CORE Autosport

IMSA team involved with facemask production to help COVID-19 battle

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A company with strong ties to IMSA and NASCAR is shifting some of its work to manufacture facemasks in the midst of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Composite Resources, which is the Rock Hill, South Carolina-based parent company of CORE autosport, began shipping hundreds of facemasks Tuesday after starting up production four days earlier.

“In a matter of 24 hours, we had a prototype, the material come in, had a production plan, had an e-commerce site set up,” Morgan Brady, the chief operating officer of CORE autosport, told NBCSports.com in an interview Monday. “As soon as we went live, the orders kept coming in, and whether it’s just a family looking for facemasks, or a hospital looking for thousands, it was clear there was an unmet need there for the community.

“So we are producing hundreds a day and working toward many thousands per day in order to support the need out there.”

Brady said CORE autosport and Composite Resources founder John Bennett had been inspired by watching a TV news report last Wednesday about a Georgia hospital that had burned through five months’ worth of its N95 masks in six days. The hospital’s cardiovascular unit began sewing together washable masks to fit over the N95s (which are among the many medical supplies in scarce supply worldwide, causing many companies to shift priorities) and prolong their usage.

Composite Resources’ masks, which aren’t FDA approved, are designed to work the same way. They are made of a cotton-polyester blend similar to T-shirts.

“We are going off of some studies out there that show several layers of this cotton-poly material performs similar to like a surgical facemask,” Brady said. “And so what we’re hearing from the medical community is, because obviously it’s not FDA certified, the medical community is benefiting from taking these masks and wearing it over the N95 mask and then washing our mask to make everything last longer.”

Brady said the facemasks are on sale to the public through its website but “if we start reaching the point where we can’t keep up with demand, we will have to limit it to medical professionals.”

The masks are being made directly above the CORE autosport shop where the team prepares its Nos. 911 and 912 Porsche 911 RSRs. Those cars run the GTLM class in IMSA with drivers Nick Tandy, Fred Makowiecki, Matt Campbell, Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet.

Composite Resources also has manufactured composite deck lids on Cup cars for several years from a building beside its IMSA shop.

While its racing operations currently are at a standstill, Brady said CORE autosport hadn’t diverted staff to facemasks yet “but we may pull them in to support logistics.”

April 9 in Motorsports History: Al Unser Jr. gets sixth Long Beach win

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The list of winners in the Grand Prix of Long Beach is a ‘who’s who’ of open-wheel racing.

Mario Andretti won at the famed street course four times. His son Michael won there twice.

Paul Tracy is also a four-time winner at the beach. Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, and Alexander Rossi also have won at the famed course multiple times.

But there is only one “King of the Beach”: Al Unser Jr.

The winningest driver in the race’s history, Unser won at Long Beach four consecutive times from 1988-91. He won again in 1994 and entered the 1995 edition as the race’s defending champion and the defending CART champion as well.

Starting fourth, Unser made slight contact with Gil de Ferran when he passed the Brazilian on Lap 3. He then continued to move up to the front, taking the race lead from Teo Fabi on Lap 30.

Once he had the lead, Unser ran away from the field, winning by more than 23 seconds over Scott Pruett.

Unser’s victory was such a familiar scene that after the race, CART news manager John Procida began the winner’s news conference with the following statement: “Well, we have a very familiar face on the top rung of the podium. As we listed on the prerace press release, this seems to be the Al Unser Invitational.”

Indeed it was. Unser’s victory was his sixth at Long Beach, and the 28th of his career. overall. While it would be his last win there, Unser continued to race at Long Beach through 1998 before missing 1999 with a broken leg and moving to the Indy Racing Leauge in 2000.

In 2009, Unser was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, which honors significant contributors to the race and California motorsports community.

“It truly is just an honor to be mentioned with the names and the legends that have already been put into the sidewalk,” Unser said during the induction ceremony. “To have Brian (Redman, the inaugural winner of the race) and Parnelli (Jones) is really an honor and just to be in their company is very, very special.”

Also on this date:

1971: Jacques Villeneuve was born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada. The second-generation driver was one of the best in open-wheel racing during the 1990s, winning the Indianapolis 500 and CART championship in ’95 and becoming a Formula One champion two years later.

1989: Rick Mears dominated CART’s Checker Autoworks 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading every lap from the pole and lapping the field.

2011: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, their sixth consecutive victory in Grand Am competition. Their lengthy win streak, which started on Aug. 7, 2010 at Watkins Glen, prompted Grand Am to offer a $25,000 bounty for any Daytona Prototype team that could beat the dominant duo. The Action Express trio of Joao Barbosa, J.C. France, and Terry Borcheller finally unseated Pruett and Rojas in the series’ next round at Virginia International Raceway.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994