ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA winner transcript

January 30, 2022

Helio Castroneves

Simon Pagenaud

Tom Blomqvist

Oliver Jarvis

Michael Shank

Jim Meyer

Daytona, Florida, USA

Media Conference

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by the DPi winners.

Simon, your first Rolex 24 at Daytona victory. Goes nice with an Indianapolis 500 victory, an INDYCAR Series championship. Just what does this mean to you to be a Rolex 24 winner with this group in really your first time out with Meyer Shank team?

SIMON PAGENAUD: I know it sounds pretty good, that’s for sure. I’m very proud and excited to be part of this racing. Sports car racing brought me to the forefront of the racing scene. I always loved to come back and have a chance to be on the top team like Meyer Shank Racing.

Personally, it’s amazing to think about what has gone on since we decided to work together. Joining Helio obviously on the INDYCAR side and also on the sports car side with Oliver and Tom. Fit right away. Felt like the relationship started really quickly to grow. And also felt like the vibe was right.

And this weekend it felt like, okay, we had some setbacks, but we fought and everybody kept a good spirit. Obviously my mate, Helio, he’s really good at doing that in the team. It was a great atmosphere and obviously good people get good results and get what they deserve.

Just very happy, very proud of the entire team, quite frankly. It’s my first race with Meyer Shank Racing. But if you look closely at what happened today, the strategy was just fantastic, fantastic. Every stops, I believe, we were the fastest on pit lane. I haven’t seen the numbers but I can guarantee you we were. And the guys did a great job in the pits, no mistakes. Execution was amazing.

But first and foremost was the strategy. We were able to save fuel and go longer than anyone. And the team, the strategy and Mike and Ryan, they set themselves up to make sure at the end we would put less fuel in the car, would take us less time to leapfrog everybody, basically, in the pits. And that’s exactly what happened.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: And also find out what’s our rhythm, saving fuel, what can we do with that, and it paid off.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Absolutely. And wanted to say kudos to the entire team, because we can’t do it without them. And today was a team win.

Q. Helio, a year ago, wins the Rolex 24 for the first time, with the team in the car that he ended up having to beat today to do it again. So, two in a row in between a little race called the Indy 500 for the fourth time. Last year’s win–

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Mike, let’s go to Le Mans. Let’s go!

SIMON PAGENAUD: I speak French.

Q. Could you put into context what this last year and a little bit, starting back with the WeatherTech Championship you won in 2020 and right where we are now?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: It’s taken momentum. When Ricky and I won the championship in 2020, me winning the Rolex last year, and then jumping with Mike and Jim for the Indy 500, we knew — it’s all about, it sounds clich�, but it’s all about belief: I believe in them; they believe in me. This is exactly what’s happened with this group here.

With Simon and Tom and Oliver, we all believe, and the team, obviously, that we could do it. We know the hard work. We know that everybody in this entire series, we know that everybody worked really hard. It’s a very competitive series. Very difficult.

And Jim always reminds us of that, right, Jim? He always says, I didn’t know it was going to be that hard and so difficult. It should. However, when we accomplish what we just did today, oh, it’s priceless.

So in my case, I’m still very much passionate about it, learning every day, having new teammates like Tom and Oliver — I know Simon from a long time — improving my driving skills and looking to everyone here. So that makes a better driver. That’s why I enjoy it. That’s why I have fun and that’s why probably when you go out there you push as hard as you can to win the Rolex.

SIMON PAGENAUD: And he’s only getting better.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: That’s right. I said it’s amazing. Right, Mike?



JIM MEYER: Last year, when Helio and Wayne Taylor and the team won, I told him how much we wanted to win this race. And being Helio, he immediately sends me a picture of the Rolex watch, literally as I’m getting off the airplane last year. Maybe this one works now. Send me a picture now I’m happy.


Q. First overall win, you had a GT class win in 2013. Obviously first time out here with this team after a long time with the Mazda program. How gratified are you to have gotten the call to be a part of this? And certainly what does it mean to get this right off the bat?

OLIVER JARVIS: Like you say, come close a couple times with Mazda. I won a class win but I wanted to win the overall win. It’s such a special event. Special race. To win it overall is an amazing feeling.

And to do it with Mike and the team, I think Simon and Helio really touched on it, it’s a real team effort. I was so impressed, sat up on the pit wall, throughout that race. It was so calm and methodical, the way they went about approaching the race. It was like they had won the race ten times already.

I wasn’t on the pit wall for the last hour, but up until that point, absolutely faultless, calm heads. That’s what wins you races. Full credit to the team. It’s been an amazing experience so far. We’ve still got a full season to go. A lot of hard work to go.

I’ve still got a lot to learn. New to the car. And I just hope we can keep on getting better. This is the first of many.

Q. Tom, first Rolex 24, first start, ironically the car you were supposed to drive a few years ago went on to win the race — we don’t have to go into too much detail unless you want to. But how big a deal is it for you to go get this win finally?

TOM BLOMQVIST: I was speechless after the race. I mean, I dreamed of it. Did I believe? Yes. But you never know. I mean, it’s 24 hours of relentless racing. And every time I jumped in the car, moments I felt really comfortable. At moments I was, like, man, I can’t get this car to work.

It was just a roller coaster of a race. And every stint here is just flat out. You’re managing so many things. You feel like you’re racing nose to tail from literally the green light.

So it’s very different to what I’m used to. And honestly I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed teaming up with these two monkeys. They’re supposed to be the mature ones, but they’re definitely not.

But the atmosphere within the team has been splendid. And I’ve really enjoyed my short time here at MSR. And to cap that off with a win on debut is fantastic.

And I would just like to thank everyone, thank Mike, thank Jim for putting their faith in me and giving me this opportunity. And hopefully today I was able to repay a little bit of faith that they put in me. And, yeah, it’s been great so far. So hopefully this is just the beginning.

Q. Jim, as we kind of mentioned already, Indy 500 win last summer. Now you’ve got a Rolex 24 win. What does that mean to you as part of this program?

JIM MEYER: Tell you a funny story. When I met Mike, and he and I were talking through how would we put our team together and what would we do, I said to him, God, the two races we’ve got to win, I want to win the Indianapolis 500 and the Rolex 24. As we were standing on the bank, I said I’m out now.


It just really means everything. We tried to have a team that we’re very loyal to people. We try to have a team where we encourage really, really hard work, but we also try to encourage a family atmosphere, one that people get along and people can trust each other.

I think our execution by these four was flawless, and our team. Those are the best stops — it was really flawless. We just kept getting better and better as the race went on.

And our guys, in terms of strategy, this is a hard sport. I didn’t realize how hard it was until I got into it. It’s really hard. And a day like today makes you forget all the other ones, put it that way.

Q. Mike, this is your second Rolex 24 win. The last one came 10 years on the 50th. Appropriately enough today is number 60, with the number 60 car. You’ve got fond memories of that first win here. Put this one next to that one a little bit if you can?

MICHAEL SHANK: The first thing I’ve got to say is that that day was really special with John Pew and Ozz Negri and AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson. We lost Justin in Pocono in 2015. And so I kind of think about that first, which is, I don’t know, I just think about that and what went on there.

But to do what we did that year, which was just really catapulted the team and the business to another level really kind of started our trajectory that we’re at today. And I’m really grateful for that and met so many great people. My wife and I put everything on the line for the place.

And it started with Jim France putting his arm around me and not ever letting go. And then I met Jim about four years ago and my life got much worse.


Sorry, completely wrong.

Anyways, super happy day. The 50th and 60th is super special. Winning the Indy 500 is great. But I’m so competitive. I was going so crazy today. We came out of the gate and we went from — where did we start? The fourth — the last.


MICHAEL SHANK: What the (expletive) is going on here? And we got much better and I stopped talking on the intercom, got better.

I’m appreciative of everybody here, including our the sponsors, SiriusXM and Otter Nation and Arctic Wolf and obviously the big one is Acura and Honda and HPD — these folks believed in me six, seven years ago. And I could just not do this without Jon Ikeda and David Salters and Kelvin [phonetic], and the guys at the top end that made sure we got the deal.

Q. Mike, what does it mean to get the first DPi win after all the trials and tribulations and coming so close?

MICHAEL SHANK: We needed it bad, real bad. We had a tough year last year, and I made it very public. And I didn’t want to run from the truth, which was we had a bad year.

We set out to fix it. I told the guys here’s the same thing: Here’s where we were; here we’re going; and I’m not stopping until we get some kind of closure and some competitive level that we’re used to dealing with in the sports car world.

Today proved we’re the right track. We’ve got a long way to go, but I liked our execution today and I’m just relieved today, just completely relieved.

Q. To do it with an entirely almost new lineup. [Inaudible]?

MICHAEL SHANK: These guys are very specifically part of this program. You can see Helio and Simon easily being here, but these two guys, I looked at them, I saw every document I could see on their speed and what they’re doing, the capabilities, the experience. And I just picked who I thought could be virtually the same speed and have the same kind of sensibility.

I still don’t know if I got it right. But we’ll see what happens at the end of the year. But I don’t know, looking at some data and making a gut choice, you know.

Q. Mike, did you know — to win the Indy 500 and now the Rolex 24 with Helio — I know you knew you were getting a championship-level driver, but has he surpassed your expectations?

MICHAEL SHANK: Yeah. He’s sitting in the room so it’s hard to talk about him. But he’s got everything covered in every spectrum of driving, from the business side to the driving side, to the saving fuel, to the performance.

And a lot of people talk about his age. But I kind of see through that. And we made a decision, Jim and I, that we wanted to go with someone with experience when we came up with the budget last year to do six races with him. And there was young guys out there deserved something.

We felt for our business at this time we needed to make an impression at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That’s what we set about doing.

Q. Tom, the decision to hand off to Helio, I heard your TV interview. I know that wasn’t easy, necessarily. But could you talk us through what that was like.

TOM BLOMQVIST: Obviously it would have been fantastic to finish the race, but I’ve been in the car quite a while. And I was pretty cooked at that point. And I was busting for a way for the last two hours. That didn’t make my life very easy.

But Helio had been super strong all race. So it wasn’t like we were going to give anything away there. And when you’re pretty cooked, it’s never — you can only mess it up, let’s say.

So, but, no, Helio did a fantastic job. And I think ultimately it just came down to — it was still an hour or a bit to go in the race. And it’s better to be safe than sorry, right? So, I think ultimately we made the right call there.

Q. Helio, I heard you say, tell Marty Snyder, bucket list, you’re ticking them off. Is Le Mans the next big one?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I’d love to. I’ve never been there. I would love to try obviously. Gotta go to those big events. Since I moved here, yes, Daytona was my goal to win. And being at Le Mans, we almost did it, almost got it, but unfortunately with the clash of schedules wasn’t able to do it.

So I don’t think we were just talking about age is a problem. I think I’m not running out of time. I’m just getting more experience. And experiencing in this type of race is the key to be successful.

Q. Another big race coming up here in three weeks?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I would love to. I spoke with — when I did SRX, I spoke with Everenham and Tony Stewart, said, hey, find me a car and I’ll jump in. I’m sure a lot of people would like to see me. Who knows what’s going to happen? And they talk about it, but nothing, didn’t get traction.

But I love to race. This is me. It’s been my entire life. And I admire respect. I know it’s not easy. I understand everyone has your specialty. And that’s why, when I moved to IMSA I believed I started getting better because you start exploring more of your race craft. And today the big win was because of that. I knew my competitors. I knew what I needed to do and I did.

Q. I heard you make the Tom Brady comparison like you did at Indy with him and Phil Mickelson?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: It was a rumor he was going to retire. No, he can’t retire, no, he’s my mojo. Obviously this is, all jokes aside, when you cross over sports, Tom Brady, we talk about golf with Phil Mickelson and myself at this point, when you have passion, when you study, you have a team behind you to support and teammates, racing is very competitive sport. You’ve just got to keep doing your homework. I’ve been disciplined and the result will show up. No question.

Q. Simon, your first watch, I know this means a lot to you. And you’re one of five INDYCAR drivers to get a watch today, which is pretty significant. Could you talk about all that?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Absolutely. For me, it’s about ticking off the big races. Having won Indianapolis and now Daytona 24 it feels special. I was lucky to run in Le Mans in the past and finish 13 seconds behind the leader in second place. Hopefully someday maybe I’ll come back over there and try to get that, too.

But, yeah, let’s go. I can show you places. I have a house not too far.


SIMON PAGENAUD: We’ll set up.

TOM BLOMQVIST: Jim, Mike, taking notes? Taking notes right now?

SIMON PAGENAUD: It’s obviously, I’m super proud. I’ll tell you the truth I’m thinking my son. I was thinking that he’s going to be proud of me later on that I won those races. Personally, that’s what I’m thinking about.

Q. Mike, 10 years ago you were here. Couldn’t get an INDYCAR engine. Fledgling team. You’ve been in the Rolex then. You build this. You keep building and building. You win an Indy 500. I’m wondering, what clicked? What changed?

MICHAEL SHANK: I mean, I think it did actually. In 2017, I got the Acura NSX deal to run in GTD which was a big thing for our company. And I was really proud to do really well for that program for four years.

But when the Prototype came open, we jumped at it. Truly when he came in ’18, just opened another network of people, of people we could talk to about partnerships. And it’s just blossomed.

And we have a new shop on east side of Columbus, Ohio, that’s beautiful, and we’re set up for the future. And commercially I think we can grow a little bit more.

But what we want is wins and championships and not quantity. We want to run two of something, or maybe three. But not 10 — we want to keep real focused and deliver with our partners and OEMs and let it fall where it will.

But it’s just crazy what’s going on right now. It really is. It’s hard for me to believe sometime.

Q. What made you know that Helio could be the guy for you?

MICHAEL SHANK: Again, numbers, looking at numbers. When Roger moved him to SportsCar we looked at his last season of INDYCAR, and it looked still pretty sporty to me. It really did, when we’re looking at top fives and top tens and polls and wins. I was, like, I don’t know.

As we all know, IMS is the place. And I can argue about this, but I think I probably have two of the better guys, and probably Colton back there at the IMS. That’s what this is all about is what can we do at the Speedway? How much effort can we put into it and get the result at the Speedway?

I believe I have this year when I roll in there with these two guys, I’ve got two or three of the top guys.

Q. Helio, you spent a long time trying to win your fourth Indy 500. In the last one and a half or so years, you won your first career championship, two Rolexes and your fourth Indy 500 and you’re 46 years old. What’s your secret?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Passion. Passion. When you love what you do and you enjoy it and you have fun and you are surrounded by great people, it makes it happen. That’s the secret.

Q. How much racing do you have in you?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: A lot. The fire’s still burning. One of the quotes that Rick Mears told me a long time ago: If you don’t have the fire, if you stop thinking about it, then it’s time for you to stop. I can’t live without it right now. Yes, it will happen one day, don’t get me wrong.

But I still want to be involved. I love this environment. It’s my confidence zone, my therapy, everything. Every time you’re (indiscernible) the race, it’s where I feel most comfortable.

Right now, whatever is next, I’m going to keep it going. And the INDYCAR season is obviously our goal. And Simon and I have a lot of work, but we know we can achieve great things.

Q. How many of you climbed the fence?


MICHAEL SHANK: Did you climb the fence, Jim?

JIM MEYER: I did not climb the fence.

Q. Skipped it twice?

JIM MEYER: Yes twice now. And I feel OK about it.


Q. The rest of you all did?

JIM MEYER: One comment, by the way. Besides when we were able to come together with Helio, we had kind of a really, the same process when we thought we had a chance perhaps to get Simon.

Mike and I went and studied every race for I think seven years. And it really, really convinced us. With Oli, we used his name in vain a lot last year when he was with the Mazda team. So we knew when we could get him he was a fit.

And I can tell you, Tom doesn’t know this, but the first time he tested for us, Mike called me and said, we’ve got our guy. We’ve got our guy.

So, we love what we have. And I want to remind everybody we still expect to win an IMSA Championship and an INDYCAR Championship. We’re just not content being the little team that can’t. That’s what this is about for us.

Q. Simon, you said Helio’s Indy 500 win sort of legitimized in your eyes this team and made it a viable option for you. I’m wondering for all three of you not named Helio, just what you think of this team, and how you knew to believe in Jim and Mike and what they were building, and if you ever thought you’d be climbing fences?

OLIVER JARVIS: So from my side, I think just listening to Mike convinced me that he spoke about last year. And he spoke about — he was very honest that he felt they hadn’t achieved what he wanted to.

But I saw it from a different point of view. That’s that Penske came into the championship. Yost came into the championship. And none of them blew anyone away in their first year. It’s a tough championship, and you look at the progression of the teammate throughout that year. And it wasn’t just, you know, they stepped up to DPi. It’s a really competitive championship.

And to see that progression, I knew it’s a team on the up. I knew they had huge amounts of capabilities. You saw the way they ran the Indy program and this. It was an easy decision for myself. And when you go to the shop and see the facilities they have, it just reinforces that.

So, yeah, definitely an easy decision. But it was based on the way Mike’s open and honest, and the way his passion comes through. And I think as a driver you can really resonate with that. And as long as the guys have got the passion and the belief, then when you come together you can win stuff.

TOM BLOMQVIST: I think ultimately it came down to the passion and the commitment of the team to build this organization into a team that wants to win races. And I think having that — words are one thing, but putting people and things in place to make those goals and dreams a reality, that’s what you like to see as a driver.

You want to see — we go out there and bust our backsides off every time we get in a car. Obviously we want an organization that’s doing the same. Mike is super passionate about his racing, and the whole MSR team, we’re here to — it’s still a long way to go. The team is growing, like, their first year, last year in SportsCar, and obviously it wasn’t like they would have liked. But we started the season with a bang of a win and that’s how we’re going to continue. And we’re only going to get better.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Personally, it was more — it was definitely exactly what Oli said. The first phone call with Mike was truth and honest. And I loved the vision he had about his team.

One of the first things he said to me, he said maybe it’s bad for me but I tell my team everything. Everybody on the floor knows everything that’s going on. It’s a very different environment.

And everything he described, honestly in 15 minutes I was sold. Jim didn’t believe that — actually Jim believed I was bluffing, but I wasn’t.

And it’s just relationship, quite frankly. Just like they just said, it was the vision. And for me at this time of my career, that vision just fit perfect.

Q. Mike or Jim, you talked about the aim now being big races and championships. Where commercially for your company, where in terms of the passion you show these programs, where is Le Mans in that list?

JIM MEYER: Our sponsors are fantastic for us, by the way. AutoNation is deeply committed to auto racing. And they love this relationship here, by the way, through IMSA racing. And I can’t tell you how many texts I’ve already gotten from them already.

Of course, SiriusXM is near and dear to my heart. I was CEO of the company for many years and love it. And then our newest sponsor, Arctic Wolf.

So they all have a passion for motor sports. And they use motor sports as part of how they promote. And that fuels I think our guys.

I could tell you on the AutoNation side, Simon and Helio, they do a lot for them. That’s great for us.

MICHAEL SHANK: Le Mans for us is a little bit, for sure we want to go. And it’s also up to Honda and Acura and HPD. So they’re our corporate partner. When they’re ready to go, we’re going.

We did 2016 in the P2 car and did fairly okay. It was a good first experience. And we’ll get there.

Q. I don’t think anybody’s asked about the last lap and the chicane and how close you were to that. That should have been the first question, but curious what you saw, didn’t see and looking back at it?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Right. I saw nothing, which was absolutely dirt. And then I felt a lot of things, like changing my underwear was one of them.


Code Brown was another one. I was like all over the place. And thank God that car was just, kept skidding from straight and did not stop right away.

So I did anticipate, because my sport, I did mention about it was a fight for a win. So I think they were going to go for it. I did not expect a big crash like that right in front of it.

So thank God — it was a little bit of an anticipation/luck at the same time. And thank God I had a little bit of a gap between me and Ricky so that I could plan that.

But it was very scary. I don’t think any moment of the race that kind of scary scenario until that time.

Q. You’re going to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame here in Daytona coming up. This certainly doesn’t hurt. Could you just talk about that real quick?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Honor. I’ve been in the sport for so many years. And as I mentioned, you guys heard about what I love about the sport. And for me to be among such amazing people — because it’s not only drivers, it’s people that are exactly like me. They love the sport.

So for me it’s an honor. I can’t wait to come back and especially now, Daytona becoming a great place. But yes, it’s an honor being inducted in the hall of fame for sure.

Q. Tom, I wanted to ask. You said you were cooked at the end of your last stint. But it really did set up everything that happened afterward. Can you walk me through that? You had some really good battles with Ricky there, but it was intense.

TOM BLOMQVIST: It was super intense. And to be honest, throughout the race the race started pretty poorly for me. We didn’t — we got a few things wrong at the start. But I was chipping away at it. And I haven’t got that much experience in this car. I’ve had a lot of experience in the P2. It’s actually quite different.

And I just felt like the more laps I did, I was trying to figure out how to drive around the little problems we were encountering. And I just got more and more comfortable behind the wheel. And thankfully the speed was there in those crucial stints.

And, yeah, the car was working for me and I was able to manipulate it in the right way. And that just kind of made the difference. I managed to get a good run on Ricky. We seemed to be a little bit stronger than him at that point in the race. And I think ultimately it teed up the — Helio just, he only had one job and it was to not to mess it up.

So, I mean, he did a great job. He’s 60 years old and he’s super fast.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: You’re only 28. You’ll get there.

TOM BLOMQVIST: When I’m 60, I just want to be like you, mate.

No, but it was relentless race from the word go. And the team did a fantastic job, I have to say. And there’s a lot of little tools on the car to get it working for you. And having that dialogue back and forth with the engineers, with the HPD guys and stuff, to maximize our performance.

I think just working away at it throughout the race is what put us in that position that I was able to extract some good performance from the car. So, huge thanks to everyone, really.

IMSA Wire: Winning Beginning for Blomqvist with Meyer Shank

Winning Beginning for Blomqvist with Meyer Shank
The Brit Helps the No. 60 Acura to Victory at the Rolex 24 in His First DPi Race

February 4, 2022
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The minutes turn to hours, the day turns to night. Each lap becomes a blur of sound and color. Every turn of the wheel carries the weight of a team, of sponsors and manufacturers. It’s pressure stacked on pressure for hour upon hour.

Other than that, Mr. Blomqvist, how did you enjoy your first Rolex 24 At Daytona?

“I was speechless after the race,” Tom Blomqvist said Sunday after teaming with Oliver Jarvis, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud to win the famous endurance race.

“I mean, I dreamed of it,” he continued. “Did I believe? Yes, but you never know. It’s 24 hours of relentless racing. And every time I jumped in the car, at moments I felt really comfortable. At moments I was like, ‘Man, I can’t get this car to work.’”

He did get it to work, and his drive in the late hours of the race proved crucial to Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s overall win in the 60th anniversary of the race. When he handed the No. 60 MSR Acura ARX-05 to Helio Castroneves for the final time, Blomqvist was “cooked.”

“It was super intense,” he said. “… I just felt like the more laps I did, I was trying to figure out how to drive around the little problems we were encountering. And I just got more and more comfortable behind the wheel. Thankfully, the speed was there in those crucial stints.”

He’s no stranger to sports cars, but he was new to this particular sports car. A native of Cambridge, United Kingdom, Blomqvist has experience in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class. He also won as a BMW factory driver the 2018 24 Hours of Spa in 2018.

His extensive resume also includes Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM), Blancpain GT Endurance Cup, Asian Le Mans Series, FIA GT World Cup, Intercontinental GT Challenge, Formula E and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.

But this was Blomqvist’s first Rolex 24, his first race in a Daytona Prototype international (DPi) car, and it exceeded his expectations. Or perhaps he exceeded the race’s expectations.

His ability didn’t surprise team co-owners Michael Shank and Jim Meyer, who knew early that Blomqvist was the right choice to join Jarvis as the team’s full-season drivers for 2022.

“Tom doesn’t know this,” Meyer explained during the postrace press conference. “But the first time he tested for us, Mike called me and said, ‘We’ve got our guy. We’ve got our guy.’”

Shank was right. Blomqvist was ready for everything the Rolex 24 threw at him. And if certain things surprised him, he adapted to them and kept going.

“It was just a roller coaster of a race,” Blomqvist said. “Every stint here is just flat out. You’re managing so many things. You feel like you’re racing nose to tail from literally the green light. So it’s very different from what I’m used to, and honestly I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.”

More crucial races lie ahead, but Meyer Shank has the early jump on the DPi field when the WeatherTech Championship season resumes March 19 with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.

As the celebration slowed Sunday afternoon, Blomqvist thanked team co-owners Shank and Meyer for the opportunity.

“Hopefully, I was able to repay a little bit of faith that they put in me,” Blomqvist said. “It’s been great so far. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.”

Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube
IMSA | One Daytona Boulevard, Daytona Beach, FL 32114

IMSA Wire: Ageless Castroneves Enjoying His Racing Renaissance

Ageless Castroneves Enjoying His Racing Renaissance
Since Charting a New Path, the Charismatic Brazilian Has
Two Rolex 24 Wins and an Indy 500 Victory

February 1, 2022
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – While the accomplishments of his recent racing resurgence were listed during the press conference after the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Helio Castroneves turned to team co-owner Michael Shank and exclaimed:

“Mike! Let’s go to Le Mans! Let’s go!”

Might as well. After all, sports cars have been the crucial link in Castroneves’ late-career renaissance. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a logical next step for the guy who has won almost everything else.

“I love to race,” Castroneves said after he co-piloted the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 to the overall and Daytona Prototype international (DPi) wins in the 60th anniversary running of the Rolex 24. “This is me. It’s been my entire life. I admire (and) respect (it).

“I know it’s not easy. I understand everyone has your specialty. And that’s why, when I moved to IMSA, I believed I started getting better because you start exploring more of your race craft. Today, the big win was because of that. I knew my competitors. I knew what I needed to do, and I did it.”

Doing it wasn’t always so certain. In 2018, as Castroneves’ full-time IndyCar role with Team Penske transitioned to a part-time effort, he joined Penske’s Acura-powered IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship operation. When that program ended in 2020, Castroneves found himself a free agent. He faced a choice: fade into racing history with three Indianapolis 500 victories or fight for more.

He chose to fight.

Castroneves signed with Wayne Taylor Racing as the team’s fourth driver for the 2021 Rolex 24 (won it), signed a six-race IndyCar deal with Meyer Shank Racing and returned last May to the Indy 500 (won it a record-tying fourth time), then returned this past weekend with MSR for the 60th Rolex 24 (won it again) with teammates Oliver Jarvis, Tom Blomqvist and Simon Pagenaud.

Quite the year. Seems that climbing fences never gets old, especially when you’re 46 years old.
“I’m not running out of time, I’m just getting more experience,” Castroneves said. “And experience in this type of race is the key to being successful.”

Castroneves will return to the No. 60 Acura next month for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring as the Meyer Shank team’s driver for IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events.
He’ll also take a shot at a fifth Indy 500 win during a full IndyCar Series season with MSR, fully aware that sports cars were the bridge to continuity and longevity. Thankful for the opportunity, unencumbered by age, ready for more.

When Castroneves asked Shank about Le Mans, Pagenaud offered to help.

“I speak French!” Pagenaud, the native of Montmorillon, France, deadpanned.

Never say jamais. With Helio, nothing is impossible.

Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube
Trusted Email from Constant Contact - Try it FREE today.Try email marketing for free today!

IMSA Wire: Castroneves Eager to Build on Success with New Team

IMSA Wire: ‘Old Friend’ Aids No. 60 Meyer Shank DPi Run toward Front

‘Old Friend’ Aids No. 60 Meyer Shank DPi Run toward Front
Cameron, Montoya at Home Driving Same Chassis with New Team

Jan. 28, 2021
By Mark Robinson
IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya moved to a new home for the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, and they brought along an old and trusted friend.

The 2019 series champions looked on contentedly Thursday afternoon as teammate AJ Allmendinger posted the fastest practice lap during Thursday afternoon’s practice in preparations for the 59th Rolex 24 At Daytona. Allmendinger powered around the Daytona International Speedway road course in 1 minute, 34.287 seconds (135.925 mph) driving the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 DPi.

Thing is, that No. 60 is the same car that Cameron and Montoya used for much of last season, when it was the No. 6 Acura Team Penske. In this case, familiarity didn’t breed contempt. It brought speed.

“AJ was quickest there, and Juan was good on his running in that last session, so we’ve been making some good progress,” Cameron said. “We were a bit off in the morning and kind of pounding the racetrack. The guys were pretty flat out in the gap in between (sessions) to make some changes. We’re still learning quite a bit about the car. We seemed to find a decent spot there.”

Montoya agreed, saying the Acura enjoys the cooler conditions presented Thursday.

“I felt we were a little lost this morning and we made some good changes,” the two-time Indy 500 and three-time Rolex 24 winner said. “And in the last practice the car seemed to find some good speed. Normally when it’s cold conditions, the car seems to like that, so we’ll see what it brings. We’ve still got to execute the race and see what it brings.”

Cameron and Montoya brought their knowledge of the Acura from three seasons in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) machine with Team Penske to Meyer Shank this year. Cameron will pair with Olivier Pla for all WeatherTech Championship races in the No. 60. Montoya will join them for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events, with Allmendinger on board for the Rolex 24.

Having been down this road before in the Acura’s development, Cameron said he and Montoya serve as a sounding board for the team’s engineers on what has and hasn’t worked in the past.

“Really, for Juan and (me), it’s been more of trying to guide them,” Cameron said, “and letting them know if the feeling is right, the feeling is wrong and just keep them pointed in the right direction.”

Pla, who drove a prototype for Meyer Shank in 2016 when the team won the Motul Petit Le Mans, has been absorbing as much information as he can take in from the experienced Acura duo.

“Both of them have been great with me, helping me to learn the car, to understand the car,” Pla said. “They have got so much experience with this car, so I rely a lot on them, actually.”

The No. 60 Acura’s afternoon lap was edged for overall honors by Renger van der Zande during Thursday’s night practice. The two-time defending Rolex 24 overall winner pushed the No. 01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi around the circuit in 1:34.146, just 0.141 seconds better than Allmendinger’s afternoon run.

Other class leaders after the three sessions were:
· In Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), Mikkel Jensen in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07, at 1:35.979;
· In Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3), Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 91 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320, at 1:42.416;
· In GT Le Mans (GTLM), Nick Tandy in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, at 1:42.586;
· In GT Daytona (GTD), Marco Mapelli in the No. 111 GRT Grasser Race Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3, at 1:45.593.

A final one-hour session starts at 11:20 a.m. ET Friday. The starting grid was determined last Sunday in the Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race, won by the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi to earn the overall pole position in the 49-car field.

Live coverage of the Rolex 24 begins at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC and carries overnight on other NBC Sports platforms including NBCSN, TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and the NBC Sports App. The broadcast returns to NBC at 2 p.m. Sunday for the race conclusion. Flag-to-flag IMSA Radio coverage is also available on and

Tickets for the Rolex 24 At Daytona are available HERE.

Hardwick Sidelined from Rolex 24 Following Pilot Challenge Crash

Wright Motorsports driver Ryan Hardwick will miss the Rolex 24 with a concussion sustained Wednesday in a crash during IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge practice. He will be replaced in the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3R lineup by Trent Hindman, the 2019 WeatherTech Championship GTD champion.

“It’s unfortunate that I won’t be able to join the team for the big race,” said Hardwick, who was hospitalized overnight for observation. “I wish I was driving with them, but sadly that won’t be possible.

“When I first learned I wouldn’t be able to drive, Trent was immediately one of the first drivers I thought of to step in. I want the team to continue and our 1st Phorm car to be on track to compete in this event. I’ve followed Trent’s career for the last few years, and I think he’ll be a good fit.”

Hindman joins a No. 16 lineup that includes Patrick Long, Jan Heylen and Klaus Bachler for the Rolex 24. Hardwick and Long finished second in the final 2020 GTD standings and, with Heylen, won the season finale, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.

“First and foremost, what’s most important is that Ryan is OK,” said Hindman, 25, who will make his fifth Rolex 24 start. “Filling in for the Rolex 24 under these circumstances is never ideal, but I am grateful to John (Wright), Ryan and the Wright Motorsports team for trusting me with this opportunity. The No. 16 Porsche looks to be a strong contender for victory come Sunday, and I certainly look forward to doing everything I can to make it happen.”

Following the incident, Wright Motorsports withdrew its Pilot Challenge entry from competing in Friday’s BMW Endurance Challenge At Daytona.

No. 3 Corvette Drivers Itching for Return to Rolex 24 Victory Lane

By Holly Cain

With a year under their belt steering the high-profile No. 3 Corvette Racing C8.R and earning the 2020 championship trophy for their mantel, Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia showed up in Daytona feeling optimistic that they – along with co-driver Nicky Catsburg – should now be considered favorites to earn Corvette’s first GTLM class Rolex 24 win in five years.

That was in 2016, a thrilling battle between the make’s two team cars. The No. 4 Corvette nipped the No. 3 Corvette by a mere 0.034 seconds, battling door-to-door throughout the twice-around-the-clock season opener. It was an amazing 1-2 finish for the Corvette C7.R and second straight win in the Rolex 24.

Garcia, 40, was driving the No. 3 Corvette that missed the win by a blink of an eye. This year he has great faith in the Corvette C8.R, the mid-engine car starting its second season of competition, to be best in class.

“We just need to focus on our program, what we do and trying to learn the car and I think we should be prepared for Saturday,’’ said Garcia, who has won three of the last four IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM titles.

The Garcia/Taylor Corvette won five races in 2020 but notably finished fourth (Rolex 24), fifth ( Grand Prix), runner-up (Motul Petit Le Mans) and fifth (Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts) in the endurance races. The team is boldly optimistic in this weekend’s second Rolex 24 try with the C8.R – hoping to put an end to BMW Team RLL’s two-year winning streak.

The No. 4 Corvette, with drivers Tandy and Alexander Sims, won the GTLM pole position with its victory in Sunday’s Motul Pole Award 100 in the car they share with Tommy Milner. The No. 3 will start second in class.

“I think we’re definitely going in with some good momentum after last year, winning five races and the championship,’’ said Taylor, who has a pair of DPi and overall wins in the Rolex 24. “Just such a strong showing for the C8.R (last year), so coming back to Daytona and having a year under our belt with this car, a lot of development and winning the sprint race here last year gives us some confidence.

“But I think this year, especially with all the new cars and new classes, it’s definitely going to change the game a bit with how much you will have to be careful and cautious through the night with some new drivers and some new cars.

“I think at the end of the day it’s the same style of racing where you’re going to have to survive until the end, but I think it’s a little bit extra this year making sure you get to the end of the race with a strong car and a fast car.”

Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube

Joao Barbosa Seeks Fifth Rolex 24 Victory with New Team in 2021

The latest news: Sean Creech Motorsports
View this email in your browser
Joao Barbosa Seeks Fifth Rolex 24 Victory with New Team in 2021

Sean Creech Motorsport makes LMP3 debut in 59th Daytona classic

ec33e24c-eba7-4053-9a36-f210275e03ab.jpgDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (26 January 2021) – Joao Barbosa will return to the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the 19th time in 2021, racing a new car with a new team in an all-new class. However, the Portuguese driver will bring the same approach he’s carried throughout his career when he drives the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Exelixis Ligier JS P320 Nissan in the LMP3 class in America’s premier endurance race.

The event (January 30, NBC, 3:30 PM) will mark the first-ever inclusion of the global LMP3 platform into the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship category.

“Every time I go to the Rolex 24, it’s with the same mentality,” said Barbosa, who will co-drive with Wayne Boyd, Yann Clairay and Dr. Lance Willsey. “I try to do the best job I can, and come home with the watch. Winning a fifth Rolex would be very, very special, after a really tough year in 2020.”

Barbosa is seeking his fifth victory in the event, adding to his collection of Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watches, which is the elusive first-place prize for drivers in the event. After winning the GTS class in 2003 – co-driving with legend Andy Wallace in a Mosler MT900R – he joined Action Express Racing for overall triumphs in 2010 and 2014 in a Corvette DP, and in 2018 in a Cadillac DPi.

Barbosa earned back-to-back podium finishes at Daytona International Speedway in 2020. He finished third in both the Rolex 24 and the Daytona 240 – IMSA’s July 4 return following more than a five-month shutdown due to the pandemic – co-driving with Sebastien Bourdais for JDC-Miller Motorsports.

After running in the lead class in the Rolex GRAND-AM Series from 2006 through 2013, and then in the WeatherTech Championship since 2014, Barbosa and Willsey will be running for the championship in LMP3, the newest class in IMSA’s premier series.

d29f6948-54fc-4851-acc0-e1ce453e8797.jpg“It’s a new team, a new car, a new class – a lot of ‘new,’” Barbosa said. “It’s going to be very different. There’s a lot to figure out, and I’m pretty excited about the opportunity to race for Sean (Creech) and drive with Lance, Wayne and Yann. That’s why we go there – we want to go there and win our class, and have the best possible result. While Daytona doesn’t count for the points in the season championship, it’s a great way to start the season. The Rolex 24 is always my favorite race of the year.”

Barbosa has tested twice at Daytona with Sean Creech Motorsport, once with last year’s Prototype Challenge car and once with the brand-new Ligier machine.

“The car had just arrived for our test, so there is still a lot to figure out and fine tune,” Barbosa said. “But the team is on it, and is doing a great job preparing it the best way possible. They’re putting together all the tools and everything they need to be part of the WeatherTech Series. It’s a step up for them as well. It’s pretty exciting to start almost from zero and help them build a great WeatherTech team.”

Driving-wise, Barbosa feels it will be a smooth transition from the DPi to the new LMP3.

b5f19961-10bb-4db3-b55d-e75628128d4d.jpg“This car is definitely different [from the DPi],” he said. “There’s definitely a lot less horsepower, and it has steel brakes instead of carbon fiber. And the performance is a little slower. But that’s about it. The car feels really nice to drive and is a lot of fun.

“I think this is a great class for IMSA, and I’m super happy that they decided to make it part of the WeatherTech [Championship],” Barbosa continued. “It’s an entry point to the series, at a financially reasonable rate, with great cars that are really fun to drive. It’s going to make great racing, because there’s no BOP, it’s going to be up to the teams and the drivers to make the difference. It will be really exciting for the fans to watch.”

Official practice for the 59th Rolex 24 At Daytona will begin on the following Thursday, Jan. 28.

Media Contact:
Diane Swintal

# SundayGroupManagement #



Kevin Doran Looks for More Daytona Success

The latest news: Sean Creech Motorsports
View this email in your browser
Kevin Doran Looks for More Daytona Success

Sean Creech Motorsport moves to WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021

2d6d5837-8396-49d4-875b-74ec5510ccb4.jpgDAYTONA BEACH, FL (27 January 2021) – Kevin Doran will be looking to add to his impressive resume in the Rolex 24 At Daytona when he returns to the opening IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of 2021 in a brand-new role.

Doran will be engineering the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Exelixis/iMonza Ligier JS P320 Nissan driven by João Barbosa, Lance Willsey, Wayne Boyd and Yann Clairay.

Based in Lebanon, Ohio, Doran has built one of the top car preparation and management organizations in the country. Doran’s accomplishments are legendary in endurance sports car racing.

Doran won the Rolex 24 five times in various roles. Coming to the event for the first time in 1985 as a crewman for Holbert Racing, he helped guide Al Holbert, Derek Bell and Al Unser Jr. to back-to-back Daytona victories in 1986 and 1987. He won as team owner/crew chief for Gianpiero Moretti in 1998 and Fredy Leinhard in 2002. An original Daytona Prototype constructor, Doran became the first DP car builder to win the Rolex 24 overall in 2004.

92882eb9-237f-4ec2-8d5f-147ad5c18241.jpg“This is such a huge event,” Doran said. “I was so young when I came here for the first time with Al Holbert, I was amazed by the status of the event, and how it’s continued to grow over the years. It goes well beyond a race. It’s a mega-event, and in the end, those are the races I like: the Rolex 24, Sebring, Le Mans, Indy 500. I’ve done them all; they’re the top four events. The energy from the crowd and all the excitement of the international gathering. Hopefully, it will have all of that this year despite all this COVID mess!”

Doran has accumulated a warehouse full of memories from his Daytona experiences.

“The first victory had special meaning with Holbert,” Doran said. “We led for around 21 hours in 1985 but finished second to Preston Henn. To come back and flip the tables in ’86 was something. Henn’s guys led a lot of that one, and we came from behind to win.”

The following year, Holbert took over the role of team manager and added Chip Robinson as driver. With the drivers suffering from overheating issues due to fumes in the cockpit, Holbert drove a critical stint to preserve the second-consecutive victory for the No. 14 Löwenbräu Special Porsche 962.

22ae6ed5-0e15-493a-8d17-d6aa194d3085.jpgIn 1989, Doran prepared a former Holbert 962 as a second entry for Jim Busby, driven by IndyCar legends Mario and Michael Andretti.

Doran made his debut as a car owner in the 1993 Rolex 24, entering a Nissan NRTI-90 for a driver lineup including Gianpiero Moretti, Derek Bell and John Paul Jr. Coming back from a 32-lap deficit, the team was leading by two laps when the engine let go with less than two hours remaining.

Doran and Moretti moved to the new Ferrari 333SP in 1995. After coming close many times, the veteran Italian finally broke through in 1998 with a popular victory shared with Mauro Baldi, Didier Theys and Arie Luyendyk.

“Probably the most fun and exciting one was when Gianpiero won in ’98,” Doran recalled. “He tried so long and so hard to win that race, to be able to go to victory lane with him was really memorable.”

d4b64735-4a1c-4a0a-b04c-7509fbd1e130.jpgDoran won with Leinhard, Theys, Baldi and Papis in 2002 in a Judd-powered Dallara. Two years later, Bell Motorsports took the Doran-manufactured Pontiac Doran to victory with Christian Fittipaldi, Terry Borcheller, Andy Pilgrim and Forest Barber.

“I’ve run this race with everybody,” Doran said. “I’ve had such a cool history at the Rolex 24, through the heyday of sports car racing. I got to race with a lot of my heroes.”

Next weekend, Doran is looking to add to that history when he returns to the Rolex 24 in a new role with Sean Creech Motorsport.

“Sean’s put together a stellar lineup,” Doran said. “João is a super-star on my list since the early 2000s. I remember him at Le Mans, driving by the Audis in a privateer Dallara-Judd that was similar to the one we won with at Daytona. I was super-impressed, and he’s someone I’ve always wanted to work with.

“I worked with Yann three years ago in LMP3 with the Extreme Speed team, and he helped us win the championship with Kris Wright. He’s a great driver, and super familiar with the LMP3. Everybody on the team is on top of it; it’s a stacked group, and it would be super-cool to win it one more time.”

Official practice for the 59th Rolex 24 At Daytona will begin Thursday, Jan. 28, with the twice-round-the-clock classic taking the green flag at 3:40 p.m. on Saturday.



Rebel Rock Brings Well-tested Camaro to Daytona Season Opener

View this email in your browser

Rebel Rock Brings Well-tested Camaro to Daytona Season Opener

1d3312a9-631d-4f95-aded-ac9ea75ce8cf.jpgDAYTONA BEACH, Fla (27 January 2021) – Rebel Rock Racing wrapped up a three-day Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session at Daytona International Speedway right on plan, putting the final touches on preparation for the No. 71 Urban Grid Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R for Friday’s BMW Endurance Challenge, the opening round of the 2021 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

Frank DePew and Robin Liddell logged six hours of practice during the test, with a best lap of 1:55.538-seconds. Liddell was fifth-fastest in Saturday morning’s rainy session.

“I feel like we’ve had a successful test,” DePew said. “The car has been slowed down quite a bit [by a significant off-season Balance of Performance adjustment], so I’m not sure how competitive we’ll be, but we’re going to do the best we can.”

The team led the Grand Sport class with two victories in 2019 – its first full season – and won a four-hour event at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta last season.

“I certainly think we’ve got a good package and we can have a good race, even though we won’t have the speed that this car is capable of,” Liddell said. “Then we’ll just have to see what everybody else does and how we can move forward.”

At four hours in duration, Daytona joins Watkins Glen as the lone endurance events on the 10-race schedule. This year, the team will use a two-driver lineup for the long races as DePew continues to accelerate his progress in the IMSA ranks.

95b57556-d27b-47b2-8735-43e6892d1eef.jpg“We’ve made a decision that Frank’s going to do more driving,” Liddell said. “He’s at the point where he has been progressing at this level and getting quicker, and having the extra time in the car in the race is ultimately a good thing. It gives me a lot of driving to do, but I think overall it will be quite interesting to see how it all works out.”

DePew is up to the challenge of opening the race with a double-stint of approximately 90 minutes.

“This will probably be the first time that I’ve raced more than an hour and a half or more straight,” DePew said. “I’m looking forward to spending more time in the car.”

While slowed by the BOP adjustment, Rebel Rock is looking to capitalize on the durability and reliability of its Camaro to build a foundation for its full-season campaign.

“I think we’ve got a well-gelled team now,” Liddell said. “We rolled off the trailer with a very good setup. The car was good from the beginning – balance and handling wise – and that’s testimony to some of the work Pratt & Miller is doing away from the race track. Charlie (Ping) our engineer is a good strategist and the guys are doing a really good job in the pits, so I think with all of that we can execute very well. If we’re in the hunt at the end, that’s really where we will find out if we’ve got a car that can compete or not.

f87feb7e-05df-4fb0-986e-d1884c168a26.jpg“Our main goal is to maximize the points, and bigger-picture wise, try to smooth out some of these peaks and troughs we’ve had in the past. If we can just smooth that out and be more consistent with our results, hopefully we can find ourselves in a good spot at the end of the year.”

Practice for the BMW Endurance Challenge begins with a one-hour practice beginning at 1:45 p.m. (all times ET) on Wednesday. Thursday will have a 45-minute session at 9:45 a.m., followed by GS qualifying at 2:45 p.m. Friday opens with a 20-minute warm-up at 9:10 a.m. The BMW Endurance Championship gets the 2021 season underway at 1:10 p.m., and will be televised live on the IMSA TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

Additional updates via:



IMSA Wire: New Mazda MX-5 Cup Era Begins under IMSA Sanctioning

New Mazda MX-5 Cup Era Begins under IMSA Sanctioning
Entry-Level Series Will Host Seven Doubleheader Rounds in 2021

Jan. 27, 2021
By John Oreovicz
IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Mazda MX-5 quickly became an international bestseller when it was launched in 1989. Since then, it’s also been developed into the world’s most popular racing car.

Mazda Motorsports seized upon the MX-5’s sporty appeal and created an aggressive contingency program that benefits both grassroots and professional racers. The first unified national pro championship for the MX-5 was staged in 2006, and the Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BF Goodrich Tires is now firmly established as the top tier of the Mazda Road to 24 (#MRT24) scholarship program that offers young racers a path to professional sports car and endurance racing.

That is why it’s appropriate that, starting in 2021, the MX-5 Cup is sanctioned by IMSA. Six of the seven doubleheader weekends that comprise the 14-race championship will be staged in conjunction with IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship events, starting with the MX-5 Cup’s first-ever appearance at Daytona International Speedway this week.

Every competitor is chasing $250,000 in support on offer for the series champion from Mazda Motorsports.

A field of 27 identical cars is expected, led by defending MX-5 Cup champion Michael Carter in the No. 08 car prepared by Carter Racing Enterprises. Carter, 21, is a junior at Georgia Tech University who balances his racing with the pursuit of a degree in finance.

“Returning to the series as the defending champion for my third MX-5 Cup season is allowing me to have a more relaxed approach,” Carter said. “I get to just go out there and have fun, and I think that’s a great position to be in.

“I’ve been racing at Daytona since 2014, and I’m really looking forward to getting back on the track,” he added. “The racing will be absolutely insane, and I can’t wait for the green flag to drop for Race 1 on Thursday.”

2019 MX-5 Cup champion Bryan Ortiz is also slated to compete in the No. 4 entry from Copeland Motorsports, which is also joining the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge full time this season.

The most prominent newcomer to the MX-5 Cup is Louisiana native Aaron Jeansome, 22, who secured a $110,000 scholarship to the series by outperforming eight other hopefuls in the MX-5 Cup Shootout, staged in November at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. He is driving the No. 24 Provision Motorsports MX-5.

To commemorate the 15th year of the shootout, Mazda awarded a $75,000 scholarship to Chris Nunes (No. 32 JTR Motorsports Engineering) and another $75,000 to Savanna Little, the top female finisher in the competition.

Little joins Hixon Motor Sports, where she will be part of a seven-car lineup that includes fellow promising women drivers Hannah Gresham, Sabre Cook and Loni Unser. The team is managed by respected female racer Shea Holbrook.

Since the start of 2020, new cars entering the MX-5 Cup have been constructed by Flis Performance in Daytona Beach. A turnkey MX-5 Cup racing car costs $80,000.

Production MX-5s built in Hiroshima, Japan, are stripped down, equipped with an FIA- and IMSA-standard roll cage, and fitted with more than 250 dedicated racing components, including a six-speed sequential gearbox. Key components, including the 2.0-liter Mazda SKYACTIVE engine, are sealed to ensure even competition and keep the series cost-effective.

This week’s MX-5 Cup schedule calls for practices on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, ahead of qualifying at 12:25 p.m. ET Thursday. The first race starts at 5 p.m. Thursday, with the second at 10:15 a.m. Friday. All races are 45 minutes in length and will stream live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube
Try email marketing for free today!

Sunday Group Management Blog: Virtual Racing from the Other Side of the Screen

Sunday Group Management Blog: Virtual Racing from the Other Side of the Screen

Amy Greenway manages the media relations and social media programming for Sunday Group Management client Trans Am presented by Pirelli, and has some recent first hand experience to share about the dramatic recent growth of online racing.

31 March 2020- In my household, everyone is a gamer. My daughter hosts her own Twitch channel, my husband was a finalist in the inaugural NBA 2k league tryouts and Overwatch time for me serves as a peaceful solitude where I can mindlessly capture a point in team play.

But, over the last week, I’ve quickly learned being on the other side of the controller is so much more difficult than I had ever imagined.

During the furloughed racing shutdown, I’ve taken part in three live online racing events hosted on the iRacing and rFactor 2 simulation platforms, with each series proving more difficult and more complex than the last.

In a platform that I’ve only watched Twitch streams of, Conor Daly being my favorite, hosting a league was my first direct experience with iRacing.

I immediately found out that there’s no dipping your toe in the waters; it’s jump in, swim upstream or drown trying. The virtual racing platform is unforgiving and the programming is much more than just- ‘download the software and go racing.’

As a league organizer, I had to recruit drivers, manage the schedule, decide on a proper setup- including the type of chassis, download multiple pieces of software that are required to properly run the game, update the announcer on each driver participating, host the stream, produce the stream for YouTube, Twitch and Facebook, promote the event to the media, cultivate prizes, and oh yeah, did I mention keep sponsors happy along the way?!?

All this in seven days’ time, while reading the iRacing manual from cover to cover, supported by how-to YouTube videos and hours spent on the phone with a couple of drivers who were willing to give me a crash course in items I was having trouble with.

And, the minute I had a bit of confidence about my progress, a new technical issue would emerge, which meant hitting up YouTube for more videos, chatting with iRacing support and more late-night tutorials via FaceTime with drivers.

Working through all the trials and tribulations and with fingers that had no nails left to chew, it was time to push the GO LIVE button…

I can hear the announcer, minimal echo=great!
There’s cars on the track=awesome!
No drivers have messaged me saying they can’t join=sigh…
The stream is a bit choppy=make a note.
The winning driver didn’t join discord for his interview=we will do better next time.
Negative comments=nominal.
The flood of positive feedback of fans who were just happy to watch some sort of racing=worth it!

I read on a Motorsport Prospect blog that “plain and simple- racing is about people, and not technology.” After this experience, I could not agree with that statement more.

I set my expectations to having to respond to the massive amounts of online gaming and racing trolls who feast on tears of the weak, but what I got instead was an overwhelming support of community. Fans who overlooked the minor tech glitches and were appreciative that we were actually trying to showcase drivers and racing in this unprecedented time.

Gaming and motorsport have long run in separate niche lanes, but combining the two markets with real-life race car drivers competing against fans and other series drivers will solidify the existing base while attracting new fans and potentially new drivers. The iRacing and rFactor 2 simulation allowed for fans or drivers who otherwise don’t have the budget, to race alongside the drivers they’ve followed their entire careers. The drivers were in to it, the fans enjoyed it, the media was engaged, the social media response was noteworthy and the sponsors were happy about the deliverables.

The shutdown has taught me that it takes innovation to survive, striking back to engage fans, drivers and sponsors. The word CHANGE in motorsport can sometimes bring the crowds to their knees hyperventilating into paper bags. But the ability to adapt to big change brought bigger opportunities.

Literally, not two minutes after the first stream ended, I had a sponsor text me how they could get more involved. Now, because of their investment, we were able to hire a streaming company that can deliver a better product to our fans- just because we were willing to CHANGE.

The hours of heartache trying to figure out something new, was worth it, and we will continue to explore this unprecedented path far after we are back to “normal.”