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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IndyCar’s Vasser-Sullivan expand into IMSA for 2019

James Sullivan and Jimmy Vasser. Photo IndyCar
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Not even one year after returning to the IndyCar ranks, Vasser-Sullivan Racing is taking AIM at the IMSA world, you might say.

While team co-owners Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan will continue to partner with Dale Coyne Racing on the IndyCar side, they expanded their holdings Tuesday, announcing a partnership with AIM Autosport to campaign a new two-car Lexus-backed RC F GT3 effort in IMSA’s GT Daytona class.

The new team – named AIM Vasser-Sullivan – will replace 3GT Racing, which was part of Lexus’ sports car program launch in 2016. It will announce its two drivers in the coming weeks, the team said.

“Sulli and I are excited and looking forward to entering a new chapter in our racing careers,” Vasser said in a media release. “I have driven sports cars before, but my career was pretty much limited to the 24 Hours of Daytona, including a ‘class’ win in 1992 and second overall in 2008.

“The AIM Vasser Sullivan team, with the support of Lexus and our sponsors, has the tools to get the job done and we are looking forward to this new challenge.”

Lexus has made significant progress in its first two seasons in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition, having earned a combined two race wins, five poles and finished third in the 2018 GTD Manufacturer point standings.

Vasser and Sullivan were part of the ownership group of KVSH Racing in IndyCar from 2011 through 2016 before the organization folded.

They also owned Tony Kanaan’s 2013 Indianapolis 500-winning car.

After sitting out the 2017 season, Vasser, a former CART champion, and Sullivan rejoined forces this past February, just before the start of the 2018 IndyCar season, partnering with Coyne to form a satellite team led by driver Sebastien Bourdais, who previously drove for KVSH.

Bourdais kicked off the new team’s effort with a win in the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He finished seventh in the overall season standings.

AIM Vasser Sullivan will have two home bases for its IMSA program: AIM’s current facility in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, as well as a new U.S. shop in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Follow @JerryBonkowski