Pirelli World Challenge primer: Long Beach

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After a one-month break, the Pirelli World Challenge is back in action on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. this weekend. It marks the second time it will share the schedule with the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Sunday’s race starts at 4:30 p.m. PT, after the IndyCar race. It will air on the NBC Sports Network Sunday, May 5, at 2 p.m. ET.

Some of the key storylines to follow are below:

LOCAL FLAVOR

Long Beach marks a home race for a handful of drivers, including GT class points leader and St. Petersburg race two winner James Sofronas. Sofronas’ Global Motorsports Group, or GMG squad (pictured), is based in nearby Santa Ana, Calif. Sofronas’ Audi R8 will be back in action along with sister Audis driven by other California natives Duncan Ende (Los Angeles) and Bret Curtis (Westlake Village), and Colorado native Alex Welch. Sofronas also has a Porsche entered for Brent Holden in GT, and a Pontiac Solstice for Bill Ziegler in GTS.

Other California natives in the field include Tomy Drissi (Los Angeles, LG Corvette, GT), Tim Bell (Los Altos, CRP Nissan GT-R, GT), Kyle Kelly (Huntington Beach, Viper, GT), Craig Stanton (Long Beach, Porsche, GT), Brandon Davis (Huntington Beach, TRG Aston Martin, GTS), Nick Esayian (San Diego, RealTime Acura, GTS) and Erik Davis (Burbank, Ford Mustang, GTS).

REPEATS ON TAP?

A year ago in Long Beach, experience won out in the form of Andy Pilgrim’s Cadillac in GT and Jack Baldwin’s Porsche Cayman in GTS.

Pilgrim will seek to bring Cadillac back to the top after a difficult opening weekend for he and teammate Johnny O’Connell in St. Pete. Pilgrim’s win a year ago included a great pass of Randy Pobst’s K-PAX Racing Volvo S60.

Meanwhile Baldwin swept the St. Pete opener, also in a Cayman, and looks for three-in-a-row to start the season if he secures another triumph in Southern California.

NO DALZIEL, BUT STILL PLENTY OF STAR POWER

One of the stars of the St. Pete weekend, Ryan Dalziel, won’t be making the trip to Long Beach. Dalziel’s sponsors at the TruSpeed Porsche squad pulled out after a technical infraction in St. Pete, and the Scotsman is racing in another sports car event in Atlanta this Saturday. There’s still two Porsches in the GT class, competing against the might from Cadillac, Volvo, Nissan, Viper, Audi and Mercedes.

More information on the series can be found at www.world-challenge.com

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.