Sunday, Jan 23
Adam Sinclair

Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.

Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network. 

Contact Adam: Email  

  

 
By David Phillips
IMSA Wire Service
 
 
 By any measure, Action Express Racing has enjoyed a successful 2021 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship campaign, what with three wins and a pair of second places in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
 
That record places drivers Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani and the No. 31 within striking distance of the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) driver and team championships, as they trail Ricky Taylor, Felipe Albuquerque and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 by just 19 points heading to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for the Motul Petit Le Mans season finale next week.
 
Although no small measure of the team’s success stems from the talents of its drivers, mechanics, engineers and the potent Cadillac, race fans might be surprised to learn another element to Action Express’ banner season is the key role it played in the development of NASCAR’s Next Gen (Gen-7) car scheduled to begin Cup Series competition in 2022. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say the Next Gen program helped keep the doors open at AXR during the pandemic-influenced days of 2020 and enabled the team to hit the ground running this year.
 
“Every schedule was changing when COVID hit last year, and so I wanted to keep our shop open,” AXR team manager Gary Nelson says. “I knew shutting down, it’s a lot harder to start it back up, especially with people needing jobs for their families (and possibly moving to) other states.
 
“So we split our team 50/50. Half of the guys worked for two weeks and the others were off for two weeks, and we would alternate that way. That way if one guy got COVID, he would know that within two weeks and that group could be separated rather than the whole team being taken out. We had such a great group – it’s so hard to get a good group and you certainly don’t want to see it go away.
 
“Then I had to find things to do to keep the team going. A lot of the teams were not able to stay open at all, so there was no work being done on the NASCAR Gen-7 car. So I asked NASCAR if we could take that project on and they said yes because nobody had put together a road course version of it yet, and we’re road racers.”
 
Under Nelson’s direction, AXR constructed a chassis to Next Gen specs, equipped it with a generic body and tested it on the Daytona International Speedway road course in Nasr’s hands in July 2020. Subsequently, AXR developed the car to the point that it could be rapidly changed from road course to oval specifications, and vice versa. Later that summer, several NASCAR drivers tested the AXR-developed Next Gen car at Charlotte Motor Speedway, first on the ROVAL and then the oval. 
 
“We’re road-race experts, so first time out we focused on the road-race car,” Nelson explains. “Then we said, ‘If we were going to convert it to an oval car, what would we need to do?’ 
 
“NASCAR was very interested in running the same car on the oval track that you could on the road course. A race car is a race car: steering wheel, engine, four tires and a body, but you adjust differently for an oval since you’re only turning one direction. By the time we went to Charlotte, we were able to switch it over in a day.”
 
The AXR “road-race experts” had a little help when it came to developing the oval version of the Next Gen car. 
 
“The NASCAR guys came to our shop almost daily and so we were able to tap into the current practices,” says Nelson, whose resume reads like a greatest hits of NASCAR, including stints as chief mechanic at DiGard Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Sabco Racing before he was named NASCAR Cup Series director and, later, NASCAR Vice President of Research and Development. Thus, he says overseeing development of the oval-spec Next Gen car was “like riding a bicycle.”  
 
The Next Gen project has, of course, progressed from those early efforts by Action Express. Likewise, Nelson and AXR have moved on from the days when the project provided a lifeline.
 
“We were happy to help out,” says Nelson. “I think the (Next Gen) project has moved on now to where they’re getting the car to all of the teams, all of the teams are open again and they’re building their own cars. But in that interim period, we needed to keep our guys working and the NASCAR folks needed some work to get done, so that worked out pretty well for both of us.
 
“And when it was time to go racing again (in IMSA), everybody was current. We knew how much fuel was in the hauler, we knew the uniforms were at the dry cleaners, we knew all the names were right, so when we ramped up, everybody could hit the ground running.”
 
In fact, they’re still running. The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi will be out to give the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura a run for the money and the championship at the Motul Petit Le Mans.
Andersen Promotions today unveiled the 2022 schedule for the launch of its highly anticipated new series – USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires – a professionally managed entry level series with the goal of preparing drivers for the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, the stepping stone to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. USF Juniors will feature a prize package exceeding $325,000 which includes a scholarship valued at more than $200,000 to advance to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first step on the driver development ladder.
 
The 2022 schedule will feature six events and 16 races in total, held in conjunction with USAC (Porsche Sprint Challenge North America), INDYCAR and NASCAR events. All races will be run to a lap count with extended time windows to ensure competitors a set number of green-flag racing laps.
 
USF Juniors will kick off the calendar alongside USF2000 and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires at the annual Road to Indy Spring Training test held on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course in Homestead, Fla., February 17/18. In addition to track time, the focus will be on classroom training led by the USF Juniors “teaching” staff comprising Series Driver Coach Gabby Chaves, Race Director Joel Miller, Race Steward Johnny Unser and Series Manager Gustavo Yacaman. 
 
On March 21/22, USF Juniors will again team up with USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 for a two-day test at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.
 
The series will make its racing debut in a triple-header opener at the new Ozarks International Raceway in the heart of the Ozarks just outside Gravois Mills, Mo., on April 23/24. The new multi-use racing complex features a 3.87-mile road course in addition to a dirt tri-oval, off-road and rally courses. A few days later, the series will return to Barber Motorsports Park for a Thursday/Friday doubleheader on April 28/29 just prior to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Road to Indy event weekend on April 29-May 1. A triple-header at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va., will round out the first half of the season on June 4/5.
 
On July 8/9, USF Juniors will head to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, for a double-header in a shared weekend with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Following a triple-header at the scenic Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on July 30/31, the series finale will feature a triple-header round at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, TX, on September 17/18.
 
2022 USF Juniors Schedule of Events
 
 
Rounds
1/2/3
4/5
6/7/8
9/10
11/12/13
14/15/16
 
 
Date
April 23/24
April 28/29
June 4/5
July 8/9
July 30/31
September 17/18
 
Circuit
Ozarks International Raceway w/USAC Racing
Barber Motorsports Park w/INDYCAR
Virginia International Raceway w/USAC Racing
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course w/NASCAR
Road America w/USAC Racing
Circuit of The Americas w/USAC Racing
 
The USF Juniors schedule will feature five pre-event test days, at Ozarks International Raceway on April 22, Virginia International Raceway June 3, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course July 7, Road America July 29 and Circuit of The Americas September 16.
“Our debut schedule for USF Juniors constitutes a blend of some of the finest road courses in North America which will provide great training for our entry level drivers,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “We designed our calendar with USF2000 teams in mind, providing teams who plan to compete in both programs the ability to manage each series with common staff. All will be two-day race events with five of the six venues hosting a pre-event test day the day before the start of official track activity.
 
“The 2022 schedule coupled with our prize money and scholarship package, training programs, affordable budgets and commitment to bringing a Road to Indy level of professionalism and organization to a driver’s first serious championship choice are the foundation of this new series. We look forward to several more announcements as this program continues to take shape in preparation for our first races in April.”
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
 
 
 Enthusiasm.
 
When some of the biggest names in the automotive industry announced they would be on board for LMDh, the next chapter of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, enthusiasm shone through their statements.
 
“Like motorsport, Cadillac is making the transition into a future driven by alternative propulsion,” Cadillac Global Vice President Rory Harvey said in Cadillac’s initial August news release about its decision to field an LMDh program. “The hybrid nature of the LMDh rules will help us to bridge our technology transfer to our all-electric future.”
 
He wasn’t alone.
 
“For the first time in the history of Porsche Motorsport, our company will have a global team competing in the world’s two largest endurance series,” said Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG, in Porsche’s December 2020 announcement. “To this end, we will be setting up team bases on both sides of the Atlantic. This will enable us to create the optimal structures we will need to take overall victories at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring, for example.”
 
So far, five manufacturers have committed to the 2023 debut of LMDh in the WeatherTech Championship, a hybrid-based formula that will replace the current Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class that will complete its penultimate season this Saturday with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. 
 
The enthusiasm of the initial reaction included – but was not limited to – manufacturers’ desire to showcase hybrid technology and compete across different series in similar specifications. Acura, Audi and BMW have committed to LMDh programs in addition to the aforementioned Cadillac and Porsche.
 
“Everyone in our motorsport team shares the same motivation: We want to test ourselves against our strongest opposition at the racetrack – and to celebrate victories for BMW,” BMW M Motorsport boss Mike Krack said during its announcement in June. “As such, the LMDh project is a real affair of the heart for us and exactly the new challenge we were hoping for.”
 
A shared platform between IMSA and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), LMDh is based on a standard chassis with unique combustion engines matched to a spec hybrid powertrain. 
 
To help it work successfully, team officials say, IMSA needs the right people and infrastructure to support the new class. 
 
“The manufacturers and the teams have so much capability,” said Tim Cindric, president of Team Penske that will field the Porsche LMDh entries. “The series needs to ensure that they have the capability that can keep up with what’s going on. That’s going to be one of the keys to success.”
 
That means, in part, continuing to hone the fragile necessity of Balance of Power regulations. BoP is the mechanism IMSA uses to keep cars on a level playing field; currently in DPi, that’s a range of 0.3 percent from slowest to fastest speeds. It’s an occasionally controversial but necessary element of multi-class endurance racing.
 
“In any BoP series, the BoP has to do what it’s advertised to do – every manufacturer feels as though they have the chance to win if they execute and they have a reliable package,” Cindric said. “You don’t want to BoP down to the lowest common denominator. You still want a series that rewards excellence. If you can reward excellence and everybody feels that if they can achieve that excellence that they can succeed, then it will continue to prosper.” 
 
Team Penske’s decision to join Porsche was, like other teams and manufacturers already committed to 2023, measured, studied and hopeful.
 
“There was a bit of wait-and-see to see that it was all real,” Cindric said. “... I think you’ll see a gradual buildup of participants from ‘23 to ‘24 and ‘25, and making sure that level of commitment is real. I think you’ll definitely see more customer cars once the factory teams are established.”
 
In a word, enthusiasm.
By Godwin Kelly
IMSA Wire Service
 
 
The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) class championship will mostly likely be decided in the closing laps of the season finale Friday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
 
And not to be overshadowed, but the Touring Car (TCR) class should make motorsports history in the opening laps of the Fox Factory 120.
 
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge: Fox Factory 120 Entry List
 
Bill Auberlen and Dillon Machavern, who co-drive the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4, have a 30-point lead in GS points on Jan Heylen, who wheels the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport. Heylen’s co-driver, Ryan Hardwick, missed three races this season but will play a key role in determining the team championship.
 
Turner’s No. 96 BMW entry, co-driven by Robby Foley and Vin Barletta, is mathematically alive to earn championship honors, but team owner Will Turner said the chances of that happening look more like winning-the-lottery odds.
 
“For the No. 96 to win (the title), it would need our No. 95 car to finish 16th or worse, the No. 16 car finishes 12th or worse and (the No. 96) wins the race,” Turner said. “So that’s not looking great.”
 
Foley and Barletta are 140 points behind their teammates, but with 22 GS cars entered, it’s certainly a plausible possibility.
 
The No. 16 Porsche is in position to pounce and steal the title from Turner’s BMWs.
 
“We need to finish directly ahead or behind (the No. 16) to win the championship, unless they win the race and they would get the tiebreaker (season wins),” said Turner, whose team has two wins with the No. 95.
 
It’s a bit amazing the No. 16 Porsche is even in this position. Hardwick suffered a hard crash during a practice session before the season-opening race at Daytona, sustained a concussion and wrecked the car beyond repair. The car did not start the race.
 
“Instead of running in the first race of the season, I was over in the hospital at Daytona Beach, watching it on TV,” Hardwick said. “To start the season like that, missing the first round, then battling and clawing and fighting our way through the field, to now being second place with a real shot of winning the championship, I mean, man, that’s awesome.”
 
Since the No. 16’s return at Sebring (Max Root subbed for Hardwick), it has been a two-car battle through the season.
 
“We have been back and forth all year with that No. 16 car,” Turner said. “That car and team are very strong. I think this is going to come down to the last pit stop and end up being Bill Auberlen versus Jan Heylen for the win. It’s going to be exciting.”
 
The No. 16 Wright Porsche is riding a two-race winning streak into the finale.
 
“I love who we are competing against,” Hardwick said. “I mean, dude, we are going up against not only the great Turner team but Bill Auberlen – Mr. IMSA himself. Our competitor is the winningest driver in the history of the sport. He’s like the Michael Jordan of IMSA. To me, I won’t lie to you, it’s going to be really cool when we beat him.”
 
But there is just as much confidence on the other side of this battle.
 
“We are going to win it and I’m going to Disney World,” Turner said, with a laugh.
Meanwhile, the No. 77 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR has built a 230-point lead in the TCR class. The car only has to start the race to secure the 2021 championship crown for drivers Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler, which would make Hagler the first female driver to claim a Michelin Pilot Challenge championship.
 
“This is a real honor to be up there with Christina Nielsen, who has won a WeatherTech Championship,” Hagler said. “It feels a bit overwhelming. I still haven’t fully processed it yet; to have my name up there with the greats. I want to continue to pave this road for women.”
 
Hagler, who hails from San Antonio, Texas, said earning title honors in her first year with this team comes as a bit of surprise. The No. 77 has one win this season, but an additional five podium finishes to build the cushion in the standings.
 
“You always want to win races and a championship, but it wasn’t an expectation for me or the team this season,” she said. “We were going to use this year for me to get adjusted to the car and team and get a bit better. Needless to say, it’s gone a bit better than anyone could have hoped for.”
 
The Michelin Pilot Challenge schedule this week calls for a practice Wednesday afternoon and another Thursday morning, ahead of qualifying Thursday afternoon. The two-hour race starts at 1:10 p.m. ET Friday, with live coverage available on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA Radio.

Before the weekend at the Nürburgring, the prospects looked good. The two MANN-FILTER Team LANDGRAF-HTP/WWR drivers Raffaele Marciello (27, Italy) and Maximilian Buhk (28, Germany) stood just 26 points behind the leaders and went into the finale with their sights set firmly on the title. Unfortunately, it was not to be for the AMG works driver pairing.

 

Fog, poor visibility and chaotic starts thwarted the Land Motorsport team's bid to end the season on a high note. The Audi Mamba of MANN-FILTER junior driver Luci Trefz (19, Germany) and Audi Sport driver Christopher Haase (34, Germany) also had to contend with the pitfalls of the Nürburgring.

 

Collisions at the start dash the title hopes of the MANN-FILTER Mercedes

 

The first day of racing got off to a positive start, with AMG works driver Raffaele Marciello earning fifth place on the grid. However, the MANN-FILTER Mercedes got caught up in an unusually turbulent start. With their Mercedes damaged, there was little the duo could do. By the time Marciello's teammate Maxi Buhk took the wheel in the middle of the race in fifth place, he already knew that the fight for the championship was over. "We had a good lead over the drivers behind us. But with a damaged car we weren't able to move forward. At the end of the day, fifth place wasn't good enough to keep our championship hopes alive," he says disappointedly. The standings at the end of the race confirmed that their championship battle was over.

 

The team was hoping for a solid end to the season in the second race, but success once again proved elusive for MANN-FILTER. The Mercedes driver pairing faced an uphill battle from 17th place on the grid. Buhk went into the race feeling highly motivated, before it had to be stopped due to a collision. After completing a few overtaking maneuvers, he handed over the Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo to his teammate Marciello, who began to give chase to the leaders. But fate once again had other plans.

 

"There was slight contact and I saw parts flying everywhere," says the 28-year-old, recalling the incident that ultimately ended their race. The Mamba had to continue the race with flying sparks and a dented front wing. In the interest of safety, the car was retired on the penultimate lap. Despite things not going the team's way, Raffaele Marciello is feeling positive at the end of the season: "We had an exciting race. I overtook as much as I could, and it was great to move up from 18th to fourth. We were competitive all season. But that's racing."

 

Despite the best qualifying result of the season, the Audi Mamba finishes outside the points in the season finale

 

The Land Motorsport team, which this year fielded an Audi Mamba team for the first time in the ADAC GT Masters, also had to settle for a disappointing finale. In extremely low fall temperatures, MANN-FILTER junior driver Luci Trefz battled his way through qualifying to achieve 18th place on the grid for the first race. The 19-year-old kept a cool head at the start and managed to avoid the biggest collisions. "I tried to make up places," he says. "But then, all of sudden, I had no more feedback. That made driving the Audi really difficult." He was 21st as he handed over to teammate Christopher Haase, who eventually crossed the finish line in twentieth place.

 

The highlight of the final race weekend was the second qualifying session, which saw Audi Sport driver Christopher Haase take seventh place on the grid – the best qualifying result for the Audi Mamba. But the mood was soon clouded when a penalty put Haase and Trefz at the back of the grid. The penalty was given for putting the tires on too early before qualifying, which is against ADAC GT Masters rules. "The start of Sunday's race was pretty chaotic," says Luci's mentor Christopher Haase. "After the pit stop, I handed over to Luci in 17th place and he did a great job to get to the end of the race." Luci finished the race in 16th – just one place outside the points.

 

A hard-fought season full of highs and lows

 

An exciting motorsport season has come to an end for MANN-FILTER. A year full of highs and lows, victories, points and defeats. All these experiences have made the team stronger, and preparations for next year are already well underway.

 

The entire MANN-FILTER team thanks all partners and friends and congratulates ADAC GT Masters champions Ricardo Feller and Christopher Mies on winning the title.

By Holly Cain
IMSA Wire Service

 

 Dakota Dickerson and MLT Motorsports co-driver Josh Sarchet bring a solid 100-point advantage over Muehlner Motorsports America driver Moritz Kranz into Friday’s IMSA Prototype Challenge season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
 
Neither of these winning teams, however, is ready to assume anything until the checkered flag flies at the conclusion of the one-hour, 45-minute race that streams live at 8 a.m. ET Friday on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold (internationally on IMSA.com/TVLive).
 
IMSA Prototype Challenge: Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta Entry List
 
It’s a complete reversal from the 3-year-old MLT team’s more typical circumstance in the championship race. MLT usually seems to be the one needing to overcome a points deficit. Now, Dickerson and Sarchet must maintain and guard their slim advantage in a race that has not necessarily been kind to the team, despite its de facto “home track advantage.” 
 
The team’s shop and headquarters is a five-minute walk from the Michelin Raceway paddock, however, MLT Motorsports’ best finish on the famed 2.54-mile track is fifth in two previous starts in the IMSA development series featuring Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) cars. And now, an inaugural season title is on the line.
 
“This year we’ve landed ourselves on the podium fortunately in every single race,’’ said the Californian, Dickerson. “Going into the last weekend, we have a 100-point lead which is nice, but it’s not anything to rely on. So for us, we’re just going to rely on what’s gotten us on the podium this year and just follow the same process.
 
“We’re not going to change anything up or be looking at the points. We’re always going to shoot for a win, obviously being conscious to the fact we do need to be aware where the (No.) 21 car is at. But we’re just going to focus on trying to win the race and following the same procedure we have all year, and hopefully that gets us another podium finish, if not another win.”
 
MLT has podium finishes in all five Prototype Challenge races this season, highlighted by a victory at Watkins Glen International. Twice – in the season opener Daytona International Speedway and most recently at VIRginia International Raceway – Dickerson and Sarchet have finished runner-up.
 
At Daytona, the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320 finished second to the No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports Duqueine D08, which has kept the veteran operation in contention with two 2021 victories (also at Mid-Ohio). Kranz has driven in each race, twice solo and three times with co-drivers. He’ll pair with Ugo de Wilde for the second time this week.
 
A mechanical DNF at VIR has forced the No. 21 team to play catch-up this week, but Kranz remains cautiously optimistic about the title.
 
“What an incredible season,’’ Kranz said, “We will do our best, but we don’t have it in our hands anymore.’’
 
A finish of fifth or better in the 15-car LMP3-1 class guarantees the championship for the No. 54 MLT Ligier, but Dickerson is taking nothing for granted.
 
“It’s just following the same process as we have before, but like anything in racing, you never know what’s going to happen,’’ Dickerson said.
 
“There’s definitely a lot of different variables going into the race, but I think if we just keep our heads down and focus on what we have focused on this entire season, we should be fine.”
 
George Staikos and Danny Kok (No. 61 Conquest Racing Norma M30) clinched the LMP3-2 championship at VIR but will seek their first win of the season at Michelin Raceway, with two cars entered in the class for previous-generation LMP3s.
When the green flag waved on Nov. 9, 1957, for the Eighth Annual Pebble Beach Road Race, those in attendance had no idea that the freshly-paved race track quickly carved into the hills of the U.S. Army’s Fort Ord would evolve into WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and become a world-renowned road course with legendary status. Sixty-four years later, the race circuit remains the heartbeat of Monterey County’s Laguna Seca Recreation Area.
 
As WeatherTech Raceway enters its 65th race season in 2022, it’s come a long way from when Pete Lovely – a future Formula One racer and owner of Pete Lovely Racing in Fife, Wash. – took Laguna Seca’s inaugural checkered flag behind the wheel of his 1956 Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa all those years ago.
 
The track has seen many legendary performances in its six-plus decades. Among those who have dominated the asphalt is one of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time – who loved the Monterey area so much, he moved here.
 
Wayne Rainey won three straight World Championships between 1990-92, while also capturing three U.S. Grand Prix wins at WeatherTech Raceway between 1989-91. The sweeping downhill lefthander through Turn 9, or the Rainey Curve, is named in honor of Rainey – who serves as the president of MotoAmerica, which will present one of the premier events on the 2022 schedule.
 
“Winning my three U.S. GPs at Laguna Seca was obviously very special to me because there’s nothing like winning your home Grand Prix in front of family and friends,” Rainey said. “After my retirement from racing motorcycles, I was honored when the track named turn 9 ‘Rainey Curve.’ Now, as president of MotoAmerica, I get to return to the track every year as it plays host to one of the premier events on our schedule, and it’s a race I always look forward to.” 
 
In addition to having a part of the track named for him, Rainey’s likeness also has a permanent installation with a larger-than-life piece of art depicting his racing days at WeatherTech Raceway visible as guests enter the facility on “A” Road.
 
“No race track or place in the world brings about the same feelings that I get every time I drive up the hill into WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca,” Rainey said. “When I raced here, I had so much confidence. I loved the track, the fans and the Monterey Peninsula area. Initially, it was my home race because it was the site of the U.S. Grand Prix, but it actually became my home race when I moved my family to the Monterey Peninsula in 1992.”
 
The second chapter
 
Rainey’s dominance began right as the second chapter of the race track was being written. After maintaining its original form for the first 30 years of its existence, in 1988 the track was extended from its 1.9-mile setup to the 2.238-mile version that fans and drivers alike celebrate today. One of the most famous turns in all of motorsports essentially remains today as it was in 1957 – The Corkscrew – which drops six stories in just 450 feet of asphalt.
 
The original intent was that the lengthened circuit would be utilized for motorcycle racing, and race cars would continue to use the original track setting with its fast, long exit from Turn 2 to what is now Turn 5. There is still a portion of the original left-hand kerbing visible in the Hagerty Marketplace where the likes of the ground-pounding Can-Am cars kept the throttle fully engaged. It was joked that if someone missed the next turn (today’s Turn 6) the car would end up in downtown Salinas.
 
However, prior to the 1988 Indy Car race, Mario Andretti drove both configurations of the track and insisted that Indy Car utilize the full 2.238-mile lap, especially the hairpin, as it offered a great passing opportunity.
 
The rest is history, and the man who made the permanent change happen had the Turn 2 Hairpin named for him upon his last race and retirement in Monterey in 1994. He still returns to give two-seater hot laps to lucky race fans during the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
 
Andretti isn’t the only INDYCAR driver to leave a legacy at WeatherTech Raceway. Bobby Rahal was a mainstay at the top of the podium in Monterey, winning multiple times throughout the ’70s and ’80s as a driver, and then as a two-time winner in the late 1990s as the car owner for Bryan Herta.
 
Rahal’s pass of Andretti in the 1986 Indy Car race, on what’s now known as the Rahal Straight, propelled him to his third of four victories at WeatherTech Raceway.
 
The family legacy has been continued by Bobby’s son Graham, a 14-year INDYCAR veteran, competing at the track in recent years.
 
More than just a race track
 
Since its inception, WeatherTech Raceway has seen more than just racing action. The Grateful Dead performed at the venue in May 1987, and Pope John Paul II visited later that year. The Sea Otter Classic, one of the largest multi discipline cycling festivals in the world, is held here annually. There have been weddings at the Corkscrew, and in 2020 the graduation ceremonies for local high schools were held amid the pandemic and ended with a lap on the track.
 
“This is a special place – and not just for racing,” said John Narigi, president and general manager of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. “Entering our 65th season, it’s important to remember that we also have Laguna Seca Recreation Area, which offers incredible hiking, biking and camping on a year-round basis. There are many reasons this multiuse facility is special, and as we head into the future, we will continue to invest in bringing more exciting events here for the entire community to enjoy.”
 
The beautiful destination complements the Laguna Seca Recreation Area. “We are fortunate to be located minutes away from a thriving destination of rich farming land and wineries throughout both the Carmel and Salinas Valleys and the coastal towns of Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea and the ruggedness of Big Sur,” Narigi added.
 
To celebrate the 65th anniversary, the 2022 premier event schedule begins with the Trans Am Speedfest April 22-24, followed by the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship featuring the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship April 29 - May 1.
 
The summer schedule includes the GEICO Motorcycle MotoAmerica Superbike Speedfest July 8-10, the AHRMA Classic Motofest of Monterey July 15-17, the Monterey Pre-Reunion August 13-14, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion August 17-20, and the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the NTT INDYCAR SERIES finale September 9-11. Concluding the 2022 season is the Velocity Invitational, October 14-16 (TBC).
 
New ticket packages, from single day to comprehensive VIP packages, will be available Dec. 1 by calling the Tickets and Accommodations specialists at 831-242-8200 or by visiting www.WeatherTechRaceway.com.
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About WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is a world-renowned 2.238-mile traditional road course that was built in 1957 and was known at the time as Laguna Seca Raceway. WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is owned by the County of Monterey and operated by A&D Narigi Consulting, LLC.

The 2022 premier event schedule begins with the Trans Am Speedfest April 22-24, followed by the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship featuring the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship April 29 - May 1, the GEICO Motorcycle MotoAmerica Superbike Speedfest July 8-10, the AHRMA Classic Motofest of Monterey July 15-17, the Monterey Pre-Reunion August 13-14, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion August 17-20, and the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the NTT INDYCAR SERIES September 9-11. Concluding the 2022 season is the Velocity Invitational, October 14-16 (TBC).

 

(Courtesy of WeatherTech Raceway)

By Godwin Kelly
IMSA Wire Service
 
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The International Motor Sports Association will soon announce the winner of the inaugural IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship.
 
IMSA received 35 applications and narrowed the list to 10 finalists. To be eligible for the scholarship, drivers must have a strong desire to compete in IMSA, outstanding previous race results and/or proven on-track potential in junior racing categories and the ability to build a compelling business plan for securing the remaining funding needed to compete in a full season in 2022.
 
The scholarship winner will receive upwards of a quarter million dollars in value toward a full season of competition in either the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge or IMSA Prototype Challenge in 2022. The recipient will receive substantial support from IMSA and partners including Michelin, VP Racing Fuels, OMP, RECARO and LAT Photo USA.
 
This is the last of a two-part series taking a closer look at the IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship candidates, who appear in no particular order.
Courtney Crone, 20
Corona, California
 
Crone’s father, Jack Crone, bought daughter Courtney a small dirt motorcycle when she was just 2. She started racing at 5 in quarter midgets and stayed with it until she was 10. She took an unusual detour at age 11 when she went motorcycle speedway racing. Speedway bikes look more like bicycles, have no brakes and race on short, dirt ovals.
 
Crone went back to four-wheel racing at 14 when she started driving a 360 sprint car on dirt ovals. The following year, she graduated to a full-size USAC midget racing on dirt and pavement. At 15, Crone was invited to the Formula Speed 2.0 Shootout and won a scholarship to compete in the Formula Car Challenge Series, her first step into road racing. Crone showed so much potential, she earned the same scholarship at age 17 and ran a second season, capturing the Formula Car Challenge Series championship. She also ran a season of the F1600 Championship Series. The pandemic wiped away most of 2020, but Crone made a few F4 starts in the World Speed Motorsports entry. She is competing in her first season in the IMSA Prototype Challenge in 2021 and opened the year by racing in the prestigious Chili Bowl Nationals. She is also currently a driving instructor at Allen Berg Racing Schools.
 
“The scholarship for me would be huge because it would allow me to step up into the higher ranks of racing, which means more people involved, and obviously it costs a lot more money,” Crone says. “Just having the support from IMSA to continue forward in one of the most competitive forms of racing would mean a ton to me. It would be IMSA supporting me, a diversity driver, and that would be huge. IMSA is a series I really believe in. More track time would be beneficial for me and that scholarship would certainly provide that.”
Jaden Conwright, 22
Newark, California
 
Conwright’s racing journey began at 7 years old when he started racing at a local quarter midget course. Two years later, he entered the Jim Russell Arrive & Drive Karting School and then split seat time between quarter midgets and go-karts. In 2011, he began competing in regional go-kart events. Conwright got his first experience in a race car at age 14 competing in a Formula 2000 series, where he set a number of track records and won the championship. At 15, he tried his hand at Pro Mazda and at 16 ventured to Europe to compete in Italian Formula 4.
 
The next year he tested for a few teams, including Carlin, in Britain, then at 18 ventured to Asia for the FIA F3 Championship racing in Malaysia and China, where he scored a win and five podiums. He went back Italy in 2019 to run in the Italian Porsche Carrera Cup – his first experience in a GT-style car. He scored nine podiums, including six straight to open the season, and was named rookie of the year. Conwright had a limited schedule in 2020 but made his WeatherTech Championship debut in this year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, finishing an impressive fourth in the GT Daytona (GTD) class in the No. 42 NTe Sport Audi R8 LMS GT3 after qualifying third.
 
“I would hope the scholarship would help me promote myself and the great image IMSA shows through the values of its Driver Development Program,” Conwright says. “The story of myself has been this – going all over the place to do racing and find a path to IMSA. I don’t come from a family that can pay my way to the top. I think that embodies the idea of what the scholarship stands for. To me, that scholarship would be something very special. Everyone says my schedule is crazy, but I enjoy it. It’s been fun.”
Sabré Cook, 27
Grand Junction, Colorado
 
Cook started karting when she was 8, then began competitive go-kart racing two years later. She won three world championships and raced karts at the pro level for several years. She moved up to SCCA Spec Racer Ford and Formula Enterprise cars in 2017, the same year she graduated from college with a degree in mechanical engineering. The following year, Cook raced in U.S. F4 and F2000 races, winning twice. During that 2018 season, she won a place with the Infiniti Engineering Academy, moved to the United Kingdom and worked with Infiniti Global and Renault F1.
 
In 2019, Cook qualified for and raced in the FIA W Series. When the pandemic hit in 2020, her racing schedule diminished to a couple of Indy Pro 2000 Championship events. Things picked up for Cook this year, beginning with an Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires run at Daytona. Cook was the only American to qualifying for the W Series in 2021. She finished third in her Porsche Sprint Challenge North America debut in May at Circuit of The Americas, becoming the first woman in series history to finish on the podium.
 
“Winning the Diversity Scholarship would be critical for me to bring partners onboard in order to ensure I could run the full season and have a successful season,” says Cook. “It would help solidify me making my step into IMSA. Going into IMSA would be a great path forward for my career. I would love to get into (prototype) racing down the road.”
Kyle Loh, 22
San Jose, California
 
Loh just won the Formula Pro USA Western Championship after a third-place finish in the 2019 Formula Pro USA F4 West Coast Series. Not bad for a self-described “late starter” who began racing at 15 after getting a taste in high school, which offered go-kart racing as a physical education credit.
 
Loh said he would go to an indoor go-kart track and found he was faster than his counterparts who had taken the class the previous year. During his senior year, he made the move to outdoor karting, then moved up to shifter karts. His first experience in a race car was in 2018, when he joined the Formula Pro USA F4 series. Loh is currently a driving instructor at Allen Berg Racing Schools.
 
“This IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship would have a big impact on my career. I have never received a scholarship like this before,” Loh says. “This would be my first time in professional racing to really put myself out there. Funding is a big obstacle and I am finally starting to learn the ins and outs of the industry business-wise. This scholarship is a really great opportunity for me to put myself out there and spread positive messages regarding diversity about my Taiwan heritage. I would also like to bring a new perspective of diversity to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a child, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of autism, and ADHD. With the paddock passes IMSA will offer, I plan to donate a couple of passes to guests with special needs and give them a great experience. I want to give back because of the so many opportunities I’ve had.”
David Dalton, 23
Charlotte, North Carolina
 
Dalton moved from New Jersey in 2016 to attend the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina. He graduated with a certification two years later after learning how to set up a stock car and the ins and outs of race cars. After receiving his certification, Dalton started go-kart racing in the KA100 Senior Series on road courses and won three events. He finished a close second at Daytona in a 50-kart field.
 
Dalton drove his first race car in a Lucas Oil Formula test at Sebring in 2018, saying the transition from karts to race cars “came naturally.” He returned to Sebring in late 2018 to compete in the Kart To Car Shootout, which had a field of 30 competitors, turning in the fast lap on Day 2. After three days of head-to-head competition, Dalton was chosen to participate in the series. In 2019 he ran the F4 United States Championship powered by Honda and the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series, where he earned a victory at National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park in Kentucky in 2019.
 
“When I learned about the IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship, it was like a dream come true,” Dalton says. “I could not believe my eyes what was being offered and how it was being offered and that it was IMSA. Racing IMSA is a goal of mine. I want to aspire to be an all-around professional race driver and win championships. In the process, I want to lead by example for all the ethnic drivers, not only drivers but race engineers, technicians or data analysts and so on. I want to use my platform to help open those opportunities up for them. This scholarship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because I’m not getting younger. I keep working the grind behind the scenes, like building my marketing tools, to be ready for a chance like this. I’m lost for words that I’m a finalist for this scholarship.”
After crowning its 2021 champions earlier this month, the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will be back in action this week for its traditional Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 30/31. All three levels of the ladder system – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – will take part in six 45-minute sessions over the course of the two days on the 2.75-mile “Inner Loop” road course.
 
Following a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, the now 10th annual test is named in memory of Chris Griffis, the former team manager of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports who passed away suddenly in September 2011. The foundation of the highly anticipated event is to provide new drivers with the opportunity to sample the Road to Indy while offering returning drivers the chance to hone their programs for the following year.
 
“As is the case every year, I’m really looking forward to this year’s Chris Griffis Memorial Test at IMS,” offered Road to Indy Series Development Director Rob Howden. “Driver development and preparation is at the absolute core of our mission with the Road to Indy, and this annual test is so satisfying because we get to see drivers take what they’ve learned all year and apply it to the next level of our program. It’s exciting to see how much the drivers grow and mature from the start of a season to the end, and watching USF2000 drivers jump into Indy Pro 2000 cars, and so on up the ladder, is fantastic.”
 
 
The test will be followed by a one-day outing on Monday, November 1, for the top three finishers in this year’s Indy Lights championship – Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas and Linus Lundqvist respectively – who earned an NTT INDYCAR SERIES Indy car test as part of their prize package.
 
Currently, 44 drivers have been registered for the Chris Griffis test representing 11 countries and 15 different teams.
 
Indy Lights will see the advancement of several drivers testing the next step of the ladder including reigning Indy Pro 2000 champion Christian Rasmussen (Andretti Autosport), Hunter McElrea (Andretti Autosport) and Kyffin Simpson, who was recently confirmed for a full 2022 season with new entrant TJ Speed Motorsports. Abel Motorsports will also move up to the top step with Jacob Abel.
 
New faces include Ernie Francis Jr. (HMD Motorsports), Matteo Nannini (Juncos Hollinger Racing) and the return of Matthew Brabham (Andretti Autosport), who last competed in Indy Lights in 2015.
 
The Indy Pro 2000 entry list is peppered with drivers looking to make the move up from USF2000 including champion Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), Josh Green (Turn 3 Motorsport), Bijoy Garg (Jay Howard Driver Development), Nolan Siegel (DEForce Racing), Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing), Josh Pierson (Pabst Racing) and Billy Frazer (Exclusive Autosport).
 
Sampling Indy Pro 2000 competition are drivers Nicholas Rivers (Jay Howard Driver Development), Casey Putsch (Legacy Autosport), Louis Foster (Exclusive Autosport), Arias Deukmedjian (Deuk Spine Racing) and Blake Upton (Turn 3 Motorsport).
 
USF2000 will see a mix of returning drivers and at least nine newcomers including Jagger Jones and Nicholas d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports), Mac Clark (DEForce Racing), Viktor Andersson (Legacy Autosport), Ayrton Houk (Pabst Racing), TJ Thompson and Yeoroo Lee (Jay Howard Driver Development) and Lucas Mann and Ethan Ho (Exclusive Autosport).
 
Testing will kick off at 8:00 am EDT on Saturday. Live timing will be available on the series’ respective websites, and photography at https://media.roadtoindy.net/.
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
 
 
The box is about to be shaken and turned upside down, its contents spilled. Some of it looks familiar, but it’s in different places. Nothing is the same, really. Nothing, that is, except the change.
 
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is in the early months of a significant change. In 2023, the series’ top class will include LMDh, a hybrid-based platform developed jointly by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) that has already drawn the interest of multiple manufacturers and teams.
 
The change itself sounds straightforward and direct, but the prospect of adding a new class presents complicated challenges for teams and manufacturers. The change requires long-range planning, which is already under way for those who have announced their LMDh intentions. 
 
But change is their strength, team officials say, so it might not be as overwhelming as it appears. 
 
“I don’t think it’s as daunting as people want to make it,” said team owner Wayne Taylor, whose Wayne Taylor Racing has not been confirmed yet as an LMDh team, but fully expects to participate. “It’s not that daunting. The only thing that’s daunting is the question of whether we’ve designed and built a car that can win all the races.”
 
At its core, motorsports is about evolution. Over the course of a century, sports car racing has gone from the sparse 1914 Vauxhall Prince Henry, widely regarded as the first sports car, to complicated, state-of-the-art machines that implement the latest technology.
 
The more complicated and expensive the race car, the fewer are built. LMDh, which crosses sanctioning bodies and has commitments so far from five manufacturers and three teams in the WeatherTech Championship, appears to have found the proper fit between tech and car count.
 
“That’s how motorsports has evolved through the years,” said Tim Cindric, president of Team Penske, which will field Porsche LMDh cars as Porsche Penske Motorsport beginning at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January 2023. “There’s a balance in that, for sure, between car count and technology. People talk about budgets, but really from a racing perspective, it’s always a balance of what the car count is going to be.”
 
Reaching that delicate balance was a part of the plan. Teams and manufacturers were consulted in the process to match specifications across different series.
 
“We have IMSA listening – we have a lot of discussions with IMSA people – and they ask us a lot; what we think, how it’s going to go in each direction,” said Mike Krack, head of the BMW M Motorsport group that has also committed to an LMDh program. “They are always very interested with their partners to improve the show. This is actually a perfect match. It’s why we are here so long.”
 
NEXT IN THE SERIES: The preparation for LMDh has barely begun, but the focus is on winning with it. “We’re always trying to figure out how to get more out of what we have,” says Gary Nelson, Action Express Racing’s team manager.
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