IMSA: Johannes van Overbeek looks to retire a winner in Saturday’s Petit Le Mans

Johannes van Overbeek will retire after Saturday's IMSA season finale. Photo courtesy IMSA

IMSA Wire Service

Last month at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Johannes van Overbeek and co-driver Pipo Derani were celebrating an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory following the America’s Tire 250.

At the end of Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, van Overbeek will retire as a full-time driver.

“I thought about retiring last year, and then in discussions with (Patrón Spirits President/CEO) Ed Brown, he said, ‘Hey things are going to be different at the end of next year,’” said the 45-year-old driver of the No. 22 Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan DPi. “Patrón’s not going to sponsor this anymore, so why don’t you just wait one more year?

“’You started with the team and then you can say you ended with the team and bookend the entire program.’ It seemed like the smart thing to do. I love the group that (ESM owner/driver) Scott Sharp has put together. It’s a fantastic program. We have great partners, we’re still competitive and I think we get more competitive as we learn more about the car.

“The second part is, I’m 45. I’ve been doing it at a high level for 22 years, and it just feels like a good time to make a lane change in terms of career. I can do it another few years, but I couldn’t do it another 20 years, so I just figured now’s as good a time as any to step away and pursue other opportunities.”

Among the opportunities the resident of Oakland, California is looking to pursue is in the mobility and autonomous car industry. It makes sense to him geographically and in other ways.

“At the moment, I’ve been pretty busy managing a very valuable car collection for a Silicon Valley guy,” van Overbeek said. “With my proximity to Silicon Valley and having a lot of linkages to Silicon Valley – and then with this sort of new wave of mobility and specifically, autonomous cars – being able to work for a manufacturer or supplier in that space is something I’m very interested in. Because transportation as we know it – big and small – is changing. I’d like to be a part of that in some way, shape or form.”

While this will be the end of his full-time driving career, van Overbeek hasn’t ruled out a return to the cockpit for selected events. He’s got too much love for the sport to totally walk away.

“My love for driving remains,” he said. “I will still do the occasional race. If the right opportunity for an endurance ride comes along, I’d certainly take a look at it. I’ve been spoiled. I’ve had the luxury of being in top-end cars. It’s really from a safety perspective. When I go out on track in a Patrón Ligier, I don’t have to worry that it’s got an old part on it.

“My interest is only in equipment that is good and properly maintained by a good team. What I’m really retiring from is racing at a full-time level. Doing it on the side or for fun, occasionally, I’d still like to be involved because I still love the sport.”

The WeatherTech Raceway victory was van Overbeek’s 15th IMSA win. That total also includes an overall victory in the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona and two overall wins in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, which rank among many career highlights.

“I started out pretty late as a driver,” van Overbeek recalled. “Although I raced go-karts, it was kind of when my dad had extra time and money and it was always kind of a bit of an afterthought.

“But the first thing that sticks in my mind was sort of putting the pieces together and realizing, ‘Well, if I could raise the money to go race and then find a team and basically create the opportunity.’

“So, I would say the first big memory is being successful in raising money to start racing back in ’96. That was a win like no other, when your dream becomes reality, again, through hard work and effort.

“On the track, you always remember the wins. The first win with Flying Lizard’s, sort of, career as a team at Mid-Ohio with Darren Law in 2004 against a factory Porsche team was very rewarding.

“But I have to say, winning Daytona overall and Sebring twice overall are probably highlights. Those are two races that were just outside my realm of possibility when I started racing because I started off racing GT cars.

“I just didn’t have the imagination to think I could win one of those races overall. Being able to do it and win Sebring twice, it’s truly a dream come true.”

Van Overbeek will look to add one more win – which would be his third Motul Petit Le Mans victory – in the No. 22 Nissan DPi alongside co-drivers Derani and Timo Bernhard.

Live television coverage of Motul Petit Le Mans begins Saturday, Oct. 13 at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS1, with continuing coverage on FS2 from 12 p.m. ET through the checkered flag. Live IMSA Radio coverage also will be available on, and SiriusXM Radio (Sirius 119/XM 202/App 972).

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)