IMSA: Extreme Speed going for Long Beach double shot

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The Patron Showcase, third round of this year’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, provides an excellent opportunity for Extreme Speed Motorsports to repeat its P2 class win of 2013.

Difference would be, in 2014, it would be an overall triumph in the Prototype category.

The pair of Tequila Patron-sponsored Nos. 1 and 2 HPD ARX-03bs are the only two P2-spec cars in the 11-car P class field raced by the same team in 2013. The Morgan Nissan package has experience in the hands of Conquest Racing two years ago, but this marks OAK Racing’s first Long Beach appearance; meanwhile the SpeedSource Multimatic-built Mazda SKYACTIV-D diesels are making their inaugural Long Beach voyage.

For all of the P2-spec cars, this will mark their first Long Beach runs on the Continental tires.

ESM’s Scott Sharp and Guy Cosmo won last year and Sharp looks for the encore with Ryan Dalziel in the No. 1 entry. Dalziel stoked the social media fire with this tweet earlier on Tuesday.

With that level of retweets, and the extra motivation to bounce back from his and the team’s near miss at Sebring last month, Dalziel is primed to bring ESM the win on Saturday.

“One of the reasons I wanted to race in the USA was the awesome street courses and none are better than Long Beach,” the flying Scot said in the team’s pre-race release. “Traffic will be a factor like all of our races but with only two classes and the new IMSA rules, I think this race will come down to the team that has the best pit stops and the fastest car.”
 
“We were so close at Sebring and I think we all still feel we were robbed of the win, so we are going into Long Beach with a winning mindset.”

Sharp, a Long Beach veteran with starts in both open-wheel and sports cars, embraces the challenge of the 100-minute street fight.

“It is an aggressive 100-minute ‘take no prisoners’ sprint race,” he said. “You sometimes only get one chance to make a pass so you have to go for it when you can. When you combine the excitement of the race with the fantastic Long Beach crowd and Tequila Patrón’s sponsorship of the race, to say we are ready to hit the streets and go after that win – that’s an understatement.”

Ed Brown and Johannes van Overbeek bring the No. 2 to the race too, and seek to improve on their best result of the year, fifth achieved last time out at Sebring.

IndyCar’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

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Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.