Pirelli World Challenge primer: Detroit

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The Pirelli World Challenge heads to the Raceway on Belle Isle in Detroit this weekend, as the GT and GTS classes prepare for the Cadillac V-Series Challenge doubleheader event. Race live streaming begins on Saturday at 9:45 a.m. ET on www.world-challengetv.com, with the race broadcast on the NBC Sports Network Sunday, June 16, at 5 p.m. ET.

Detroit is a hotbed for manufacturers, particularly GM, whose headquarters is on the other side of the street across the river. Cadillac swept the weekend last year with Johnny O’Connell.

This weekend, the question is whether the hometown brands can hold serve against the marquee manufacturers not based in Detroit.

So far Audi has taken three of five wins in GT with James Sofronas, the thus far dominant points leader in the No. 14 GMG R8, with Cadillac (O’Connell) and Volvo (Alex Figge) adding a win apiece. Besides the two Cadillacs, Mike Skeen’s CRP Racing Corvette could capture a win in the shadows of GM HQ. Otherwise, the selection of contenders from Audi, Volvo, Nissan, Porsche and Mercedes will fight it out for honors in the 12-car class.

GTS has a wide-open field between its 28 cars. Still, like in GT, one driver dominated the doubleheader a year ago: Andy Lee of Best IT Racing, in his Camaro. Lee got on the scoreboard for 2013 two weeks ago at the Circuit of the Americas, and has leapt to fourth place in points.

The other contenders include points leader Jack Baldwin in the GTSport Racing with Goldcrest Porsche Cayman, the Blackdog Camaro driven by Lawson Aschenbach, the RealTime Acura TSXs of Peter Cunningham and Nick Esayian, the pair of Kinetic Racing Kia Optimas and the fleet of Ford Mustang Boss 302Ss, which seek a solid run for the first time this year. Other manufacturers in the GTS field include Nissan, Lotus and Scion FR-S.

The full entry list is linked here.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.