IMSA starting lineup for Petit Le Mans season finale at Road Atlanta: Felipe Nasr wins pole

IMSA Petit Le Mans starting lineup
IMSA
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IMSA starting lineup: Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani tightened the DPi championship race heading into the season finale, qualifying first Friday for the Petit Le Mans season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

Nasr turned a lap of 1 minute, 8.678 seconds in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac, earning the maximum 35 points for the Action Express team. Nasr and Derani now trail by eight points in the premier division standings to the Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 Acura of Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque, who qualified seventh.

“I actually had a dream a few nights ago that I would get the pole,” Nasr said. “It was tough going up the hill into the sun, it was blinding. I managed to keep it on the track and get the pole. The Action Express Racing team is really dialed in and focused this weekend. Pipo and (third driver) Mike (Conway) are motivated and we are ready for the race.”

IMSA PETIT LE MANS: Details for watching Saturday’s race

STARTING LINEUP: By position l By number

Said Albuquerque: “Last qualifying of the year and I felt quite confident in the car to throw everything I had at it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Obviously, we have something going on this weekend that is atypical for us. We seem to be missing something on the car that is not enabling us to run close to the other Acura car.

“We’re just hoping that we can solve this thing and that we find it before the race is over. 10 hours is a long race. We’re holding on and we never give up.”

Harry Tincknell qualified second in the No. 55 Mazda, which is making its final start as the automaker exits DPi. Sebastien Bourdais was third in the No. 5 Cadillac, followed by Kevin Magnussen (No. 01 Cadillac) and Dane Cameron (No. 60 Acura).

Magnussen reportedly will be replaced by Earl Bamber in the race because of illness.

Kamui Kobayashi was sixth in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac of Action Express with co-drivers Jimmie Johnson and Simon Pagenaud.

It was an emotional pole-winning news conference for Nasr, who is racing for the final time at Action Express before moving onto a new team and manufacturer as the IMSA WeatherTech Championship Series transitions into the LMDh category in 2023.

“I promised myself that I wouldn’t let the emotions come until after the checkered flag drops,” Nasr said. “That shows how much respect and love I have for the team. They took me in as family when I joined halfway through 2017. They’re just a big family to me. … This is something that will always remain. It will be sad to leave them.

“There is so much on the line and you just want to deliver. I had a lot of fun. Wow; it’s a great car to drive. … It was all about getting the tires correctly in the window and bringing them up and just nailing those laps.”

In other classes, the pole winners were:

GTLM: Jesse Krohn, No. 24 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE, 1 minute, 15.226 seconds

GTD: Madison Snow, No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, 1 minute 19.272 seconds

LMP2: Ben Keating, No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07, 1 minute 12.229 seconds

LMP3: Niklas Kruetten, No. 2 United Autosports USA Ligier JS P320, 1 minute, 15.664 seconds

Click here for the starting grid in the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta and here for the starting lineup by number.

QUALIFYING:

Click here for the DPi/LMP2 results

Click here for GTLM results/GTD points

Click here for the GTD position results

Click here for the LMP3 results

PRACTICE

Click here for Session I l Session II l Session III

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.