Rolex 24 update: Kobayashi leads, Busch set to run final stint as less than two hours remain

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Less than two hours remain in the 2020 edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and Wanye Taylor Racing has overcome a setback to be in position to win for the third time in four years.

Kamui Kobayashi currently leads the race in the team’s No. 10 Cadillac DPi, and is expected to remain in the car through the checkered flag after replacing Ryan Briscoe just after the 21-hour mark.

Just a few hours prior, the team suffered a major setback when Briscoe was assessed a penalty for running a light in the pits. After falling a lap down, Briscoe regained the lead lap under the fifth full-course caution of the race.

Tristan Nunez currently runs in the second position in the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest DPi.

Meanwhile, Kyle Busch is expected to run the final shift in No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 for AIM Vasser Sullivan.

Busch was back in the car for a triple stint at shortly after 7 a.m. Sunday after pulling a double stint around midnight.

He drove only 42 minutes in his debut Saturday night but helped put the team back on the lead lap and had him begging for time behind the wheel.

The No. 14 team is currently ranked ninth in the 18-car GTD field.

As of 12:00 pm ET, the leaders are:

DPi:

  1. No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing, Cadillac DPi, Kamui Kobayashi
  2. No. 77 Mazda Team Joest, Mazda DPi, Tristan Nunez
  3. No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing, Cadillac DPi, Loic Duval

LMP2:

  1. No. 81 Dragonspeed USA, ORECA LMP2 07, Harrison Newey
  2. No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, ORECA LMP2 07, Gabriel Abury
  3. No. 18 Era Motorsport, ORECA LMP2 07, Kyle Tilley

GTLM:

  1. No. 912 Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR-19, Earl Bamber
  2. No. 24 BMW Rahal Letterman Lanigan, BMW M8 GTE, Jesse Krohn
  3. No. 911 Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR-19, Nick Tandy

GTD:

  1. No. 44 GRT Magnus, Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Marco Mapelli
  2. No. 48 Paul Miller Racing, Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Andrea Caldarelli
  3. No. 88 WRT Speedstar Audi Sport, Audi RB LMS GT3, Mirko Bortolotti

Live coverage of the Rolex 24 at Daytona continues on NBC until 2 pm ET. Fans can also watch all remaining coverage on NBC Sports Gold’s Trackpass.

IndyCar drivers say Thermal Club could host race after successful opening day to test

IndyCar Thermal race
Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images
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THERMAL, Calif. – The “motorsports country club” passed the first test (figuratively and literally) with NTT IndyCar Series drivers pleased enough to proclaim The Thermal Club as race-eligible after its debut.

Though there were a few minor incidents on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile permanent road course east of Palm Springs in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, there was no significant damage for the 27 full-time cars that turned 1,119 laps Thursday.

Perhaps more importantly, drivers seemed to enjoy the ride around the track, which is unlike anything on the current circuit.

“I would love to race here,” said Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong, who posted the 10th-quickest time (1 minute, 39.9077 seconds) in the No. 11 Dallara-Honda that he will race on street and road courses after coming from the F2 Series. “I think it’s awesome. Would have to do a lot of neck training prior to the race because it’s much like a European circuit, quite demanding on the neck, towards the end of the lap anyway.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: First session l Second session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“I think it’s cool. Very flowing, banked corners, banked high-speed corners. In terms of racing, it could be potentially not a lot of overtaking. You’d have to commit hard (in) maybe Turn 1. It wouldn’t be the easiest place to overtake. As a whole facility and circuit, it’s very enjoyable.”

Juncos Hollinger Racing No. 77 Chevrolet driver Callum Ilott, another F2 veteran who is entering his second year in IndyCar, was seventh fastest. Ilott said Thermal would “set a standard really of what we want to be doing with this series.

“It’s really, really high level, high tech,” said Ilott, whose rookie teammate Agustin Canapino went off course twice but incurred no major trouble. “As a circuit, yeah, it’s got a little bit different corners. I think the overtaking — we’ll find a way, we’re IndyCar — someone always sends it down the inside. I think if we can extend the straight and get some overtaking between Turn 6 and 7. It’s definitely a great circuit to drive and good fun and a bit different to the normal winter training we get in Florida. So I like the circuit.

“I think if we could, it would be good to race here once.”

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, who turned the fastest lap (1:39.3721) in his No. 26, also was optimistic despite the passing challenges.

“I think it really comes down to tire deg, what people are showing with that,” Herta said. “It will be tough to pass, right? A lot of the good braking zones, you’re coming off of high-speed corners, so it will be hard to follow.

“But you never know. I would say some of the tracks we go to would be terrible for racing, and IndyCar still puts on a great show. You never know until it’s tested and proven right or wrong.”

The possibility of adding an IndyCar race at The Thermal Club has been floated, but there would be some challenges. It likely would be a made-for-TV event given it’s a private club (and filled with multimillion-dollar homes filled with vintage cars). The test is closed to the public and open only to members and VIPs.

There also are some areas that would need to be improved, namely the galvanized steel Armco barriers that ring the track and generally are considered antiquated in motorsports.

“I think the Armco might propose a little bit of an issue,” Ilott said. “Again, it depends on what angle you’re hitting them obviously. It’s a pretty straightforward process to make it a bit safer and a bit more cushiony. I’m not in charge of that stuff. I just drive and try not to hit those things.

“I think it’s a straightforward process. To be fair, everyone has had a little moment today, spun and carried on. That’s a good start. Obviously there are anomalies, these things happen. So far, so good.”

Said Herta: For sure. It probably needs a little bit of work. They’ve already done a lot for us to come here already. It seems like if they do want to have a race here, they’re willing to put the work in and money in to upgrade the facility to make it a little bit safer for us.”

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was second fastest (1:39.3767), followed by Alex Palou (1:39.3970) and Romain Grosjean (1:39.4826). Will Power was the top Chevrolet driver in fifth (1:39.5690).

Though Andretti had two of the top four times, Herta downplayed the significance other than getting reacclimated to his team.

“Just a lot of knocking the rust off,” he said. “It’s quite a long offseason without being in the car. I don’t know how much we’re really going to learn from running here. It’s really good to get the team back into it, get all the boys working again. Yeah, just get everybody back into the flow of it.

“It could be a huge shake-up when we go to St. Pete and who’s up front and who’s at the back. It is too early to tell. It’s nice just to be back in the car and get lap times down, get everybody working again.

“The track surface is very strange, very different to anything I’ve really felt in IndyCar. It’s seven first-gear corners. We don’t really have that many anywhere we go on a street course. It is quite a bit slower than our natural terrain courses. But I don’t want to be in here and dig it the whole time. It’s a fun track to drive, especially the back section. It keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t really replicate anything else that we go (race).”

The test will continue with another six-hour session Friday.