IMSA Preview – Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Round 6 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the halfway point of the season, sees IMSA’s third endurance event of the year in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

But, as its shortest enduro, several teams that opted for three-driver lineups for the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring are going with two drivers in Sunday’s six-hour event.

It also marks the third round of the 2018 Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, which is comprised of IMSA’s four endurance races. Action Express leads the way in that championship with Mike Conway, Eric Curran, and Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.

Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand lead the TPNAEC standings in GT Le Mans in their No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT (Sebastien Bourdais is also atop those standings with them, but is not on the entry list for Watkins Glen.

In GT Daytona, Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, and Luca Stolz lead the TPNAEC standings in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports.

As such, Sunday’s event possesses championship implications in multiple areas, and all three classes are enveloped in close championship fights, both in the TPNAEC and in the overall standings.

Previews for all three classes are below.

Prototype

  • Action Express continues to show the way in Prototype, though there is a small shakeup in their No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac, with Gabby Chaves filling in for the injured Joao Barbosa. Chaves partners Felipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi, with Mike Conway joining Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac. Though losing Barbosa for this race is a blow, the team still looks mighty strong – the two entries are tied at the top of the championship, and it’s well within reason to think they’re again the team to beat heading into Watkins Glen.
  • Behind Action Express sits another tie, between Acura Team Penske’s No. 7 ARX-05 of Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor and the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac of Jordan Taylor and Renger Van Der Zande. The two entries have experienced different fortunes of sorts in 2018 – Taylor and Castroneves gave Acura and Penske their first win together at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and finished second at Detroit, both signs that the Penske/Acura package is getting stronger. The Wayne Taylor squad, meanwhile, sees its winless streak pass the one-year mark, and while Taylor and Van Der Zande have looked strong this year, they just haven’t yet found the magic to break into victory lane.
  • Dane Cameron and Juan Montoya hold down fifth in the championship, and are coming off back-to-back podiums at Mid-Ohio and Detroit. They gave Penske and Acura their first pole in Long Beach, and a win for them appears to be beckoning.
  • Tequila Patron ESM continues to show lots of speed – Pipo Derani scored a brilliant pole in Detroit – but outside of Sebring (which Derani, Johannes van Overbeek, and Nicolas Lapierre won in the No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi), they haven’t been able to put the race results together. The same can be said of the sister No. 2 entry, which finished second at Long Beach and fourth at Detroit in the hands of Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel, but finishes of 19th at Daytona and 16th at Sebring blight their season. Olivier Pla joins the No. 2 entry again at Watkins Glen, which sat on the pole last year, while Lapierre returns to the No. 22, and both entries will look to turn their speed into strong race results this weekend.
  • Mazda Team Joest had a hiccup in Detroit, finishing ninth and 14th with the Nos. 55 and 77 RT24-P entries, though the No. 77, in the hands of Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez, had been flying the flag nicely in previous rounds, and did score a podium at Mid-Ohio behind the Penske Acuras. The car has pace to contend, they just need a clean weekend. Rene Rast joins Jarvis and Nunez in the No. 77, while Spencer Pigot joins regulars Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell in the No. 55.
  • Spirit of Daytona Racing continues to try and rebound from missing Long Beach and Mid-Ohio after their nasty Sebring crash, with Tristan Vautier and Matt McMurry looking to turn the car’s strong pace into a noteworthy result that the team greatly needs.
  • Performance Tech Motorsports, JDC-Miller Motorsports, AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, and CORE Autosport again fill out the Prototype grid, with Performance Tech returning after missing Detroit. All four teams compete with global LMP2 platforms (Oreca 07 Gibsons for Performance Tech, JDC-Miller, and CORE, and a Ligier JS P217 Gibson for AFS/PR1 Mathiasen). As such, they’re the underdogs of the Prototype class. But, this event did see the legend of the JDC-Miller “Banana Boat” begin last year, as Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg challenged Barbosa, Fittipaldi, and Albuquerque for the win. Anything can happen in the six-hour Watkins Glen enduro, so don’t be surprised if one of these teams emerges as a threat.
  • United Autosports also returns to IMSA competition at The Glen, with Phil Hanson, Bruno Senna, and Paul Di Resta piloting the No. 32 Ligier.

GT Le Mans (GTLM)

  • Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook continue to show the way in GTLM, leading the class championship by seven points in their No. 67 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. Though they haven’t won since the Rolex 24, they have not stumbled, with a worst finish of fifth since then – they also finished second at Long Beach. GTLM is sure to be its usual all-out grudge match, but expect Briscoe and Westbrook to be at the forefront.
  • Porsche GT Team’s Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor sit second in the championship (in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR), and Vanthoor has a lot of momentum on his side as he comes off of a 24 Hours of Le Mans triumph in GTE-Pro. They also won the last time GTLM raced, at Mid-Ohio, so they could also go back-to-back at Watkins Glen. Their teammates Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy sit seventh in the championship, and look to right the ship after struggling since their Sebring win.
  • The No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller sits third in the championship, followed by the Corvette Racing entries of Oliver Gavin and Timmy Milner (No. 4 C7.R) and Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen (in the No. 3). Hand and Mueller are looking for their first win of 2018, as are Garcia and Magnussen, while Gavin and Milner look for their second 2018 triumph. And all three entries could use a win to make up ground in the championship.
  • BMW Team RLL had its best outing at Mid-Ohio, with Alexander Sims and Connor De Phillippi finishing second in the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE. They sit sixth in the GTLM standings, while teammates Jesse Krohn and John Edwards sit eighth. Of note: Bill Auberlen joins the No. 24 lineup for Watkins Glen, while Krohn and Edwards stay a two-man effort in their entry.

GT Daytona (GTD)

  • Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow continue to lead the GTD standings for Paul Miller Racing in their No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, but Meyer Shank Racing has Katherine Legge right behind them – Legge, in the MSR No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 sits only three points behind them. Legge is coming off a victory in Detroit and sees Alvaro Parente rejoin her as a co-driver – Parente was competing in a Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup event at the Circuit Paul Ricard during the Detroit weekend. The No. 86 entry is still not confirmed for the whole year, but as a genuine title threat, it’s hard to imagine they won’t continue if they keep pushing the No. 48 Paul Miller Lambo. Meyer Shank had the upperhand in Detroit, but the Paul Miller squad has plenty of fight and has been on the podium at every GTD event this year. Expect both entries to lock horns again.
  • Not to be forgotten, the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports entry sits third in the GTD standings with Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen. They sit 17 points out of the lead in their No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3, and they could sneak into the battle for the win as well. Luca Stolz joins Keating and Bleekemolen to fill out the lineup at Watkins Glen.
  • Meyer Shank’s No. 93 NSX, with Justin Marks and Lawson Aschenbach, sits fourth in GTD, and is coming off a season’s best second place finish in Detroit – they completed a Meyer Shank 1-2 that day. They’ll have their sights set on their first win of 2018 at The Glen.
  • Scuderia Corsa has Cooper MacNeil sitting fifth in the championship at the moment – MacNeil is joined by Gunnar Jeannette and Jeff Segal in the No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 this weekend – and the team will look to move closer to the front of the GTD field. NBCSN’s Townsend Bell also joins the sister No. 64 effort at Watkins Glen, partnering Bill Sweedler and Frank Montecalvo.
  • Wright Motorsports consolidates back down to one entry for the Glen, with Robert Renauer joining Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen. They sit outside the top 10 in GTD right now in what’s been a disappointing 2018 to this point, but they remain potent enough to challenge for wins if they can avoid trouble.
  • HART returns at Watkins Glen, with Ryan Eversley, Chad Gilsinger, and Tom Dyer filling out the driver lineup. This group remains a genuine underdog – the team is an all-volunteer effort that is comprised of Honda employees – but with a strong driver lineup complementing a strong machine underneath, this group could be in for a surprise or two.

A full entry list can be viewed here and a full weekend schedule can be viewed here.

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‘Baby Borgs’ bring special Indy 500 bonds, memories for Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi

Ganassi Ericsson Indy
Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner
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THERMAL, Calif. – Winning the Indy 500 is a crowning achievement for driver and car owner, but for Chip Ganassi, last May’s victory by Marcus Ericsson had meaning even beyond just capturing one of the world’s greatest sporting events.

When Ganassi was 5 years old and growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his father, Floyd, attended a convention in Indianapolis in 1963. Floyd went to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to tour the track and visit the former museum that used to stand next to the main gate on 16th and Georgetown.

Ganassi’s father brought young Chip a souvenir from the gift shop. It was an 8-millimeter film of the 1963 Indy 500, a race won by the legendary Parnelli Jones.

“I must have watched it about 1,000 times,” Ganassi recalled. “More importantly than that, something you did when you were 5 years old is still with you today.

“I was 50 years old when I celebrated my Thanksgiving with Parnelli. It dawned on me that something I did when I was 5 years old took me to when I was 50 years old. That’s pretty special.”

Ericsson and Ganassi were presented with their “Baby Borgs,” the mini-replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy, in a ceremony Feb. 2 at The Thermal Club (which played host to NTT IndyCar Series preseason testing). The win in the 106th Indy 500 marked the sixth time a Ganassi driver won the biggest race in the world.

Ganassi will turn 65 on May 24, just four days before the 107th Indianapolis 500 on May 28. The 2023 race will mark the 60th anniversary of the victory by Jones, who is now the oldest living winner of the Indianapolis 500 at 89.

Jones wanted to do something special for Ericsson and Ganassi, so each was given framed photos personally inscribed by Jones.

Parnelli Jones (Steve Shunck Photo For BorgWarner)

“Congratulations Marcus Ericsson and my good friend Chip Ganassi on winning the 2022 Indianapolis 500,” Jones said in remarks conveyed by BorgWarner publicist Steve Shunck. “There is no greater race in the whole world and winning it in 1963 was by far the biggest thrill in my life.”

Ganassi’s relationship with his racing hero began 60 years ago, but the two have shared some important moments since then.

It was Jones that signed off on Ganassi’s first Indianapolis 500 license in 1982. Jones was one of the veteran observers who worked with Ganassi and other rookie drivers that year to ensure they were capable of competing in the high-speed, high-risk Indianapolis 500.

When Ganassi turned 50, he got to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with Jones.

“We’ve been friends over the years,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “He wrote me a personal note and sent me some personal photographs. It really says what this race is all about and how important it is to win the biggest auto race in the world.”

Michelle Collins, the director of global communications and marketing for BorgWarner, presented the “Baby Borgs,” first to Ganassi and then to Ericsson.

“More special is winning the Indianapolis 500,” Ganassi said during the presentation. “It’s been a big part of my life. I want to call out my buddy, Roger Penske, and thank him for the stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and what it means to us. It’s about the history, the tradition and, to me, it’s about the people that have meant so much in my life.

“Thanks for the trophy, Marcus.”

Marcus Ericsson and Chip Ganassi hold their Baby Borgs while posing with the Borg-Warner Trophy (Bruce Martin).

The Baby Borg presentation also came on the birthday of sculptor William Behrends, who has crafted the Bas-relief sterling silver face of each winner on the Borg-Warner Trophy since 1990. The “Baby Borg” presents each winner with a miniature of one of the most famous trophies in sports.

“I have to thank BorgWarner for everything that has happened since winning the Indianapolis 500, including the trip to Sweden,” said Ericsson, who took a November victory lap in his native country. “I’m very thankful for that because it’s memories that are going to be with me for the rest of my life.

“To bring the Borg-Warner Trophy to my hometown, seeing all the people there on the city square on a dark day in the middle of November. It was filled with people and that was very special.

“I’m very proud and honored to be part of Chip Ganassi Racing. To win the Indianapolis 500 with that team is quite an honor. It’s a team effort and a lot of people worked very hard to make this happen.

“Our focus now is to go back-to-back at the Indy 500.”


If Ericsson is successful in becoming the first driver to win back-to-back Indy since Helio Castroneves in 2001-02, he can collect an additional $420,000 in the Borg-Warner Rollover Bonus. With Castroneves the last driver to collect, the bonus has grown to an astronomical amount over 21 years.

Ericsson is from Kumla, Sweden, so the $420,000 would have an exchange rate of $4,447,641.67 Swedish Kronor.

“It’s a nice thing to know I could get that if I do win it again,” Ericsson told NBC Sports. “But the Indianapolis 500 with its history as the biggest and greatest race in the world, it doesn’t matter with the money, with the points, with anything. Everyone is going to go out there and do everything to win that race.

“It’s great to know that, but I will race just as hard.”

Marcus Ericsson points at the newest face on the Borg-Warner Trophy (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

A popular slogan in racing is “Chip Likes Winners.” After winning the 106th Indy 500, Ganassi must really love Ericsson.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than that, does it? I’m very thankful to be driving for Chip,” Ericsson said. “He likes winners and winning the Indianapolis 500, it doesn’t get better than that.”

When Ericsson was presented with his Baby Borg, he stood off to the side and admired it the way a child looks at a special gift on Christmas morning. The wide-eyed amazement of his career-defining moment was easy to read and met with delight by executives of BorgWarner (an automotive and technology company that has sponsored the Borg-Warner Trophy since its 1935 debut).

“I noticed that immediately and I was watching him look at it wishing I had a camera to capture that,” Collins told NBC Sports. “But maybe not because we always have our phones in front of us and it’s nice to take in that moment as it is. That is what makes the moment well worth it.”

Marcus Ericsson (Bruce Martin)

Said BorgWarner executive vice president and chief strategic officer Paul Farrell: “It’s very special to have the big trophy that has been around since 1935 and to have a piece of that. Hopefully it’s something that (Ericsson) cherishes. We think it’s special, and clearly, Marcus Ericsson thinks it is very special.”

The trophy process begins shortly after the race as the winner has the famed Borg-Warner Wreath placed around his neck, and the Borg-Warner Trophy is put on the engine cover. The next morning, the winner meets with Behrends, who has been sculpting the faces on the trophy since Arie Luyendyk’s first victory in 1990. Later in the year, the winner visits Behrends’ studio in Tryon, North Carolina, for a “Live Study.”

The process takes several more steps before the face is reduced to the size of an egg and casted in sterling silver. It is attached to the permanent Borg-Warner Trophy and unveiled at a ceremony later in the year. Ericsson’s face was unveiled last October during a ceremony in Indianapolis.

That’s when it hit Ericsson, a three-time winner in IndyCar after going winless in Formula One over 97 starts from 2014-18.

“Until then, it was strange because you are so busy with your season right after the Indy 500 you don’t really get much time to sit back and think about what you had accomplished,” Ericsson said. “It was the offseason before I really realized what I had done.”

The permanent trophy remains on display at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but has been known to travel with the winning driver on special tours, such as the Nov. 3-7 trip to Sweden.

“It’s been incredible to see the amount of interest in me and the IndyCar Series and the Indy 500,” Ericsson said. “The trophy tour with the Borg-Warner Trophy we did in November really made a huge impact in Sweden. I was on every TV show, morning TV, magazines, newspapers, everywhere. People are talking about IndyCar racing. People are talking about Marcus Ericsson. It’s been huge.

“I was back in Sweden last month for the Swedish Sports Awards and I finished third in the Sports Performance of the Year. Motorsports is usually not even nominated there, and I finished third. That says a lot about the interest and support I’ve gotten back home in Sweden.”


Ericsson continued to reap the rewards of his Indianapolis 500 victory last week at the lavish Thermal Club, about a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs, California.

Earlier in the day before the Baby Borg presentation, Ericsson, and Chip Ganassi were among the 27 car-driver combinations that completed the first day of IndyCar’s “Spring Training” on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile road course. The next day, Ericsson turned the test’s fastest lap.

The 32-year-old still seems to be riding the wave, along with his girlfriend, Iris Tritsaris Jondahl, a Greece native who also lived in Sweden and now lives with Ericsson in Indianapolis.

“Today, receiving my Baby Borg, it was another thing of making it real,” Ericsson said. “It’s not a dream. It’s reality. To get the Baby Borg and bring it home. My girlfriend, Iris, and I are house hunting, looking for a house in Indianapolis. It will definitely have a very special place in our new home.”

Marcus Ericsson and girlfriend Iris Tritsaris Jondahlc share a kiss at the Baby Borg presentation (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

Ericsson told NBC Sports his most cherished trophy before getting his Baby Borg was for his first NTT IndyCar Series win in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix in 2021.

“It was such a huge win for me and such a huge breakthrough for me and my career,” he said. “After that, it catapulted me into a top driver in IndyCar.”

The Brickyard win was another level for Ericsson, who moved to Ganassi in 2020.

“Marcus kept himself in the race all day,” Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull told NBC Sports. “Anybody that ran a race like Marcus ran, maybe you deserve the race win, but you don’t always get it. Marcus did everything that it took, and we are really, really proud of him.”

Ericsson also proved last year to be one of the best oval drivers in the series, a much different form of racing than he experienced until he came to the United States.

“Racing in Europe and around the world, I always liked high-speed corners,” he explained. “It was always my favorite. I always had this idea if I go to IndyCar and race on the ovals, it is something that would suit me and my driving style. I was always excited to try that. When I came to IndyCar and started to drive on ovals, I liked it straight away. It worked for me and my style.

“The first few attempts at Indy, I had good speed, but it was always some small mistakes that got me out of contention. I learned from them. I’m very proud I was able to pull it off, but it was a lot of hard work behind that.”

Michelle Collins of BorgWarner presented Baby Borgs to Marcus Ericsson and Chip Ganassi at a ceremony also attended by Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

The victory in the Indianapolis 500 is etched in history, as is Ericsson’s face on the trophy.

“It’s such a special thing,” the driver said. “The BorgWarner people and IndyCar and everyone at IMS, I get to experience so many cool things since winning the Indy 500. It’s a win that keeps on giving. It never ends. It still does.

“I can’t wait to get back to Indianapolis, the month of May, as the champion. I still have to pinch myself. It’s a dream, for sure.”

Ganassi doesn’t have to pinch himself — all he needs to do is look at his collection of Baby Borgs.

His first Indy 500 win — as a team co-owner with Pat Patrick — came in 1989 with Emerson Fittipaldi’s thrilling duel against Al Unser Jr.

In 1990, Ganassi formed Chip Ganassi Racing. Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000, Scott Dixon in 2008, Dario Franchitti in 2010 and 2012 and Ericsson in 2022.

“It’s a feather in the team’s cap for sure just to have our representation on the Borg-Warner Trophy with five other drivers,” Ganassi said. “It’s a testament to the team, a testament to Mike Hull that runs the team in Indianapolis. I just feel really lucky to be a part of it. It’s great to work with a great team of great people.

“Just to relive that moment again and again never gets old; never goes away. I’m really lucky to be in the position I’m in. It’s an honor to represent the team with the great people that it took to bring Marcus across the finish line. He and I get to celebrate events like this, but it’s really about the people at Chip Ganassi Racing in Indianapolis that pull this all together.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500