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Road America Saturday Notebook

John Dagys’ Saturday WeatherTech Championship notebook from Road America…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

***Ben Keating claimed his long-awaited first career IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship pole in the Texan’s 60th series start. “Six years of racing full-time has taken a long time to reach the top step in qualifying,” Keating said.

***It marked the first WeatherTech Championship class pole for Mercedes-AMG in almost two-and-a-half years, with the drought going back to the 2017 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

***Matt Plumb gave the McLaren 720S GT3 its best-ever IMSA qualifying result with the third-best time in today’s GT Daytona session. Prior to Road America, the McLaren had never started higher than eighth on the grid.

***Starworks Motorsport’s woes continued into Saturday, with the No. 8 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo still ending up two seconds off the GT Daytona class pace, despite undergoing an engine change overnight. Parker Chase qualified 13th out of the 15-car GTD field on Saturday.

***Paul Miller told Sportscar365 that they “felt fortunate” with the timing of the GT Daytona session-ending red flag for lightning in the area, which came seconds after Corey Lewis’ 2:05.663 lap time in the team’s No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.

***Madison Snow is set to return to the wheel of Paul Miller’s Lamborghini in a test at Road Atlanta next week. Miller said he let the Snow family know of the testing opportunity, which was taken up by the 23-year-old, who hasn’t driven since winning the GTD championship at Motul Petit Le Mans last year.

***Snow, who has been Gold-rated by IMSA, is currently unable to fulfill the team’s vacant seat for the season finale due to the category’s Pro-Am enforcement. Miller admitted there’s currently been no discussion of anything beyond the upcoming test. “We’re really excited,” he told Sportscar365. “He wants to take a few laps and we’d love to have him participate.”

***The Mazda RT24-Ps are running as “trimmed out as we can be” according to Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan, in the wake of the hefty Balance of Performance adjustments given to the Multimatic-built prototypes, which have been lacking straight-line speed this weekend.

***Doonan confirmed to Sportscar365 that its DPi program is “here to say” although would not outright confirm Joest Racing returning for 2020. The manufacturer’s partnership with the German outfit was multi-year when announced in mid-2017 although Doonan said they will “never comment” on the exact duration of such agreements.

***Doonan has targeted an announcement on Mazda’s 2020 DPi program by the end of the season. “It would be nice to announce drivers and team by the end of the year and everybody by the end of the year, I hope,” he said.

***The prospects of a third Acura ARX-05 on the grid for next year are believed to have been recently vetoed by Team Penske, which currently holds the right of exclusivity for the DPi car. An existing IMSA GT Daytona team had been known to have inquired about running a customer Acura DPi car.

***JDC-Miller Motorsports CEO John Church told Sportscar365 that the team is expecting to continue with its two-car Cadillac DPi program next year. “We’re putting our 2020 program together and we’ll start on that in the next few weeks, but we’ll definitely run the two cars again,” he said.

***The Minnesota-based squad is also aiming to continue with its subsidiary programs in IMSA Prototype Challenge and IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge next season.

***A European-based team with a Ligier JS P217 Gibson has been rumored to be eyeing a run at Motul Petit Le Mans. Should the program materialize, it would bring the number of LMP2 cars to three for the ten-hour season finale.

***Will Turner took part in the premiere of ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles on Thursday. The major motion picture, which features Turner’s BMW M4 GT4 driven by lead character Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia) arrives in theaters on Friday.

***IMSA revealed an updated “descriptor” for its next-generation top-class prototype formula as DPi 2022, aligning with the platform’s debut year.

***Former Ford Chip Ganassi Racing WEC team principal George Howard-Chappell is on-site this weekend in his capacity with Multimatic, while Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler Formula E team principal and WEC commentator Allan McNish has also been spotted in the paddock. McNish also represents Mazda driver Harry Tincknell.

***IMSA President Scott Atherton revealed during Friday’s ‘State of the Series’ address that the sanctioning body is investigating the use of a solar-charging station for its IMSA Hot Lap cars, which Atherton intends to evolve to plug-in hybrids in the years to come.

***Former sports car driver Sean Rayhall, who made a career shift to sprint car racing, is racing at the nearby Plymouth Dirt Track this evening. The 24-year-old announced his retirement from road racing late last year.

***Scout MacNeil the golden retriever is understood to be making a trip to Road America tomorrow. Scout, who has appeared in numerous WeatherTech advertisements, was recently diagnosed with cancer and has been through multiple radiation and chemotherapy treatements in Madison, Wis. in recent weeks.

***Leigh Diffey will return to the NBC Sports booth this weekend to call Sunday’s two-hour and 40-minute race alongside Calvin Fish and A.J. Allmendinger. Kevin Lee and Jon Beekhuis will be patrolling pit lane for the coverage, which can be seen live on the NBC Sports App Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET or at 6 p.m. on NBCSN.

***IMSA Radio’s coverage, as usual, will feature John Hindhaugh, Jeremy Shaw and Shea Adam in the pit lane.

Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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