Mazda exits with Petit Le Mans victory as Derani, Nasr claim DPi championship

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On a night of fitting farewells in the IMSA Petit Le Mans season finale, Felipe Nasr said goodbye to Action Express with a championship while Harry Tincknell closed Mazda’s IMSA run in DPi with a victory Saturday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

Tincknell took the checkered flag in the No. 55 Mazda by 3.297 seconds over the No. 31 Cadillac of Nasr, who clinched the title over third-place finisher Ricky Taylor and Wayne Taylor Racing co-driver Filipe Albuquerque.

After Nasr caught heavy GT congestion on the final lap, Taylor attempted to outbrake his rival in the last corner. The cars made contact, and Taylor skidded through the grass and finished a half-second short of the championship.

Nasr was leading and seemed in command until the final 20 minutes when he yielded the lead to Tincknell in traffic and quickly came under fire from Taylor, who made up a gap of more than 10 seconds over the final stint.

“I got really bad timing with traffic,” Nasr told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider. “I had nothing to do but defend myself. I did it the way I thought was the best was going to be for the outcome. I saw (Taylor) go that deep, I thought, ‘He ain’t going to make it.’

“Man, so many things in my mind. So many emotions. My final race with the team. Grabbing this championship means so much. So much effort we put together. I just can’t believe it. I’m so glad. I’m so happy for these guys. I’ll be forever grateful for a huge team that I’ve been part of it. It’s so great to close the year with this championship, so thank you very much Action Express Racing and Whelen Engineering.

Nasr, who is moving to another automaker’s LMDh prototype program, won the championship with fellow Brazilian Pipo Derani. Mike Conway joined the team Saturday as its third endurance race driver.

“You can see it in my face,” a crying Derani told Snider about his emotions. “Such a difficult beginning of the year. You guys can’t imagine how I went through such a low and now to be, with a lot of belief in God, to come back this year and win it with the 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac is just fantastic. Felipe did an amazing job today and Mike as well. We made it. We made it. We’re champions.”

Petit Le Mans
Pipo Derani celebrates with the Brazilian flag after winning the IMSA DPi championship (IMSA).

By virtue of Nasr having won the pole position Friday and cutting Wayne Taylor Racing’s lead to eight points in the standings, the top two teams in DPi entered in a virtual tie that ensured the 2021 championship would go to whichever finished ahead.

The outcome was similar to the end of the 2020 Petit Le Mans when Taylor and Derani collided while racing for the lead with less than 10 minutes left. Taylor said there were no hard feelings about Saturday’s contact, which was reviewed by IMSA officials.

“We’re racing really hard, and the championship literally came down to the last corner,” Taylor told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “Especially after last year, I’m happy for those guys. They deserve it. They had a great year. I’m just so bummed for Filipe who drove an amazing stint to catch those guys.”

Taylor, who also shared the No. 10 Acura with 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, seemed in good position on strategy after his team took four tires for its last stop while Nasr took only two rear tires.

“Really bummed, but Daytona’s close,” Taylor said. “We’re a strong team, and we’ll be back. When they said they took rears only, I knew we had a chance. At this stage of the race, everyone’s being polite, everybody is moving out of the way. You don’t get as many chances to get runs like in the middle of the race.

“(Nasr) was managing the traffic really well. I gave everything I had. There’s going to be a lot of nightmares before Daytona thinking about what I could have done differently. I’m hungry to get back out there. Just can’t thank the HPD Acura Konica Minolta guys enough, expecially this weekend. It was such a trying weekend finding pace, and they gave us an amazing car in the race.”

It’s the second consecutive year that Mazda won the season finale after capturing the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The manufacturer announced in February that this would be its final season in DPi.

“It’s a Hollywood script come true,” Tincknell told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch. “It was pure hard work by everyone at Mazda. I never gave up with two stints to go, had a 5-second gap to close down, just kept telling myself, ‘Keep digging, keep digging.’ I knew (Nasr was) fighting for the championship and just gave everything. I wanted to win so much.”

In other divisions Saturday:

–The WeatherTech Racing Porsche team scored a 1-2 finish in the final GTLM race as the No. 3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor clinched the title.

–The No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin won the GTD class while the championship went to the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor and Zacharie Robichon.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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