photo: Wayne Taylor Racing

WEC: van der Zande joins DragonSpeed LMP1 program

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Renger van der Zande, already slated to run a full season of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Wayne Taylor Racing, revealed on Sunday that he will also add a slate of FIA World Endurance Championship events between 2018 and 2019, joining DragonSpeed’s newly formed LMP1 program.

Van der Zande, who previously raced with DragonSpeed in the Prototype Challenge class of the American Le Mans Series in 2013, will partner Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley, and will make his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut with the team in June.

However, it should be noted that there is one conflicting weekend in 2018, as IMSA visits the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course the same weekend that the WEC opens its season at Spa (May 6). With van der Zande’s IMSA program with Wayne Taylor Racing taking priority, DragonSpeed will be in need of a replacement, which will be revealed at a late date.

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An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

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IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”