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2018 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship preview — GTD

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IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Heading into the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta – the season finale for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – this is the third in a four-part series in which the primary championship contenders in each of the three classes are compared.

Wednesday, we previewed the GTLM class. Thursday, we looked at the Prototype class. Today, we will look at the GTD class and Saturday we’ll have an all-encompassing look at next week’s overall event.

Here’s how the Lamborghini vs. Acura battle for the GT Daytona (GTD) title shapes up:

No. 48 Paul Miller Racing

Lamborghini Huracán GT3

Bryan Sellers/Madison Snow

Engine: 5.2-liter, normally aspirated V10 (mid-engine)

Points: 303 – 1st

2018 Victories: 2

2018 Podiums: 7

How The No. 48 Can Clinch the Title: The No. 48 will eliminate the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG from the championship by starting the race. It will win the title outright if it finishes on the podium, regardless of the No. 86 Acura’s performance. There are several other scenarios that also could bring the No. 48 the championship depending on the finishing position for the No. 86.

2018 Performance: The No. 48 team has led the standings since March, when it won its first race of the season in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. It opened the year with five consecutive podium results and has been on the podium seven times in 10 races thus far – including a second win at Lime Rock Park in July.

Noteworthy: Paul Miller Racing has finished inside the top three in the GTD standings three times in the past four seasons, but this would the first championship for the team, as well as Sellers and Snow.

What They’re Saying:

BRYAN SELLERS – “The battle this season has been intense, the championship is coming down to the final race and it is a testament to how strong the season has been. We have had great results, great team performances, and we are hoping to finish it off the right way. The (No.) 86 team has done a fantastic job all season, and I expect nothing less than a stellar performance for 10 hours. With that said we need to deliver the same.”

MADISON SNOW – “We are currently leading the championship and have no plans on that status changing before the season is over. It is a close battle between us and the Acura. Our Lamborghini doesn’t have anywhere near the BoP of the Acura, but I believe that we will be able to keep the points lead at the end of the race.”

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No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing

Acura NSX GT3

Katherine Legge

Engine: 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6 (mid-engine)

Points: 297 – 2nd

2018 Victories: 2

2018 Podiums: 6

How The No. 86 Can Clinch the Title: Among several other possibilities, the No. 86 team would clinch the title with a victory at Motul Petit Le Mans AND a finish of fourth or lower by the No. 48. The No. 86 team holds the tiebreaker, as both it and the No. 48 have two victories, but the No. 86 has more second-place finishes (three to one).

2018 Performance: The No. 86 team is heating up at the right time, with a victory in the most-recent race, the America’s Tire 250 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, for full-season driver Legge and co-driver Alvaro Parente following a third-place run at Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway in August. The key to the team’s season could have been Rounds 3 through 5, as its victory at the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in Detroit by Legge and Mario Farnbacher, was sandwiched by second place results in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. Those results were key drivers in the team’s decision to expand from an originally planned Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup program to the full WeatherTech Championship season.

Noteworthy: The championship would be a first for both Legge and the Meyer Shank Racing organization. Legge would continue the streak of female GTD champions following Christina Nielsen’s back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.

What She’s Saying:

KATHERINE LEGGE – “I think that preparation and being smart is the key to Petit. It’s a long race and there are so many factors that are out of your control, all you can do is try to put yourself in the best possible position for the end, without taking risks. Then in the last hour you go for it.”

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Others in mathematical contention for the GTD title:

* No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen).

Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

IndyCar.com
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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”