Four-wide finish in Freedom 100 goes to Peter Dempsey (VIDEO)

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A four-wide drag race to the checkered flag in today’s Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was won by Peter Dempsey, who nipped Gabby Chaves to the yard of bricks by .0026 of a second in a wild final lap. The top four were separated by just 0.0443 of a second, and the margin of victory is the closest in the history of IMS. Also, the win is the first in Firestone Indy Lights competition for both Dempsey and team owner Brian Belardi, of Belardi Auto Racing.

On the white flag, Carlos Munoz (who will start second in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500) was leading by a slim margin over Sage Karam, with Chaves close behind. Munoz and Karam had been nose-to-tail for a good portion of the race, but with victory at Indianapolis on the line, Chaves joined in and the trio of drivers went three-wide through Turn 3 and 4.

But then Dempsey joined in and as the quartet of drivers headed for home, he tucked in briefly behind Chaves before going all the way toward the outside wall on the front stretch. With himself, Chaves, Karam and Munoz blanketing the entire width of the racetrack, the thrilling finish went to Dempsey.

“Hats off to the other three guys,” said Dempsey. “Fortunately (Chaves) left just enough room to squeeze by. This is exactly what this series needs. You’re not gonna get it better than four-wide across the line.”

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Chaves, like his Schmidt Peterson teammate Karam, might not sleep well in the nights to come.

“A couple of feet more, and this would have been my race,” he said. “I did everything I could up until then. I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep for a couple of nights before I can let it go. I was just sitting there waiting for my moment.”

Karam ran second behind Munoz the whole race, but ended third just ahead of the Colombian.

“The whole race I just put myself into position to win it,” he said. “I was going to make a move in Turn 3 to win it. I was on his attenuator the whole race. I popped high and just couldn’t hold it. I just couldn’t get the momentum. Great race, great finish. It was such a strategic race.”

Munoz’s teammate for Andretti Autosport, Zach Veach, completed the top five. The two other Schmidt entries – Jack Hawksworth and series debutante Kyle O’Gara – crashed out of the 40-lap race.

The Callaway Corvette GT3 is coming to America, in PWC

Photo: Callaway Competition USA
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Pirelli World Challenge has been in need of some good news from a car count standpoint early into this offseason, and receives it Monday with confirmation Callaway Competition will bring its GT3-spec homologated Corvette C7 GT3-R Stateside next season.

The withdrawal of the factory Cadillac Racing program after PWC’s season finale in Sonoma in September has opened the door for the factory-blessed Corvette C7 GT3-R to run in North America, because Cadillac’s ATS-V.R has been the lone GT3-spec car under the General Motors awning for the last three seasons, while the Callaway Corvette has raced only internationally.

Reeves Callaway has been on site at the tail end of the PWC season to survey the opportunity and now a deal has been struck for a factory effort to run next year, before the Callaway Corvette program becomes a customer effort in 2019. This follows the same timeline as Acura did with its new NSX GT3 this year to run it as a factory program in 2017 before shifting to customer efforts in 2018.

“Joining the Pirelli World Challenge has been a long term objective for Callaway Competition,” Callaway said in a release. “Now the field is a roll-call of the most capable sports cars from every country. To do well here, you must beat the best in the world. What better way to showcase our iconic American car?

“For 2018, we will run a Callaway factory team to give us the best chance of continuing the championship record the Corvette has achieved in international competition. For 2019, we will not race against our customers, but provide high-quality support to them in the tradition of other manufacturer customer racing support programs.”

“For several years fans have asked when they would see the Callaway Corvette GT3 run in the Pirelli World Challenge,” added Greg Gill, President and CEO of Pirelli World Challenge. “The wait is over and we are very pleased to announce the arrival of the Callaway Corvette GT3 for the 2018 season.”

The Callaway Competition USA Corvette C7 GT3-R will be unveiled and both full season drivers announced at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis on December 7 at the Pirelli World Challenge booth. Following the unveiling event, the car will be on display for the remainder of the trade show. Details of the presentation will be announced in the coming weeks.

Callaway’s confirmation comes amidst the likely drawdown of potentially nine or 10 cars that raced in PWC’s GT and GTA ranks either all season or most of it in 2017, among at least five manufacturers. That’s not to say those losses can’t be recouped elsewhere on the grid, over the next several months before the St. Petersburg season opener in March.

PWC will hold its annual state of the series and competitor meeting to finalize the next year’s plans at the PRI show as well.