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Road Atlanta Pre-Race Notebook

John Dagys’ pre-race notebook for 21st annual Motul Petit Le Mans…

Photo: John Dagys

***Warmup saw incidents for the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson and No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, with Kyle Masson scraping the wall and front bumper damage to the Laurens Vanthoor-driven Porsche. However, both cars have made the grid for the 11:05 a.m. EDT start.

***The No. 33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 is also ready to go after a broken left-rear upper suspension mount saw Ben Keating pull off track during his qualifying run.

***CORE autosport will start from the rear of the Prototype field following a starting driver change to Jon Bennett, while both the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS and No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R have been moved to the tail end of the GT Daytona grid for change of starting tires. Click Here for the final grid.

***Today’s race marks an end of an era for sports car racing coverage on FOX Sports/SPEED, which concludes following a 22-year run. Led by executive producer Frank Wilson, who joined Speedvision in 1996, the network, through multiple iterations, had been the home of the American Le Mans Series, Grand-Am and 24 Hours of Le Mans, and most recently the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

***A number of on-air talent and behind-the-scenes staff have been with the group since the start, including Andrew Marriott, and Greg Creamer, who served as a pit lane reporter for Speedvision’s first sports car broadcast, fittingly at Road Atlanta in 1996.

***Patron Spirits President and CEO Ed Brown surprised members of Extreme Speed Motorsports with a celebratory dinner on Wednesday. Brown, who flew through Hurricane Michael to attend the dinner, thanked the team for their contributions over the last nine years, before flying back home to Florida for business commitments.

***Brown will not be in attendance of today’s race, which will see the Tequila Patron-liveried Nissan Onroak DPis start first and fourth on the grid, in the final time in those colors. 

***Among the dignitaries here today are NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton, who was spotted in the paddock this morning, along with Haas Formula 1 driver Kevin Magnussen, son of Corvette Racing factory ace Jan Magnussen. The elder Magnussen is looking to clinch his second consecutive GT Le Mans class drivers’ championship.

***Several championships can be locked up early into today’s race, while others could go right down to the wire in the ten-hour race. Here’s a full rundown of the points possibilities for drivers/teams and manufacturers titles:

***Action Express Racing drivers Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr hold a narrow four-point lead over CORE autosport’s Colin Braun and Jon Bennett in the Prototype standings. If CORE were to win the race, AXR would need to finish second to take the title.

***The difference is six points in GT Daytona with Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow needing a podium finish to clinch the class championship over Meyer Shank Racing’s Katherine Legge.

***The GTLM points battle comes down to Chevrolet vs. Ford, with Corvette Racing’s Magnussen and Antonio Garcia leading Ford Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe by nine points. A finish of fourth or better for the Corvette pairing would secure the third straight drivers’ title for the brand.

***Ford, which leads Chevrolet by 10 points, can take the the GTLM manufacturer’s championship by simply starting the race.

***Similarly, Cadillac can earn its second consecutive Prototype manufacturer’s championship by taking the start, with Lamborghini winning the GTD title with a seventh place finish or higher.

***Following its ‘Pink Pig’ and Rothmans designs at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 1998 throwback liveries on its cars this weekend, additional retro liveries are rumored to be in the works for next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, as part of IMSA’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

***Newly named Michelin Motorsport director Matthieu Bonardel is attending his first race in his new capacity alongside Pascal Couasnon, who has been promoted to director of Mobility Experience, although will continue in his role as head of motorsport.

***Among Couasnon’s new responsibilities is overseeing the Michelin Guide, the award-winning guide featuring Michelin-starred restaurants from around the world.

***The French tire giant has begun integrating culinary experiences into its IMSA weekends with the launch of the ‘Michelin Pilot Experience’ this weekend, which has seen 22 guests on-hand for exclusive art, culture and driving opportunities at Road Atlanta.

***Watch the 21st annual Motul Petit Le Mans on FS1 beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT on FS1. Coverage switches to FS2 at 12 p.m. and runs through the checkered flag and post-race interviews until 9:30 p.m. Flag-to-flag coverage will also be available on IMSA Radio, with providing live streaming for international viewers.

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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