Photo courtesy Land-Motorsport.de web site

Rolex 24 update: No. 29 GTD team assessed first-ever IMSA ‘nuclear penalty’

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This was an IMSA “first” that the No. 29 Monteplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 likely never wanted.

With driver Jeffrey Schmidt leading the GTD class with about 16:25 left in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona late Saturday night, IMSA lowered the boom on the No. 29.

IMSA ordered Schmidt into the pits to serve a five-minute stop penalty for what is being termed an alleged violation of balance of performance. The No. 29 had over a one-lap lead over the rest of the GTD field when it was penalized.

According to an explanation by The AssociatPress, “The rule implies that the car has exceeded the baseline performance that IMSA expected from the entry prior to the race.”

This was a major penalty. In fact, it was the first time IMSA has ever handed down the so-called “nuclear penalty” in competition either at the Rolex 24 or any other IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races.

The “nuclear penalty” has been in the IMSA rulebook for about three years. Teams have been warned several times in the past that it would be implemented, if IMSA officials believed a car was holding back and not giving its full effort and then suddenly gained an inexplicable advantage.

Monteplast by Land team principal Peter Baron explained his perception of the penalty when interviewed by FS1.

“We were doing pretty good,” Baron said. “It’s just unfortunate, it’s kind of how rules come out and everything. They gave us a new restrictor for the fuel rig, and the way our car is set up, they have a target for fuel flow and they determined in the race that our fuel flow was too fast for what they wanted to see going into the rig.

“Everything’s 100 percent legal, they never tested it, we couldn’t challenge it, we’re 100 percent legit. So we had to modify our fuel rig to make us fill slower, so once we got that sorted on the last few stops, we were within the window that IMSA wants.”

The penalty dropped the No. 29 from the GTD lead to 3 laps down, but it has since managed to regain one of those lost laps as Hour 11 drew to a close.

“We’re fine, it’s okay,” Baron told FS1. “Obviously, the car is good and we’ll lose a little bit of time on the pit stops now but that’s okay.”

Could Scott Dixon someday break Foyt, Andretti wins and championships records?

IndyCar
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With five races left in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon is in the driver’s seat to potentially earn a fifth career IndyCar championship.

After winning Sunday at Toronto, Dixon now has a 62-point edge over second-ranked and defending series champ Josef Newgarden and a 70-point lead over third-ranked Alexander Rossi.

The triumph north of the border was Dixon’s third there, as well as his 44th career IndyCar win, third-highest in IndyCar annals.

Add in the four IndyCar championships and those are stellar numbers indeed.

What makes things all the more amazing is Dixon has done all that in under 18 full seasons on the IndyCar circuit. Heck, he’s only 37 years old, too (although he turns 38 on July 22).

Dixon’s championships have come in 2003 (his first full season in IndyCar after two prior seasons in CART/Champ Car), 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2015.

The quiet, unassuming New Zealander has been one of the most successful drivers ever not just in IndyCar, but in all forms of motorsports.

When his name is mentioned, it’s typically included with the only two drivers who have more career wins than he does: A.J. Foyt (67 wins and seven championships, both records) and Mario Andretti (52 wins and four titles).

That’s a pretty lofty pair to be part of.

One might think that after all the success he’s had, Dixon could easily walk away from IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing and enjoy an early retirement.

But competing in and winning races isn’t really a job for Dixon. He enjoys what he’s doing so much that he easily could keep doing what he’s doing – and at a high level – for another seven or more years, at least.

So, can Dixon catch Mario and A.J.? The former would be easier than the latter, for sure.

Numerically, it’s possible – at least part of it:

* Dixon can easily be competitive into his mid-40s.

* He’s averaged three-plus wins every season since 2007 (37 wins from then through Sunday). That means if he can keep that average going, he could reach 24 more wins – to overtake Foyt – by 2026. Yes, that may be a stretch to even imagine, but if there’s any current driver who potentially could overtake Foyt, it’s Dixon.

* Dixon already has three wins this season, and with five more races still to go, he could easily win another one, two or maybe even three more in 2018 as he continues his road to the championship. And let’s not forget that with each additional win, that’s one win closer to overtaking Andretti and Foyt.

In his usual modest and humble manner, Dixon downplays not just talk comparing him with Andretti and Foyt, but also overtaking one or both.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe,” he said. “He’s a long ways ahead. … Eight (championships) is an infinity away. Takes a long time to get eight.”

But that doesn’t mean Dixon can’t keep working at approaching Foyt’s mark.

“I think for us, we take it race by race,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

If he wins the championship this year, he’ll pass Andretti’s championship mark. That would be one record down, three to go.

And if he can win nine more races over the next few seasons, he’ll pass Andretti’s 52 career wins, making it two records down and two more to go.

“Right now with 44 wins, next on the list is Mario I think at 52 or something,” Dixon said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re just trying to get the job done for the team.”

And he’s doing a darn good job at that indeed – with likely even more success still to come.

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