IMSA

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

Leave a comment

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.

Follow@KyleMLavigne

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

Leave a comment

Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.