Tom Blomqvist is heading for a full-time ride in the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES with Meyer Shank Racing in style, helping the team earn its last sports car victory for the foreseeable future Saturday in the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta.
Blomqvist, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and sports car stalwart Colin Braun teamed up for a dramatic victory in the 10-hour IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale. Blomqvist won the 2022 IMSA championship in the DPi class and the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2022 and 2023 with MSR, and he and the team are putting full focus behind the team’s two-car NTT INDYCAR SERIES team in 2024 that also includes driver Felix Rosenqvist. Team minority partner Castroneves also will race for MSR in the 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and will serve as a driver coach and team ambassador.
“It’s incredible,” Blomqvist said. “I think good things happen to good guys, and I think that’s going to be more true. We’ve won three races this year. Obviously, we don’t have a championship, but I couldn’t be more proud and, at the same time, grateful to have spent these last two seasons with this team.
“We’ve done a lot together, won some good races, and it’s just such a good team atmosphere. It’s like a family and they work hard, they never give up.”
MSR’s No. 60 Acura ARX-06 prototype was down two laps on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course at one point after contact with a slower GT car required a pit stop to replace a toe link.
Braun took the lead from the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R shared Renger van der Zande and multiple INDYCAR SERIES champions Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais on a restart with less than an hour to go.
That restart was spawned by a pivotal moment in the championship battle for the GTP class between Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-Series.R and Felipe Albuquerque in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Acura ARX-06. Those two teams were still contending for the season championship, and Albuquerque needed to pass Derani for WTR with Andretti to claim the crown.
Albuquerque’s Acura got a run on Derani’s Cadillac exiting Turn 12 and was alongside Derani on the outside in Turn 1 when the two cars made contact, sending Albuquerque into the tire barrier in Turn 1 and handing the season title to Derani and teammate Alexander Sims.
The ensuing caution saw about half the field pit. But van der Zande and Braun were among four GTP cars to stay on track during the caution. On the ensuing restart, Braun powered around the outside of van der Zende for the lead and never trailed thereafter, helped to the finish by two late cautions in the last 30 minutes, which stretched fuel mileage for the cars that didn’t pit.
In other classes, 2023 INDY NXT by Firestone Rookie of the Year Nolan Siegel joined George Kurtz and Indianapolis 500 veteran Ben Hanley as winners of the LMP2 class in the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR Oreca.
Former INDYCAR SERIES driver Robert Wickens captured the TCR class series championship in the Michelin Pilot Challenge slightly more than five years after suffering serious spinal cord injuries and partial paralysis in a racing accident.
Wickens and teammate Harry Gottsacker finished fourth in the two-hour race in the No. 33 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR, enough to clinch the title in the last event of the season.
“This year, I felt like I was just a more ironed-out professional, and I think the results speak for that,” Wickens said. “Harry and I, we barely put a wheel wrong all year. When we did, we put our head down and we corrected our wrongs, and that's what got us in championship contention and made the difference.
“You know, I don't know what that means for my career moving forward, but I'm very proud of what we achieved this year, in particular, because I know that this year was a much harder year than it was for us last, in terms of car performance and competition. Going into this season, the entire top three TCRs scored more points to date than the champion of 2022 did at the same time. So, just goes to show like a lot of good people were scoring points throughout the way.”