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

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.