Roar Before The Rolex 24 Saturday Notebook
Notebook items include:
- Jani Thriving On The High Banks Of Daytona International Speedway
- Dixon Quickest In GTLM
- Conti Challenge Cars Take To The Track
- Mazdas Bounce Back
Jan. 7, 2016
Steven Cole Smith
IMSA Wire Service
Jani Thriving On The High Banks Of Daytona International Speedway
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Before this week, Swiss driver Neel Jani, pilot of the Gibson-powered No. 13 Rebellion Racing ORECA LM P2 car, had never seen Daytona International Speedway, and had never driven the car he is racing.
But he went out Friday, the first of the three-day Roar Before the Rolex 24 pre-season practice session, and set the fastest overall time.
So we shouldn’t be surprised that Jani also was fastest in two of the three practice sessions on Saturday for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and he didn’t participate in that third session, which was run in the rain. In fact, only 32 of the 55 cars in attendance left the garage to run on the wet pavement. In that session, Ricky Taylor was quickest in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi that he is sharing with brother Jordan, Max Angelelli and four-time NASCAR champ Jeff Gordon.
Jani’s quickest time of the two days came in Saturday’s night practice, where the much cooler air resulted in a best lap of 1 minute, 38.944 seconds, making him the only driver to lap at under 1:39.
Even so, Jani isn’t ready to declare a sure victory in the Rolex 24. “To be honest, I’m not reading too much into it yet. We’ve just been focusing on getting to know the car – it’s completely new,” he said. “Working with the team’s engineers, we’ve made a lot of changes on the car. There’s still some room to improve, but that’s normal. But I don’t think everyone else is really showing what they can do. The main thing for us was working on reliability, and so far it’s great – knock on wood.”
Second-quickest in the night session was Nicolas Lapierre, with a lap of 1:39.461 in the DragonSpeed Oreca P2, followed by Tristan Nunez in the No. 55 Mazda DPi, with a lap of 1:39.612.
In the Prototype Challenge class, Kyle Masson had the best time in the night session with a lap of 1:43.119 in the No. 38 Performance Tech car. In GT Le Mans, Andy Priaulx was fastest in the No. 69 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT with a lap of 1:44.785. And in GT Daytona, the class was led by the number 29 Audi R8 LMS GT3 with a lap of 1:47.723 by driver Christopher Mies.
Two more practice sessions are scheduled for Sunday. It’s the final chance teams to shake down their cars prior to the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 28 and 29.
DIXON QUICKEST IN GTLM: Multi-time IndyCar champ Scott Dixon, who races in that series for team owner Chip Ganassi, has been a part of Ganassi’s development of the Ford GT from the start. So it isn’t surprising that the open-wheel expert is just as impressive in a car with a roof. Dixon laid down a lap of 1:44.558 in the number 67 Ford GT in Saturday’s morning session, the quickest overall of anyone in GTLM.
“Yeah, it was good,” he said. “I think the whole program – especially with the mix of four cars here now – everybody’s been meshing quite well, trying to get through the test plan. Lap times are always funny, especially running here. It’s just maybe you’re in the right spot at the right time.”
After strong storms moved through Friday night and Saturday morning, temperatures dropped from the mid-70s Friday to the mid-40s Saturday afternoon. “Yesterday was a perfect day,” he said, but being able to run on a wet track, and in much cooler temperatures, is good preparation for what could happen in the Rolex 24.
“I think it’s good to have the opportunity to run the car in those options,” he said. “That’s a bonus of having a four-car team – you can really look into those options. But any weather condition, anytime you can be on the track, it’s a good time.”
CONTI CHALLENGE CARS TAKE TO THE TRACK: Twenty-one Grand Sport and 10 Street Tuner cars from the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series are entered in the Roar, preparing for the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge season opener at Daytona on January 27, the official start to Speedweeks.
The size of the GS field suggests that recent rule changes regarding the cars that qualify for the class is a success, as entries include new McLarens, Aston Martins, Porsches and Ford Mustangs.
In the four sessions the Continental Tire Challenge cars have participated in so far, the fastest lap on the 3.56-mile track was a 1:56.125 set in the opening session by Charles Espenlaub in the No. 99 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage. Sessions two and four were led by the number 15 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4, which is the defending champion. Session three, run in the rain, was led by the No. 77 C360 McLaren GT4.
In Street Tuner, the fast lap also came in the first session, where Connor Bloum turned a best lap of 2:04.238 in the RS1 Porsche Cayman, which also led session four, with co-driver Nick Longhi Sessions two and three were led by the No. 56 Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman.
MAZDAS BOUNCE BACK: The two Mazda DPis may bear some resemblance to last year’s cars, but they are all new, and consequently are suffering some teething pains. Suspension and gearbox issues sidelined one of the cars on Friday, necessitating an overnight fix of one of the components for both Mazdas, as well as the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Multimatic/Riley P2 car, which shares the same chassis.
But both Mazdas bounced back on Saturday, with the best showing coming in the fourth session when the No. 55 car, driven by Tristan Nunez, was the second-fastest car in the field, with a best lap of 1:39.157, right behind Neel Jani’s 139.017 in the same session.
In the night session, the No. 55 Mazda was third fastest, and the No. 70 team car was 10th quickest. The new car “is very different to drive,” said Tom Long, who drives the No. 70. “From the way it accelerates, to the way it brakes, it feels very different. It’s a lot of fun, especially at night here at Daytona.”
Roar Before The Rolex 24 Friday Notebook
Notebook items include:
- Rebellion Racing Shines on Opening Day of Roar Before the Rolex 24
- Franchitti Named Rolex 24 Grand Marshal
- Angelelli To Retire
- Eidson First Winner of Haywood Scholarship
- Racing Loses A Big Supporter
Jan. 6, 2016
Steven Cole Smith
IMSA Wire Service
Rebellion Racing Shines on Opening Day of Roar Before the Rolex 24
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Day 1 is in the books at the Roar Before the Rolex 24, the annual test at Daytona International Speedway that allows drivers and teams to prepare for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28 and 29.
Fifty-five cars in the four IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship classes entered the Roar, and almost all of them got in some practice on a warm, sunny day. The weather forecast for Saturday calls for heavy rain, but Sunday, the final day of the Roar, is expected to be clear and very cool.
Neel Jani, driving the No. 13 Rebellion Racing Gibson-powered ORECA LM P2 Prototype, was the fastest car overall in both the morning and afternoon sessions. Jani’s performance was remarkable since he had never seen Daytona International Speedway before, had never driven the Rebellion ORECA before, and had never driven an LM P2 car before.
His first look at the Speedway was daunting – “I saw the steep banking, and I thought, ‘How can you drive on that?’” But Jani, a 33-year-old from Switzerland and the current FIA World Endurance champion, is a quick study.
“This is the first time the car has run,” he said. “We had a lot of issues getting it ready.” But clearly, the Rebellion Racing team did.
His best lap, set in the morning session on a cooler track, was 1 minute, 39.160 seconds. Second was the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Gibson-powered ORECA driven by Mathias Beche, 0.274 seconds back impressive for a brand-new team. Gibson, incidentally, is a racing-only engine built by Gibson Technology in England.
Third overall was the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi with a lap of 1:39.496, set by Ricky Taylor. The LM P2 cars are similar to the LM P2 Prototypes that competed last year; the DPi cars are all-new, replacing the Daytona Prototype. Cadillac has also taken over for Chevrolet as engine supplier for three DPi cars.
Of course, Chevrolet remains deeply involved in the GT Le Mans class – indeed, the fastest lap in GTLM was set by driver Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R. His best lap was time of a 1:44.760, with three of the four Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs lapping second, third and fourth fastest.
The No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09 was quickest in Prototype Challenge, with driver Johnny Mowlem. In GT Daytona, Andrew Davis had the best lap in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS.
In the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, the fastest times were turned in the morning practice session. In the Grand Sport class, the No. 99 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage clocked in the fastest lap time at 1:56.125 with Charles Espenlaub at the wheel, while the No. 18 RS1 Porsche Cayman stood atop the Street Tuner class leaderboard with a lap time of 2:04.238, set by Connor Bloum.
The WeatherTech Championship takes the track first tomorrow at 9:00 a.m, with the Continental Tire Challenge making its first laps of the day at 11:05 a.m.
FRANCHITTI NAMED ROLEX 24 GRAND MARSHAL: Dario Franchitti, winner of three Indianapolis 500s as well as the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona, will be Grand Marshal for the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28-29.
Franchitti will deliver the “Drivers, start your engines” command.
“We’re honored to have Dario Franchitti serve as the Grand Marshal for the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona,” Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said. “Dario has had a decorated career in open-wheel racing and conquered sports car racing’s grueling twice-around-the-clock challenge in 2008.”
Franchitti and co-drivers Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Juan Pablo Montoya took the overall victory in the 2008 Rolex 24 driving for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Franchitti also has a class win in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida. Franchitti retired from competition in 2013 but is still active in the sport, serving as a team advisor for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
ANGELELLI TO RETIRE: Veteran racer Max Angelelli announced that he will retire after the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona. A longtime stalwart with Wayne Taylor Racing, Max “the Axe” is back with the same team, along with brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, the full-season drivers, and for the Rolex 24, four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon.
Angelelli, 50, could go out on top – Wayne Taylor Racing is considered a favorite, based in part on extensive pre-season testing.
EIDSON FIRST WINNER OF HAYWOOD SCHOLARSHIP: Jake Eidson, 21, from Littleton, Colorado, is the winner of the Hurley Haywood GT3 Cup Scholarship from IMSA, Porsche and Yokohama.
Eidson’s prize is a season in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series. Eidson will start the season in March at Sebring International Raceway, the same weekend as the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, driving in the Platinum Cup class for defending team champions Kelly-Moss Road and Race.
Eidson is the first recipient of the Haywood Scholarship, which was expanded from a program IMSA, Porsche and Yokohama started in 2014. Haywood, of course, is the legendary sports car racer who has five victories in the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona, three wins at Sebring and two at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, usually driving a Porsche.
Eidson, who has spent most of his young career in open-wheel racing, is delighted with the opportunity.
“The support from IMSA, Porsche and Yokohama made the difference of whether or not I could race this season,” he said. “Their support means everything. I’m extremely excited and thankful for everything they have provided.”
The scholarship is worth $70,000 and includes a full-season entry in the Porsche GT3 Cup USA series, $20,000 in parts credit from Porsche Motorsport North America, one set of Yokohama tires for each race, a tool credit from Sonic Tools, a complete OMP driver suit – which was presented to Eidson by Haywood and IMSA President Scott Atherton during Friday’s press conference at Daytona – and promotional consideration by RACER Magazine.
Aspiring racers between the ages of 16 and 25, with no previous full-time Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA experience, are eligible to earn the scholarship. Previous IMSA Scholarship recipients were Victor Gomez IV (2016), Elliott Skeer (2015) and Michael Lewis (2014), all of whom remain active in North American sports car racing.
RACING LOSES A BIG SUPPORTER: Racers received sad news upon arrival at Daytona International Speedway: Longtime sports car racer and official Carl Jensen, 74, passed away, reportedly as he was preparing to come to the Roar.
Jensen began racing in 1964 with a Triumph TR-3, and 45 years later was still driving a GT-1 Chevrolet Corvette in SCCA Nationals. He also raced in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and La Carrera Panamericana.
Jensen was deeply involved in vintage racing, where he drove a 1969 Camaro and served as an official for vintage racing organizations, as well as for the Road America track. Jensen was a familiar figure at sports car races of all kinds, typically aboard his back scooter, long white hair flying.
“He was family to us, a member of a long-standing kinship amongst racers and promoters throughout the country,” said Road America President and General Manager George Bruggenthies. “He’s been racing at and a part of Road America for so many years.To say he played an integral role in our success, especially with planning and officiating our vintage racing events, would be an understatement.”
“Carl was a great guy,” said Bill Riley, president of Riley Technologies, the car-building and engineering firm. “He was always cheerful, always fun to be around. It’s a great loss.”
Jensen is survived by his wife, Ellie, and two brothers.
Rolex 24 At DAYTONA Schedule
*schedule subject to change
NASCAR Announces Multi-Year Partnership with Monster Energy
for Premier Series Entitlement
Brand Becomes Official Energy Drink of NASCAR, NASCAR All-Star Race Title Sponsor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (December 1, 2016) — NASCAR and Monster Energy announced today a multi-year agreement for the premier series entitlement as well as the prestigious annual NASCAR All-Star Race. Monster Energy, which will begin its tenure as naming rights partner on Jan. 1, 2017, will become only the third company to serve as the entitlement sponsor in NASCAR premier series history, following RJ Reynolds and Sprint/Nextel.
As part of the agreement, the brand also becomes the Official Energy Drink of NASCAR.
“Monster Energy is a brand built on excitement and enthusiasm, qualities that align with NASCAR,” said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. “This sponsorship position is the most unique in all of sports and entertainment, and we are thrilled to have a partner that will help us further elevate the series. Today’s announcement is the culmination of a thorough search, one that resulted in the right partner at this important time in our sport’s history.”
NASCAR premier series races long have been a bucket-list destination for sports fans throughout the country, and starting next season, Monster Energy will elevate the event experience to an even higher level. As part of the agreement, Monster Energy will engage with fans in creative, innovative ways at all race tracks where the premier series will race.
“Monster Energy has an established and versatile history in motorsports, and we’re thrilled to take this historic next step,” said Rodney Sacks, Monster Beverage Chairman and CEO. “We feel strongly that our brand is a perfect fit for this sport and its star athletes. We look forward to interacting with the millions of passionate NASCAR fans week-in, week out.”
Jimmie Johnson wins at Homestead to claim record-tying seventh title
November 20, 2016
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Homestead, Fla. – Call him Seven-Time.
Jimmie Johnson joined NASCAR’s most exclusive club on Sunday, winning the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to claim his seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, putting the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on par with icons Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
“You’re a good man, you’re a great champion, and now you’re a seven-time champion,” crew chief Chad Knaus radioed to Johnson, who grabbed the lead from Kyle Larson through Turns 1 and 2 during the first and only attempt at a two-lap overtime.
Johnson pulled away to win by .466 seconds. Polesitter Kevin Harvick ran third, followed by Championship 4 contender Joey Logano, who finished second in the final standings on the strength of his fourth-place run.
“Oh, my gosh, there is no, no way on earth,” said Johnson, who picked up his first victory at Homestead, his fifth of the season and the 80th of his career. “Just beyond words. Just didn’t think the race was unfolding for us like we needed to be the champs, but we just kept our heads in the game. Chad called a great strategy, made some great adjustments for the short runs.
“Luck came our way and we were able to win the race and win the championship. So grateful for the opportunity, and so thankful and blessed. I am at a loss for words.”
Until the closing laps, Johnson seemed the least likely of the four finalists to win the championship. Carl Edwards was leading on Lap 252 of a scheduled 267 when Dylan Lupton’s contact with the Turn 2 wall caused the fifth caution of the race.
On the subsequent restart, Edwards tried to block Logano into Turn 1, and the resulting nine-car wreck left Edwards’ No. 19 Toyota crippled against the outside wall. The wreck knocked Edwards out of the race and left him fourth in the final standings.
Kyle Busch restarted next to Johnson on the inside of the second row on Lap 263—after the accident that ended Edwards’ night—but Logano, who had pitted for fresh tires on Lap 260, surged forward as Busch slipped back.
Larson, who led a race-high 132 laps, held the top spot with Johnson in second and Logano closing in third when Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s Ford nosed hard into the inside wall off Turn 2 to cause the seventh and final caution on Lap 263.
On the ensuing overtime restart, Johnson started second to the inside of Larson, and cleared the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet through the first corner. Logano slipped to fourth and out of the championship picture.
“That last restart, I was hoping to get Jimmie there and trying to get either to the inside or outside of him,” Logano said. “I just timed it a little bit wrong to get underneath him. I bumped him at the start/finish line, and I just didn’t have enough time to get under him.
“We lost some time there, and unfortunately we finish second. The championship means so much and everyone forgets about second place. That’s what stinks. But overall I’m proud of this team. This will be motivation for next year. This hurts.”
Busch restarted 13th in the overtime after pitting for fresh tires, charged up to sixth over the final two laps and finished third in the championship standings.
“All in all, we fought hard tonight,” said Busch, the defending series champion. “We gave it everything we had. We didn’t come in here with the greatest race car today, but we knew that we had enough of a one that we could run with those guys, and we showed that when the lights came on.
Johnson, who didn’t lead a lap until he beat Larson to the stripe on the final restart, had to overcome more than his share of adversity to reach his holy grail. In the first place, he surrendered his 14th-place starting position and took the green flag from the rear of the field after NASCAR discovered unapproved modifications to the “A” posts of the No. 48 Chevy during pre-race inspection.
By the time the first caution flag waved on Lap 27, however, Johnson had driven up to 17th place. But less-than-stellar pit stops kept him mired in traffic behind the other three championship contenders for the majority of the race—until an adjustment under caution on Lap 172 brought his car to life.
Notes: Tony Stewart finished 22nd, two laps down in his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race… Toyota won its first manufacturers championship in the series, in the car maker’s 10th season in NASCAR’s top division.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Ford EcoBoost 400
Sunday, November 20, 2016
- (14) Jimmie Johnson (C), Chevrolet, 268.
- (24) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 268.
- (1) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 268.
- (13) Joey Logano (C), Ford, 268.
- (15) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 268.
- (9) Kyle Busch (C), Toyota, 268.
- (7) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 268.
- (12) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 268.
- (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 268.
- (26) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 268.
- (5) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 268.
- (17) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 268.
- (16) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 268.
- (28) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 268.
- (22) Brian Scott #, Ford, 268.
- (19) Alex Bowman(i), Chevrolet, 268.
- (21) Greg Biffle, Ford, 267.
- (23) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 267.
- (30) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 266.
- (20) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 266.
- (32) Landon Cassill, Ford, 266.
- (11) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 266.
- (33) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 266.
- (27) Chris Buescher #, Ford, 266.
- (3) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, Accident, 264.
- (8) * Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 264.
- (31) * Matt DiBenedetto(i), Toyota, 264.
- (40) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 264.
- (36) David Ragan, Toyota, 264.
- (18) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, Accident, 262.
- (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt #, Toyota, 261.
- (37) * Reed Sorenson, Toyota, 259.
- (34) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 258.
- (10) Carl Edwards (C), Toyota, Accident, 257.
- (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 257.
- (6) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, Accident, 257.
- (29) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 257.
- (35) * Regan Smith, Chevrolet, Accident, 255.
- (39) Dylan Lupton(i), Ford, 250.
- (25) Aric Almirola, Ford, 213.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 128.869 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 07 Mins, 10 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.466 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 7 for 33 laps.
Lead Changes: 20 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Harvick 1-31; C. Edwards (C) 32-34; K. Harvick 35-67; C. Edwards (C) 68-70; K. Harvick 71-85; J. Logano (C) 86-91; C. Edwards (C) 92-117; K. Larson 118-121; C. Edwards (C) 122-125; K. Larson 126-135; C. Edwards (C) 136-143; K. Larson 144-154; C. Edwards (C) 155; K. Larson 156-172; C. Edwards (C) 173; K. Larson 174-208; C. Edwards (C) 209; K. Larson 210-253; K. Busch (C) 254; K. Larson 255-265; J. Johnson (C) 266-268.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Larson 7 times for 132 laps; K. Harvick 3 times for 79 laps; C. Edwards (C) 8 times for 47 laps; J. Logano (C) 1 time for 6 laps; J. Johnson (C) 1 time for 3 laps; K. Busch (C) 1 time for 1 lap.
Top 16 in Points: J. Johnson (C) – 5,040; J. Logano (C) – 5,037; K. Busch (C) – 5,035; C. Edwards (C) – 5,007; M. Kenseth – 2,330; D. Hamlin – 2,320; K. Busch – 2,296; K. Harvick – 2,289; K. Larson – 2,288; C. Elliott # – 2,285; M. Truex Jr. – 2,271; B. Keselowski – 2,267; J. McMurray – 2,231; A. Dillon – 2,223; T. Stewart – 2,211; C. Buescher # – 2,169.
Jimmie Johnson Makes History,
Wins Record-Tying Seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship
Ties Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for Most Premier Series Championships
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 20, 2016) – History has been made.
Jimmie Johnson captured his record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with a stirring victory Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, tying NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt atop the all-time list.
Sunday’s win was Johnson’s 80th career victory.
To win the 2016 championship, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet outdueled the other Championship 4 drivers Joey Logano (fourth), Kyle Busch (sixth) and Carl Edwards (34th) at Homestead.
It was a year of sevens for Johnson, who took over sole possession of seventh place on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series all-time wins list after his win at Auto Club Speedway earlier this season. His wins at Atlanta and Auto Club catapulted him into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Johnson breezed through the first round of the Chase, logging his two highest laps led totals of the season to that point at Chicagoland and Dover. When the Round of 12 rolled around, he added his all-time track-record eighth win at Charlotte, leading a race-high 155 laps on the way to a Round of 8 berth. Johnson was the first to lock up a spot in the Championship 4, winning at Martinsville Speedway for the ninth time.
At the age of 41, Johnson becomes the youngest seven-time champion. Petty was 42 when he captured his seventh title in 1979; Earnhardt was 43 in 1994.
All seven of Johnson’s championships were won under team owner Rick Hendrick and with crew chief Chad Knaus.
Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, captured his record-extending 12th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Along with Johnson’s seven titles, Hendrick has won championships with Jeff Gordon (four) and Terry Labonte (one).
Knaus cemented his legacy as one of the top crew chiefs in NASCAR history with his seventh title, one shy of the all-time record held by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Inman.
Also on Sunday, Chase Elliott was named Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award.
Mexico’s Daniel Suarez wins NASCAR XFINITY Series championship with victory at Homestead
November 19, 2016
By Red Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Daniel Suarez streaked away from Elliott Sadler after the final restart in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and three laps later, NASCAR had its first foreign-born national touring series champion.
Ultimately, the 24-year-old driver from Monterrey, Mexico beat Ty Dillon to the finish line by .968 seconds. Sadler, who had taken two tires and gained the second position on a Lap 193 pit stop, came home third and finished second in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase.
“It’s very hard to put into words,” said Suarez, who led 133 of 200 laps on the way to his third victory of the season and his 19th top five in 33 starts this year. “I’m speechless right now. I’m just very proud of everyone and thankful to have the family that I have – my mom, my dad. They gave me all the tools to be here right now.
“They put me in a car even when we didn’t have the support or the racing background. They supported me, and right now we are just living a dream.”
Suarez was leading fellow Championship 4 contender and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones by less than three car-lengths when Ray Black Jr. spun off Turn 4 to bring out the seventh and final caution on Lap 190.
Under the yellow on Lap 193, lead-lap cars came to pit road for tires, but the No. 14 Toyota of Cole Whitt stayed on the track on old tires and inherited the lead, while Sadler’s two-tire stop put the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet on the inside of the front row.
Coming to the green on Lap 198, Whitt stalled out in the top lane, pinning Jones behind him and costing him any shot at the championship. Suarez rocketed past Sadler into Turn 1 and pulled away for the victory and the championship.
“I should have made a better block on Daniel,” Sadler said ruefully. “We didn’t know that 14 would stay out and jumble up that restart like that. I wish I’d done a better job on that restart. I guess I’ll be ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ for a while…
“I knew Daniel had a better car on four tires, but I wish I could have put up a better fight.”
Sadler came to Homestead with Mike Bumgarner on his pit box after full-time crew chief Kevin Meendering was suspended for a lug nut violation last weekend in Phoenix.
Justin Allgaier came home sixth and claimed third place in the final series standings. Jones ran ninth, finished fourth in the XFINITY standings and remained mystified at Whitt’s decision to stay out on old tires for the final restart.
“I’d love to hear an explanation from him, from the crew chief,” Jones said. “It just didn’t make any sense. He was staying out there on old tires with four guys, literally almost the top four was the four championship guys racing for it.
“Yeah, I’d definitely love to hear exactly what their thoughts were or what happened, why he didn’t go in the restart box. Yeah, there’s a lot of questions that I have that I would love to have answered.”
Note: Suarez also delivered the owner championship to Joe Gibbs Racing via his No. 19 Toyota, and his JGR teammate, Erik Jones, won the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Ford EcoBoost 300
Saturday, November 19, 2016
- (1) Daniel Suarez (C), Toyota, 200.
- (11) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
- (2) Elliott Sadler (C), Chevrolet, 200.
- (4) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 200.
- (5) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 200.
- (6) Justin Allgaier (C), Chevrolet, 200.
- (7) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 200.
- (14) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 200.
- (3) Erik Jones (C) #, Toyota, 200.
- (15) Aric Almirola(i), Ford, 200.
- (9) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 200.
- (23) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 200.
- (19) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 200.
- (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 200.
- (10) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 200.
- (13) Ryan Reed, Ford, 200.
- (18) Cole Custer(i), Chevrolet, 200.
- (16) Cole Whitt(i), Toyota, 200.
- (25) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 199.
- (12) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 199.
- (26) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 199.
- (20) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 199.
- (31) Brandon Brown(i), Chevrolet, 198.
- (27) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 198.
- (39) Matt Tifft(i), Toyota, 197.
- (35) Travis Kvapil(i), Ford, 196.
- (17) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 196.
- (30) Ray Black Jr #, Chevrolet, 195.
- (28) Garrett Smithley #, Chevrolet, 195.
- (34) Brandon Hightower, Dodge, 195.
- (29) BJ McLeod #, Ford, 195.
- (40) Jeff Green, Ford, 194.
- (38) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, 193.
- (37) Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, 189.
- (21) Corey LaJoie, Toyota, Oil Leak, 167.
- (22) Jordan Anderson(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 134.
- (33) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, Ignition, 87.
- (36) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, Overheating, 49.
- (32) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Brakes, 43.
- (24) Matt DiBenedetto(i), Toyota, Vibration, 2.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 116.455 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 34 Mins, 34 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.968 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 7 for 39 laps.
Lead Changes: 21 among 11 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Suarez (C) 1-22; K. Larson(i) 23-26; T. Kvapil(i) 27; T. Hill(i) 28-30; K. Larson(i) 31-35; D. Suarez (C) 36-79; J. Allgaier (C) 80; R. Sieg 81; K. Larson(i) 82-95; T. Dillon 96-99; D. Suarez (C) 100-113; T. Dillon 114-126; D. Suarez (C) 127-137; A. Almirola(i) 138-142; D. Suarez (C) 143-151; J. Allgaier (C) 152-156; E. Jones (C) # 157-159; A. Almirola(i) 160-163; D. Suarez (C) 164-193; C. Whitt(i) 194-196; E. Sadler (C) 197; D. Suarez (C) 198-200.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): D. Suarez (C) 7 times for 133 laps; K. Larson(i) 3 times for 23 laps; T. Dillon 2 times for 17 laps; A. Almirola(i) 2 times for 9 laps; J. Allgaier (C) 2 times for 6 laps; T. Hill(i) 1 time for 3 laps; E. Jones (C) # 1 time for 3 laps; C. Whitt(i) 1 time for 3 laps; T. Kvapil(i) 1 time for 1 lap; E. Sadler (C) 1 time for 1 lap; R. Sieg 1 time for 1 lap.
Top 10 in Points: D. Suarez (C) – 4,040; E. Sadler (C) – 4,038; J. Allgaier (C) – 4,035; E. Jones (C) # – 4,032; T. Dillon – 2,214; R. Reed – 2,205; B. Koch – 2,200; B. Poole # – 2,192; R. Sieg – 2,171; B. Jones # – 2,168.