IMSA/LAT

IMSA: Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring update – halfway through the 12-hour event

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We’re halfway through the 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring Raceway in central Florida.

Weather conditions have been perfect, with barely a cloud in the sky, although temperatures have started to climb from warm to borderline hot.

After the significant amount of action during the first three hours, things were somewhat subdued in the second three-hour segment as we head into the second half of the race.

Let’s get started with some of the highlights, follow class-by-class reports.

With about 7 hours, 42 minutes left in the race, the No. 66 Ford GTLM of Chip Ganassi Racing ran into trouble.

Dirk Mueller was behind the wheel when he was clipped on the right rear. A few moments later, the left rear tire blew out.

Somehow, the rear wing assembly also became dislodged on the right side, apparently from the initial contact, prompting Mueller to hit the pits to have the wing replaced.

The team worked on the car on pit road for close to 15 minutes before taking the car to the paddock for further repairs, or potentially retirement from the event.

On the restart, the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R in GTD spun with Christina Nielsen behind the wheel. Nielsen was able to get the car righted and resumed, running 13th in GTD and 34th overall.

Here’s how the three classes played out from the start of Hour 4 through the end of Hour 6, the halfway point of the event, which is slated to end at 10:40 p.m. ET.

Prototype

Helio Castroneves checked out from the pack in the early stages of Hours 4 through 6 in the Team Penske No. 7 Acura DPI.

But by the end of the three-hour segment, Pipo Derani (No. 22 Nissan DPI) leads the pack, followed by Spencer Pigot (No. 55 Mazda DPI), Juab Pablo Montoya (No. 6 Acura DPI), Felipe Nasr (No. 31 Cadillac DPI) and Renger Van Der Zande (No. 10 Cadillac DPI).

About midway through the segment, the No. 32 Prototype of Alex Brundle spun and brought out a yellow flag when he temporarily could not get his car going.

He eventually did and rejoined the race, still in ninth among the 13 Prototypes.

The No. 10 Cadillac DPI has struggled for much of the last couple hours with water shooting out from behind the driver’s compartment, an indication that the car continues to overheat – not a good sign for the remaining six hours.

GT Le Mans (GTLM)

Connor De Phillippi in the No. 25 BMW M8 leads the GTLM class at the midway point.

Toni Vilander in the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE is second, followed by Nick Tandy (No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR), Laurens Vanthoor (No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR) and Scott Dixon (No. 67 Ford GT) in fifth place.

GT Daytona

Luca Stolz (No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3) leads, followed by Corey Lewis (No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3), Gunmar Jeannette (No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3), Katherine Legge (No. 88 Acura NSX GT3) and Mario Farnbacher (No. 93 Acura NSX GT3).

Closing in on the end of the sixth hour, Dominik Baumann in the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 had an unusual incident.

It’s unclear if he hit something or whether the hood popped up by itself, making it next to impossible for him to see.

Baumann continued on and then hit a sign on the side of the track, pushing the hood down enough where he could make it back to the pits for his team to put the hood back in place and he was back underway.

NOTES:

There also was a very strange incident during the second three-hour segment..

Just before the event reached the four-hour mark, an apparent wind gust lifted a small canopy used by fans over the fence and onto the run-off area by Turn 10.

The incident brought out a full-course yellow that lasted for about five minutes as track workers removed the canopy.

Also, check this out:

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

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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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