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With a runner-up finish at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday, 15-year-old Luke Akers solidified his first-ever Allison Legacy Race Series championship.
Heading into the season finale at Hickory Motor Speedway, Akers entered the weekend only six points ahead of fellow North Carolinian, Cole Wagner, but before Akers could take the green flag, he had to first complete his duties as a sophomore at West Davidson High School. On Monday, Akers had band auditions where he earned second chair, and then he also played in a JV football game. He took the PSAT on Tuesday, played in another football game on Thursday and then it was time for the biggest race of his career.
Akers qualified fourth and ran up front all race long at Hickory. Running in second for the majority of the race, Akers kept pace with race leader, Ethan Elder. On the final lap, Akers and Elder battled it out for the win. Akers’ runner-up finish secured him enough points to capture the 2019 Allison Legacy Race Series championship. The title marked the first of his career, and it came in his debut season.
“In the second race of the season, we actually found something, and it sped us up a whole bunch,” Akers said. “We just kind of went on from there, and towards the end, we thought that we were in contention to win the championship, so we just had our mindset towards that, and luckily, it worked out for us.”
Throughout the 2019 season, Akers captured two wins, four poles and 12 top-five finishes. Akers’ wins came at Hickory Motor Speedway and Orange County Speedway. On seven occasions this season, Akers was named the Rookie of the Race.
“It was crazy,” Akers said about earning his first win at Hickory. “We didn’t expect to win it, but once we got that pole, we felt confident in what we were doing.”
Akers continued and said, “When we went to Orange County, that was our second win, and it was in a row. We didn’t qualify on the pole, but we qualified third. We just came out of a cannon. The car felt great.”
Akers joins current and former NASCAR national series stars, John Hunter Nemechek, Trevor Bayne, Chad McCumbee, Regan Smith, Timmy Hill and others as Allison Legacy Racing Series champions.
This year’s Allison Legacy Race Series championship battle was one of the closest in its history. Five drivers visited Victory Lane during the 14-race schedule. Elder’s fifth victory at Hickory on Saturday catapulted him to the winningest driver of the 2019 season. Cole Wagner won four races, followed by Akers and Jantzen Stirewalt with two and Matthew Davey with one.
Allison Legacy Race Series PR
On Saturday, December 14, the Petersen Automotive Museum will debut a new exhibit honoring one of the world’s most diverse and winning race teams, Chip Ganassi Racing. Titled “Chip Ganassi Racing: Fast Tracks to Success | 30th Anniversary Tribute,” the display will present significant vehicles, trophies and more that exemplify the success of the team under founder and racing legend Chip Ganassi, who will be formally honored on April 15, 2020 at the Petersen’s Annual Racers Night before the Long Beach Grand Prix.
Located in the Charles Nearburg Family Gallery, the 10 key vehicles on display will include the 1983 Patrick Wildcat MK9B raced by Chip Ganassi to his best finish in the Indianapolis 500; the Lexus-powered 2006 Riley MK XI raced by Scott Dixon at the Rolex 24 At Daytona; the 2010 Dallara IR-05 driven to victory in the Indianapolis 500; the 2016 Ford GT that finished first at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the LM GTE Pro category 50 years after Ford’s iconic first-, second- and third-place victories in 1966; and the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 driven by Kurt Busch in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“Chip Ganassi is an influential member of the automotive community, and his team’s penchant for success is a reflection of his raw skill and passion for the sport,” said Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry L. Karges. “Complemented by a visually dynamic and compelling 180-degree video, ‘Chip Ganassi Racing’ will celebrate the team’s victories and tell its story while taking visitors on a trip down memory lane.”
A fixture in the auto-racing industry for more than 30 years, Chip Ganassi is considered one of the most successful and innovative team owners the sport has ever seen. Following a strong career as a driver, Ganassi created his own one-car INDYCAR team in 1990. The team’s track record includes 19 championships and over 220 victories. It is the only team to win the Indianapolis 500 (four times), Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 At Daytona (eight times), 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans. Adding to the prestige, it is also the only team to win the Rolex 24 At Daytona three times consecutively and the only team to win the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 in one 12-month span.
“Chip Ganassi Racing: Fast Tracks to Success | 30th Anniversary Tribute” will run through January 31, 2021. The museum will host a ticketed preview and opening reception on December 13. To learn more about the Petersen Automotive Museum, please visit www.Petersen.org.
Champion Daytona Prototype Drivers Look Forward to Returning to Cockpit at Classic 24 Hour At Daytona Presented by IMSA12 Nov 2019 Written by Adam Sinclair
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli returns to the Sunshine State for its 2019 season finale this weekend (Nov. 14-16), bringing a 53-car field to Daytona International Speedway. Staged as part of the HSR Classic 24 Hour at Daytona presented by IMSA weekend, the 3.56-mile circuit will play host to two 100-mile Trans Am races on Saturday.
Three drivers will arrive at the event already carrying the confidence of their 2019 championship, as Marc Miller (TA2®), Mark Boden (SGT) and Steve Davison (GT) have all sealed the titles in their respective classes.
But the TA class championship is still up for grabs, as defending champion Ernie Francis Jr. and Chris Dyson look to close out the year on top.
“We are looking forward to taking the championship fight to the finale at Daytona,” said Francis Jr. “This season has been long, and filled with ups and downs. We aim to end it on a high note with what could be our sixth Trans Am Championship.”
Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang, enters the weekend with a 21-point advantage over Dyson, in the No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang. Dyson’s task to take the title is difficult, but not impossible, in the 16-car TA class field.
At the last round of TA class competition at Circuit of The Americas, the 2018 TA class Rookie of the Year Dyson closed the points gap on the defending champion with a second-place finish after Francis Jr. suffered braking issues mid-race. Francis Jr. pulled a dominant lead before the mechanical issues dropped him down the grid into fifth.
But, that has really been the tale between the two contesting Ford Mustangs all season, when one experiences heartbreak on the track, the other is there to capitalize on the misfortune.
"I am really excited about racing at Daytona,” said Dyson. “It is one of the true American cathedrals of speed and it has always been awe-inspiring, no matter how many times I've raced there. In a Trans Am car, every lap is thrilling. My family has a long history of success at Daytona, and I'm hoping to enhance our record. Our Plaid Crafts Mustang has been really strong all year and especially at the fast and flowing tracks. We were quick at Daytona last year and I know we've made improvements all through this year.”
With the points spread being what it is, Dyson is under no illusion about what his job is this weekend.
“We have nothing to lose at this point and so our focus is on winning the race,” said Dyson. “Luck hasn't always been on our side this year, and we know that our rival has been able to grab points when we haven't. He has to have problems in order for us to win the championship. I can't control that, but I'm hopeful that we can close out the season with a win and we have to let the chips fall how they may."
Amy Ruman’s history at Daytona International Speedway cannot be understated.
With 2014, 2015 and 2016 victories in the No. 23 McNichols Co. Chevrolet Corvette to her credit, Ruman stands as the most successful driver in Trans Am history at Daytona International Speedway. Daytona was the site of her clinching the 2015 and 2016 championships, while her 2014 win marked the first solo victory at Daytona by a woman in a professional automobile race. If Ruman rekindles her long-standing success at Daytona come Saturday, she could be the wild-card to upset the title chase between Francis Jr. and Dyson.
Following a huge win at CoTA in the No. 4 WeaverRacing/ECC/AnchorBolt Dodge Challenger, Adam Andretti has proven that he has what it takes to snatch a victory and could add another twist to the championship chase. Mix in the return to the wheel from TA championship driver Claudio Burtin on board the No. 3 Elavon Chevrolet Camaro, earning maximum points for the weekend could get even more difficult.
“Racing Daytona in Trans Am is an incredible experience,” said Burtin. “The track is popular with fans and drivers and the Trans Am cars are a modern representation of what made the muscle cars so popular back in the day. The two together are a great combination.”
The TA2® powered by AEM class will feature a 26-car entry— one more opportunity for teams and drivers alike to capture Trans Am hardware in the Muscle Car Challenge. While Miller wrapped up the 2019 TA2® title during the penultimate round at CoTA, the championship podium is still not set. Mathematically, a combination of four different drivers could take second and third in the overall points battle.
Miller’s on-track nemesis and 2018 TA2® champion Rafa Matos returns to the lineup with a new team, Silver Hare Racing, and new number, No. 7 Ford Mustang, to fend off all other challengers from his second-place championship finish.
“I am thrilled to be racing the season finale with Silver Hare Racing,” said Matos. “We had a great meeting during the Runoffs at VIR, Maurice Hull and his wife Laura are very passionate about their team and the sport, plus their crew chief Jeff Holley is highly committed to the program.”
Matos leads by a mere six points over Scott Lagasse Jr., No. 92 SLR/Fields Racing/M1Racecars Chevrolet Camaro. Six points also separate third-place Lagasse from Dillon Machavern, No. 77 Liqui-Moly / Prefix Ford Mustang in fourth.
Entering the round in fifth, TA2® Rookie of The Year Lawless Alan, No. 52 AutoParkIT Ford Mustang, still has a chance to clinch a championship podium at Daytona.
The championship in the SGT class was sealed up by Boden three rounds early in his Porsche 991 GT3 Cup entry. Davison will also have multiple challengers in the GT class this weekend. A double-digit field of SGT and GT drivers will share the 3.56-mile oval-based circuit.
The competitors will participate in practice on Thursday with back-to-back qualifying sessions starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday. The season concludes on Saturday with the TA/SGT/GT 100-mile feature starting at 10:15 a.m. followed by the TA2® powered by AEM race at 11:25 a.m. Eastern.
Fans can keep up with the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli throughout the event at www.gotransam.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gotransam and on Twitter at @gotransam.
AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus Drivers Looking Forward to 2020 Rolex 24, Working with NASCAR Champion Kyle Busch12 Nov 2019 Written by Adam Sinclair
Mason Ludwig is climbing back behind the wheel to compete during the 27th annual Myrtle Beach 400 weekend at Myrtle Beach Speedway on Nov. 14-16.
Ludwig has raced part-time this year with Leicht Motorsports Driver Development, but his part-time status hasn’t kept him from finding victory lane in limited late model competition.
The first session of the 2020 Drivers Recruitment Program took place at the NWES test track at Fontenay Le Comte, France on November 7-8. In two days of testing, 13 drivers coming from 7 different countries took the wheel of a Euro NASCAR car: Zach Banks, Tobias Dauenhauer, Marcel Lenerz, Liroy Stuart, Antoine Sansone, Pim and Lorenzo Van Riet, Patrick Gaillard father and son, Deo Alves, Francesco Garisto, Luigi Ferrara, and Charles Lacarre.
The drivers selected came to the French test with the most diverse background, from karting and touring cars to GT racing and Formula 1. They worked under the guidance of the NWES organization and 2010 Champion Lucas Lasserre and had the opportunity to meet NASCAR Whelen Euro Series President-CEO Jerome Galpin after completing several runs both in wet and dry conditions. The best drivers among those taking part in the NWES Drivers Recruitment Program will receive financial support for their 2020 season in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
Both 21-year-old GT driver Tobias Dauenhauer and Marcel Lenerz, who made his GT racing debut in 2019 were enthusiastic about the opportunity to drive the NWES cars.
“It was just amazing, the V8 sound is fantastic and the car is so much fun, it’s pure racing. I love the fact you have no electronic aids, so it’s the driver who makes the difference. All my runs were in wet conditions, I had to be very smooth with the throttle, but I had a lot of fun. I would really like to join the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, I think it’s a great opportunity and an ideal step for young drivers to become professionals. I want to thank NWES, Wolfgang Koepp, Hendriks Motorsport and Toine Hezemans for giving me this opportunity, it was a wonderful experience,” said Dauenhauer.
“It was really impressive and cool, it’s pure race driving, with no electronic filters between you and the car and the sound is just impressive. It was also my first time on a race car with an H-pattern gearbox and was really funny, even in the wet. My goal is definitely to race in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series next year,” added Lenerz.
The Recruitment Days saw both very young talents and experienced veterans take the track on the powerful V8 Euro NASCAR cars.
“I found myself immediately at ease with the car. You have to drive it in a very clean and craft your driving technique. It’s very easy to perceive where the limit is, but I think it will take a lot of effort to constantly drive around that limit,” declared 17-year-old Francesco Garisto, who drove in Formula 4 and GT in his young career. “I don’t even have a driving license, so this was my first time with an H-pattern gearbox and it was a lot of fun! My goal is definitely to be on the grid in 2020. There is still a lot to do but that’s my goal for next year.”
“It was the first time for me on a race car since 1985 and I have to say I really enjoyed myself, it was a fantastic experience. The car is so pure and clear, it’s just you and your right foot on the throttle, a steering wheel, an engine and a gearbox. It’s up to you to find the right feeling. It is such a great car to drive,” concluded former Formula 1 driver Patrick Gaillard. “The whole team was very friendly and the atmosphere in the pit box was so relaxed. As I said, I really enjoyed myself and I want to thank the NWES organization for this opportunity. I’ll do my best to be on the grid in 2020.”
The next Drivers Recruitment Days will take place in France at the NWES test track at Fontenay Le Comte on December 12-13.
One lucky driver at California’s Madera Speedway will once again be the recipient of a Premier Marketing Package courtesy of McCallister Precision Marketing during the track’s annual banquet on Nov. 16.
Andretti Technologies, the advanced technology arm of Andretti Autosport, has expanded its portfolio in announcing today a partnership with NTT IndyCar Series competitors Meyer Shank Racing to provide engineering and development support through the 2020 season.
As part of the new relationship, the Meyer Shank Racing engineering team for driver Jack Harvey and the No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda will be staffed by veteran race engineers with Andretti Autosport experience. The team will receive technical and development support and will work alongside the five full-season Andretti entries.
Founded in late 2014, Andretti Technologies was the powertrain provider for the Andretti Formula E program for Seasons 3 and 4. The technical organization led by Michael Andretti entered into a similar partnership with Harding Steinbrenner Racing for the 2019 NTT IndyCar season, the first of a number of initiatives to establish Andretti Technologies as a service provider within motorsports and beyond.
Competitors in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires – the top rung of the world-renowned Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires driver development ladder system – will turn their attention to the Sunshine State in just over a month’s time for a two-day Series Open Test at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla., on December 11 and 12.
Sebring has long been a popular off-season locale for teams, being renowned as the best portrayal of a street circuit – which typically offers precious little track time – and will be extremely relevant heading into the 2020 calendar opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
“There’s no better place to get ready for St. Pete and Toronto than Sebring,” said reigning Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew. “St. Pete is smoother than Toronto, which is as bumpy as Sebring if not bumpier, but it’s the low-grip factor that makes it such a relevant testing ground. Sebring also has a good mix of both high and low speed corners and heavy braking zones – it’s in the top-five tracks in terms of braking force.
“It’s hard to simulate the kind of walls you encounter on a street course, but Sebring has a few corners where, if you’re an inch off the line, it can bite you. It’s dusty and it gets really hot during the middle of the day, so track temps and lap times change quite a bit. It’s a good place to work on street course setups, to test in hot weather and get used to those conditions, and to gel with the team early in the testing season.”
The 1.8-mile, 11-turn Sebring Club Course will play host to a field that will include the debut of Exclusive Autosport, race winners in both the Indy Pro 2000 Series Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, which will now compete on all three levels. The team announced its intent to enter two cars in 2020 at the season finale in September.
HMD Motorsports is looking to expand from a two-car team to a three and possibly four-car squad for 2020 and already has the third car in their possession. The team was no stranger to podium results in 2019, guiding English rookie Toby Sowery to his first career win and third place in the championship, and fellow rookie David Malukas, of Chicago, Ill., to a pair of podium results.
Indy Lights stalwarts Andretti Autosport, Belardi Auto Racing and Juncos Racing are expected to return to the track with a full complement of drivers, and the potential for another new team entry to the Indy Lights paddock is in the works.
“A lot of teams head to Sebring for winter testing, and to this year make it an official series’ two-day test benefits all of our teams as well as new drivers looking at the series,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “We have high expectations for an increased field size next season, although 2019 produced some outstanding competition, and we will be closely following our two most recent champions – Oliver Askew and Patricio O’Ward – as they make their full season NTT IndyCar Series debuts.
“We’ve had some exciting announcements of late including the introduction of the CFP [Cockpit Frontal Protection] device, new series partner Bell Helmets, the creation of the Construction Contractors Club and the return of Hi-Tide Boat Lifts and the rewarding Kids On Track program. We have additional news in the pipeline as we look to make 2020 one of our best seasons yet for the Road to Indy.”
Competitors on the Road to Indy will be vying for an increased prize package in 2020 with over $2.7M on deck in race and season-ending prizes and awards including an Indy Lights scholarship package valued at $1M for entry into three IndyCar races in 2021, including the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500.