***While missing the afternoon practice session, both Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports and the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi are expected to be ready for tomorrow’s action following extensive rebuilds for both teams.
***A heavy crash for Ben Keating has resulted in Riley rolling out its backup Mercedes-AMG GT3, which per IMSA rules, is being fitted with components from the original car, including the transmission and suspension components. Extensive work has been ongoing in the rebuild of the Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbeek-driven No. 22 Nissan DPi, which suffered a fuel-related fire that resulted in significant damage to the rear of the car.
***Multiple announcements, including the 2019 schedules for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Michelin Pilot Challenge, IMSA Prototype Challenge, as well as confirmation of split DPi/LMP2 classes and the launch of the WeatherTech Sprint Cup, were made Friday evening during the sanctioning body’s annual ‘State of the Series’ address by IMSA President Scott Atherton.
***Preliminary details on IMSA’s new TV deal with NBC Sports was also revealed, which will see nine hours of network TV time next year, including live NBC coverage of the rounds at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, plus segments of the Motul Petit Le Mans. The majority of the races will air on NBCSN, with segments of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on CNBC.
***With the DPi and LMP2 class split, the Pro-Am-enforced LMP2 class will feature green number plates and accents, with DPi retaining the red currently seen in the Prototype class.
***IMSA’s newly established Driver Evaluation Committee, headed up by director of racing operations Paul Walter, will include Geoffrey Carter, the senior director of technical regulations and compliance, VP of competition Simon Hodgson, race director Beaux Barfield, WeatherTech Championship series manager Ed Hall, senior director of racing operations Mark Raffauf and Matt Kurdock, the director of technical systems.
***Atherton said the driver evaluation process will be purely “data driven” and not reflect with drivers who bring budgets to teams. “The ‘Super Silvers’, to the best of our ability, will be a thing of the past,” he said.
***January’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 on Jan. 4-6 will be the only IMSA-sanctioned test for WeatherTech Championship competitors next year, with GT Daytona teams reduced to the first two days of the three-day official test as part of cost-cutting measures.
***Private testing regulations remain unchanged for 2019, with DPi and LMP2 teams permitted ten days per entered car, nine days for each GTLM entry and four test days for GTD cars.
***Entries for the IMSA Michelin SportsCar Encore at Sebring will open on Aug. 21, which will feature the first-ever race with global-spec LMP3, GT3, GT4 and TCR machinery. Atherton revealed that the Global MX-5 Cup Series will serve as a support series for the Nov. 9-11 weekend.
***Ford has given its biggest hint yet on a potential customer program for the Ford GT, with its global motorsports director Mark Rushbrook indicating to Sportscar365 that interest levels from teams are at an all-time high. Rushbrook said a customer car program “could be global” and hasn’t been ruled out for 2019, prior to the expected sunset of the factory effort at the end of next year.
***Spirit of Daytona could return for next month’s penultimate round of the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, according to Tristan Vautier, who is on-site this weekend. It would come in addition to the team’s already confirmed effort at the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans with its Cadillac DPi-V.R.
***Former Sebring winner Alex Lynn has also been spotted in the paddock. The Englishman, who has been confirmed with Aston Martin Racing for the remainder of the FIA World Endurance Championship season, is unlikely to return to Virgin Racing in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship and is understood to be pursing additional opportunities.
***Katherine Legge is set for her NASCAR Xfinity Series debut next weekend at Mid-Ohio, having been confirmed in JD Motorsports’ Chevrolet Camaro. Legge is also due to contest the Road America race on Aug. 25, races that will also be contested by fellow GTD driver Andy Lally.
***Action Express Racing will be competing with heavy hearts this weekend following the recent passing of John F. Olson, the Executive Vice President of longtime sponsor Whelen Engineering.
***Dan Bink’s annual auction for Camp Anokijig is set for Saturday at 2:15 p.m. CDT at the Corvette Coral, featuring numerous items including a two-day session at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving Corvette Owners School, a set of Michelin tires, Mobil 1 Oil Drop trophies and a variety of used Corvette C7.R race parts.
***The auctions have helped raise more than $400,000 for the camp, which offers summer camp experiences for children aged 7-16. Binks, a former camper, serves as a board member for the camp, which is located in nearby Plymouth, Wisc.
***A total of 29 Porsche Motorsport-built race cars are taking part across three IMSA-sanctioned series this weekend, including the first sprint race of the season for Park Place Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3 R in GTD.
***Continental Tire has brought more than 2,750 tires to Road America for competition across the WeatherTech Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge this weekend.
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report