Notes: Bourdais’ shot at Florida ‘triple crown’ to start from second

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If Sebastien Bourdais is going to pull off the Florida triple crown of racing to start 2017, his stiffest competition may be from within his own team’s garage.

Bourdais won the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener on Sunday, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. That followed his class win in January in the Rolex 24 At Daytona endurance sports car race, co-driving a Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.

At this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Bourdais is again teaming with Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand in the No. 66 Ford GT that won at Daytona. But they will start second in the GT Le Mans class to the sister No. 67 that former Indy car driver Ryan Briscoe put on pole in today’s qualifying at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.

Briscoe bettered the GTLM track record by more than two seconds on his pole-winning lap of 1 minute, 55.939 seconds.

“We’ve been struggling a bit in practice,” said Briscoe, a seven-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner who has four-time series champ Scott Dixon among his teammates this weekend. “It’s been a war trying to figure out the setup. We really nailed it for qualifying, the car was handling really well. It made me really happy, so it should put us in a good place (Saturday) for the race.”

Other familiar INDYCAR names performed well in qualifying for the 12-hour endurance race. Former Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires driver Gustavo Yacaman won the pole position in the Prototype Challenge class with a lap of 1:53.506 in the BAR1 Motorsports entry. Tristan Vautier, a former Verizon IndyCar Series rookie of the year and Indy Lights champion, qualified first in the GT Daytona class, in the No. 75 SunEnergy Racing Mercedes-AMG, with a class-record time of 1:59.738.

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot is the only other current Verizon IndyCar Series regular competing at Sebring. He will co-drive the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports DPi in the Prototype class. Saturday’s race on the 3.74-mile road course begins at 10:40 a.m. ET.

Gateway race gains presenting sponsor

Gateway Motorsports Park announced a multiyear agreement with Valvoline to serve as presenting sponsor of the Verizon IndyCar Series race Aug. 26 at the 1.25-mile oval. The race title is now the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline.

"We are proud to announce Valvoline is partnering with Gateway Motorsports Park. Valvoline is an iconic and respected brand in motorsports and the automotive industry with a rich tradition of excellence and winning," said Chris Blair, the track's executive vice President and general manager.

Indy cars raced at Gateway from 1997-2003 and make their return under the lights this summer following a 14-year absence.

“Valvoline has a long and storied history in racing at all levels, dating back to the winner of the first race in 1895,” said Jamal Muashsher, Valvoline vice president of marketing. “Valvoline is excited to be part of another first by partnering with the Bommarito Automotive Group to support the inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series event at Gateway Motorsports Park.”

Of note

Auto racing legend Mario Andretti, the four-time Indy car champion and 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner, retired in 1994, but he still has the passion for the sport. The 77-year-old showed Mo Rocca just that when he took the “CBS Sunday Morning” reporter for a thrilling ride in the Honda Fastest Seat in Sports two-seat Indy car around Sonoma Raceway last fall. The ride and Rocca’s interview with Andretti air Sunday on “CBS Sunday Morning” (9 a.m. ET). “I just love my driving,” Andretti told Rocca. “I just can’t get enough. I’m an adrenaline junkie, you know, and without adrenaline I’d die.” … Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner and former driver Sam Schmidt has been elected to the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame. Schmidt will be formally inducted June 2 along with boxer Floyd Mayweather and golfer Butch Harmon, among others.

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