MRTI Sunday notebook: Mid-Ohio

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Sunday concluded action for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, with Race 3 for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Race 2 for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires wrapping up the weekend.

Pro Mazda saw utter dominance from one of its title contenders, while Indy Lights saw a duel to the checkered flag after several heavy hitters stumbled.

Reports on both races are below.

INDY LIGHTS: JAMIN OUTDUELS URRUTIA AS HERTA, KAISER FALTER

Nico Jamin swapped the lead with polesitter Colton Herta a couple times in the early laps of Indy Lights Race 2 and assumed the lead on lap 3 after Herta spun out of the lead exiting turn 9. Jamin then had to withstand a late charge from Race 1 winner Santi Urrutia, who closed onto the Frenchman’s gearbox in the final laps.

Urrutia made a serious run at Jamin entering turn 4 on lap 34 and got to the outside of Jamin on corner entry. However, he locked up the brakes briefly and Jamin was able to hold him off. Jamin kept him at bay from there to secure the victory. It is Jamin’s sixth victory in his last eight Mid-Ohio races – he swept a USF2000 triple-header in 2015 and won twice during last year’s Pro Mazda triple-header (he finished third in the other race). Including Saturday’s Race 1 finish of third, Jamin has eight consecutive podiums at Mid-Ohio.

Nico Jamin won Indy Lights Race 2 at Mid-Ohio. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“I screamed on the radio (because) I was so happy!” said an elated Jamin. “The whole 27 team has been struggling so to be first and third this weekend and coming back a bit in the championship feels really good.”

Shelby Blackstock drove a quiet, but solid race to finish third, with Zachary Claman de Melo and Aaron Telitz doing the same to finish fourth and fifth.

Herta was able to regroup after his spin to finish sixth, taking the position from Nicolas Dapero on lap 33. Championship leader Kyle Kaiser, however, endured a much more difficult Race 2, this after struggling massively in Race 1.

Kaiser was running seventh in the early laps, and actually looked poised to grow his points lead over Herta and Matheus Leist, with both drivers running behind him due to Herta’s spin and a poor qualifying from Leist, who started 13th. However, Kaiser made a poorly timed dive inside Juan Piedrahita entering turn 5 as they battled for sixth. Contact was made, Kaiser’s right-front with Piedrahita’s left-rear, and both drivers spun. While they were able to rejoin, neither was in contention from then on. Piedrahita ended up 11th, with Kaiser 12th at the checkered flag.

Matheus Leist, meanwhile, endured another race in which he seemed to lack the necessary pace to run up front, finishing tenth. Combined with his Race 1 finish of 11th, Leist was rarely a factor during the weekend.

Despite the mistake, Kaiser retains the top spot in the championship, and with a still healthy margin at that. Kaiser now leads Urrutia and Herta, who are tied for second, by 42 points (297 for Kaiser, 255 for Urrutia and Herta). Leist sits fourth on 249 points, with Claman de Melo fifth on 243. Nico Jamin sits sixth with 242 points.

Results are below. Race 2 for Indy Lights airs tonight (7/30) at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

PRO MAZDA: MARTIN REBOUNDS TO DOMINATE RACE 3

Anthony Martin completely dominated Race 3 at Mid-Ohio. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Anthony Martin rebounded from a disappointing and controversial second-place in Race 2 to run away with Race 3. Martin shot off into the lead after starting on pole and never looked back, steadily increasing his lead all the way through, eventually winning by nearly 14 seconds.

In fact, Martin never appeared to ease up at any point, actually setting his fastest lap on lap 22, the second-to-last lap of the race.

“I knew I had one job to do and that was to win the race. I was a little ticked off from yesterday so I might have had a little more aggression today, but I had to put what happened yesterday out of my mind – racing is racing and those things happen,” Martin quipped afterward.

Martin added that the knowledge of Victor Franzoni’s running position (Franzoni quickly moved into second after starting the race in third) was plenty of motivation to keep pushing. “I didn’t look behind me until the back straight, when the team told me that Victor was in second and that I needed to go. From there, it was head down. The Cape boys gave me a great car all weekend and it was almost a 100 percent successful weekend. It was great to see we could do it and that helps with three races to go,” he finished.

Title rival Franzoni battled with Carlos Cunha for second the entire race. Franzoni got the better of Cunha off the start and moved to second with an inside pass entering the keyhole, but Cunha stalked him from there, closing to within a couple car lengths on multiple occasions as they worked through lapped traffic.

However, Franzoni held off every challenge to secure second place, with Cunha rounding out the podium in third.

Unofficially, Martin’s victory puts him back ahead of Franzoni by four points (259-255) in the championship. But the results are not official yet, per this statement from series operators Andersen Promotions:

“Under the direction of series officials, the cars of Martin, Franzoni and Fischer have been impounded for further evaluation to be performed in Indianapolis this week. This is an extension of the current inspection process. When completed, the procedure and outcome will be published. The results from today’s race will remain unofficial until that point.”

(Editor’s note: NBC Sports has confirmed that impound independently as well, with a series spokesperson estimating impound results to be released mid-week).

Race 3 results are below.

Both Indy Lights and Pro Mazda pick their seasons back up at Gateway Motorsports Park on August 26.

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Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi bring their storied rivalry to a new level at Rolex 24

Ganassi Penske Rolex 24
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To measure the impact of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi squaring off for the first time in overall sports car wins (starting at the Rolex 24), look at the auto racing titans’ lineups.

There are 12 combined drivers across four entries representing Chip Ganassi Racing (competing as Cadillac Racing) and Team Penske (as Porsche Penske Motorsport) in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And with the possible exception of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, none of those behind the wheel is as famous and accomplished as the U.S. motorsports icons who will be sitting atop the pit stands at Daytona International Speedway.

In the NTT IndyCar Series, Penske and Ganassi are synonymous with success, having combined for 23 Indy 500 victories and 30 championships. They also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for two decades with several signature wins for each.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

Until now, the rivalry never extended to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they competed in different classes from 2018-19 and have competed in the top category in differing times over the years.

But the 2023 season opener at Daytona will mark the beginning of a new era in which Ganassi and Penske will compete for sports car overall victories on two continents. A Ganassi Cadillac Racing V-LMDh and Porsche Penske Motorsports Penske 963 will run full time in both the premier prototype divisions of IMSA and the European-based World Endurance Championship – whose crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having two of the world’s biggest sports car races welcome the Ganassi-Penske battle seems only fitting in a season in which IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class is expected to introduce a stiffer level of competition.

“We obviously like beating each other,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “I think if you beat Penske, you know you’ve beaten someone. You’ve accomplished something great. It’s going to be the same as always. Just another platform at another track, but the rivalry will be just as heated I’m sure.

“On one hand, he’s always the first guy to call us out for a penalty or something. On the other hand, he’s also the first guy to congratulate me on a win, so I think it’s a healthy rivalry, but we certainly pound each other’s heads into the ground on race day. Monday through Friday it switches to more of a good relationship.”

After starting his career in sports cars, Penske also is looking forward to having a new arena to race Ganassi.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about the Rolex 24 and the upcoming sports car season overall,” Penske said in a statement to NBC Sports statement. “With the new hybrid prototype formula ready to make its debut, and some great competition expected on the track between teams, drivers and manufacturers, there is a lot of momentum building right now. Porsche Penske Motorsport is excited to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, this season and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s in action at Daytona this weekend. We also look forward to bringing some new rivalries and storylines to the sport.

Roger Penske confers with Chip Ganassi before the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“In the new IMSA GTP class, there should be a good competitive balance between Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW. We have seen how the rivalry between Team Penske and Ganassi Racing has developed in the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years, and that could certainly extend to sports cars as our teams and drivers continue to develop the new formula and push the production on track in both IMSA and WEC. We will see how the competition plays out, starting this weekend, as we always enjoy racing against Chip and his teams.”

Though there have been some fiery moments over the years (Dario Franchitti vs. Will Power, anyone?), Ganassi vs. Penske mostly has been a story of respect between two organizations whose main strengths are people.

“It’s just the depth of the organizations going up against each other,” Ganassi said. “It’s not just he and I. It’s at every level of the organization.

“We’re smaller. I’d like to think we’re a little more nimble. This is all I do is race cars. I don’t have 200 car dealerships or a truck rental company or a transportation company. I just have racing is all I have.”

Heading into Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are the thoughts of Ganassi and Penske drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona:


Earl Bamber, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “When I grew up as a kid, I remember watching Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske battle each other for many years, obviously following Scott Dixon and his career in IndyCar (Bamber is a New Zealand native like Dixon). And when the opportunity came up to come and race for Chip, it’s a no-brainer. It’s one of those teams you want to drive for in the world. It’s one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world. And then we’ve got Porsche, where I used to drive, with Penske. It’s going to be a phenomenal rivalry over the next couple of years and that rivalry continues between two absolute legends of our sport. Two people who have been the most successful. I hope we can get Cadillac and Chip their first Le Mans win. That’s obviously the ultimate goal for us and beat his old rival, Roger.

“Those two powerhouses of the sport, they definitely raise the bar. You’ve seen it in IndyCar for years and years. One finds something and the next pushes it forward and forward. You’ll see the same in sports car racing. We all saw what Chip Ganassi Racing did back in the day with the GT program. So no doubt we can do the same again. It’s the ultimate highest level of motorsport when it comes to sports car racing, and there’ll be no stone unturned to make sure that we’re winning these races. It will be a really great fight, great for the fans and great for the sport, because both of them love winning.”

Dane Cameron, No. 6 Porsche Penske: “I think anytime you have Chip and Roger come to town to start fighting for wins, it raises the profile of the whole thing. Hopefully it brings a few more eyes to everything. Certainly brings a lot of expectation with it as well, and I also think it reflects really strongly on the championship to show how competitive it is. They respect the championship and challenge, but when they come to town, they come to win for sure.”

Scott Dixon, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “The battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske is always a fierce one. I obviously know it well from the IndyCar side. But I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s impressive to see a lot of the manufacturers that have come in for this battle. I imagine if it’s not from the first race but during the season that Penske and Ganassi will fight it out pretty hard.

“I think the rivalry between Chip Ganassi racing and Penske has always been strong and in a good way. There’s been some battles and the 2010s for me and other drivers when it gets fierce. Some disagreements here and there. But it’s always been a great pure battle, which is what I think these championships are made of and what brings the fans to the track. So I’d sum it up as a very healthy rivalry.”

Alex Lynn, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “Even as a little boy (growing up in England), you knew exactly who Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were. You knew what their teams represented. For me to represent Chip and his team is a huge honor. I’m extremely motivated to try to add to his legacy and be part of the fabric of this team. I think having the battle between Penske and Ganassi is iconic. Also Porsche and Cadillac as brands, respectively, just adds to the occasion. Makes me smile even thinking about it knowing what we get to represent when the flag drops.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 7 Porsche Penske: “I think it’s fantastic especially because we’re merging the IMSA and WEC Series and giving the opportunity for teams like Penske and Ganassi to fight for overall victories. You look at the history of those teams, they’ve been on top. We always hear it from the IndyCar guys or the NASCAR side, you’re talking two big names in motorsports. You expect nothing but them fighting for wins. For sure Ganassi has strengths, and we have strengths as well. I’m pretty glad I have the opportunity to be representing Team Penske and continue to write history with them and Porsche is a great opportunity.”

Richard Westbrook, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “The chance for the two most famous teams in America to go head to head in the Daytona 24 Hours and also the Le Mans 24 Hours. I expect that rivalry to keep going up more notches.”

Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “Obviously, it’s such the big houses of racing in the U.S. Penske and Ganassi are taking it at each other. The rivalry is big. The best of the best. The most famous ones in the U.S.

“Ganassi is part of Cadillac. We’re the race team that runs the factory program for Cadillac. Penske is running it for Porsche, obviously a high brand as well. Those teams have their little rivalry, but they’re working for a bigger company, a bigger brand, which is Cadillac and Porsche. So those two premium brands taking on each other and then two of the best teams in America taking on each other. It’s very simple: Cadillac got the best team in the U.S. and Porsche got the best team in the U.S. So let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a cool fight.”