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Alfonso Celis Jr. to get second career IndyCar start at Portland

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Juncos Racing announced Friday that Alfonso Celis Jr. will make his second career IndyCar start in the Grand Prix of Portland on Sept. 2 at Portland International Raceway.

The 21-year-old Celis Jr., a native of Mexico, will drive the No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet for the second time, having previously raced on another permanent road course, central Wisconsin’s Road America on June 24, where he finished 20th.

“I’m very happy to be able to make my dream come true again and return to my second Indy car race,” Celis said in a media release. “This is a great way to continue building a project that I think has a lot of future and that I’m extremely excited about.”

Celis is one of three drivers who have driven the No. 32 this season, joining Kyle Kaiser and Rene Binder. The team has started 11 of the first 13 races this season, with a best finish of 16th (Kaiser at Long Beach, Binder at Barber).

The Portland race on the 1.968-mile permanent road course will be the second-to-last race on the 2018 IndyCar schedule, and brings Indy car racing back to the track – and the Pacific Northwest, for that matter – following an 11-year absence.

Celis has had a significant amount of racing experience in a very short period of time. In addition to two years as a test driver for Sahara Force India in Formula One, he finished third in the 2017 Formula V8 3.5 Series championship. He also drove for Juncos Racing in Indy Lights earlier this year at Barber Motorsports Park before getting the one-off IndyCar race ride at Road America.

“I’m very motivated about racing in Portland,” Celis added. “We have worked together on developing the setup of the car both on track and in the (racing simulator), and I feel very proud to be able to do all this work together with Juncos Racing.

“Before my debut in Road America, I had been out of the car for a while and it was also my first time in an Indy car, so this second time around should be even better. I’ve been training as hard as I can and I feel ready for this challenge.

“I’m very grateful with Juncos Racing for giving me this opportunity and putting their trust in me, and for all the people that have helped make this happen,” he said. “The Verizon IndyCar Series has the best racing and the best drivers in the world, and this is where I want to be.

“There has been huge following of the series in Mexico over the years and I want to do everything I can to help revive that love for the sport in my country.”

Added team owner Ricardo Juncos, “We had a great weekend overall with him back at Road America. His knowledge and feedback of the car provided our team with very valuable and important data. I am confident he will put on another great weekend and we look forward to getting him back in the car later this month.”

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IMSA’s Bill Auberlen joins NASCAR America to discuss this weekend’s race at Lime Rock

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Turner Motorsport GTD driver Bill Auberlen joined NBC Sports’ Marty Snyder on NASCAR America Presents the Motorsports Hour Thursday to discuss a variety of topics, including Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race at Lime Rock Park.

Auberlen, alongside co-driver Robby Foley, enters Lime Rock with a great amount of momentum after finishing on the GTD podium at Watkins Glen and taking the GTD class honors in the most recent IMSA race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

There’s also an extra incentive for the duo to win this weekend as well, as Auberlen is one win away from tying Scott Pruett for the most IMSA victories all-time.

Both drivers will have to be on their A-game this weekend, however, as Auberlen stated that Lime Rock is one of the tougher circuits on the IMSA calendar and compared the 1.5-mile Connecticut road course to a short track.

“It’s what we call the bullring of our season,” Auberlen said. “It is a 54-second lap and we’re going to go around it a million times before the end of the day. It’s going to be a hot one, and I think whoever survives this is going to be on the podium.”

Luckily for the GTD and GTLM teams, with no Protoype and LMP2 entries competing at Lime Rock this weekend, the worry of having to yield to entries from the faster classes is gone.

“These Protoypes are so fast now, that interacting with them, you can’t imagine,” Auberlen said. “We have radars in our car that can alert us when they are coming.

“They get on you so fast that if you’re not always looking or something is not telling you they’re coming, you could have a problem and catch into them. That’s gone. Now it’s going to be focus-forward. You’re going to be focused on everything ahead of you. You got GLTM in there at the same time, but they’re virtually the same speed as us – just a little bit faster.

“It’s going to be nice. When you stand on that podium you might be able to go for an overall victory.”

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