IndyCar penalizes Devlin DeFrancesco for wrecking Castroneves, Rahal at Texas

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LONG BEACH, California – Devlin DeFrancesco received a six-position grid penalty Friday from the NTT IndyCar Series for causing the crash in the March 20 race at Texas Motor Speedway that collected Graham Rahal and Helio Castroneves.

The wreck eliminated the trio from the event on Lap 128 of 248 at Texas. DeFrancesco’s No. 29 Dallara-Honda also was involved in separate earlier incidents with Takuma Sato and Kyle Kirkwood (both of whom also were knocked out).

The avoidable contact penalty is unusual for IndyCar, which normally limits penalties to the race in question, but the punishment is in line with the six-grid penalties that have been administered for unapproved engine changes.

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The penalty means DeFrancesco will start Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (3 p.m. ET, NBC) six positions lower than where the Andretti Autosport rookie qualifies Saturday.

In an interview with NBC Sports, Castroneves approved of the IndyCar penalty.

“Look, yeah, it’s tough on anybody, however they need to learn,” Castroneves told NBC Sports. “It costs both teams a lot of money. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not here to tipetoe with anybody. But I believe I had my fair share (of penalties) when I was young the same way, hitting people unnecessarily. He didn’t do that on purpose. I did (in) Indy Lights. I learned. Even when older, I did that, too, and got a penalty.

“So I feel maybe it’s the responsibility of the series to help and teach everyone. Not only the young ones but everyone. You’ve got to be responsible for the consequences of your actions.”

Castroneves spoke to DeFrancesco about the incident and said “I feel he understood. He didn’t have to (do it). I said, ‘Look, if it would have been 10 laps to go, maybe that was the move that he was going for (the win). However when it’s 120 laps to go, maybe you should just be thinking about that. He will learn. It’s a good message from the series.

“When we put the helmets on, and I’m in the same boat, we forget about what (IndyCar officials) say. That’s why I wasn’t furious. I was upset obviously because it destroyed everybody’s race, but the good news is nobody got hurt. Which is a great testament of the safety of the cars. It is a good message for the entire grid. When you’re going to make a move, make sure you’re going to pass.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III