MRTI: Mid-Ohio Saturday recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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All three series of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires hit the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for races on Saturday – Race 1 for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, and Race 2 for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Indy Lights saw its title combatants lock horns in the final laps as they battled for the win, while Pro Mazda has a new points leader after a driver took his third win in a row. And in USF2000, the newly crowned champion continued his remarkable winning streak.

Reports on all three series are below.

Indy Lights: O’Ward Outlasts Herta Challenge for Race 1 Win

Pato O’Ward take the Race 1 after outlasting challenges from Colton Herta in the final laps. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Championship combatants Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta dueled for the Race 1 win in the final laps, with Herta all over O’Ward’s gearbox during the second half of the race.

However, O’Ward thwarted every challenge to secure the victory and further extend his championship lead before Sunday’s Race 2 – he now leads Herta by 25 points.

“We’ve carried some good momentum since Iowa and I’m trying to make it better and better each weekend,” O’Ward explained afterward. It’s just tough to keep people behind you when they can engage the push-to-pass, so it’s nice to get more than a second-and-a-half gap, then stretch it out from there. It was a good race. I had pressure from behind the whole way, so to get the win means a lot.

Dalton Kellett rounded out the podium in third. He took the third spot following a Lap 21 restart – Aaron Telitz spun into the Turn 9 gravel trap on Lap 18 to bring out the caution – when his Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Norman began to struggle.

Norman, who had been running second, lost that position to Herta, and then lost third to Kellett as he started to drop through the order. He battled hard with Santi Urrutia for fifth – Victor Franzoni had already gotten around him for fourth – with Urrutia trying an outside pass entering Turn 4 on Lap 22.

However, Norman clipped the inside curb, which launched him into Urrutia. The contact sent Urrutia into a spin as both cars went off course, with Urrutia briefly coming to a stop before continuing. Norman was subsequently issued a drive-through penalty for his role in the incident.

That battle left Franzoni in fourth at the end, with Norman ending up fifth. Urrutia and Telitz finished sixth and seventh respectively.

Race 2 rolls off Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Pro Mazda: VeeKay Retakes Points Lead with Race 1 Victory

Rinus VeeKay is back in the Pro Mazda championship lead after winning Race 1 at Mid-Ohio. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Rinus VeeKay dominated Race 1 from the pole to take his third win in a row, and his fifth of the 2018 season, to retake the series points lead from Parker Thompson.

VeeKay immediately took off into the lead from the pole position and went unchallenged most of the way, winning by nearly three seconds over second-place finisher David Malukas.

“The first half of the race, David (Malukas) got pretty close. I had to adapt a bit because I didn’t want to be quick and hurt the tires and damage my chances in the second race,” VeeKay detailed afterward.

“I got into a good rhythm and was able to push hard at the end of the race to get the quickest race lap as well, so I’m happy with my points from today. Leading the championship doesn’t change anything: every race I try to win and get everything out of the car and myself. I just have to focus as much as possible. But towards the end of the race, my spotter Charles Crews told me to bring it home which just reminded me not to push too hard. I’m really happy to get my third consecutive win.”

Robert Megennis made a Lap 1 charge that saw him jump from his fifth starting spot to run third, a spot he held from there to the end. Carlos Cunha finished fourth, putting all three Juncos Racing entries in the top five, while Parker Thompson finished fifth.

Thompson, who led VeeKay by seven points entering the weekend, now enters Race 2 down nine points to VeeKay.

Results are below. Race 2 rolls off at 11:05 a.m. ET on Sunday.

USF2000: Kirkwood Victorious Again After Frederick Falters

Kyle Kirkwood extended his winning streak to eight in a row on Saturday. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Kyle Kirkwood found himself in an opportune position when a rival faltered in Race 2. Starting second, alongside pole sitter Kaylen Frederick, Kirkwood found himself in the lead when Frederick went wide in Turn 2 just after the green flag waved.

And Kirkwood, who clinched the 2018 USF2000 championship with his Race 1 victory, never looked back from there, leading every lap and going unchallenged to take his eighth win in a row, and ninth of the year.

“Even though I’ve clinched the title, the goal stays the same, to keep winning races and to try to tie for most wins in a season,” Kirkwood asserted afterward. “This point of the season is the most important. We’ve won the championship but we have to prove that we won’t let up. If we relax, that would show that I’m not extremely focused and that’s not the case. This is just the beginning of my career so I’m going to keep charging.”

Lucas Kohl and Igor Fraga came through to finish second and third – Fraga also now enters Sunday’s Race 3 one point behind Rasmus Lindh in the battle for second in the championship.

Lindh and Calvin Ming rounded out the top five. Frederick, in trying to work his way back forward, saw his weekend get worse after he made contact with Sabre Cook, causing both drivers to spin off course. Both retired from the race, and Frederick was credited with 23rd.

Race 2 results are below. Race 3 rolls off at 12:10 p.m. on Sunday.

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2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Schedule, TV info, start times, entry lists, notable drivers, more

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The new year brings the start of a new era for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will open the 2023 schedule with the 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

A new premier class for prototypes is the overriding story entering the 24-hour endurance race that unofficially kicks off the major-league racing season.

The new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) cars of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) top category will re-establish a bridge to the 24 Hours of Le Mans while bringing a new layer of engine electrification to IMSA.

With at least a few of the cars on the grid at Daytona also slated to race at Le Mans in June, it’s possible for the first time in decades (since the “Ford vs. Ferrari” battles) to have the same car win the overall title at Daytona and Le Mans.

The GTP category will feature four manufacturers, two of which are new to IMSA’s premier division. Porsche Motorsport (with Team Penske) and BMW (with Rahal Letterman Lanigan) will be fielding LMDh prototypes, joining (now-defunct) DPi category holdovers Acura (Meyer Shank Racing, Wayne Taylor Racing) and Cadillac (Chip Ganassi Racing, Action Express Racing).

Here’s what else you need to know ahead of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 29-30 at Daytona International Speedway:


NOTABLE DRIVER ADDITIONS 

The Rolex 24 will feature 10 active drivers from the NTT IndyCar Series, including the IMSA debuts of Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who will be teamed in an LMP2 entry (teammate Will Power unfortunately had to withdraw from this debut).

Colton Herta will move into the GTP category with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud return with Meyer Shank Racing to defend their overall 2022 Rolex 24 victory. Scott Dixon also returns in the premier category with Chip Ganassi Racing for his 20th Rolex 24 start and third consecutive in the No. 01 Cadillac.

Other IndyCar drivers in the field: Romain Grosjean will make his debut in GTD Pro with Iron Lynx Racing (as a precursor to driving a GTP Lamborghini next year); Devlin DeFrancesco (Rick Ware Racing) and Rinus VeeKay (TDS Racing) are in LMP2; and Kyle Kirkwood will return in GTD with Vasser Sullivan.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric also will return, teaming with DeFrancesco in an LMP2 entry for Rick Ware Racing.


CAR COUNT

The Rolex 24 field was capped at 61 cars, matching last year’s field (which was the largest since 2014). The field was capped because of the space limitations for the LMDh cars of GTP in the pits and garages.

Click here for the official 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona entry list.


STARTING LINEUP

Tom Blomqvist captured the first pole position of the GTP era, qualifying defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing in first with the No. 60 ARX-06 Acura that he shares with Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

The No. 7 Porsche 963 of Porsche Penske Motorsports will start second.

Click here for the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona starting lineup


RACE BROADCAST

The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona will be streamed across the NBC Sports AppNBCSports.com and Peacock, which will have coverage of the event from flag to flag.

Broadcast coverage of the race coverage will begin Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC and move to USA Network from 2:30-8 p.m. and then will be exclusively on Peacock and IMSA.TV from 8-10 p.m. Coverage will return to USA Network from 10 p.m. to midnight and then move to Peacock/IMSA.TV until 6 a.m.

From 6 a.m. until noon on Sunday, Jan. 29, Rolex 24 coverage will be available on USA Network. The conclusion of the Rolex 24 will run from noon through 2 p.m. on NBC.

HOW TO WATCH IMSA ON NBC SPORTS: Broadcast schedule for 2023

Other events that will be streamed on Peacock from Daytona during January (all times ET):

Jan. 21: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 2:05 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 12:20 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA Rolex 24 qualifying, 1:25 p.m.

Jan. 27: BMW Endurance Michelin Pilot Challenge, 1:45 p.m.


ROLEX 24 COVERAGE FROM NBC SPORTS

Wayne Taylor Racing takes a step up to the next level with Andretti Autosport

Austin Cindric seeks to join legendary club of Rolex 24-Daytona 500 winners

Helio Castroneves recalls “Days of Thunder” moment in 2022 Rolex 24 victory

The “Bus Bros” tackle the “Bus Stop” for Rolex 24 at Daytona debuts

Romain Grosjean adds Rolex 24 at Daytona to his crown jewel career

Tom Blomqvist beats the clock to win Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position

GTP cars make debut in “Gymkhana”-level traffic

Five things to watch in the new GTP class as a golden era of sports cars returns

Cadillac unveils paint schemes for LMDh cars

Austin Cindric, Devlin DeFrancesco, Pietro Fittipaldi teaming up in LMP2

IndyCar drivers in the 61st Rolex 24


ROLEX 24 DAILY SCHEDULE, START TIMES

Here’s a rundown of everything happening at Daytona International Speedway over the last two weeks in January, starting with the Roar test session. Rolex 24 start times and full schedule:

Wednesday, Jan. 18

7 a.m.: GTP garages open

4 p.m.: Non-GTP garages open

4 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers load-in (park only)

6:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Thursday, Jan. 19

7 a.m.: Garages, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers open

8:30 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection

10 a.m.: Rolex 24 Media Day

2 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

5:15 p.m.: Track walk

7:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Friday, Jan. 20

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:45-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

9:30-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-2:15 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

2:30-4 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

4:15-6 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (GTD/LMP3/LMP2 4:15-5:45; 4:30-6: GTD Pro, GTP)

8 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Saturday, Jan. 21

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:40-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge qualifying

9:30-11 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

2:05-2:50 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 1 (streaming on Peacock)

3:10 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

4:30-5:30 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

6:30-8:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10 p.m.: Garages close

Sunday, Jan. 22

7 a.m.: Garages open

10:15-11:15 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

12:20-1:05 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 2 (streaming on Peacock)

1:25-3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 qualifying (streaming on Peacock)

8:30 p.m.: Garages close

Wednesday, Jan. 25

6 a.m.: Garages open

7:30-10 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, non-GTP

8 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 load-in

10-11:30 a.m.: Track walk

10 a.m.-noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship car photos

11:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge team manager briefing

Noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team manager briefing

12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship new driver briefing

Noon-2 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety and technical inspection, non-GTP

1:45-2:30 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

2:45-3:45 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

2:30-7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, GTP only

4-5:30 p.m.: Track walk

6:45 p.m.: Garages close

Thursday, Jan. 26

7 a.m.: Garages open

9-9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

9:45-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:05 a.m.-12:35 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:55-1:10 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 qualifying

2:25-3 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge qualifying

3:20-5:05 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (3:20-5:05: GTD, LMP3, LMP2; 3:35-5:05: GTD Pro, GTP)

5:30-6:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

7:15-9 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10:15 p.m.: Garages close

Friday, Jan. 27

7 a.m.: Garages open

9:25-9:55 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

10:15-11 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-5:45 p.m.: BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona (Michelin Pilot Challenge; streaming on Peacock)

8:45 p.m.: Garages close

Saturday, Jan. 28

6:30 a.m.: Garages open

9:45 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

12:30-12:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 engine warmup

1:30-1:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 formation laps

1:40 p.m.: The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona (starting on NBC; streaming flag to flag on Peacock)

Sunday, Jan. 29

1:40 p.m.: Finish of the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona

7:30 p.m.: Garages close