IMSA

IMSA: Ford breaks Porsche’s win streak at Lime Rock

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Ford Vs. Ferrari may not release in theaters until this November, but race fans at Lime Rock Park got to watch a live performance of Ford Vs. Porsche.

With the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber fading late in the race due to worn tires, Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, on a three-stop strategy, was able to catch up to and challenge Bamber for the lead in the closing laps and eventually took over the lead with seven minutes remaining in the race.

The No. 67 would take the checkered flag, and finally break Porsche’s five-race GTLM win streak to claim their first class victory of the season.

“Just a great strategy by the team,” Westbrook told NBC Sports following the race. “Ryan [Briscoe’s] opening stint just put us in a really good position on this three-stop strategy. I had better tires than the Porsche, and that’s the only way we can beat them. We got to roll the dice and do a gamble, but we stuck to the plan. That was our plan before the race and it just worked to treat, but to do that, you need the best team.

“When you got all of that behind you, then sometimes these plans work out, and today was one of those special days.”

Co-Driver Briscoe watched as Westbrook took the checkered flag. For him, the win couldn’t have come at a better time.

“What a great drive by Rich at the end. I’m just so stoked,” Briscoe said “It’s been a tough year, and to turn things around here – my home race – with this win, it’s just phenomenal. The whole team just did such a great job. Gave us a really good car to drive, and I think I think it was just really fun to do the three-stop strategy and just do it on pace out there.”

Bamber was able to still hold on and finish second overall in the race, with the No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller finishing in the third position.

GTD: Olsen gives Pfaff maiden victory with late-race pass

In GTD, Dennis Olsen gave Pfaff Motorsports their maiden IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory by passing Mario Farnbacher for the class lead with less than three minutes remaining.

However, Farnbacher fought back, challenging Olsen and almost retook the lead from the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R, coming just short at the finish by only 0.010 seconds.

“I saw the opening, and I just had to do it,” Olsen said of his late-race pass. “We had some quite aggressive moves throughout the whole stint and towards the end as well. It was pretty hard to keep him behind on the last lap, but we made it.”

The victory was also the first for co-driver Zacharie Robichon.

“He did an incredible job,” Robichon said. “He took the opportunity when presented without being overly aggressive, and at the end, I’m not too sure what was going on, but he held his position and it was pretty stressful as a team, I’d say.”

The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 of Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley completed the GTD podium.

The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship now heads to Road America for the IMSA Road Race Showcase on August 4. Live coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. 

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter 

Newgarden, Rossi ready for a red-white-and-blue INDYCAR finale

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MONTEREY, California – In an international series that personifies diversity from all over the globe, the two main combatants in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship are from the United States.

Josef Newgarden of Tennessee takes a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Northern California into Sunday’s double-points season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud of France, is just 42 points out of the lead.

It’s been quite a while since the two drivers entering the final race of the season were both Americans. Four of the top 10 drivers in the series are from the United States. Last year, five of the top 10 were from the USA.

All but one race in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule is contested in the United States.

Patriotism still matters in IndyCar.

“I think so,” said Andretti Autosport driver Rossi, who is the last American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares.’

“I can’t really get onboard with that.

“I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist.

Getty Images“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”

Since Sam Hornish, Jr. won the final of his three IndyCar Series championships in 2006, just two American drivers have won the title – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Newgarden in 2017. During that span, Scott Dixon of New Zealand won four of his five NTT IndyCar Series championships and Dario Franchitti of Scotland won all four of his IndyCar titles.

The last time two Americans had a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season came in 2001 when Hornish won the championship over Colorado’s Buddy Lazier. Connecticut’s Scott Sharp was third and Arizona’s Billy Boat was fourth in the final standings that year.

That was a much different time and place for IndyCar. At that time, many of the top drivers were in CART while the old Indy Racing League featured a predominantly American lineup. Once unification brought the two sides together in 2008, the championships have been fought on American soil, but international drivers were victorious.

The last time two American drivers finished 1-2 in CART was 1996 when Jimmy Vasser of California defeated Pennsylvania’s Michael Andretti for the crown. In 1992, Bobby Rahal of Illinois defeated Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. of New Mexico for the CART title.

Prior to that, the IndyCar “National Championship” was dominated by drivers from the United States.

 

While Rossi openly choose to wrap himself in the American flag, it’s not as important to Newgarden.

“For me, it’s never been something I put a lot of emphasis on,” said the Team Penske driver. “I’m proud to have grown up in such a wonderful country as the United States, but what I’ve always loved about the IndyCar Series is that they bring the best of the best from around the world. That’s always been important to me.

“It means more I think when you have the best from all over the place coming to compete at the Indianapolis 500, during the whole championship. You really feel like you have that in the IndyCar Series. You get the best drivers from around the world.

“To pair with that, I think we need strong Americans running, as well. So for sure, having guys like Alex and Graham Rahal, some young guys coming up like Colton Herta, myself, it’s really great to have young American competition representing as well and running so strongly.

“What I’ve always loved is the great mix of talent from around the world. To me that’s just so important. If it was all Americans running in the championship, I don’t think it would mean as much. I like that we have that great diversity and that great mix from around the world.”

Although these two drivers are both from the USA, they are fierce rivals. They have mutual respect for each other, but they sure aren’t considered close friends.

“Josef and I honestly aren’t that close,” Rossi admitted. “He never lived in Indy when I moved here, or he was just moving. I actually never really hung out with Josef.

“We obviously have a lot of respect for each other. We raced together for a short period of time in Europe. We have a lot of mutual friends.

“Josef and I don’t talk or socialize really. So, it doesn’t have any impact.”

Newgarden agrees that these two men choose to embrace the rivalry.

“I think it’s just really business,” Newgarden said. “He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Nashville. I don’t see him too often outside of the racetrack. We go and we compete. He’s a great competitor. He’s definitely a tremendous talent, has done a great job in his career.

“It’s been a good, competitive relationship I would say.”

With the return of American drivers capable of winning races, championships and Indianapolis 500s, it has sparked a rejuvenation in IndyCar racing. With drivers from all over the world fighting it out for glory, this series that was born and bred in the United States can take pride in featuring some of the best racing in the world as the series continues to grow in popularity.

“I think we just need to continue a focus on our product,” Rossi said. “I think we have the best race product on the planet in terms of entertainment, the variance of winners that we have throughout a season, how many guys are capable, teams are capable of winning races.

“But that’s an ever-moving target. I think IndyCar has done a good job of placing the priority on that. I just think we need to continue doing that and everything will be moving in the right direction.”