MORNING MEANDERINGS

Simon Pagenaud No.1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet

Simon Pagenaud/No.1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet somewhat made up for Saturday’s Qualifying problems by topping the charts Sunday morning for the Verizon IndyCar Series warm-up at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. His time of 1:06.6497 was his personal best of the weekend. Runner-up was Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda, whose time also was his best of the weekend. Third was Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb -Agajanian Honda.

No.10 Pit Stop

Fourth and fifth were NTT Chip Ganassi Racing Honda teammates, Scott Dixon/No.9 and Tony Kanaan/No.10. Those two cars have identical livery, which must make it difficult for the corner marshals to differentiate.

Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet was the only other driver in the morning session to have his personal best time during the half-hour warm-up. Spencer Pigot/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was the only morning driver to have his fastest time from Practice Three. All the other drivers were fastest this weekend in Qualifying.

Warm-Up isn’t about the speed, it’s about setups, practicing pit stops and scuffing in tires, and getting bugs tweaked out before the race.

The Starting Lineup shows that the top eight cars will start on the Alternate tires, as will Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda in thirteenth position, and Pagenaud, who is starting last due to his Qualifying interference penalty. All the rest of the drivers will start on the Primary tires.

RHR Crew ready for Pit Stop

No.20 Pit Stop

No.19 pulled into paddock

Outside the Convention Center, where used to be the Toyota Celebrity Paddock, is now a wide open Welcome Plaza. It is a welcome change. The whole area used to be confined, blocked off and and fenced in. Now it’s open, inviting, full of comfortable lounges, tables & chairs, a big screen, beer garden, DJ and all kinds of reasons to sit and enjoy the Street Scene. What’s not to like!

Jack Harvey

Andretti Autosport announced Sunday morning the addition of Jack Harvey to its roster of drivers for the 2017 Indianapolis 500 race, with sponsorship from AutoNation. Harvey comes from the Indy Lights Series with six victories. He said “It’s a dream come true to race at this spectacle of racing with Andretti. Everyone knows what a great team it is. For a single team entry into the race one can’t do better than Andretti.” Andretti said “We always plan on bringing five cars to the Speedway. It’s not just an add-on entry. It contributes to the entire program and the last few years show that. We’re really happy to get Jack nailed down. He’s won the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race (at IMS). We’re confident he will contribute to the other four cars. It’s important to have a Rookie in the fifth car. I think he has at least a chance at Rookie of the Year, and last year it was a Rookie winner.” Harvey said it’s just a strong situation’ having Sato and Rossi on the team is excellent. The team has had great success because they do such a good job. We are still working on staffing and Chief Engineer.” Jack’s first time in the race car will be Monday for Rookie Orientation. Harvey said “The Lights is a good learning car. I’m going to try to absorb as much as I can between now and then. Andretti has access to the HPD simulator. Indy Lights feels pure. The people are friendly.” Andretti said he has no problem starting Rookies on the oval, because at Indy, you can take your time building up to things, things like that. I think it’s a much better environment for a rookie. I never have a problem starting a guy at Indy on the oval because of that, because of all the track time you get.”

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES STARTING LINEUP

SP Car Driver Name C/A/E/T Tire

1 3 Castroneves, Helio D/C/C/F Alternate
2 9 Dixon, Scott D/H/H/F Alternate
3 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan D/H/H/F Alternate
4 5 Hinchcliffe, James D/H/H/F Alternate
5 98 Rossi, Alexander D/H/H/F Alternate
6 15 Rahal, Graham D/H/H/F Alternate
7 83 Kimball, Charlie D/H/H/F Alternate
8 2 Newgarden, Josef D/C/C/F Alternate
9 12 Power, Will D/C/C/F Primary
10 27 Andretti, Marco D/H/H/F Primary
11 10 Kanaan, Tony D/H/H/F Primary
12 18 Bourdais, Sebastien D/H/H/F Primary
13 19 Jones, Ed (R) D/H/H/F Alternate
14 14 Munoz, Carlos D/C/C/F Primary
15 21 Hildebrand, JR D/C/C/F Primary
16 7 Aleshin, Mikhail D/H/H/F Primary
17 4 Daly, Conor D/C/C/F Primary
18 26 Sato, Takuma D/H/H/F Primary
19 20 Pigot, Spencer D/C/C/F Primary
20 8 Chilton, Max D/H/H/F Primary
21 1 Pagenaud, Simon D/C/C/F Alternate
(R) Rookie
(C)hassis: D=Dallara | (A)erokit: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (E)ngine: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (T)ire: F=Firestone

HELIO CREDITS YOUTHFUL PUSHING

Helio Fisted Trophy

Verizon IndyCar driver, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet, took the Verizon P1 Pole Award Saturday afternoon at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The veteran driver set a new qualifying track record of 1:06.2254, breaking his 2015 qualifying track record of 1:06.6294, and the earlier record of 1:06.2285 set in Round Two by Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

This was Castroneves’ third consecutive and fourth overall pole at Long Beach and 48th pole overall, fourth on the all-time list, and only one behind Bobby Unser. Team Penske has won 12 pole positions at Long Beach, and 247 in IndyCar.

He said “Today is extra special because Long Beach is a great place. I remember winning here from the pole in 2001 and, the last two years, we were right there. We’re not going to let this escape again.”

Helio with P1 finger

Helio with P1 flag

Helio Kissing P1 Award

Helio Castroneves leading pack

Second through sixth in the Fast Six aka final Round of Qualifying were: Dixon; Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda; James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda; and Graham Rahal/No.15 PennGrade Motor Oil Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Castroneves’ explanation for doing so well: “It’s those kids. They keep coming in trying to steal my thunder. This qualifying says something about this competition in the paddock, it is so incredible. Plus every time you go out for a session, it’s something different. The track changes, the tires change, there is traffic, something. It is absolutely very different. It is a crucial time. Everyone is within hundredths of a second.”

The age range in the Fast Six ranged from sophomore IndyCar driver, Rossi at 25 years to elder statesman, Castroneves at 42. Actually the youngest in the IndyCar paddock is Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda, at 22 years of age. He won last year’s Indy Lights Championship. Rossi said “It was a really good day. It was the NAPA Racing team’s first (Firestone) Fast Six appearance, which is a huge turn around for Andretti Autosport and Honda from last year. I don’t think we maximized all our practice potential, so it was nice to put it out there today in qualifying. The NAPA Auto Parts car has been strong all weekend and now we can look forward to tomorrow.”

The Firestone Fast Six round of Qualifying aka Round Three, was particularly cliff-hanging, as several of the six drivers held off going out until the two minute mark in the ten-minute session. And all afternoon the field was tightly compressed, from top to bottom.

After Round Two, Dixon set a new qualifying track record of 1:06.2285. All 12 of the Round Two drivers dropped into the 1:06’s; and eleven were faster than Castroneves’ 2015 qualifying record. The Round Two dropouts were: Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Josef Newgarden/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; Marco Andretti/No.27 United Data & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda; Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Trench Shoring Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Marco getting into car

Andretti thought he was in the Drift Competition as he slid through a corner that had already caught out cars in other events. He said afterwards “We lucked out on transferring into Round 2 – I had a huge moment there and were lucky to not come back on the hook. So, we were lucky to transfer and missed the Firestone Fast Six by half-a-tenth (of a second). To qualify the UFD car 10th and miss Round 3 by half a tenth, it shows you what Indy car racing is all about – it’s super tight. Every hundreth (of a second) counts and it’s going to make for a great race tomorrow.”

Not making the cut, time wise, in Round One Group Two were: Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda; Carlos Munoz/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet; Mikhail Aleshin/No.7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda; and Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

In that session Pagenaud turned the fastest lap of the weekend (thus far) – 1:06.5026, but it didn’t stick. The Stewards reviewed the incident between Pagenaud and his Penske teammate, Castroneves, and assessed a penalty of losing his two best timed laps for qualifying interference. Pagenaud said that he agreed with the ruling and it wasn’t his job to change the rules. But he explained “It was just one of those unfortunate things. I understand the penalty because I interfered with (Helio) Castroneves’ lap. I backed up a little to set up a second lap on the (alternate tires) and Helio was right there. I was boxed in; there was nothing I could do.”

Three drivers made it down to the 1:06’s in Group Two Round One, first time this weekend. The Pagenaud Penalty moved up Andretti.

Spencer Pigot

Conor Daly

Ed Jones

JR Hildebrand

Dropping out after Round One Group One were: Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda; JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Honda; and Spencer Pigot/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. All drivers were in the 1:07’s. The Stewards reviewed the contact between Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Hinchcliffe, and took no action.

Hinchcliffe suffered from gearbox problems in morning practice, but the car was better for Qualifying and the Fast Six. “We rolled off the truck with a pretty decent car. In these weekends when it’s so tight, the track time is so limited, that’s huge. Yesterday afternoon, we had a little bit of problems. This morning we had a couple problems but we didn’t panic. Huge credit to Schmidt Peterson Motorsport. Two Firestone Fast Six appearances for two, which is great. It’s just so tight. I think that’s been the topic of the weekend, for sure, is how competitive it is. You got to be, I think, in the top six to have a shot at this thing. There’s a lot of great cars up there. Going to be perfect execution tomorrow, in the pits, on the racetrack.”

Kanaan lacked the track time most of his competitors enjoyed, only able to run 39 laps compared to drivers who ran as many as sixty-nine laps. “It’s been a frustrating weekend for the NTT Data team. We had some electrical issues before the first practice session this morning that only allowed us five laps on track before qualifying. The guys worked really hard to get the car on track to maximize the little time we had left. Starting 11th is going to be a challenge with it being so difficult to pass but we will work on getting the car in the right race set up in tomorrow’s warm up session and be sure we have the best strategy to get back up front.”

Each round is ten minutes inclusive of Red Flag time, with penalties of varying severity assessed to drivers causing Red or Caution Flags.

IndyCar does not allow tire warmers, so all cars go out on cold tires. The drivers take two or three laps, a third of their time, to warm up before going for it.

INDYCAR PHOTOS BY PABLO MATAMOROS

Verizon IndyCar Qualifying Results

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:06.2254 (106.980)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:06.4123 (106.679)
3. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:06.4401 (106.634)
4. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:06.5291 (106.492)
5. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:06.5595 (106.443)
6. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:06.7562 (106.129)
7. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:06.5404 (106.474)
8. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:06.6074 (106.367)
9. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:06.6145 (106.355)
10. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:06.6222 (106.343)
11. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:06.6262 (106.337)
12. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:06.7853 (106.083)
13. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:07.5832 (104.831)
14. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:07.3783 (105.150)
15. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:07.6931 (104.661)
16. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:07.3893 (105.132)
17. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:07.7977 (104.499)
18. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:07.4699 (105.007)
19. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:07.8442 (104.427)
20. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:07.5333 (104.908)
21. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:08.0439 (104.121)

FIFTY SHADES OF COOL

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was the fastest Verizon IndyCar driver Saturday morning in the third/final practice session, at 1:07.1348/ This wasn’t as fast as was Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Friday afternoon at 1:07.0800, who is still fastest overall for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend. But Dixon’s time is second fastest overall.

The weather danced around, with a cloud cover appearing and fading. The temperature was mild and favored the cars and drivers, and for awhile the heavily suited-up Pit Fire Marshals and Emergency folks. The lighting was good to the photographers and sight-seers alike, taking in all the pomp and circumstance.

It was colorful immediately behind Dixon. Runner-up to Dixon was Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport in his all-golden yellow Honda, followed by 2016 IndyCar Champion, Simon Pagenaud in his in-your-face electric bright yellow No.1 Menards Chevrolet. Fourth was James Hinchcliffe in yet another variation of the yellow spectrum, No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in metallic gold and green. There’ll be no mistaking those cars on track. Fifth overall Saturday was Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Simon Pagenaud

James Hinchcliffe

Several drivers cycled through the top spot, including JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Sato, Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud, Dixon-twice, and Hinchcliffe. Sixteen drivers were in the 1:07 range.

Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda was eighteenth overall.

Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda didn’t go out until five minutes to the checkered flag, due to electrical problems. He managed five laps and was philosophical, putting a positive spin on the morning – complimenting the fans and weather.

There was one Red Flag, for 3.15 minutes, caused by Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Trench Shoring Dale Coyne Racing Honda, when he brushed the wall. He cruised to the pits for quick left front wing repair and came back out, immediately getting fourth overall. After losing his fastest lap for the Red Flag, he was credited with ninth position overall.

Otherwise the drama level was low. Some overshooting corners caused runoff area visits and flat-spotting tires. Mikhail Aleshin/No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports flat-spotted his tires big time in a braking zone. Hinchcliffe made it to another runoff area, while leading the charts. This time there was no time or room to do a fancy U-Turn. He saluted the in-car camera and waited for the tow tether.

Mario Andretti, Sam Schmidt and Doug Boles

Mario Andretti, Sam Schmidt and Doug Boles

Doug Boles, President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway made an announcement Saturday morning regarding the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on 13 May 2017 at the famed Brickyard. In keeping with IMS being considered a test ground for automotive technologies, the Speedway will host the first-ever semi-autonomous car race, pitting current IndyCar team owner and former driver, Sam Schmidt and veteran all-around world Champion, Mario Andretti on the 2.439-mile road course. This innovative shootout will precede the Verizon IndyCar road course race, as part of the May racing activities at the Speedway.

Sam Schmidt

Schmidt, who is paralyzed from the neck down, has already driven a specially fitted Corvette at IMS twice – first at 40 mph, and last year at 150 mph. This is taking the technology to the next level, in a Z06 SAM Car, which Schmidts IndyCar sponsor, Arrow Electronics, has tricked out. He will have a sip-and-puff device into which Schmidt will breath, allowing him to accelerate and brake. His voice commands will switch gears, and turn the SAM car on and off, and steering will be effected by sensors on a high-tech headset Schmidt will wear to connect to infrared cameras mounted on the dash board, and detect his head-tilt motions to steer. Andretti will have similar technology in his Arrow-modified Stingray SAM Car.

Schmidt is excited to finally be able to race against Andretti. “He is a true legend that is world renowned and I appreciate his willingness to participate and showcase the next evolution of this technology.” Schmidt confessed he did bribe Andretti, with an Indy 500 ride in 2018 if he won. Further, Schmidt said “It will be nice to just show up and drive, rather than being there as a team owner. The car is so intuitive, reactive and comfortable, I beat 20 other cars at Pike’s Peak.”

Mario Andretti & Sam Schmidt

Boles admitted the rules and prize monies scenarios haven’t yet been finalized, but the event will benefit Conquer Paralysis Now, a non-profit foundation set up by Schmidt, which has become a leading authority on spinal cord injury and research and treatment. The length of the race might be up to 15 minutes, as Schmidt joked that while the car is comfortable and quite easy to drive, the drivers’ attention span is not that long. And Andretti joked that he was sure Schmidt would give him driving tips, but only enough to keep him off the wall.

PHOTOS BY PABLO MATAMOROS

Colorful Fence Flags

SLICK WILLY AND THE FAST LAPPERS

Will Power

Will Power

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet jumped on top of the Verizon IndyCar Series lap chart near the end of the second 45-minute Verizon IndyCar Series practice Friday at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. His time was 1:07.0800/105.617 mph, which was faster than last year’s Verizon P1 lap of 1:07.1246 set by teammate Helio Castroneves. Power and five other drivers went faster than the fastest morning lap set by Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Second fastest, also on a last-minute flyer, was Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda, at 1:07.3576. Third through fifth were Simon Pagenaud/No.1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet; Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda; and Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda.

Ed Jones, R, debriefing

Ed Jones, R, debriefing

Dixon was one of three drivers who didn’t go faster in the second session; but he was the first to turn a 1:07 in P2, finishing sixth overall, Fourteen drivers lowered to the 1:07’s. Ed Jones was the fastest, and only, Rookie, in twenty-first position. He also turned his fastest practice lap in the morning session, along with Mikhail Aleshin/No,7 SMP racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet turned the most laps – 24 in session Two and 45 laps overall – the only driver to hit the forty/forty-plus lap mark.

Ten drivers went to the top in Practice Two. Often, as the faster cars went out later in the session, they quickly moved to the top, including Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda who topped the charts twice. The second time Sato led, he was the first driver to go faster in the Second Practice.

Conor Daly

Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet lost his fast qualifying lap due to a problem on over boost on his fast qualy. Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing also lost his fastest lap for being responsible for the Red Flag of 2.21 minute, when he pulled into a Runoff area. James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda also ran off in a runoff area, and quickly executed a near-perfect ‘Formula 1 U Turn’ and continued on his way. No Harm, No Foul.

Colton Herta, 16, is one of the new faces in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series, and fresh off two good results at the season’s opener races in St. Petersburg. He came in second in the first race, after starting sixth; and won the second race from the pole position, driving the No.98 Andretti Steinbrenner Mazda. With that victory, he celebrated as the youngest-ever winner in the Indy Lights Series.

George Michael Steinbrenner IV

George Michael Steinbrenner IV

George Michael Steinbrenner IV has a passion for baseball and racing; and yes, he’s from ‘that’ New York family. He has been around racing for quite a while, and had some idea of how it worked before he decided to try it on for size. Last year Steinbrenner’s stepfather, Sean Jones, co-owned a RallyCross team with Bran Herta, and Steinbrenner worked with the team. He is the grandson of New York Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, and the step-grand-son of the late Chuck Jones, who spent years in racing including as a partner in Mo Nunn Ensign in Formula One 1975-1985.

Young Steinbrenner said “Colton (Herta) seems like a good way to jump into racing team ownership. I knew Bryan (Herta) a few years before Colton. I went to Lime Rock Park back in the day, to watch Colton at Skip Barber and all his other American racing series before he went overseas. And now he’s back in America. I was always more interested in the behind-the-scenes aspect of baseball rather than playing. Driving a car wasn’t as fascinating to me as the management side.”

The young Steinbrenner, from Tampa, FL., grew up as a racing fan. His step-grand father, the late Chuck Jones, had a lengthy racing career which included being a partner at Mo Nunn Ensign in Formula One from 1975-85.”

Colton’s father, Bryan, won the Indy Lights Championship in 1993, and as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 twice – in 2011 with the late Dan Weldon, and last year with Rookie Alexander Rossi.

Colton Herta

Colton Herta

Colton Herta said he’s itching to get back into the car. He lives nearby Long Beach, so to him it’s unfortunate that the Indy Lights Series is not running here this weekend.” Herta said “It was huge to be working with so many big, house-hold names, such as Andretti, Steinbrenner and his dad, Bryan Herta. Being around all of them in one team brings resources in the form of tutoring and mentoring. There’s not a huge pressure to excel, as I grew up around racers. It’s a bit more relaxed here than in overseas. The taking of photographs inside the garage and paddock in F1 is new this year; but here in America, there’s more access. European and American driving styles are not different. But over there it’s more intense; and you can get away with a bit more over there. It’s a little bit more sheltered over there. Our goal is to take Colton to the Indy 500 in a couple of years …or sooner, if he wins the Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship.” Looks like they’re off to a good start!

SUNNY SHORELINE

Scott Dixon

The sun was out, the breeze was brisk and all 21 Verizon IndyCars took to the track for Practice One of the 41st Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. At the end of the forty-five minute session, 2015 Champion, Scott Dixon was fastest in his NTT Data Honda with a time of 1:07.6357/104.749 mph. Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet was second at 1:07.7609, making him the top Chevrolet. Third was Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Trench Sharing Dale Coyne Racing Honda, followed by James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

With the switching around this season, there are eight Chevrolets and thirteen Hondas. The four-car Ganassi Team switched from Chevrolet to Honda, while the two-car team of AJ Foyt Racing now run Chevrolets.

Sebastien Bourdais

The session saw a constant shifting of the order, with several drivers on top, including Dixon’s teammate, Tony Kanaan/No.10; first 2017 race winner, Bourdais.

Hinchcliffe. Preceding the IndyCars on track were the IMSA WeatherTech cars, laying down nearly two hours of rubber on the 1.968-mile, 11 turn temporary street course.

Carlos Munoz/No.14 AJ Foyt Chevrolet spun and swapped out a wing, and ended up fourteenth. Kanaan grazed the wall and used up a Firestone tire, but still managed eighth overall. Another Ganassi teammate, Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher limped into pit lane with mechanical issues, but got back out. He finished last in line. But all in all, the session was drama free with no cautions.

This weekend’s driver of the IndyCar two-seater is Zach Veach, who comes from the Indy Lights Series. It’s no secret that he’s actively been trying to get an IndyCar ride, especially for the Indianapolis 500. Friday he made his announcement, after his poker-faced conversation Thursday saying he didn’t know when he hopefully would be breaking the news – Veach will drive No.40 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet with primary sponsorship from The Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim. As for other races, Larry Foyt said “You never know about other races, but we’re focusing on Indy 500.

IMG_8946

AJ Foyt

Zach Veach

Foyt Racing has two other young drivers on its roster this year in Chevrolets, rather than the previous Hondas, with ABC Supply sponsorship – Conor Daly in No.4 and Carlos Munoz in No.14. Larry Foyt said “All the drivers are young, but there’s experience. AJ, as a team owner, has always liked to give young boys a chance. Having AJ to talk with has helped a great deal. And the team has lined up good people to work with the team and crew, and is bringing good engineers to the track. One piece of advice AJ has already imparted to Veach is that to win the race, first you have to be there at the end of the race. Don’t worry about the first part of the race.

Veach, whose first time in the IndyCar will be at Rookie Orientation, said running the Indy 500 will be really special. Finding funding in the past couple of weeks has happened. I worked with Carlos my first year in Indy Lights. Last year’s Indy 500 proved it’s possible for a Rookie to win it.

AJ Foyt said “The Aero Kits have made good topics of conversation. Chevrolet has worked hard and stepped up its game.”

SONOMA SHAKEOUT

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Honda

Thirteen Verizon IndyCar drivers from five teams shook out their cars in an all-day test session Tuesday at the Sonoma Raceway. This was the largest IndyCar test so far this season on the 12-turn, 2.38-mile elevated road course; and served as a lead-up to the upcoming Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. There are 21 drivers entered for the 41st running of the granddaddy of all street races.

In the morning, the weather was sunny, breezy, but cool, and grew cooler and breezier as the day wore on. No doubt it was working up to the first Spring storm due late Thursday night-Friday morning. Some of that storm is also headed south to Long Beach, although Sunday is forecast dry. It’s said it’s never rained on LBGP race day.

Mike Hull/Chip Ganassi Racing Teams

Firestone Garage

Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Honda

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.9 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda said “Sonoma Raceway is a good track for us,” while admitting that the good Sonoma test conditions do not translate for Long Beach. “Nothing transfers.” But, he’s ‘found direction’ at Sonoma and things went well. He also said “With the cooler temperatures, there’s a lot of downforce in the car and a lot of grip. It’s a bit different than when we’re here at the end of the season, when the track temps are hotter and we’re sliding around a bit more. It’s great to get back in the car here. It’s a very demanding track and there’s a small window to get it all right. We’re trying to tweak the settings a bit to make that window a bit bigger

RHR was asked some Sonoma Raceway non-racing stock interview questions: His one word to describe Sonoma Raceway – after a very long pause …. ‘Punishing.’ He rates Michael Andretti as the best driver on the track; he prefers beer over wine or other liquor; his favorite food is Mexican, and Kale is not on his short list.

Graham Rahal & Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato of Japan switched over the off-season from AJ Foyt Racing Honda to No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda. He said “It was quite different.” He joked that “He didn’t have to deal with a Texas accent anymore. A real difference was that while the aero package is not frozen, it is a different philosophy in dealing with it.”

Graham Rahal/No.15 PennGrade Motor Oil Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda is the only driver racing all season on a one-car team.

One driver returning with a noticeably different livery was Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Honda, with splashy eye-catching neon. Mikhail Aleshin is new to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Team; and he has a shiny candy-apple livery for his No.7 Honda, rivaling his teammate’s shiny gold metallic paint – a hold-over from last year for James Hinchcliffe in No.5 Arrow Honda.

One team making an even livery update is the four-car Chip Ganassi Racing Team, which changed from Chevrolet to Honda, for its drivers Scott Dixon/No.9; Tony Kanaan/No.10; Max Chilton/No.8 and Charlie Kimball/No.83.

Charlie Kimble/No.83 Ganassi Racing

Mikhail Aleshin's No.7 Honda

Charlie Kimble/No.83 Ganassi Racing

Dario Franchitti

On hand to coach the Honda drivers in the Ganassi stable was Dario Franchitti.

Those testing were: Andretti Autosport (Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato); Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Max Chilton); Dale Coyne Racing (Sebastian Bourdais and Rookie Ed Jones Jr.); Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin); and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal). Ed Jones is the only full-season Rookie. It was an all-Honda lineup. None of the eight Chevrolet drivers from three teams were present.

Marco Andretti & James Hinchcliffe

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti

Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay

Alexander Rossi/No.98 Honda

Alexander Rossi is the local driver for Sonoma Raceway, hailing from nearby Nevada City. The 2016 Indy 500 winner is back again with Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian in No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda.

Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Andretti Herta Honda

Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Andretti Herta Honda. Photo by Mike Doran

Conor Daly/No.4 ABC AJ Foyt Honda

Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Ganassi Honda

Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Ganassi Honda

In addition to the IndyCar test, fans and the public were able to donate blood to the mobile unit of the Blood Centers of the Pacific, which came to the track for the day. They collected 20 pints of blood, which can serve/save 60 people.

We Take All Types

GT ECTASY AND AGONY

GT Race Grid

It was Ecstasy for Championship points leader Alvaro Parente/No.9 K-PAX McLaren 650S GT3 and Agony for Championship runner-up Patrick Long/No.58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R at the finish of the 50-minute Pirelli World Challenge GT sprint race in the Grand Prix Presented by Nissan at MRLS. Only two points separated the two at the start of the race. Parente, from Portugal, started sixth, while Long, from California, started second, on the front row next to Johnny O'Connell/No.3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R GT3, who earned his first pole of the year.

Alvaro Parente

Alvaro Parente

Parente quickly moved up to run third, and the three ran in that order for the entire race ... until Turn Five of the last lap. O'Connell and Long had side to side contact, putting Long into the dust, allowing Parente to move up to second race place, where he finished. The Turn Five incident went under Steward's Review. As of this writing, there is no further information on this situation, and the only results from the race remain Provisional. See below for comments from O'Connell and Long.

Parente won the Cadillac Best Move Award for re-claiming three positions from the rolling-start grid right at the onset of the race. Parente won the championship with 1645 points, Long finished second in the standings with 1625 points with a fifth place race finish; and O'Connell - who mathematically could have won - finished third with 1561. His teammate, Michael Cooper/No.8 Cadillac finished fourth overall in the standings with 1541 points after his third-place race finish. Bryan Heitkotter/No.05 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Nissan GTR GT3 finished fifth in the standings, where he had been coming into the weekend. He finished fourth in the race.

Johnny O'Connell

Cooper MacNeil

Corey Fergus

Left to Right: Johnny O'Connell; Cooper MacNeil; and Corey Fergus.

In the GT Class, O'Connell, Parente and Cooper finished 1-2-3, with Heitkotter and Long in fourth and fifth. Long has the fastest race lap of 1:25.983 on Lap 9 of the 27-lap race.

Cooper MacNeil

Cooper MacNeil. Photo courtesy of Melissa Lepper/PWC.

In the GTA Class, Cooper MacNeil/No.79 Alex Job Racing Porsche 991 GT3 R won, finishing twelfth overall, on the lead lap. This was his first win and he's new to the series. He took the lead on the last lap when leader Michael Schein/No.16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R spun off. Schein turned the fastest GTA race lap of 1:27.058 on Lap 19 and led every lap. Schein finished sixth in class. He won the Optima Batteries Best Start Award for picking up nine positions at the start. Second and third were Tim Pappas/No.54 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 Gt3 R and Andrew Kim/No.78 Bentley Team Absolutely Bentley Continental GT3.

Corey Fergus

Corey Fergus. Photo courtesy of Melissa Lepper/PWC.

In the GT Cup Class Pole Sitter Corey Fergus/No.00 Motorsports Promotions Porsche 911 GT3 Cup won. He blew an engine during the test day Thursday and the team was preparing to leave, but changed their minds. He qualified on the pole, turned the fastest race lap of 1:30.028 on Lap 9, and led every lap of his class race. He won the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award for gaining nine positions during the race, starting twenty-ninth and finishing seventeenth overall.

The race had been rather prosaic - until the last lap. The race parade was punctuated by three cautions for cars off course in need of tows. GTA Pole Sitter Martin Fuentes/No.07 spun in Turn Three, bringing out the first caution on the first lap. It took five laps to tow him in and clean up. Fuentes DNF. The second caution was for Fabian Haprecht/No.88 Bentley Team Absolutely Bentley Continental GT3 who had an accident in Turn Four, for three more laps of tow and cleanup. The last caution was for Drew Regitz/No.19 Stephen Cameron Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 off in Turn Two gravel pits and tires. He finished last, six laps down.

In response to questions about his 2017 plans, O'Connell said "There are no announcements pending regarding Cadillac or himself for next year, under the new rules. I've been with the PWC for the past six years and really enjoys the GT format of short sprint races. I find the racing exciting and there are so many top drivers to root for as well as so many different top marques."

Parente on car for title

Alvaro Parente. Photo courtesy of Melissa Lepper/PWC.

Parente is the new GT Champion, in his first full American season of racing. He said he got his best or second best start of the year, moving right up from sixth to third. "What a crazy day. I had a fantastic start… managed to jump into third position. Then I was pushing hard; there were two moments I was into Pat (Long) and trying to pass him. He defended well, I didn’t risk the contact at the time. I didn’t push hard for the move, but I was working on it. Then I realized halfway after the second safety car that it was going to be hard to pass him since he had good pace. And then came that crazy last lap; I can’t describe what went on there. I think there was a little bit of dirt into turn four, Johnny (O’Connell) had a bit of a moment, Pat (Long) tried to pass him on the outside and fought hard for the position in the braking zone and Johnny obviously wasn’t going to back down. I was looking to see and thought, ‘He’s going to go for it,’ and Johnny defended his position, Pat went wide, and I went by. It was a great year. What a fantastic year for Pirelli World Challenge. It’s a great and unique thing going on here in the GT racing world."

McLaren won the GT Manufacturer's Championship. Parente has been a McLaren factory driver for the past four years.

Twenty-eight drivers started, 26 finished, and 23 were running at the finish. Kyle Marcelli/No.2 GT pitted for right front tire damage on the first lap and retired. His co-driver was Drew Regitz.

Other Awards: MotorTrendOnDemand Clean Pass of the race went to GT driver, Bryan Heitkotter/No. 05 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Nissan GT-R GT3. The KIA Turning Point of the race was determined to be the last-lap restart into green and white flags.

Post-race comments on last lap and race.

O'Connell said "Great race, everybody running really hard, it was unfortunate with the cautions that we had. It would have been nice to have had a long run. In that final green-white-checkered deal, I got a good start and then going through turn four and I understeered off and dropped two wheels. That allowed Patrick (Long) to get around the outside of me but never cleared me. So when we went into the breaking zone, I’m on the inside and he’s not clear of me so it’s not my job to give stuff. It’s my job to win races and was very shocked when he started turning down and we had contact. It was unfortunate. I have been fortunate enough to win several championships for GM but I might have played that one a little differently if I were him. But, Patrick (Long) is a very fast and competitive drive and I’m sure he wanted to win this one bad. But I think I just wanted to win it more. It was very nice for Cadillac, all of our people that came out to support us here this weekend. I’m very proud of the team and everything that they did."

Long said "Like I said at the beginning of this weekend, I was proud to still be in contention during the title chase. I raced Johnny (O’Connell) at the end of the race and I expected racing room and didn’t get it. For him not to be in the championship hunt and to be the deciding factor is a difficult situation. In every scenario, there are two drivers that make a decision. There was no intention to try and battle Johnny the entire race. My focus was on the championship and the two times I was alongside or ahead of him, it came down to his mistakes. This is why we all love this sport, it is action packed. I am very proud of Wright Motorsports and we appreciate the support of Porsche Consulting and all of our partners. We will come back stronger from this. In the end, there is sport and there is integrity and we walk away proud of how we handled both situations today."

Sunday's PWC GT/GTA and GT Cup Race will air on Sunday 16 October 2016 at 3pm ET on CBS Sports Network. All PWC competition this year can be found in the archives at MotorTrendOnDemand.com

NO ONE LEFT STANDING

Touring Car race start

The large Touring Car class of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships Presented by Nissan got off to a good start – literally. They were one of two Sunday race groups at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca which had a standing start. Forty-one cars got off the grid without a hitch … at the start. Amazing for that many cars. And one hard-luck driver from the previous day, TC driver, Aristotle Balogh/No.19 Stephen Cameron Racing LLC BMW M235R, gained 11 positions from his P21 grid spot at the start. He finished sixth overall and in class.

The first caution came on the first lap.

Patrick Gallagher

Joey Bickers

Will Rodgers

Left to Right: Patrick Gallagher, Joey Bickers, and Will Rodgers.

Pole Sitter Patrick Gallagher/No.54 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5 repeated his Saturday victory to win overall and in TC Class. He led every lap.The media thought Gallagher looked like a young Steve Kinser. The 24-year old engineering college student didn’t know who was Kinser, and joked that his team call him Patt Damon. Adam Poland/No.33 Doghouse Performance Mazda MX-5 turned the fastest TC race lap of 1:35.601 on Lap 7. He finished second in class and overall.

Pole Sitter Joey Bickers/No.49 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5 Cup won the TCA class, in sixteenth place overall. It was his third victory this season. He also turned the fastest TCA race lap of 1:44.044 on Lap 10. Bickers led the first four laps, before being passed by Eric Powell/No.23 Tech Sport Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup. Powell led for six laps before Bickers regained the lead and went on for the victory.

Will Rodgers/No.65 Hale Motorsports Mazda 2 won the TCB class, after starting third. The only point he led was the last corner of the last lap. Tom O’Gorman/No.94.Black Armor Helmets Fit started second in class behind Ted Hough/No.68 Breathless Racing Mazda 2, but led every lap until Turn 11 of the last lap. Rodgers was on O’Gorman’s tail and the two contenders came into Turn 11 trying to maneuver around each other. Rodgers got a run and just went for it, edging O’Gorman by 0.121 seconds. For that move, Rodgers was awarded the Cadillac Best Move of the Race.It has been a tough week for the Rodgers, having lost his grandmother earlier in the week. She had been one of his biggest supporters and came to the races. O’Gorman turned the fastest TCB race lap of 1:52.038 on Lap Eight.

Aristotle Balogh

Aristotle Balogh

Aristotle Balogh/No.5 Stephen Cameron Racing LLC BMW M2 was awarded the Optima Batteries Best Start Award for gaining eleven positions at the start of the race. He also won the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award for gaining 15 positions in the race overall. He finished sixth after starting twenty-first.

The KIA Turning Point of the race was determined to be the late caution flag that equalized the fields. That was on Laps 17-18 for Andrew Rains/No.44 Rains Racing Honda Accord V-6 Coup TC who went off course.

There had been two penalties assessed in the Saturday race for this group, which dropped Henry Morse/No.14 Hale Motorsports Mazda 2 from his winning position in the TCB class, which means he didn’t maintain his championship contention status on Saturday after all. Morse’s teammate, Will Rodgers was awarded the Saturday victory, and second-place TCB finisher, Tom O’Gorman/No.38 Black Armor Helmets Honda Fit kept the TCB points lead going into Sunday’s race.

The Touring race was a good one for track title sponsor, Mazda. After the race, Mazda claimed all three class winners in TC/TCA/TCB; two Manufacturer Championships of the three classes – TC and TCA; one driver Championship – Elivan Goulart/No.70 S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup; and two team championships, TCA-S.A.C. Racing, and TCB-Hale Motorsports. And to continue, Mazda claimed all the Touring Rookie Champions: Anthony Geraci/No.69 S.A.C.Racing Mazda MX-5 in TC; Matthew Fassnacht/No.74. S.A.C. Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup in TCA; and Henry Morse/No.14 Hale Motorsports Mazda 2 in TCB. Mazda has been the iconic road circuit’s title sponsor for the past 16 years. The track will celebrate its 60th Anniversary next year.

Scott Heckert

Andrew Aquilante

Nate Stacy

Left to Right: Scott Heckert, Andrew Aquilante, and Nate Stacy.

The PWC GTS race also had a standing start, which also went well for the 20 cars in the field. This is the only race of the day for a single class, and also the smallest field. Four other cars failed to start.

And like the preceding race with a standing start, this group also had its first caution on Lap One.

Brett Sandberg/No.13 ANSA Motorsports KTM XBow GT4 started fourth but went off course in Turn Five, bringing out the caution for two laps. He was able to continue to finish sixteenth. The other caution was three laps for Lawson Aschenbach/No.10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro who also went off course with mechanical woes. That caution was determined to be the KIA Turning Point.

Pole Sitter Scott Heckert/No.54 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4 led flag to flag. He said “We had been struggling with (starting line) launches all year and worked on it so much we’ve gotten it to where it’s pretty good. After some contact yesterday when the car was sputtering, there was no rear-view camera so I couldn’t tell where I was in turn one so I just blocked inside anyway and tried to build a gap.”

Heckert won the Cadillac Best Move of the Race Award. Monday it’s back to the books for the young racer, who is studying engineering at Miami College.

The Margin of Victory was 1.101 seconds ahead of runner-up Andrew Aquilante/No.37 Calvert Dynamics Ford Boss 302, who started third. He was given The Optima Batteries Best Start Award for his two-position gain off the starting grid.

Aquilante turned the fastest race lap of 1:31.465 on Lap 9. Nate Stacy/No.14 Roush Performance Road Racing Ford Boss 302 finished third, after starting at the back of the 20-car field for an unauthorized tire change.

The VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger was awarded to Scott Dollahite/No.46 SDR Motorsports Lotus Evora for gaining 13 positions in the race.

The PWC GTS Sunday race will air on CBS Sports Network Sunday 23 October 2016 at 4pm ET.

GT RACE EVEN TIGHTER

Smoking Pace Car

Sunday’s season finale GT race just got tighter, in the Pirelli World Challenge Championships Presented by Nissan at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Going into today’s race, points leader Alvaro Parente/No.9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 led by nine points ahead of Patrick Long/No.58 Wright Motorsports Porsche GT3R.

Now, the margin has been reduced to just two points, 1547 to 1545. And the two Cadillacs of Pole Sitter Johnny O’Connell/No.3 and Michael Cooper/No.6 sit at 1451, still mathematically in the hunt.

What happened?

Here’s the official world from the Series:

“After a complete review of the Pirelli World Challenge point standings in all eight classes, the GT drivers’ points have been adjusted entering Round 20 today at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

There has been a correction with the points with current leader Alvaro Parente of the K-PAX Racing McLaren team.

Parente was incorrectly awarded the pole position points (7) in the second Lime Rock GT event as Andrew Palmer captured the pole off the first Lime Rock GT race and should have received the pole points.

Due to a Saturday morning warm-up crash, Palmer was unable to start the second Lime Rock event and Parente began the race from the pole position.

With those pole positions now being corrected, Parente enters Sunday’s GT season finale with a two-point lead on Patrick Long (1547-1545).

The GT manufacturers points are tied at 130 with McLaren and Porsche entering Sunday’s GT race, while the GT Team points have been adjusted to K-PAX Racing at 1659 to Cadillac Racing at 1641.

The SCCA and PWC made a complete review of all class points Saturday evening to establish the proper point standings entering all four races Sunday at MRLS.”

Sunday’s fifty-minute GT-GTA-GT Cup sprint race starts at 1:05pm local/PDT. It will be airing live on MotorTrendOnDemand.com, and can be followed for live timing and scoring on livetiming.net/pwc. The CBS Sports Network TV broadcast will air 16 October 2016 at 3pm ET.

Smoking Pace Car 2

HOT LAPS

Sprint X Start

It was in the low eighties Saturday afternoon for some hot racing – temperature-wise as well as on-track action at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the Pirelli World Challenge Championships Presented by Nissan. The SFR SCCA volunteer race marshals were kept busy waving many and various flags, chasing after/cleaning up cars/removing cars/towing cars, and chugging water in between. The sweepers were kept busy all day.

The first race of the day was Round 11 for the PWC TC-TCA-TCB cars, 44 in all – the largest field of the weekend. Half of the 20-lap, 40-minute race was punctuated with three cautions: two for a waved-off start, three for Aristotle Balogh/No.19 Stephen Cameron Racing LLC BMW M2 TC when he to grief in Turn Four and DNF’d; and four for Perry Richardson/No.Tech Sports Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup TCA.

The race had three winners – overall and first in the well-subscribed TC class; first in TCA and first in TCB, which was a tight championship contention. It just so happened that all three were Mazdas on the track sponsored by their manufacturer for the past 16 years.

Patrick Gallagher

Eric Powell

Henry Morse

Left to Right: Patrick Gallagher, Eric Powell, and Henry Morse.

Winning overall and first in TC was Pole Sitter Patrick Gallagher of Thornville OH in No.54. Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5 Cup. Gallagher was beaten to the lead at the start by Nick Wittmer/No.91 Honda Ste-Rose Racing Honda Accord V-6 Coupe, who started next to him on the front row. Gallagher took the lead from on the third lap and kept it to the checkered flag. He said he’d stretch his lead, bunch up for a caution, stretch his lead, repeat as necessary to the finish. Gallagher also set a new track record for the fastest TC race lap of 1:36.217, on Lap 9.

Winning TCA was Eric Powell of Orlando FL, who was probably enjoying our wonderful warm and dry weather while back home Hurricane Matthew was wreaking havoc. Powell started twenty-seventh and finished seventeenth overall, first in class, driving No.23 Tech Sport Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup. The lead swapped among three drivers: Elivan Goulart/No.70 S.A.C.Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup led the first lap after starting third in class; Daniel Williams/No.36 S.A.C Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup led the second lap, after starting second in class; and Powell led the rest. The TCA Pole Sitter, Paul Whiting/No.51 PWR & LDL Speed Shop Honda Civic Si never led a lap. Joey Bickers/No.49 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5 Cup turned the fastest TCA race lap of 1:44.824 on Lap 18. He also was awarded the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award for gaining 14 positions in the race – starting 35th and finishing nineteenth.

Young Henry Morse of Redondo Beach Ca maintained his chances of winning the TCB Championship by winning that class from the pole in No.14 Hale Motorsports Mazda 2. He led the first lap, then was overtaken by P.J.Gronke/No.25 Tech Sport Racing Chevrolet Sonic. Gronke led for the next 14 laps before being passed by Morse who led the last four laps. Ted Hough/No.68 Breathless Racing Mazda 2 turned the fastest TCB race lap of 1:53.521 on Lap 9. Morse is all of 16 years of age, and can only drive on the streets if he has an adult in the car who is 25 or older.

Michael Johnson/No.24 Tech Sport Racing Chevrolet Sonic won the Optima Batteries Best Start Award for gaining seven positions at the start.

Martin Barkey

Nate Stacey

Brett Sandberg

Left to right: Martin Barkey; Nate Stacey; and Brett Sandberg.

Touring Class Race Update: After the race results became official, there were changes. Morse was DSQ for technical infractions found in the car in the post-race inspection. He was relegated to a 44th place finishing position, and lost his chances for the TCB Championship. His Hale Motorsports teammate, Will Rodgers/No.65 Mazda 2 won the class; and the new second-place finisher, Tom O’Gorman/No.94 Black Armor Helmets Honda Fit was the points leader.

Another penalty assessed was to Hough – a drive-through, which dropped him from fourth to seventh in TCB.

The GTS Round 18 race had fifteen starters and finishers. There were two leaders: Pole Sitter Scott Heckert of Ridgefield CT racing No.54 Racers Edge Motorsports SIN R1 GT4 for the first ten laps until he came to mechanical grief and retired by the side of the road; and then the winner, Martin Barkey of Canada in No.80 Mantella Autosport Inc KTM XBow GT4, who started second. He turned the fastest race lap and set a new record, at 1:31.962 on Lap 7 of the 33-lap race. “I didn’t know if we had a car to win it today at the start. But the race played into our hands. I thought (Scott) Heckert was going to check out at the start. I didn’t think we had something for him today. But there was a cloud of dust going into turn six and I broke earlier and Heckert went wide. That opened up the room for me to go by. Then it was just an opportunity to open up a gap in the lead. I’m relatively new in racing and I come for the battles on the track. And luckily, it wasn’t much of a battle after that. But I’m going to take it regardless and I’m thrilled with the victory.”

Finishing second was teenager Nate Stacey/No.14 Roush Performance Road Racing Ford Boss 302. Two years ago, at age 14, he was the youngest-ever PWC race winner, in TCB driving a Ford Fiesta. This finish unofficially clinched the Manufacturer’s Championship for Ford. The scrappy teen is currently third in the standings and makes no bones about wanting to go for second overall. He won the Sonoma round and doesn’t like running behind.

Finishing third was Brett Sandberg/No.13 ANSA Motorsports KTM XBow GT4, unofficially winning the GTS Championship.”“I don’t think it has really set in yet on winning the championship. I was focused on trying to run a clean and smart race today. It has not been easy at all. We have had hurdle after hurdle and issues that we didn’t expect. To be honest, I didn’t know where the points would fall today. So I didn’t try to force the issue during the race. I knew we needed a good finish.”

Martin Barkey Win MRLS

Stacy 2nd MRLS

Sandberg 3rd MRLS

Left to right: Martin Barkey No.80 KTM; Kent Stacey/No.14 Ford; and Brett Sandberg/No.13 KTM. Photos courtesy Melissa Lepper/PWC.

It was the first-ever GTS win for the happy Canadian.

Mark Klemim/No.62 Klenin Performance Racing Maserati Gran Turisimo won the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award for gaining five positions in the race, starting thirteenth and finishing eighth.

Tony Gaples/No.11 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro won the Optima Batteries Best Start Award for gaining five positions at the start.

The KIA Turning Point was awarded to Parker Chase/No. 19 Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta GT4 for his car’s wheel falling off and title points implication. The barely-sixteen year old fell from third in the points standings after the incident, allowing Stacey to pass him in the points.

Drew Regitz & Kyle Marcelli

Andrew Aquilante & Kurt Rezzetano

There was nothing scripted or formulaic about Round Five of the PWC Sprint X Series. The format called for the Gentlemen drivers to start the race, pit during a ten-minute window for a driver change with the Pro Driver teammate, and race for the finish. Two sprint races in one. However, a lengthy Red Flag changed all that. The race ended up being extended to 5:15pm, past the 5 pm time limit imposed by Monterey County for sound control.

On Lap 16 two cars had an accident. George Kurtz/No.04 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT4 spun center track and was unavoidably hit by Harry Gottsacker/No.29 Performance Motorsports Group Ginetta GT4. Both cars spilled parts and fluid and had to towed. There was a lengthy cleanup process. Meanwhile, back in Turn Five, Aristotle Balogh/No.5 Stephen Cameron Racing LLC Aston Martin Vantage GT4 stopped and was pushed behind the wall and safe, where he retired. Not a good weekend for Ari. All drivers were unhurt.

Kyle Marcelli/No.19 Stephen Cameron Racing Audi R8 LM GT3 took the checkered flag, a victory in his first-ever Sprint X race. He was called just two days ago by his teammate, Drew Regitz, who asked if he wanted to go racing this weekend. The opportunity for the pivotal pass for the lead came unexpectedly. It was a Hail Mary. Catching the leaders was one thing, but passing them was another. I had a lotta fun.” He admitted the Red Flag helped their strategy. They took one tire – right rear. Marcelli turned the fastest overall and GT-X race lap of 1:28.782 on Lap 24 of the 36-lap race. Regitz and Marcelli agreed they learned a lot Saturday for Sunday’s race, and would be changing their strategy.

There were three lead changes in the GT-X class, all smooth moves. Beautiful to watch. Cooper MacNeil/No.79 Alex Job Racing Porsche led until the Red Flag, and then co-driver, Gunnar Jeanette took over and continued the lead until Lap 26. Then Mike Skeen/No.80 Lone Star Racing Dodge viper GT3-R oozed on past and moved on down the road. His co-driver was Dan Knox. Skeen led eight laps before Marcelli saw his chance and took it, leading the last two laps.

The GTS winning duo also was a last minute plan, likened by Andrew Aquilante to a Cannonball run across country – referencing the late Brock Yates who passed away this week. Aquilante and Kurt Rezzetano drove No.37 Calvert Dynamics Ford Boss 302, after deciding nine days ago to do it.

Aquilante turned the fastest GTS-X race lap of 1:32.254 on Lap 21. They finished fourteenth overall, two laps down. They led twice: from their class pole position for the first 16 laps until the Red Flag, and then from lap 18 to the finish. In between the No.4 GMG Racing Porsche Clubsport GT4 led a lap with drivers James Sofranas and Matt Halliday.

David Askew and James Burke/No.11 DXDT Racing Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo were the fastest team in the GT Cup-X class. They finished eleventh overall, on the lead lap, and and led every lap. There were three cars in that class, and all three finished where they started. Enrique Bernoldi/No.10 DXDT Racing Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo turned the fastest racing lap of 1:27.906 on Lap 23. He and co-driver Jeff Burton finished second in class, twelfth overall.

Sunday’s Sprint X race will be gridded based on the fastest laps set by Saturday’s Pro drivers. It will be a rolling start.

Two Sunday races will have a standing start – the TC-TCA-TCB race and the GTS race.