Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Motul Petit Le Mans – GTD Pre-Event Notebook

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IMSA Wire Service

There’s plenty of intrigue in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class heading into Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans, with championships on the line and the usual complement of additional drivers and teams joining the fray for the 10-hour season finale. The 21st Motul Petit Le Mans takes the green flag shortly after 11 a.m. ET on Saturday.

Live television coverage begins at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS1, with continuing coverage on FS2 from 12 p.m. ET through the checkered flag. FOX Sports Go also will offer a complete broadcast with FS1 authentication. Live IMSA Radio coverage also will be available on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio (Sirius 119/XM 202/App 972). Tickets are available now at RoadAtlanta.com.

With practice slated to get under way tomorrow morning, here are some key GTD storylines to consider:

* The No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 squad and full-season co-drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow go in search of their first WeatherTech Championship titles. They enter Saturday’s race six points ahead of Katherine Legge in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 and can clinch the title with a podium finish – which they’ve already done seven times in the first 10 races of the season.

To aid them in their quest for the title, they’ll be joined for the endurance race by Corey Lewis, with whom they also co-drove to victory in March’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. This week, the team also rolled out a special, black and green livery for the race car.

“In 2014, we ran a matte black livery on the Paul Miller entry for Petit Le Mans, and we won the race,” said Team Owner Paul Miller. “We liked the idea of running a black car for Petit this year, and with the Lamborghini green highlights, maybe it’ll bring us some good fortune again.”

* As the lone full-season driver of the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3, Legge is looking to become the first driver to win a WeatherTech Championship title as a solo driver since Patrick Pilet won the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class championship in 2015. She’s also looking to be the third straight female GTD champion, following Christina Nielsen, who won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.

Legge’s co-drivers in the No. 86 are Alvaro Parente, with whom she won the America’s Tire 250 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last month, and Trent Hindman, who drove with the team at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and at Sebring.

“All I and the team can do is to do our best,” Legge said. “I will be as best prepared as I can be, but I’m also aware it’s a long race and there is a lot that is out of my control. I think we have to view the race as a matter of survival for the first nine hours and then depending on where we are, we can do battle right until the very end.”

* In addition to the overall WeatherTech Championship, there’s also a spirited battle for the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup title that will have its final act this weekend. Patrón Endurance Cup points will be awarded after four hours, eight hours and at the finish of Motul Petit Le Mans.

Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports squad are looking for their second consecutive Patrón Endurance Cup title and go into the race alongside endurance co-driver Luca Stolz with a two-point lead in the GTD standings over Legge and Parente.

* The No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 is returning to defend its 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans title with drivers Christopher Mies, Sheldon van der Linde and Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama graduate Daniel Morad. Mies and van der Linde won the race last year alongside Connor De Phillippi, who now drives the No. 25 BMW Team RLL entry in the GTLM class.

It will be the No. 29 team’s first WeatherTech Championship appearance since the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in July.

Don’t forget that IMSA coverage moves to the NBC Sports Group in 2019.

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.