We are just one day away from the IMSA WeatherTech 240 At Daytona and IMSA transporters, teams and drivers have begun to descend on Daytona Beach, Florida.
The two-hour, 40-minute race at Daytona International Speedway will be broadcast live this Saturday, July 4, on NBCSN, the NBC Sports App and TrackPass on NBC beginning at 6 p.m. ET. IMSA Radio also will have live radio coverage throughout the weekend on IMSARadio.com, in addition to Sirius channel 216, XM 210, Internet 970 for the race.
MacNeil: “Rings True” to Have WeatherTech as Race Sponsor
WeatherTech seems to be everywhere this weekend, from the entitlement of the WeatherTech Championship and the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup, to the race entitlement sponsor, and to the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GT3.
However, based on the company’s brand and values, it’s a perfect fit according to Cooper MacNeil, co-driver of the No. 63 Ferrari and son of WeatherTech Founder and CEO David MacNeil.
“We're big on the American theme and manufacturing in America, supporting the American economy and the American worker with tooling, raw tools, raw materials, machinery equipment, you name it,” said MacNeil, who co-drives with Toni Vilander. “To have our name as a title sponsor during the race, the first race back since January, I'll be it on the 4th of July is great for us.
“I think that'll be great for us as a brand and it just rings true with the patriotic theme of the company. We have a beautiful new livery on our race car this weekend as well, which I'm pretty thrilled about. The car looks great and she looks even faster, so we're really looking forward to this weekend.”
Déjà Vu for Bomarito
He’s at the same race, on the same day and with the same manufacturer as 10 years before. It’s almost like nothing has changed for Jonathan Bomarito. Almost.
Instead of being behind the wheel of the No. 70 Mazda RX-8 in the GT class, Bomarito is now in the top DPi class steering the rocket ship No. 55 Mazda DPi. It’s the same car he and co-driver Harry Tincknell made history just one year ago at Watkins Glen International, scoring the manufacturer’s first ever WeatherTech Championship win.
Although Saturday’s race wasn’t planned at the start of 2020, Bomarito is happy to be back for another summer run at Daytona.
“It's going to be great to be back to the track and doing what we do,” said the longtime Mazda driver. “I’m very excited for that and very excited to be back at Daytona in the summer for the night race. It’s been a long time since that race has happened and it was a great one in the past. I'm excited to be back to do that. I think it's going to be a great show.
“The race is going to have a different dynamic. Every time we go to Daytona in the past quite a few years, it's for an extreme endurance race of 24 hours, and now we're going to our sprint race format. So, it'll have a different feel for sure.”
Who Was the Overall Leader at Two Hours, 40 Minutes in January?
The No. 77 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi of Tristan Nunez and Oliver Jarvis. And this time, they won’t have to wait another 21 hours and 20 minutes to see the checkered flag.
While they went on to finish second, the program experienced a change during the racing hiatus, albeit planned. How do Nunez and Jarvis think their Rolex 24 finish will impact their title hopes? Well, it’s a bit different.
“After finishing the 24 this year second, it's the best start we've had in the whole Mazda program from the start of the year,” Nunez said. “It's really a shame that all this happened right after that because for me personally, that's my best finish ever at the 24 Hours at Daytona and having the championship in sight, just to be out of the car for the next three or four months.
“We know we have the pace now, we had the reliability to go out and win races and then now championship, hopefully fingers crossed.”
“We've shown we've got improved reliability, but for me, I don't look at the championship until after three, four races or under our belt,” Jarvis said. “Now it's about getting individual results. I honestly believe we have a good shot in the championship, but I'll start to look at that in, in two, three, four races time because you need to score points early on in the year that really sets you up.”
Still Seeking Corvette’s 100th IMSA Win, Strategy Remains the Same
While Corvette Racing won back-to-back GTLM championships in 2017 and 2018, the program’s last visit to victory lane in a WeatherTech Championship race was the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach at the hands of co-drivers Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin in the No. 7 Corvette C7.R.
That was IMSA win No. 99 for the team. Will this be the weekend the team eclipses the century mark?
Antonio Garcia, co-pilot of the No. 3 Corvette C8.R this year with Jordan Taylor, says the team hasn’t lost sight of that milestone.
“I think you need to play every race as a single event and just try to achieve that,” said Garcia. “We had come close to many times with (former co-driver) Jan (Magnussen). It was a little bit frustrating to be second so many times and knowing we could have won many of the races. But I think the approach will be the same: go race-by-race, do our best and if someone else does it better, then we can’t do anything about it.”
And despite a seventh-place finish at the Rolex 24 this year, Milner reinforced that mindset.
“Just because we had a bad Daytona doesn’t mean we are out of it,” said Milner. “As always, the goal at every weekend especially early on is to finish as high as we possibly can. Winning obviously is No. 1, but getting points is big. That won’t change by any means. There is an expected learning process with the new Corvette. If there is something we can learn early on here that will help us down the road, then we will certainly explore that.”