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No. 7 Penske Porsche Leads Rolex 24 at Six-Hour Mark

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Credit: IMSA News Wire

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Cadillac generally set the pace in the first quarter of the 62nd running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, continuing its dominance of practice and qualifying. But Porsche came on strong in the sixth hour, with Matt Campbell in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 holding an 11.392-second lead over the Motul Pole Award winning No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R at the six-hour mark.

 

Continue to follow all the action of the Rolex 24 on the NBC Sports platforms. USA Network resumes coverage at 10 p.m. ET Saturday until midnight, then returns from 6 a.m.-noon Sunday. NBC network picks it up from there, airing the race conclusion live from noon-2 p.m. Sunday. The entire race streams live on Peacock.

 

All 10 cars in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class remained on the lead lap after six hours. Felipe Nasr ran in second place for the first two hours in the No. 7 Porsche before dropping down the order as the team concentrated on saving new sets of tires for later in the race. Most competitors attempted to run double or even triple stints on tires in the early hours with tire conservation in mind.

 

“In the heat of the day, (Cadillac) seems to have an advantage, especially under braking and traction,” Nasr related. “They seem to handle better in those two areas. They have the upper hand now, but ask me in a few hours and we might have a different answer.”

 

Cadillac Racing’s No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing led the majority of the first quarter of the classic endurance contest in the hands of drivers Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon and Alex Palou. But the 01 was shuffled back to fourth place during a full-course caution late in the fifth hour as the No. 7 fought back into contention.

 

“We knew we were going to have a fight, and we do,” Bourdais said. “I think the car shows that it’s got plenty of pace; I’ve never been in doubt of that. We knew we had the strong package as far as optimizing the performance level we have at our disposal, but it won’t be easy if it comes down to a drag race in the last 30 minutes.”

 

Porsche was the only Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) manufacturer that did not lead laps in the first five hours of the race, which started under sunny skies with a temperature of 80 degrees. But Campbell passed the No. 31 Cadillac in the hands of two-time defending Rolex 24 winner Tom Blomqvist a couple laps after the fourth caution of the event, some five hours and 20 minutes into the race.

 

Cadillac drivers remained confident that they could respond to the Porsche threat as the race unfolds.

 

“Obviously, we were good in qualifying already and the race is proving to be a similar situation with the field that we look to be good on pace,” said Jack Aitken, co-driver of the No. 31 with Blomqvist and Pipo Derani. “But the Porsches especially and the BMWs are not far behind. And even when we get behind the Acuras, it’s not easy to pass.”

 

The six-hour point of the Rolex 24 also marked the first points distribution for the 2024 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup. The other class leaders at six hours were: No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR ORECA LMP2 07 in Le Mans Prototype 2; No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 in Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO); and No. 32 Korthoff/Preston Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 in Grand Touring Daytona (GTD).

 

No. 40 WTRAndretti Acura Recovers from Power Steering Issue

 

The No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 lost a lap when it experienced a power steering failure in the fourth hour. But the team was able to take advantage of a full-course caution to get back in touch with the leaders with Colton Herta at the wheel.

 

“I think we’re competitive; I’m not incredibly overjoyed, but we’re not doing terrible at the moment,” said Herta, who serves as the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup driver in the No. 40 alongside full-time pilots Jordan Taylor and Louis Deletraz, joined by Jenson Button at the Rolex 24. “We got the power steering fixed very quickly and we should be able to fight. I was able to pass some of the guys that seemed to be struggling more than us.”

 

Herta also dodged a bullet when he and the No. 023 Triarsi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 came together in the Le Mans Chicane five hours into the race. The Ferrari sustained rear-end damage but made it back to the pits for repairs. The No. 40 Acura went off course but Herta was able to steady it and get back on track without issue.

Westbrook Uses His Toolbox to Improve Car

 

Richard Westbrook praised the adjustability of the high-tech GTP class cars following his opening stint in the No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963.

 

Westbrook, who earned a Rolex 24 class win in 2018, was astounded how poorly his 2024 car handled at the start of the race. But he was able to use the many technological tools available to GTP drivers to tune the car into the race conditions.

 

“The first stint was terrible, if I’m honest,” Westbrook assessed. “We changed nothing (during a pit stop), and then the car was good! I mean, it was just the controls in the car. It was a really good lesson for me about how to handle the 963 over a stint. We completely changed the balance in the car. It was so far off at the beginning, locking the rear brakes up into Turn 1, but the car just seemed to gain pace and I really enjoyed it.”

 

Misfortune Strikes Early for No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus, No. 11 TDS Racing LMP2

 

The No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, the reigning GTD PRO champion team and class leader through 18 of the first 24 laps Saturday, was the first frontrunner to hit trouble, just under an hour into the race. Mike Conway, a two-time champion for Toyota in the FIA World Endurance Championship, was at the wheel and leading the class when the No. 20 MDK by High Class Racing LMP2 class entry driven by Dennis Andersen spun exiting Turn 2. Following closely, Conway was unable to avoid a collision and the Lexus sustained heavy frontal damage. After an hour in the garage undergoing repairs, the Lexus returned to competition more than 30 laps down.

 

Two hours into the race, Steven Thomas was uninjured when the No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA LMP2 07 he was driving crashed hard into the SAFER barrier exiting the Le Mans Chicane on the backstretch of the Daytona oval. The car sustained heavy front and rear damage and was the first entry officially eliminated from the race.

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Halfway Home, No. 31 Cadillac Leads Rolex 24

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The 62nd Rolex 24 At Daytona reached an exciting midpoint early this morning with fireworks erupting on and off the track. After 12 hours of the renowned endurance sports car race at Daytona International Speedway, Jack Aitken had the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R in the race lead.

Aitken was 1.763 seconds ahead of Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 as the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener sped into the overnight hours. Live streaming coverage of the race continues on Peacock through the checkered flag at 1:40 p.m. ET. USA Network rejoins the action from 6 a.m. to noon, with NBC network picking up from there until 2 p.m.

The No. 31 Whelen Cadillac, the reigning Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) champion, swapped the lead with the No. 7 Porsche Penske entry throughout the second six hours of the race. Aitken passed No. 7 driver Dane Cameron while the two negotiated through slower traffic on Lap 362 and still held the top spot 23 laps later at the 12-hour mark.

Aitken is co-driving the No. 31 with Pipo Derani and Tom Blomqvist, the latter seeking a third straight Rolex 24 overall victory that would tie him with Helio Castroneves for the most in a row.

Meanwhile, several other GTP competitors suffered issues that removed their chance to contend for the win or put that chance in peril.

Just more than eight hours from the start, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 with driver Filipe Albuquerque slowed to a stop on track, bringing out the eighth full-course caution of the race. The car was carried on a flatbed truck to the garage area where it underwent a lengthy diagnosis before the team worked to replace the wiring harness. After a 90-minute repair, the No. 10 returned to the track but was nearly 100 laps off the pace.

“I started feeling something burning in the Bus Stop (Le Mans Chicane),” Albuquerque said. “I thought it was a GT (car) in front and said nothing, but then after I passed it the smell was the same. Then when I put it in seventh gear on the straight line, the engine died. I lost all the power in the car, all the systems.”

The No. 10’s sister car, the No. 40 WTRAndretti Acura, suffered what appeared to be a similar issue just before the 12-hour juncture when it came to a stop on track with Louis Deletraz at the wheel. But with help from the track safety crew, Deletraz restarted the car and lost just a lap.

Shortly after racing restarted following the caution for the No. 10, Sebastien Bourdais became a passenger in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R after the car sustained a punctured tire from running over debris. Bourdais slid off track and managed to stop the car just shy of hitting the tire barrier, but by the time he limped the car back to pit lane for a tire change, the No. 01 was two laps down. The No. 01 was still a lap behind the leaders at the 12-hour mark.

Other class leaders after 12 hours of racing were: the No. 52 Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 in Le Mans Prototype 2, the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 in GT Daytona Pro and the No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 EVO in GT Daytona.

The Rolex 24 also serves as the first of five races making up the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup. Points are awarded at designated junctures of each endurance race. With points given at the six- and 12-hour marks at Daytona, the Michelin Endurance Cup class leaders are: the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac in GTP; a tie between the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR and No. 52 Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports in LMP2; a three-way tie among the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3, No. 4 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Corvette Z06 GT3.R and No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 in GTD PRO; and a tie between the No. 32 Korthoff/Preston Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 and No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 EVO in GTD.

Michelin Endurance Cup points will be given again at the 18-hour mark and at the race finish.

Jenson Button, NASCAR Driver?

Jenson Button, the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion, got his first taste of Rolex 24 racing with a triple stint in the middle of the night in the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 that he’s sharing with Deletraz, Jordan Taylor and Colton Herta. Overall, Button was pleased with his effort other than a short off-track excursion after light contact with the No. 3 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Corvette Z06 GT3.R driven by Alexander Sims.

“This is my first Rolex 24 so getting used to it out there is nuts!” Button said when he visited the DIS media center just before midnight. “You’re playing chicken at sort of 200 miles an hour so it’s a big learning curve, but I enjoyed it.

“It’s action-packed; it’s never-ending out there. You think you’ve passed everyone and you get some clear air, and then suddenly they’re all there again. There’s not a lot of break out there.”

But Button added that he wouldn’t change the whole Rolex 24 experience for anything.

“It’s a great event, I love the build-up to it. It’s busy for the drivers before the race but it doesn’t matter. The whole thing is about the fan interaction and being able to get up close with drivers. If you come here as a fan, you see the most amazing cars. But also you see drivers from endurance racing, you see drivers from IndyCar, from F1, from NASCAR. I mean, there’s so many different drivers here and so many super-talented guys racing in this race. It’s a special one, especially this year, I think.”

Button has thoroughly enjoyed that fan interaction, particularly since so many have become his newer fans after he was part of last year’s NASCAR Garage 56 program that competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He’s noticed its effect at Daytona.

“I would say half of the autographs I’ve signed have been NASCAR pictures of me,” he said with a chuckle. “So yeah, I’m a NASCAR driver. Forget the 17 years in F1. NASCAR, yeah!”

Turnstyle Atop GTD Leaderboard

Not unexpectedly, the GTD class featured a spirited battle for the lead among several cars in the second six hours. The No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, No. 32 Korthoff/Preston Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, No. 47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari 296 GT3, No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 and No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 EVO each took turns at the head of the class through the nighttime hours.

“I did my first long stint, which was nice, and doing my first racing laps of the season,” said Maximilian Goetz, who drives the No. 32 Mercedes with Mike Skeen, Mikael Grenier and Kenton Koch. “I was obviously in a fight with other brands, so actually it was a nice stint and it was the first taste of what we have to expect in the next hours.

“I had some great fights and there was really a great respect out there, I have to say, between all the categories. It’s good to fight with so many different brands and great drivers (from) around the world. If you see the lineups, there’s nothing to add. It’s the best of the best.”

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Chris Buescher Wins, Bubba Wallace Clinches Playoffs at Daytona’s Coke Zero 400

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Photo Credit: Rafael Crisostomo

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Florida National News) – Chris Buescher has won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, and Bubba Wallace has secured the 16th and final spot in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. This will be Wallace’s first time racing for a championship.

Chris Buescher in Victory Lane after the Coke Zero 400. Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Wallace had entered the race in 16th place, but a victory from a driver below the cut line could have knocked him out of the playoffs. An early accident took out several drivers including Ty Gibbs, Ryan Blaney, and several others. A spectacular crash late in the race by Ryan Preece had him flipping at least ten times over the grass. Fortunately, he was able to exit the vehicle.

Bubba Wallace clinches Playoffs. Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

The sixteen drivers in the Playoffs include the points leaders William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Bubba Wallace.

NASCAR’s first Playoffs Round of Sixteen race takes place next weekend at Darlington, Sunday, September 3rd. Each three-week round of the playoffs will reduce the field by four drivers, leading up to the Season Finale on Sunday, Nov. 5th at Phoenix Raceway, featuring the final four drivers competing for the NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Be sure to stay tuned to Florida National News (www.FloridaNationalNews.com) and Florida Sports Channel (www.FloridaSportsChannel.com) for more.

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DAYTONA 200 Presented by Comoto, DAYTONA TT Set for Saturday Doubleheader

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Racers bend the corner in their bid for the trophy during the 2019 Daytona 200. Photo: Willie David/Florida National News.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Source: Daytona International Speedway // A first-time Bike Week At DAYTONA doubleheader is set for Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, with the 79th annual DAYTONA 200 presented by Comoto pairing with the DAYTONA TT for a unique day-night experience.

 

The DAYTONA 200 leads off with an 11 a.m. green flag. The historic 57-lap/200-mile race – which dates to 1936 when it was run on the old Daytona Beach-Road Course – is contested on the speedway’s 3.51-mile road course configuration with 600cc sportsbikes. The DAYTONA 200, first held at the speedway in 1961, is sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and operated by the American Sportbike Racing Association (ASRA).

 

The event will feature a $175,000 purse along with a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watch awarded to the champion of the race. Six DAYTONA 200 former champions are featured in the nearly 70-rider entry list including defending champion Kyle Wyman, four-time champion Danny Eslick, 2016 champion Michael Barnes, 2011 champion Jason DiSalvo, 2010 champion Josh Herrin and 1989 champion John Ashmead, who is also the all-time event mileage leader.

In addition, four-time AMA Superbike champion Josh Hayes will compete as he chases his first DAYTONA 200 triumph.

The DAYTONA TT is the season-opening race on the American Flat Track (AFT) schedule. Action begins at 4:10 p.m. on Saturday with practice and qualifying sessions. First heat events start at 7. Two classes will compete: AFT SuperTwins presented by Vance & Hines and AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys.

 

Five-time DAYTONA 200 champion Scott Russell will serve as the Grand Marshal for the DAYTONA TT.

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