IMSA: Simpson, JDC-Miller win thriller at Watkins Glen; Ford, Turner claim GT honors

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“David” slayed “goliath” in Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, as Stephen Simpson made a spectacular three-wide pass on Jordan Taylor and Juan Pablo Montoya to take the lead in the final hour.

Simpson, in the the No. 99 Oreca 07 Gibson “Red Dragon,” then hung on as they battled through GT traffic to give co-driver Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller, along with the entire JDC-Miller Racing team, their first Prototype victory in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The battle was set up after Andy Lally suffered a cut tire in his No. 44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 for Magnus Racing, which dropped bodywork and a tire carcas on track after the tire started coming apart.

A round of pit stops saw Jordan Taylor come out with the lead in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R – the Wayne Taylor Racing team elected to take fuel only, which gave them a much quicker stop and vaulted them into the lead.

Montoya, whose No. 6 Acura ARX-05 had dominated the race with he and co-driver Dane Cameron, came out in second, with Simpson’s No. 99 Oreca in third. CORE autosport, which entered the pits as the leader, came out in sixth with the team electing to change drivers – Colin Braun got out, with Romain Dumas finishing the race in their No. 54 Oreca. (Of note: although Braun qualified the No. 54 on the pole, the team elected start Jon Bennett to get his required drive time in, which saw them start at the back of the Prototype field).

A subsequent restart saw Montoya immediately challenge Taylor for the lead as they entered the esses, but their battle opened the door for Simpson, who took advantage and passed both on the back straightaway approaching the bus stop chicane.

Simpson stretched out the lead to nearly four seconds, but GT traffic allowed Montoya and Dumas, who quickly climbed up to third, to close in. But, their efforts were to no avail, as Simpson pulled the lead back out to nearly two seconds to take the win.

Dumas nipped Montoya at the line to finish second. Behind them, Paul Di Resta brought the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 Gibson home fourth, while Taylor ended up fifth.

In GT Le Mans (GTLM), Dirk Mueller and Joey hand emerged from a tough race-long battle with Porsche GT Team and Corvette Racing to take the GTLM victory in their No. 66 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.

Both entries from Gansssi, Porsche, and Corvette fought hard with each other for all six hours – Ganassi and Porsche slugged it out in the first half of the race, while Corvette emerged as a threat in the second half – Jan Magnussen was leading in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R with just over one hour left.

But, the aforementioned caution and pit stops saw Mueller emerge in the lead, and he held on during the final hour to take the GTLM win by 1.5 seconds. It’s Ganassi’s first GTLM victory since the Rolex 24 at Daytona, won by Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe, and Scott Dixon.

Antonio Garcia, who took over the No. 3 Corvette from Magnussen at their final stop, came home second. Patrick Pilet and Laurens Vanthoor finished third and fourth their Nos. 911 and 912 Porsche 911 RSRs, with Tommy Milner finishing fifth in No. 4 Corvette.

In GTD, Turner Motorsport inherited the lead late in the race after the leading Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi, in the hands of Sheldon van der Linde, incurred a penalty for pitting in a closed pit – they tried diving in to take their final stop before the pits closed for the aforementioned caution for Andy Lally, but did not make it in time.

Their penalty saw Turner driver Markus Palttala move to the lead ahead of Meyer Shank Racing’s Alvaro Parente – the MSR squad bad been battling Turner, Montaplast, and Paul Miller Racing in an extremely intense GTD battle that saw all four entries engage in a six-hour slugfest.

In the end, Palttala, who co-drove with Dillon Machavern and Don Yount, hung on for the win ahead of Parente, who returned to MSR as a co-driver with Katherine Legge. Bryan Sellers brought the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 home in third for the Paul Miller squad. Jack Hawksworth, the GTD pole sitter, finished fourth in the No. 15 Lexus RCF GT3 for 3GT Racing, with Jeroen Bleekemolen finishing fifth in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports.

Full results can be found here. IMSA heads to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park next week for the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix.

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New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”