Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Road America weekend notebook

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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.

Chevrolet hoping it finally has edge on Honda in Indy 500

Photo: IndyCar
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Chevrolet engines have powered some of IndyCar’s biggest wins over the last six years.

Their drivers have won three of the first five races this season, four straight series titles and claimed the top four starting spots in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

So why is there so much chatter about Chevy vs. Honda in Sunday’s race? It’s the one mountain Chevy continues to try and conquer.

“We have more horsepower at the top end but race running’s going to be different because you’re not going to be flat out,” 2016 series champ Simon Pagenaud said. “You’re going to have to manage your tires, you’re going to have to lift a lot and reaccelerate, and the Honda is really strong at that. So I think it’s going to equalize the race and I think there’s a good chance it will show, which is fantastic.”

Pagenaud knows both engines well.

He spent his first four seasons in the series working with Honda teams before switching to Roger Penske’s powerhouse Chevy team in 2015.

Yet as dominant as Chevy has been over the years outside Indy and as good as Penske’s team has been on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval, Honda continues to have the upper hand in the 500. Their cars have driven to victory lane 12 times over the past 14 years, including a run of nine straight (six coming when Honda was the series’ sole-engine manufacturer).

Chevy has two 500 wins since returning to the series in 2012. But the engine battle is becoming far more competitive even at Indy where the disparity from the top qualifier to the last qualifier was cut from 11.083 mph in 2017 to 5.198 mph this year.

Drivers have already noticed a difference on the track and casual fans who only watch the 500 might pick up on the changes, too.

“It’s certainly exciting for the fans, for us, for the teams,” said three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, a Chevy-powered driver for Penske. “It’s all about the end. Right now, we happen to be competitive so let’s see what happens in the race.”

Last year, Honda grabbed four of the top five spots and powered two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso to the race’s rookie of the year award. The problem: Three Honda engines blew during the second half of the race and those still on the track worried they would face the same fate.

This year, some of those same questions could return after Marco Andretti blew an engine just hours before the start of the IndyCar Grand Prix. Still, Andretti has been fast and qualified 12th for the race.

The new aero kits have drivers complaining about handling and passing on Sunday. Practice and qualifying speeds haven’t provided many hints about what to expect, either.

The practice session Monday was the first time everybody worked heavily on race setups and attempted to run in traffic.

The result: Chevy and Honda each had five cars among the top 10, in practice led by 23-year-old Sage Karam at 226.461 mph in a Chevy. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champ and 2014 Indy winner with Andretti Autosport, was third-fastest at 224.820 – and No. 1 among the Honda teams.

Chevy, however, posted the top three non-tow speeds with rookie Kyle Kaiser leading the way at 221.107. Marco Andretti wound up fourth at 220.407 and was the top Honda car the list.

Four-time series champion Scott Dixon has learned not to read too much into all these numbers. The Chip Ganassi Racing star qualified ninth and is one of only two Honda drivers starting in the first three rows Sunday.

Last year, Honda took six of the top nine starting spots and had four of the top five cars at the finish line.

“I think there’s a lot of good Honda cars. Hopefully this one is one of them,” the 2008 Indy 500 winner said. “It showed pretty good, I think, in practice. But again it doesn’t guarantee you anything. You’ve got to give it your best, put in the effort and work hard.”

And hope for the best.

“I believe, even last year, even though the Hondas were really strong, we were able to fight in the end,” Castroneves said. “It’s all about being a good, balanced car.”