Super Sebring weekend begins on Friday with 1000-mile race

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Two months after racing twice around the clock in Daytona, the IMSA Weathertech Series heads to Sebring, Fla. for a single trip around the dial. Apparently, that just isn’t enough for some drivers or fans.

On Friday, the World Endurance Championship hosts the 1,000 Miles of Sebring as a prelude to the 12-Hour race. The World Endurance Championship schedule this year includes the 24-Hour of LeMans and 6-hour races at Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone, Fuji and Shanghai.

One of the winners of the 24 Hours of Daytona likely has an opportunity to win his second consecutive race. Fernando Alonso, Kamui Kobayashi and Renger van der Zande are all entered in three different cars.

In the No. 8 Gazoo Racing entry, Alonso claimed the pole for Friday’s race with the fastest ever lap around this track of 1 minute, 40.124 second. Kobayashi, along with Mike Conway will sit on the outside of the front row. Van der Zande’s team, the No. 10 DragonSpeed entry, qualified seventh in the 34-car lineup.

Matthieu Vaxiviere, who joins van der Zande and Jordan Taylor this week in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Cadillac in the 12-Hour race, and the Corvette Racing duo of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia will also be doing double duty.

Along with the stars of the 24-hour race, IndyCar is represented in the 1,000-mile race with Ben Hanley joining van der Zande in that event.

Jordan King, who is entered in this year’s Indy 500, will compete for Jackie Chan DC Racing (yes, that Jackie Chan) in their No. 37 entry. They qualified ninth on the grid, one position behind their teammates in the No. 38 who earned the pole in the LMP2 division with Stephane Richelmi.

Chan is not the only Hollywood star to field an entry in this race. Patrick Dempsey rolls out two cars in the LMGTE Amateur division.

While the 1,000 Miles of Sebring has a couple of IndyCar drivers in the mix, they will be in full force on Saturday in the IMSA race. Simon Pagenaud (No. 6 Team Penske Acura DPI), Alexander Rossi (No. 7 Team Penske Acura DPI), Colton Herta (No. 25 BMW Team RLL that won the Rolex 24 GTLM in January), Sebastien Bourdais (No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT) and Scott Dixon (No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT) are entered.

And of course, Townsend Bell will be doing double duty as week like he did in the 24 – racing and providing color commentary for NBC’s coverage of the 12-Hours of Sebring. After finishing second in the Rolex 24 to a team that will not run the full IMSA season, Bell looks to protect the points lead for the No, 12 AIM Vasser-Sullivan team in the GT Daytona class.

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Indianapolis 500 weather forecast: Rain chances decreasing for start

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the green flag keeps approaching for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the chances of clear skies Sunday keep increasing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The chance of rain at the start of the race was down to about 30%, according to the wunderground.com site as of late Saturday night, and the forecast seemed good until late afternoon when the odds of precipitation rose to about 80%.

If the race starts on time at12:45 p.m. ET, that should be a long enough window to run the full 500 miles and certainly an official race (102 of 200 laps).

With Indiana on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone and a 9:02 p.m. sunset on race day, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles said the green flag probably could be held as late as 6 p.m. if a worst-case scenario of bad weather hits.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch

“We ran the NASCAR race (in 2017) almost right up to sunset,” Boles said. “The challenge of getting closer to sunset is just getting people out when it’s still light. The race itself is more than 2 hours and 40 minutes so you have to back-time yourself.

“We’ll sit down with IndyCar over the next 24 hours and at least have that in the back of our mind. If there’s a window to get it done, our intent would be get it in Sunday, so we would want to go as late as we could.”

Boles said National Weather Service representatives are on site this weekend to help with forecasting. Regardless of if there still is a threat of rain, the track will start the race on time as long as the surface is dry.

“I can’t imagine we’d postpone the start because we think it might rain,” Boles said. “If it’s not raining, we’re running the race.

Boles said track officials are monitoring Sunday’s weather daily but won’t discuss any potential contingency plans until Saturday night. Regardless of whether it’s raining Sunday morning, some pre-race ceremonies likely will remain in place.

“It’s hard to speculate on what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s likely Sunday morning will be the first time that we have any definitive statement on what we think is going to happen. Instead of giving you information that we don’t know what it’s going to be like, I’d rather wait until that Sunday when we see the conditions, and we’ll let you know.

“Obviously, if it’s raining, then we’ll have to decide what the next steps are.”

Boles said Indiana weather traditionally is unpredictable, noting that qualifying was completed last Sunday despite predictions of a complete washout.

“Last year the prediction was it was going to rain on race day, we got up next morning, and it was perfect,” Boles said. “It just changes so rapidly around here.”

Should it rain, IndyCar officials will make every reasonable attempt to run the Indy 500 on time,. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also recently used a new sealant on the track surface which makes it quicker to dry the racing surface.

During the previous 102 runnings of the Indy 500, there have been 12 impacted by rain: three complete postponements; two partial postponements and seven shortened races.

So what happens if it does rain? Some options:

Rain-shortened race

The Indy 500 could turn into the Indy 255. If more than 255 miles (102 laps) are completed in Sunday’s race, the race can be deemed official. If the race is called, driver’s finishing positions are based on their position in the race at the time of the caution flag for rain.

The Indy 500 has been shortened by rain only seven times, most recently in 2007. The race was stopped nearly three hours because of rain on Lap 113 and was declared officially over with Dario Franchitti in the lead when rain again hit at the 415-mile mark.

Partial postponement

If fewer than 102 laps are completed Sunday, the race will resume on the next dry day. With most Americans on holiday Monday because of Memorial Day, a partial postponement still might allow for a healthy audience at the track and watching on NBC.

The race has been partially postponed only twice in the 102 previous runnings, in 1967 and 1973.

Complete postponement

Fans shouldn’t worry too much about a complete postponement of the race, as it has only happened three times, most recently in 1997. If rain completely postpones the Indy 500, the race will be rescheduled for the next day with the start time dependent on the forecast.

The 1997 race ran 15 laps on Monday before rain again postponed the remainder of the race until Tuesday. The 1915 and ’86 runnings were postponed until the following Saturday.