Tom Blomqvist wins Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position for Meyer Shank Racing in GTP debut


Beating the clock with a blistering lap, Tom Blomqvist kept Meyer Shank Racing atop the speed chart in Rolex 24 at Daytona qualifying and put the defending race winners on the pole position.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 34.031-second lap in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 that he started just before the checkered flag fell in the first qualifying session ever for the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category. He narrowly beat the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 of Felipe Nasr, who was bumped just seconds after his 1:34.114 lap.

“That was a bit wild,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee on Peacock. “I had no real reference, to be honest. I just had to wing that one a bit. I knew I had a good car and if it was under me I could do the job, but yeah, the tires weren’t even up to temperature. I just kind of licked the stamp and sent it.

QUALIFYING: Click here for results l By class

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for how the 61 cars will line up Jan. 28

“So fantastic job by HPD, Acura, MSR and Oreca. They built a fantastic car. It’s really promising ahead of next weekend, but thre’s 24 hours of racing before we can set our sights on being back here again for another year.”

The end of the qualifying session turned into a massive scramble after a delay of several minutes because of a red flag for Nick Tandy’s crash in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963.

Blomqvist, who is teamed with Colin Braun, Helio Castoneves and Simon Pagenaud, barely had enough time to back up what MSR had done the past two days in the Roar Before the Rolex 24, setting the pace in four consecutive dry sessions Friday and Saturday.

Under new qualifying rules that allowed a tire change, MSR elected to pit while running second after two laps just before the red flag with 8 minutes, 36 seconds remaining in the session. Because no other cars had pitted, Blomqvist had slipped to seventh when the track reopened for a flying lap just before qualifying concluded.

“I’m so relieved right now,” MSR co-owner Mike Shank told Lee. “To have one lap to do it and that’s it, we thought we were screwed when the red came out. Really a lot on (Blomqvist) today. He’s a rock star. He’s the future, and we love having him on board.”

After closing the DPi era with a dramatic championship last fall that capped a 2022 season opened with Shank’s second Rolex 24 victory, the team gained extra prestige with the first pole of the new premier prototype class whose hybrid engines have attracted Porsche, Acura, Cadillac and BMW to GTP.

“It matters when you have high stakes OEM racing here like this,” Shank said of the pole. “We need to come out and prove ourselves. Listen, we got a lot to go on next week, but this affirms all the work. This was more joy than I’ve felt in a long time.”

Tandy’s crash occurred when he locked up the left front tire entering the Bus Stop/Le Mans chicane on the backstretch. Though he drove away from the scene, the wreck ripped off the left front and hood. It was the first significant damage for one of the new Le Mans Daytona hybrid prototype cars after some near misses in heavy traffic since hitting the track Friday.

“I have to say thank you to the team for giving me such an amazing car to drive,“ Tandy said. “I’ve never experienced the Porsche 963 in these conditions with that sort of speed and balance.

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“And honestly, the car was just amazing. The lap time was looking very good. It doesn’t look like we’ve done too much damage luckily. It’s not the ideal situation going into a 24 hours race when parts are limited, but the positive is how the team has been operating this week and how fast the car is.”

There are 61 cars on the entry list for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 28-29 (which will be broadcast on NBC, USA and Peacock), and some blustery conditions Sunday made for hairier conditions even with fewer cars on track in each category’s equalifying session.

“The wind is so strong right now to go into Turn 3 and the Bus Stop is very, very tough,” said four-time Indy 500 winner Castroneves, who had paced practice Friday before Braun was quickest Saturday.

Meyer Shank Racing celebrates its pole position in the Rolex 24 at Daytona (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/IMSA).

Ricky Taylor qualified third (1:34.198) in Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Acura, followed by Sebastien Bourdais (134.262) in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 01 Cadillac, Alex Lynn (1:34.389) in the No. 02 Cadillac, Tandy (1:34.453) and Pipo Derani (1:34.608).

The two BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8s qualified eighth (Philipp Eng, 1:34.723) and ninth (Nick Yelloly, 1:34.846) as less than 0.9 seconds separated the nine cars in the GTP class.

In other categories:

LMP2: Ben Keating put the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports on the pole position in the season opener for the fourth consecutive year, turning  a lap of 1 minute, 40.541 seconds.

“I felt like this was one of the more tricky qualifying sessions,” Keating, who shares the car with Paul-Loup Chatin, Alex Quinn and Nicolas Lapierre, said after his 12th career pole in IMSA. “You set your car up so you’re on the edge in the Bus Stop. All weekend, we had a slight headwind going into the Bus Stop. Today, we had about a 19-mph tailwind, and that made a huge difference in our car.”

The session ended early for a crash in the Bus Stop involving the No. 8 ORECA LMP2 07 of Tower Motorsports. John Farano was behind the wheel of the car that he is sharing with Team Penske IndyCar drivers Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgrarden (who both are making their IMSA sports car debuts).

LMP3: Nico Pino, 18, earned his first career pole position with a 1-minute, 43.197-second lap in the No. 33 Ligier JS P320 of Sean Creech Motorsport, nipping Dakota Dickerson (1:43.307) in the No. 36 of Andretti Autosport. The Chilean native, who co-drives with with Lance Willsey, Danny Soufi and four-time Rolex 24 winner Joao Barbosa, delivered Creech’s first pole as a car owner.

GTD, GTD Pro: Mercedes AMG GT3s swept both divisions with the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing first in GTD Pro and the No. 57 of Winward Racing tops in GTD.

Philip Ellis put his Mercedes-AMG GT3 on pole with a 1:46.093 lap. He will start first among 33 entries with his first career IMSA pole. “The last half of the 2022 season, we were really, really strong, and the plan was basically to keep that momentum going into this year,” said Ellis, who co-drives with Russell Ward, Indy Dontje and Lucas Auer. “The team did great work in the offseason during the winter, and I think all the Mercedes did a great job. I had a great, great lap, and it shows. I’d say we had a perfect Roar.”

Though beaten by three GTD cars in an unusual twist, Maro Engel took the GTD Pro pole with a 1:46.784 lap. “We definitely have an amazing car,” Engel, who co-drives with Cooper MacNeil, Daniel Juncadella and Jules Gounon, said after his first pole. “There was some room for me to improve in that qualifying session, but it was still good enough for pole,” he added. “So that’s great. It’s a huge field of GT cars, and being at the sharp end is good for the start and trying to stay out of trouble.”

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class

Best sector times

Fastest lap sequence

Time cards

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi bring their storied rivalry to a new level at Rolex 24

Ganassi Penske Rolex 24
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To measure the impact of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi squaring off for the first time in overall sports car wins (starting at the Rolex 24), look at the auto racing titans’ lineups.

There are 12 combined drivers across four entries representing Chip Ganassi Racing (competing as Cadillac Racing) and Team Penske (as Porsche Penske Motorsport) in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And with the possible exception of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, none of those behind the wheel is as famous and accomplished as the U.S. motorsports icons who will be sitting atop the pit stands at Daytona International Speedway.

In the NTT IndyCar Series, Penske and Ganassi are synonymous with success, having combined for 23 Indy 500 victories and 30 championships. They also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for two decades with several signature wins for each.

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Until now, the rivalry never extended to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they competed in different classes from 2018-19 and have competed in the top category in differing times over the years.

But the 2023 season opener at Daytona will mark the beginning of a new era in which Ganassi and Penske will compete for sports car overall victories on two continents. A Ganassi Cadillac Racing V-LMDh and Porsche Penske Motorsports Penske 963 will run full time in both the premier prototype divisions of IMSA and the European-based World Endurance Championship – whose crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having two of the world’s biggest sports car races welcome the Ganassi-Penske battle seems only fitting in a season in which IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class is expected to introduce a stiffer level of competition.

“We obviously like beating each other,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “I think if you beat Penske, you know you’ve beaten someone. You’ve accomplished something great. It’s going to be the same as always. Just another platform at another track, but the rivalry will be just as heated I’m sure.

“On one hand, he’s always the first guy to call us out for a penalty or something. On the other hand, he’s also the first guy to congratulate me on a win, so I think it’s a healthy rivalry, but we certainly pound each other’s heads into the ground on race day. Monday through Friday it switches to more of a good relationship.”

After starting his career in sports cars, Penske also is looking forward to having a new arena to race Ganassi.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about the Rolex 24 and the upcoming sports car season overall,” Penske said in a statement to NBC Sports statement. “With the new hybrid prototype formula ready to make its debut, and some great competition expected on the track between teams, drivers and manufacturers, there is a lot of momentum building right now. Porsche Penske Motorsport is excited to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, this season and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s in action at Daytona this weekend. We also look forward to bringing some new rivalries and storylines to the sport.

Roger Penske confers with Chip Ganassi before the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“In the new IMSA GTP class, there should be a good competitive balance between Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW. We have seen how the rivalry between Team Penske and Ganassi Racing has developed in the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years, and that could certainly extend to sports cars as our teams and drivers continue to develop the new formula and push the production on track in both IMSA and WEC. We will see how the competition plays out, starting this weekend, as we always enjoy racing against Chip and his teams.”

Though there have been some fiery moments over the years (Dario Franchitti vs. Will Power, anyone?), Ganassi vs. Penske mostly has been a story of respect between two organizations whose main strengths are people.

“It’s just the depth of the organizations going up against each other,” Ganassi said. “It’s not just he and I. It’s at every level of the organization.

“We’re smaller. I’d like to think we’re a little more nimble. This is all I do is race cars. I don’t have 200 car dealerships or a truck rental company or a transportation company. I just have racing is all I have.”

Heading into Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are the thoughts of Ganassi and Penske drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona:

Earl Bamber, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “When I grew up as a kid, I remember watching Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske battle each other for many years, obviously following Scott Dixon and his career in IndyCar (Bamber is a New Zealand native like Dixon). And when the opportunity came up to come and race for Chip, it’s a no-brainer. It’s one of those teams you want to drive for in the world. It’s one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world. And then we’ve got Porsche, where I used to drive, with Penske. It’s going to be a phenomenal rivalry over the next couple of years and that rivalry continues between two absolute legends of our sport. Two people who have been the most successful. I hope we can get Cadillac and Chip their first Le Mans win. That’s obviously the ultimate goal for us and beat his old rival, Roger.

“Those two powerhouses of the sport, they definitely raise the bar. You’ve seen it in IndyCar for years and years. One finds something and the next pushes it forward and forward. You’ll see the same in sports car racing. We all saw what Chip Ganassi Racing did back in the day with the GT program. So no doubt we can do the same again. It’s the ultimate highest level of motorsport when it comes to sports car racing, and there’ll be no stone unturned to make sure that we’re winning these races. It will be a really great fight, great for the fans and great for the sport, because both of them love winning.”

Dane Cameron, No. 6 Porsche Penske: “I think anytime you have Chip and Roger come to town to start fighting for wins, it raises the profile of the whole thing. Hopefully it brings a few more eyes to everything. Certainly brings a lot of expectation with it as well, and I also think it reflects really strongly on the championship to show how competitive it is. They respect the championship and challenge, but when they come to town, they come to win for sure.”

Scott Dixon, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “The battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske is always a fierce one. I obviously know it well from the IndyCar side. But I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s impressive to see a lot of the manufacturers that have come in for this battle. I imagine if it’s not from the first race but during the season that Penske and Ganassi will fight it out pretty hard.

“I think the rivalry between Chip Ganassi racing and Penske has always been strong and in a good way. There’s been some battles and the 2010s for me and other drivers when it gets fierce. Some disagreements here and there. But it’s always been a great pure battle, which is what I think these championships are made of and what brings the fans to the track. So I’d sum it up as a very healthy rivalry.”

Alex Lynn, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “Even as a little boy (growing up in England), you knew exactly who Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were. You knew what their teams represented. For me to represent Chip and his team is a huge honor. I’m extremely motivated to try to add to his legacy and be part of the fabric of this team. I think having the battle between Penske and Ganassi is iconic. Also Porsche and Cadillac as brands, respectively, just adds to the occasion. Makes me smile even thinking about it knowing what we get to represent when the flag drops.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 7 Porsche Penske: “I think it’s fantastic especially because we’re merging the IMSA and WEC Series and giving the opportunity for teams like Penske and Ganassi to fight for overall victories. You look at the history of those teams, they’ve been on top. We always hear it from the IndyCar guys or the NASCAR side, you’re talking two big names in motorsports. You expect nothing but them fighting for wins. For sure Ganassi has strengths, and we have strengths as well. I’m pretty glad I have the opportunity to be representing Team Penske and continue to write history with them and Porsche is a great opportunity.”

Richard Westbrook, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “The chance for the two most famous teams in America to go head to head in the Daytona 24 Hours and also the Le Mans 24 Hours. I expect that rivalry to keep going up more notches.”

Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “Obviously, it’s such the big houses of racing in the U.S. Penske and Ganassi are taking it at each other. The rivalry is big. The best of the best. The most famous ones in the U.S.

“Ganassi is part of Cadillac. We’re the race team that runs the factory program for Cadillac. Penske is running it for Porsche, obviously a high brand as well. Those teams have their little rivalry, but they’re working for a bigger company, a bigger brand, which is Cadillac and Porsche. So those two premium brands taking on each other and then two of the best teams in America taking on each other. It’s very simple: Cadillac got the best team in the U.S. and Porsche got the best team in the U.S. So let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a cool fight.”