Photo courtesy of IMSA

Action Express, BMW Team RLL among winners in Thriller at The Glen

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A late-race restart with 24 minutes remaining resulted in a thrilling finish to the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

In Prototype. Joao Barbosa, in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi for Action Express, outdueled a game Stephen Simpson in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca LMP2 for the overall win.

Simpson managed to jump around Barbosa with an aggressive move up the inside on the restart, but Barbosa regrouped and closed back in as the two worked through traffic. Barbosa was able to retake the lead with an incredible outside pass between turn 1 and the run up to the esses.

The victory is the first of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season for the No. 5 machine, with co-drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque joining Barbosa in Victory Lane, while second is a season-best for the No. 85 entry, in the hands of Simpson, Chris Miller, and Misha Goikhberg this weekend. Behind them, the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi finished third, with Tristan Nunez, Jonathan Bomarito, and Spencer Pigot sharing driving duties.

In GTLM, the No. 25 BMW Team RLL entry, in the hands of Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims, claimed their first victory of the year. Sims needed to save fuel in the final stint to make it to the finish, but a caution period with 36 minutes remaining put him in position to make it to the end. He outlasted late charges from Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R for the victory.

In GT Daytona, Andy Lally and Katherine Legge made it two-in-a-row in a dominant performance for Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian in the Acura NSX GT3. However, they endured a late challenge from Alessandro Balzan in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, who closed to within a few car lengths but could not make a move for the win. The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 in the hands of Justin Marks and Jens Klingmann was third in class. Also, the No. 86 entry from Michael Shank’s squad was in position to finish second and complete a 1-2 finish for the team, but a mechanical issue forced driver Jeff Segal off the track with 36 minutes remaining.

In Prototype Challenge, the perfect season for the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 continued, with James French, Pato O’Ward, and Kyle Masson winning over the No. 20 and 26 entries from BAR1 Motorsports. Don Yount, Buddy Rice, and Daniel Burkett came home second in the No. 20 ahead of teammates Brian Alder, Derek Jones, and Gustavo Yacaman in the No. 26.

Meanwhile, the perfect season for the Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R came to a crashing halt in turn 1, lap 1. Contact with Olivier Pla, in the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier LMP2, broke the right-front suspension of the No. 10 car, in the hands of Ricky Taylor at the time. Taylor then drifted across the track and pounded the outside wall in the esses, which sent cars behind him scattering in avoidance.

The older Taylor brother managed to bring the car back to the pits, but the team lost several laps making repairs to the right-front suspension as well as the right-rear suspension, which sustained damage after the wall contact. They ended the day in sixth place overall and in the Prototype class, three laps off the lead.

Elsewhere, Tequila Patrón ESM endured a difficult race after an uptick in pace saw them score pole position with the No. 2 Nissan DPi. That No. 2 entry, with Pipo Derani at the helm to start, rocketed off into the lead and dominated most of the opening two hours.

However, shortly after Scott Sharp took the helm, he made contact with the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, with Boris Said behind the wheel, in turn 5. The contact sent Sharp spinning into the runoff area, where he eventually backed into the tire barrier. Although the damage was cosmetic, repairs saw the team lose a handful of laps.

The No. 2 machine also incurred several drive-through penalties for a series of infractions before it eventually came to a stop in the final minutes, with throttle problems ultimately ending their day just shy of the checkered flag.

Their teammates in the No. 22 entry also saw their day end early with mechanical troubles, as Bruno Senna slowed and pulled off the track entering turn one with about one hour remaining.

Also, while their teammates were celebrating in Victory Lane, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing entry from Action Express saw their day unravel shortly before the halfway point, when a mechanical issue saw the right-rear tire come off following a pit stop. The car came to a halt just before the bus stop chicane and was towed back to the pits for repairs. It eventually rejoined the fight and finished seventh in class, 16th overall, with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran sharing driving duties with Filipe Albuquerque, who was entered in both Action Express cars this weekend.

Full results can be found here.

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Newgarden, Rossi ready for a red-white-and-blue INDYCAR finale

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MONTEREY, California – In an international series that personifies diversity from all over the globe, the two main combatants in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship are from the United States.

Josef Newgarden of Tennessee takes a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Northern California into Sunday’s double-points season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud of France, is just 42 points out of the lead.

It’s been quite a while since the two drivers entering the final race of the season were both Americans. Four of the top 10 drivers in the series are from the United States. Last year, five of the top 10 were from the USA.

All but one race in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule is contested in the United States.

Patriotism still matters in IndyCar.

“I think so,” said Andretti Autosport driver Rossi, who is the last American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares.’

“I can’t really get onboard with that.

“I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist.

Getty Images“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”

Since Sam Hornish, Jr. won the final of his three IndyCar Series championships in 2006, just two American drivers have won the title – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Newgarden in 2017. During that span, Scott Dixon of New Zealand won four of his five NTT IndyCar Series championships and Dario Franchitti of Scotland won all four of his IndyCar titles.

The last time two Americans had a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season came in 2001 when Hornish won the championship over Colorado’s Buddy Lazier. Connecticut’s Scott Sharp was third and Arizona’s Billy Boat was fourth in the final standings that year.

That was a much different time and place for IndyCar. At that time, many of the top drivers were in CART while the old Indy Racing League featured a predominantly American lineup. Once unification brought the two sides together in 2008, the championships have been fought on American soil, but international drivers were victorious.

The last time two American drivers finished 1-2 in CART was 1996 when Jimmy Vasser of California defeated Pennsylvania’s Michael Andretti for the crown. In 1992, Bobby Rahal of Illinois defeated Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. of New Mexico for the CART title.

Prior to that, the IndyCar “National Championship” was dominated by drivers from the United States.

 

While Rossi openly choose to wrap himself in the American flag, it’s not as important to Newgarden.

“For me, it’s never been something I put a lot of emphasis on,” said the Team Penske driver. “I’m proud to have grown up in such a wonderful country as the United States, but what I’ve always loved about the IndyCar Series is that they bring the best of the best from around the world. That’s always been important to me.

“It means more I think when you have the best from all over the place coming to compete at the Indianapolis 500, during the whole championship. You really feel like you have that in the IndyCar Series. You get the best drivers from around the world.

“To pair with that, I think we need strong Americans running, as well. So for sure, having guys like Alex and Graham Rahal, some young guys coming up like Colton Herta, myself, it’s really great to have young American competition representing as well and running so strongly.

“What I’ve always loved is the great mix of talent from around the world. To me that’s just so important. If it was all Americans running in the championship, I don’t think it would mean as much. I like that we have that great diversity and that great mix from around the world.”

Although these two drivers are both from the USA, they are fierce rivals. They have mutual respect for each other, but they sure aren’t considered close friends.

“Josef and I honestly aren’t that close,” Rossi admitted. “He never lived in Indy when I moved here, or he was just moving. I actually never really hung out with Josef.

“We obviously have a lot of respect for each other. We raced together for a short period of time in Europe. We have a lot of mutual friends.

“Josef and I don’t talk or socialize really. So, it doesn’t have any impact.”

Newgarden agrees that these two men choose to embrace the rivalry.

“I think it’s just really business,” Newgarden said. “He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Nashville. I don’t see him too often outside of the racetrack. We go and we compete. He’s a great competitor. He’s definitely a tremendous talent, has done a great job in his career.

“It’s been a good, competitive relationship I would say.”

With the return of American drivers capable of winning races, championships and Indianapolis 500s, it has sparked a rejuvenation in IndyCar racing. With drivers from all over the world fighting it out for glory, this series that was born and bred in the United States can take pride in featuring some of the best racing in the world as the series continues to grow in popularity.

“I think we just need to continue a focus on our product,” Rossi said. “I think we have the best race product on the planet in terms of entertainment, the variance of winners that we have throughout a season, how many guys are capable, teams are capable of winning races.

“But that’s an ever-moving target. I think IndyCar has done a good job of placing the priority on that. I just think we need to continue doing that and everything will be moving in the right direction.”