IndyCar partner General Motors switches from cars to medical equipment

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo for General Motors
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At a time where the world is fighting an invisible foe, the COVID-19 virus, IndyCar’s partners are heavily involved in the fight.

One of the IndyCar Series’ key partners is General Motors through its Chevrolet brand. The company’s IndyCar effort includes Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, Arrow McLaren Racing SP, AJ Foyt Racing, Juncos, Carlin, Dreyer & Reinbold and DragonSpeed.

Chevrolet is also the official truck and official pace car of the IndyCar Series. Along with Honda, it is one of two engine manufacturers in the high-speed, open-wheel racing series.

Just up US 31, about 60 miles north from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is the industrial city of Kokomo, Indiana. General Motors has a large manufacturing facility in Kokomo. Many of its employees are longtime IndyCar fans who attend the Indianapolis 500 on a regular basis.

Others watch USAC racing at nearby Kokomo Speedway, a quarter-mile dirt track that has been in existence since 1947. It has a regular Sunday night show that includes midget, sprints, late model and ARCA stock cars.

The General Motors manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, where GM and Ventec Life Systems are partnering to produce Ventec VOCSN critical care ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by AJ Mast for General Motors)

General Motors has joined the fight against COVID-19 by transitioning its Kokomo manufacturing facility into a ventilator factory. The GM facility is producing medical ventilators, a critical life-saving device for stricken patients in Intensive Care Units (ICU) at hospitals around the world. Another GM facility in Warren, Michigan is manufacturing face masks to protect medical workers and other essential care givers in the battle against the virus.

GM and Ventec Life Systems joined forces to build 30,000 ventilators for the United States Department of Health and Human Services. GM was able to retool its manufacturing plant from auto production to ventilators in record time. Because GM has existing relationships with suppliers, the company located hundreds of parts for ventilator production in just over one week.

More than 1,000 GM workers are involved in the ventilator project to build, supply and deliver the Ventec V+Pro ventilators. The V+Pro is a portable unit that can run on battery power, making them ideal for field hospitals and temporary ICUs.

They are designed for critical care of seriously ill patients and are being delivered to the Strategic National Stockpile beginning this month.

Read IMSA Team joins effort here.

The collaborative effort will ship more than 600 ventilators this month with almost half of the order filled by the end of June. The full order will be completed by the end of August.

General Motors will build more units after August, if needed.

“Thousands of men and women at GM, Ventec, our suppliers and the Kokomo community have rallied to support their neighbors and the medical professionals on the front lines of this pandemic,” GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said. “Everyone wants to help turn the tide and save lives. It is inspiring and humbling to see the passion and commitment people have put into this work.”

In Warren, Michigan, GM converted its Warren, Michigan facility in less than seven days to produce masks. It created an ISO Class 8-equivalent cleanroom where workers created up to 50,000 masks per day. It intends to produce 1.5 million masks each month.

GM and its automotive suppliers have created the three layers of fabric in the masks. That same fabric is used as sound-deadening insulation for doors, trunks and headliners.

Workers prepare to build ventilators at the GM manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana, Tuesday, April 7, 2020, where GM and Ventec Life Systems are partnering to produce Ventec critical care ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by AJ Mast for General Motors) 

Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore said his community is more than ready to do its part.

“At this critical moment in our country’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kokomo community applauds GM and Ventec leadership for joining the fight by producing much-needed medical ventilators here in their Kokomo facilities,” Moore said. “At the same time, they have placed their trust in our community and the incredible Kokomo-area workforce. Kokomo is deeply honored to be a part of this extraordinary endeavor in these extraordinary times.”

To help protect people working at the Kokomo plant, extensive screening, cleaning and other CDC-recommended procedures were instituted.

Everyone arriving for work was required to sanitize their hands immediately upon arrival and have their temperature checked with a non-contact thermometer before entering the job site. Employees worked their shift wearing medical-grade protective masks, including masks produced at GM’s Warren, Michigan facility.

There were 30-minute intervals between shifts to allow employees to clean their workstations when they arrive and again before they leave. Also, signage was posted throughout the facility reminding team members to practice social distancing. Each workstation was manned by one person, and each workstation will be spaced at least six feet apart. Cleaning crews will clean and sanitize common touch surfaces such as door handles, as well as common areas, at least three times per shift.

Each shift enters and exits through a different door to minimize social contact.

The unprecedented teamwork that has allowed ventilator production in Kokomo to move forward so quickly began with a March 17 phone call between General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra and representatives of StopTheSpread.Org, who suggested GM work with Ventec.

By Friday, March 20, GM engaged its global supply base and within 72 hours, they had developed plans to source 100 percent of the necessary parts. The UAW’s national and local leadership embraced the project and on Wednesday, March 25, crews began preparing the Kokomo site for production.

General Motors President Mark Reuss (left) and GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra tour the GM manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. GM and Ventec Life Systems are partnering to produce VOCSN critical care ventilators at the facility in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by AJ Mast for General Motors)

Mass production begins in mid-April. Production will quickly scale up to 10,000 critical care ventilators or more per month.

On Sunday, April 19, GM has increased its involvement. With ventilators and face masks in production, GM is expanding its manufacturing of personal protective equipment, including latex-free face shields, protective gowns and aerosol boxes. All of these supplies are being donated.

“It’s amazing how much our employees have accomplished in such a short time,” said Mark Reuss, GM president. “People from all corners of the company have really stepped up to help, and to lend their talents, time and energy to battle coronavirus.”

General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra tours the GM manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. GM and Ventec Life Systems are partnering to produce VOCSN critical care ventilators at the facility in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by AJ Mast for General Motors)

 

Ventec Life Systems staff show nursing staff at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields Hospital how to operate VOCSN critical care respirators Friday, April 17, 2020 in Olympia Fields, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. Franciscan received the first shipment of ventilators produced by General Motors and Ventec in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo for General Motors)

 

Auto racing and the automotive industry have a long history of supporting major efforts during a time of crisis. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was shut down from 1942 through 1945 and was used as a military depot. The auto industry produced military equipment in both World War I and World War II.

No passenger cars were manufactured in GM facilities from February 10, 1942 until September 9, 1945 – one week after World War II concluded with Japan’s surrender.

From 1942-45, the American auto industry produced 119 million artillery shells, 39 million cartridge cases, 206,000 aircraft engines, 13,000 Navy fighter planes and torpedo bombers, 97,000 aircraft propellers, 301,000 aircraft gyrocompasses, 38,000 tanks and tank destroyers, 854,000 trucks, 190,000 cannons, 1.9 million machine guns and submachine guns, 3.1 million carbines, 3.8 million electric motors, 11 million fuses, 360 million roller and ball bearings, 198,000 diesel engines and more.

This battle is different, however. Instead of building equipment that kills, GM is producing equipment that will save lives. That includes the Ventec V+Pro ventilator and the much-needed medical masks.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Workers pack the first VOCSN critical care ventilators for shipping Thursday, April 16, 2020, from the General Motors manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana. GM and Ventec Life Systems are partnering to produce the ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ventilators begin shipping tonight. (Photo by AJ Mast for General Motors)

2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Schedule, TV info, start times, entry lists, notable drivers, more

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The new year brings the start of a new era for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will open the 2023 schedule with the 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

A new premier class for prototypes is the overriding story entering the 24-hour endurance race that unofficially kicks off the major-league racing season.

The new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) cars of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) top category will re-establish a bridge to the 24 Hours of Le Mans while bringing a new layer of engine electrification to IMSA.

With at least a few of the cars on the grid at Daytona also slated to race at Le Mans in June, it’s possible for the first time in decades (since the “Ford vs. Ferrari” battles) to have the same car win the overall title at Daytona and Le Mans.

The GTP category will feature four manufacturers, two of which are new to IMSA’s premier division. Porsche Motorsport (with Team Penske) and BMW (with Rahal Letterman Lanigan) will be fielding LMDh prototypes, joining (now-defunct) DPi category holdovers Acura (Meyer Shank Racing, Wayne Taylor Racing) and Cadillac (Chip Ganassi Racing, Action Express Racing).

Here’s what else you need to know ahead of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 29-30 at Daytona International Speedway:


NOTABLE DRIVER ADDITIONS 

The Rolex 24 will feature 10 active drivers from the NTT IndyCar Series, including the IMSA debuts of Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who will be teamed in an LMP2 entry (teammate Will Power unfortunately had to withdraw from this debut).

Colton Herta will move into the GTP category with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud return with Meyer Shank Racing to defend their overall 2022 Rolex 24 victory. Scott Dixon also returns in the premier category with Chip Ganassi Racing for his 20th Rolex 24 start and third consecutive in the No. 01 Cadillac.

Other IndyCar drivers in the field: Romain Grosjean will make his debut in GTD Pro with Iron Lynx Racing (as a precursor to driving a GTP Lamborghini next year); Devlin DeFrancesco (Rick Ware Racing) and Rinus VeeKay (TDS Racing) are in LMP2; and Kyle Kirkwood will return in GTD with Vasser Sullivan.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric also will return, teaming with DeFrancesco in an LMP2 entry for Rick Ware Racing.


CAR COUNT

The Rolex 24 field was capped at 61 cars, matching last year’s field (which was the largest since 2014). The field was capped because of the space limitations for the LMDh cars of GTP in the pits and garages.

Click here for the official 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona entry list.


STARTING LINEUP

Tom Blomqvist captured the first pole position of the GTP era, qualifying defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing in first with the No. 60 ARX-06 Acura that he shares with Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

The No. 7 Porsche 963 of Porsche Penske Motorsports will start second.

Click here for the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona starting lineup


RACE BROADCAST

The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona will be streamed across the NBC Sports AppNBCSports.com and Peacock, which will have coverage of the event from flag to flag.

Broadcast coverage of the race coverage will begin Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC and move to USA Network from 2:30-8 p.m. and then will be exclusively on Peacock and IMSA.TV from 8-10 p.m. Coverage will return to USA Network from 10 p.m. to midnight and then move to Peacock/IMSA.TV until 6 a.m.

From 6 a.m. until noon on Sunday, Jan. 29, Rolex 24 coverage will be available on USA Network. The conclusion of the Rolex 24 will run from noon through 2 p.m. on NBC.

HOW TO WATCH IMSA ON NBC SPORTS: Broadcast schedule for 2023

Other events that will be streamed on Peacock from Daytona during January (all times ET):

Jan. 21: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 2:05 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 12:20 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA Rolex 24 qualifying, 1:25 p.m.

Jan. 27: BMW Endurance Michelin Pilot Challenge, 1:45 p.m.


ROLEX 24 COVERAGE FROM NBC SPORTS

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi take their storied rivalry to a new level at Daytona

Pfaff Motorsports returns to Rolex 24 in premier parking spot punching above its weight

Cadillac, Acura battle for top of the speed charts

Herta, Rahal team up with BMW in pursuit of overall win at Rolex 24

Wayne Taylor Racing takes a step up to the next level with Andretti Autosport

Austin Cindric seeks to join legendary club of Rolex 24-Daytona 500 winners

Helio Castroneves recalls “Days of Thunder” moment in 2022 Rolex 24 victory

The “Bus Bros” tackle the “Bus Stop” for Rolex 24 at Daytona debuts

Romain Grosjean adds Rolex 24 at Daytona to his crown jewel career

Tom Blomqvist beats the clock to win Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position

GTP cars make debut in “Gymkhana”-level traffic

Five things to watch in the new GTP class as a golden era of sports cars returns

Cadillac unveils paint schemes for LMDh cars

Austin Cindric, Devlin DeFrancesco, Pietro Fittipaldi teaming up in LMP2

IndyCar drivers in the 61st Rolex 24


ROLEX 24 DAILY SCHEDULE, START TIMES

Here’s a rundown of everything happening at Daytona International Speedway over the last two weeks in January, starting with the Roar test session. Rolex 24 start times and full schedule:

Wednesday, Jan. 18

7 a.m.: GTP garages open

4 p.m.: Non-GTP garages open

4 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers load-in (park only)

6:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Thursday, Jan. 19

7 a.m.: Garages, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers open

8:30 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection

10 a.m.: Rolex 24 Media Day

2 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

5:15 p.m.: Track walk

7:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Friday, Jan. 20

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:45-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

9:30-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-2:15 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

2:30-4 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

4:15-6 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (GTD/LMP3/LMP2 4:15-5:45; 4:30-6: GTD Pro, GTP)

8 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Saturday, Jan. 21

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:40-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge qualifying

9:30-11 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

2:05-2:50 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 1 (streaming on Peacock)

3:10 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

4:30-5:30 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

6:30-8:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10 p.m.: Garages close

Sunday, Jan. 22

7 a.m.: Garages open

10:15-11:15 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

12:20-1:05 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 2 (streaming on Peacock)

1:25-3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 qualifying (streaming on Peacock)

8:30 p.m.: Garages close

Wednesday, Jan. 25

6 a.m.: Garages open

7:30-10 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, non-GTP

8 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 load-in

10-11:30 a.m.: Track walk

10 a.m.-noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship car photos

11:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge team manager briefing

Noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team manager briefing

12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship new driver briefing

Noon-2 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety and technical inspection, non-GTP

1:45-2:30 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

2:45-3:45 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

2:30-7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, GTP only

4-5:30 p.m.: Track walk

6:45 p.m.: Garages close

Thursday, Jan. 26

7 a.m.: Garages open

9-9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

9:45-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:05 a.m.-12:35 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:55-1:10 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 qualifying

2:25-3 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge qualifying

3:20-5:05 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (3:20-5:05: GTD, LMP3, LMP2; 3:35-5:05: GTD Pro, GTP)

5:30-6:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

7:15-9 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10:15 p.m.: Garages close

Friday, Jan. 27

7 a.m.: Garages open

9:25-9:55 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

10:15-11 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-5:45 p.m.: BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona (Michelin Pilot Challenge; streaming on Peacock)

8:45 p.m.: Garages close

Saturday, Jan. 28

6:30 a.m.: Garages open

9:45 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

12:30-12:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 engine warmup

1:30-1:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 formation laps

1:40 p.m.: The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona (starting on NBC; streaming flag to flag on Peacock)

Sunday, Jan. 29

1:40 p.m.: Finish of the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona

7:30 p.m.: Garages close