IndyCar names motorsports veteran Kyle Novak as new race director for 2018

Photo courtesy IMSA
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In a major move, veteran race official Kyle Novak has been named race director of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

IndyCar president of competition and operations Jay Frye made the announcement Friday afternoon.

Novak’s new position will oversee all operations in Race Control at all 17 IndyCar races in the 2018 season. Utilizing a combination of audio, video and data communications, Race Control oversees and controls all aspects of competition.

Novak will also work with IndyCar’s race stewards to review on-track incidents, although the stewards will have final say on whether a penalty should be assessed to a driver or team.

“Throughout our extensive search for a race director, one name was mentioned repeatedly – and that was Kyle Novak,” Frye said in a media release. “We have been aware of Kyle’s work for the past couple of years.

“He’s clearly impressed those he’s worked with and, after meeting with him, we knew he would be a great fit for our Race Control team. Kyle has a great future and we couldn’t be more excited to have him as part of INDYCAR.”

Novak, a 36-year-old attorney, comes to IndyCar after a three-year run as either a race director or steward for various sports car series sanctioned by IMSA.

He began his lengthy tenure in the motorsports world in drag racing, where he, his father and brother raced in amateur bracket competition in Dexter, Michigan.

“(I’ve) always been a gearhead,” Novak said. “Always working on cars; muscle cars, mostly. That’s how I got my feet wet, and then one thing led to another. And here I am.”

But Novak is no stranger to Indy car racing. He previously worked as operations manager and director of operations in the old CART and Champ Car Series from 2004-2008.

He’s also served in various roles in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Series in the Sports Car Club of America, the Global MX-5 Cup Series, and race director for the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge, while also serving as a race steward for IMSA’s top series, the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“Jay (Frye) and I hit it off immediately – it’s the fresh outlook he brings that is a huge part of it (for me),” Novak said. “Ironically enough, three people who work in INDYCAR Race Control are some of the first people I met in the industry, and that goes all the way back to 2004.

“Those are among the key people I’ll be working with on a day-to-day basis. There’s a great deal of familiarity with them.

“Motorsports is such a small industry that many of the people who have helped me over the years have stayed with me as industry colleagues.

“But INDYCAR has always been at the forefront of professional motorsports in North America, and I had the opportunity on several occasions to witness that first hand, since many IMSA races are run in conjunction with INDYCAR events.

“I can’t thank the people at IMSA enough for the opportunities I was given and for their assistance in making this a smooth transition to INDYCAR. I can’t wait to get started.”

Novak assumes his duties immediately in preparation for the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1. The WTR car was forced to retire and finished ninth overall (sixth in DPi).

“I’m simply devastated with the ending,” Albuquerque said in a release. “I really think we were doing a perfect race and unfortunately the last pit stop wasn’t great for our side. Obviously, when you start on pole and up front, you always have a little bit of an advantage. Traffic always benefits the guy leading, and it got me big time there. Passing a GT car and I don’t think he saw me and the level of risk was high. We touched and my car was damaged and it was over for us. It was a bit inglorious to finish like that.”

Said teammate Ricky Taylor, who started third but had to pit on the second lap after a spin in qualifying damaged his tires: “I couldn’t be more proud to be teammates with Filipe. He gives everything and we wouldn’t be in this position in the championship without him. We take risks and I don’t even think what took us out was even a risk. He was fighting for the win and I had no doubt that he was going to pass the 60 car if he had the chance.”

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

Said Jarvis in a release: “Full credit to the entire team and for Meyer Shank to come away with victory and the championship, that’s something really special. We won the two that counted most and the championship. This race definitely was not easy and there were moments where I thought this could end badly, but the car really came alive at night. Tom did an amazing job at the end of the race there.”

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“Congratulations to Mike Shank for winning the drivers’ and teams’ championships,” team owner Wayne Taylor said in a release. “What can I say. We thought we had it, but didn’t. Everybody gave it their all.”

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”