Speedway Digest Staff
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THE MODERATOR: We'll get our post-race interviews started here with David Salters, who is president of Honda Performance Development, which obviously developed the Acura ARX 06, which is the first winner in the new IMSA GTP era, third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona win overall for Acura.
David, we'll get questions started.
Q. David, first winner; how does that feel?
DAVID SALTERS: It doesn't suck.
No, it feels unbelievable, to be honest.
Q. Was it worth it?
DAVID SALTERS: Oh, yeah. There's a reason why. This just involves the hard work of a lot of people. I get to ponce around here and look not good in a hat, so that's okay, but there is just an army of people who work really, really, really hard to do this, so the real privilege is to work with those people and to achieve days like today.
We all know it doesn't happen all the time, so it's just -- was it worth it? It's been two years. I think it's the best thing I've been involved with, in terms of the pure effort. We're not a lot of people, but I think well done Acura Motorsport. If that isn't a definition of precision crafted performance, I don't know what is.
Well done, everybody. Well done, Oreca; well done, our teams; well done, our drivers. It's just people. This game is not rocket science, by the way, it's getting the right people in the right places and letting them job their jobs and helping them.
Is it worth it? Oh, hell yeah, and it's because of the people that you get to share it with. It's like anything in life that's worthwhile; if you can share it, it's worth it.
Well done, everyone here that contributes, and all the fans and IMSA have done a great job just to make it a great show. It was okay, wasn't it? Scared me to death.
Q. Everyone seemed to think that reliability was going to be an issue, and there seemed to be a lot of talk that Acura specifically was going to have difficulty making it 24 hours. Were you guys just lying the whole time? Did you know something nobody else did? You seemed okay.
DAVID SALTERS: Oh, Ye of little faith. Apparently our cars can do 24 hours. We were smart, and we tried to use testing and bits of test, but we were a bit behind.
But the faith in the people, you can see what they can achieve. To be blunt, we did not know.
Q. David, I think there might have been some dramas through the race with the oil flush. Can you talk about that and what you had to do to overcome that challenge?
DAVID SALTERS: Again, it's why we go racing. There is a really cool renewable fuel in this car. It comes with different characteristics. One thing we are just learning now, you can get oil dilution with the fuel, and that's a new thing because it's brand new because nobody has tried this stuff before.
So we have to manage it. You see people have been adding oil, changing oil, all that sort of stuff, to try to keep the fuel dilution underway. It's great, because it's a new thing. We are cutting edge. People are finding this out. It's why we go racing.
Our head of engine development is in the back of the trailer. He flew in specially to keep an eye on it. We have a machine that we got specially flown in to monitor it so we didn't mess it up. Apparently we didn't mess it up.
We had a few kerfuffles where we left some pit stuff attached and then where we would normally just fill it easily, was not so easy, but that's racing.
There were some new technical challenges and we had to rise to them, and it's the same for everyone. You ca see people adding oil, taking oil away and stuff just to manage it. Actually we put an extra effort -- actually, again, this is the bit that you don't see.
Over Christmas, Father Christmas did not come, unfortunately, to HPD, which is a bit sad. Over Christmas, before, during, after, people worked really hard to set this system up really exactly like the car, and we managed an oil temperature all over Christmas trying to do 4,000 miles to manage the behavior of the fuel and oil.
That's the efforts that you have to go. But it was a new thing, but that's what we did. Lots of oil changing, yes, all for really good, cutting edge technical reasons, and we've managed to sort it out, because you have to. That's racing. You've got to sort it out.
Q. Is it something you think you can sort out permanently in the future?
DAVID SALTERS: Yes, it was just all new. It was like, surprise.
Q. When did you know? At what point did you know you would have to go...
DAVID SALTERS: End of November. That wasn't -- oops. That's what the challenge is, and that's the beautiful bit of working with those men and women.
Q. It seemed like the 60 car, and the 10 to some extent, as well, had a real pace advantage and also an efficiency advantage. What would you sort of attribute that to? Just superior efficiency?
DAVID SALTERS: Okay, I think the lovely thing is now, none of us need to talk about BRP. It was the same. Of the aero box was the same. We measure the power on the rear axles and the weight of the car was the same.
So sort of knowing that, when we grabbed the rule book two years ago, how do we make the best car? I think if you go and look at the car and the packaging of the engine and stuff and the fact that we made a brand-new hybrid power train, we just tried to make the best car to deal -- to just try and -- you're looking for such small differences everywhere, and we tried to do that within the framework of what we're allowed to do.
So the aero box, the weight, the engine power, trying to just make the car. I've been lucky enough to work with some legends, let's say, and light and low to the ground was pretty good, and in the middle of the car was pretty good, so you'll see some methodology about our car that's much more sophisticated when it comes down to weight distribution. And it comes down to all the things that make a car, but the car is the sum of a parts, so we sort of concentrated on each bit.
There's never a smoking gun in this stuff. There's all the bits of the car that go to make it fast, but we concentrated on each one to make the best race car that we could, and I guess we did.
Q. Were you surprised at all but one GTP car finished given all the hype and talk about reliability?
DAVID SALTERS: Amazed I think is the right word. I think it goes -- I didn't know, but these are sophisticated cars, and it's not easy for anybody. Trying to fit a hybrid in a place it doesn't want to fit and it's too hot and it vibrates and all the things you do on a racing car. I think it's a testament to each group that they did a really good job, and the suppliers of the hybrid system did a good job.
It's not easy. It's always easy to look and stuff. It's much harder to do.
Well done, and I think it's amazing. The fact that -- and it was a fight all through the race. I did not expect that at all.
At one point I'm learning to wing foil. I started looking what the wind might be this morning, to be honest, because you never know. You're thinking, I'm not sure how this thing is going to go. I was looking casually. You just knuckle down and you sort your problems out, and off you go.
Q. In terms of endurance testing, what was the longest test you did consecutively with ARX 06 before coming here?
DAVID SALTERS: We were trying to figure that out. We did the miles. We just didn't do them all in one hit. We know this game, so we did the miles. We just actually really didn't get the opportunity due to some sort of -- it's always a balance when you make a car.
You're trying to push the development as far as you can, but make sure you make it work. I would always go on the side of make the fast car first, so we probably did in one continuous run -- and I'd need to check -- with the car, four or five hours. But we did lots of slots of that.
And then on the dyno, we have a full hybrid power train. That thing did tens of thousands of miles, and the car did tens of thousands of miles. We just didn't put it all together. But apparently it's okay.
Q. Obviously you have quite an emerging star here in Tom Blomqvist, and he just did an INDYCAR test last year; who knows what the future holds. What's it like to have him in the fold not just Acura, but HPD overall? Seems like he's quite a talent.
DAVID SALTERS: We love Tom. He's the real deal, isn't he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.
The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that's the standard you have to have. Everyone has to be on their game.
Tom, brilliant, Filipe, brilliant, Ricky -- you can go through that list. They're all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable. One and done. That's amazing, isn't it? That's the type of guy you're dealing with.
Actually all our drivers contributed because the lucky thing about this, it's a team. It literally is a team sport, so getting them all together, and they all were at the highest level, I think.
Q. You guys were definitely the most well-rounded car on the grid. Looking forward to developing throughout the season over any specific elements of performance you want to focus on or do you want to keep building that well-rounded package you had today?
DAVID SALTERS: We're still learning the car. I think, again, car is the sum of parts. We'll regroup, what can we do better. We did some things great, and some things we had to put to one side. We'll see there are some things we didn't do great, so we'll have a review and figure it out.
It's how you manage energy, the software of this car is open. That's lovely. That's helped us attract actually the next generation of engineers. If you go and wander around our pit stand, it's a very diverse, young group now, which is awesome, to be honest with you.
So we'll keep pushing. We'll find some areas. Out teams are brilliant, and we're still learning a bit the setup of the car. We've made great strides, but we started a bit late, honestly speaking.
Q. David, Honda Performance, very high profile in Formula 1. Honda is very high profile in INDYCAR in this country. What does this do for Acura to win a race of this significance?
DAVID SALTERS: Well, you all need to tell me. I think it is a landmark moment, isn't it? It's the pinnacle of sports car racing to show your performance. Acura is all about performance, so I think we just -- can't drop the mic. But there you go. We came out of the blocks. It showed Acura's performance.
Also, it's a new age. It's electrified, all that sort of stuff.
Walk the walk. I think it's pretty good. Very pleased for Acura Motorsport. Again, all part of the same group. I think Acura Motorsport shows where it is in sports car racing.
Q. You're showing, I think, sort of the emotion of the finish of that race. Just want to know what made you more nervous, was it when the fight was coming from the Cadillacs at the end or when it was between the two Acuras?
DAVID SALTERS: Yes. Hmm.
Well, the good thing, we have teams that race.
The bad thing, we have teams that race. But you would never, ever want to -- we have to be sensible. We're here for Acura Motorsports.
Full trust in those guys, and it was great to have that fight until the end. Your adversary, the ones we're racing, really know what they're doing. They're top world class, so to take the fight to the adversary is brilliant, world class. And then within our teams, they were brilliant, weren't they?
I was not worried at all about the interaction with our teams, he says with a slight smile.
Q. David, you work a lot with Michael Shank, who puts a whole lot of pressure on himself, has a little bit of a complex about being underappreciated or maybe ignored. What does he mean to you guys?
DAVID SALTERS: Mike is wonderful. The results, racing results, speak for themselves. That's all you need to know. Two Daytona wins, championship, Indy 500, you cannot do much better in North America, can you.
With the greatest of respect, some of the things you've said are not true.
It's people doing work. What Graham did -- today is great. Tomorrow, right, what are we going to do for Sebring. So that's the standard we set for ourselves, but we just appreciate the people. Mike is really smart, got the right people in the right places, team is tremendous. He has really knuckled down, and he has taken his team to the next level.
Just go in his pit box and look what's happened. That's just the mentality of how can I be the best.
All the teams here are world class, so...
Q. It came down to Acura versus Cadillac in this case, which is pretty similar to what we saw the last few years. Is that just by coincidence, or could you put your finger on why that was?
DAVID SALTERS: Well, again, I think massive respect to our competitors. Their class shows through, doesn't it?
But there wasn't much in any of it, to be honest with you, so massive respect to our competitors. They're world class; we're world class. These are the biggest companies in the world, aren't they? They definitely know what they're doing.
I don't know if that's coincidence or not, but also we're sort of game fit, aren't we, both of us. Between us, GM, we're game fit. We've just come off the end of a pretty hectic season, and back to it.
I think probably the match fitness I think is the right word. We're probably match fit. That just means the others are coming. All I know is the others are coming, and it's going to be amazing, isn't it?
Isn't that brilliant for our fans, Acura fans, IMSA fans, all the manufacturers' fans, and in terms of sports car racing, obviously people are on pit lane at the start of this race. I've never seen anything like that. That was astonishing, I think, and it's real racing. Ding-dong, right to the end, 24 hours. How does that work?
You would have put quite a lot of money on just staggered, someone is on the lead lap, someone is 10 laps down, and it came down to the very end.
I think that's a testament to the skill of the engineers and the technicians that work on these cars. It's astonishing. I'm massively impressed.
The Cadillac V-LMDh features an all-new Cadillac 5.5-liter DOHC V8 engine developed by GM’s Performance and Racing propulsion team based in Pontiac, Michigan. Cadillac is the only GTP competitor with a naturally aspirated engine.
The body, codeveloped by Cadillac Design, Cadillac Racing and chassis constructor Dallara, incorporates key Cadillac V-Series production car design elements.
The No. 01 Cadillac V-LMDh and No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-LMDh will next compete March 18 in the Twelve Hours of Sebring on the 3.74-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway. The No. 2 Cadillac V-LMDh will make its FIA World Endurance Championship debut March 17 in the 1000 of Sebring.
Cadillac Racing driver quotes
No. 01 Cadillac V-LMDh (qualified fourth, finished third)
Sebastien Bourdais: “Obviously, didn’t run the perfect race but as close as you can get to it considering it was the first outing in a race for the Cadillac V-LMDh. Honestly, I just didn’t think it was going to take the perfect race and some. I’m really surprised that the competition beat us on performance and everybody ended up having a very clean race. It’s tough to be on the wrong side of things but scoring some good points. All the hard work from Ganassi, Cadillac and Bosch, Dallara and everybody that has been involved in this project has been rewarded with a triple finish. We’ll keep working and thanks for everybody’s hard work.”
Renger van der Zande: ““Yeah, finishing second or third is not what we came for, but hey it’s the first time and we got points for podium to start the season off with Ganassi. At the end of the day, we didn’t have the pace to win, and we didn’t have the speed on the straights to win. It’s time to collect and see where we can improve as a team. I think it’s a tribute to GM and to Dallara and Ganassi to build a car that lasts for 24 hours. I think that is an amazing thing and yeah, congrats to the winners.”
Scott Dixon: “Pretty decent finish and great work by the team and all the partners. That’s a feat in itself. I think coming down toward the end we knew it was going to be a tough fight, especially with the speed of the other cars. It was a fun race and just came up short.”
No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh (qualified fifth, finished fourth)
Richard Westbrook: “What a journey for us to get to this point. To run flawlessly for 24 hours in the debut of the Cadillac LMDh is something we can all be proud of. Obviously, there is initial disappointment because we just missed out on the podium and had the potential to win. But listen, we just have so much to be proud of to get the car home without any issues is just a testament to the team, Cadillac, and everyone involved. We are only going one way and that is forward.”
Earl Bamber: “I think just an all-around good job by Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac to come out and run 24 hours and have both cars on the lead lap, have both cars with potential to be on the podium. Missed a little bit of pace to Acura and hate we missed out on the podium, but its good points in the championship. Now we can go on to Sebring and WEC.”
Alex Lynn: “We are disappointed not to get the win. That’s what you turn up to Daytona to do. The car ran flawlessly. Big congrats to Cadillac for building such a great car and we’ll be back.”
No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-LMDh (qualified sixth, finished fifth)
Pipo Derani: “It’s just one of those things and one of those races where you have to be there at the end and unfortunately, we got crashed by a GT. It wasn’t major, it was just a touch from the GT. But after two hours after that touch, our rear suspension gave up. So, really unfortunate there. The team did an amazing job to repair the car and put us back in contention. The car was really quick, so kind of bittersweet because we had a strong enough car to be on the podium, but that’s racing. Looks like we are going to be a strong team and I am looking forward to Sebring. The machine has worked flawless over a 24-hour race, which is incredible.”
Alexander Sims: “It’s always disappointing when you get to the end of a long race like that, put in so much effort and don’t get the result you feel you deserve. But that’s the way racing is; it’s sport. There’s one winner and a lot of losers and that’s what makes it so special when you do win. It’s the fierst race we’ve had with this car, a lot of learning has been done and I think already we see where we can make decent improvements on the car side, on my side and that’s just part of building that overall picture to continue through the championship and get the results as we go along.”
Jack Aitken: “To finish fifth after everything that we went through in this race is quite an achievement and I think it goes to show how much attrition was out there as well. It is a shame because we led laps and were running with the leaders at the time. But that’s just bad luck in multi-class racing. We have a lot to be really proud of and it’s just the start of the season, so lots of really promising things happening. It was a great experience and very different from the other 24-hour races that I’ve done. I want to come back and hopefully get on the top step."
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Cadillac V-LMDh cars were running first and third at the 16-hour mark of the 61st Rolex 24 At Daytona on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course.
Sebastien Bourdais, a two-time Rolex 24 winner, drove the No. 01 Cadillac V-LMDh to the front of the field. Alex Lynn challenged for the lead after the seventh caution period of the race and was running third in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh.
He won last year’s edition of Winternationals at North Florida Speedway, and now, Tyler Nicely has backed it up with his second win at the venue in two seasons.
The opening round of UMP Modified Florida Speedweeks featured a classic battle between two of DIRTcar’s toughest heavyweights right on the front row. Defending Speedweeks champion Lucas Lee turned the fastest lap of the night in Qualifying and won his Heat Race to claim the pole for the Feature, while 2020 Speedweeks champion Nicely kept up him the whole night with a second-best Qualifying lap and a win in Heat Race #2 to start P2.
The green dropped, and Nicely hammered the throttle out of Turn 4. With Lee still to his inside, the two drag raced down the front stretch and into Turn 1. Nicely edged ahead in the outside lane and sealed the pass out of Turn 2 to take the lead.
“I knew that if Lucas started on the pole, I was going to have to get a really good jump to get to the lead and try and dictate my own race,” Nicely said. “We went harder than most other guys on tires, so I knew once I could get out front, I should be okay.”
From that point forward, it was Nicely’s race to lose. Lee gave it everything he had to catch and pass the leader but was unable to give Nicely a serious challenge. Several caution flags scattered throughout the 25-lap Feature presented Lee with multiple opportunities to attempt a pass, but Nicely came prepared and denied him at every turn.
“I was mainly worried about getting a good restart,” Nicely said. “If you don’t get a good restart and you mess-up in Turn 1, you end up getting behind. It could lose you the race.
“I knew Lucas was going to be tough, and Drake [Troutman] was on the outside of me one restart. I didn’t really know what was going on behind me, but I felt like I had a balanced race car.”
Lee’s perseverance actually paid more dividends than what the box scores show. On a Lap 9 restart, young Pennsylvania racer Drake Troutman muscled his Jerry Foster Racing #5 Longhorn Chassis past Lee to take second. Lee didn’t take that lightly, as he returned the favor the very next restart, though he was still not as comfortable with his car as he had hoped for the first race of the season.
“I could turn well; I just didn’t have any traction when I got back in the gas,” Lee said. “We didn’t get any heat in the motors on the start, so my motor was just at 100, and didn’t fire off well.”
Being the first DIRTcar-sanctioned Modified race of the 2023 season anywhere in the country has its significance, especially being part of a 13-race swing through Florida over 15 days. Nicely’s feeling the momentum already and is looking to carry it on to win his second career UMP Modified Speedweeks title.
“Any time you can get a win is awesome, but for the first race out – all your jitters and that kinda go away when you can just knock one off,” Nicely said. “Hopefully, we can take this momentum into East Bay and even Volusia.”
Lee is aware of the stakes as well. Coming in as the defending Speedweeks champion, who beat Nicely last year by over 100 points, he knows his competition is going to be tough throughout the three-week grind.
“Tyler’s gonna be there every night,” Lee said. “We’ve gotta be better than him. We’ve gotta do what we’re supposed to do early in the night, win the Heat Race, and maybe he doesn’t one night.”
The DIRTcar UMP Modified action continues with the second of two races at North Florida Speedway on Sunday, Jan. 29. Follow DIRTcar Racing on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for live updates throughout the program.
Feature (25 laps) – 1. 25-Tyler Nicely ; 2. 12-Lucas Lee ; 3. 5-Drake Troutman ; 4. 7-Brad DeYoung ; 5. 141-Justin Galbreath ; 6. 24-Zeke McKenzie ; 7. 8-Jimmy Lennex Jr. ; 8. 41-Brad Goff ; 9. 25A-Jason Altiers ; 10. 44-Jeff Parsons ; 11. 57-Fletcher Mason ; 12. 2J-Troy Johnson ; 13. 99-Justin Haley ; 14. 40-Kevin Adams ; 15. 97-Mitch Thomas ; 16. 59-Ronnie Chab ; 17. 3-Josh Sandford ; 18. 25W-Allen Weisser ; 19. 72-Todd Neiheiser ; 20. 4-Mike Learman ; 21. 16C-John Clippinger ; 22. 27-Jason Floyd 
DIRTcar Series PR
Anthony Sesely Becomes First Four-Time NAPA Auto Parts Atlantic City Indoor Race Gambler’s Classic Winner; Logan Crisafulli, Erick Rudolph, Danny Spellmon Race To Champ Kart, 600 Micro, Slingshot Feature Checkered Flags; Sesely Is TQ TC Cup Points Ch
The next event for Len Sammons Motorsports Productions is the East Coast 600 Sprint Indoor Dirt Nationals presented by BELFOR at the Cure Insurance Arena in Trenton, NJ on February 24-25, 2023
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All three Cadillac V-LMDh race cars have led laps through eight hours of the 61st Rolex 24 At Daytona on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener is also the debut of the electrified Cadillac entries in the rejuvenated Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class.
On Friday afternoon Jessica Fickenscher the Executive Director for the 2023 All Star Race at North Wilkesboro took to SiriusXM Radio during track presidents day segments to update fans on progress at the track.
For weeks fans have taken to social media to watch the progress at the track as construction and renovations have taken place. Much of the facility according to Fickenscher will remain the same as a “restomod” as Marcus Smith of Speedway Motorsports has said in the past of the updates being made at the track.
For years the track has sat since 1996 and in need of major updates. Of which are buildings that have fallen in but also updates to buildings that were salvageable. Fickenscher noted that electrical and water updates are being made to the facility in order to support the upcoming race and they are on track at this moment to meet the deadline.
Just last week chief engineer Steve Swift noted on the question of SAFER that it would be delivered in the coming weeks and ready for installation in about a month. Lights are currently going into place in the infield to support the night races that will take place in May.
Logistics has been a major part of this process as the last events held there were backed up for hours with people getting both into and out of the track forcing track promoters to hold the race to allow fans sitting to get into the parking lots and into the track.
This time however will be different with Speedway Motorsports working with the Towns of North Wilkesboro and Wilkesboro on remote parking and shuttle plans.
“We have been working with a remote parking and shuttle plan with the towns and county. They have absolutely been great to work with in the support they have given us.” Said Fickenscher
“Transportation, parking and shuttle plans to be announced soon.” Continued Fickenscher
On the minds of fans who missed out on the chance for tickets will have another opportunity but limited to only single day tickets for Friday practice sessions and Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series events when tickets go on sale on February 22nd. Both days are scheduled to also include concerts from acts that have yet to be announced.
Finally, with millions being poured into the track by grant funds and Speedway Motorsports, the future of the track in the coming years seems to be secured. Late last year additional funding was added to the track with the promise the additional events would be held over the next five years.
“North Wilkesboro Speedway definitely has a future. The community has been amazing , we definitely want to bring racing back there and we have been putting a lot of work into it. It’s not going to be a one off for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you all for joining us here for the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona. We are honored to have this group of team owners participating in the relaunch of the IMSA GTP category here today.
Without further ado, we'll go ahead and introduce everybody, go one by one by car number starting with Chip Ganassi, owner of Chip Ganassi Racing, which is fielding the No. 01 Cadillac Racing VLMDH for Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon, as well as the No. 02 Cadillac Racing VLMDH for Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook.
Chip's team has eight Rolex 24 at Daytona victories, 63 IMSA race victories, five Indy 500 wins, one Daytona 500 victory, 21 championships across motorsports.
Chip, you've been a fairly regular participant here in the Rolex 24 really going back to 2004, most years if not all years since 2004 you've been here. Can you just talk about the progress you've seen in the sport from that first Rolex almost 20 years ago to what you're seeing here today?
CHIP GANASSI: Thank you. I thought it was interesting last weekend at the Roar, I think there were more people at the Roar than at the last bunch of Rolexes we've been to, so hats off to whoever is in charge of that. Hats off to the track people, I guess. It's changed in a big way.
I remember the days when there were no -- an energy drink was a cup of coffee in a styrofoam cup. We had three or four mechanics and we didn't know what the word "engineer" was. It's changed quite a bit over the time.
THE MODERATOR: Let's move over to Roger Penske, owner of Porsche Penske Motorsport, fielding the No. 6 Porsche 963 for Mathieu Jaminet, Nick Tandy and Dane Cameron, the No. 7 Porsche 963 for Matt Campbell, Felipe Nasr and Michael Christiansen.
Two Rolex 24 at Daytona class victories, 32 IMSA race victories, three NASCAR Cup Series championships, nine total NASCAR national series titles, three Daytona 500 victories, 18 Indy 500 wins, over 600 race wins all told, 670 pole positions, 43 championships.
Roger, as I mentioned, those are pretty impressive stats, but a couple that are missing are overall wins here at the Rolex 24 and the 24 hours at Le Mans. What would it mean to your legacy to get those wins on the list here?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think that one of the things we looked at was the success of the series as it was growing here over the last couple years, and having the opportunity to run with Acura for a couple years and then seeing the growth, and with the additional teams coming in, our ability to partner with Porsche gave us an opportunity to platform for us to try to win one of the races that we haven't overall, and that would obviously be Le Mans.
I just take my hat off looking at the people here on the dais with us here this morning, the wins that they've had here at the race, certainly Chip and Wayne and Cadillac have done a terrific job, and I think that with Michael Andretti coming and Bobby, we all see this seems to be a real platform for us to take sports car racing to the next level here in the United States, and then to be able to compete on an international platform at Le Mans for our teams and our brands will be special.
But for us, it's always a goal, and I look at competing with these folks, it's going to be terrific. I take my hat off to them. We're way behind from the standpoint of experience here, but on the other hand, I think we all come here with new rules. This high-voltage hybrid has been a challenge for us from the standpoint to understand it. I said to someone the other day, I think we have more engineers looking at computers than we do people working on the car right now. It may not be true with these other people but it certainly looks like it in our pit.
It's exciting, and we cherish the thought that we have a chance to race here and then go on to the rest of the series.
We appreciate the fans and obviously the interest that the media is having with this. I think this is really a send-off to a really exciting time in motor racing and certainly in sports cars.
THE MODERATOR: Let's slide over to your left to Wayne Taylor and Michael Andretti, co-owners of Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport. They are fielding the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX06 for Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Louis Deletraz and Brandon Hartley. Their partnership was announced in late December for Wayne Taylor Racing.
They've had five Rolex 24 at Daytona victories, 49 IMSA race victories, four IMSA championships, Andretti Autosport four IMSA wins, five Indy 500 wins, six championships.
Wayne, you and your team have had a knack for success here at Daytona with four wins in the last six years. Can you put your finger on why you've had that kind of success and maybe what it's going to take to do that?
WAYNE TAYLOR: I think it's just passion and dedication and the guys -- this is the biggest race of the year. It's the first race of the year, maximum amount of effort.
We have great partners from HPD and our sponsors from Konica Minolta and Mike Mathé, and this year it's even more special teaming up with Michael Andretti because clearly when I came to the very first test with the new cars, which are great, I counted 91 people working on my car. I walked around and I said, there's something wrong here, guys. The car would do a lap and come in and people would plug in and wouldn't run for three hours.
I thought, I need some real support here, and Michael running Formula E and stuff like that and with the facilities they have and with the people they have, it was time to go to the next level.
I'm really excited about this, and also I'm humbled by sitting next to Roger, Michael, Chip. Just everybody here is just great. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Wayne. Over to Michael, you've previously been in the ownership ranks here in IMSA, now back here with Wayne. What kind of reaction have you seen in the garage area to being back here?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's been fantastic for sure. We're so excited to be here. For us, we've never actually done a 24-hour race, so we're excited to be here for the first time competing.
Over the years I've been watching these guys over here having fun, starting race season early in January, so it's great to be a part of it now. We've been looking at sports cars for quite some time, and was just looking for the right opportunity, and I think patience paid off. I don't think we can be in a better situation to team up with Wayne and his great team that he has here.
We're really excited about the future of what we're going to do with this sport. There's a lot of cool plans for the future. I think IMSA has done a great job with the rules. It's exciting to see all the manufacturers' excitement of being involved, and I think there's going to be even more in the future.
I think the future is really bright for sports car racing, and I think our timing is perfect to be involved.
THE MODERATOR: We'll slide down to the front row to the front left, Bobby Rahal, BMW M Team, RLL co-owner, fielding the No. 24 BMW M hybrid V-8 for Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Marco Wittmann, Colton Herta, and the No. 25 BMW M hybrid V-8 for Connor de Phillippe, Nick Yelloly, Sheldon van der Linde and Colton Herta again.
Two Rolex 24 at Daytona wins, both of them in the GTLM class. Looking for the first overall Rolex 24 win here. 21 IMSA race victories, two Indy 500 wins as a team, three motorsports championships.
Bobby, I mentioned back-to-back Rolex 24 wins in GTLM, and you also know what it's like to win here as an owner, having done that in a previous GTP generation. What would it mean to win this one as a team owner the first year in GTP for you?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I think obviously we're thrilled to be here competing against these guys who I see just about every weekend it seems. It's exciting times for sure. I think history is being written starting today, and it's exciting to be a part of that.
Certainly for us, the chance to win this race overall, as you mentioned, did it as a driver, it's a very tough race to win, and for us as a team to be here with a chance at an overall victory is something that we've really hoped for for many years.
We've had 14 years, 15 years with BMW, couldn't ask for a better partner, and just excited about what the future is for this category, and hopefully the chance for us, like Roger or others, to go to Le Mans with a car that has the opportunity to win that race in an overall sense.
We're just thrilled to be here, excited. Can't wait for the green flag to drop, frankly, and it's going to be I'm sure a struggle. I think everybody is going to -- it'll be tough, but we are looking forward to the next 36 hours.
THE MODERATOR: Let's slide to the middle, Bob Johnson, owner of Action Express Racing, which is fielding the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V LMDH for Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims, Jack Aitken. Three Rolex 24 at Daytona wins, 28 IMSA race victories, five WeatherTech Championship titles, six IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup titles.
Bob, in terms of championships, as I mentioned, there's no team that's had as much here in the WeatherTech Championship as yours, but you've obviously got some pretty stiff competition sitting around you here today. How will Action Express and the No. 31 team rise to the challenge here this weekend?
BOB JOHNSON: Well, we've just done everything we think we needed to do to get ready for today, but it's obviously going to be difficult with this group and all the new manufacturers that are competing now. It's really a whole new environment.
We've got some very difficult competition, and we know that. But we're up for it. Our guys are ready, and we can't wait.
THE MODERATOR: Finally, last but certainly not least, Mike Shank, co-owner of Meyer Shank Racing, fielding the No. 60 Acura ARX 06 for Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. Two Rolex 24 at Daytona victories, including last year here. 15 IMSA race wins, three IMSA championships, all those coming in the last four years, including last year's DPi championship, 2021 Indianapolis 500 winner. The No. 60 car starts on the pole position for today's race.
Mike, you've earned your spot on this stage here today, and obviously again sitting amongst some pretty impressive company. I know you're mostly interested in looking forward, but what does it mean to you to be a part of this group?
MICHAEL SHANK: First of all, me sitting on this stage is out of world, out of body. This is the folks that I grew up watching and idolizing and run the team very much how they run their teams. Me, Jim Meyer, who's a giant part of my life and a great friend, we're kind of out of place here I feel. We're still earning our respect. We're still working to be better every day.
This car has been soul sucking. It's been a lot of work for all the guys that work super hard, Acura, HPD and Honda now, I'm on my ninth season with them overall, and just feel lucky and fortunate, and I'm willing to work my ass off to make sure it works for everybody.
Q. Most of you guys up there do have a hand in INDYCAR, as well. How has working on the new GTP IMSA car helped develop your INDYCAR, and how has working on the INDYCAR helped develop the GTP car?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I mean, I'll answer it because we're in a lot of different things. We feel like a lot of people think when you get in all these different series that you're diluting yourself, and I disagree. I think we're making ourselves stronger because there's always something to learn from one series to another. We always try to apply that.
We may be doing something -- sports cars might be doing something different that might work in INDYCAR and vice versa. Yeah, we're constantly trying to make ourselves better and learn from each different series that we're involved in.
BOBBY RAHAL: I think Michael said it all. There's no question that one benefits the other and vice versa, so yeah, we think it makes you stronger, as Michael said, so we're glad to be here.
Q. You all have a considerable investment in sports car racing; when you see the largest crowd in Rolex 24 history and the buzz around GTP and everything, are you starting to see the payoff for everything you've put in?
ROGER PENSKE: I think it's important for the manufacturers that are supporting us to see the interest. I think when you see the quality of the drivers, not only domestically but internationally, it makes a big difference. So we're going to reach a bigger population from the standpoint of sports car racing, and I think that's important.
I know from a Porsche perspective, the commitment to the dealer body and things like that, I know the same with the other manufacturers here, makes a big difference. That last question that was asked, I would say, it's not what we're learning, I think having our drivers, INDYCAR drivers have a chance to run in a 24-hour race just gets them better.
MICHAEL SHANK: I think it's a credit to, I see Ed Bennett over here and Jim France and their vision and Scott Atherton. I think a couple years ago, Ed putting this global package together also I think has made it extremely attractive to our partners.
I've been around since the GRAND-AM days, and the growth of it and the ability for folks like us to come in and compete at a high level, I owe it all to them.
Q. Roger, the electrification components and hybrid components that are in these cars, how much is it going to translate over to the Next Gen as NASCAR looks towards that in the future?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think that right now, this is an evolutionary process as we look at electrification coming throughout the auto industry. Obviously having a hybrid type vehicle in racing is very important to us for sustainability and also the environment.
Q. There's a sense of history around what's about to happen today. Do you feel that, and how significant do you see this change into this new GTP era?
CHIP GANASSI: I think it's obvious. Everybody, when the people in the United States and the people in France were able to get together on rules to a common standard, I guess, all of us in the industry thought, wow, this is going to be great. So it's something we've known for a couple years was coming.
Now for it to be on the doorstep of the first race of this formula, I think we're all -- the excitement is obvious, with the manufacturers here, with the fans here. I heard this morning that Le Mans is sold out of tickets, and I've never heard that before.
I think everybody on both sides of the Atlantic are very, very -- obviously very, very excited about this formula, about what's about to happen. So I think we're on the precipice of a new renaissance here, thanks to the people in charge.
Q. Roger, you had some amazing success with Porsche 15 years ago with the RS Spyder. Would you be able to explain the importance of that project, of you guys coming together again, and what any transferables are between that program 15 years ago and today?
ROGER PENSKE: I think you really have to go back to the '70s in the 917/10 and the 917/30 and then on to the Spyder in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Look, this is a history book that we put together as two brands.
On the other hand, I think the performance that we were able to provide Porsche during that time gave us at least a chance at the table to put together Porsche Penske Motorsports. To me it's a fantastic opportunity, and the commitment that all these brands are making, at the senior level I might say, these are the senior executives, see this as a way to help them build their brands worldwide.
For us, it's certainly special, and I think the fact that we had a history and had success helped us get to where we are today.
Q. Do you think the level of manufacturer interest that we've seen in GTP and also in Hypercar would be possible if the cars weren't hybrids? He know it's complicated and adding a lot of headaches for all of you, but do you think that's the key to why we've seen such investment here?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'd say yes, definitely, for sure, because racing has always been used as a test bed for manufacturers, and it's a new technology out there, so that's why there's all this interest from all the manufacturers to get involved. There's no question about it that it's the rules package that really attracted all the manufacturers.
ROGER PENSKE: I also think that when you looked at IMSA and you looked at Le Mans, let's just step back, and you look at the number of cars that were competing at the highest level, it was very few. You talk five, six, seven cars.
Now as we go forward over the next 12 to 24 months, we could have 15 or 20 people competing at the highest level, and I think that was the vision that Jim France had along with Pierre Fillon and the people at the World Endurance Championship. I think that's really another key factor.
Q. Roger, once we go to the other classics like Sebring, Le Mans, you're going to be renewing a rivalry with Porsche and Ferrari, obviously immortalized in film by Steve McQueen back in the day. What's your anticipation level about going there and going for the outright win against the mighty Ferrari?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think the Ferrari brand, as we all know in motor racing and certainly people who buy those cars worldwide, it's amazing. I think their committing to this after so many years is going to make it amazing.
Q. With an endurance race like this, wanted to find out, and this is for any one of you that's up there, which do you feel is the greater challenge in terms of the endurance, the drivers or the cars themselves?
MICHAEL SHANK: It was drivers last year, it's the car this year. But they're great. This car is such a cool car. When you see us leave out of the box on all electric, that's an evolution that I never thought I'd be a part of. It's a natural progression. It has to happen for the OEMs to stay engaged, and we have to get on with our life now.
The cars are tricky here, but we'll get that figured out in the next few months, and we'll be back to sprint racing at the 24.
BOB JOHNSON: I totally agree because the car is new, and we're all learning a lot every day. We did a lot of testing, all we could, but there's still a lot of things we're not totally aware of. We're going to have to see how it goes. That's the challenge.
Q. Some of you are taking the fight to Toyota and Ferrari at WEC and at Le Mans. How important is the whole success of the formula is it going to be for Toyota, Ferrari, Peugeot to be here?
ROGER PENSKE: I think with the race at Sebring, to see all those brands on the same day or days will be amazing, and hopefully we can see that continue even being able to compete at IMSA because right now it's really the two series, and we only come together here in the U.S. with Ferrari and those groups right now at Sebring.
I think the vision that WEC has and also Jim and the team have from the standpoint of IMSA, I think there's an opportunity longer term to really meld this thing into one big series where everybody is competing at the same time, which will only -- it's a step. I think we've made the first step, and now we'll go to the next step when we see how competitive this is, and certainly with the interest that they talked about earlier here at Le Mans with the tickets selling out in two days is amazing.
Q. All of you are representing factories which have invested heavily in this new GTP formula. Love to hear about the corporate side; some of you carry significant sponsorship from corporate America or international companies. Would love to hear a little bit from one or more of you about the buy-in and interest you're seeing from those outside of your manufacturers to get involved in GTP.
WAYNE TAYLOR: I would just like to say something about a question that was asked a little while ago about is it going to be the drivers or the cars that are going to win this race. My view is that it goes hand in hand. If you have drivers that are going to be running over curbs and doing stupid things to be fast, they're going to cause the cars to break, and I believe that these cars, you can only prepare as much as you know what you're going to do, and there are things that are going to be out of the hands of our teams that we have no control over. So I think it's a combination of both.
With regard to corporate America or whatever being involved in the sport, for me personally, I have to say a huge thanks to Mike Mathé and Konica Minolta who have been with me since 2014. We are obviously supported highly by HPD and Andretti Autosport, but without companies like Konica Minolta and people like that, we don't go racing.
I think if you look back at the past of sports car racing, we went from in 2001, 2002 and 2003 running very expensive cars at Le Mans and trying to race them in the U.S., and there was a big turnaround, and we came up with GRAND-AM and became a successful formula, and now we've gone back and now we've got the support of manufacturers.
Hopefully it's going to be -- the costs are going to come down dramatically, but at the end of the day, we're going to still compete, and the more practice and the more testing and stuff that goes on, things are going to go up, and I think at the end of the day, the manufacturers also have to convince the board that they've got to spend this money.
So it's important to bring other parts of corporate America.
CHIP GANASSI: I'm just happy to have Cadillac on my car. I don't have any -- I can't answer that question. I'm sorry.
ROGER PENSKE: I think this platform gives us an opportunity to reach out to other manufacturers and people who want to sponsor. We can see that in the Porsche program, people that are involved at the dealership level and even the suppliers are stepping up where we didn't see them before, might not see them in other forms of racing.
I think it opens it up, and we'll have more customer cars I'm sure running as we go forward here over the next several months, you're going to see more sponsors that maybe we don't see here today.
Q. A huge field here this year, 61 cars. Bobby, Mike, you've been on both sides of prototypes and GTs. What are you telling your guys to prevent carnage here in the first few hours?
BOBBY RAHAL: Use your head. Yeah, for us, that's probably the biggest challenge. I've seen it every year, people get impatient, make moves three hours into the race that really are moves for the last lap of the race. It's just all about being smart.
You lose a little time, you lose a little time. You'll get it back. It's 24 hours long, so anything can happen. The whole idea is just not make mistakes, whether they're mistakes in judgment or driving errors or whatever the case may be.
Of course that's easy to say. Sometimes tough to do in the heat of the battle. But that's why you have the guys driving the cars that you do. Our guys in particular, probably every entry here has guys that are super experienced in endurance racing. They get it. They know. It's just a matter of really disciplining yourself to the kind of driving, intelligence driving that you have to have in order to be there at the end.
Our view has always been get through the night and then we go racing tomorrow in the daylight, and I don't think that's going to change for us this year or any year in the future. It's all about -- this is an endurance race, not a sprint race, and it's called an endurance race for a reason.
MICHAEL SHANK: It goes a lot with what Wayne said and Bobby said it all. Everything bad happens out at the Bus Stop, usually decisions, bad decisions on both parts, and communication, clear communication from the spotters who they're approaching and how that's going to go, and build a book on the people around them. Wayne probably knows more than everybody here, but it's a tricky thing.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Mike, and thank you all for joining us. We're really honored to have you here and really appreciate it. Best of luck in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.