Aroostook County connected IMSA race team wins Twelve Hours of Sebring

Episode 355

March 21, 2021

County connected team wins at 12 Hours of Sebring

In 2020 Jon Bennett, owner of CORE autosports in Rock Hill, South Carolina, decided to retire from driving. I talked to him about the decision and he said he looked forward to flying his airplane as his next challenge.

I spent a day with Bennett last summer when he was in the County. His parents are from the central Aroostook area. We met at Spud Speedway in Caribou. Somewhere around seven years of age, he watched the races at that track when his parents were on vacation in the County. Bennett credits the 1/3-mile oval with planting the racing bug that has stayed with him 40 plus years.

We left the race track and proceeded to Loring Air Force Base to see where the Loring Timing Association and Cumberland Motor Club hold their events on the huge runway. During the course of conversation, Jon hinted that he may return to the driver’s seat without saying outright that he wanted back in.

In early October 2020 Bennett made it official, CORE autosports with Jon Bennett behind the wheel with longtime team-mate Colin Braun would be racing in the new IMSA LMP3 class. Later it was announced that Crowdstrike owner, George Kurtz, would be joining the team.

The Porsche GTLM effort, ran by CORE autosports, ended after the November 14, 2020 season finale at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Porsche finished that race first and second in GTLM over one lap ahead of the third place BMW.

At that time Jon Bennett remarked, “CORE’s partnership with Porsche has always been a dream for me,” team owner Jon Bennett said. “Not just because I love the brand, but because partnering with Porsche’s history and reputation raised the visibility of the exceptional work we do at CORE.

“I thank Porsche for an incredible seven years and I thank our employees who are the best in the business. I am honored we shared this journey together.”

The Win!

 

CORE autosports wins at Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Left to right George Kurtz, Colin Braun, and Jon Bennett. The win is the third Twelve Hours of Sebring win for Braun and Bennett as team-mates. (CORE Autosports photo)

Earlier this season the CORE autosports team had a disappointing debut at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. The team finished fifth, 20 laps down to the winning Riley Motorsports entry.

The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring brought a much different result as told by CORE autosports official release.

Early setbacks made the 12 Hours of Sebring an uphill battle for CORE autosport, but flawless teamwork brought the No. 54 Composite Resources / CrowdStrike Ligier JS P320 from the back of the field to the top of the podium.

Jon Bennett started the race from third on the grid and shuffled between fourth and fifth for his first stint. George Kurtz continued in a similar fashion until a sudden loss of power brought him to a standstill. Thankfully, a power cycle reset got the car going again without too much time lost.

Things got trickier at the two-hour mark, when Kurtz made contact with another car at the end of his first stint. The contact damaged the front splitter on the Ligier, which adversely affected the handling of the car. Worse still, Kurtz was deemed responsible for the contact and the No. 54 was ordered to serve a drive-through penalty.

At hour two with George Kurtz at the wheel. (CORE autosports photo)

When Colin Braun took over the driver seat for his first stint, CORE was seventh and two laps down. No full-course cautions occurred during Braun’s opening drive, the prime way to recover lost laps.

The tide shifted in the second half of the race, with more yellows issued at opportune times. Impeccable pit stops from the team during these caution periods enabled CORE to leapfrog others on pitlane. Smart strategy from the timing stand also assisted in getting the No. 54 back on the lead lap.

In the final two hours of the race, with Braun behind the wheel, CORE went from fourth to first. Braun was also pulling out a sizable lead over second place when one last full-course caution was issued, eliminating the cushion Braun had built.

A perfect restart from Braun meant the second-place car never had a chance and Braun crossed the finish line 2.685 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.

Watch the podium welcome at the conclusion of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring:

https://www.facebook.com/coreautosport/videos/279886896838478

The win is the fourth Twelve Hours of Sebring victory for CORE autosport and the third for Bennett and Braun as co-drivers. CORE now leads the LMP3 Championship by 32 points.

The next IMSA race for CORE in the LMP3 category is at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, May 14 – 16. The race will be a short two hours and 40 minutes. CORE will utilize just two drivers (Bennett and Braun) for the race.

CORE autosports driver comments after the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring

Owner/driver Jon Bennett: “It was these times that I missed the most as I contemplated things in 2020. I’m so happy for CORE autosport. Our teammates did an unbelievably good job today. Colin is reliable as a Rolex and as fast as a rocket ship. To bring George on board… it just couldn’t be any better.”

“I know these wins don’t come every day. Each win is very special and I’m glad we’re all here to share it.”

“Over the years we’ve learned that in these endurance races, things aren’t over until they’re over. We never really lost our spirit. Sure enough, the bricks began to fall into place and we built a win. It was amazing to watch and I’m so proud of our team.”

Driver Colin Braun, “I’ll be honest, two laps down in a competitive class like this, I didn’t think there was a huge chance that we’d get the win. These guys did a great job on strategy to put us in a position to capitalize on the yellows when they fell our way and get us back on the lead lap. We had a fast car at the end.

“I’m proud of George and Jon and the work they put in early in the race. LMP3 is a super tough class, not just competitively, but in survival. We’re in the hornets’ nest of front running GTDs and the GTLMs and as everyone’s pace, stint and tires change, we shuffle from faster to slower to faster. Staying out of trouble is half the battle really.

“The guys did an amazing job in the pits every single stop. We were always leaving on fuel and it ran like clockwork. It was a super team effort for sure.

“I think the turning point came toward the end when we got a couple yellows that allowed us to get back on the lead lap. Once you get back on the lead lap, you have a fighting chance. I just put my head down and tried to get up there.”

Driver George Kurtz, “This feels amazing and for my first time here, it’s just unbelievable. The CORE team did such an amazing job. Colin was a rocket ship. I couldn’t imagine being in a better spot than with this team. For me, we put a lot of hard work into this and to see the success is overwhelming.

“You watch the 12 Hours of Sebring on TV and you’ve attended it before, but once you’re in it, the competition is so intense. I feel really lucky to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to capitalizing on this momentum.”

Minnesota based JDC-Miller Cadillac hold on as overall winner

I do not have any of the cable networks, however, I was able to follow the race on IMSA Radio and the IMSA Live Leaderboard. The race got very tight as the 10:10 pm finish time loomed. The #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac driven by Sebastien Bourdais lead 28 of the last 31 laps.

With only 15 minutes to go, a full course caution bunched up the field. Bourdais Cadillac top element of the rear wing fell off and altered the handling of his car. Bourdais did not panic and used a combination of brake bias adjustments and sway bar setting to offset most of the negative handling brought on by the wing malfunction.

Kody Swanson to race stock cars with Platinum Racing in 2021

Team Platinum and driver Kody Swanson celebrate in victory lane after winning the pro late model championship at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway last month. (Hype Motorsports photo)

Platinum Racing and Kody Swanson announced on March 19, 2021 they were teaming up for several races together in 2021. The team announcement courtesy Linda Mansfield follows:

After winning the pro late model championship at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway last month in their first collaboration, Team Platinum has signed Kody Swanson to drive for it in additional super and pro late model races this year, including selected ARCA/CRA Super Series and CRA/JEGS All-Star Series events, along with other premier late model races.

The Dayton, Ohio-based team and the Indianapolis-based driver will finalize their schedule soon, working races in between Swanson’s previous commitment with another Ohio-based team, Doran Racing, to compete in the pavement USAC Silver Crown events and selected asphalt sprint car races in 2021. The latter includes the Little 500 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway and the Hoosier Classic and other events at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.

“I’m thankful for everyone at Team Platinum, and for this opportunity,” said Swanson, a native of Kingsburg, Calif., who is a five-time USAC Silver Crown champion, the winningest driver in that series’ history, and a three-time Little 500 winner. “I really enjoyed working with the team in New Smyrna, and appreciate all of their efforts during a grueling Speedweeks schedule.  I’m encouraged by how we ran there, and grateful for the chance to continue with this team; they are a top-notch group. I’m excited about our schedule this season, and am looking forward to competing together at some tracks that I’m already familiar with.”

“We were very pleased with how things went at New Smyrna, and we hope to expand upon that success going forward,” said Marc Metz, Team Platinum’s crew chief. Among the team’s many accomplishments are winning the championship in the JEGS/All-Star CRA series in 2015; the Winchester 400 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 2016, and the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. in 2019.

Despite never driving at New Smyrna before and being new to the team and the cars, Swanson turned heads there last month in stock cars sponsored by Fatheadz Eyewear, Platinum Express, Brands Truck Insurance, Radio Hospital, Rosewood Machine and Tool, Wooten Automotive, Duncan Oil and other partners.

He had one feature victory and three second-place finishes enroute to the pro late model championship. Swanson also displayed solid qualifying performances. He earned two poles and never qualified outside of the top six.

 Swanson and the team are in the process of finalizing their schedule and look forward to continuing the season soon.

SNEAK PREVIEW!!!

Put your race car on a diet and Part One of restoration story of 1937 Chevy Cabriolet.

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine