A.J. Allmendinger thinks Kurt Busch can handle Indy 500

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A.J. Allmendinger is certainly happy to be back full-time racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but it’s clear he still has high respect for IndyCar racing.

The former Champ Car star returned to open-wheel for six Verizon IndyCar Series starts last year for Team Penske, which included a Top-10 finish at the Indianapolis 500. Next month, fellow Sprint Cup competitor Kurt Busch will compete in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing as part of an attempt to do the 1,100-mile Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 double.

Allmendinger ran a pair of tune-up races at Barber Motorsports Park and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach before going into last year’s ‘500.’ Busch isn’t expected to have that luxury before he straps into an Andretti Autosport Honda for his Indy debut.

However, the ‘Dinger believes that Busch will be OK even as he comes to grips with other obstacles during the Month of May.

“Kurt going to Indy being at Andretti, he was fast at his rookie orientation,” Allmendinger said today at Texas Motor Speedway. “He’s a hell of a race car driver, so I think he’ll be fine…The only thing is, just the way those cars race at Indy compared to driving by yourself, it’s a lot different. And I spent a lot of time during the month of May last year trying to learn how to be in traffic.

“And heck, I even went into the race still wishing I had more practice. So, that’s a big challenge. But I think he’ll be fine. He can wheel a race car, for sure.”

Allmendinger also chimed in on Juan Pablo Montoya’s return to IndyCar following a seven-year run in Sprint Cup. The Colombian’s comeback didn’t start too well, as he finished 15th for Penske in last weekend’s season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

But while noting the impressive depth of the IndyCar grid – “the series is so difficult from top to bottom” – Allmendinger figured also thought that Montoya would eventually rise to the front.

“For me, it was just hard to go and try to run Top-10 and figure out how that is, so it’s not easy just to jump back in and do it,” he said. “Juan has had a lot of testing. He’ll be fine. He’s never been to St. Pete.

“When you go to those street course races, you don’t get a lot of track time. It makes those weekends tough. But, I think he’s a world-class racer. We’ve seen it. He’s won in everything. So, he’ll be fine.”

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.