Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Corvette scores shock win and Change Racing a debut win at VIR

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A seemingly straight-forward Michelin GT Challenge at VIR for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Virginia International Raceway quickly turned chaotic in the closing minutes and saw the No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen score a surprise win in GT Le Mans for Corvette Racing.

In GT Daytona, Change Racing, with drivers Jeroen Mul and Corey Lewis, dominated from the pole in their Lamborghini Huracan GT3, to score their debut win in IMSA competition, although they faced a late challenge from the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, in the hands of Jens Klingmann and Jesse Krohn. However, Corey Lewis, who finished the race for Change Racing, held off a final-lap challenge from Klingmann to take the victory.

Reports for both classes are below.

GTLM

A frantic start saw Alexander Sims take lead after starting second in the BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM. Sims went side-by-side with Joey Hand, in the pole-sitting No. 66 Ford GT from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, with the two going door-to-door through several corners before Sims eventually cleared Hand for the lead.

Sims and co-driver Bill Auberlen dominated the race from there, leading by over 20 seconds at multiple stages. However, a punctured tire prior to their final scheduled pit stop forced them to pit a few laps early, putting them into a big fuel conservation strategy in their final stint.

That allowed the No. 3 Corvette of Antonia Garcia, running second, to begin closing in. Garcia and co-driver Jan Magnussen emerged in second after an intense skirmish with the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander and the No. 66 Ford of Hand and co-driver Dirk Mueller.

Up front, Sims tried desperately to save enough fuel to make it to the checkered flag, but another puncture forced him to pit in the final 15 minutes, handing the lead to Garcia, who held on for the win from there.

Behind Garcia, however, chaos hit teammate Tommy Milner, in the No. 4 Corvette, and Mueller, who got together battling for a position on the podium entering the Turn 14 “roller coaster.” Both cars spun off into the grass, but were able to continue.

As a result of the contact, Ryan Briscoe (with co-driver Richard Westbrook) came through to take second, while Fisichella, who fell back as far as sixth after an off-course excursion in the second half of the race, ended up third on Risi Competizione’s return to IMSA competition. Sims ended up fourth, with Mueller in fifth.

GTD

Jeroen Mul took off from pole for Change Racing at the drop of the green flag, and he and co-driver Corey Lewis appeared to be destined for a relatively easy win, leading by over 10 seconds during the final hour of the race, with Lewis behind the wheel after Mul started.

However, Jens Klingmann, in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, ran down Lewis in the final minutes, taking advantage of lapped traffic to do so. Specifically, Lewis was held up by a slowing Tommy Milner, whose No. 4 Corvette appeared to suffer a punctured tire on the final lap, which allowed Klingmann to close right on the back bumper of Lewis.

Yet, Lewis held off the challenge, even slightly increasing the gap between the two on the final lap, to take an emotional first win for he and the team, with Klingmann coming home second.

Behind them, Jeroen Bleekemolen, with Trent Hindman filling in for Ben Keating as a co-driver, finished third in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports – Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3. Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen finished fourth in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, with Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow finishing fifth in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3.

The 2 hour 40 minute affair ran caution-free, but did see several drivers spin off course at various points. Most significantly, along with the aforementioned Milner/Mueller contact, Sage Karam, in the No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RCF GT3, and Katherine Legge, in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 for Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian, came together in the early laps in a controversial incident.

Legge tried to get alongside Karam on the backstretch leading up to Turn 14, with Karam pushing her to the edge of the track. Legge returned the favor approaching the turn, with Karam putting two wheels on the grass. Karam managed to regain control, and actually out-breaked Legge into the corner, but slowed up suddenly on corner-exit. As a result, Legge piled into the back of him, doing significant damage to the front of Legge’s car, with the Michael Shank-led team eventually retiring the car after trying to repair.

Karam, for his role in the incident, was given a 60-second stop and hold penalty, and was later seen on camera having an animated conversation with Michael Shank about the incident.

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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.