Addition of IndyCar drivers gives Petit Le Mans an ‘All-Star Race’ vibe


As the IMSA WeatherTech Series wraps up its season in Saturday’s Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, the addition of many top drivers and team owners from the NTT IndyCar Series gives this event the feel of an “All-Star Race.”

The 10-hour race is similar to the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, as the IndyCar stars include this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, four-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais, IndyCar race winner Graham Rahal, 19-year-old rookie sensation Colton Herta and promising driver Spencer Pigot.

But it’s another former IndyCar Series driver who is closing in on the championship in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske Dpi, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 1999 CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya. He is one of the drivers in the No. 6 along with Dane Cameron and for the endurance races, Pagenaud. Acura Team Penske’s No. 7 entry features three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and (for this race) Rahal.

Watch all 10 hours of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on NBC,, the NBC Sports App and NBCN. Coverage will begin on NBC at 12 noon ET with three hours of action. At 3 p.m. ET,  it will switch over to exclusive coverage on and the NBC Sports App. The final five hours of the race will be on NBCN beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET. and the NBC Sports App will provide live, flag-to-flag coverage of the entire race.

Coverage of the 10-hour race will feature a cast of 10 NBC Sports commentators, headlined by NBC Sports’ lead IMSA commentating team of play-by-play voice Leigh Diffey, former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver A.J. Allmendinger (analyst), and former IMSA GT driver Calvin Fish (analyst). INDYCAR on NBC analyst and current IMSA driver Townsend Bell will be competing as a member of the No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus team in the GT Daytona class and also will serve as an analyst for portions of the race.

NBC Sports’ IMSA commentary team will also include IndyCar on NBC analyst Paul Tracy. NASCAR on NBC reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast and Dillon Welch will join IndyCar on NBC reporters Kevin Lee and Jon Beekhuis in providing commentary from pit road.

In addition to Montoya and Acura Team Penske’s pursuit of the Dpi championship, another IndyCar Series team, Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 86 Acura, is leading the championship in the GTP class.

By taking on the world’s top sports car drivers, it gives the current IndyCar drivers and teams a chance to display their skill in a completely different racing discipline.

“I like the uniqueness of it because it bookends most people’s season,” Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull told NBC “You are able to watch drivers from other series race against each other in what should be equal cars. It’s always fun to watch at the beginning of the year and toward the end of the year.

“It might be considered as a throwback, but it’s during the present tense in 2019. It used to be that drivers like Scott and Sebastien would one race one weekend in a sports car, the next weekend in an Indy car, the next weekend in a Formula One car and the next weekend in a Trans-Am car and so on. Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais in particular adapt themselves very quickly and work on drive style to match the features of the race car they drive. It’s really unique to do that.”

It’s also the final race for Chip Ganassi Racing and the Ford GT program in IMSA. The highly successful program concludes with a storied legacy of accomplishment.

“It was a great adventure,” Bourdais told “We all wish it wasn’t the end, but it’s a manufacturer deal, and they tend to be that way. It was a fun time and a great era. We’ll just have to find a new chapter.

“It would be great to send Ford out as a winner in its final GT race. We enjoyed some successes in the first couple of years with Le Mans and Daytona. It would be great to add Petit and finish in style.”

Hull has been part of the Ford GT effort at Chip Ganassi Racing since it began in 2016 when it won the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. With the Ford program concluding, CGR will add a third Honda to its NTT IndyCar Series program with the addition of former Formula One driver Marcus Ericsson, who drove for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2019.

“You never want things to end when they are going well,” Hull said. “We talked about that with the drivers. In your lifetime in racing, you are seldom able to maintain a talented group of people for the length of time we have where all of them have remained unselfish. That is a big denominator to where we are with the program and why it is difficult in terms of it ending.

“We’ve had great partnership with Ford, and that started six years ago when we started the DP program with them to develop the engine and the engine accessory package and all the things it takes to drive the engine before that engine was transferred into the GT car. We’ve had six years with Ford, and it’s been a fantastic partnership.

“We are a great match. We do what we do well, and they do what they do well. We’ve only tried to get to the next level together with what our strengths are and not where our weaknesses are.

“It’s been a fantastic program.”

Another unique aspect of IndyCar’s participation in the IMSA race is drivers are competing with teams they race against in IndyCar. Although Dixon is the star driver at Chip Ganassi Racing in IndyCar, Bourdais drives for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan in IndyCar. Graham Rahal drives for Rahal Letterman Lanigan in IndyCar but is part of Acura Team Penske’s effort this weekend.

Herta drove for Harding Steinbrenner Racing in IndyCar this past season but will be part of Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s BMW team this weekend. And Spencer Pigot, who drives for Ed Carpenter Racing in IndyCar will be part of Juncos at Road Atlanta.

It’s a great chance for drivers to learn the processes of how the other teams operate.

“On the Dale Coyne side, we have a relatively small amount of people in the group, and that is the biggest difference,” Bourdais said. “You have projects depending on how many people you have. Chip’s team is a very well-oiled organization with a lot of high-quality people, and it’s a pleasure to work with those guys, and they make you feel welcome right away. They give you what you need to perform to the best of your abilities. I’ve been blessed to work with great teams over my career and very professional ones, as well as small teams. You can definitely tell the differences.

“It’s not lack of trying on either side. It’s the hard truth and reality of racing.”

The ability to bring over Dixon and Bourdais for this weekend is like going to the Baseball Hall of Fame and having them step up to the plate in a Major League Baseball playoff game.

“What’s really great about it with Sebastien and Scott is the measurement of their teammates,” Hull said. “Their teammates are doing the same job these two guys do. If their teammates happened to come from where Scott and Sebastien have come and drove Indy cars, they would be comparable to Scott and Sebastien.

“They are able to read the racetrack together and individually. They understand how you create track position; they understand race craft itself. They understand how to get the most out of the car, and they are unusually gifted when it comes to driving the race car. That is parallel to Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais.

“It’s a terrific mix, and it’s great to view it up close and personal, to actually see how much ability Joey Hand, Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Dirk Mueller have. We’ve been lucky enough over the last four years to witness that.

“What is really terrific about it is all six of those drivers have grown in their craft and driving race cars. It’s very measurable and fun to watch.”

Here is a look at current drivers, past drivers and teams that have NTT IndyCar Series and Indy Lights connections that will be participating in the Petit Le Mans:

Current Drivers:

Simon Pagenaud (No. 6 Acura Team Penske DPi)

Graham Rahal (No. 7 Acura Team Penske DPi)

Spencer Pigot (No. 50 Juncos Racing Cadillac DPi)

Colton Herta (No. 25 BMW Team RLL GTLM)

Sebastien Bourdais (No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GTLM)

Scott Dixon (No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GTLM)

Past Drivers:

Mike Conway (No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi)

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 6 Acura Team Penske DPi) – CHAMPIONSHIP LEADER

Helio Castroneves (No. 7 Acura Team Penske DPi)

Rene Binder (No. 50 Juncos Racing Cadillac DPi)

Tristan Vautier (No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi)

Jan Magnussen (No. 3 Corvette Racing GTLM)

Ryan Briscoe (No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GTLM)

Townsend Bell (No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus GTD)

Jack Hawksworth (No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus GTD)

Katherine Legge (No. 57 Heinricher Racing with Meyer Shank Racing Acura GTD)

Bia Figueiredo (formerly known as Ana Beatriz) (No. 57 Heinricher Racing with Meyer Shank Racing Acura GTD)


Penske (Acura Team Penske – Nos. 6 and 7 DPi) – NO. 6 LEADING CHAMPIONSHIP

Juncos Racing (No. 50 Cadillac DPi)

Rahal Letterman Lanigan (BMW Team RLL – Nos. 24 and 25 GTLM)

Chip Ganassi Racing (Ford Chip Ganassi Racing – Nos. 66 and 67 GTLM)

Vasser Sullivan (AIM Vasser Sullivan – Nos. 12 and 14 Lexus GTD)

Meyer Shank Racing (No. 57 Heinricher Racing with Meyer Shank Acura GTD, No. 86 Meyer Shank Acura GTD, leading championship)

Scuderia Corsa (No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari GTD)

Indy Lights

Dalton Kellett (No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports LMP2)

Aaron Telitz (No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan GTD)

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Jett Lawrence wins Pro Motocross opener, remains perfect at Fox Raceway; Hunter wins in 250s

How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway
Align Media

PALA, California – In his 450 bike debut, Jett Lawrence scored a perfect round at Fox Raceway in Pala, California to win Pro Motocross Round 1. He posted the fastest time in both qualification sessions, won the holeshot in both motos, and scored a pair of wins to take the overall victory and the early points’ lead.

Chase Sexton stalked Jett Lawrence throughout Moto 2, but could not find his way past. – Align Media

No one seriously questioned Lawrence’s opportunity to make noise in the 450 class. Few would have been surprised to see him podium in his Pro Motocross National, but Lawrence outperformed all expectations by dominating Moto 1. He entered the weekend with zero points and his eye on 20th in the standings so he would receive an automatic invitation to the inaugural SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

He well surpassed expectations.

“It’s awesome,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “I can finally smile. I’ve been trying to stay serious and not get too excited with emotions coming up – and now I can finally let loose. The second one was a little harder, I couldn’t hear him but I’d look back and I’d still see the red bike. It was like a chess match.”

By the end of the race, Lawrence made up 30 percent of the points he needed to claim 20th and served notice that he will be one of the favorites to win the championship. He closed the gap even further in Moto 2, but the two races had entirely different storylines.

While Lawrence was able to run away from the field in the first race and win with a 10-second advantage, Honda teammate and defending Monster Energy Supercross champion Chase Sexton pressured him for the entire 30 minutes plus two laps that made up Moto 2.

Lawrence is the 16th rider to win in his first Pro Motocross race, the 10th to do so in an opener and second youngest, (behind Rick Johnson, 17 when he won at Hangtown in 1982).

Sexton was within two seconds of Lawrence for the entire moto. He rode a patient race with the realistic expectation that the 450 rookie Lawrence might make a mistake. Lawrence bounced from rut to rut in this race, but would not be forced into losing his focus.

“Toward the finish line area I had some decent lines, I thought maybe, if I could get close enough, I could make a move,” Sexton said. “I tried my hardest; I got close. I made a bit of an attempt with maybe 10 minutes to go and messed up. Jett was obviously riding really good. We were pushing the pace and it was a fun moto. It felt a little like last year.”

With his 1-1 finish and the overall victory, Lawrence remains perfect at Fox Raceway after sweeping Victory Lane in five rounds his 250 career.

Dylan Ferrandis returned to the track after suffering a concussion in the Supercross season in Round 4 in Houston. He attempted to return for the Daytona Supercross race, but another hard crash on Media Day set him on the sideline.

“Earlier this week I was pretty far from a podium position, so got together with the team and we made it happen,” Ferrandis said. “It was very hard. [Aaron Plessinger] was pushing me and I had to dig very deep.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway

In a pre-race news conference, he indicated that the best course of action was to get up to speed before he fully sent his bike into the turns. But adrenalin is a wonderful factor and once he got into the pace of the race, he held off charges from Cooper Webb in Moto 1 and Plessinger in Moto 2. Ferrandis’ 3-3 finishes in the two races earned 40 points and puts him back in the conversation to be among the top 20 in the combined SuperMotocross standings.

Plessinger and Webb each ended the day with 34 points. Plessinger won the tiebreaker for fifth overall in the standings. But it was an adventurous afternoon for Plessinger who had to overcome a pair of falls in the first Moto to finish fifth.

Round 1 of the Pro Motocross season marked the return of Webb after he suffered a Supercross series ending concussion in a heat race at Nashville.

“This was a last minute decision,” Webb said. “I sat out last summer and I didn’t want to do that again. Once I got cleared from the doctor, it was game on.”

The battle between Lawrence and Sexton gave Honda a 1-2 finish in this race for the second straight year, but perhaps most importantly, it provided a glimpse of what can be expected during the opening rounds.

I think there is more to come from Chase,” Lawrence said. “He had that crash in practice so it rung his head a bit, but I know it’s going to be a war in the outdoor season. I know there’s going to be times when I’m behind Chase and can’t get around him. It’s going to be an awesome season and I can’t wait to race my teammate.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jett wasn’t the only Lawrence to win Fox Raceway Motocross. Hunter’s win in the 250 class marked the first time in history that brothers won a Motocross National on the same day.

The reigning 250 East Supercross champion scored the overall victory with a third in Moto 1 and a victory in Moto 2. A poor start in the first race forced Lawrence to mount a charge from behind. Riding with discomfort, Lawrence was out of his rhythm early. A spirited battle with Jo Shimoda and Justin Cooper for third through fifth forced him to push through the pain of an injury suffered at the start of the week.

“The start was crucial,” Lawrence said. “I had a massive crash Monday and could barely ride press day for three laps, I was in so much pain. This one goes out to Dr. [Rey Gubernick]. He has magic hands.”

Lawrence’s strong start to Moto 2 put him in a better zone and he pulled an eight-second advantage over the second-place rider.

Haiden Deegan got a taste of the Motocross series last year, but that was all it was: a nibble.

Deegan failed to crack the top 10 in either of two starts and had some questions for himself before the race began. Deegan did not believe there were high expectations placed on him for this race, which is precisely how he described his first Supercross attempt. In that inaugural SX race, he finished fourth and was as surprised as anyone in the field.

Again: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Deegan surprised himself again by finishing second in only his third Motocross National. He finished sixth in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2, giving him a second-place finish overall.

“I’m actually a little surprised,” Deegan said. “A lot of people said I wouldn’t even be close to this. I guess we’re proving people wrong and that’s what we’ve got to do Second place in my first full season. I’m hyped.”

Deegan is closing in on his first 250 win.

Click here for 250 overall results

RJ Hampshire had to overcome a pair of falls in Moto 2 to score the final podium position in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire made a statement in Moto 1. An entirely new discipline allowed Hampshire to grab an early advantage. But then a poor start to Moto 2 provided an entirely different challenge. Two falls on Lap 1 dropped Hampshire to 39th in the running order.

“I didn’t have a great start and got mayhem in that second corner and went down,” Hampshire said. “Picked [myself] up in last and made some really good passes and then going uphill on the [backstretch], someone got out of whack – took me out and I was dead last again. I didn’t really know if I had a shot at the podium, but I was digging really deep.”

It took half of the race to get back into the points in 20th, but Hampshire kept digging. Passing riders one at a time, he climbed to 11th in Moto 2 and salvaged enough points to give him the third position overall.

Maximus Vohland made a statement of his own by holding off a determined Lawrence on the last two laps. Lawrence was able to pressure Vohland when they were slowed by a lapped rider who fell in front of the battle.

Tom Vialle was in a position to take the final overall podium spot with a solid third-place finish in the second moto. He did everything he could, but Hampshire’s determined charge from the back of the pack was capped off with a two-position advance on the final lap to slide onto the final step of the box.

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury
Cooper Webb returns to action at Pala
Caden Braswell joins Troy Lee Design
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Supercross finale