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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).

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”