IMSA: Road America weekend notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Notes from this weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event at Road America, the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, are below.

These are in addition to the schedule notes and other elements of this weekend, which will get broken out in later days.

PAUL MILLER LAMBORGHINI HIT WITH HEAVY PENALTY

The No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, which had originally qualified sixth in the GT Daytona class, has been hit with a heavy penalty that will send the car to the back of the grid and also has championship implications.

The car’s ECU (electronics control unit) has been confiscated by IMSA, with the team fined $7,500 with the entrant and drivers (Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow) both docked 15 points.

Violations were Article 22.7.1 of IMSA’s Sporting Regulations (Cars out of compliance with the Technical specifications and/or regulations may be penalized up to and including Removal from the results) and Article 4.7.1 of the GTD Technical Regulations (At all times during IMSA-sanctioned Events it is the Entrant’s responsibility to ensure the configuration of the Car Model represents the Homologation components of the Specification; including: a. As-Homologated Configuration b. As-Delivered Configuration c. Parts Manual d. Homologation Extension Form Configuration).

A statement from Paul Miller regarding the No. 48 is below:

“We won’t comment on severity of the penalty or the specifics of the situation, but I’d like to commend the IMSA officials on the professional manner in which they went through their process yesterday.”

SHANK ACURA REPAIRED

Following Katherine Legge’s incident in practice on Saturday, the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 has been fully repaired and got back together before Sunday’s race.

With spares from Acura, Shank and RealTime Racing, the No. 93 car is nearly as good as new. The only new piece brought in was part of a front bar added to the nose assembly from RealTime.

The Shank crew was done in the early evening and out of the track by about 7:30 a.m., in an impressive repair job that went quicker than anticipated.

BINKS’ ANNUAL ROAD AMERICA AUCTION

Dan Binks, crew chief on the No. 3 Corvette C7.R, held the annual benefit auction for Camp Anokijig on Saturday at the Road America Corvette Corral. It helps raise funds for the local camp – which is Native American for “We Serve” – where Binks is both a board member and former camper.

Nearly 40 items were up for auction, including one of the front wheels from the No. 63 Corvette C7.R at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans – photographs and paintings. Last year’s auction raised more than $26,000 for the camp, which opened in 1926.

But this year topped it, with the auction raising more than $43,500 for the camp located in nearby Plymouth. The funds will go toward a new ventilation system in the campground’s kitchen and dining commons.

“I can’t say enough about the generosity of everyone who participated at this year’s auction,” Binks said. “It’s really encouraging to be able to improve the experience of our thousands of campers and the Anokijig staff. This means so much to me, my family and everyone at the camp.”

Photos courtesy Corvette Racing

LIGIERS LINE UP SECOND, FOURTH

Photo courtesy of IMSA

It was a good day for both Ligier JS P217 Gibsons on Saturday with Jose Gutierrez getting the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen car into a season-equaling best start of the year in second, and Marc Goossens doing well to get VISIT FLORIDA Racing’s new Ligier into fourth.

“Yesterday was a difficult day because of the weather conditions but this morning we threw some things at it and the Onroak guys together with the VISIT FLORIDA Racing engineering group have given us a great car,” said Goossens.

“It is a matter of being able to touch it first to feel exactly what the car can do and by the time I managed to do that, the tires were no longer at their best. I think a 1:53.8-9 (second lap) would have been possible. We’re on the second row – it’s a big change for the team. I think we have a good race car – we still need to dial it in a little further. But we made quite a few changes – all the small ones together made for one big change. We need to keep tuning it but I think this baseline is pretty good for the race.”

THE TAYLORS GO PODCASTING WITH CONTINENTAL TIRE

Ricky and Jordan Taylor have a new podcast, that’s been announced this weekend. The new BadFast Podcast website is linked here and is sponsored by Continental Tire.

“This is an exciting announcement not just for the IMSA paddock, but for motorsports in general,” said Travis Roffler, director of marketing for Continental Tire. “Partnering with BadFast podcast is one more layer in Continental Tires continued commitment to helping grow the sport of racing in the US. Rob’s experience coupled with the liveliness of the Taylor brothers will offer the perfect foundation to talk about action on-track and happenings off-track. I think fans are really going to enjoy it!”

GOOD READ ON THE TAYLORS

From Radio Show Limited’s John Hindhaugh on the Taylor brothers, here’s a good read on their balancing act both as brothers and teammates. Here’s the feature for Mobil 1 The Grid.

JOHNSON’S CAREER TURNS 300

Mike Johnson, strategist for the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS, will have his 300th career race start today in IMSA competition.

PROVISIONAL GRID AND WARMUP RESULTS 

Here’s the provisional starting grid. A couple cars have changed tires and/or starting driver, and the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM has had an engine change.

Meanwhile here’s the results from warmup this morning.

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”


Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”


Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).