The Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore kicked-off on Friday and there are two full days of racing and music remaining on the schedule. The big attraction, for racing fans at least, will be Sunday’s four-hour race, while music fans will be looking forward to tonight’s Love and Theft/Dairy Daughters concert, which begins at 6:30.
The first group of cars to hit the track on Friday had a definite local flavor, as Sebring’s Sick Sideways Racing team was able to race at Sebring International Raceway for the first time in several years.
“It’s great to be back here,” said Sick Sideways owner John Dean II. “I’ve missed this place. It’s the best racetrack in the country.”
Dean, along with Sick Sideways teammates Nathanial Sparks, Ashton Harrison, Gresham Wagner, Robert Noaker, Glenn McGee, Selin Rollan and Drake Kemper are at Sebring competing in the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Challenge. When Mazda says “Global” they aren’t kidding, as there are three drivers from Japan, two from Puerto Rico and one from Russia in addition to racers from all over the United States.
The competition is tough, which is to be expected when you’re shooting for a $50,000 grand prize. Andy Lally, of Magnus Racing in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, was a late addition to the event, which features several previous champions, such as Dean, Sparks and Todd Lamb, not to mention this year’s winner Nikko Reger.
Action will begin at 8 a.m. today with the Michelin Encore cars on the track for an hour, with the MX-5 Cup cars holding their final practice at 9:20 a.m. MX-5 Cup qualifying takes place at 12:40 p.m. and there will be more Michelin Encore practices leading into the first race of the weekend, the first of two MX-5 Cup events, which takes place at 4:05 and is a 45-minute race.
Lally isn’t the only driver who will be familiar to Sebring fans, as Florida drivers Jan Heylen and Bruno Junqueira are both in the No. 19 Performance Tech Motorsports LMP3 and Kenton Koch is one of the drivers of the No. 25 P1 Motorsports P3.
Katherine Legge is one of three drivers scheduled to be behind the wheel of the No. 40 Polestar Motor Racing P3 and fans will remember Guy Cosmo, who will be sharing the No. 84 JDC Motorsports.
Action also begins at 8 a.m. on Sunday, with the Michelin Encore practice and qualifying, followed by the crowning of the Mazda MX-5 Cup Challenge winner at the conclusion of the 9:50 a.m. race.
The grid for the Michelin Encore will open at 11 a.m. and the four-race race will begin at noon.
Tickets are available at the gate for $30 and a ticket is good for admission to both days of racing, as well as tonight’s concert.