Austin Dillon will race the Rolex 24 at Daytona, joining RWR Eurasia in LMP2

NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400
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Austin Dillon is the latest NASCAR driver in the 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

In a release Thursday, the RWR Eurasia team announced Dillon would join Cody Ware and Salih Yoluc on its LMP2 entry for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener on Jan. 30-31 at Daytona International Speedway.

Dillon will become the third NASCAR Cup winner in the field, joining defending series champion Chase Elliott and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

Elliott and Johnson will be driving in separate Cadillacs for Action Express in the premier DPi division (which is faster than the LMP2 Ligier that Dillon will be driving).

The Rolex 24 will mark the IMSA debut for Dillon, who also will be driving the Daytona International Speedway road course for the first time. Because of a positive test for COVID-19, the 2018 Daytona 500 winner missed the Aug. 16 race at Daytona (which replaced Watkins Glen International on the schedule).

The Rolex 24 will serve as a Daytona road course warmup for Dillon and Elliott, who will be racing the layout in their Cup Chevrolets twice in February with the Busch Clash and a Feb. 21 race that will replace Auto Club Speedway on the 2021 schedule.

Ware was announced as a Rolex 24 driver last month for Eurasia Motorsport, which formed a partnership with Rick Ware Racing. The team still has one more driver slot to fill on the car.

Cody Ware, a veteran of NASCAR’s top three national series and the Asian Le Mans Series, also will be making his Rolex 24 debut. He was scheduled to be in last year’s race but withdrew after a team crash in testing.

Here is the release from the RWR Eurasia team:

Having already confirmed its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut at the Rolex 24, RWR Eurasia announces that both Austin Dillon and Salih Yoluç will be joining Cody Ware at Daytona International Speedway for the first round of the Michelin Endurance Cup in its Ligier JS P217.

With three out of the four seats now confirmed, the team already has an impressive and experienced driver line-up. Austin is the 2018 Daytona 500 NASCAR Cup Series race winner and competed in the series this year with Richard Childress Racing. He previously claimed titles in both Nationwide and the Camping World Truck Series.

Salih meanwhile is an exceptionally well-qualified Bronze-rated drover courtesy of winning this year’s edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE-Am class. Previously, the Turkish racer clinched the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup, took the inaugural FIA Nations Cup victory and is a multiple race winner in both European Le Mans Series and International GT Open. In addition, Salih has experience of the Ligier LMP2 machinery having competed in the class in the Asian Le Mans Series in 2018/19.

The two new signings will complement the talents of defending Asian Le Mans Series champion Cody Ware, solidifying the firm foundations for the RWR Eurasia challenge at Daytona International Raceway. The team are now assessing options for the final race seat in readiness to compete in the ROAR Before the Rolex 24.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.