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2017 Daytona 24: Friday IMSA News and Notes
Posted by: ASkyler on Jan 28, 2017 - 06:10 AM
Feature Articles
2017 Daytona 24: Friday IMSA News and Notes


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Steven Cole Smith, IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate honorary starter for the 55th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona: Hurley Haywood, five-time winner of the race, but Haywood is far more than that.

Often, he has been the face of sports car racing in the U.S., linked invariably to Daytona and to Porsche, though he raced - and won - at so many other tracks, and during his career he drove many different kinds of cars.

But Haywood has played many other roles besides champion. He has mentored younger drivers; he has patiently explained racing to members of the mainstream media trying to cover a big race; he has won, and lost, with grace. His five overall wins tie him for the most with Scott Pruett, who will be going for a GT Daytona class win in the first outing for the Lexus RC F GT3.

 

"I spent 40 years taking the green flag," Haywood said, "but never throwing it. It’s exciting to be here. There are a lot of great-looking cars and a great driver lineup."

Haywood waves that flag at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Television coverage begins on FOX at 2 p.m. FOX Sports GO provides flag-to-flag coverage with FS1 authentication. If you’re in the neighborhood, tickets can be purchased at www.DaytonaInternationalSpeedway.com.

KEATING DOES THE DOUBLE: Texas car dealer Ben Keating’s passion for IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship racing has been apparent from the start of the series, as he fielded one, and sometimes two, Dodge Vipers in the GT Daytona class.

But with Dodge discontinuing the Viper, Keating needed a new car to race, and he chose the Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, a car that has raced overseas but is new to the WeatherTech Championship.

But apparently that wasn’t enough. Keating, 46, also will be racing in the No. 8 Starworks Prototype Challenge entry, sharing that car with four other drivers. The goal is to score a podium finish in two separate classes, which will be a first in the IMSA WeatherTech series.

So if you see a guy on pit road, wearing either a helmet or a cowboy hat, chugging black coffee at 2 a.m., wish Ben Keating luck.

AUSTIN HATCHER FOUNDATION HONORS IMSA, HAND: The Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer awarded IMSA, the sanctioning body, the Founders Club Award in recognition of helping to raise more than $2.3 million since 2009 to benefit the foundation.

In addition, Ford Chip Ganassi Ford GT driver Joey Hand was presented with the Austin Hatcher Foundation Humanitarian Award for his volunteer work in 2016 that benefitted young cancer patients and their families.

The Austin Hatcher Foundation was founded by Dr. James Osborn and his wife, Amy Jo, after the couple lost their infant son, Austin Hatcher Osborn, to a rare, aggressive form of pediatric cancer. For more information on the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based foundation, log onto Hatcherfoundation.org

MAZDA ADJUSTS STRATEGY: Previously in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the two Mazda Prototypes have gone for it from the green flag, and possibly as a result have suffered early mechanical failures or debilitating crashes.

This year, though the new Mazda Prototype has plenty of speed, the goal is to make it to Sunday, and then go for a good finish. They have been practicing pit stops and driver changes as much as they have been practicing on the track.

And they are also paying attention to minor problems from past races. Example: The team has been working on making sure the plastic drinking water tube and the radio cable, which attach to the drivers’ helmets with Velcro, are exactly the right length. Last year, the tube and cables were too long, and the drivers sometimes got tangled up in them in driver changes.

Attention to detail: That’s what wins a 24-hour race.

GOOD READING: Two longtime motorsports journalists have published new books that feature a man and a car. The man is Bob Riley of Riley Technologies, for decades builder of winning IMSA race cars. Riley wrote his autobiography with the help of Jonathan Ingram, and the book, "The Art of Race Car Design," has just entered its second printing, and can be ordered at Jingrambooks.com.

The other book is "A Big Ask: The Story of Ford’s Triumphant Return to Le Mans," by David Phillips. The book chronicles the development of the Ford GT race car, with the intent of winning its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, on the 50th anniversary of the Le Mans sweep by the original Ford GT 50 years earlier.

That successful campaign began at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona, and four Ford GTs are in the GT Le Mans field for Saturday’s race. "The Big Ask" is available at Amazon.com.

SHORT TAKES: Motul will serve as title sponsor for the season-ending Petit Le Mans 10-hour endurance race at Road Atlanta…Corvette Racing and Sonic Tools announced a partnership beginning at Daytona that makes Sonic the Official Tool Supplier for Corvette Racing…Continental Tire is the supplier for both the WeatherTech Championship and the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. Now the company has taken what it has learned in racing, and asked five IMSA racers - Ryan Dalziel, Andy Lally, Joao Barbosa, Lawson Aschenbach and Ozz Negri - to help develop a new ultra-high-performance tire, called the ExtremeContact Sport. "It was great to see the dedication and passion all the drivers had for this project," said Bob Liu, product manager performance tires for Continental Tire. "For the engineers to be able to ride with the drivers and experience what they were reporting was invaluable."

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