Friday, January 30, 2015

IndyCar Must Fill Brazilian Void and Positives About IndyCar

It's been a rough few days for IndyCar and fans of the series.

First, Brian Barnhart was announced as race director on Wednesday. Then the season opener scheduled to take place in Brasilia, Brazil dropped off the calendar 38 days before it was scheduled to take place. We will get to Barnhart in a second but we will start with Brazil.

IndyCar Must Fill Brazilian Void
The cancelled race from Brazil's capital has extended IndyCar's offseason by three weeks. A series that has already limited itself to when they will race cannot allow their season to start three weeks later than originally anticipated. Everyone was already scheduled to be at a race track the weekend of Sunday March 8th and NBCSN had to already prepare to show an IndyCar race that day.

Pirelli World Challenge will be at Circuit of the Americas March 6-8th for the opening round of their 2015 championship and IndyCar management should be on their hands and knees, checkbook by their side begging to squeeze in on the bill. First, it is a race track that exists and isn't in the middle of renovations. Second, IndyCar would be joining a race weekend that already exists which means IndyCar wouldn't be scrambling to get a race together in six weeks. Tickets have already been sold and the track has the personnel in place to host a race. Third, PWC is a great partner with IndyCar and I think the more race weekends they share the better. Fourth, I really don't care what Eddie Gossage thinks about this.

I am normally not for doing things just for the fans because ultimately IndyCar has to do things that make business sense and won't cost them a boatload of money but IndyCar owes the fan base a race on March 8th and should not force them to wait another three weeks. This isn't a natural disaster or political revolution that is forcing the cancellation of the Brazilian round. It is poor government decisions by the local government in Brasilia and IndyCar's decision to do business with an outdated race track (So basically its a bunch of suits who get paid more than I do fault because they lack common sense).

It's not IndyCar's fault the Brazilian government took so long to get renovations started. I am not surprised this happen in Brazil, a country that has spent billions of dollars on sport venues in recent years for last year's World Cup and next year's Summer Olympics. However, I question IndyCar's decision to do business with a track that was pretty much a shell of what it was suppose to be. Why on earth does IndyCar (and this is an extension to include the IRL/CART/ChampCar) keep doing business with tracks that don't even exist or are archaic? Whether it be the Hawaiian Super Prix, Ansan, South Korea, Seoul South, Korea, or Qingdao, China, IndyCar and it's recent predecessors have made some bonehead decisions. While chasing golden carrots in hopes of riches, IndyCar has ignored established venues in countries with long ties to motorsports. The pays days might not be as grand at places such as Mugello but the races would actually take place as the track actually exists and hosts major events every year.

As for now, IndyCar should not settle with starting the season at St. Petersburg. Make Austin happen. Be as accommodating to the already established Pirelli World Challenge weekend but fill in what ever on-track time is available and pay PWC to make it happen. Offer PWC a spot during the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend either starting this year or next year. It will be a little rushed but it would not be impossible. Austin is a reasonable trip and more affordable for the teams. The track actually exists and I am sure adding IndyCar to the bill will draw more people to the track than a standalone PWC weekend.

For IndyCar, making this race happen isn't about making a profit, rather giving fans nourishment after being famished from a lengthy offseason.

He's Back
Brian Barnhart is back as IndyCar race director. Marshall Pruett had a great article on the return of Barnhart and why you should not jump ship because of the hire. First, there is nothing you or I can do about it. Would I have brought Barnhart back if I was in charge? No. He restarted an oval race in the rain. It was a mistake but there has to be a straw that breaks the camel's back and that was it.

Second, we can't let a race official decide whether or not we will watch a race. I am sure no one is deciding whether or not they will watch the Super Bowl based on Bill Vinovich being referee. The on-track action has been great the past three seasons and the introduction of aero kits is leaving everyone on pins and needles over who will have the advantage and who will be playing catch up. There are so many positives with IndyCar on-track that you can't let these little things get us down.

Time To Be Positive
While it seems like the last two days have been nothing but crap for IndyCar, let's look at some positives.

First, Luca Filippi will likely be announced as Ed Carpenter's co-driver in the #20 Fuzzy Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet in 2015 with the Italian running all the road and street course races. I am sure some wanted J.R. Hildebrand to land in that seat but it still looks like Hildebrand is in prime position for an Indianapolis 500 seat with the team and Filippi has been busting his butt for a seat in IndyCar. The runner-up in the 2011 GP2 Series championship appeared to have a seat in place with Rahal Letterman Lanigan in 2012 but that did not happen. He made his debut in 2013 with Bryan Herta Autosport and just when it appeared he would get the seat for 2014, Jack Hawksworth was hired. Filippi is a competent driver and I would not be surprised if he won a race this season.

Speaking of Bryan Herta Autosport, it appears they will run full-time in 2015 with defending Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves as their driver after it appeared the team would have to cut back their operations. IndyCar can't afford to lose teams and keeping a full-time team on the grid is a big hold of serve for the series.

Indy Lights Testing
The Indy Lights series wrapped up their first oval test with the IL-15 chassis and these cars were quick out of the box at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

All 11 cars ran laps sub-30 seconds with 10 of the 11 drivers to take part in the test running laps under 29 seconds and six of 11 ran faster than the Indy Lights track record at Homestead.

The Juncos Racing pairing of Kyle Kaiser and Spencer Pigot were 1-2 with Kaiser leading the way with a lap of 28.3081 seconds (188.851 MPH). Pigot was 0.1504 seconds back. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Scott Anderson made it an American 1-2-3 at the test just 0.0030 seconds behind Pigot. Belardi Auto Racing rounded out the top five with Juan Piedrahita fourth at 28.4801 seconds and Félix Serrallés at 28.5871 seconds. Shelby Blackstock was sixth at 28.7210 seconds driving for Andretti Autosport.

R.C. Enerson just missed out on beating the Indy Lights track record at Homestead. The Floridian ran a 28.8392 with the track record being a 28.833. Emirati Ed Jones was 0.0339 seconds back of Enerson with the Brits Jack Harvey and Max Chilton following Jones. Harvey ran a 28.9298 with the former Marussia F1 driver Chilton 0.0055 seconds back. Ethan Ringel was slowest at 29.2686 seconds, 0.9605 seconds behind Kaiser.

While things appear to be crappy, there are a lot of positive things going on in and around IndyCar. We just have to dig a little bit to find it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Important Indy Lights Test Tomorrow and More From Daytona

It's be a few days since the 24 Hours of Daytona and there are still a few lingering thoughts from the IMSA season opener. First thought, we start a little further south from Daytona at Homestead-Miami Speedway where Indy Lights has conducted two important tests and a major test is coming up tomorrow.

The IL-15 Testing at Homestead
Indy Lights has been down at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the last few days. On Monday and Tuesday, a dozen IL-15 chassis powered by Mazda-branded AER engines ran on the Homestead road course. It was the first appearance for Carlin as Emirati Ed Jones and former Formula One driver, record holder for most races running at the finish in a rookie season, Briton Max Chilton in the IL-15 chassis. 

Jones ran the fastest lap over the two days, a lap of 1:13.7460 seconds in the morning session on Tuesday. Jones was the only driver to run a lap of sub-1:14 minute lap during the test. Andretti Autosport driver Shelby Blackstock was second over the two days with his fastest lap being a 1:14.1386 seconds. The 2012 Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier ran on Tuesday for Belardi Auto Racing and the Frenchman was third fastest, at 1:14.2777-second lap. Colombian Juan Piedrahita announced he would be joining Félix Serrallés at Belardi for the 2015 season and ran on Monday with the team. Piedrahita's best lap was a 1:15.8494. 

Juncos Racing was fourth and fifth with Kyle Kaiser leading the defending Pro Mazda champion Spencer Pigot. The Californians were separated by 0.0118 seconds with Kaiser's fastest lap being a 1:14.3563. Sixth quickest over the four days was last year's runner-up in Pro Mazda Scott Hargrove as the Canadian's best lap was at 1:14.4237 seconds driving for 8 Star Motorsport. Chilton was sevenh at the test running a fastest lap of 1:14.4404 seconds.

All four Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entries on the back half of the time sheet with runner-up in last year's U.S. F2000 championship R.C. Enerson leading the way with a 1:14.4904 seconds lap, 0.05 seconds quicker than last year's Indy Lights runner-up and team veteran Jack Harvey. Sérralles was tenth fastest with a 1:14.6764. Scott Anderson was 11th quickest at a 1:14.7083. Ethan Ringel ended the two-day test 12th fastest and was the only driver to run both days to fail to run a sub-1:15 lap. The best lap Ringel put on the board was a 1:15.5698. 

With two-days of road course testing behind them, the dozen IL-15 chassis will take to the high banks of Homestead-Miami Speedway for the first official oval test. 

Three things to keep an eye on tomorrow:

1. Speed 
I think we all want to know how fast the IL-15 will be on an oval. The track record for the previous Lights car at Homestead was a 28.833-second lap by Chris Festa in 2007. These cars won't be trimmed out doing qualifying runs their the test but it will be interesting to see how quick they will be with a conservative setup.

2. Can Carlin keep up their pace?
Ed Jones and Max Chilton have never been on an oval before and while Chilton tweeted he was looking forward to the oval test, it will be interesting to see how the Brit handles any adversity.

3. Can Schmidt Peterson fight their way back to the top?
It's only testing but it's been a long time since we've see the Schmidt name so consistently near the bottom of any session having to do with Indy Lights. It was interesting to see R.C. Enerson, the driver who is skipping a rung on the ladder on going for U.S. F2000 to Lights, was quicker than his senior teammates Harvey and Anderson on the road course and I wonder if he can keep that up on the oval as this will be the Floridian's first time on a 1.5-mile oval. 

Lacking an Aston Martin
A few lingering thoughts from the 24 Hours of Daytona. First, I am still trying to wrap my head around Aston Martin putting five drivers in one car in GTLM instead of calling in another driver and running two teams of three? They had a great start at Daytona and were upfront until their early spin took them out of contention.

I am sure money was part of the reason for running only one car but it makes more sense not to put all the eggs in one basket. I think if they had split their driver line-up so Pedro Lamy. Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda in were in one car and Stefan Mücke, Darren Turner and one of their plethora of Danish drivers (Marco Sørensen, Nicki Thiim) in a second car, the Vantage GTE might have been in contention with the Corvette and BMW during those closing laps for the GTLM class victory.

Listening to the IMSA Radio broadcast during the 24 Hours of Daytona (I forget which hour of the race this took place) the commentators were talking about the lack of crossovers between fans of NASCAR and sports car racing. If you have been following this blog for quite sometime you know I am for as much cross-pollination by drivers as possible. I don't want specialization with distinct NASCAR drivers and distinct Formula One drivers and distinct IndyCar drivers. I want drivers who will run anything and everything.

Looking at the 24 Hours of Daytona and the three full-time NASCAR drivers that were in the field (Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and A.J. Allmendinger) and knowing that NASCAR has some interest in seeing IMSA succeed, you'd think NASCAR would want to get as many notable names in the big races such as Daytona as possible. While the crowd for this year's race was spectacular, having the names Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick wouldn't hurt and it might draw a few more eyeballs on the television broadcast.

Having more crossover might help series such as IMSA develop more fans. Someone might come only to see their favorite NASCAR driver and end up becoming a sports car fan who doesn't miss a race and might go see a race or two. Expanding a fans horizon wouldn't be a bad thing.

To bring this to an IndyCar perspective: If you are IndyCar, a series where most of their drivers are unknown, you have to find a way to get your drivers in the public eye and instead of relying on ad-campaigns and hopes of catching America's attention, why not turn some heads on the race track. We talk so much about drivers doing "The Double," running the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day, we only ever focus on NASCAR drivers attempting it. People talk about Tony Stewart or Kurt Busch doing it. They never mention Justin Wilson or Ryan Hunter-Reay trying it. Why not try another double, a double that is aimed for IndyCar drivers?

On June 27th, IndyCar will be in Fontana, running 500 miles. The next day, NASCAR will be at Sonoma for their first road course of the NASCAR season. Last year, the NASCAR race at Sonoma had 4.68 million viewers and that was against the United States-Portugal World Cup match. Outside of the Indianapolis 500, I think the other 17 IndyCar races barely added up to 4.68 million viewers. What would IndyCar have to lose by flying a few drivers up to Sonoma the day after Fontana to run the NASCAR? It's a road course races, where a few drivers you'd have to expect would have a chance of running toward the front if not having a shot to win.

If I was IndyCar, I am begging Roger Penske to run Will Power at Sonoma and Watkins Glen since there are no IndyCar race that weekend as well. I don't know if Will Power running those races will bring a half a million people to a IndyCar broadcast but why not give it a shot? You have to slowly draw viewers in. What if he were to win? Will Power is getting on SportsCenter if he wins the NASCAR race at Sonoma or Watkins Glen. The only time he will get on SportsCenter for winning an IndyCar race is the Indianapolis 500.

It's all about narrative. Setup the narrative: The outside, the underdog entering the unknown and taking on the big boys at their own game. There is no one thing that IndyCar can do to all of a sudden get 100,000 people attending every race and every race drawing 2.5 million viewers on television but they have to make an effort to get their name and the name of the drivers known to the public and not just hope one day it will hit people in the face and they will all come eagerly flocking to ticket booths.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: I Was Wrong About Jeff Gordon

After spending the better part of Saturday and Sunday watching the 24 Hour of Daytona, I need a break. Luckily there is two weeks until the Bathurst 12 Hours. This is the final week of January and by the time February gets here, we will be just over a month away from the start of the IndyCar season meaning I should get started on season previews. Only problem is how many teams will wait until the eleventh hour to complete their driver line-ups?n We know Dale Coyne won't announce his driver line-up until the morning of the season opener but how long will others wait? Either way, here is a run down of what got me thinking.

I Was Wrong About Jeff Gordon
When I got into NASCAR, I was eight years old and Jeff Gordon was "the bad guy." My uncle and grandfather, the two responsible for the motorsports-craze adult I am today, pulled for Tony Stewart because of the open-wheel background, because of his presence in IndyCar, though a divided IndyCar. At eight years old, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was the second coming. He was the future. He was going to continue to carry NASCAR to promise land on the path his father paved from the thicket.

Jeff Gordon was "the bad guy." He was too prim, too proper. He wasn't NASCAR. He wasn't the second coming. He wasn't the root of all evil. He was the college educated cousin at the family reunion telling stories about fancy dinners and golf outings while the rest spent their days and nights working on the farm in the elements with dirt under their fingernails. He made everyone else look elementary.

I was wrong about Jeff Gordon. I wish I hadn't grown up being taught Jeff Gordon was "the bad guy." To be frank, I have come to like Jeff Gordon. In the decade-plus since really getting into motorsports and NASCAR in particular, I have come to put the narrative of good vs. bad behind me. I have come to appreciate a driver for their talent, not for their portrayal in the media. I have realized that the idea that someone is or isn't NASCAR is wrong.

I think it was once I hit high school I started looking Jeff Gordon differently. I think I was outgrowing the script NASCAR media was writing. I didn't want to be told who was good and who was bad. I was tired of the constant changes and was relishing something I had just missed. Everything was becoming too contrived. From the Chase to the technical regulations. It wasn't what caught me. It was the races from the 1980s and 1990s I caught on ESPN Classic. NASCAR was a square peg trying to be jammed into the round hole that the major four North American sports leagues fitted into. NASCAR with assistance from ESPN were going to make themselves fit, even if it had to lose the edges that made it unique.

Gordon is one of the final links to the NASCAR I wish I had seen. Bobby Labonte is another link but a near decade of obscurity has buried the once champion. Seeing Gordon succeed is a victory for an era I just missed. That's part of the reason for the change in my mindset.

Last autumn, when looking at the facts and figures and seeing Jeff Gordon was at 92 victories in Cup, I thought he would hit the century mark, something only Richard Petty and David Pearson have accomplished. I thought he could average two victories a year for four more years. I thought he would continue until he was 47 or 48 years old and reach the feat because it would be something NASCAR could run with and make it a storyline over the course of a season. A Gordon from just before my time will have to return for 100 victories to become a reality. Winning eight races in a season isn't impossible but it's not likely.

Gordon doesn't need to hit triple-figures to validate his greatness. He did that by winning 40 races and three titles over four seasons. I would like to see him attempt a Truck race or two and become the 26th driver to win in all three national touring divisions.

I hope Gordon's retirement isn't from competing all together. He has a family and young kids and I don't blame him from wanting to spend more time with them but I hope he realize that he can still be there and can still go to a race track five or six times a year.  I want to see Gordon pursue all the events he could never do because of the suffocating NASCAR schedule. I want to see Gordon at Le Mans in a Corvette. I want to see him back on dirt at the Chili Bowl. I want to see attempt the Indianapolis 500.

I don't think he will do any of those events though. November 22, 2015 will mark the end of his 22nd season in Cup and 797th consecutive and final start (He should break Ricky Rudd's record for most consecutive Cup starts at New Hampshire on September 27, 2015. I bet those tickets will be worth a pretty penny). After Homestead, I doubt Jeff Gordon will ever compete in anything ever again and the end to one of the last great NASCAR drivers.

Forget Gordon, Hello Chilton
While Jeff Gordon will never run the Indianapolis 500 and won't even try to attempt to make the 100th running of the race (which is a massive opportunity he is wasting), guess who is planning on being their for the platinum jubilee? Former Formula One driver and record holder for most classified finishes in a Formula One rookie season Max Chilton.

Sure, Chilton didn't have the results in Formula One like fellow Brits Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button but he was with one of the poorer teams on the grid. That's not entirely his fault. He just went out there and did his thing. He just kept turning laps and bringing the car home. To finish first, one must first finish and Chilton proves he has step one down pat.

IndyCar fans should be really excited about the possibility of Chilton joining the grid, not get upset about his nationality or lack of results in Formula One (which once again, weren't entirely his fault). It's easy to hate on someone you have never met but why not embrace Chilton like one of your own children? It would be a great thing for Chilton for him to come over and see he is wanted, not looked down upon. Twenty-four British drivers have started the Indianapolis 500 and I would be enthused for Chilton if he were to become the 25th Brit to take the green flag in the Indianapolis 500.

It Takes Two Baby
Remember when endurance races, whether it was six, 12 or 24 hours use to feature driver line-ups of just two and not three, four or five? I would love to see an endurance race, length doesn't matter, created with the driver limit per car being two. I thought it was great when Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil tag teamed the #79 Prospeed Competition Porsche at Le Mans last year after Bret Curtis was concussed and the team couldn't find a third driver. It wasn't the end of the world and since the duo no longer met the criteria for GTE-Am, they moved to GTE-Pro and ended up finishing fifth in class.

It could be a multi-class race with prototypes and GT cars, it could be an all-GT3 affair. I want a throwback race where drivers are running as long as they possibly can before getting out for their co-driver to do the same.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about what happened in the 24 Hours of Daytona but did you know...

Sébastien Ogier won Rallye Monte-Carlo, the season opener for the 2015 World Rally Championship season.

Matt and Hugh Plumb won the Continental Tires SportCar Challenge season opener from Daytona driving the #13 Rum Bum Porsche 911. Spencer Pumpelly and Luis Rodriguez, Jr. won in the ST class in the #17 Rennsport One Porsche Cayman.

Trey Canard won the AMA Supercross race from Oakland.

Coming Up This Weekend
AMA Supercross heads to Anaheim for a third and final time in 2015.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ganassi All-Stars Sip Way to 24 Hours of Daytona Victory

Scott Dixon led the first lap and he led the final lap of the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans as the #02 Ganassi Racing Ford Riley took victory. It is Dixon's second career win in the 24 Hours of Daytona and Ganassi Racing's sixth 24 Hours of Daytona victory in the last ten runnings. Dixon won the 2006 race with Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears as his co-drivers.

Dixon's co-driver for this year's race each put their names in the record books. Jamie McMurray joins Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers to win the 24 Hours and Daytona 500. Tony Kanaan becomes the 13th Indianapolis 500 winner to win the 24 Hours of Daytona joining Andretti, Mark Donohue, Bobby Rahal, Foyt, Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., Arie Luyendyk, Dixon, Dan Wheldon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti and Buddy Rice as the drivers to do so. This is Kyle Larson's first 24 Hours of Daytona victory in his second appearance.

The 2014 Daytona winners Sébastien Bourdais, Christian Fittipaldi and João Barbosa came home in second position with the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Jordan Taylor, Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli finishing third. The #10 were beat on fuel mileage and had to make a driver change will ten minutes to go so Jordan Taylor did not go over the maximum drive time. Dixon was able to stretch his fuel three laps longer than the #10 on stints, giving him the advantage on the final two pit stops.

The #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP came home in fourth, six laps down with Mike Rockenfeller, Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook.

The #3 Corvette finished fifth overall and wins the GTLM class with Jan Magnussen, Antonio García and Ryan Briscoe holding off the #25 RLLR BMW Z4 GTE of Dirk Werner, Bill Auberlen, Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler by 0.478 seconds. The top two in GTLM finished 15 laps down.

The #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Phil Keen, Max Papis, Eric Curran and Dane Cameron finished seventh overall, 19 laps down. The #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Simon Pagenaud round out the GTLM podium by finishing eighth overall, 22 laps down.

A late accident by the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca handed the PC class victory to the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca of Tom Kimber-Smith, Andrew Palmer, Mike Guasch and Andrew Novich. Colin Braun spun the #54 Oreca on exit of the bus stop and hit the outside barrier, ending their hopes of back-to-back PC victories at Daytona. The #52 finished ninth overall, 26 laps down. The #16 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca of Johnny Mowlem, Tom Papadopoulos, Martin Plowman, Tomy Drissi and Brian Adler rounded out the top ten overall, second in PC, a lap back of the #52.

The pole-sitting #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-Honda finished 11th, 35 laps down with Oswaldo Negri, John Pew, A.J. Allmendinger and Matt McMurry after stopping on course under that final caution for Braun's accident. The #54 CORE Autosport Oreca of Braun, Jon Bennett, Mark Wilkins and James Gue finished 12th, third in PC.

The #93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper of Dominik Farnbacher, Ben Keating, Kuno Wittmer, Cameron Lawrence and Al Carter win GTD, finishing 13th overall, 36 laps down. The #22 Alex Job Porsche of Shane Van Gisbergen, Leh Keen, Cooper MacNeil and Andrew Davis finished second in GTD, 7.588 seconds back of the Viper. Rounding out the top fifteen and the GTD podium, two laps back of the #93 Viper was the #58 Wright Motorsports Brumos Porsche of Philipp Eng, Madison Snow, Jan Heylen and Patrick Dempsey.

The next round of the 2015 IMSA United SportsCar Championship will be the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 21st.

Angelelli Leads, 21 Hours Down

With three hours to go, Max Angelelli finds himself back in first position overall after having his co-drivers Ricky and Jordan Taylor each get a stint behind the wheel. The #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP is back on the lead lap and is second with Christian Fittipaldi in second. The Ganassi Ford Rileys are third and fourth with the #01 of Sage Karam ahead of the #02 of Jamie McMurray. The top four are all on the lead lap having completed 638 laps.

Mike Rockenfeller is fifth, three laps down in the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP with the #60 Shank Racing Ligier-Honda of Matt McMurry five laps down in sixth position.

Jan Magnussen leads GTLM in the #3 Corvette. The Dane is seventh overall and 12 laps down Augusto Farfus is second in class, on the same lap as the Corvette. Tommy Milner has dropped to third in class after contact on the most recent restart caused damage to the right front of the #4 Corvette. Milner is ninth overall, four laps back of the sister car. Max Papis rounds out the top ten overall, 17 laps down in the #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP.

The PC leading #54 CORE Autosport Oreca is 11th, 21 laps down with Mark Wilkins behind the wheel. The #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca has closed the gap to the #54 as Andrew Palmer is a lap back and 12th overall. Martin Plowman has also gotten within a lap of Wilkins in the #16 BR1 Motorsports Oreca and is 13th.

Kuno Wittmer has the #93 Dodge Viper in front of GTD in 14th, 31 laps down. Leh Keen rounds out the top fifteen in the #22 Alex Job Porsche and the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari is third in class with Jeff Segal behind the wheel. All are on the same lap. Two laps back of the top three in GTD is the #58 Wright Motorsports Brumos Porsche of Jan Heylen.

The #17 Team Falken Tires Porsche had an engine failure end their race in GTLM. The #33 Dodge Viper of Jeroen Bleekemolen is still running but fell out of contention after fuel pressure issues.

Angelelli Leads With Third To Go

Eight hours remain in the 53rd 24 Hours of Daytona and we have lost a few contenders in the wee-hours of the morning.

Max Angelelli has the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP on top overall but the number of cars on the lead lap has been half from our last update at midnight. The #01 Ganassi Ford Riley of Joey Hand leads his teammate Jamie McMurray in the #02. The #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP has moved up to four after having their fuel pressure issues just before midnight. Sébastien Bourdais sits two laps down. A lap back of the Frenchman is Mike Rockenfeller in the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP. Oswaldo Negri, Jr. has dropped to sixth, four laps down after the #60 Shank Racing Ligier-Honda had a run in with the tire barrier around the 13-hour mark with John Pew behind the wheel. The leaders have completed 487 laps.

The notable retirement from the Prototype class was the #1 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-04b as the FIA WEC team had a gearbox failure end their race.

Dirk Werner has the #25 RLLR BMW leading in GTLM as the German runs seventh overall, ten laps back of the #10 Corvette DP. Wolf Henzler is back behind the wheel of the #17 Team Falken Tire Porsche and is second in class with Antonio García in third driving the #3 Corvette with Simon Pagenaud driving the #4 Corvette in fourth and rounding out the top ten overall. The top four in GTLM are all on the same lap.

The two notable absences from the GTLM battle are the factory Porsches. The #911 Porsche of Marc Lieb made contact with the GTD #007 TRG Aston Martin of Christoffer Nygaard, sending the Porsche in his teammate Earl Bamber in the #912. Both cars have made repairs but the #912 is 19 laps down while the #911 has lost over 80 laps to the class leaders. The other GTLM contender bitten by mechanical gremlins was the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari electrical issues has cost them over 160 laps.

Eleventh overall is the PC leading #54 CORE Autosport Oreca of James Gue, 14 laps down overall but the defending PC race winners have extended their class lead. The #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca of Andrew Novich is five laps back of the #54, 13th overall as the #31 Action Express Corvette DP is sandwiched between the PC battle in 12th. Tomy Drissi has the pole-sitting #16 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca third in class, six down to the #54 in 14th.

The #8 Starworks Oreca has retired after a motor failure.

Rounding out the top fifteen overall is the GTD class leading #33 Dodge Viper of Ben Keating as six cars all sit 23 laps back of the overall lead. Dion Von Moltke has the #48 Paul Miller Racing Audi in second position in class. The Scuderia Corsa Ferraris runs third and fourth with the #64 of Andrea Bertolini ahead of Bill Sweedler in the #63. Al Carter has the #93 Dodge Viper fifth in class with the #22 Alex Job Porsche the final car on the lead lap in class with Andrew Davis behind the wheel.

Larson on Top At Midnight

Sunday is here as the 53rd running of the 24 Hours of Daytona has nearly ten hours in the bag.

The #02 Ganassi Ford Riley was leading at the quarter post but had a radiator and splitter issue force them to the garage. Luckily, the crew was able to get the repairs done under a full-course caution and only lost two laps. The team has since overcame that gap and now lead with Kyle Larson behind the wheel. They have completed 299 laps and took the lead after Ricky Taylor pitted and dropped to second. The #01 Ganassi Ford Riley runs in third with Charlie Kimball as the driver.

Pole-sitter Oswaldo Negri, Jr. has the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-Honda in fourth. Scott Sharp is fifth driving the #1 HPD ARX-04b. Mike Rockenfeller runs sixth in the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP. Currently, the top six cars overall are on the lead lap.

The defending race winning #5 Action Express Corvette DP lost fuel pressure just prior to the nine hour mark. João Barbosa stopped on track at the kink and had to be towed back to the garage where the team quickly solved the problem. The Portuguese driver is currently eighth, three laps down. Rubens Barrichello is now behind the wheel of the #7 Starworks BMW Riley. The Brazilian is five laps back in eighth.

The top seven cars in GTLM are all on the same lap as Pierre Kaffer has the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari leading the class, ninth overall, six laps behind the overall leader. Tommy Milner has the GTLM pole-sitting #4 Corvette second in class, tenth overall with his teammate Antonio García ib 11th. Wolf Henzler is 12th as the #17 Team Falken Tires Porsche leads the factory Porsches with the #911 of Patrick Pilet ahead of the #912 of Jörg Bergmeister. Bill Auberlen is 15th overall in the #25 RLLR BMW Z4 GTE.

Colin Braun has overcome a flat left rear tire and continues to lead the PC class in the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca. They had dropped off the lead lap in class at one point. Braun is seven laps down overall and in 16th. The Texan has a three lap advantage over Tom Kimber-Smith who has the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca 17th overall.

The top seven cars in GTD are all on the same lap, 14 laps down overall. The #81 GB Autosport Porsche leads the class with Pirelli World Challenge regular Mike Skeen now behind the wheel, 18th overall. Jeroen Bleekemolen is driving the #33 Dodge Viper and is second in class. Dion Von Moltke has the #48 Paul Miller Racing Audi third in class ahead of Anthony Lazzaro in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari. Spencer Pumpelly is fifth in the #73 Park Place Porsche. Marcos Gomes is sixth in the #64 Scuderia Corsa with Al Carter in seventh in the #33 Dodge Viper.

The #70 Mazda Skyactiv-D Prototype retired after running in the top ten at the quarter mark of the race after having an oil pump failure.

The #51 AF Corse Ferrari and #007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin got together at turn six after François Perrodo spun the GTLM Ferrari and drove into the racing line leaving Brandon Davis' V12 Vantage nowhere to go. The #007 has since been repaired and Christina Nielsen is behind the wheel.