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Mid-Ohio Saturday Notebook

Ryan Myrehn’s Saturday IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship notebook from Mid-Ohio…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

***Team Penske, which swept the front row in qualifying on Saturday, has sports car racing roots at Mid-Ohio that date back to 1966 when the team made its debut at the facility with driver Mark Donohue. Since then, 13 different drivers across multiple racing categories have combined to win 23 times for The Captain at the Lexington, Ohio circuit, including overall wins in American Le Mans Series competition in 2006-07.

***Polesitter Helio Castroneves has two IndyCar poles to his name at the track, also from 2006-07, won back-to-back CART races in 2000-01, and has led 147 laps in his career at the track.

***Castroneves’ co-driver Ricky Taylor told Sportscar365 the team’s recent test at Mid-Ohio yielded a strong baseline setup, which has given the team a leg up on the competition. Team Penske went 1-2 in all three practice sessions and qualifying heading into the race.

***This is a big weekend for Honda which recently signed on as the title sponsor for IMSA’s return to Mid-Ohio through its Acura brand. American Honda operates a dozen corporate, manufacturing, and research and development facilities in central Ohio, employing more than 10,000 associates, all within a short drive of the track.

***Penske is seeking the first win for the new Acura ARX-05 DPi, while the Columbus, Ohio-based Meyer Shank Racing organization remains in the thick of the fight for the GTD class championship via its pair of Acura NSX GT3s.

***John Edwards, who secured a second GT Le Mans pole in the first four races for the new BMW M8 GTE platform in IMSA competition, has now won the class pole in his last three starts at Mid-Ohio. The BMW Team RLL driver scored back-to-back GT class poles for Stevenson motorsports in 2012 and 2013 in Grand-Am competition, but had not raced at the track since. Despite the qualifying success, Edwards is yet to win in top-level sports car racing at the track.

***Action Express Racing is the reigning overall winning team in major endurance sports car racing competition at Mid-Ohio, having won with drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa at the track in 2013 under Grand-Am sanction. Muscle Milk Picket Racing won overall in the final ALMS race at Mid-Ohio in 2012.

***Jack Hawksworth earned his second career WeatherTech Championship pole position on Saturday and first since taking the Prototype Challenge class pole at Petit Le Mans in 2014. It is the second ever pole for the Lexus RC F GT3 platform, building on Sage Karam’s breakthrough effort at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last year.

***Kyle Marcelli ensured both Lexus machines would start on the front row with an impressive qualifying effort of his own in the sister entry, narrowly missing out on the pole. The Canadian then turned around and won the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race mere hours later in dramatic fashion.

***Marcelli, who plays hockey in his free time as part of his fitness program, was a recent guest at a Columbus Blue Jackets NHL game. The trip included a ride around the ice during the first intermission and a behind-the-scenes tour.

***Lexus was recently named the official luxury vehicle at the newly-renamed WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. As part of the agreement, the Lexus GS F will serve as the official pace car for races taking place at the iconic
circuit as well as support vehicles throughout the facility, and Lexus will also be featured on billboards around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile Northern California road course.

***Both Misha Goikhberg and Stephen Simpson, co-drivers in the No. 99 Oreca 07 Gibson for JDC-Miller Motorsports, scored podium results in their most recent starts at Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course. Goikhberg finished second in the 2013 IMSA Lites race at the track, while Simpson finished third while racing in Indy Lights in 2007. The duo completed over 150 miles of testing at Mid-Ohio despite cold temperatures last month.

***Porsche Selected Driver Christina Nielsen will depart Mid-Ohio immediately following Sunday’s race with Wright Motorsports to travel to Italy where she will take part in her first test in a Porsche 911 RSR. The laps turned at Monza come in preparation for her 24 Hours of Le Mans ride with Ebimotors in the GTE-Am class.

***As a manufacturer, Porsche holds the record for most sports car wins at Mid- Ohio with 18 overall triumphs and 22 IMSA class victories.

***CORE autosport driver Jon Bennett celebrated his birthday on Friday. It is that date, 5/4, that serves as the inspiration for the No. 54 on the team’s Oreca 07 Gibson.

***Magnus Racing owner/driver recently celebrated the birth of his second child, a son named William Potter. The team commemorated the arrival in typical Magnus fashion, announcing young William as a member of the team’s driver lineup.

***Continental Tire brought more than 6,800 tires in total to the track this weekend. WeatherTech Championship Prototype teams are allotted 10 sets of tires for the weekend, while GT Daytona teams received seven sets.

***Sunday’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Showdown is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET with live television coverage on FS2. IMSA.tv will provide international coverage with commentary from IMSA Radio, which will stream audio coverage at RadioLeMans.com and the all-new IMSA App.

John Dagys contributed to this report.

Ryan Myrehn is an Indianapolis-based broadcaster and reporter. In addition to his work covering primarily domestic sports car racing for Sportscar365, he is a pit reporter for SRO America's TV coverage as well as for IndyCar Radio. Myrehn, a graduate of DePauw University, is also the host of Sportscar365's “Double Stint” Podcast.

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