories at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach dating to 2002. Dalziel made his first U.S. start in Atlantics there in 2002 but crashed out on the first lap. Sellers, who’d debut in Atlantics a year later in 2003, then scored his first podium of his career there in his first Long Beach start in 2004 – a race Dalziel happened to win.

Since their respective debuts more than a decade ago, they’ve been busy in-and-out of various series and cars but have carved successful sports car careers. And this weekend, they were the two busiest drivers of the weekend split between the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge races, with both drivers pulling “double duty” racing in both marquee series.

Sellers was split between the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 in IMSA’s GT Daytona class and the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 in PWC’s GT class. For Dalziel, it was the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi in IMSA’s Prototype class and the No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in PWC GT.

And for both drivers, they were in and out of luck this weekend because wins were possible but instead they were each left to settle with podium finishes shy of the ultimate top step.

IMSA RACE

In Saturday’s 100-minute BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix, Sellers captured his and the PMR team’s third pole with the Lamborghini in GTD, while Dalziel’s teammate Scott Sharp qualified sixth in class.

Sellers won GTD pole in Long Beach but it went downhill from there. Photo: Paul Miller Racing

A strategy gamble saw Sharp get out early and hand over to Dalziel. The way the cautions and pit stops worked out, the GTLM and GTD cars were ahead of the faster Prototypes on the road because all cars were on the same lead lap, and that meant Dalziel restarted 19th on the road with just under 40 minutes remaining, and would need to pass all those GT cars for position to get to the overall lead.

You can live by the traffic but you can also die by it, and in Dalziel’s case, that’s what happened to him. Despite the Scot stealthily scything through it to get to the overall lead with less than 20 minutes to go, it was in the final 10 minutes when lapping more traffic that a surefire win went away.

Dalziel was trying to hold back Jordan Taylor’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, but then came upon Wolf Henzler’s No. 991 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 R and Sage Karam’s No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3. Karam and Henzler were battling for a top-five position in class and to not get lapped, but whereas Andy Lally in his No. 93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 made it easy for Dalziel and Taylor to get past, the two blue cars run by Kevin Buckler and Paul Gentilozzi just ahead were not.

While it was fair to expect Henzler and Karam to scrap over the position, it was unfortunate timing it occurred directly in front of Dalziel. Karam and Henzler both moved right on the straight, with Henzler then moving back left a split second later, and that forced Dalziel to the wall in a three-wide position. That created a draft for Taylor, who saw Dalziel’s getting boxed in as his opportunity and seized it. Taylor drafted Dalziel around the outside past the two GT cars, then shifted to his outside to complete the pass going into Turn 1 – all while braking later in the process.

Sharp and Dalziel attempt to smile after a hard-luck second. Photo: Tequila Patron ESM

Yes, Dalziel and Sharp had a season-best second place after a rough Sebring where both that car and the No. 22 car both failed to finish, but this second was a bitter pill to swallow for the entirety of the Erin Gahagan-managed team.

“If we came in this weekend thinking we were going to lead laps, be competitive and finish second, we would have been thrilled. But to have led so many laps, see how strong we were, and just get ruined by lapped cars driving like morons is frustrating. We did everything we could do,” Dalziel lamented. “I’m beyond gutted on the inside. I thought for sure we had it in the bag. Our strategy was to turn the car out, go in a straight line. It was perfect until I came up to a couple of guys, maybe not looking in their mirrors.

“I had a lot of fun, there was one part we got clear of everyone. and I took a tenth and I felt like the gap was getting better. Then as the runs went long, it was a quick car. Then we came up on the gaggle of cars and my smile turned into a frown. There were plenty of race moments where things went well for me and bad for Jordan, but not always. I hit the brakes, went one way, it was the same as the GTD car. I tried to go the other way but saw a big black Cadillac drive right by me and that was the end of it.”

Incidentally, Dalziel’s third place finish in the crash-filled PWC race here in 2015 also came with a caveat – he was assessed a points penalty for what the series (under a previous CEO) deemed “unsportsmanlike conduct.”

Sellers’ day was no better. He and co-driver Madison Snow were pinged with a race-killing stop-and-hold penalty after the car entered pit lane when the track and pits had yet to be declared green. Ultimately, the car completed the unfortunate first-to-worst finish of 16th in GTD.

“Unfortunately, it was not the day we were looking for,” Sellers said. “Sometimes it goes your way, and sometimes it doesn’t. Today was not our day. That’s all we can do. We had a great effort, and it is true to say you win and lose as a team. We have to go back and look at what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

PWC RACE

Sellers at speed. Photo: PWC

After the chaotic affair that Saturday’s 100-minute affair was, Sunday’s 50-minute PWC Roar by the Shore race offered a bit of a reprieve for both drivers.

Sellers and Dalziel would both finish where they started, third and sixth, respectively. This marked Sellers’ first PWC podium in his second race weekend, and completed a double podium for the K-PAX Racing McLaren team as Alvaro Parente won overall for the second straight year.

The only thing that was abnormal was when a water main pipe broke over the back straight, which caused a mid-race red flag to clean it up.

“It was a good and fun weekend,” Sellers said. “Normally track time is limited on a street course but that certainly wasn’t an issue for me this weekend. I felt like that’s all I was doing was on-track and didn’t have a lot of time for anything else. I think that everybody at K-PAX Racing is happy to have two drivers on the podium. The level of competition on this side doesn’t cease to amaze me and it’s pretty impressive. You can never let down for one lap. They say that endurance racing is qualifying laps every single race, and then you come over here and it truly is qualifying laps in every single race.”

Dalziel’s Mercedes. Photo: CRP Racing

Dalziel said of his day in the CRP Mercedes, “It was a positive weekend for us. We definitely learned what direction we need to go in with the Mercedes AMG GT3. From the minute we rolled off the truck, we were good. It was a relatively dull race for us. We may have had something for a top five, but we had some damage to our car. We learned a lot in this last race. I’m glad we are leaving the street courses because this car will excel on road courses.”

INDYCAR: What Drivers Said after qualifying for the KOHLER Grand Prix

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Here’s what the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers had to say, courtesy of IndyCar Media Relations, after Saturday qualifying for the KOHLER Grand Prix (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s nice when you have the car to do it. We had the speed on Friday, so to finish it off today is nice. It’s only goal one. Two races; one for pole, one for the race. We need to close it out. Verizon has been very good to us, and Team Chevy as well. Engine package has been phenomenal to get the most out of it. You see how well we work together with Team Penske and Team Chevy. We just have to be smart and get through the first couple laps. Save the tires, save some fuel and be smart if a caution comes out in the middle of the race. We’ll see what we have for tomorrow.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Tough qualifying today. We’ve been struggling a little bit finding the best setup for the car. We need to concentrate for tomorrow so that we have a great car for the race. It’s a long race and you never know what can happen. We will keep working, improving and doing our best and will try to have a top 10 tomorrow.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “We’re struggling a little bit with the reds (Firestone alternate tires) – we just didn’t find the gain like everybody else did. I’m not entirely sure, honestly. Obviously, Robbie (Wickens) is doing well, so it’s a bit of a mystery for us. We went more towards his (Wickens’) setup and the balance kind of went out the window for me. It’s weird because we’ve been able to copy and paste setups all year long between the two of us and it just didn’t work here. I feel bad for the Arrow Electronics boys – obviously, the car’s capable of more. We just didn’t get it today.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “Overall, it’s been a good weekend – we’ve still never been out of the top five in every session. Hopefully, me and the Lucas Oil boys can keep chipping away and come up with a slightly better car for the race tomorrow.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): 
“I just didn’t think we had great space to work in out there on the track. There were about five other guys before us and they are all trying to get their spacing right, as well. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just there’s a tight window for everything. Maybe we should have waved off a third lap on the black (Firestone primary) tires and got ourselves better time on the reds (Firestone alternate tires). It is what it is, though, and we only really had one lap to try and get something going. Then, we had people starting to back up in front of us and never got to show our speed. I think the PNC Bank car had enough for the Firestone Fast Six, but we’ll have to show that speed tomorrow in the race.”

ED JONES (No. 10 First Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda):
 “The guys on the First Data car made some great changes today after we struggled a little bit early on in the weekend here at Road America. That was the most confident I’ve felt with the car so far this weekend and I felt we were going in the right direction. We were capable of being in the Firestone Fast Six today, but we got held up a bit. On the upside, we have a really fast First Data car and something we can use to improve on up the grid for tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “That was close. We were off the whole time. I gave it everything the last lap. A surprise front row. I keep getting front rows every weekend. Not the pole, but yeah, I’m pretty happy. But only five hundredths off, come on. I think I did a really neat lap. Josef (Newgarden) did a great lap. That was all I had.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): 
“I got traffic on my fast lap, but it would have just put us in the top 13, not enough to advance. The car is understeering all weekend. We tried something overnight that didn’t work, so it put us behind a session and we’re back to the car we had yesterday. It was the same car, so we were going to do the same lap time as yesterday when we tried the reds (Firestone alternate tires), but getting traffic didn’t help. But it wasn’t going to change a lot – maybe a few positions, which always helps, but we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 GEHL Honda): “We wanted to be further up and get the GEHL Honda in the top six. We’ve started in the top six every year, but there was nothing more in the car today. For maybe the first time this year, I’m confident saying that; there was nothing more. We only lacked one-tenth (of a second) over four miles from fourth (place), but that’s what Indy car racing is now. Yeah, we qualified ninth, but when you think that a tenth of a second over four-plus miles can move you five spots, it’s crazy, but that’s the reality of Indy car. We’ve just got to try to find a little more improvement for tomorrow, make the car a little more consistent for the race, and hopefully, we can go out there and attack. I think a lot of people have a lot of questions for the race. There is no warmup this year, so we’ll see how it goes.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): (About if he feels he’s in a good position to win tomorrow): “Yeah, I don’t know. I’d like to say so, but I’m not sure I believe it myself. It’s been a bit of a tough day. I thought after yesterday we thought we had everything under control, and things were looking good, and this morning we rolled out and struggled with grip and then we went into qualify and really struggled for good. I think I only did one good lap to be honest with you in Q2 on that new set of option tires. Everything was really scrappy and really difficult to put anything together. In (the Firestone Fast Six), I really didn’t get anything done properly. We tried one lap on both sets, but I’m not convinced it was the right thing to do – hindsight 20/20. Just one of those where you come out of the car and you’re not quite sure what else you should or would have done, but not super happy with the way things have gone. The guys did a really good job, but I just — yeah, I’m struggling to read anything that’s happening out there, it’s up and down, making a lot of mistakes, so don’t really feel great about it.

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “It’s so competitive out there. I thought we had a really good chance at doing better in qualifying, but we ended up on the wrong end of the timing sheet. We just missed making it to the second round by a few tenths, so that’s a bit disappointing. That said, tomorrow is a long race and a lot can happen. I’m confident we can move up the field and get that good result we’ve been chasing the last few races.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “We’ve been making progress throughout the weekend, little steps at a time and qualifying was our best session yet. The car is now performing within that half-second window of the front of the field. There’s always that last hundredth of time left to get, so I’m a bit annoyed that we didn’t get it, but it was still a pretty good lap. I got as much as I could out of the car. There was just a little bit of oversteer out of Turn 12 and that’s probably the half a tenth that we needed to transfer. I would have liked to have got through to the next round, but it was still a decent effort considering how much progress we’ve made.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet): “Qualifying was definitely a solid improvement. It’s nice to have the Direct Supply car in the top 10 to start the race tomorrow. We’ve been making pretty big changes every session and we hadn’t really found anything that worked until qualifying. We were struggling with the front of the car in some places and the rear of the car in other places, we just had to try and tack it down a little bit. Obviously, it helped being on new tires and the reds (Firestone alternate tires), but the car has come alive – certainly a step in the right direction. To only be a tenth or so off the Firestone Fast Six, compared to where we were in practice, is a really good improvement. I’m happy with that, but we want to be higher up and we’ll try for that tomorrow.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “That’s not the result that we’re all here for, obviously, and I think everyone here at Carlin is disappointed with that qualifying result, but at the same time I know Max (Chilton) and I both have a lot of confidence in this team and our engineering staff. We’ll look at all of the data tonight and learn from each other and try to come up with a plan for tomorrow’s race. The nice thing is that we’re still learning and we’re still constantly making progress, so it’s not like we’re out of options. We still have a lot left to try and a lot left to learn, so we’ll just keep moving forward.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): “This weekend so far has been really good for us just confidence-wise. To show the speed that we have, I think we deserve to be in the top six – the car definitely does. I just made a mistake and just overdrove the reds (Firestone alternate tires) in the top 12 trying to make into the Firestone Fast Six. I calmed myself down and gathered it up, but I could only get us up to 11th. We have a great race car and I’m excited to see what we can do on race day.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “We can do a lot from fourth. It’s always disappointing when you lead your two groups and miss out on the pole, but it’s so close. It’s amazing that around a four-mile track, it’s so tight. It’s just a testament to get to the championship, but huge hats off to the whole NAPA Know How team. We really struggled yesterday afternoon and made some good decisions overnight that paid off.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We didn’t test here, so we were a bit behind the 8-ball, but we made the right changes and I think we put a good effort out today. I was hoping to go one better at practice and be P2, but starting third is somewhere we can work from tomorrow in the race. It’s going to be interesting with no warmup tomorrow and trying to get the right setup on the race car, but it’s the same for everybody. We have an idea with where we are with older tires, so we’ll try and estimate where we need to be with the setup and put our best effort out there. To fight at it from third is a good thing, so we can do it from there.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “It was definitely a good day. The entire team worked extremely well. The No. 30 boys always have, but it is great to give them back a nice position in qualifying. We were just four hundredths (of a second) off from the top six (in Round 2) and that shows how competitive the field is. I’m extremely happy to start seventh, which is the best position here so far. It’s a long race. We believe we have a strong car for the race, so I’m looking forward to having a strong result.”

ALFONSO CELIS JR. (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): “Today we had no issues, which was important. Yesterday was for sure a setback, as we needed to run the whole day so that we could experiment with the red (alternate) Firestone tires and the softer compound. So not being able to run on the red tires yesterday really did not help our qualifying effort today. It is what it is at this point, so we will come back tomorrow and be ready to run a good race.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “Even though the results might not have shown it, I think we made a lot of progress here today at Road America. We definitely closed the gap from the beginning of the weekend and I really felt like I got everything out of the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet that I could. With us starting where we are tomorrow, we’ll have the freedom to try a completely different strategy, and hopefully, we can come away from a track I love with a decent result.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Yet another tough qualifying session for us as we search to find the speed we need to get. We’re going to take a look overnight, and hopefully, we can figure something out for the race. Hopefully, we set ourselves up for a fun race and get to pass a lot of cars.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “We’ve been slipping backward ever since Practice 1 on the time sheets and just missed it. We’re a little bit loose there. I don’t think I got the most out of Lap 1 and we’re outside looking in by three tenths (of a second), so it’s not like we were that close. Hopefully, we’re better with (tire degradation) than we were with new tires. The race is obviously a different pace, but you still want to start further up than 15th.”

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