Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Jordan Taylor drives No. 10 Cadillac to new WeatherTech Raceway record en route to Motul Pole Award

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Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service

MONTEREY, Calif. – Jordan Taylor shattered his brother’s year-old track record at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca en route to taking the Motul Pole Award in qualifying for Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute America’s Tire 250.

Driving the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, Taylor posted a best time of one minute, 16.181 seconds (105.758 mph) around the 2.238-mile permanent road circuit to take the top starting spot. It bested the previous WeatherTech Championship Prototype record of 1:16.853 (104.8 mph) set by Ricky Taylor in qualifying here last year in the No. 10 Cadillac.

It was Taylor’s 10th career IMSA pole (eight GRAND-AM, two WeatherTech Championship) and his first since taking the pole at WeatherTech Raceway in 2015. Most importantly, it gives Taylor and co-driver Renger van der Zande a leg up on their competition for the 2018 WeatherTech Championship Prototype title.

They go into Sunday’s race fourth in the Prototype standings, but just 12 behind current co-leaders Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi.

“It was obviously good to get the pole,” said Jordan Taylor. “We’ve had a good season. Looking at the championship, we’ve had a top five every race except for Daytona. From a success rate we haven’t had a win yet.

“Renger had the pole at Daytona which was huge, so it’s good to get back to that trend here. We’re 12 points back in the championship. It seems like we have a little bit more of a handle on our car than Action Express, which is our main goal this weekend. It’s our goal to gain points.”

Dane Cameron will start alongside Taylor on the front row. Cameron posted a best time of 1:16.576 (105.212 mph) in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi car he shares with Juan Pablo Montoya. Cameron is looking to avenge last year’s late-race pass for the victory by van der Zande when both were driving different cars than they are this season.

Helio Castroneves made it two Acura DPis in the top three with a third-best result in the No. 7 machine he shares with Ricky Taylor. Castroneves’ best lap was a 1:16.662 (105.094 mph). Pipo Derani qualified fourth in the No. 22 Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan DPi at 1:16.766 (104.952 mph), and Colin Braun completed the top five with a lap of 1:16.774 (104.941 mph) in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA LMP2 machine.

Braun and co-driver Jon Bennett are currently third in the Prototype championship standings, 10 points behind the leaders. They’re looking for their third consecutive victory on Sunday.

Curran qualified the No. 31 Cadillac ninth with a lap of 1:17.415 (104.072 mph), while his Action Express Racing teammate, Joao Barbosa qualified 11th in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi with a lap of 1:17.525 (103.924 mph). Barbosa’s co-driver, Filipe Albuquerque, is currently second in the Prototype standings, trailing Curran and Nasr by seven points.

Gavin Puts No. 4 Corvette on Pole for First Time in More Than Three Years at America’s Tire 250

Oliver Gavin celebrates winning the pole at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Oliver Gavin now has 22 career pole positions in IMSA competition, but it’s been a long time coming.

Gavin put the No. 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class pole for the America’s Tire 250 with a best lap of one minute, 22.700 seconds (97.421 mph) during Saturday’s 15-minute qualifying session at the 2.238-mile WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. It was the first time the decorated English sports car racer qualified on pole since the 2015 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

“Thanks to everyone and the crew, it’s a maximum team effort to get us back to being on P1,” Gavin said. “It’s been a while for myself. I’m thrilled, but this is only a small step in what we’re trying to achieve tomorrow and that’s a victory.

“Once the green flag drops tomorrow, this is kind of a little forgotten. I think we’ve got a great race car. The car fell in a little nicely for qualifying, but the C7.R has been strong all year. We’ve had an amazing team, great strategies and pit stops. We just need to once again, execute tomorrow. The competition is at an all-time high in GTLM. To be able to beat those guys here today is pretty satisfying, but tomorrow, is when the real work starts.”

It appeared for much of the qualifying session that Corvette Racing would take a front-row sweep in GTLM. But German racer Dirk Mueller found some late speed in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT to take second on the starting grid with a lap of 1:22.787 (97.319 mph). It’s a particularly valuable starting spot, as it placed Mueller – who alongside co-driver Joey Hand is battling for the 2018 WeatherTech Championship GTLM title – ahead of both cars he’s pursuing in the title chase.

Points co-leader Jan Magnussen qualified third in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R with a lap of 1:22.806 (97.297 mph). Magnussen and co-driver Antonio Garcia go into Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute race leading No. 67 Ford GT co-drivers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook by four points, and they’re nine ahead of Mueller and Hand.

Briscoe qualified fourth in the No. 67 at 1:22.850 (97.245 mph). Alexander Sims completed the GTLM top five at 1:22.972 (97.102 mph) in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE.

First Motul Pole Award for Legge Bolsters Championship Quest at WeatherTech Raceway

Katherine Legge earned her first IMSA pole at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo courtesy of IMSA

With two rounds remaining in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, Katherine Legge put herself in a prime position to continue her quest for the GT Daytona (GTD) championship as she scored her first Motul Pole Award on Saturday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Co-driving the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 with Alvaro Parente, Legge narrowly eclipsed the previous track record – set by Madison Snow last year in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 – by.013 seconds with a time of one minute, 24.456 seconds (95.396 mph).

Ironically, it’s Snow and his co-driver Bryan Sellers in the No. 48 that Legge is currently chasing in the GTD championship. Snow also will start alongside the No. 86 Acura on the front row for Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute America’s Tire 250. Legge is 13 points behind the Paul Miller Racing duo.

“The team really gave me a good car and we’ve been working really hard on the qualifying setup and the race setup,” said Legge, who finished second last year at WeatherTech Raceway with Meyer Shank Racing and then-co-driver Andy Lally. “They are very different, so thanks to them. It’s all about tomorrow. It’s a really long day so I’m not about to count my chickens.

First Motul Pole Award for Legge Bolsters Championship Quest at WeatherTech Raceway

With two rounds remaining in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, Katherine Legge put herself in a prime position to continue her quest for the GT Daytona (GTD) championship as she scored her first Motul Pole Award on Saturday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Co-driving the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 with Alvaro Parente, Legge narrowly eclipsed the previous track record – set by Madison Snow last year in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 – by.013 seconds with a time of one minute, 24.456 seconds (95.396 mph).

Ironically, it’s Snow and his co-driver Bryan Sellers in the No. 48 that Legge is currently chasing in the GTD championship. Snow also will start alongside the No. 86 Acura on the front row for Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute America’s Tire 250. Legge is 13 points behind the Paul Miller Racing duo.

“The team really gave me a good car and we’ve been working really hard on the qualifying setup and the race setup,” said Legge, who finished second last year at WeatherTech Raceway with Meyer Shank Racing and then-co-driver Andy Lally. “They are very different, so thanks to them. It’s all about tomorrow. It’s a really long day so I’m not about to count my chickens.”

Full qualifying results can be found here.

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American Flat Track puts emphasis on fans in building 2020 schedule

American Flat Track
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American Flat Track put an emphasis on fans and feedback from other series while also acknowledging everything is tentative while hammering out its schedule for the 2020 season.

The 18-race schedule over nine weekends will begin July 17-18 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, about 20 miles from AFT’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The dirt track motorcycle racing series, which is sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, shares a campus with its sister company, NASCAR, and American Flat Track CEO Michael Lock said the series closely observed how it’s handled races in its return during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and also built AFT’s procedures from NASCAR’s post-pandemic playbook of more than 30 pages.

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“I speak personally to the committee within NASCAR that has been put together for the restart, regularly talking to the communications people, general counsel and other relevant operations departments,” Lock told NBCSports.com. “So we’ve derived for Flat Track from NASCAR’s protocols, which I think are entirely consistent with all the other pro sports leagues that are attempting to return.

“Obviously with NASCAR the scale of the business is completely different. There were some times more people involved in the paddock and the race operations for NASCAR than the numbers of people at flat track. Our scale is much smaller, and our venues are generally smaller. So we can get our hands around all of the logistics. I think we’re very confident on that.”

While NASCAR has had just under 1,000 on site for each of its races without fans, Lock said American Flat Track will have between 400 to 500 people, including racers, crews, officials and traveling staff.

But another important difference from NASCAR (which will run at least its first eight races without crowds) is that American Flat Track intends to have fans at its events, though it still is working with public health experts and government officials to determine how many will be allowed and the ways in which they will be positioned (e.g., buffer zones in the grandstands).

Lock said capacity could will be limited to 30-50 percent at some venues.

American Flat Track will suspend its fan track walk, rider autograph sessions for the rest of the season, distribute masks at the gates and also ban paper tickets and cash for concessions and merchandise. Some of the best practices were built with input from a “Safe to Race Task Force” that includes members from various motorcycle racing sanctioning bodies (including Supercross and motocross).

There also will be limitations on corporate hospitality and VIP access and movement.

“I think everything the fans will see will be unusual,” Lock said. “Everything at the moment is unusual. We will roll out processes that are entirely consistent with the social distancing guidelines that will be in place at the time of the event. So we’re planning for a worst-case scenario. And if things are easier or better by the time we go to a venue, it’s a bonus.”

Lock said the restrictions are worth it because (unlike other racing series) AFT must have fans (even a limited number) for financial viability.

“We took a decision fairly early on in this process that it was neither desirable nor economically viable to run events without fans,” Lock said. “I can think of some big sports like NFL or like NASCAR where a huge chunk of that revenue is derived from broadcast, which means that your decision making as to how you run an event, where you can run an event has a different view than a sport like ours, or even like baseball, for example, that needs fans. Because the business model is so different.”

Broadcast coverage is important to American Flat Track, which added seven annual races over the past five years and can draw as many as 15,000 to its biggest events.

Lock said AFT ended the 2019 season with more than 50,000 viewers for each live event, making it the No. 1 property on FansChoice.TV. This year, the series has moved to TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. “We’re expecting a really strong audience from Day 1, particularly with all this pent-up demand,” Lock said.

NBCSN also will broadcast a one-hour wrap-up of each race (covering heat races and main events).

Because the season is starting three months late, the doubleheader weekends will allow AFT to maintain its schedule length despite losing several venues. And there could be more, Lock said, noting that there still are three TBA tracks.

“There may still be some surprises to come from one venue or another of delay or cancellation,” he said. “But we are intending to run as full a season as possible.”

Here is the American Flat Track schedule for 2020:

July 17-18 (Friday-Saturday): Volusia Speedway Park, Barberville, Florida

July 31-Aug. 1 (Friday-Saturday):  Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, Ohio

Aug. 28-29 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, Northeast United States

Sept. 5-6 (Saturday-Sunday): Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, Illinois

Sept. 11-12 (Friday-Saturday): Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Sept. 25-26 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, Texas

Oct. 2-3 (Friday-Saturday): Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, Georgia

Oct. 9-10 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, North Carolina

Oct. 15-16 (Thursday-Friday): AFT season finale, Daytona Beach, Florida