IMSA: On heels of new BMW’s first win, Edwards looks for more Monterey magic in America’s Tire 250

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service

BMW Team RLL driver John Edwards can’t put his finger on why, but WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca has been a special place over the years for the co-driver of the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE machine.

In two of the last three years, including last year’s America’s Tire 250, Edwards has stood atop the victory podium at the end of hard-fought IMSAWeatherTech SportsCar Championship events. And while he hasn’t competed in the series in some time, Edwards also has three IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race victories on the picturesque, 2.238-mile road course near Monterey, California.

It’s been very good to me and not just in my professional career, but also in junior formula coming up,” Edwards said. “I locked up the Star Mazda championship (in 2008) and the Atlantic Championship (in 2009) there in back-to-back years. My first podium with BMW Team RLL was also there (in 2013).

“We finished third in that race and then came back and had two wins out of the last three years. So, it’s definitely a place that’s treated me well. I can’t say why. I can’t say that there’s anything that I know that’s different about it, but it’s definitely got some good memories for me.”

Edwards is the common denominator in the victories, as his two WeatherTech Championship GTLM wins came with different co-drivers, Lucas Luhr in 2015 and Martin Tomczyk last year. Two of his three Continental Tire Challenge wins there came with Matt Bell as his co-driver, with the other one coming alongside Trent Hindman.

In Sunday’s two-hour and 40-minute race, he’ll have yet another different co-driver in Finnish racer Jesse Krohn. Edwards has enjoyed the partnership.

Jesse’s been great, and I actually have known Jesse for a number of years,” Edwards said. “When I went over for one of the races at the Nurburgring to get my license years ago, Jesse was driving the whole season in an M235i. I got to do that race with him to get the experience at the Nurburgring and at that stage, he wasn’t sure whether he was going to have a future with BMW or a future at all, and we had talked about that.

“I was actually thrilled when he got signed and was always very impressed with him as a driver. So when I found out he was going to be my co-driver, I had full confidence that he’d get the job done and he has. He’s definitely performed well in races. I mean, we haven’t had the results, but as teammates, it’s been a good year.”

The highlight of the year for the entire team came in the most recent race, when BMW Team RLL’s No. 25 machine shared by Alexander Sims and Connor De Phillippi took the first victory anywhere in the world in the new-for-2018 BMW M8 GTE race car. Edwards and Krohn came home third for the team’s first double podium.

That victory coupled with Edwards’ personal history at WeatherTech Raceway could add up to even more success this weekend.

“I think in general over the last few races, we can see that we’ve been more consistently competitive,” Edwards said. “Whereas in the beginning of the year, we were sort of up and down quite a bit. If you look back at the (previous generation) M6 (race car) as well, the first year was a big learning year. Even when we thought we had stuff figured out, we didn’t really come into our own with that car until, particularly, the last half of the second season.

“I think we’ve already started to do that with the M8. It’s encouraging to see the car’s first win, and more than that, to see us consistently being competitive. I think it gives us all a boost getting ready for going back to where we had our last win in the 24 car and getting ready for Petit and especially for 2019. It’s something we’d love to check off, and check off a win in the 24 car as well. But more importantly, we are working hard to be in the fight for the championship in 2019.”

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IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta: How to watch, start times, schedule, entry list

AUTO: NOV 13 IMSA - Motul Petit Le Mans
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Start times, TV schedule: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will conclude the 2022 season this weekend with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta, which also will mark the end of the line for the DPi class.

The premier Daytona Prototype international category, which started in 2017, will be replaced by the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with its LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to Le Mans.

For the third time in four years, an Acura will be crowned the champion in DPi as the No. 10 of Wayne Taylor Racing holds a 19-point edge over the No. 60 of Meyer Shank Racing.

Last year, WTR’s No. 10 entered the season finale with a 19-point lead but lost the title to the No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express.

Full-time WTR drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor (who will be joined by Brendon Hartley in the No. 10 this weekend) have a series-leading four victories this season. The MSR duo of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves this weekend) won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and have five runner-up finishes this year.

Championship scenarios in the other four categories:

GTD Pro: Points leaders Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet will clinch the title by starting in their No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

–GTD: There are 140 points separating the top four teams with Roman De Angelis and the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 leading by 45 points.

–LMP2: John Farano is first in the driver standings by 33 points over Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel. In the team standings, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports leads by 19 points over the No. 8 Tower Motorsport (Farano’s team).

–LMP3: No. 54 CORE autosport drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun lead by 83 points over the No. 74 Riley Motorsports of Gar Robinson.

With the 10-hour race requiring an extra driver, several stars from other racing series have been added. In addition to Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will serve as third drivers in Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of Cadillacs.

Jimmie Johnson also will be making his last DPi start in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac with Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi. Petit Le Mans could mark the last start in an IMSA prototype for Johnson, who has said limited inventory likely will keep him out of the GTP category in the Rolex 24 next year.

Here are the start times, starting lineup, schedule and TV info for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (all times are ET):


Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta start times, schedule, TV info

When: Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET

Race distance: Ten hours on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course

TV: Noon-3 p.m., NBC; 3-10:30 p.m., USA Network. Peacock, the NBC Sports App,and NBCSports.com will have streaming coverage of the event from flag to flag beginning at noon. Leigh Diffey and Dave Burns are the play by play announcers with analysts Calvin Fish, Townsend Bell, James Hinchcliffe and Brian Till. The pit reporters are Kevin Lee, Hannah Newhouse, Dillon Welch and Matt Yocum.

IMSA.com live TV qualifying stream: Friday, 3:35 p.m. ET.

IMSA Radio: All sessions are live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; SiriusXM live race coverage will begin Saturday at noon (XM 207, Internet/App 992).

Forecast: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 63 degrees with an 85% chance of rain at the green flag.

Entry list: Click here to see the 48-car field for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta


Daily schedule IMSA Petit Le Mans

Here’s a rundown of the Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia:

Wednesday, Sept. 28

9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

10:25 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup

12:30 p.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

1:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practcice

2 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice

3:30 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

Thursday, Sept. 29

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

9 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying

9:50 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

11:40 a.m.: Prototype Challenge qualifying

12:10 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

1:50 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

2:55 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

5 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 1

6 p.m.: Michelin Challenge qualifying

7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

Friday, Sept. 30

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge race

9:50 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:55 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 2

1:10 p.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race

3:40 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying

Saturday, Oct. 1

9:15 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:10 p.m.: Petit Le Mans