Pirelli World Challenge winners at Long Beach survive frantic ending

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James Sofronas earned his second and Lawson Aschenbach his first win of the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season Sunday on the streets of Long Beach after a frantic end to the 31-lap race.

Sofronas, who won GT in his GMG Audi R8, was again in the right place at the right time when mechanical maladies struck cars ahead of him. Alex Figge had a brake rotor failure in his K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, which caused a yellow, and smoke from Johnny O’Connell’s Cadillac CTS-V after the restart meant he stopped on the final lap. A piece of Figge’s rotor actually went through O’Connell’s radiator, which caused the smoke.

“We were just waiting for something to happen and boy, did something happen,” said Sofronas.

O’Connell’s Cadillac Racing teammate, Andy Pilgrim, and the HAWK Performance Nissan GT-R of Mike Skeen completed the GT class podium.

Aschenbach, meanwhile, had a hard fought battle in GTS with Peter Cunningham to secure Blackdog Speed Shop’s first class win in the No. 10 Chevrolet Camaro. He edged past Cunningham’s RealTime Racing Acura TSX on lap 24 into Turn 1.

“Fortunately enough, when you race against guys like Peter [Cunningham] and Jack [Baldwin], they give you all the room that you need and fortunately I was able to out-brake them into Turn 1,” said Aschenbach.

The aforementioned Baldwin followed his sweep of the St. Petersburg doubleheader with his third straight podium in his GTSport Racing with Goldcrest Porsche Cayman.

Sofronas, handily, and Baldwin lead their class points heading to the next round for the championship at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas May 17-19. The Touring Car and Touring Car B- classes have their opening tripleheaders that weekend, as well.

The Long Beach race airs at 2 p.m. EST, May 5, on the NBC Sports Network.  More information on the series can be found at www.world-challenge.com

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.