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

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

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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 IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio (Sirius 119/XM 202/App 972).

View from the pits: Reporters’ picks for the 103rd Indianapolis 500

INDYCAR / Jason Porter
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It’s Race Day in Indianapolis, and for the first time, the Indianapolis 500 will be on NBC.

Time will tell what impact Mother Nature has on today’s 103rd Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. But no matter what, prerace coverage begins today on NBCSN at 9 a.m. ET, then transitions over to NBC at 11 a.m. ET.

All month long, the INDYCAR on NBC pit reporters have been bringing you the latest breaking news and stories for the Brickyard. Now, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Marty Snider share their insights from pit road. Read on …

KEVIN LEE

Throughout the last two weeks, one common theme has been, “Don’t crash.” There were five crashes, and four of those teams/drivers ended up in the Last Row Shootout. Two of the three bumped (Patricio O’Ward and Fernando Alonso) were in backup cars following heavy impacts.

Several drivers have consistently been among the strongest. Simon Pagenaud (pictured, left) not only starts on pole but has been strong in race trim as well. All three Ed Carpenter Racing cars are fast and appear good in traffic. Alexander Rossi looks like he can put his car wherever he wants, and Scott Dixon has five championships and 44 IndyCar wins, so he must be watched.

In order, my picks for most likely to drink the milk are Pagenaud, Rossi, Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Dixon.

KELLI STAVAST

A week ago, no one could have predicted that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and McLaren Racing would be bumped from the Indy 500 by a single-car, part-time effort of Juncos Racing and its driver, Kyle Kaiser (pictured, right).  But it happened, and Kaiser now occupies the 33rd and final spot in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

So what next?  I spoke with Kyle five days after the dramatic qualifying effort, and he told me he has never been happier to finish last and that he is still “buzzing” from that experience—an energy he hopes to carry straight through to the race.  He also told me that the response from fans has been positive with people stopping him in public (including at Chipotle) to hug him and congratulate him on making the Big Show.

But reality might have set in for the Californian who now lives in Indy.  During Carb Day’s final practice, the team struggled to get a good handling car for Kyle, who described the day as “challenging.”  But Kaiser also acknowledged that the team made some progress throughout the practice and at the very least collected some data that might help for the 500-miler on Sunday.

Whether he finishes 1st or 31st on Sunday, Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing will have plenty of fond memories to carry with them from the 103rd Indy 500.

MARTY SNIDER

First, we cannot wait to bring you guys the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s an honor for our entire group to broadcast such an amazing event.

So what do we expect? I have no idea, to be honest. The weather will be a huge factor today. It might be a race to halfway if rain is forecast.  If it’s cooler (mid 70’s ambient, which it looks like it’s going to be), Alexander Rossi (pictured, left) was unstoppable in those conditions last Monday.

But Rossi was very unhappy with his car on Carb Day. For that matter, most teams were. But Rob Edwards of Andretti Autosport explained a few things to Rossi about all of the experimenting they were doing in final practice, and I think that team is in a much better frame of mind heading into the race.

I find it interesting that Simon Pagenaud’s team scuffed in literally every set of tires they will use for today’s race. The No. 22 camp is convinced (and they’re not wrong) that one of the keys to Will Power’s 2018 win was his ability to gain time on out laps after pit stops. Scuffing in tires helps that out lap time. It also allows teams to do a balance check on tires. Good thing they did: Kyle Moyer of Team Penske found two sets that had vibrations, which would have been bad in the race.

Bottom line, I haven’t seen anyone really stand out and show me they can beat Alexander Rossi yet. So I’m going with Rossi to win his second Indy 500.

Enjoy the show friends. It’s going to be a fantastic race!