Grand-Am series to make debut at Kansas Speedway
The new road course at Kansas Speedway will get its first real
taste of speed this weekend when the Grand-Am series visits the
2.37-mile circuit for the first time.
There’s a lot riding on Saturday night’s race, too.
The merger between the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and the
American Le Mans Series announced earlier this year means Kansas
Speedway could be left out of a combined schedule next season. More
established venues such as Road Atlanta and Daytona are virtually
assured of dates, making it more difficult for a newcomer such as
Kansas to land a race weekend.
”The issue is simply math,” Kansas Speedway President Pat
Warren said. ”How many races are there going to be on the schedule
next year? How many places are they going to go, and which tracks
may or may not be included? I don’t think it’s a reflection on
Kansas Speedway. It’s not a reflection on the track or the market,
and it’s not a reflection on the long-term.”
Indeed, even if Kansas Speedway is left off the schedule of the
rebranded United SportsCar Racing series next year, Warren said it
would aggressively pursue future races.
”They have to make some decisions for 2014 that are some tough
decisions,” he said. ”As they try to figure out how they want to
grow the series, what they want to do to bring the two series
together, we just don’t know where we fit in that picture.”
Rather than focus on things they can’t control, Warren and his
team are focusing on what they can: a strong sports car debut that
could convince series powerbrokers to stick around.
Officials are anticipating a crowd of about 15,000 – and are
hopeful for more than 20,000 with good weather – for Saturday
night’s Grand-Am Rolex Series race. The 2-hour, 45-minute race
highlights two days of events at Kansas Speedway that also include
Saturday’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge developmental
series and two races in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series.
The early feedback from drivers about the surface has been
Daytona Prototypes were doing more than 190 mph on the main
track before reaching Turn 1, the most demanding on the circuit.
The tight left-hander sends cars through an S-curve and down the
back straightway before a hairpin turns sends them on the return.
They get back on the main track in Turn 2, head down the
backstretch and through Turns 3 and 4 to complete a lap.
”It’s a very challenging track, I can tell you,” said Max
Angelelli, a former Rolex series champion. ”It’s not like you
approach a corner, brake, turn, go back on throttle, and that’s it.
You have two corners that are extremely technical.”
Angelelli and teammate Jordan Taylor are chasing point leaders
Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow as they enter the 10th stop on the
12-race schedule. Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney are second in points
with familiar names such as Christian Fittipaldi and Scott Pruett
also giving chase.
”It’s one of the fastest tracks we’ve been to,” said Oswaldo
Negri Jr., who turned some of the quickest laps at Kansas during
last year’s testing session.
”It’s one of the hardest ovals that we have gone to. It is much
faster than Homestead or any of the others,” Negri said. ”There
aren’t many passing zones, but the track is fun to drive and we had
a good car when we tested there, so I am looking forward to being
In qualifying Friday night, Memo Rojas took the DP pole, and
Alex Tagliani topped the GT field. Rojas turned a fast lap of 1
minute, 9.883 seconds – averaging 122.09 mph – in the No. 01
BMW/Riley prototype he co-drives with Pruett.
Tagliani, an IndyCar regular, is substituting in the No. 61
Ferrari 458 with Max Papis running in the NASCAR Nationwide Series
this weekend. Tagliani is co-driving with Jeff Segal.
”My goal this weekend was to come in, support the team and give
Jeff a good position so we could try to win,” Tagliani said. ”I
was very apprehensive that I could learn the car quickly. … But
for me, coming to the Ferrari was like coming to an IndyCar. I
really enjoy this car, and it really suits my style.”
Tom Long took his third consecutive GX class pole in the No. 70
Mazda 6 he shares with Sylvain Tremblay.