Roger Diez: NASCAR racing at L.A. Coliseum

Roger Diez

Roger Diez

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The 60th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona is now in the history books, and what a race it was.
Helio Castroneves, who brought the winning Acura DPi prototype home to win it, set a record – it was the first time a reigning Indy 500 winner won the endurance classic. Less than nine months separated Helio’s fourth Indy 500 win from last weekend’s Rolex victory, and he did both with the same team, Meyer-Shank Racing.
His co-drivers were fellow IndyCar pilot Simon Pagenaud, sports car ace Oliver Jarvis, and Rolex 24 first-timer Tom Blomqvist.
In the other prototype classes, IndyCar drivers Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta joined with Devin Defrancesco and Eric Lux in the Dragonspeed car to take the LMP2 victory, while the LMP3 win went to the Riley Motorsports machine driven by Felipe Fraga, Kayvan Berlo, Michael Cooper, and Gar Robinson. The new GTD Pro category was hard-fought to the end with the Porsche 911 GT3R of Mathieu Jaminet, Felipe Nasr, and Matt Campbell taking the win.
It was a good day for Porsche as another 911 GT3R won the GTD class with Jan Heylen, Richard Leitz, Ryan Hardwick, and Zacharie Robichon driving. After 24 hours of racing the top four DPi cars finished on the same lap, and the LMP2 top three were also on the same lap, 10 laps behind the faster DPi cars. Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 DPi Cadillac finished 11th, 22 laps down after a lengthy repair, and Austin Cindric finished 23rd overall and fifth in class in a GTD Pro Mercedes-AMG.
The next race for the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship series is the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 19.
Coming up this weekend is the NASCAR Cup Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum, a quarter-mile asphalt oval built around the football field. It will be the first race outing for the Next Gen Cup cars at a shorter track than they will run on the rest of the season. In fact the new cars haven’t run on a quarter-mile track at all, except for an exhibition of sorts that saw Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer turn laps at Bowman-Gray Stadium.
Thirty-six cars are entered for the race, a departure from the standard field of pole winners and assorted other winners. The format will be familiar to fans of local short-track racing with single car qualifying, heat races, and last chance races leading up to the main event. Four 25-lap heats will transfer the top four finishers in each to the main. The top three finishers in the two 50-lap last chance races will also advance to the main. And a 23rd driver will be added, the highest 2021 points finisher who didn’t make the main through the preliminary races.
Practice airs Saturday on Fox Sports 2 at 9:30 a.m. with qualifying on Fox Sports 1 at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at noon FOX will broadcast the heats and last chance qualifying races, and the main event airs on FOX at 3 p.m.
There’s no racing next weekend, probably so the Cup teams can repair the inevitable damage that will occur this weekend. Teams don’t have that many cars in their stables as of yet, as they are still assembling them from pieces delivered from the various single-source vendors.
The next race will be the Daytona 500, and there’s a departure from the usual format. This year there will be no pole qualifying on the Sunday prior to the race. Practice will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 15, and Wednesday, Feb. 16, with pole qualifying Wednesday evening. The Duel races on Thursday will set the rest of the field for the 500. I’ll have broadcast channels and times next week.


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