Photos courtesy IMSA

IMSA: Ryan Briscoe hoping for advantage at ‘demanding’ home circuit

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Courtesy IMSA Wire Service

LAKEVILLE, Conn. – In stick and ball sports, you often hear the term “home-field advantage.” This weekend at Lime Rock Park, Ryan Briscoe (photo above) hopes to ride “home-track advantage” to victory lane, but admits that benefit for him is a bit different.
Despite living approximately one hour from the track in nearby Farmington, Conn., Briscoe – who moved to Connecticut in 2015 – rarely gets to Lime Rock outside of the IMSA weekend. That doesn’t mean, however, the GTLM points leader doesn’t get a boost from racing near home.
“This week I’ll commute back and forth from home and sleep in my own bed,” he said.
As simple as that may seem, every bit of an advantage helps as he looks to put the No. 67 Ford GT in victory lane for the second consecutive race and extend his points lead alongside co-driver Richard Westbrook in the process. Especially at a track as demanding as Lime Rock.
“It’s a tough race, the lap is so short it really makes it physically demanding,” Briscoe added. “It’s just busy, you’re always fighting traffic whether it’s in your class or in the GTD class. It’s nonstop and physically and mentally draining.”
In addition to sleeping in his own bed, Briscoe’s home-track advantage includes having a section of friends and family cheering him on. That would make a third victory at Lime Rock – he won in 2007 and 2013 in the American Le Mans Series – that much sweeter.
As would one more detail.
“I haven’t won here as a local, so I still need to do that.”

Lally Celebrating 25 Years At Lime Rock Park

Long before Andy Lally established himself as one of the top drivers in IMSA history, the Long Island, New York, native was earning his stripes at Lime Rock Park. Now, 25 years after turning his first laps at the Connecticut bullring, Lally returns to Lime Rock this weekend tied as the winningest active driver at the track.

“I took my Skip Barber school in 1993 and it’s been a fun ride ever since,” said Lally, who has amassed 34 career IMSA wins, tied for 14th on the all-time wins list. “I’ve also had a lot of success at regional and national races here before I got into pro racing.”

Lally has four IMSA wins at Lime Rock spanning 15 years, with his first coming in 2001 in the GRAND-AM SRPII class. His most recent win came two years ago with the same team and car he’s entered with this weekend – the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 with co-driver John Potter.

Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and Wright Motorsports’ Patrick Long also have four Lime Rock wins.

“This really is a bullring and you treat it like a short-track stock car race,” said Lally. “You can’t shy away from contact because passing chances are limited and sometimes you have to force the issue to make it happen.”

Were Lally to win this weekend, not only would he move into sole possession of first on the Lime Rock wins list, but he would also pass two legends on the IMSA all-time wins list: David Brabham and Hurley Haywood.

Pumpelly Takes Coveted Motul Pole Award at Lime Rock in Continental Tire Challenge

At a circuit famously known for its difficultly to pass, Spencer Pumpelly nabbed the coveted Motul Pole Award and will start first for Saturday’s IMSAContinental Tire SportsCar Challenge Lime Rock Park 120.

Pumpelly’s time of 55.025 seconds (96.697 mph) in the No. 28 RS1 Porsche Cayman GT4 MR delivered the veteran’s third Grand Sport (GS) pole position of the year, as the team seeks its second win of 2018 after winning January’s BMW Endurance Challenge At Daytona.

“I think it is important (to be on the pole) here at Lime Rock Park because for one, it is hard to pass here,” said Pumpelly, who co-drives with Dillon Machavern. “We need to be in front to make our car go. We need to try and keep the car in the front and not get shuffled back…We have a lot of things in place and we just have to execute tomorrow. We had great fans today and I appreciate every time I get to come here. It just couldn’t be better.”

The No. 46 Team TGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb will start second, after the former posted a lap just .142 seconds shy of Pumpelly’s time.

In the TCR class for the first time this season, it will not be a Compass Racing Audi starting from the pole. Rather, it was Tom O’Gorman in the No. 12 eEuroparts.com Racing Audi RS3 LMS that took the top starting spot at the 1.55-mile circuit with a time of 55.747 seconds (95.445 mph).

Saturday’s race marks O’Gorman’s second start in the Continental Tire Challenge after competing at Watkins Glen International earlier this month with the Windsor, Conn.-based team alongside co-driver Kenton Koch.

“I am so glad to be on pole for these guys,” said O’Gorman. “It’s our first season in the series, second race with this car and it’s our home race, so to be on pole is super exciting. I can’t wait for tomorrow’s race.The key is now to just survive tomorrow’s opening stint and hand the car over to Kenton in good shape because we are definitely going to be elbows up out there tomorrow.”

Starting second in TCR – which will feature its biggest field of the season tomorrow – is the team that took the last four Motul Pole Awards, the No. 77 Compass Racing Audi of Britt Casey, Jr. and Tom Long.

For the fourth consecutive race, and for the fifth time in six 2018 races, it’ll be the No. 81 BimmerWorld Racing BMW 328i leading the Street Tuner (ST) class field to green. Nick Galante posted the fastest lap in qualifying at 59.543 seconds (89.360 mph) to earn his second Motul Pole Award of the year. Galante’s co-driver, Devin Jones, has won the other three for the team.

“The traffic tomorrow is going to be the main thing, but we have been running with these guys all season,” said Galante. “If we keep an eye on our mirrors and try to minimize the traffic, I think we can have a good race and pull out a win here. I haven’t had too much luck here at Lime Rock that last two years at all, but I think this could be the year here, especially in a BMW.”

The Lime Rock Park 120 is scheduled for Saturday at 11:10 a.m. ET and can be streamed live onIMSA.tv. For fans onsite, a hour-long pre-race grid walk is open to the public for photos with the cars and autographs from the drivers.

Porsches Lead The Way In Opening Day Of WeatherTech Championship Practice
If Friday’s trio of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) practice sessions are any indication, Saturday’s Northeast Grand Prix is anybody’s race. In both classes, each of the day’s three sessions were led by a different manufacturer.
In GTLM, the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet set the day’s fastest lap of 50.414 seconds (105. 256 mph) in the final session. Dirk Mueller in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT led the first practice with a lap of 50.924 (104.202 mph), while Antonio Garcia topped the charts in Practice 2 at 50.939 (104.171 mph) in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R.
“Last year we had a great performance on this track,” said Pilet. “We expected the same this year, but the track is a lot different. Each session we tried to improve the car and it was good in the last session. Now we need to find the right setup for qualifying and the race.”
The parity in the class mirrors a tight GTLM points race with just five races remaining. The top six teams are separated by a mere 15 points entering Lime Rock, led by the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT team of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook.
Much like the GTLM class, three different teams led the way on Friday in the GTD class with Patrick Long unofficially setting the track record in the day’s final session with a lap of 51.754 (102.530 mph) in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 RSR. Kyle Marcelli led the way in Practice 1 with a lap 52.303 (101.454 mph) in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3, while Andy Lally led Practice 2 with a time of 52.140 (101.771 mph) in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi LMS GT3.
Saturday’s Northeast Grand Prix begins at 3 p.m. ET and will be televised on a delayed basis starting at4 p.m. ET on FS1. The race will be carried live by IMSA Radio on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio (Sirius 138/XM 202/App 972).

Lime Rock Park “Home Base” For Carpentier, eEuroparts.com Racing
While Ryan Briscoe is a relatively new resident of Connecticut there is probably no bigger advantage a team will enjoy this weekend than that of IMSAContinental Tire SportsCar Challenge team eEuroparts.com Racing and driver Lee Carpentier.

The Windsor, Conn.-based team’s owner Matt Moran is a Lime Rock Drivers Club member and has a working relationship with the track, while Carpentier lives a mere five minutes from the circuit and worked at the track for over a decade at the Skip Barber Racing School and as an instructor at various local weekends.

“It’s always important to support local businesses and the track is certainly a local business,” said Moran. “Skip (Barber) and his crew have done a great job, Walter (Irvine), Ryan (McIntosh), all the way down, with certainly helping us out promote our business and we try to help them out and promote their business. It’s been a symbiotic relationship for us over the course of the last few years.”

eEuroparts.com Racing has a pair of Audi RS3 LMS TCR cars entered this weekend in the Continental Tire Challenge TCR class, with Carpentier and Kieron O’Rourke in the No. 10 entry and Kenton Koch and Tom O’Gorman in the No. 12.

Despite numerous starts at Lime Rock in other series, this will be the first IMSA start for eEuroparts.com Racing. Looking to podium in front of a large number of family, friends and guests, the team will lean on Carpentier, who may have more laps at Lime Rock that any other driver in the series as a former employee at the track.
“I haven’t worked for maybe two years for the track, but I still do some hot lap stuff for them” he said. “I do some instructing for their club. So being the home base for me, it provides enough driving throughout the year that I can stay on top of my game.”
Double Time for WeatherTech Championship Teams Tomorrow
Something will take place at tomorrow’s Northeast Grand Prix that has never happened before in the WeatherTech Championship. The teams will qualify and race on the same day for the first time in series history. Qualifying begins at 9:35 a.m. for the GTD cars followed by GTLM qualifying at 10:00 a.m. before the green flag drops at 3:10 p.m.
“It adds another element to a race weekend for us because this is a two-day race weekend instead of three days,” said Katherine Legge, driver of the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3. “That means there is extra work for the guys for car set up because there is less time. Qualifying and racing on the same day also means you can’t do a lot to the car in between the two and you can’t risk wrecking it which will make some people a little more conservative. But it does mean that it will be an accurate representation of how the car will be in the race. It will be interesting to see what happens.”

View from the pits: Reporters’ picks for the 103rd Indianapolis 500

INDYCAR / Jason Porter
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It’s Race Day in Indianapolis, and for the first time, the Indianapolis 500 will be on NBC.

Time will tell what impact Mother Nature has on today’s 103rd Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. But no matter what, prerace coverage begins today on NBCSN at 9 a.m. ET, then transitions over to NBC at 11 a.m. ET.

All month long, the INDYCAR on NBC pit reporters have been bringing you the latest breaking news and stories for the Brickyard. Now, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Marty Snider share their insights from pit road. Read on …

KEVIN LEE

Throughout the last two weeks, one common theme has been, “Don’t crash.” There were five crashes, and four of those teams/drivers ended up in the Last Row Shootout. Two of the three bumped (Patricio O’Ward and Fernando Alonso) were in backup cars following heavy impacts.

Several drivers have consistently been among the strongest. Simon Pagenaud (pictured, left) not only starts on pole but has been strong in race trim as well. All three Ed Carpenter Racing cars are fast and appear good in traffic. Alexander Rossi looks like he can put his car wherever he wants, and Scott Dixon has five championships and 44 IndyCar wins, so he must be watched.

In order, my picks for most likely to drink the milk are Pagenaud, Rossi, Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Dixon.

KELLI STAVAST

A week ago, no one could have predicted that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and McLaren Racing would be bumped from the Indy 500 by a single-car, part-time effort of Juncos Racing and its driver, Kyle Kaiser (pictured, right).  But it happened, and Kaiser now occupies the 33rd and final spot in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

So what next?  I spoke with Kyle five days after the dramatic qualifying effort, and he told me he has never been happier to finish last and that he is still “buzzing” from that experience—an energy he hopes to carry straight through to the race.  He also told me that the response from fans has been positive with people stopping him in public (including at Chipotle) to hug him and congratulate him on making the Big Show.

But reality might have set in for the Californian who now lives in Indy.  During Carb Day’s final practice, the team struggled to get a good handling car for Kyle, who described the day as “challenging.”  But Kaiser also acknowledged that the team made some progress throughout the practice and at the very least collected some data that might help for the 500-miler on Sunday.

Whether he finishes 1st or 31st on Sunday, Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing will have plenty of fond memories to carry with them from the 103rd Indy 500.

MARTY SNIDER

First, we cannot wait to bring you guys the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s an honor for our entire group to broadcast such an amazing event.

So what do we expect? I have no idea, to be honest. The weather will be a huge factor today. It might be a race to halfway if rain is forecast.  If it’s cooler (mid 70’s ambient, which it looks like it’s going to be), Alexander Rossi (pictured, left) was unstoppable in those conditions last Monday.

But Rossi was very unhappy with his car on Carb Day. For that matter, most teams were. But Rob Edwards of Andretti Autosport explained a few things to Rossi about all of the experimenting they were doing in final practice, and I think that team is in a much better frame of mind heading into the race.

I find it interesting that Simon Pagenaud’s team scuffed in literally every set of tires they will use for today’s race. The No. 22 camp is convinced (and they’re not wrong) that one of the keys to Will Power’s 2018 win was his ability to gain time on out laps after pit stops. Scuffing in tires helps that out lap time. It also allows teams to do a balance check on tires. Good thing they did: Kyle Moyer of Team Penske found two sets that had vibrations, which would have been bad in the race.

Bottom line, I haven’t seen anyone really stand out and show me they can beat Alexander Rossi yet. So I’m going with Rossi to win his second Indy 500.

Enjoy the show friends. It’s going to be a fantastic race!