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Austin Cindric wins IMSA Pilot Challenge race at Road Atlanta

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If you’re Austin Cindric and you have your first weekend off from your full-time Xfinity Series job in 15 weeks, how do you spend it?

You go run a race and win, of course.

The Team Penske driver competed in and won the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race at Road Atlanta on Friday, driving Multimatic Motorsports’ No. 15 Ford Mustang GT4 with teammate Seb Priaulx.

It is Cindric’s second career Pilot Challenge win and his second start this year.

The 21-year-old Cindric has competed in IMSA races since 2014.

“I’ve had a lot of fun when Ford Performance brings over the NASCAR Xfinity guys and we get to do some of these races in the GT4 cars,” said Cindric. “Multimatic kind of kickstarted my career. It took off in a lot of different directions and I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I see the same thing with Seb. They believe in him and he’s done an awesome job.”

Priaulx, 18, is the son of three-time World Touring Car Cup champion Andy Priaulx, and was making his North American racing debut.

“Thanks to Austin, he did a great job to get the car home in first place,” said Priaulx. “It was a good race. We had good pace at the start, not to get the P1 spot but it was good enough to win the race today, so I’m really happy. Thanks to Multimatic and Ford Performance to give me a chance to race this car and with Austin.”

You can watch Cindric’s win at 7 p.m. ET Oct. 18 on NBCSN.

Matt DiBenedetto taking IMSA GTO throwback to Darlington

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Matt DiBenedetto‘s car for Sunday’s Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN) will throw back to a sports car rather than a stock car.

Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 Toyota will pay tribute to the turbo-charged GTO Celicas that won the driver’s championship in the IMSA GTU (under three-liter) category in 1987 with Chris Cord.

This championship-winning IMSA GTO program carried the red, orange and yellow striped color scheme which is associated with Toyota in American motorsports.

NASCAR America begins 6th season today at 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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The sixth season of NASCAR America debuts at 5 p.m. ET today on NBCSN with a new look.

Kicking things off for the one-hour show will be the NASCAR on NBC team of Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett.

The new season of NASCAR America features a number of reimagined features, starting with a new studio. The show’s home has moved from its base the last five seasons in Stamford, Connecticut, to a new studio in Charlotte, North Carolina. The show will air weekdays from 5-6 p.m. ET.

Each weeknight will showcase a different theme focused on the sport of NASCAR, its drivers, teams, fans and the motorsports industry. In addition, select episodes will include opportunities for fans to call in and speak with NASCAR America hosts, analysts, drivers and other guests.

Tonight’s season premiere of NASCAR America will feature discussion among our analysts about Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash (Jimmie Johnson won the rain-shortened race) and Sunday’s 61st edition of the Daytona 500.

NASCAR America Mondays will focus on the previous weekend’s races and include highlights, “Turning Points,” driver interviews, expert analysis, and the signature NASCAR America segment Scan All.

Here’s how the rest of this week’s show lineup looks, with themes that will continue on the same days throughout the season:

Tuesday, February 12

  • NASCAR America Presents The Dale Jr. Download: Every Tuesday, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for an unprecedented 15 consecutive years (2003-17) and winner of two Daytona 500s, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@Dalejr) co-hosts NASCAR America with Mike Davis. Produced on-site at Dirty Mo Media Studios in Mooresville, N.C., episodes on Tuesday will expand to one hour, and feature the same unparalleled perspective, candid commentary, and first-person insight of The Dale Jr. Download that fans have come to love.
  • NASCAR America Splash & Go: In addition to NBCSN’s linear telecast on Tuesday of The Dale Jr. Download, NBC Sports Digital will feature multiple editions of NASCAR America Splash & Go segments, featuring the news of the day, breaking news, race shop reports and interviews. NBCSports.com’s lead motorsports writer Nate Ryan (@nateryan) will host Splash & Go digital segments and will be joined by a collection of NASCAR on NBC analysts. NASCAR America Splash & Go will be available on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Wednesday, February 13

  • NASCAR America Presents Motormouths: Hosted by NASCAR on NBC’s Rutledge Wood (@rutledgewood) and Marty Snider (@HeyMartysnider), alongside auto racing icon Kyle Petty (@KylePetty), Motormouths Wednesdays will feature a light-hearted approach to the traditional show, and include regular opportunities for fans to call in to NASCAR America and speak with hosts, analysts, drivers and other guests live on TV.
  • NASCAR America Debrief: As a compliment to Wednesday’s telecast of NASCAR America on NBCSN at 5 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Digital will present NASCAR America Debrief, a digital exclusive show available on the NBC Sports YouTube Channel beginning at 6 p.m. ET. Nate Ryan will host NASCAR America Debrief, and will be joined by select NASCAR on NBC analysts and guests from that day’s linear telecast. NASCAR America Debrief will follow the same light-hearted approach as Motormouths, with an emphasis on additional viewer and fan engagement.

Thursday, February 14

  • NASCAR America Presents The Motorsports Hour: Featuring NASCAR on NBC host Krista Voda (@kristavoda), with NASCAR drivers and analysts A.J. Allmendinger (@AJDinger) and Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman), NASCAR America’s Motorsports Hour on Thursday will highlight the upcoming weekend’s NASCAR races, and also shine a light on the latest news surrounding IndyCar, IMSA, American Flat Track, Supercross, Motorcross, Mecum collector car auctions, and all of motorsports. Additional analysts will include former IndyCar driver Townsend Bell, former IMSA GT driver Calvin Fish, former IndyCar driver Paul Tracy, as well as Motocross and Supercross legend Ricky Carmichael.

NASCAR America’s Fan Fridays will return to NBCSN in July, live from the site of select NASCAR on NBC races, and will be broadcast from NBC Sports’ Peacock Pit box set located on pit road.

NASCAR America is also available on the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TV’s.

Podcast: The Earnhardts race the Rolex 24 … recalling one of the last rides for ‘The Intimidator’

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Their first spins around Sebring International Raceway in sports cars were a little too literal for Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

There were some lucrative silver linings from a crash course in learning how to race a Corvette, though.

In preparing for the 2001 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, the Earnhardts went to Sebring to learn the nuances of driving a GT car, which have more sophisticated cockpit technology and precision braking and handling than the stock cars of which they were accustomed.

Within his first 15 minutes on track, Earnhardt Jr. had crumpled the back end of the Corvette. Late in the day, his father joined him

ROLEX 24 COVERAGE: Full announcer lineup, NBCSN/NBC Sports App schedule

“We got a pile of parts sitting there from both of them crashing,” Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan said in a new episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast (links below). “Dale says, ‘This isn’t really the way we wanted to start.’ I said, ‘I think it was inevitable. End of the day, I’m not sure it wasn’t a good way to start because you both have learned the limits of the car.”

Earnhardt told Fehan he still felt bad about the expense and trouble for the team. Fehan pointed at the pile of parts.

“Don’t worry, you and Junior are going to sign all those, and we’re going to sell them,” Fehan said. “We’re going to get the money back.”

The Earnhardts then grabbed Sharpies and headed to the scrap heap.

Beyond making the best of it with their autographs, Earnhardt Jr. said crashing early “probably was a good thing” in getting acclimated to the Corvettes.

“I’m the guy that everyone looks at and thinks, ‘Man, he’s probably the weakest link,’ ” Earnhardt Jr. said in the podcast. “So I put a ton of pressure on myself right out of the gate to be very fast.

“I mashed the gas, and it just spun out. It had so much power, you could just spin that thing out so easily just by touching the throttle pedal. I backed into a bridge abutment. I thought I had killed this race car.”

Dale Earnhardt makes a lap during the 2001 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. (Jon Ferrey/Allsport)

Once the car was back in the garage, though, the Corvette team unzipped some large black bags and had the rear end replaced in about 20 minutes.

“‘OK, get back in!’” Earnhardt Jr. recalled the team saying. “I tore this thing to hell, and you’re going to fix it with new stuff and want me to get back in it! You’re not going to let me take a couple of hours to think about what I did, send someone else out there. ‘No! Get back in, you’ve got to learn!’

“I got back in and took a little better care of it the rest of the day.”

It was near the end of the session when his father lost control on a fresh set of tires, and Earnhardt Jr. believes he was partly responsible.

“Dad’s out there, I’m way faster than him,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I’m like, ‘Dad, look at me, doing good!’ and he’s like, ‘It’s not important how fast we’re going. We ain’t even racing here. I don’t know what the big deal is.’ I’m like, ‘OK.’

“Well right at the end of the day, I think it was eating away at him a little bit. He wouldn’t admit it. It’s 5 o’clock. It’s time to stop. He’s like, ‘Put me some tires on this!’ One last run, he goes out and is running a lap by the flagstand to start his run. He nosed the car into the tire barrier head first in the last corner.

“I knew he was pushing as hard as he could to match or better my time. So there was some competition between us two that I think he would never admit to. Because I’d be like, not ‘I’m better than you,’ but ‘Look at what I’m doing! Isn’t this cool?’ He’d be like, ‘We don’t even race at Sebring. We race at Daytona! I don’t know why you’re pushing so hard, you’re going to tear it up.’ We had two completely different approaches.”

But there was much common ground for a duo that didn’t always spend much time together at the track. When Earnhardt Jr. was up and coming in Late Models, his father rarely attended his short-track races. They competed together for only one season together in Cup but on separate teams.

The Rolex 24 provided a unique opportunity to work together on a full-time basis.

“This is the closest I’ve ever been to him to be able to do that,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Usually we’re racing on the racetrack and against each other. He might not even see me all day or know what I’m doing. Here we are together, debriefing and talking about the car and changing things on the car together.

“This is a really great opportunity for me to show him just what I thought about race cars and how I communicated.”

Listen to the NASCAR on NBC podcast to hear more stories about the Earnhardts’ run in the 2001 Rolex 24, including:

–How Dale Earnhardt grew close with the Corvette Racing team (“He said I want to be treated like any other guy on this team,” Fehan said. “I don’t want to be treated as Dale Earnhardt. I’m just a driver like anyone else on this race team. Coming from anyone else, I would have thought it was BS. Coming from him, it was genuine. He was serious about it.”)

–The welcoming reception he received in the sports car community (“Dad had a lot of respect for people all across all forms of motorsports. He sort of crossed those lines and boundaries. So I think everybody was like, ‘This is great!’ They weren’t intimated by him from a competitors’ standpoint. He didn’t act like, ‘Boy I’m going to light the world and show you guys. I’m Dale Earnhardt, move out of the way and give me my space.’ He just came in there inquisitive, asking all the right questions. Easy to approach, and people just liked it, man.”

–Why Earnhardt initially believed the team didn’t necessarily need a fourth driver, and the Daytona test that told him otherwise.

You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher or Spotify or by clicking on the embed below.

Part II of this special narrative edition of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast will be released early Thursday morning.

A.J. Allmendinger joins NBC Sports as motorsports analyst

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A.J. Allmendinger has joined the NBC Sports Group in a multiyear deal as part of its motorsports coverage, the network announced Wednesday.

Allmendinger, who spent the last 12 years competing in the NASCAR Cup Series, will begin his work with NBC in January.

Allmendinger will work on the various properties across NBC Sports’ motorsports portfolio, including as a booth analyst for the network’s exclusive coverage of the IMSA SportsCar Championship. He also will contribute regularly to NBCSN’s NASCAR America.

Allmendinger will make his broadcast debut during NBC Sports’ coverage of the 57th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Saturday, Jan. 26, where he is also expected to race as part of Meyer Shank Racing (MSR).

“I couldn’t be more excited to begin this new chapter in my life alongside some of the most knowledgeable and influential voices in motorsports, and to be a part of NBC Sports’ second-to-none coverage,” Allmendinger said in a release.

During his NASCAR career, Allmendinger earned one Cup win and two Xfinity Series wins, all on road courses.

In addition to his years of NASCAR experience, Allmendinger brings knowledge from his time in sports cars and open-wheel racing.

In 2012, Allmendinger was part of the overall winning team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. In 2006, he earned five wins and placed third overall in the Champ Car World Series.

“A.J. loves to race and is passionate about IMSA,” Sam Flood, NBC Sports’ Executive Producer and President of Production, said in a release. “His career as a driver across IMSA, NASCAR and Open Wheel will bring a unique mix of experience and insight to the NBC Sports team.”