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Pirelli World Challenge: O’Connell, Roush Jr. win Long Beach poles

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Johnny O’Connell earned the GT pole and Jack Roush Jr. did the same in the GTS class ahead of tomorrow’s Pirelli World Challenge race on the streets of Long Beach.

O’Connell (No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R) set a new GT track record with a time of 1:20.386, toppling the previous mark of 1:21.087 set by James Sofronas last year.

His Cadillac Racing teammate, Andy Pilgrim, will start alongside him on the GT front row after logging a time of 1:20.633.

As for Roush Jr. (No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R), he too set a track record in GTS with his lap of 1:27.325. That eclipsed Andy Lee’s old record of 1:27.662, which was set last year.

Nic Jonsson (No. 36 Kia Motors America Kia Optima) earned P2 on the GTS grid for tomorrow’s race thanks to his time of 1:27.509. St. Petersburg GTS winner and defending GTS class champion Lawson Aschenbach qualified third with a 1:27.512 in his No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro.

Fastest in the GT-A subcategory for gentlemen drivers was Nick Mancuso (No. 16 R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia), who will start 7th on the GT grid after posting a 1:21.329.

World-ChallengeTV.com will stream tomorrow’s race starting at 7 p.m. ET, while NBCSN will air the race broadcast next Sunday, April 20, at 5:30 p.m. ET.

PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE – LONG BEACH
Qualifying Results

GT Class
1. No. 3 – Johnny O’Connell, Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V R, 1:20.386, 88.1347 mph
2. No. 8 – Andy Pilgrim, Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V R, 1:20.633, 87.864 mph
3. No. 61 – Anthony Lazzaro, R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 1:20.698, 87.794 mph
4. No. 9 – Alex Figge, K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3, 1:20.729, 87.760 mph
5. No. 21 – Andrew Palmer, GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra, 1:20.964, 87.505 mph
6. No. 6 – Robert Thorne, K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3, 1:21.144, 87.311 mph
7. No. 16 – Nick Mancuso(A), R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3, 1:21.329, 87.112 mph
8. No. 14 – James Sofronas, Spyder/The Thermal Club Audi R8 Ultra, 1:21.629 86.792 mph
9. No. 2 – Mike Skeen, Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra, 1:21.756, 86.657 mph
10. No. 31 – Tim Bergmeister, EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3R, 1:22.137, 86.255 mph
11. No. 64 – Mike Hedlund, DragonSpeed/ESM Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 1:22.181, 86.209 mph
12. No. 10 – Henrik Hedman(A), DragonSpeed Ferrari 458 GT3, 1:22.422, 85.957 mph
13. No. 41 – Michael Mills(A), EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3R, 1:22.648, 85.722 mph
14. No. 44 – Brent Holden(A), GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra, 1:23.146, 85.209 mph
15. No. 80 – Dan Knox(A), ACS MFG/Performance SpeedTech SRT Viper GT3R, 1:23.377, 84.973 mph
16. No. 32 – Bret Curtis(A), Spectra/United Steel/Valspar Audi R8 Ultra, 1:23.645, 84.700 mph
17. No. 99 – Jeff Courtney(A), Kenda/RecStuff.com Audi R8 Ultra, 1:24.058, 84.284 mph
18. No. 54 – Tim Pappas(A), Black River Caviar Mercedes AMG SLS GT3, 1:24.136, 84.206 mph
19. No. 15 – Tomy Drissi, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Aston Martin GT3, 1:24.462, 83.881 mph
20. No. 95 – Bill Ziegler(A), Swisher Racing/GMG Audi R8 Ultra, 1:25.354, 83.004 mph
(A) denotes GT-A subcategory drivers

GTS Class
1. No. 60 – Jack Roush Jr., ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss302R, 1:27.325, 81.131 mph
2. No. 36 – Nic Jonsson, Kia Motors America Kia Optima, 1:27.509, 80.960 mph
3. No. 1 – Lawson Aschenbach, Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, 1:27.512, 80.958 mph
4. No. 33 – Tony Buffomante, Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Mustang Boss302S, 1:27.862, 80.635 mph
5. No. 73 – Jack Baldwin, RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S, 1:27.871, 80.627 mph
6. No. 17 – Alec Udell, Watson Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:28.297, 80.238 mph
7. No. 38 – Mark Wilkins, Kia Motors America Kia Optima, 1:28.328, 80.210 mph
8. No. 20 – Andy Lee, Crown7.com/BestIT Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 1:28.331, 80.207 mph
9. No. 52 – David Sterckx, BG Reach Out Worldwide Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:28.568, 79.992 mph
10. No. 02 – Drew Regitz, TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4, 1:28.814, 79.771 mph
11. No. 96 – Brad Adams, VoodooMusic/DatDog/Yo MTVRaps! Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:29.206, 79.420 mph
12. No. 51 – Ric Bushey, Nissan/Motul/SPL/OSGiken Nissan 370Z, 1:29.436, 79.216 mph
13. No. 97 – Mitch Landry, VersaCrane/DeepSouth Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:29.558, 79.108 mph
14. No. 11 – Tony Gaples, BlackDog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, 1:29.594, 79.076 mph
15. No. 01 – Don Istook, Forge Motorsports/Recaro Audi TTRS, 1:29.934, 78.777 mph
16. No. 40 – Geoff Reeves, BestIT/Bondurant School Chevrolet Camaro, 1:31.335, 77.569 mph
17. No. 75 – Erik Davis, Reach Out Worldwide Ford Mustang Boss302S, 1:31.611, 77.335 mph
18. No. 72 – Buz McCall, RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S, 1:32.443, 76.639 mph
19. No. 34 – Nick Esayian, Natural Cures Aston Martin GT4, 1:34.147, 75.252 mph
20. No. 04 – Jorge De La Torre, TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4, 1:37.469, 72.687 mph

Pascal Wehrlein to make F1 debut with Manor Racing

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 19:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Mercedes GP arrives in the paddock before final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 19, 2015 in Singapore.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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2015 DTM champion and Mercedes junior driver Pascal Wehrlein will make his Formula 1 debut in 2016 after securing a seat with Manor Racing.

Wehrlein, 21, has previously tested F1 cars with both Mercedes and Force India as well as enjoying success in DTM, Formula 3 and the German Formula Masters series.

After a long winter of speculation about his future, Manor has now confirmed that it will field Wehrlein in one of its seats for the 2016 season as part of its new technical partnership with Mercedes.

“Manor Racing is a great place for me to start my Formula 1 racing career. I’m very pleased to be here,” Wehrlein said.

“It’s a small and totally focused team and I soon hope to know everyone. Though it’s my first F1 season my aim is to help Stephen and the guys achieve their goals.

“It will be a tough challenge but I think we should be able to challenge for points along the way. It’s going to be good fun.

“A word for my racing family at Mercedes-Benz, and particularly for Toto, who have guided my career this far and made this opportunity possible. Thanks for the incredible support to help me achieve my dream; now it’s down to me to grab the moment and perform on track.”

Manor team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick was pleased to confirm the signing of Wehrlein, and believes that the German can make an instant impression in F1.

“Pascal is a sharp driver with a very promising future; Manor Racing is excited to have him aboard,” Fitzpatrick said.

“We’re a small team up for a big challenge this season, so we’ve chosen a driver with the talent and hunger to match our own on-track ambitions.

“Pascal has impressed in testing for Mercedes and Force India, together with commanding performances in DTM, culminating in the championship win last year. Manor Racing is perfectly placed to help Pascal make a big impact in his first season. We’re looking forward to it!”

Wehrlein’s confirmation leaves just one seat remains open on the 2016 F1 grid, with the identity of his Manor teammate still to be decided.

American driver Alexander Rossi, Britain’s Will Stevens and GP2 race winner Rio Haryanto are all known to be in the running for the seat.

Grace Autosport continuing to build program towards May

L to R: Grace Autosports Team Principal Beth Paretta and race driver Katherine Legge launch an all-female Indy 500 team to contest the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 (PRNewsFoto/Grace Autosport)
Photo: Grace Autosport
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One of the newest teams planning to field an entry at this year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Grace Autosport, continues its preparations in what could be a hectic month of February.

The primarily female initiative, led by Beth Paretta with Katherine Legge as nominated driver, has gained traction in the last month or so with further meetings, STEM events and Legge’s standout drive in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening race, the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

While announced last May, time is of the essence for securing both an engine lease and a team partner, to go along with the crew already established.

The target to confirm both the engine and team partner is coming up next month.

“[We’d need to finalize] by the beginning of March to give it proper time,” Paretta told NBC Sports in an interview following the Rolex 24.

Paretta was on site at Daytona for the Rolex 24 for a number of meetings with manufacturers and other key industry stakeholders, to continue to promote the Grace Autosport message, brand and team.

“Yes, there were a few key meetings – some planned, some impromptu – which went very well,” she said.

“The awareness still surprises me. I was wearing a Grace Autosport hat in the paddock and a few people asked me about the team. Many people in the racing community have said they think the concept is cool and have offered help.

“I get offers for help from some guys that have worked on teams I’ve worked with in the past, which is lovely.”

Legge’s drive at Daytona in the DeltaWing DWC13 coupe didn’t hurt matters, either.

The Tim Keene-led team opted not to qualify in the treacherous, rain-soaked conditions. Legge started the car and went from 13th and last in the Prototype class field up to third within the first 20 minutes, and led by the end of the first hour.

In a career that’s had occasional standout drives, this was one of them, and came at a good time.

“Her drive in the DeltaWing was just fantastic. While she was leading overall I was talking with some other racing drivers in pit lane and one said, almost dismissively, ‘Well, that car was really fast,’” Paretta said of Legge.

“Yes, it was, but she has been an integral part of the development of that car and part of the reason why it’s become faster. Any IMSA fan knows that the DeltaWing project has had a lot of challenges so I think to see it running up front was a nice surprise for many fans. People like an underdog so I think it was really exciting to watch her climb through the field and run up front.”

Legge was due to share the car with Andy Meyrick, Sean Rayhall and Andreas Wirth before Meyrick got caught up in a strange accident, where a radio issue meant Meyrick didn’t fully hear there was another PC car stopped on course in the middle of Turn 1.

Although Meyrick braked earlier than normal to avoid it, proved by the data, he still wound up hitting Chris Cumming’s stranded car which took the DeltaWing out of the race. Cumming’s PC car was also severely wounded.

The DeltaWing aside, where Legge and Grace really seek to make strides is in STEM events. Legge and Paretta recently did an event in Indianapolis with the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc., last week.

The STEM portion is a major component of the Grace Autosport effort.

“STEM and education for girls is the foundation of Grace Autosport. It isn’t a throwaway comment connecting racing with a ’cause.’ It is why we are racing,” Paretta said.

“Even though we have yet to turn a wheel, we are working with different groups supporting educational initiatives for girls and young women. We participated in the Society of Women Engineers’ annual conference, which was held in Nashville in October, and this week Katherine and I will be delivering the keynote address to a conference for science teachers in the State of Indiana.

“So STEM education isn’t a pet cause for us, it is the cause for what we are doing. We will be making a few more announcements in the coming months that we will explain how we will connect our message to the community and the classroom.”

Jake Eidson steps up to Pro Mazda with Cape in 2016

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Jake Eidson came up short of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda championship last year, losing out to Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Nico Jamin.

Now, at the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, they’ll be teammates.

Jamin was confirmed last week with Cape for his step up from USF2000 into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and this morning Eidson, the 20-year-old out of Littleton, Colorado, was confirmed as Cape’s second driver.

“I’m extremely grateful and excited to enter my first season of Pro Mazda and to rejoin Cape Motorsport with Wayne Taylor Racing,” Eidson offered.

“After finishing second in last year’s USF2000 championship, we weren’t sure if moving up to Pro Mazda was possible. When the season was over, we tested with the Capes and quickly knew that they have a winning team. Fortunately, we were able to make the 2016 season achievable.

“I know that my goal, as well as the team’s goal, is to aim for the top spot in the Pro Mazda championship and I have a lot of confidence in their ability to make it happen. This is a dream come true and I can’t wait to get started!”

It’s a natural progression for Eidson, who ran two full seasons in USF2000. His first came with Cape in 2014 where he finished third in points, before he moved to Pabst Racing and was one of only two drivers (Aaron Telitz) to pose a threat to Jamin as the year progressed.

Eidson is supported in his efforts by Rising Star Racing, DA Lubricants Company, Bell Helmets, OMP, Team USA Scholarship, and SafeisFast.

The top three USF2000 drivers all moving up to Pro Mazda is important for the second rung on the ladder; they’ll race arguably the championship favorite in Garett Grist plus his three young, hungry teammates at Juncos Racing, with other driver announcements to come in the coming days.

Red Bull GRC confirms Wild Horse Pass for season opener

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Phoenix was listed as the season opener for the 2016 Red Bull Global Rallycross season, but a location was not confirmed.

Today though, the series has confirmed where the Phoenix round will be held: at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway.

It’s in Chandler, Arizona, technically, but it should still be a good spot for the season-opening doubleheader round.

The full release is below:

For the first time in series history, Red Bull Global Rallycross will visit the state of Arizona during the 2016 season. Red Bull GRC Phoenix, the season opener and first of four doubleheaders on the schedule, will take place at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, one of the most diverse motorsports playgrounds in the United States.

“The southwest is a crucial market for Red Bull GRC, with many of our most passionate fans located in the region,” said Red Bull GRC CEO Colin Dyne. “The opportunity to bring our unique brand of racing to the Phoenix market for the first time was something we couldn’t pass up. Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is the perfect setting for us as we look to open our finest season yet.”

Located just off of I-10, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is located only 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix, with ample parking and amenities on-site. Fans will be treated to a challenging and fast mile-long track, featuring the series’ signature 70-foot jump, and will be able to see all the action from great spectator areas overlooking the entire facility.

This will be the first time that a Red Bull GRC season begins with a doubleheader. Performing well in the opener has been a constant step towards winning a title, as no Red Bull GRC champion has ever finished worse than fourth in the first race of the year. Defending Supercar champion Scott Speed and defending GRC Lites champion Oliver Eriksson finished second and third in class, respectively, in last year’s opener; both drivers are expected to begin their title defense in Phoenix.