IMSA

IMSA: CORE stretches fuel to win at Road America; Ford, Porsche win GTLM, GTD

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A pair of cautions in the final hour of the Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase set up an economy run to the checkered flag, with an array of pit strategies factoring in during the final hour.

With 31 minutes to go, several cars, including Ryan Dalziel (Tequila Patron ESM No. 2 Nissan Onroak DPi), Helio Castroneves (No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05), and Oliver Jarvis (No. 77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P) pitted for splashes of fuel, kicking off the strategic battle among the Prototype class.

Several other cars pitted soon after, chief among them being the Action Express duo of Filipe Albuquerque (No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R) and Felipe Nasr (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac).

However, Jordan Taylor (No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac), Jonathan Bomarito (No. 55 Mazda), Colin Braun (No. 54 CORE autosport Oreca 07 Gibson), and Stephen Simpson (No. 99 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca) all tried to stretch the fuel in the final stint.

Taylor led from Bomarito, with Braun and Simpson running third and fourth, while Nasr was charging forward trying to catch them.

However, Taylor ultimately needed to dive into the pits with five minutes remaining for a splash of fuel, with Bomarito doing the same. As a result, they yielded the lead to Braun, while Nasr closed in on Simpson.

And Braun was able to nurse the fuel to bring home a second consecutive Prototype class win for CORE – they won at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July – while Simpson managed to hold off Nasr in the battle for second. Jordan Taylor and Dane Cameron (No. 6 ARX-05 for Acura Team Penske) rounded finished fourth and fifth.

GT Le Mans (GTLM) saw a similar battle in the final hour, as BMW Team RLL made a run at their first victory of the year by also trying to play the fuel game – their No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, in the hands of Connor De Phillippi, led in the final hour as they tried to stretch the fuel after short-filling De Phillippi on their final scheduled stop.

The pair of cautions in the final hour seemed to give them the mileage they needed to make the finish, as they led comfortably with less than 10 minutes left. But, De Phillippi ultimately ran out of fuel in the final minutes while approaching Billy Mitchell Corner.

Their misfortune opened the door for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and Richard Westbrook, who came through in the No. 67 Ford GT to give Ford and Ganassi their fourth win in a row ahead of the Corvette Racing duo of Tommy Milner (No. 4 Corvette C7.R) and Antonio Garcia (No. 3 Corvette).

Richard Westbrook and co-driver Ryan Briscoe gave Ford Chip Ganassi Racing its fourth win in a row. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Porsche GT Team rounded out the top five, with Earl Bamber (No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR) and Patrick Pilet (No. 911) finishing fourth and fifth. De Phillippi was credited with sixth.

GT Daytona saw a breakthrough win for Wright Motorsports, as Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen turned pole into their first win of the season. Long led early, while Nielsen kept the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 near the front of the GTD field in her time behind the wheel before yield back to Long, who took the lead for good in the final hour.

Wright Motorports took its maiden IMSA win at Road America. Photo courtesy of IMSA

The championship-leading Paul Miller Racing No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 came home to finish second, with Bryan Sellers following Long home to the checkered flag – he and Madison Snow also lengthened their championship lead over Katherine Legge, who finished sixth with co-driver Alvaro Parente in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3.

Scuderia Corsa rounded out the podium in the No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3, as driver Alessandro Pier Guidi outdueled Markus Palttala (No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 for Turner Motorsport) and Jeroen Bleekemolen (No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports) to take the final spot on the podium.

Palttala and Bleekemolen finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Full results can be found here. The next event for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the GT-only Michelin GT Challenge at VIR on August 19.

Follow@KyleMLavigne

 

Are you a racer looking for the fountain of youth? Try NHRA drag racing

Photos courtesy NHRA
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It used to be that many of the big-name race car drivers routinely raced into their 50s, most notably in NASCAR.

Richard Petty raced until he was 55. The late David Pearson was 54 when he last raced in NASCAR.

But these days, we’re seeing the majority of professional racers calling it quits in their early-to-mid 40s – like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and most recently, Jamie McMurray.

But that’s not the case for competitors in the National Hot Rod Association. Like fine wine, it seems that the kings of the drag strip only seem to get better and more successful with age.

To them, the “r word” is not “retire,” it’s “reaction time.”

Consider many of today’s stars in the NHRA and their respective ages:

* Funny Car legend John Force will turn 70 in May. And while he hasn’t won a championship since 2013, Force remains one of the biggest forces – no pun intended – in the sport.

Fellow Funny Car drivers still seemingly in their prime include Ron Capps (53 years old), Jack Beckman (52), Tim Wilkerson (turns 58 on Dec. 29), Cruz Pedregon (55) and Gary Densham (62).

* In Top Fuel, the winningest driver and record eight-time champ Tony Schumacher will turn 49 on Dec. 25. Those already on the other side of the 50-year-old line include Clay Millican (52), Doug Kalitta (54), Terry McMillen (64), Billy Torrence (60) and Cory McClenathan (turns 56 on Jan. 30).

Chris Karamesines

And let’s not forget the oldest active drag racer on the NHRA professional circuit (albeit part-time rather than full-time), Chicago native Chris Karamesines, who is still racing a Top Fuel dragster at 300-plus mph at the spry young age of 87 years old!

Yes, you read that right, Karamesines is 87 – but could easily pass for 67 – and he has no intention of retiring anytime soon.

* Ironically, the slower Pro Stock class is not as well-represented in the 50-and-over group as is Top Fuel and Funny Car, with only two regulars who have passed the half-century mark: four-time champ Greg Anderson (57) and Kenny Delco (65).

But that 50-and-above fraternity will add at least one other member next year when former champ Jason Line turns 50 on July 24. And five-time champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. will turn 50 in 2020.

Jerry Savoie

* Even the easy riders of Pro Stock Motorcycle have several 50-and-over competitors: Scotty Pollacheck (turns 50 on Feb. 8), 2016 champ Jerry Savoie (turns 60 on Feb. 23), Karen Stofer (54), Steve Johnson (turns 58 on Jan. 19) and Hector Arana (60).

Granted, drag racers don’t have the same grueling time spent behind the wheel. Their average run lasts from just over 3.5 seconds to maybe eight or nine seconds.

And unlike driving 400 or 500 laps or miles as in NASCAR, a full four-round race during Sunday eliminations for NHRA racers adds up to one whole mile – or less.

Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers only go a distance of 1,000 feet per run, while Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle go a full quarter-mile (1,320 feet) in their respective runs.

In a sense, hitting the 5-0 mark or higher has become somewhat of a fountain of youth for several racers.

For example, Capps won his first career Funny Car crown in 2016 at the age of 51.

The same year, Savoie won his first career PSM title at the age of 57.

And Force won his most recent Funny Car title in 2013 at the age of 64.

Force has already gone on record to say that he wants to become the first major pro champion to win a title at 70 years old – which would also become the 17th championship of his illustrious career as the winningest driver in all NHRA history.

He gets a chance toward doing just that when the 2019 NHRA season kicks off at Pomona, California, on Feb. 7-10.

Follow @JerryBonkowski