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IMSA: Here’s what drivers said after Saturday’s 12 Hours of Sebring

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Here’s what drivers said after Saturday’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, the second race of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship:

PIPO DERANI (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R) – OVERALL WINNER: “Unbelievable job! It was tricky at the beginning of the race, with the rain, but I managed to move my way from fifth into first and open a gap. But today was just one of those days, where everything clicked and nothing went wrong. Big thanks to my team, the Whelen Engineering Cadillac is an amazing car and I’m really happy to have won three times in four years. I wouldn’t be able to do that without the job the Action Express guys have done behind the scenes, and Felipe at the end and Eric keeping the car in front. What a day!”

FELIPE NASR (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R) – OVERALL WINNER: “Today was a super challenging day and I am so proud of the job by the entire Action Express team. They gave us an amazing car to drive today, in all the different conditions from wet to dry to drizzling, and Tim Keene was superb with the calls. Pipo had an amazing start in the rain, that was a really tricky part of the race and he nailed it. He was able to put the car into the lead and just walk away with it, and Eric [Curran] stabilized the lead and kept the car going forward. In the end, the job for me was to get to the finish line. Those last 20 minutes were super intense, trying to hold off the 10 car. They were pretty fast. I’m so happy we got the victory and nailed every hour for the endurance championship as well. A perfect day of racing!”

JORDAN TAYLOR (No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R) – finished second in DPi: “We had a third-place car all day, so to finish second was good. I think we over shot what we were capable of today. It was a good points day. We would have loved to win Sebring again, but I didn’t think it was worth a huge risk for the points to make a move there at the end. I am happy with second and we will go on to Long Beach. He [Nasr] was strong. I could have taken look in the Hairpin when he was being held up by the 54 [Colin Braun], but he was moving around a lot. Maybe I think big picture a little too much, but I think we leave here happy with second.”

BRENDON HARTLEY (No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R) – finished third in DPi: “I really enjoyed working with Felipe [Albuquerque] and Joao [Barbosa] and all the guys with the Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac team. It was tricky in the beginning, to jump into a completely different car and it definitely took one or two stints because I don’t have much experience in this car. I lost a place to Jordan early when I got caught sleeping and was not sure how much was in the tires, which was a little bit of inexperience with this car, but all in all, I felt good. I didn’t expect to end with a quadruple stint and after yesterday’s race, I was completely drained at the end of tonight. We didn’t have the pace of the other car but both sides of the garage had a flawless race and we’re both on the podium, which is amazing.”

NICK TANDY (No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR) – finished first in GTLM, 10th overall: “It was a totally crazy race that one rarely experiences. We got the lot: extremely wet at the beginning, a dry track, then predicted rain, which didn’t eventuate. We started from pole, then quickly fell back, only to end up in the lead again. You only get such things at a long-distance race. And this is the precisely the kind of discipline that Porsche excels at. Never give up, always push and then pull out all stops at the right moment. That’s how it’s done.”

PATRICK PILET (No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR) – finished first in GTLM, 10th overall: “It somehow feels unreal. We started from pole position, and then we were running last, and now we celebrate our second Sebring victory in a row – unbelievable! Our team is simply something very special. We never gave up, we always believed that we had a chance and now we’re standing here as winners. It’s indescribable.” 

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT) – finished sixth in GTLM, 16th overall: “What a race. Just a really disappointing result to be honest. Everything else about it was just absolutely perfect. I think we looked pretty good for about eleven hours and 55 minutes yesterday, and unfortunately at the end, we caught the yellow that we didn’t need, and then on the restart, trying to go for the win, [we] got tangled up in some GTD traffic, and it spun me around. It was a real bummer. I know those guys were also having their race and not so worried about checking their mirrors. It’s hard to put blame anywhere, but I was also going for the win and maybe I should of been thinking of settling for second but [that] didn’t even cross my mind at the time.”

KYLE MASSON (No. 38 Centinel Spine/ Orlando Health LMP2) – finished first in LMP2, 17th overall: “This race weekend went really well. We started out with a really solid qualifying. Coming off of Daytona our pace was not as good as we would have liked. To come here and be on pace and able to battle left both myself and the team feeling confident. Our gap was only 1/100 of a second to our competitor, so I’m really happy with how the car ran all weekend. The crew really deserved this; they put together a great car.”

CAMERON CASSELS (No. 38 Centinel Spine/ Orlando Health LMP2) – finished first in LMP2, 17th overall: “It’s incredible to share this win with Performance Tech. To run up front at Daytona and then walk away with a second felt like last place. To come here and pull off a win is incredible. The class was small, but this is multi-class racing, so it was not short of challenges. It really is amazing to walk away from Sebring a winner.”

MIRKO BORTOLOTTI (No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3) – finished first in GTD, 19th overall: “What a race! Winning Sebring, one of the toughest races on the entire calendar, is just amazing. The last two hours were the toughest of my whole career. First off, I outbraked Andy Lally in the first turn, and then after that, he stuck to my bumper for an hour and a half until we reached the finish line. The slightest mistake would have been enough to lose us the win, and what’s more, I really needed to save fuel but wanted to secure victory more than anything. Hats off to everyone in the team! I’m really proud of every one of them.”

RIK BREUKERS (No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3) – finished first in GTD, 19th overall: “It had already occurred to us during practice that we had the potential to win here. Conditions at the start were very difficult but Rolf [Ineichen] did a great job. Mirko followed him for his stint and won a couple of positions. We lost some ground after that but hit back as night fell. Mirko then did everything possible over the last two hours to try and get us back in the lead. The whole team were outstanding throughout the weekend and pulled off a masterly feat of strategy. We are delighted to have won this prestigious race.”

Supercross: Eli Tomac has the long game in mind

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Racing is reaction. A split-second hesitation means missing the holeshot. A decision about how hard to charge into a corner, side-by-side another rider, is made without bothering to engage one’s consciousness. The tiniest things make the biggest difference. With a late-race pass at Daytona in the Monster Energy Supercross series, Eli Tomac wrested the lead from Ken Roczen and broke a tie atop the points standing. But just barely.

Tomac is the defending winner of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championship. In fact, he enters with the last three titles to his credit, but the Supercross championship has eluded him.

“This wouldn’t be about beating Ken,” Tomac told NBC Sports. “This would be about getting that first Supercross title. I feel like it’s the most wanted title that we have currently in our racing. It’s the one sponsors look at the most, so I want it really bad. It doesn’t matter who I’m battling with, I want to be that guy with the (red) plate at the end of the year.”

Daytona was Round 10 of what was supposed to be a 17-round Supercross season. After a winner was crowned in the indoor arenas, the riders would have moved to longer, faster outdoor tracks. They would have had two weeks to prepare for Motocross.

If the past three seasons are an example, the Motocross season is of little concern. Tomac dominated that series and has amassed 23 career wins there.

The story has not been the same in Supercross. He finished second in the 2015 and 2017 standings. He was third in 2018 and then back up to second last year. But while he keeps coming close, he’s had to watch as two new winners were crowned in the past two years.

Jason Anderson took the title in 2018, which was a bit of a surprise.

Last year was even more shocking as Cooper Webb entered the season without a single Supercross victory and left with the championship.

Tomac has the wins. Daytona was his 32nd in Supercross series. He’s simply missing the big red plate that signifies the championship to hang on his wall.

“I’ve been able to accomplish everything I can except get the championship,” Tomac said. “I have so many race wins and I look at those more than the second-place finishes in the championship. Second-place in the championship, people don’t remember. Some people remember race wins.

“Most of the time, they remember the championship.”

Eli Tomac’s pass on Ken Roczen at Daytona might well be the pivotal point in his season. Feld Entertainment, Inc.

Daytona was pivotal.

One week earlier, Tomac took a significant points lead into Atlanta and saw it evaporate. He got off to a slow start and was mired in traffic. One of his split-second decisions proved to be the wrong one and he crashed midway through the race before mounting a charge to return to the top five. Tomac finished fourth. Roczen won after getting a fast start.

They left Atlanta tied for the lead.

At Daytona, the story was the same for most of the race. Roczen led Lap 1. Tomac got a slow start and had to battle his way to the front.

“Going back to the Daytona race, it’s a track that requires a lot of patience, even though I didn’t start up front,” Tomac said. “You’re always going to make mistakes, you just try minimize them as much as you can. That’s where I made the majority of my passes: from guys making mistakes. That was my game plan going into the race, to try and have a mistake-free ride.

“In my mind, I’ve put in all this work to get into second-place at this point and then I see Roczen in front. I feel like I can keep digging at that point. I had more in the tank, so I didn’t want to stop. I never do unless I’m in the lead. So that was my mindset.”

Roczen finished less than a second behind to hand the championship lead back to Tomac by a narrow three-point margin.

“(Roczen is) a competitor that you can trust,” Tomac said. “That’s the nice thing about racing Ken is that he’s predictable. There are certain riders on the track that you may not even be comfortable going on to the next jump with. If I’m going to be battling guys, Ken is a great competitor to go against.”

MORE: Eli Tomac and Justin Barcia feud at Atlanta

MORE: Ken Roczen still has a shot at the championship

And then racing came to a screeching halt as the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic required all live events to be postponed so fans could practice social distancing.

After Daytona, seven more Supercross rounds were scheduled to be run with only a short break for Easter. That race should have come at about the two-thirds mark and as riders headed back to shorter, tighter tracks to end the season.

But the pandemic has made Daytona the final Supercross season before Motocross begins. And it might yet make it even more pivotal in both championships. With its long straights, Daytona is a hybrid that has as many characteristics in common with the outdoor season as it does with indoors. It provides a bridge between the two disciplines.

Supercross is mentally grueling. The tight confines of indoor arenas make it a technical track were the smallest bobble has the biggest impact.

Motocross is physically demanding. The toll on the body is intense, but after that season winds down, riders typically have several months to recuperate before heading into the next year.

Tomac’s back has been a familiar site to the other riders in recent seasons. Feld Entertainment, Inc.

In 2020, riders will have to shake off the dust and take their battered bodies back inside and refocus that mental energy.

“It’s going to be hard to manage your energy levels and just go and race all the way through September and October, if that happens and If everything stays somewhat current now,” Tomac said. “You’re going to have to have a lot of long-game in mind. That’s going to be key because the Motocross season wears on you physically.

“It’s going to be really tough to make the transition. At the beginning of Supercross you always feel like you have a few races to get warmed up and in the groove. But at this point in the game if we race in September and October, there is no getting back in the groove. It’s totally new for everyone. The other positive is that I have the lead, even though it’s minimal. I’m in the best position I can be in.”

If Tomac can do what he’s done for the past three seasons, interjecting some outdoor races in the middle of Supercross could play to his advantage. A fourth championship, if that is what happens, will give Tomac a ton of confidence before the final rounds of the Supercross season occurs.

If he does not win the championship for the first time since 2016, he’ll be hungry. But one way or another, Tomac will convince himself that he is the rider to beat.

“(The lead) is the best position to be in and it may turn out have paid off very well to be in the points’ lead (after Daytona),” Tomac said. “There is so much unknown there.”

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