Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona after 6 hours — 18 hours remain

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Our next update will be after 9 hours (12:30 a.m. ET).

We’re one-fourth of the way through the 56th annual Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

After six hours, the leaders are:

PROTOTYPE:

  • No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing, Cadillac Dpi, Mike Conway
  • No. 7 Acura Team Penske, Acura Dpi, Helio Castroneves
  • No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing, Cadillac Dpi, Christian Fittipaldi

GTLM:

  • No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford GT, Sebastien Bourdais
  • No. 911 Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911-RSR, Patrick Pilet
  • No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford GT, Scott Dixon

GTD:

  • No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport, Audi R8 LMS GT3, Kelvin van der Linde
  • No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports, Mercedes-AMG GT3, Jeroen Bleekemolen
  • No. 93 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian, Acura NSX GT3, Mario Farnbacher

There’s still another 18 hours remaining in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway.

Since our last report after the first two hours, a number of things have transpired. Here are some of the most notable events:

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY:

Rain wasn’t expected to impact the race until the overnight hours heading into Sunday’s early-morning hours.

But everyone was caught off-guard when a light rain began to fall around 7:15 p.m. ET, followed by a heavy downpour around 7:30 p.m. ET.

Several cars spun out in the rain, including the No. 48 GTD Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Paul Miller Racing, as well as the No. 14 GTD Lexus RC F GT3 of 3GT Racing.

The weather also impacted the No. 63 GTD Ferrari 486 GT3, which suffered shifting problems as the rain. Repairs were made, but the car got back on-track 8 laps down.

Also, just about the same time, the No. 25 GTLM BMW M8 of BMW Team RLL, blew a right front tire and suffered significant suspension damage. The team took the car to the garage for repairs, but it appeared it could be a lengthy fix time.

Thankfully, the rain stopped after about 40 minutes of both light and heavy downfalls.

And the No. 25 team was able to repair its damage and brought the car back out on-track.

FUEL ISSUE BRINGS OUT FIRST FULL-FIELD CAUTION

The first full-field caution of the race came out with 21:30:37 left in the 24-hour event.

The No. 38 Oreca LMP2 appeared to have a fuel issue heading into Turn 1 on Daytona’s high banks, bringing out the yellow.

The caution lasted nearly 16 minutes until racing went back to green flag conditions with 21:14:54 remaining.

WHAT’S UP WITH DOOR LATCHES?

It’s rare when teams have door latching issues, yet two teams had issues early on.

First, Ricky Taylor had just taken over from Helio Castroneves when the door would not shut on the No. 7 Acura Team Penske prototype, prompting Taylor to take the car back to pit road for repairs.

The car dropped a lap down as a result, but Graham Rahal was able to get the car back on the lead lap during his stint behind the wheel.

Then the No. 62 GTLM Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE suffered a door latch issue that caused it to drop off the lead lap in the race’s third hour, as well.

TEQUILA PATRON STRUGGLES WITH TIRE ISSUES

Something appeared out of whack on the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM. It suffered a punctured tire early in the race and then again in the third hour.

The second incident was worse, as the car had to limp much of the front stretch before being able to get to pit road for repairs.

The car suffered significant damage to the right rear firewall as the tire continued to fall apart, taking much of the fender with it.

The car fell three laps down as a result.

Even worse, the radiator suffered some damage, prompting team engineers to be concerned whether the car will be able to make it to the finish.

“It blew up in the kink in the middle of the track before Turn 5,” driver Pipo Derani told FS2. “Unfortunately, the tire is completely destroyed and I had to come back in.

“It’s a real pity because I’m not sure if the car is okay. The tire was hitting the radiator so we’re just hoping we can fight back.”

RICKY TAYLOR FEELING BETTER

After three days in bed with a bad case of the flu, Ricky Taylor was back and in much better health as the race kicked off.

“I think the race car is the best medicine,” Taylor told FS2. “I feel great. Helio (Castroneves) and Graham (Rahal) did all the work and let me rest for three days to get healthy.”

As for the door latch issue on the No. 7 Acura Team Penske prototype, Taylor was disappointed but took it in stride.

“It’s so awkward when everything is going good and you’re in a rhythm and then the door opens,” Taylor told FS2. “You hear all different noises coming out of the exhaust and it throws you off.

“I wish the series would have let us run because I was just getting used to it. I was pulling on it as much as I could, but unfortunately we had to pit for it. The good news is Graham (relief driver Graham Rahal) is back on the lead lap. I think we’re P8 and we’ll try to hold on to the lead lap till about 4-5 hours to go.”

NOTES:

* Scott Pruett, competing in the last race of his career and hoping to become the Rolex 24 all-time winner (he currently is tied for first with five wins), is preparing to go out in the No. 15 3GT Racing GTD in Hour No. 7. He’s expected to run three segments in the remaining part of the race.

* The lights at both Daytona International Speedway and on most of the cars came on around 5:25 p.m. ET and will likely remain on until Hour 17 of the race.

* The No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R GTLM of Corvette Racing went roughly the first three hours of the race with radio and telemetry issues.

Drivers and team engineers could not communicate with each other, leaving the drivers to run the race by their own devices.

Finally, after a pit stop near the end of the third hour, the team was able to repair the radio and telemetry issues and things were back to normal.

* Stewart Middleton got aggressive and spun Simon Pagenaud in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske prototype late in the third hour.

Middleton was forced to take a stop-and-go penalty.

New schedule has Josef Newgarden seeing double (points) again in 2020

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
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Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske believes the latest revised schedule for 2020 will change his approach to the season.

The new schedule has the defending IndyCar champion looking at ways to double the possibilities for a second consecutive championship.

“When I look at the whole schedule they released now, I look at it as double-points as a whole in all of them,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com Monday. “Iowa is double points on a short oval. There are double points at the Indy GP because there are two races and a road course. Then double points at Laguna, which is a different road course than IMS. And there is double points in the Indianapolis 500.”

IndyCar announced to team owners two weeks ago that the season finale (once scheduled for Laguna Seca and now at St. Petersburg) will no longer be a double-points event. But Monday’s schedule revision essentially adds three double points-style races to the Indy 500’s double-points format, Newgarden said.

“Those are four events where you have to be quite strong,” Newgarden said. “They are all very different from each other. Each one is critical to get right. Iowa has a chance to be the most difficult. From a physical standpoint, it’s already a physical track for one race. To double it up on one weekend will be quite the toll for the drivers.

“It will be a very big test physically to see who will get that weekend right. You can bag a lot of points because of it.”

Just 12 days after the first schedule revision, IndyCar officials announced another revised schedule Monday because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The new schedule features doubleheader weekends at Iowa Speedway in July and Laguna Seca in September. There is an additional race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Oct. 3.

That race will be known as the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix. It will be the second time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history that an IndyCar race is held in the fall. The only other time was the Harvest Auto Racing Classic, a series of three races won by Johnny Aitken on Sept. 9, 1916.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix scheduled for May 30-31 will be dropped from the 2020 schedule. Michigan has a “Stay at Home” order that won’t be lifted in time to start construction of the Belle Isle street course.

Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles said the Detroit event will return in 2021.

The IMS road course essentially will have a doubleheader spaced out by nearly three months. The first race will be the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix on July 4, and the second will be Oct. 3 in the Harvest Grand Prix.

The extra doubleheaders combined with the loss of Detroit gives IndyCar a 15-race schedule for 2020. It started out as a 17-race campaign, but April’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the Acura Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the AutoNation IndyCar Classic at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) have been canceled. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being revived as the season finale on a TBA weekend in October.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Newgarden also is excited about the chance to run at Indianapolis for three major races in one season. Of course, that all depends on how soon IndyCar can return to action because of the global pandemic.

“I’m continually excited about the thought of getting back to the race track,” Newgarden said. “We would love to be there now, but we can’t. With the current situation, everyone is trying to do the best they can to pitch in and do their part so we can get back to the track as quickly as possible.

“I’m excited to get back to racing at some point in the future. To see that is planned to start at Texas is still great. IndyCar has done a great job staying active and fluid with the ever-changing dynamics and current situation.

“We have three opportunities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There are a lot of chances to get it right at the Mecca of our sport.

“I have a lot of trust and faith in IndyCar and Roger, and they are doing their best to stay on top of the situation.”

The one downer to the revised schedule is the loss of the Detroit doubleheader, a very important weekend to Team Penske because Roger Penske also owns the Detroit race. It’s a chance to showcase the series in front of as “Motor City” crowd, which is also the home to the Penske Corp.

“It’s a shame that we miss any event this year,” Newgarden said. “As a racer, you look forward to each one of them. If any of them drop off, it’s a tough pill. Detroit is more so because it is such an important race for us at Team Penske. It’s in our backyard for Penske Corp. Also, our relationship with Chevrolet, how much they put I that event and try to get it right for everybody involved. It’s tough to not have a go at that this year.

“I think of the volunteers. The Detroit weekend is so well run and executed with such a positive momentum behind it for the last eight years that I’ve gone there. I’ve always enjoyed that weekend off the back of the Indy 500.

“It’s a shame we will miss that this year, but I look forward to getting back there in 2021 and getting it started again.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500