Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Derani, Patron ESM Nissan dethrone Cadillac at Road America

Leave a comment

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – For the first time in the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, it’s not a Cadillac DPi-V.R that has won overall, as the second different Daytona Prototype international (DPi) manufacturer has broken through.

Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbeek have pulled off the win in the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi in Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America.

The Nissan has toppled the Cadillac, courtesy of Derani’s barnstorming pass on Lap 56 around the outside of Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac on a restart into Turn 1. The No. 10 car won the first five races and Action Express Racing, with its Nos. 5 and 31 cars, have won the last two for Cadillac to open the year seven-for-seven in Prototype.

Derani, who’s been a thorn in the Wayne Taylor Racing team’s side before (notably at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona), took over from Johannes van Overbeek and was only fractionally behind him after their last round of pit stops – stops which indirectly decided the race.

At that pit cycle, the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson opted not to pit, perhaps hoping the rest of the Prototype class field would need to come in again for a splash of fuel – so it shifted Stephen Simpson to the lead.

But the strategic hopes were dashed once the No. 3 Corvette C7.R contacted the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR going into Turn 1, which knocked Dirk Werner deep into the gravel trap and brought out another full course caution barely a lap after the last one.

Simpson would eventually need to pit, first taking on emergency service in a closed pit and then pitting again after the next restart for full service. That dropped the plucky “JDC Banana Boat” down to a season-worst eighth and last place in class, after a run that did not match its pace as Simpson set the fastest lap of the race at 1:54.095.

Performance Tech Motorsports kept up its streak in Prototype Challenge, a seventh consecutive victory in the swan song year for the class. This one, though, was harder earned than most as the No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports car got back to the lead lap and within a few seconds of Performance Tech in the final half hour, but still Pato O’Ward and polesitter James French forged ahead to ensure French finally has a professional win not far from his hometown of Sheboygan in the No. 38 Oreca FLM09.

In GT Le Mans, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing finally won with its Ford GT for the first time since this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and in the process, became the sixth different manufacturer in as many years to do so at this race in class. Corvette won last year, Porsche in 2015, Risi Ferrari in 2014, the SRT Viper in 2013 and BMW in 2012. Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller pulled off the triumph in the No. 66 car.

Meanwhile in GT Daytona, the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 got on the board with Jens Klingmann and Jesse Krohn delivering a dominant drive.

More to follow…

IndyCar’s revised schedule gives Tony Kanaan an extra race in 2020

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
Leave a comment

Tony Kanaan got a bit of good news when the latest revised NTT IndyCar Series schedule was released Monday.

Kanaan’s “Ironman Streak” of 317 consecutive starts would have concluded with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 15. That race was postponed, and the races that followed have been canceled or rescheduled later in the year. The season tentatively is scheduled to start June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the reason for the tentative nature of this year’s 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, started the season with a limited schedule for A.J. Foyt Racing in the No. 14 Chevrolet. That schedule included all five oval races, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.

A silver lining for Kanaan is that this year’s trip to Iowa Speedway will be a doubleheader, instead of a single oval contest. His schedule has grown from five to six races for 2020, should the season start on time with the June 6 contest at Texas Motor Speedway and the additional race at Iowa.

“I’m really happy that IndyCar has been very proactive about the schedule and keeping us posted with the plans,” Kanaan told NBCSports.com Tuesday afternoon from his home in Indianapolis. “I’m double happy that now with Iowa being a doubleheader, I’m doing six races instead of five.”

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Kanaan’s “Last Lap” is something that many fans and competitors in IndyCar want to celebrate. He has been a fierce foe on the track but also a valued friend outside the car to many of his fellow racers.

He also has been quite popular with fans and likely is the most popular Indianapolis 500 driver of his generation.

Scott Dixon was Kanaan’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2013-17. At one time, they were foes but eventually became friends.

“I hope it’s not T.K.’s last 500,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “I was hoping T.K. would get a full season. That has changed. His first race of what was going to his regular season was going to be the 500. Hopefully, that plays out.

“You have to look at T.K. for who he is, what he has accomplished and what he has done for the sport. He has been massive for the Indianapolis 500, for the city of Indianapolis to the whole culture of the sport. He is a legend of the sport.

“We had our differences early in our career and had problems in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 when we were battling for championships. We fought for race wins and championships in the 2000s. I’ve been on both sides, where he was fighting against me in a championship or where he was fighting with me to go for a championship. He is a hell of a competitor; a fantastic person.

“I hope it’s not his last, but if it is, I hope it’s an extremely successful one for him this season.”

Even before Kanaan joined Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon admitted he couldn’t help but be drawn to Kanaan’s personality.

“T.K. is a very likable person,” Dixon said. “You just have to go to dinner with the guy once, and you understand why that is. The ups and downs were a competitive scenario where he was helping you for a win or helping someone else for a win. There was never a dislike or distrust. We always got along very well.

“We are very tight right now and really close. He is a funny-ass dude. He has always been a really good friend for me, that’s for sure.”

Back in 2003 when both had come to the old Indy Racing League after beginning their careers in CART, the two drivers were racing hard for the lead at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on April 13, 2003. They were involved in a hard crash in Turn 2 that left Kanaan broken up with injuries. IRL officials penalized Dixon for “aggressive driving.” Dixon had to sit out the first three days of practice for the next race – the 2003 Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan recovered in time and did not miss any racing. He started second and finished third in that year’s Indy 500.

“We were racing hard and going for the win,” Dixon recalled of the Motegi race. “It was a crucial part of the season. Everybody has to be aggressive. I respect Tony for that. He was not letting up. That is what I always saw with Tony, how hard the guy will push. He will go to the absolute limit, and that is why he was inspiring and why he was a successful driver.

“Those moments are blips. You might not talk to the guy for a week, but then you are back on track. T.K. is very close with our family and we are with his.”

This season, because of highly unusual circumstances, T.K.’s IndyCar career will last for one more race than previously scheduled.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500