2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona: The Live Blog

3:04 PM: The #3 Corvette has fallen from second to fourth in GTLM over the course of the last stint, now trailing both Porsches and the #25 BMW of Philipp Eng.

2:43 PM: The #10 of Wayne Taylor Racing and driver Ryan Briscoe is the last to stop in this cycle for the DPi lead lap runners. That marks a 42 minute stint for that car, one or two laps more than the Mazdas ran over their first full stint.

2:48 PM: The #77 and #55 Mazdas begin the second cycle of stops for the DPi leaders. That’s about a 40 minute stint for those cars.

2:43 PM: The #31 Cadillac of Felipe Nasr is putting pressure on the #77 Mazda for the overall lead. An impressive stint for Nasr so far, who could take that top spot in class and overall before the end of his stint.

2:40 PM: Colton Herta, whose top level career is one year old, describes his GTLM class win last year as “Still the biggest win of (my career).” High praise for the race, but also an impressive boast from someone who can already rank which of his many professional-level wins are the best after just 13 months.

2:31 PM: The GT class leaders have begun their first cycle of stops. Leads should remain the same after the cycle finishes.

2:21 PM: Some light contact between the #7 Penske Acura and the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac. Both cars escape unharmed, and the #7, currently being driven by Wayne Taylor’s son Ricky, is clear into fifth place overall.

2:17 PM: The #911 Porsche, #3 Corvette, and #912 Porsche are all still within three seconds for the overall lead, but those three cars (All new models making their Daytona debuts) have put only 12 seconds on the two BMW M8s over the course of the race. Those M8 GTEs, now know coloquially as the “Big” M8, are the last of their kind, with their sister European program having been shuttered late last year in favor of a Formula E operation.

2:15 PM: The last Cadillac, the #5 (Which is now run by JDC Miller Motorsports, not Action Express Racing, despite looking ostensibly identical to last year’s car), has stopped. NBC reports that teams may make “35, even 40” stops over the course of this race, an incredibly vague window that encompasses all possible results.

2:09 PM: The #55 Mazda, running fourth overall, is the first DPi to make a stop, doing so at the 30 minute mark. On a shorter track like Daytona, stints aren’t usually indicative of the lap length of future stints, but it will be important to note the length of the second stint.

Mazda #77 follows one lap later from the race lead. The two Acuras come, as well. No Cadillac has stopped yet. If that trend continues over the first few full stints, it could prove very consequential.

2:03 PM: Felipe Nasr finally makes a move on Juan Pablo Montoya for second overall, and Montoya allow Nasr to take the position. Cadillac #31 now trails just Mazda #77 overall, about four seconds behind the race lead.

The most compelling battle on track is now for the GTLM lead, with the #911 Porsche, #3 Corvette, and #912 Porsche all covered by less than 3/4ths of a second. Hopefully, NBC’s directors will notice at some point.

1:52 PM, Saturday: Juan Pablo Montoya, in the #6 Penske Acura, is under significant pressure for second overall form Felipe Nasr, whose #31 Cadillac DPi has been within a few car-lengths for the last few laps. Combined with the #55 Mazda langushing in 4th and not showing the dominant pace of its sister #77, we have a very good sign that all three DPi manufacturers are evenly balanced. After what feels like a decade of pre-race sandbagging, in-weekend Balance of Performance adjustments, and one-horse races in the DPi and DP-LMP2 merged classes, that sort of parity is a genuine pleasure to see.

1:48 PM, Saturday: NBC’s broadcast, which is currently on their main network but will bounce between that channel, their cable arm NBC Sports Network, and an online stream, features two drivers that are both competing in the race and calling it. Those two, AJ Allmendinger and Townsend Bell, are actually competing against each other in GTD.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is also on the broadcast, but, for some reason, is not competing in GTD. A missed opportunity, I guess.

1:43 PM, Saturday: Pole sitters still lead all four classes, but none have a larger lead than the #52 LMP2 car of Ben Keating. In just four laps, that PR1 Mathiasen entry is already out to a class lead of seven seconds.

1:39 PM, Saturday: The race has begun. The #77 Mazda of Oliver Jarvis is already out to a significant overall lead, a second and a half ahead of the #7 Acura and #31 Cadillac. The #911 Porsche begins the race in the GTLM lead, but the #3 Corvette has already moved to second in that class.

1:30 PM, Saturday: These are strange times in sports car racing. For the first time in what feels like many years, more manufacturers have left the sport than have joined, and the far-away introduction of new top-level classes of competition in both the US and Europe (Not to mention their just-announced plan for convergence) have left both the top category of IMSA racing and the FIA World Endurance Championship in something of a lame duck era. This means major changes on the horizon, but, in the short term, it means American sports car racing is smaller and closer than it had been since Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series merged under NASCAR’s control.

In the top-flight DPi class, the one that traditionally wins this race overall, that means a short field of just 8 cars from three manufacturers. With the end of CORE Autosport’s long-time prototype program, Nissan is out of the series, leaving just Mazda, Acura, and Cadillac. However, all three marques have been competitive with one another throughout practice and qualifying, and the #77 Joest Mazda’s pole time of 1:33.7 is just half a second ahead of the fastest Penske Acura (The #6) and the fastest Cadillac (The #31 of the Action Express-run Whelen Engineering Racing). The story of the pre-race sessions, however, was the #7 Acura, which driver Ricky Taylor crashed during qualifying and will start behind all other Prototypes. Penske Racing was able to get that car back onto the track before the end of that day’s last session, and it ran laps in anger on Friday with no issue, but drivers Taylor, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Alexander Rossi will start well behind their expected spot on the front row.

LMP2, meanwhile, is entering something of a banner year as an IMSA class. The category that spent all of 2019 as a two-car group that never had a race decided by less than a minute of time on track has suddenly swelled to five entries, all ORECAs. The #52 of PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports will start from pole.

GTLM has seen its own decrease in car count, a direct result of the end of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GT program. Without the team that had traditionally been among the fastest at Daytona, Porsche’s factory 911s were able to lock out the front row, with the #911 leading the #912. The debuting Corvette C8.R, the first-ever mid-engined Corvette GT car, will start 3rd and 4th, ahead of the third-row lock of the “big” BMW M8 GTEs and the lone Risi Competizione Ferrari.

GTD, the GT3-based class for pro-am lineups, was led in qualifying by stalwarts Pfaff Motorsports, Scuderia Corsa, Michael Shank Racing, and Turner Motorsports, in a Porsche, a Ferrari 488, an Acura NSX, and a BMW M6, respectively. All four of those teams were every-race contenders throughout last season, a worrying sign for the other fourteen cars in the overstuffed class that also features Aston Martin Vantages, Lamborghini Huracans, Mercedes-AMG GTs, and, most vexingly, a Lexus RC-F co-driven by reigning NASCAR champion Kyle Busch.

Full qualifying results can be found here. The race will begin at 10:50 local time, and, naturally, finish at the same time.

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