Photo courtesy of IMSA

Tony Kanaan added to Ford, Ganassi Le Mans lineup

1 Comment

Tony Kanaan will replace Sebastien Bourdais at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Brazilian Verizon IndyCar Series veteran, who made his debut in the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, will serve as Bourdais’ injury replacement in the No. 68 entry in the GTE-Pro class, alongside Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller. These two and Bourdais won the class last year, fulfilling Ford’s goal of winning at Le Mans 50 years after doing so in 1966.

“We’re very pleased we are able to get a driver of Tony’s experience and talent in the No. 68 Ford GT for the Le Mans 24,” Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance, said in a release. “It’s certainly not the ideal situation and we’re heartbroken that Sébastien won’t be back to defend his race victory, since we know how much that race means to him personally. He is an important part of our family, and we look forward to him making a complete recovery.”

At the Rolex 24, Kanaan got almost eight hours of drive time in the race. He spent just over seven hours, 30 minutes in the No. 69 Ford GT during the race alone and was the third-quickest driver in the category, behind Ganassi teammates Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe.

“It’s an honor to be named a part of the Ford GT lineup for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing at the Le Mans 24,” Kanaan said. “It’s obviously an unfortunate situation that brought us to this point with Sébastien’s injuries, but I’m going to do my best to take his place and try to help win this amazing race for the team again this year. This race has definitely been on my bucket list for a long time, so I’m thankful that Chip and our partners at Ford have given me this opportunity.”

Kanaan is a Le Mans rookie and will miss the Le Mans Test Day scheduled for June 4, as he will be in his usual No. 10 NTT Data Honda for Ganassi at the IndyCar weekend in Detroit – same as his now IndyCar and Le Mans teammate, Scott Dixon.

From the June 10 race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Dixon and Kanaan will be two of several IndyCar full-time drivers who will head straight to Le Mans ahead of scrutineering. Ford’s appointment is scheduled for all four of its cars on Monday, June 12, at 3 p.m. local time.

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

NHRA
Leave a comment

Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

Follow @JerryBonkowski