No. 987
March 13, 2019

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March 25,  2009


arrowup.gif The ALMS. Publisher's Note (3/28): Facing a dire car count scenario and desperate to do something about it, the American Le Mans Series is allowing some of its GT3 Challenge Cup drivers to compete in a new "Challenge Class" this season touting the initiative as " effort to promote the brightest and best of a new generation of sports car drivers..." The ALMS announced today that it will open its grid for five races in 2009 (excluding Petit Le Mans and the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca) to the best of GT3 and Challenge level drivers. The first race to include these drivers will be theLarry H. Miller Dealerships Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park outside Salt Lake City. Those eligible will include professional drivers and those from the ranks that don’t earn their living racing but who qualify because of their race-level experience. IMSA will oversee the selection of drivers in the “Challenge Class” ensuring the appropriate level of driver experience. To be eligible, drivers and teams must have had notable success for at least a year within GT3 level of racing. In order to maintain the affordability of the class, the cars exclusively will be the Porsche 997 Cup car utilized in the Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama, running spec Yokahama tires. The technical regulations will be virtually identical to those used in that series, although the sporting regulations will be generally those used in the American Le Mans Series. Designed for the paying spectators as well as for making the TV coverage more interesting, it could be argued that the ALMS is being proactive in a very difficult time for the economy and for the racing industry. And that will all be well and good until one of the Challenge Class drivers gets in the way of a faster car at a critical juncture in a race. - PMD

arrowup.gifarrowup.gifarrowup.gifAudi. The German manufacturer debuted its new R15 TDI racer on Saturday at the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida and posted its first win with the new machine as Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen beat Peugeot in America's most prestigious endurance race. McNish crossed the finish line 22.279 seconds ahead of Peugeot’s Franck Montagny in an scintillating battle between sports car racing’s two diesel super powers. The two prototypes stayed on the same lap throughout the 12 hours in a carry-over from last year’s clashes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Petit Le Mans, also Audi victories. McNish took the lead for good at the 42-minute mark when Montagny made his final fuel-only stop. McNish drove superbly, clicking off fast lap after fast lap to build up enough of a gap to make a late splash for fuel with 14 minutes remaining and maintain his lead. McNish re-entered the track while Montagny was just entering the backstretch. “I knew I had 55 seconds to get in and out with a comfortable gap,” McNish said. “But if a yellow came out after they pitted and prior to our stop, it was all out the window. We were lucky because I think everyone drove exceptionally well until the end. The poker aspect is played by the engineers not by the drivers; the pit strategy is by the guys behind the wall. We are just given instructions to do things and that was drive very, very quickly.” The winning trio made the R15 TDI Audi’s third prototype to win in its race debut joining the R8 in 2000 and R10 TDI in 2006. The two Audis and two Peugeot 908 HDis swapped the lead 23 times. The race also set records for fastest average speed (117.986 mph), distance covered (1,417 miles) and laps completed under the current 3.7-mile, 17-turn configuration (383). Click here for a new gallery of John Thawley's superb photography from Sebring. And look for the sights and sounds from Sebring as reported by our East Coast correspondent, A. J. Morning, at the end of this column.

(Photo©John Thawley)
The Audi R15 TDI made its debut at Sebring driven by Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen beating Peugeot in America's most prestigious endurance race.

arrowup.gifLowe's Fernandez Racing, Acura. Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz drove their No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b to the team's first LMP2 victory in the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, finishing fourth overall. The duo's Acura ARX-01b ran a strong and consistent race while Dyson Racing’s two Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes battled mechanical issues. “We just had to focus and keep a secure pace,” Diaz said. “After that it was just a matter of not losing the concentration. Lap after lap it’s hard to keep the concentration so it became a challenge of not making mistakes. The Dyson Mazdas did not score points and we got a lot, so it gives us a cushion. But our goal is to win every single race this year. That is the pressure for ourselves. We want to prove we are the best team.”

(Photo©John Thawley)
Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz drove their Acura ARX-01b to the team's first LMP2 victory in the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

arrowup.gifCorvette Racing, Pratt&Miller, Chevrolet. Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia completed 349 laps in the Pratt & Miller-prepared No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6R to take a one-lap victory in the GT1 class over Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Marcel Fassler in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6R. The Corvettes finished sixth and seventh overall, and the winning car set a record for the most laps completed by a GT car in ALMS competition in America's most prestigious endurance race. The No. 3 Corvette C6R also won the inaugural Michelin Green X Challenge race-within-a-race with the best score in the GT classes based on performance, efficiency and environmental impact. It was O'Connell's record-setting eighth Sebring class victory and Magnussen's 100th career victory in the American Le Mans Series. “Winning my 100th race in the 100th American Le Mans Series event is perfect,” said Magnussen. “I'm so happy for Johnny, and to welcome Antonio to the team with a win couldn’t be better. We had a nearly perfect race - we didn’t make any mistakes and everything went according to plan. A victory here is the best possible preparation we could have for Le Mans.” It was also Spaniard Antonio Garcia's first win with Corvette Racing (he won the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona in his previous driving life). The gap between the two Corvettes was never more than 30 seconds through the 12 hours of racing. Gavin and Magnussen started and finished the race, running five stints, while their teammates each completed four stints. This was the last appearance at Sebring of the Corvette C6Rs in the GT1 class. Corvette Racing's next event in GT1 is the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif., on April 18, followed by the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Corvette Racing then returns to the States and ALMS competition at Mid-Ohio in August with two new C6Rs prepared to the GT2 classification.

(Photo©John Thawley)
Corvette Racing not only won the GT1 class at Sebring, the team finished sixth and seventh overall with the winning No. 3 car setting a record for the most laps completed by a GT car in ALMS competition.

arrowup.gifRisi Competizione, Ferrari. The team won in GT2 for the second time in three years, this time it was much easier than the team’s epic 2007 victory when it won in class by a race-record 0.202 seconds. Mika Salo took the checkered flag in the Risi Competizione No. 62 Ferrari F430 GT that he drove with Pierre Kaffer and Jaime Melo to win the class by two laps. The trio had to start the back of the field after Melo could not arrive at the circuit until Friday morning. But the Ferrari took the lead in the second hour and never trailed again. The Ferrari’s main contenders fell by the wayside early on due to (Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and Marc Lieb) and mechanical difficulties (Farnbacher Loles Racing’s pole-sitting Porsche of Dirk Werner, Wolf Henzler and Richard Lietz). The Advanced Engineering Pecom Racing Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni, Mathias Russo and Luis Companc placed second for Ferrari’s first 1-2 GT2 finish at Sebring. Panoz Team PTG’s Panoz Esperante GTLM of Dominik Farnbacher and Ian James was third in class following a hard-fought battle with one of Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Porsches late in the race.

(Photo©John Thawley)
Mika Salo, Pierre Kaffer and Jaime Melo won GT2 at Sebring in their No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT.

arrowup.gifMichelin Green X Challenge, Corvette, Audi. In the first race of the MICHELIN Green X Challenge, the Corvette C6R of Magnussen, O’Connell and Garcia was the top scoring GT car using a combination of overall performance, fuel efficiency and environmental impact. The race-winning Audi was the top scoring prototype in the MICHELIN Green X Challenge while also setting records for distance covered, average speed and laps completed. The next race for the American Le Mans Series is the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg from the St. Petersburg street circuit. The green flag is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 4. ABC Sports will televise the race live beginning at 1:30 p.m. Live Timing & Scoring and American Le Mans Radio can be found at the new

(Shawn Payne/IRL)

Will Power (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara-Honda) was quick on the final day of an IndyCar Series Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park. The Team Penske driver lapped the 15-turn, 2.38-mile circuit in 1 minute, 09.4557 seconds, 119.213 mph. “It was good," Power said. "I haven’t spent much time with this team, so I spent the two days gelling with my engineer. We’re really working well together now. We found some good things in the car, and we found a car that suits me. We’re happy and we’ll be pretty confident going into St. Pete. This is a great track to get fit on because you never stop working. We won’t use this much energy getting around St. Pete, so it was a good workout. I was just happy to get back in the car on a road course.” Dario Franchitti (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara-Honda, above, right) had the second-quickest lap at 1:09.7776. Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing also filled the third and fourth positions, respectively, with Ryan Briscoe (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara-Honda) turning a best lap of 1:09.8401 and Scott Dixon (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara-Honda, above, left) at 1:09.8904. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing drivers Graham Rahal (No. 02) and Robert Doornbos (No. 06) were fifth and sixth, respectively. All 16 drivers participating in the test improved their lap times from Sunday, with the top 10 drivers going quicker than Sunday’s best time (Dixon, 1:10.5005). Mario Moraes missed most of the afternoon after his No. 5 KV Racing Technology car sustained damage after with the tire barrier shortly before the lunch break. Moraes returned to the track for the final 20 minutes. The test was the second and final Open Test before the 2009 season begins April 5 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Results Monday with position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine and speed:

1. (3) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 119.213

2. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 118.663

3. (6) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 118.557

4. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 118.471

5. (02) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 118.425

6. (06) Robert Doornbos, Dallara-Honda, 118.247

7. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 118.132

8. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 117.769

9. (18) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 117.751

10. (27) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 117.685

11. (4) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 117.402

12. (24) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 117.120

13. (12) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 117.106

14. (5) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 117.080

15. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 116.881

16. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 115.765

Publisher's Note: Scott Dixon was a guest on today's Indy racing League teleconference. He's returning for his seventh season in the IndyCar Series with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. The 28-year-old is the reigning IndyCar Series champion, reigning Indianapolis 500 champion and one of only two drivers to win multiple championships in the IndyCar Series (2003, 2008). Scott is also the winner of 10 of his last 25 races dating back to the middle of 2007. He won a record-tying six races and led a record-setting 899 laps in 2008. He has 96 career starts, 16 victories, 14 poles, 48 top-five finishes and 68 top-10s. Scott's wife, Emma, is expecting the couple’s first child later this year. For relaxation Dixon owns a small airplane and enjoys flying himself to races. Here are a few excerpts from that interview, courtesy of the IRL. - PMD

Q: Scott, obviously that's an incredible run that you've been on for the last year and a half. Can you guys keep it going in 2009?


SCOTT DIXON: I'd like to think that we can definitely keep the momentum rolling. The way we started last season and the way we ended it we were still very competitive, and with the addition of Dario (Franchitti), I think to have the last two series champions and the last two 500 champions could definitely‑‑ we've got the target on our back as such, and people are going to have to chase us.


But I think the team hasn't got too complacent. By the looks of things over the offseason, they've been developing the cars more so maybe than other years. I know the competition is going to be very tough this year with the transition teams having a complete season in it. I'd like to say we look good as a team, and hopefully we can come away with the two big trophies by the end of this year.


Q: Talk about adding Dario as a teammate and the component that he brings to the team.


SCOTT DIXON: It's been excellent, just from having a new teammate, I think for me I thrive on that. I've been lucky enough to stay with Ganassi. I think it's my eighth season with the team, as you said, seven in IndyCar and then I had a season before that in Champ Car. I've seen and been through a lot of teammates, and every time you get a new teammate you learn a lot of stuff, and Dario I think is very technical, very, very good on road courses and street courses, and he brings a lot to the team.


Having I think the 24‑hour (at Daytona) together I think was great, but also, as you added, to have Australia to work together as a first race or a pre-season race for the season was fantastic, and I think that was similar for Dan (Wheldon), who moved on to Panther. It was good to sort of get your feet a little wet and work with the new team and things like that.


Surprisingly we've been very close in driver styles and feel of the car. We're talking maybe 50 pounds to 100 pounds of spring difference is about the only thing that we kind of have. That's been pretty good for me because I've typically been a lot different from a lot of the other teammates.


As far as relationship goes, we've been great friends for many years. He was a guy I definitely looked up to when I came into the Champ Car series in 2001 and 2002, and I'd like to say we've definitely grown on that and I'm looking forward to a whole season with him.


(Shawn Payne/IRL)
Sebastian Saavedra (above) paced the final Firestone Indy Lights Open Test before the start of the 2009 season. Saavedra, driving the No. 27 AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing entry, turned a fast lap of 1 minute 15.6714 seconds, 109.420 mph on the 15-turn, 2.38-mile road course at Barber Motorsports Park. Saavedra’s teammate, J.R. Hildebrand, was second at 1:15.7648 and Vision Racing’s James Davison was third at 1:15.8599. Only nine cars participated in the test. Other teams opted not to attend the Open Test and use private test days to prepare for the doubleheader season opener April 4-5 at St. Petersburg, Fla.

(SCCA/Mark Weber)
Tony Rivera (No. 97 Tax Masters/Mirage Group Porsche 911 GT3, above, leading Eric Curran), of Missouri City, Texas, became the first SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT driver to win in his series debut in five years, taking the Toyo Tires Season Opener at Sebring International Raceway. Eric Curran (No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette), of East Hampton, Mass., was second, and Brandon Davis (No. 10 Applied Computer Solutions/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang), of Huntington Beach, Calif., completed the top three. Rivera finished 2.049 seconds ahead of Curran while averaging 93.488 mph over the 20-lap, 74-mile race distance. Rivera also set the race’s fastest lap, a 2:11.589 (101.224 mph). Next up is the ACS World Challenge at Long Beach Presented by Lala Motorsports April 17-19.

(SCCA/Mark Weber)

Seth Thomas (No. 38 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i), of Cumming, Ga., captured his first-ever SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car win in the Toyo Tires SCCA SPEED World Challenge Season Opener at Sebring. Pierre Kleinubing (No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX), of Coconut Creek, Fla., and Jason Saini (No. 74 Tri-Point Motorsports MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts, of Fort Worth, Texas, completed the top three. Thomas finished 2.563 seconds ahead of Keinubing in the 18-lap, 66.6-mile race. Rookie Eric Foss, of Fort Worth, Texas, made a notable World Challenge debut in the No. 75 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6. Starting 12th, Foss bolted to ninth on the opening lap and finished a strong fourth, winning him the Sunoco Hard Charger Award. Round Two is set for May 1-3, at Thunderbolt Raceway in Millville, N.J.

(Richard Prince Photo)
Bob Faieta (above), Tujunga, Calif., dominated the first two rounds of the Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama at Sebring International Raceway last weekend, winning from the pole in the Platinum Cup, the class for 2008 and 2009 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars. Melanie Snow, Pleasant Grove, Utah, mirrored Faieta’s performance by finishing first in the Gold Cup class (2005-2007 cars) in both races. The TV show featuring rounds one and two at Sebring will air on SpeedTV April 11th at 2:00AM. Rounds three and four of the 2009 Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama will take place May 16 at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.

(Photo courtesy of MAZDASPEED)
Sebring brought together the MAZDASPEED Class of 2009, six young racers who have fully funded rides thanks to their achievements in 2008 and thanks to Mazda’s dedication to supporting the grassroots racer. Conor Daly, from Noblesville, Indiana, won the 2008 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda to earn a drive in the 2009 Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear. Daly will be racing with Andersen Racing. John Edwards, from Cincinnati, Ohio, won the 2008 Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear to earn a drive in the 2009 Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. Edwards will be racing with Newman Wachs Racing and actually captured his first Atlantic victory at Sebring last weekend. Eric Foss, from Fort Worth, Texas, won the 2008 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup to earn a ride in the 2009 SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship. Foss will be racing a MAZDA6 with Tri-Point Motorsports and finished a very impressive fourth in his series debut at Sebring. Sage Karam, from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and Court Vernon, from Key Biscayne, Florida, were both winners at the annual Skip Barber Mazda karting shootout. Both will be running a full season in the 2009 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber Nationals presented by Mazda. And Justin Piscitell, from Patterson, New York, won the 2008 Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge to earn a slot in the MX-5 Cup shootout for club racing champions. Piscitell went on to win the shootout to earn a drive in the 2009 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup. Piscitell will be racing with ALARA Racing.


Lessons in Endurance: Sebring and Audi.

By A. J. Morning

Sebring, FL. With a starting grid among the smallest in the history of the event, the 57th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring might not have looked as promising as those of years past. While NASCAR has TV contracts that require 43 cars – which often means including “field fillers” who have to park it after 5 laps -- last Saturday’s race at Sebring brought a mere 26 starters. No doubt, economics played a major role in keeping the car count low, and the top-echelon of Sports Car racing in America is no cheap date for any team.

Rumors throughout the paddock suggested some rather extreme measures might be put in play to help round out the field. This was not just the 57th running of the 12 Hours, after all, but the 100th race of the ALMS itself. Thankfully, the rumor mill proved negative, and we didn’t end up with a dozen extra cars running slow, getting in the way and keeping the Safety Car busy all day and night.

While some may have been overly concerned with starting such a small field, however, the action brought by some of the top teams was absolutely epic. Audi, having campaigned the R10 TDI for the last three years with mostly-good results, brought the new R15 racer to show that “mostly-good” isn’t good enough. The new car looks leaner, meaner, and the all new V-10 TDI even exhibits a bit more growl and snarl than the V-12 it replaces. Since all of the development and testing on the R15 was mostly done in cold wet weather, the trip to warm and (on race day) possibly dry Sebring would be its first real-world test.

Peugeot, having shown just how fast a French diesel with a roof (and, by ACO rules, air conditioning) can be, was back with the brilliant 908 HDi FAP to challenge once again for their first ALMS victory. And if that wasn’t enough, Acura – who had spent the last couple of years going from P2 upstart in 2007 (and overall runner-up in their first outing two years ago) to Overall Winner at several ALMS races in 2008, was campaigning a new car in P1, the ARX-02a. Both Patrón Highcroft and de Ferran Motorsports brought the new prototypes to compete with the diesels from Europe.

Clearly, we had the makings of a fantastic P1 battle.

To underscore just how unpredictable the race would be, both Audi and Peugeot were rocked back as Scott Dixon piloted the de Ferran Motorsports Acura to the pole position, on his very last lap of the qualifying session.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, GT2 was no less exciting: In addition to the front-running rides from Ferrari (Krohn/Risi) and Porsche (Flying Lizards and Farnbacher Loles), returning entries from Panoz Team PTG and the Primetime Dodge Viper were joined by the newly-minted BMW M3s from Rahal Letterman Racing. Throw in Drayson Racing’s gorgeous Aston Martin Vantage GT2 and Robertson’s throwback Ford GT, and the class was ready to begin session.

In between, P2 saw Dyson Racing’s first outing since leaving Porsche for Mazda, and with the engine manufacturer bringing along BP as a sponsor, the new Lola chassis and bright green/yellow livery looked absolutely stunning. The two Dyson entries were matched up in class with the sole Acura ARX-01B from Fernandez Racing, essentially a carry-over from 2008 but considered a well-tested ride.

GT1 saw the last Sebring run of the fantastic GM Corvette Racing C6.R. As widely reported, after Le Mans the team will focus its efforts in GT2, thereby making the class arguably the most competitive series in America by any measure. The Corvette program has had the misfortune of having no competition in GT1 for the last few years, and the decision to switch to GT2 later this year was imminent.

By now you’ve already (or should have) read the results: Audi’s debut of the R15 was hotly contested throughout all 12 Hours of the event, with Peugeot leading for much of the way. The tipping point? Audi’s experience, both in its drivers and crew. A gamble on pit strategy late in the race kept Allan McNish out in front for the last 42 minutes and nabbed the team a surprising 22-second victory.

The rematch between Audi and Peugeot will take place at Le Mans, and it should be one for the ages – especially since Peugeot will be adding David Brabham to their Le Mans lineup, and DB is as great as anybody in any car, in any class.

Acura saw its new P1 rides both fall out with mechanical issues, though their P2 team saw Fernandez and Diaz take a class win just by going the distance. The only other cars in P2, the Dyson Mazda/Lolas, both expired early with electrical and chassis-related gremlins. That said, there seems to be a newly-invigorated spirit among the Dyson team, and various members have described their partnership with Mazda as being exactly that – a true partnership between racing team and manufacturer, right down the line.

While there was much anticipation among BMW fans for the return of the marque to ALMS, their first outing didn’t last very long. The Rahal Letterman M3s checked out after 27 and 140 laps, respectively.

If BMW seemed to have the worst luck, some of it may have been on loan from Porsche. Now gone from P2, Porsche failed to even make the podium at Sebring in GT2 – their thunder stolen by Ferrari twice over, and a workhorse run by Panoz. When teams as incredibly talented as Flying Lizards and Farnbacher Loles get served a deep dish of humble pie at an event they’re used to owning, Porsche clearly has its work cut out.

If ALMS had a Most-Improved award, it would have to go to Joel Feinberg’s Primetime Dodge Viper. Fighting with a lack of factory backing, minimal development, and one of the tightest budgets in the series, the team showed a ton of promise (and new-found speed) in practice. One of the crew explained that the switch from Hankook to Dunlop tires has made most of the difference. Enough of a difference, in fact, for IMSA to stick the car with a smaller air restrictor. This may have had the desired effect of pushing the Viper further back in the pack, but the Primetime effort held on until late in the race, when the last bits of clutch material finally gave way.

A couple of other events took place during the week, which bear mention: The Patrón Highcroft Acura team has signed on with Malaria No More, in their Miles to End Malaria effort. Both the team and sponsor have pledged contributions for every lap they compete this year, with the money going to expand outreach for the prevention and treatment of malaria throughout Africa. This is quite a worthy cause, and it’s great to see the racing community backing it.

Not to be outdone, Oliver Gavin is involved in the London Marathon to raise both money and awareness to combat bowel cancer.

And, while not charity-related, the most unbelievable sight of the week had to be David Brabham reenacting his father’s incredible finish from 50 years ago, where Sir Jack Brabham’s Cooper Climax T-51 ran out of fuel with ½ mile to go, pushed his car the remaining distance, and in doing so wrapped up the championship. David pushed the car along the front straight on Friday night, crossed the line with it and even stopped for a few lucky photographers to make the most of the moment.

Even an event as huge as Sebring is not immune to the realities of the world we all live in. Yes, the economy still sucks. While no attendance figures were available at press time, estimates put the crowd “a little bit smaller” than in recent years. Still a huge crowd, mind you, but maybe a couple thousand less than the several hundred thousand known to pack the infield at this great race.

But when you step back and look at it, really, this is all about endurance. In due time, the crowds will return to capacity, the grid will once again have a full field of cars, the clouds may or may not dump a ton of rain on Thursday night (as we’ve had consistently for four years running)...

And Sebring will always be Sebring.

That's it for now, see you at the next pit stop.


See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" hosted by Autoline Detroit's John McElroy, withPeter De Lorenzo and auto industry PR veteran Jason Vines this Thursday evening, April 9, at 7:00PM EDT at . Special guest- and industry anyalyst extraordinaire -Maryann Kellerwill join us. You can chat with us "live" too. Again, that's "AutolineAfter Hours"this Thursday evening, April 9, at 7:00PM EDT at .

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