IMSA Friday recap: NASCAR's Harrison Burton-Zane Smith win; Hailie Deegan-Ben Rhodes third
DAYTONA BEACH ― Happy Friday from Daytona, where Day 2 of Rolex 24 weekend will bring a couple of checkered flags and two more practice sessions for the 61 cars entered in the Saturday-Sunday endurance classic.
Today's main event is the four-hour season opener for IMSA's Michelin Pilot Challenge Series, beginning at 1:45.
This morning at 10:15, the Mazda Mx-5 Series begins the second 45-minute race of its Daytona doubleheader. If it's anything like Thursday's first race, it should definitely be worth a look ― the first four finishers could practically be covered by a shop rag at the checkers.
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All 61 entries in the Rolex 24 get the track for an hour, beginning at 11:20. The marquee GTP class, featuring the new LMDh prototypes, get a 20-minute session to themselves beginning at 6:25 this evening.
As always, everything is pointing to Saturday afternoon's 1:40 start to the 61st Rolex 24.
5:45 p.m.: Harrison Burton-Zane Smith win in a Mustang; teammates Hailie Deegan-Ben Rhodes third
NASCAR racer Harrison Burton padded his road-course portfolio Friday with a win in the four-hour BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona. He finished just over a half-second ahead of late-charging Spencer Pumpelly.
Burton was one of four young NASCAR drivers running a pair of Ford Mustangs. Pumpelly was in a Porsche.
Burton, who drives in the Cup Series for Wood Brothers Racing, was paired with NASCAR Truck Series driver Zane Smith. In the closing moments, Burton and Ford teammate Ben Rhodes were running 1-2, but Pumpelly passed Rhodes with less than five minutes remaining and set his cap for Burton, but couldn't catch him.
Rhodes, who teamed with another Truck Series driver, Hailie Deegan, finished third.
The race's Touring Car class was won by Gavin Ernstone and Jon Morley, in an Audi RS3, who finished less than a half-second ahead of the Honda Civic driven by William Tally and Mike LaMarra.
4:46 p.m. | Elliott Skeer with big cushion at three-hour mark
Elliott Skeer, one of two drivers for the No. 47 nolasport Porsche 718, has built a nine-second gap on the field as the BMW M Endurance Challenge enters its final hour.
Pitstops put Skeer out front and with a battle raging for second place between Chad McCumbee, Harrison Burton and Jeff Westphall, Skeer has pulled away.
Burton took over for Zane Smith who was leading at both the one-hour and halfway marks and held a 1.5 second lead heading into pitstops before he was overtaken. Smith gave way to Burton, who turned in the race's fastest lap with a 1:52.665. Burton runs third.
In the other car featuring truck series drivers, Hailie Deegan also climbed out of the car after running the race's first two-and-a-half hours with Ben Rhodes coming on in relief. Rhodes is running fifth, a full 16 seconds off the lead.
3:46 p.m. | Zane Smith regains lead after pitstops, cautions
After being shuffled back due to pit strategy, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Zane Smith regained the lead with a pass of Jeroen Bleekemolen just past the halfway mark of the BMW M Endurance Challenge.
The race was marred by cautions and resulting stoppages throughout the first two hours but Smith, driving the No. 42 PF Racing Ford Mustang, remained a fixture in the top five. Hailie Deegan, who peeked out into the lead during the first hour, was running eighth as halfway arrived.
Among the TCR Class, the No. 1 Hyundai Elantra entry of Bryan Herta Autosport, piloted by Victor Gonzalez, showed the way.
2:45 p.m. | Hailie Deegan leads a lap, falls to fifth at one-hour mark of BMW M Endurance Challenge
Hailie Deegan grabbed the lead late in the first hour of the BMW M Endurance Challenge and as of the one-hour mark of the four-hour race, has fallen to fifth.
Fellow NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver and Endurance Challenge teammate Zane Smith is shown as the leader as the event rolls into the second hour. Smith is followed by a third Ford Mustang in Chad McCumbee with a pair of Porsches — polesitter Sean McAlister and Eric Filgueiras — running third and fourth.
12:30 p.m. | Cadillacs fastest in final full-field practice for Rolex 24; Scott Dixon makes some noise
Alexander Sims and IndyCar legend Scott Dixon, both in Cadillac-powered LMDh prototypes in the GTP class, were fastest around lunchtime Friday.
Speeds remained roughly the same as they've been for most of the past two weekends — ranging from 1:35.493 to 1:37.433 for the nine marquee entries.
BMW, Porsche and Acura rounded out the top five.
Sims was fastest in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering car built by Action Express, while Dixon piloted the No. 01 Caddy out of Chip Ganassi's shop.
For the other four classes of Rolex cars, this was the final practice laps. The GTP cars get one final 20-minute shakedown this evening.
Fastest in other classes Friday:
LMP2: No. 11 Oreca, 1:38.052.
LMP3: No. 36 Ligier, 1:43.191.
GTD: Mercedes-AMG, 1:46.375.
GTD Pro: Mercedes-AMG, 1:46.651.
Next up, after the lunch break and track prep, is the four-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race, the BMW M Endurance Challenge, beginning at 1:45.
11 a.m. | Jared Thomas pulls off last-lap pass to win second Mazda MX-5 Cup race
For the second day in a row, fans were treated to a thriller in a Mazda MX-5 Cup race.
Tyler Gonzalez seemed poised to claim another victory but was overtaken by Jared Thomas in the tri-oval of the final lap with Thomas claiming the checkered flag on Friday morning.
Thomas settled for ninth in Race 1 of the weekend doubleheader under the lights on Thursday night, with Gonzalez surging to the lead with a late pass in a four-wide finish. While Friday's morning race wasn't quite as wide open, the finish was certainly dramatic.
A late crash between Jeremy Fletcher and Heather Hadley brought out a caution flag and set up a green-white finale. Gonzalez led the field to the green and after navigating the infield section, Thomas shoved him down the backstretch as the two broke away from the pack. Coming out of Turn 4, Thomas made his move, swinging high before Gonzalez could move to block. Just before the line, Thomas cleared Gonzalez, turned down to block and took the checkered flag.
The series is scheduled for six more doubleheaders this season with the next stop coming during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Feb. 25-27.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Rolex 24 at Daytona Friday recap: Practice and two races on tap