Josef Newgarden on pole for Bommarito Automotive Group 500

0 Comments

NTT IndyCar Series point leader Josef Newgarden collected his second pole position of the season during qualifying for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Friday evening.

With an average two-lap speed of 186.808 miles per hour around the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Newgarden, the final driver to make a qualifying run, was able to unseat provisional polesitter Sebastian Bourdais for the top starting position.

In addition to the front-row starting position, Newgarden’s pole-winning effort also added an additional bonus point to his lead over Alexander Rossi in the standings. Newgarden now leads Rossi by 36 points.

“This was kinda like an Iowa situation,” Newgarden told NBC Sports following his pole run. “When we were in Iowa, in practice I said ‘this is the car that can win the pole’, and we missed it just by a little bit. I would have been so mad at us as a unit if we did that again.

“I’m so happy we got it right. The guys did an amazing job with the PPG car. It was so good right off the truck.”

With Newgarden the final driver to qualify, Bourdais (185.927 mph) will start second in Saturday’s race.

Pocono winner Will Power qualified third with an average speed of 185.986 mph, while Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud (185.143 mph) qualified fourth behind the wheel of the No. 22 Menard’s Chevrolet. Takuma Sato rounded-out the top five qualifiers, posting an average speed of 185.050 mph.

Two of the primary title contenders did not qualify as close to the front as they would have liked to, however. Scott Dixon will take the green flag from the eighth position, while Rossi’s qualifying run was only good enough for an 11th-place starting position.

“Right now NAPA/Andretti Honda isn’t where it needs to be,” Rossi told NBC Sports.

Though Rossi’s qualifying run may have not been what him and his crew had hoped for, the No. 27 still has an opportunity to dial things in during final practice later in the evening (9:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold).

As the sunlight turns to darkness, drivers and teams will have the perfect opportunity to turn laps in conditions similar to what they’ll run Saturday night’s race.

Live, flag to flag coverage of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 begins Saturday evening on NBCSN and streaming live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. 

Click here for full qualifying results

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter 

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds