Photo: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing

Ford, Ganassi riding high following three straight IMSA wins

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Victory for Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller on Saturday’s Northeast Grand Prix from Lime Rock Park continued a hot summer stretch for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing outfit.

Hand and Mueller, in their No. 66 Ford GT, previously won the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on July 1. Teammates Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, winners of the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January, also won at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on July 8.

Combine all of that with the Hand/Mueller victory at Lime Rock Park last weekend, and it’s three wins in a row for Ford and Ganassi.

And Saturday’s win was particularly dramatic, as Hand had to close down a gap of 12 seconds to then leader Jan Magnussen, in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R For Corvette Racing.

Hand managed to get onto Mangussen’s back bumper as they worked through GT Daytona (GTD) traffic, and then had to outduel him in the final laps.

But, when Magnussen drifted wide onto the grass exiting the final corner, it was all Hand needed to seize control of the lead, and he cruised to victory from there.

“It’s just amazing,” said Hand after Saturday’s victory. “We knew (Lime Rock) was going to be about being around at the end.  We knew tire longevity was going to be key here, and you have to be impressed with Michelin and our tires.  They went the distance when we needed them to because I was 12 seconds down there, and that set of tires, we were hard on them.  I could see I was reeling him in (No. 3 Corvette).  He was struggling in traffic and I was making some moves in traffic that were really aggressive, including getting in a full-on battle with the leading GTD cars.  It’s the last stint and you have no choice.”

Mueller was equally as elated, particularly of what the win means in terms of the championship standings, a point he was sure to highlight.

“This Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team just impresses me, weekend to weekend,” said Mueller.  “It’s such a big family.  It’s great.  I feel a little bad for (Westbrook and Briscoe in the No. 67), since they had a little trouble there today, but this win means so much to me and the team.  It’s our first overall win as a team, and a big win in terms of the championship. ”

Indeed, Saturday’s win proved to be very significant in the GTLM title chase, as it vaulted Hand and Mueller into the GTLM lead. However, it is only by one point over Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, and their Ford/Ganassi teammates Westbrook and Briscoe are only one further point back in third.

In short, three points separate the top three in GTLM leaving Lime Rock Park. A Corvette lineup has won the last two GTLM driver’s championships, but three wins in a row, and four on the season, leave Ford and Ganassi poised with a pair of efforts in position to dethrone them.

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Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).