2016 Roar Before The 24 Entry List

Photo: http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

By: Kobe Lambeth

The IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship has released the entry list for the Roar Before The 24. This annual preseason test will occur January 8th-10th.

Prototype (13 cars)

01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford DP- Brendon Hartley/Alex Wurz/Andy Priaulx/Lance Stroll

02 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford DP- Scott Dixon/Tony Kannan/Jamie McMurray/Kyle Larson

0 Panoz Deltawing Racing DWC13- Katherine Legge/Sean Rayhall/Andy Meyrick/Andreas Wirth

2 Tequila Patrón ESM Ligier JS P2-HPD- Scott Sharp/Ed Brown/Johannes van Overbeek/Pipo Derani

5 Action Express Racing  Corvette DP- Joao Barbosa/Christian Fittipaldi/Filipe Albuquerque/Scott Pruett

10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Corvette DP- Jordan Taylor/Ricky Taylor/Max Angelelli

31 Action Express Racing Whelen Corvette DP- Dane Cameron/Eric Curran/Simon Pagenaud/Jonny Adam

37 SMP Racing BR01-Nissan- Maurizio Mediani/Nicolas Minassian/Mikhail Aleshin/Kirill Ladygin

50 Highway to Help BMW DP- Byron Defoor/Dorsey Schroeder/David Hinton/Thomas Gruber/Jim Pace

55 Mazda Motorsports P2- Jonathan Bomarito/Tristian Nunez/Spencer Pigot

60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2-HPD- Ozz Negri Jr./John Pew/AJ Allmendinger/TBA

70 Mazda Motorsports P2- Joel Miller/Tom Long/Ben Devlin

90 VisitFlorida.com Racing Corvette DP- Marc Goossens/Ryan Dalziel/Ryan Hunter-Reay

Prototype Challenge (8 cars)

8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09- Renger van Der Zande/Alex Popow/Chris Cumming/Jack Hawksworth

20 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09- Marc Drumwright/Johnny Mowlem/Brian Alder/TBA/TBA

26 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09- Adam Merzon/Ryan Eversley/Don Yount/TBA

38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09- James French/TBA/TBA/TBA

52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09- Robert Alon/Tom Kimber-Smith/Jose Gutierrez/Nicholas Boulle

54 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09- Colin Braun/Jon Bennett/Mark Wilkins/Martin Plowman

85 JDC/Miller Motorsports Oreca FLM09- Chris Miller/Mikhail Goikhberg/Stephen Simpson/Kenton Koch

88 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09- Mark Kvamme/Sean Johnston/Maro Engel/TBA

GT Le Mans (11 cars)

3 Corvette Racing C7R- Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Mike Rockenfeller

4 Corvette Racing C7R- Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Marcel Fassler

25 Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM- Bill Auberlen/Dirk Werner/Augusto Farfus/Bruno Spengler

62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE- TBA/TBA/TBA

66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT- Joey Hand/Dirk Muller/Sebastien Bourdais

67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT- Richard Westbrook/Ryan Briscoe/Stefan Mucke

68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE- Alessandro Pier Guidi/Alexandre Premat/Daniel Serra

72 SMP Racing/AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE- Gimmi Bruni/Andrea Bertolini/James Calado/Viktor Shaitar

100 Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM- Lucas Luhr/John Edwards/Kuno Wittmer/Graham Rahal

911 Porsche North America 911 RSR- Patrick Pilet/Nick Tandy/Kevin Estre

912 Porsche North America 911 RSR- Earl Bamber/Frederic Makowiecki/Michael Christensen

GT Daytona (22 cars)

007 TRG/Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3- Sergio Pérez/Antonio Pérez/Santiago Creel/Ricardo Pérez de Lara/Lars Vilijoen

6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3- Andrew Davis/Robin Liddell/TBA

9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3- Lawson Aschenbach/Matt Bell/TBA

11 O’Gara Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3- Townsend Bell/Bill Sweedler/TBA/TBA

16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3- Spencer Pumpelly/Corey Lewis/TBA/TBA

21 Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3- Emanuele Busnelli/Jim Michaelian/TBA/TBA

22 Alex Job Racing WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT3- Leh Keen/Cooper MacNeil/David MacNeil/Shane van Gisbergen/Gunnar Jeannette

23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3- Mario Farnbacher/Ian James/Alex Riberas/Wolf Henzler

28 Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3- Franz Konrad/Rolf Ineichen/Lance Willsey/Fabio Babini/Marc Basseng

30 Frikadelli Racing Porsche 911 GT3- Klaus Abbelen/Sabine Schmitz/TBA

33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3- Jeroen Bleekemolen/Ben Keating/Dominik Farnbacher/Marc Miller

44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3- Andy Lally/John Potter/TBA/TBA

45 Flying Lizard Motorsports/Krohn Racing Audi R8 GT3- Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson/Christopher Haase/Pierre Kaffer

48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3- Bryan Sellers/Madison Snow/Bryce Miller/Mirko Bortolotti

51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 GT3- Peter Mann/Raffaele Gianmaria/Matteo Cressoni/Marco Cioci

63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3- Alessandro Balzan/Christina Nielson/Jeff Segal/Robert Renauer

73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3- Jorg Bergmeister/Patrick Lindsey/Matt McMurry

93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3- Ben Keating/Gar Robinson/Jeff Mosing/Eric Foss/Damien Faulkner

96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3- Bret Curtis/Jens Klingmann/Ashley Freiberg/Marco Wittman

97 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3- Markus Palttala/Michael Marsal/Maxime Martin/Jesse Krohn

98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3- Paul Dalla Lana/Pedro Lamy/Mathias Lauda/Richie Stanaway

540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3- Nick Catsburg/Tim Pappas/Patrick Long/TBA

News & Notes

*54 cars are entered for the Roar Before The 24. Look for additional entries in the Rolex 24 as we have seen in years past.*

*The newly renamed “Panoz Deltawing Racing” looks to have a successful test session as they hope to have a strong outing. It is believed that Legge and Rayhall will run the Deltawing full-time but nothing has been announced.*

*Chip Ganassi Racing is going to have a busy January as they have four cars entered in the Rolex 24. Two Ford Daytona Prototypes and two Ford GT’s. They look to debut the highly anticipated Ford GT’s, along with defending their overall victory in the Number 02 Ford DP.*

*Pipo Derani will make his IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship debut as he joins Tequila Patrón ESM before a full assault on the FIA World Endurance Championship.*

*SMP Racing’s BR01 LMP2 car will make it’s highly anticipated debut on US soil. How do you think it will fare against the mighty Daytona Prototypes?*

*A team reportedly bought the ex Starworks BMW Daytona Prototype chassis. No word if this team will be on the grid for Rolex 24 or later on in the season.*

*After a quiet offseason, the Number 50 Highway to Help Daytona Prototype returns for possibly the final time. No word if the team will pursue an LMP2 chassis for 2017.*

*Michael Shank Racing expects to name a fourth driver for the Rolex 24 soon. Could it possibly be Stefan Wilson?*

*The Prototype Challenge Class will see a healthy 8 cars on the high banks of Daytona for the Roar. There were a few concerns of having less than five cars in this class but everything appears to be alright.*

*Although they have not taken delivery of their new Ferrari 488 GTE car, Risi Competizione is still on the Roar’s entry list. It looks like Toni Vilander might join Giancarlo Fisichella in the Ferrari full-time. An official announcement is expected to come in the immediate future.*

*Stefan Mucke is listed as the third driver for the Number 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. Nothing has been announced but it is expected that he has departed from Aston Martin Racing.*

*One of Team RLL’s BMW teams will run Number 100 as a tribute. It is unclear if this will be season long.*

*Big news as Sergio Pérez is listed to drive the TRG-Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT3. It was previously announced that Pérez would not be driving, but I know how quickly things change in the racing world. Do not be surprised if Pérez changes his mind and we see him on the grid in January.*

*Stevenson Motorsports has not announced their endurance drivers yet. Dion von Moltke would be a good choice for one of those seats.*

*Andy Pilgrim will join Black Swan Racing but he is not on the Roar entry list.*

*Autometrics Motorsports had the intentions of competing for the North American Endurance Cup with their previous generation Porsche 997 GT3 car. However, they are not on the Roar Entry List. They could potentially show up for the Rolex 24.*

*It will be interesting to see how two generations of GT3 cars compete against one another. We will see the Audi R8 GT3 vs the Audi R8 LMS GT3, and the Ferrari 458 GT3 vs the Ferrari 488 GT3. Hopefully, Autometrics Motorsports will show up for the Rolex 24 so we can compare two generations of Porsches.*

*GT Daytona is stacked with talent this year. 22 high-quality cars filled with high-quality drivers. This might be the most talented class that we have ever seen at the Rolex 24.*

For more details, go to: http://www.imsa.com

Kobe’s Daily Scoop: The Troubles of Making it as a Race Car Driver Part Two

 

Photo: NASCAR

By: Kobe Lambeth

It has been a long time since I wrote Part One of this two-part series. Being a race car driver sounds like the best job in the world, but some have to work harder than others. In Part One, we discussed IndyCar drivers, Sage Karam and Conor Daly, along with the pain of FIA Driver Ratings. You might be extremely talented like Karam and Daly, but funding is your major downfall. It is difficult to find a competitive ride if you do not have sponsorship to support you. Luckily Karam found himself a ride in the GT Daytona class in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship driving a Lexus GT3 car. He will debut alongside Scott Pruett in select rounds. Daly will drive the entire IndyCar season for Dale Coyne Racing. It was great to see two “struggling” drivers with talent find rides for the season. Next, FIA Driver Ratings became the hot topic. Some of you (non-sportscar fans) might not know what I am talking about when I say “driver ratings.” It should not matter anyways because having driver ratings in the first place is not a smart idea. This flawed system ends careers rather than rewarding the drivers who deserve full-time rides. It is challenging to make it as an open wheel or sportscar racing driver. You have read about two sides and now you should hear it from a stock car driver’s perspective.

How difficult can it be to make it in stock car racing? Ask Ryan Ellis!

“Many racers nowadays are constantly searching for funding due to the high-cost nature of the sport,” Ellis explained.

It is such a shame that young talented drivers like Ellis are denied their dreams of being a full-time NASCAR driver. Many stock car drivers have the talent to be a part of organizations such as Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. However, they are more likely to accept the driver who has the funding to race. I still do not understand why NASCAR owners do not want to see the sport’s best talent on the track, rather than someone riding out there for fun.

Ellis added, “Team owners can’t foot the bill without sponsorship money every weekend, it’s unsustainable.”

Ryan Ellis perfectly explained that a team owner cannot put a car on the track without financial support from a sponsor. I feel awful for the smaller teams who run in the back of the field almost every single week. The team owners struggle to keep cars on the track with minimum sponsorship. A major emphasis is placed on Daytona and Talladega. Restrictor plate racing is the great “equalizer” in NASCAR. Having a great race at a restrictor plate track could potentially help your financial struggles.

Ellis explained, “Many/most of the drivers trying to make it in the Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and lower levels are sponsored by family-owned, or family-associated sponsors… especially in the top rides. Unfortunately, not all of us have big family companies and are fighting the same battle.”

In my opinion, I believe that there are too many drivers with “family-associated sponsors.” It makes sense financially but not realistically. Do we really want a track full of “amateurs” who just ride around for fun? Of course, some drivers who have sponsorship definitely belong in the sport! I am just saying that there is more to being a “real” NASCAR driver. However, there are ways for lesser fortunate drivers to make a living in NASCAR.

“Although we hate asking for money or support through crowdfunding, it’s about all us blue collar drivers can do sometimes,” Ellis said.

Sadly, there is not enough that the fans can do to help the drivers who try so hard to achieve their dreams. Crowdfunding definitely helps out a lot, but it is not always enough to put a driver on the race track.

Ellis added, “It’s not easy to find $25,000-$150,000 EVERY WEEK, even though we work on it every day.”

Many drivers are not as fortunate as others and it is such a sad story. However, you must love the determination that underfunded drivers have to race. They do not care if it is a quality ride. Having the opportunity to race anything in NASCAR is a blessing. I believe that crowdfunding is great for drivers who do not have sponsorships. It is hard to understand why some people are against it. Ryan Ellis had strong words to say to the “haters.”

“I wasn’t born into a high dollar family and, like many others, am fighting an uphill battle. Many of the drivers that use crowdfunding are doing the same thing as me. It sometimes earns us a negative image with fans (begging), but often, we are the guys fighting our guts out against the wealthier drivers/families who are as many fans say ‘writing a check’ to race, or using their business as collateral for a business to business sponsorship.”

Ryan Ellis made many valuable points as he continues to fight for a full-time ride in the world’s highest level of stock car racing. Many underfunded drivers are currently fighting their hearts out just to be on the grid during Daytona Speedweeks. How can a “real fan” of the sport consider crowdfunding begging? At least, the drivers are actually trying to be successful. It is fantastic that we have someone like Ryan Ellis in the sport who is willing to do whatever it takes to make it to the race track. He is an inspiration for young drivers who wish to pursue a career in NASCAR. Positivity and the desire to never give up makes Ellis a leading example for current NASCAR drivers looking for funding.

I really hope you enjoyed learning about the struggles of being a race car driver. The sport we all know and love is not what is appears to be. Sometimes, looks can be deceiving. It does not matter if you are in the stands or at home watching the race on television, nobody really considers what actually goes on behind the scenes. Everything might look alright, but our underfunded drivers are going through unimaginable struggles. I have no idea how to solve all of the troubles of a race car driver, but there is a solution out there waiting to be discovered.

Just in case, you did not read part one: https://thescoopwordpresscom.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/kobes-daily-scoop-the-troubles-of-making-it-as-a-race-car-driver-part-one/

*Best wishes to NASCAR driver, Ryan Ellis, who is looking to continue in NASCAR. Thanks for making the interview possible! I really hope to see you on the grid in 2016!*

 

Change Racing announces GTD Lineup

Photo: http://www.imsa.com

By: Kobe Lambeth

Change Racing announced that Spencer Pumpelly and Corey Lewis will drive the Number 16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 for the entire season.

Pumpelly spent last season at Park Place Motorsports co-driving alongside Patrick Lindsey. He brings experience and speed to Change Racing. Lewis raced in the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Championship in the Pro-Am class. He was able to win a world championship with Change Racing in 2015.

“This is a big move for our team to be expanding into the IMSA GTD Class, and we are proud to have this roster in place for the season,” said team principal Robby Benton.

I remember Robby Benton from his days owning RAB Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. His most successful years came when he ran young drivers, Alex Bowman and James Buescher. Benton certainly knows how to spot talent. I expect that Change Racing will be a championship contender immediately. Choosing Pumpelly and Lewis was a great idea.

“We know Corey very well and he makes a good case for moving up our ladder from the Lamborghini Super Trofeo program into the WeatherTech championship,” said Benton.

To be honest, I had never heard of Corey Lewis before this announcement. After spending time doing some research, I believe that Robby Benton made the right decision to hire Corey. Based on what I have read, Lewis is fast and has plenty of upside! It will be interesting to see a rookie driver mix it up with WeatherTech Championship veterans in GT Daytona.

“And to have a proven winner like Spencer, with his knowledge and experience join us, it makes for a very strong lineup for this team,” added Benton.

It is easy to agree with Benton’s statement on Spencer Pumpelly. Having a driver who has experience, a great team leader, and has speed is wonderful for a new program. Pumpelly is going to be a great mentor for Corey Lewis.

How do you think Change Racing will do in its debut season race fans? Pumpelly and Lewis the right lineup? Who will join Change Racing for the endurance races?

For more information on this topic go to: http://www.changeracing.com

 

3 Hours of Thailand Entry List

Photo: http://www.lemans.org

By: Kobe Lambeth

The Asian Le Mans Series has released the entry list for the third round of the championship. We will see on-track activity January 9th and 10th.

LMP2 (4 cars)

8 Race Performance Oreca 03R-Judd- Nicolas Leutwiler/Oliver Webb

9 Jagony Ayam with Eurasia Oreca 03R-Nissan- Sean Galael/Antonio Giovinazzi

25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2-Nissan- Michael Munemann/Dean Koutsoumidis/Jamie Winslow

99 Eurasia Motorsport Oreca 03R-Nissan- William Lok/Tack Sung Kim/Richard Bradley

LMP3 (3 cars)

1 DC Racing Ligier JS P3- David Cheng/Ho-Pin Tung/Thomas Laurent

88 Team AAI ADESS 03- Tatsuya Tanigawa/Ryohei Sakaguchi/Li Zichong

89 Team AAI ADESS 03- Alex Kapadia/Masataka Yanagida/Olie Hancock

CN (2 cars)

21 Avelon Formula Wolf Racing GB08- Denis Lian/Giorgio Maggi/Ivan Bellarosa

69 Atlantic Racing Team Wolf Racing GB08- Shinyo Sano/Zen Low

GT (7 cars)

3 Clearwater Racing Mclaren GT3- Weng Sun Mok/Rob Bell/Keita Sawa

5 Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3- Jeffrey Lee/Alessio Picariello/Adderly Fong

7 ARC Bratislava Audi R8 GT3- Miro Konopka/Fairuz Fauzy

27 Nexus Infinity Ferrari 458 GT3- Joshua Hunt/Dominic Ang/Adrian D’Silva

38 Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 GT3- Nasrat Muzayyin/Rui Aguas

91 Team AAI BMW Z4 GT3- Junsan Chen/Ollie Millroy/Dirk Muller

92 Team AAI-HubAuto BMW Z4 GT3- Han Chen Chen/Shinya Hosokawa/Hiroki Yoshimoto

GT-Am (1 car)

51 KCMG Porsche GT3 Cup- Paul Ip/Martin Rump/Yuan Bo

News & Notes

*This marks the first visit to the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand. The Asian Le Mans Series has a healthy 17 car entry list. Having the ACO take over the series was a true blessing. Hopefully, we will see more cars in future rounds.*

*Dirk Muller is still listed to drive Team AAI’s BMW Z4 GT3. Muller is no longer a BMW factory driver as he joins Chip Ganassi’s Ford GT program in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. It is unknown if he will continue his duties in the Asian Le Mans Series*

For more details go to: http://www.asianlemansseries.com

Remember: 2015

Photo: http://www.monuments.com

By: Kobe Lambeth

I want to take some time and remember three people the racing community lost in 2015.

Steve Byrnes

download (27)

Photo: http://www.youtube.com

The NASCAR community knows all about this story. Steven Patrick Byrnes left the Earth on April 21, 2015. Byrnes was a long-time anchor for NASCAR on FOX. He left behind his wife Karen and son Bryson. Steve Byrnes fought cancer until the very end. For those who do not know the Steve Byrnes story, please tell them how he was a major contribution to NASCAR. I will always remember his cheerful smile when he was “out in the field” doing his job. His legacy will live on forever! #ByrnesStrong

Jules Bianchi

download (28).jpg

Photo: http://www.youtube.com

I remember this terrifying accident and have been trying to forget about it. However, I will never forget the amazing talent that Jules Bianchi displayed. In 2014, Bianchi was involved in a gruesome accident during the Japanese Grand Prix. Track officials were trying to remove the stranded Sauber of Adrian Sutil and Bianchi crashed into the recovery vehicle. Wet weather played a major role in his accident. Bianchi spent months in a medically induced coma and passed away on July 17, 2015. Hearing this news made my heart drop. Bianchi gave the Manor F1 Team its first points in Formula One’s biggest race: Monaco Grand Prix. Also, Jules was headed for greatness with Ferrari in the future. It is a shame that we did not get to see him win multiple world championships. He had the highest upside of any young open wheel driver in the world. Bianchi leaves behind his family who supported him every step of the way. #ForzaJules

Justin Wilson

download (29).jpg

Photo: http://www.thejudge13.com

I remember this tragic day like it was yesterday. It started off as an exciting day of racing at the Pocono Raceway. There was so much overtaking in this race that it reminded me of a restrictor plate race in NASCAR. Knowing that, I feared the Big One and unfortunately it happened. Race leader, Sage Karam, crashed out of the lead and debris from his car struck Wilson’s helmet. At first, I did not think that anything bad had happened. However, I became extremely nervous when I saw tons of medical personnel surrounding Wilson’s car. Reality struck me when I saw them preparing to airlift Wilson to a local hospital. Flashbacks of October 16, 2011, ran through my mind. I thought, “Please do not let this be another Dan Wheldon-like situation.” My worst fears were confirmed when Justin Wilson passed away on August 24, 2015, from a brain injury. I will miss watching the “Gentle Giant” race. Wilson always drove for smaller teams in IndyCar and never joined one of the heavyweights until this year. Too bad we never got to see how Wilson would have done for Andretti Autosport full-time. I will always remember Justin Wilson. He leaves behind a wife and two daughters. #WilsonStrong

*Very emotional stories, sad times, we lost great people in 2015, but we must continue into the future. I miss Byrnes, Bianchi, and Wilson. However, their legacies will live on forever*

The Final Lap

Photo: http://www.athlonsports.com

By: Kobe Lambeth

As the year is winding down, I want to share the scariest moment of 2015. It was the final lap of the 2015 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

I remember this day like it was yesterday. Anxiously awaiting the start of a race at the track where we typically see great racing. The race was supposed to start in the early evening, but rain delayed the start until after 11 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Although the race started much later than expected, I was ready to see some exciting racing. I snuggled under the covers of my bed as the green flag waved. Throughout the race, fatigue was a major factor. I constantly sipped on a bottle of water to stay awake. This was the first time that I have ever watched a NASCAR race until 3 o’clock in the morning.

After a long night of trying to stay awake, it was almost time for a Green-White-Checkered finish. At the end of restrictor plate races, I tend to get nervous as the drivers get extremely aggressive. One wrong move and you create a multi-car accident. As the green flag waved for the final time, I began to shake as I wanted every driver to make it back to the checkered flag safe and sound.

Teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson led the way. Drivers started jockeying for position going down the backstretch. I did not think that we would make it to the white flag as aggression rose to an all-time high. However, I was shocked to see the Hendrick drivers lead the pack to the white flag. One lap to make it back in one piece or hooked up to the tow truck. This was truly “checkers or wreckers.”

I was so excited watching the tight pack go down the backstretch for the final time as the drivers were trying to make something happen. The pack entered turn four as Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled away from the field. At this point, I knew it would be a great night for Junior Nation. I was not prepared for what happened next.

As Dale Earnhardt Jr. crossed the finish line, I saw Denny Hamlin get turned by Kevin Harvick. I screamed, “Oh my gosh, Denny just flew into the fence!!!” As I said this, I remember the words of announcer Rick Allen, “And the Big One happens behind them!” At this time, I was terrified as I did not know what exactly happened. Was Denny going to be okay?

When the television cameras showed the scene of the accident, I was shocked to find out that it was actually Austin Dillon. The Number 3 car was upside down and was absolutely destroyed (understatement). Going through my mind, “Is he alive? Please, no! We cannot lose another driver of the 3 car.”

It was absolutely amazing to see people from multiple teams race onto the track to assist Austin Dillon. Honestly, I was fearing the worst at this point. Dillon’s car hit the fence hard, landed upside down, then one final blow by Brad Keselowski. There was no way that Austin Dillon survived that one.

All of a sudden, crew members pulled Dillon out of the wrecked race car! I was in complete disbelief but happy. He was so lucky to make it out of that terrifying accident alive.

Next, NBC started to show multiple replays. The accident started when Denny Hamlin spun in front of the pack, clipped the front of Dillon’s car, which sent him airborne above rows of cars into the catchfence.

This accident triggered a lot of controversy surrounding safety at the race track. Is there a way to improve the catchfence? What if another car goes airborne after the first car left a giant hole in the fence? I have no idea how you would solve those issues. Danger is a part of racing and there can be severe consequences. You cannot change the fact that motorsports is dangerous.

Austin Dillon’s spectacular crash was the scariest moment of 2015. As we end this year, I hope that we will not see ANY accidents like that in 2016. What did you think of this accident race fans? Is there any way to improve safety at restrictor plate races? Please share other scary moments from the 2015 racing season!

 

 

Flying Lizard and Krohn Form Alliance for Rolex 24

Photo: http://www.motortrend.com

By: Kobe Lambeth

Flying Lizard Motorsports and Krohn Racing has formed a joint Rolex 24 program. Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson, Christopher Haase, and Pierre Kaffer will pilot the Number 45 Audi R8 LMS.

Krohn Racing regulars Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson move to the “new look” GT Daytona class, after running their Ligier JS P2-Judd in last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Tracy Krohn said, “I’m really looking forward to getting back on track for the 24 Hours of Daytona and with joining Flying Lizard Motorsports. We’ve competed against them for many years and know they run a great operation.”

It is terrific to see two respected American sportscar teams put together an awesome lineup. The Number 45 Audi R8 LMS will certainly be a factor when the checkered flag waves.

Flying Lizard’s Program Manager, Darren Law appears to be just as excited as I am about this lineup!

Law stated, “We are really looking forward to having Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson join us for the event. We have spent so many years as competitors, and we have a lot of respect for Tracy and Nic. It is nice to have them finally come on board and race with us.”

I am looking forward to seeing how these two teams perform in the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Long-time driving partners Krohn and Jonsson have shared much success together. Adding Christopher Haase and Pierre Kaffer to the mix strengthens the lineup. Haase spent last season with Paul Miller Racing as a teammate to Dion von Moltke. However, he was forced to search for a ride when the team switched to the Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Kaffer spent last season with Risi Competizione driving alongside Giancarlo Fisichella. I am looking for Flying Lizard Motorsports/Krohn Racing to be a strong contender in the Rolex 24! What do you think of this lineup race fans?

For more information on this topic go to: http://www.lizardms.com

 

Chip Ganassi Racing confirms Ford DP lineups for Rolex 24

Photo: http://www.motorsport.com

By: Kobe Lambeth

Chip Ganassi Racing announced that the team will enter its two Ford Daytona Prototypes in the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona. This is likely the final start for the Ford DP’s.

The Number 02 Ford DP looks to defend its overall victory with IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Tony Kannan, along with NASCAR drivers Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. Look for this lineup to be extremely competitive for the second straight year.

Chip Ganassi has gone “all out” bringing talent from all around the world to share the Number 01 Ford DP. Lance Stroll, Alex Wurz, Brendon Hartley, and Andy Priaulx will drive the car driven by Scott Pruett and Joey Hand last season.

Stroll makes his sportscar racing debut in the Rolex 24. He is currently a development driver for the Williams Formula One Team. Wurz recently retired from full-time competition in the FIA World Endurance Championship, after finishing up as a Toyota factory driver. Hartley, a Porsche factory driver, already has Rolex 24 experience with Starworks Motorsport. The Kiwi should be a great asset for the team. Priaulx previously worked as a BMW factory driver and moved to Chip Ganassi Racing as he is rumored to drive the Ford GT in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Team owner, Chip Ganassi stated, “We’re proud to have the defending Prototype Champions from last year, along with the excitement worldwide with the reintroduction of the Ford GT. I think we’ve built a very strong effort for the 2016 race in the Prototype class, which gives us two more solid chances to get to victory lane.”

In my opinion, I believe that Chip Ganassi Racing has the potential to sweep the Prototype and GT Le Mans classes. It is great to see the 02 car is returning to defend their overall victory. Dixon, Kannan, McMurray, and Larson will be strong once again. However, the 01 car is going to be the car to beat. Alex Wurz could not stay retired for long as he chases the dream of winning the Rolex 24 overall. Turning down an offer from Chip Ganassi must be difficult! I hope to see Wurz do well in the race. It is a fantastic decision to get Brendon Hartley because he is one of the fastest sportscar drivers in the world. He did so much for Starworks and I cannot wait to see how fast he can be in the Ford DP. Announcing Andy Priaulx in the Ford DP pretty much confirms the “worst kept” secret in the sportscar racing world. He will definitely bring speed to the organization. I have never heard of Lance Stroll, but I am looking forward to seeing how he performs in his sportscar debut! What do you think of Chip Ganassi Racing’s chances in the Rolex 24 race fans?

For more information on this topic go to: http://www.chipganassiracing.com

Driver of the Year: Kyle Busch

Photo: http://www.sbnation.com

By: Kobe Lambeth

There are so many drivers who showcased their full potential in 2015. Ranging from stock cars, open wheel, and sportscars, picking someone to be Driver of the Year has been a tough task. Before we get to the person who deserves to be Driver of the Year, I will start with the honorable mentions.

Although Juan Pablo Montoya put on a show at the Indianapolis 500 and Scott Dixon won the title, I believe that Graham Rahal was the best IndyCar driver of 2015. Nobody expected a Honda powered team to take the fight to Chevrolet, but Team RLL defeated all of the odds. They came up short of the title, but look for Rahal to be a contender in 2016.

Lewis Hamilton was the best Formula One driver once again. He was able to defeat his Mercedes teammate and rival Nico Rosberg for the world championship. Can anyone challenge the two Mercedes drivers in 2016?

Nelson Piquet Jr. had a spectacular year in the inaugural season of the FIA Formula E Championship. After a close battle with Audi factory driver Lucas di Grassi, Piquet Jr. secured the title at the London ePrix.

Sportscar driver Nick Tandy had a “dream season” for Porsche at Le Mans and in IMSA WeatherTech Championship races. His amazing season started off when he won the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans with Earl Bamber and Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg. Later on, he helped lead Porsche North America to an overall victory at the 2015 Petit Le Mans. The Porsche 911 RSR GTE machine shocked the sportscar racing world as they defeated the mighty prototypes in the wet.

All of those drivers had fantastic seasons, but my pick for Driver of the Year goes to a man who had an unbelievable comeback: Kyle Busch.

I remember sitting on the couch watching the NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway. It was crunch time and the pack was getting tighter. All of a sudden, I saw one car get turned and the Big One had begun! Multi-car crashes are common at restrictor plate races. Cars were slamming into one another, but one car specifically caught my attention. The Number 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry slammed the inside wall in a spot where a SAFER barrier did not exist. I have no idea how Kyle Busch got out of the car on his own power.

The road to recovery proved to be extremely challenging as Busch suffered a broken leg and ankle. I must admit, I was scared when I saw the paramedics place Busch in the ambulance. By looking at his face, it was obvious that he was in a lot of pain. At this point, we did not know the severity of Busch’s injuries. Following surgery, Kyle Busch began intense rehab as he had the desire to get back behind the wheel.

During Busch’s absence, Matt Crafton, David Ragan, and Erik Jones drove the Number 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry. The trio did a fantastic job subbing for the injured Busch. Huge compliments to Kyle Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens for adjusting to having different drivers in the car. I know that he did not expect to work with a total of four drivers in 2015.

After a few months of rehab, Busch returned to the race car sooner than expected. As I heard the news, I wondered if he was making the right decision. This proved to be an amazing choice as Busch won at Sonoma Raceway, which is a road course! How does a driver break his leg and ankle, then come back to win at a road course? For anyone who says that race car drivers are not athletes, please reconsider that thought because you are wrong.

There are many race fans who do not like “Rowdy” because he wins constantly in NASCAR’s second tier series. You might not like him but you have to admit that his story is truly inspiring. There are not many drivers who can recover from severe injuries in months and compete at a high level. Kyle Busch’s first Sprint Cup championship was a feel-good story. Overcoming painful days and nights, becoming a father, and never giving up is the reason why he deserves to be Driver of the Year.

I understand that there is plenty of controversies on whether or not Busch is the rightful champion. He ran less races than any other Chase contender and still beat them in the end. In my opinion, I believe that Busch is definitely a true champion as he demonstrated that becoming a champion is more than just winning races. He did the unthinkable and returned from gruesome injuries, then raced his way to the grand prize. Try to tell me that someone else deserved the championship and I will have a good laugh. Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. ran every single race of the season and each could have easily been champion. Harvick wanted to defend his title, Gordon wanted to go out on top, and a championship from Truex Jr would have been an emotional story. All four contenders had great stories but Kyle Busch’s story is the Comeback of the Year. It would have been nice to see Jeff Gordon go out after a wonderful career, Harvick win back to back championships, or Truex Jr. win after an emotional year. However, Kyle Busch is the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. How could you not love an inspirational comeback story?

Team of the Year: Michael Shank Racing

Photo: http://www.michaelshankracing.com

By: Kobe Lambeth

2015 has been a year full of ups and downs for race teams worldwide. Many found success and others are hoping for a “shiny new year.” After picking one representative from stock car, open wheel, and sportscar racing, I faced the task of picking someone as Team of the Year. Representing NASCAR, Joes Gibbs Racing dominated all season long in the Sprint Cup Series. Their success was led by the inspirational season of Kyle Busch.

Team RLL was easily the shock of the IndyCar world in 2015. I do not think that anyone expected Graham Rahal to have a breakout season. Considering that Honda had a disadvantage, it was amazing to see Team RLL take the fight to the Chevrolet-powered teams.

It was a tough decision, but I decided that IMSA’s Michael Shank Racing deserved the title: Team of the Year.

Deciding between amazing teams from stock cars, open wheel, and sportscar racing was an extremely difficult decision to make. Two honorable mentions are the Porsche LMP1 Team in the FIA World Endurance Championship and Porsche North America in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. I must admit that Porsche had a “dream season,” but Michael Shank Racing best represents what racing is all about.

2015 was the start of many wonderful things for Michael Shank’s squad. The entire sportscar racing world was in shock when the team announced that it would switch from Daytona Prototype machinery to the Ligier JS P2. Moving to an LMP2 car proved to be a smart move as the team swept all Rolex 24 practice sessions, which followed by pole position with Ozz Negri Jr.

The team had a nice consistent race in the Rolex 24, but the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring was a different story. Ozz Negri Jr. had a huge accident which damaged the car’s tub. This was the second big hit for this chassis as it was previously crashed by Gustavo Yacaman who drove for OAK Racing in 2014. Michael Shank Racing fought back from this costly repair as they made the grid at Long Beach.

Many race fans believe that the Daytona Prototypes still hold a significant advantage over the LMP2 cars for various reasons. However, I believe that the cars are as close as they are ever going to get. The thing that people need to consider is that Michael Shank Racing has a Pro-am lineup instead of having two professionals. Go to IMSA’s web page and compare Ozz Negri Jr’s lap times to his teammate John Pew. I believe that John Pew is one of the best amateur drivers in the world, but he has not matched the lap times of professional Joao Barbosa. You cannot expect an amateur driver to match the pace of a driver like Barbosa or Negri Jr. However, John Pew did a fantastic job in 2015 and I expect him to only get faster in 2016. Balance of Performance IS NOT the problem ladies and gentlemen. Lady luck hurt the team in 2015, but Michael Shank is not giving up.

Michael Shank Racing fought through crashes and a tragedy, which led to them being my choice as Team of the Year.

The accident at the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring was nothing compared to the disaster weekend at the 2015 Petit Le Mans. At Road Atlanta, the Number 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2-Honda was involved in multiple incidents. This was a tough weekend for the team as they ordered a new tub for 2016.

Although the team suffered numerous setbacks, Michael Shank will NEVER give up. I have never read about him complaining about Balance of Performance as a reason why his team went winless again in 2015. We all know reasons why the team had a difficult but consistent transition to LMP2 machinery. I know many sportscar racing fans want to blame Balance of Performance, but that is definitely not the problem. Also, having a Pro-am lineup is not a good excuse. Look what Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown did at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2014.

Michael Shank Racing also faced tragedy in August. Long-time endurance driver Justin Wilson was killed in an IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway when debris struck his helmet. Wilson’s death was a shock to the motorsports community worldwide. This led to a debate on whether or not open wheel racing should have closed cockpits. Good thing that the new LMP2 regulations enforce close cockpit prototypes. If we continued with open cockpit LMP2 cars, then we could potentially witness something awful.

The team’s response to Wilson’s death was absolutely heartwarming as they created a tribute livery for the “Gentle Giant.” Justin Wilson did an amazing job for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance races for the past few seasons. I cannot believe that he is no longer with us. The IndyCar and IMSA paddocks will look naked in 2016 without his amazing personality. Wilson was the epitome of the perfect franchise driver who never got the opportunity that he deserved. It was amazing how Wilson drove for smaller teams in IndyCar but performed well against the likes of Penske and Ganassi. Andretti Autosport gave Wilson the best chance to showcase his skills, but it is quite a shame that we did not see him race for them full-time. He was also able to enjoy an overall victory at the Rolex 24 with Ozz Negri Jr, John Pew, and AJ Allmendinger.

Michael Shank has a heart of gold for celebrating the life of Justin Wilson with the tribute livery. It represents who Shank is and explains why his team deserves the title: Team of the Year.

The team looks to improve in 2016 as they prepare for the new Daytona Prototype International (DPi) regulations in 2017. I wish the entire team a successful 2016 season. If the team goes to Le Mans in 2016, I would love to see Stefan Wilson (depends on foolish driver ratings) join Ozz Negri Jr. and John Pew with the tribute livery. Congrats to Michael Shank Racing as they have demonstrated what racing is all about: never let adversity slow your progress and reach out to the motorsports community. Michael Shank is a true inspiration as he symbolizes the message that sportscar racing sends to the world.