Image183

Image183Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen has been all smiles since turning his first laps at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Emerson Fittipaldi's 1974 title-winning McLaren M23B.

The Finn, a guest of McLaren at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, is spending the weekend turning demonstration laps in the Cosworth DFV-powered F1 machine and taking part in fan Q&As at the legendary road course. Moments after stepping out of the M23B, he shared his thoughts on the experience.

"I had to take my old overalls from storage; a bit tight, I have to tell you," he said with a laugh. "I have to admit this track is fun. Really enjoyable. With this car, to drive a track like this, it is amazing. It's a great feeling. This goes up and down, some corners have a lot of camber in it.

Hakkinen says sapping Laguna Seca in an F1 car that's more than 40 years old was a perfect fit.

"A car like this [from 1974], [the] suspension is much softer," he added. "So the ride on these kind of camber changes is great. If you use the current Formula 1 car, you'd [spend] a lot of time [on] three wheels because the movement [in the] suspension is so small."

Enjoy a happy Hakkinen in the video, and if you haven't heard his famous F1 1992 story, wait until the end.

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Rookie Erik Jones will lead the field to the green flag at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Jones saved his best for last in qualifying Friday night to jump to the top of the leaderboard in the final round. The fastest lap for the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota was 128.082 mph. The pole is the first of Jones' Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

"It's awesome. It's cool anytime you get your first pole in a series, but to do it at Bristol, that's pretty cool," said Jones. "We had a good week last week, and we've done a good job of keeping momentum so far. Hoping for a good day tomorrow night. Obviously really excited to get the race going now; see what we can do."

Kyle Larson will start alongside Jones on the front row. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver thought he had outsmarted the competition by going to the high-side of the track during his qualifying attempt, but ultimately came up short. Larson's lap was 128.057 mph.

Kasey Kahne (127.877 mph), Chase Elliott (127.656 mph), and Matt Kenseth (127.563 mph) were the rest of the top five. Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Blaney completed the top 10.

Hamlin looked to be the favorite for the pole. The No. 11 Toyota was fastest in the opening practice session earlier in the day before being second-quickest in the first round of qualifying, and the fastest in the second round.

Kyle Busch, who was fastest in the first round, failed to advance to the final round. Busch will start from the 18th position Saturday night as he looks for his sixth Bristol win. Defending race winner Kevin Harvick did not advance out of the first round, and will start 29th.

A win is something Jones will be working hard toward. Sitting on the outside of the playoff grid, Jones can only lock up a spot in the postseason with a victory in one of the next three races.

Next Up: The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Saturday night.

ARX05 006Acura took the wraps off its 2018 ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international Thursday night in Monterey, and with all the sharp edges and branding accents in place, the new Team Penske-run factory cars should bring a stylish new appeal to the DPi field next season.

Unveiled to the media one day ahead of its formal reveal at The Quail Lodge, Roger Penske, Honda Performance Development president Art St. Cyr, and key members of the Acura/Honda brand were on site to showcase the ORECA 07-based ARX-05.

"This has been a long process to get to here," St. Cyr told RACER. "This is about the revitalization of Acura. It was a three-step process with the TLX-GT, the NSX GT3, and this is the culmination of that vision of how we're going to get to where we want to go. You can see the car is very good looking; it looks fast sitting here."

Click on the thumbnails below for larger images from the unveiling.

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According to Acura the car's livery is close to what will be used next year, although some tweaks are expected. The NSX-inspired chevron that spans the front fenders has been nicknamed the "hockey stick" within HPD, and adds an unmistakable element to the machine.

The greatest visual differentiations between the ARX-05 (Acura Racing eXperimental, generation 5) and the ORECA 07 are found throughout the nose with the unique LED lighting and the choice to use black or bare carbon beneath the hockey stick to make the white bodywork above and around it stand out as if there was nothing below.

The use of fluorescent orange on the dive planes is a nice nod to the IMSA championship-winning Spice-Acura GTP-Lights cars raced in the 1990s by Comptech.

Click on the thumbnails below for more images of the ARX-05.

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The custom wheels will also look slightly different once the ARX-05 arrives in Daytona as the outer edges will have machined pockets added to reduce weight.

Beneath the engine cover, Acura's proven 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 will provide ample horsepower and torque to mingle with the Cadillacs, Mazdas, and Nissans awaiting Team Penske's two-car assault.

"The engine in the back is based on our J35 engine which has won Le Mans in its class, had an overall win at the 12 Hours of Sebring, overall win at Daytona, and even won its class going up Pikes Peak," St. Cyr said. "We just can't wait to get it on the track."

With the unveiling ceremonies now complete, the No. 86 ARX-05 will head to Road Atlanta next week for its first test on American soil.

Image173RACER's Marshall Pruett speaks with Roger Penske about the team's new Acura ARX-05 IMSA DPi program at the car's unveiling and The Captain also confirms Team Penske will enter an ORECA 07 for Petit Le Mans.

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Image176Having presided over Acura's last factory prototype effort in the American Le Mans Series, IMSA president Scott Atherton was beaming with pride at the site of Acura's new ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international.

"I don't know how you put it into words, this is the culmination of a long haul, and I won't say a dream come true because that wouldn't be accurate," he told RACER. "It's more the fulfillment of a long-term goal. I think from the moment Acura made the decision to stop racing at the Prototype level we've been focused – with them – on bringing them back.

"To have the Acura brand now linked with Penske Racing, involved directly with the WeatherTech Championship and IMSA, [is a] fulfillment of a long-held goal. Back in the American Le Mans Series, [Acura] very effectively divided their resources across a number of different top-tier teams – Fernandez Racing, Andretti Green, Gil de Ferran, Highcroft. Here they focused it all under one roof, under Penske Racing.

"As before, they were all about winning, and they to a degree stacked the deck back in the previous example. Here, any time you go racing with a Penske team behind you, they approach that from a take-no-prisoners perspective. I think we understand that coming into the equation, and that's okay. They're going to step into the deep end of the pool, because there's a lot of people that are already there operating in a very similar way, so this just adds to the equation."

In the upcoming arrival of ARX-05 driver Juan Pablo Montoya, and two-time WeatherTech champion Dane Cameron, Atherton knows IMSA will have a mix of star power and native talent to promote.

"What a great combination," he said. "Juan Montoya, the résumé's incredible. Dane has come through the ranks. He's proven himself at every level, in a GT car, now most recently in prototypes. He's a winner. I think there's more than one example where a car that most people would say was not podium-worthy gets manhandled to the front of the grid and the front of the race and the finish line on the podium – that's Dane Cameron. To have him somewhat homegrown product, we can't take sole claim for that, but still, what a great combination."

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MarshallPruett 2017Reunion 2017 08 17 116aRide inside the fastest IMSA GTP car of all time – 1993's AAR Eagle Mk III – as Charlie Nearburg laps within a few seconds of the 2016 IMSA Prototype pole position at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

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KeselowskiBrad Keselowski said there was more than one reason why he decided to shut down his Camping World Truck Series team at the end of this season.

Keselowski, who has fielded trucks in the series since 2008, addressed the media for the first time since Thursday's announcement, joking that had he won the lottery the decision might not have been made. But he does not blame the inability to make money as the only factor.

"The biggest thing is I want to be positioned to have the best opportunities possible when I get done being a racecar driver and one of those opportunities is to be a team owner," Keselowski said.

"For that to have any chance of being successful, it's going to be critical for me to have all of my ducks in a row specific to having other income-generating businesses. This is the only way I could get the opportunity to do that, so feel like it's the right decision."

It was not an overnight decision. Keselowski revealed he spent a few months planning and thinking it through before pulling the plug.

"Making sure that everything was right and the I's were dotted and the T's were crossed," he said.

Going forward, Keselowski is confident he can help about 75 percent of his BKR group find new opportunities. But he admitted he feels bad for the other 25 percent he probably won't be able to help land somewhere.

"There are a lot of relationships," Keselowski said about the hardest part of the decision. "Being a business owner it's more about the people than anything else. You care about them and they give you their all and you want to give them your all.

"In some ways, you feel like you're letting them down when you're not able to keep it going, so that's never any fun."

As for the team's assets, Keselowski said he will keep some of them for future opportunities, on which he didn't elaborate. Other parts and pieces he will liquidate. Keselowski is also going to keep his Statesville, North Carolina race shop.

As for how viable the Truck Series is and what he sees for it going forward, Keselowski took a positive approach.

"The Truck Series has been around a long time. It's going to be around a lot longer than me, so I'm not so self-centered to think that series is based solely on my team and participation," he said. "It'll be around. It'll be all right.

"I don't know where the future is going to take me in my life. I know that I'm trying to be positioned to have as many opportunities as possible to kind of control what that might be and this is a necessary step business-wise to have those opportunities. It's not really the most pleasurable one to undertake. In fact, it really kind of stinks, but it was the right move long-term and I'm hopeful that it works out for the best."

Acura PenskeThe first test of Acura's new ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international in the U.S. will take place next week at Road Atlanta. Team Penske is expected to press Juan Pablo Montoya into service with the ORECA 07-based No. 86 DPi as his co-driver, Dane Cameron, is obligated to completing the season with Action Express Racing before moving into his new seat.

"Our goal right now is we'll start testing next week with this car," Roger Penske told RACER. "They had a shakedown with it over in Europe a couple weeks ago, so what we have to do is take it now, we'll look to get reliability and get drivability and also see where we are from a competitive stance."

Penske also confirmed the team will enter Petit Le Mans – IMSA's season finale at the same circuit – in October with a stock WEC LMP2-spec ORECA 07 powered by a Gibson V8 engine to get his Acura staff up and running in competition before the ARX-05's debut at Daytona in January.

"We will be in a position to run a car at Atlanta in a Petit Le Mans race – not this car, but probably another ORECA-type car – to get our team guys ready to get back in this type of business," he continued. Testing with the ARX-05s will continue in and around IMSA's championship closer.

"But we would expect to do 12-hour tests with [the Acuras] before we go to Daytona," he added. "So there's a big focus, but we'll be there with two cars for sure."

"Now my goal is to be there to be able to run for a win, but there's plenty of competition, and I'm sure nobody's asleep, and we're going to be up probably many nights to try and get competitive."

Although Team Penske will enter Petit Le Mans as a one-off, the Captain says he and team president Tim Cindric won't be going into the 10-hour race with polite intentions.

"We're going to be there to try to win," he confirmed. "This is part of the program, it's part of the test program. We're using it kind of going to school with this type of car. Just the pit work, [a] lot of our tools and things that we'll use for next year we've gotta get them out, get the rust off those and see where we are. But look, it's evolution as we did with the Porsche program, and Tim and I feel very strong about getting a big race under our belt before we get to Daytona."

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