IMSA

IMSA: Alon, JDC-Miller score upset pole at Road America; Ford, Porsche to lead GT fields

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The recent trend of upsets in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship continued during Saturday qualifying for the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America, with Robert Alon putting JDC-Miller Motorsports on the pole.

Alon, piloting the No. 85 Oreca 07 Gibson, turned a quick lap of 1:51.933, the only driver in the Prototype class to dip below the 1:52 mark.

Alon deferred credit for the result to the No. 85 JDC-Miller team afterward.

“I have to give it to the engineer,” he explained.“He called it. We knew tire ‘deg’ (degradation) was going to be pretty bad, so we kind of set up the car for the first couple of laps. We knew those were going to be the best tires, grip-wise. He told me to go out and do my thing for the first two laps and it seemed like the car just did the work. It was a great setup.”

Alon beat out Acura Team Penske’s Ricky Taylor, in the No. 7 ARX-05, by just over two tenths of a second – Taylor’s best lap was a 1:52.140. And Colin Braun continued a strong summer stretch for CORE autosport, qualifying the No. 54 Oreca in third.

Of note: the championship leading Action Express duo struggled somewhat, with Joao Barbosa qualifying the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in seventh – that entry sits second in the standings with driver Filipe Albuquerque – while the points-leading No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac ended up ninth in the hands of Eric Curran.

In GT Le Mans, Dirk Mueller took his third consecutive pole at Road America, turning a quick lap of 2:02.479 in his No. 66 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.

Dirk Mulller took his third consecutive pole at Road America. Photo courtesy of IMSA

“Having the three in a row here feels really great and I’m really thrilled and happy,” said Mueller. “Maybe it’s because I’m German and I do like the Nordschleife (in Nurburg, Germany), that’s definitely one of my favorite places in the world. Over here, it’s definitely Road America and there’s a lot of corners and places where it looks the same.”

Teammate Ryan Briscoe put the sister No. 67 Ford right behind him in second, giving Ganassi a front row lockout in GTLM. Antonio Garcia qualified third in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R for Corvette Racing.

In GT Daytona, Patrick Long gave Wright Motorsports its first pole of the season with a quick lap of 2:06.593 in the the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3. Long’s lap was almost three tenths of a second quicker than anyone in the GTD category.

Patrick Long gave Wright Motorsports its first IMSA pole. Photo courtesy of IMSA

“The key was getting our lap in early,” said Long. “We didn’t plan on the probability of yellow or red in qualifying. But because of the increased heat since this morning’s Practice 3, we had pressured up and thought to maximize the peak of the tire. It was going to be a short run, so that played into our hands.”

Dominik Baumann qualified second in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 for 3GT Racing, followed by the GTD championship leading No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 from Paul Miller Racing – Madison Snow put the No. 48 entry third on the grid.

However, Snow and Cooper MacNeil, driving the No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 for Scuderia Corsa, caused some controversy for failing to stop in their pit stalls during a red flag.

Francesco Piovanetti, piloting the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GT3 for Squadra Corse Garage Italia, spun off in Canada Corner, causing the red flag. The field is required to return to their pit stalls when a red flag is flown, but Snow and MacNeil pulled up to pit out rather than stopping in their stalls. Both were assessed drive-through penalties, but Snow did not come in.

Results can be found here. Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase begins at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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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!