Pirelli World Challenge: Sonoma results

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GT/GTS

A wild opening lap in Sunday’s GT/GTS Round 13 of the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge at Sonoma Raceway had multiple repercussions upon the championship in both classes.

GT points leader Johnny O’Connell stalled off the start, but was able to get his No. 3 Cadillac Racing CTS-V.R going – only to collide with GTS points leader Jack Baldwin and seven-time PWC champion Peter Cunningham in Turn 5.

O’Connell finished 12th, while teammate Andy Pilgrim led all 27 laps around Sonoma to win the race in GT ahead of Duncan Ende (No. 24 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS) and James Sofronas (No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS). By virtue of his podium finish, Sofronas took over the GT championship lead by 21 points, 1360-1339.

There was a bit of controversy involving second place in GT. Mike Skeen (No. 2 CRP Chevrolet Corvette) took the checkered flag in that position but PWC officials stopped scoring him at Lap 18, as Skeen’s team had ignored requests to serve a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact on the first lap; Skeen was eventually relegated to 11th.

Meanwhile, Baldwin’s opening-lap run-in – which rendered him unable to continue – allowed his rivals to tighten up the GTS championship.

Brandon Davis earned the class win in his No. 27 TRG Aston Martin Vantage GT4, while Lawson Aschenbach (No. 10 Blackdog Chevrolet Camaro) earned his 10th podium finish of the season with a third-place run behind runner-up Andy Lee (No. 20 Chevrolet Camaro).

Aschenbach’s podium allowed him to close within 46 points of Baldwin, 1297-1251, with Mark Wilkins 47 points behind after finishing sixth on Sunday.

TC/TCB

Saturday saw the Touring Car and Touring Car B-Spec classes stage Rounds 11 and 12, and the points leaders in both of those classes – Ryan Winchester in TC and Ernie Francis, Jr. in TCB – bolstered their title bids with weekend sweeps in their categories.

Round 11 saw Winchester take the TC checkered flag by a safe margin, but the final lap in TCB was a thriller between Francis and pole sitter Robbie Davis.

Francis, running second, was able to get a run on Davis going into the Turn 9 chicane. Davis tried to stop Francis from making the inside move come off, but was unable to do so and after a brief run into the dirt for both of them, Francis emerged with the lead and held on to it in the final few corners.

In Round 12, Francis had an easier run to his second TCB win of the weekend, ahead of Tyler Palmer and Joel Lipperini. As for TC, Winchester turned back a charge from teammate Brett Sandberg and led wire-to-wire.

Both Winchester and Francis extended their championship leads, with the former now holding a 297-point edge over Sandberg (1452-1155) in TC, and the latter now up 81 points on Davis (1322-1241) in TCB.

NBCSN will air the Pirelli World Challenge races from Sonoma on Sunday, Sept. 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Indy Lights: Chad Boat to make Indy Lights debut with Belardi

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Belardi Auto Racing, which currently fields entries for Aaron Telitz, Santi Urrutia, and Shelby Blackstock in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, announced on Tuesday that USAC standout Chad Boat, son of former IndyCar race winner Billy Boat, will make his Indy Lights debut with the Brian Belardi led-outfit. Boat will contest the July 9 race at Iowa Speedway and will return for the August 26 event at Gateway Motorsports Park.

“We’re extremely pleased to announce the addition of Chad Boat to our stable of drivers for the Iowa and Gateway Indy Lights oval races this summer,” team owner Brian Belardi detailed. “It’s exciting to have a second-generation driver running with us, and we’re certainly looking forward to getting Chad on track in Iowa.”

Boat has become a star in his own right in USAC, winning Rookie of the Year honors in both the USAC National Midget and Sprint car divisions. The 25-year-old has competed previously at Iowa, where he will make his first start, in what is now called the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He will pilot the No. 84 entry, with sponsorship from Pristine Auction.

“I grew up watching my dad race Indy cars, so having the opportunity to run Indy Lights this year is absolutely surreal,” said Boat. “I have to thank Belardi Auto Racing for giving me a shot behind the wheel of the No. 84 Dallara, as well as Pristine Auction for their continued support in my racing career. I can’t wait to get to Iowa Speedway.”

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Mercedes, Ferrari go conservative on Austrian GP tire picks

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Pirelli has confirmed all 20 Formula 1 drivers’ tire picks for next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with most opting to stack up on ultra-softs.

As it does for every grand prix, Pirelli will bring three compounds to Austria next week, electing for the softest possible combination of ultra-soft, super-soft and soft tires.

In the regular pre-race release of each driver’s tire picks, Pirelli revealed that Force India, McLaren and Red Bull have gone down the most aggressive routes, stacking up on the ultra-soft tire.

Title contenders Mercedes and Ferrari have gone down a more conservative route, favoring additional sets of the super-soft compound.

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will take seven sets of ultra-softs to Spielberg, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will have eight sets at their disposal through the weekend.

Graham Rahal survives Road America to finish eighth

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Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.

He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.

Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.

However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.

“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”

The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

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Ed Jones continues steady run with seventh at Road America

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Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones has made waves in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a string of solid performances that belie his rookie status.

And Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was no different.

The 22-year-old battled an oversteering car most of the weekend at Road America, and had to navigate a little carnage late in the race as Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both fell through the field with front wing problems.

However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.

“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.

“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”

The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.

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