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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New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”