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

IMSA
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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.

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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1. The WTR car was forced to retire and finished ninth overall (sixth in DPi).

“I’m simply devastated with the ending,” Albuquerque said in a release. “I really think we were doing a perfect race and unfortunately the last pit stop wasn’t great for our side. Obviously, when you start on pole and up front, you always have a little bit of an advantage. Traffic always benefits the guy leading, and it got me big time there. Passing a GT car and I don’t think he saw me and the level of risk was high. We touched and my car was damaged and it was over for us. It was a bit inglorious to finish like that.”

Said teammate Ricky Taylor, who started third but had to pit on the second lap after a spin in qualifying damaged his tires: “I couldn’t be more proud to be teammates with Filipe. He gives everything and we wouldn’t be in this position in the championship without him. We take risks and I don’t even think what took us out was even a risk. He was fighting for the win and I had no doubt that he was going to pass the 60 car if he had the chance.”

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

Said Jarvis in a release: “Full credit to the entire team and for Meyer Shank to come away with victory and the championship, that’s something really special. We won the two that counted most and the championship. This race definitely was not easy and there were moments where I thought this could end badly, but the car really came alive at night. Tom did an amazing job at the end of the race there.”

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“Congratulations to Mike Shank for winning the drivers’ and teams’ championships,” team owner Wayne Taylor said in a release. “What can I say. We thought we had it, but didn’t. Everybody gave it their all.”

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”