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Prototype Challenge

IPC Title to be Decided in Road Atlanta Season Finale

Naveen Rao, Matt Bell head into IMSA Prototype Challenge title decider as points leaders…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

One IMSA championship will be determined this weekend at Michelin Raceway Road America, when the IMSA Prototype Challenge conducts the finale of its six-race season.

Fourteen cars are entered in the LMP3 race, but it’s essentially a two-horse chase for the title.

The No. 64 K2R Motorsports Norma M30 Nissan, driven by Naveen Rao and Matt Bell, holds a six-point lead over Dakota Dickerson, who’s sharing the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P3 Nissan this weekend with Dominic Cicero.

A podium finish by the No. 64 crew guarantees the title, no matter where the No. 54 car finishes.

“The championship is our main goal,” said Rao, the Bronze-rated driver for K2R Motorsports. “If we have to sacrifice anything else to do that, we will.

“Then our next goal is to win the race. In terms of the championship, there’s really only one car that I think we need to worry about, so we’re going to make sure we’re in a great spot for that.

“Outqualify them, make sure our pace is good. … Beyond that, don’t take any undue risks.”

His co-driver agreed, but Bell was quick to add that “the simplest way to win championships is to win the races.”

Rao and Bell have reached the podium in all but one of the first five races but has only one win thus far.

“We have a hunger for not only winning the championship,” Bell said. “Obviously, that was the target at the outset of the year, but we want to win races, too.”

The three-hour race will stream live at 9:05 a.m. EDT Friday on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold with commentary from IMSA Radio.

Pre-Event News & Notes:

***Strategy for the season finale will differ based on the race length of three hours. While January’s season opener in Daytona also was a three-hour race, the past four were each 1 hour 45 minutes in length. The minimum drive time for a driver is 40 minutes.

***Dickerson and Cicero hope to keep the pressure on Rao and Bell. The No. 54 drivers won last month’s IPC race at Mid-Ohio to trim three points off the the K2R duo’s advantage.

***Can the No. 9 JDC MotorSports Norma duo of Gerry Kraut and Scott Andrews regain their winning form? They were victorious in their first two outings this season – at Sebring and Road America – but have finished seventh in the last two races. The No. 9 is the only car with more than one win this season.

***Friday’s race will be the last for IPC under its current setup. Beginning next year, new-generation LMP3s will be allowed to compete in the both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and IPC. The latter will feature two classes, one for the updated LMP3s and one with the current-generation LMP3s.

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