Everyone gets in on the act as Pirelli World Challenge hits Barber

1 Comment

Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge events at Barber Motorsports Park. NBCSN will broadcast the events on Saturday, May 10 at 4 p.m. ET. If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…

After two events for the GT-based classes, the Touring Car categories joined in the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge Championship as it made a stop at Barber Motorsports Park.

However, while the GT contingent got their two races in this weekend, the TC groups were only able to have one as severe weather cancelled their Race 2 this afternoon; a make-up TC race will be determined and announced later.

GT/GTS/GT-A – Saturday

R. Ferri Motorsports had a doubly good Saturday as Anthony Lazzaro and Nick Mancuso claimed top honors in the GT and GT-A subcategory respectively.

On Lap 17, Lazzaro passed pole sitter Mancuso for the lead at Turn 5 as the two battled through slower traffic. Lazzaro would go on to claim the win over Cadillac Racing’s Johnny O’Connell, while Mancuso completed the overall GT podium by finishing third.

“It’s a huge deal for Remo (Ferri) to come to the third race and podium with both cars, after having both cars on the front row,” Lazzaro said. “We knew we’d be good here. We had a great setup for the race; it’s the best yet we’ve performed.”

In GTS, Mark Wilkins took advantage of contact between class pole sitter Jack Baldwin and Kia Racing teammate Nic Jonsson to take the lead and, eventually, his 10th career win in the PWC.

Jack Roush Jr. finished runner-up for his first PWC podium, while Baldwin soldiered on after his run-in with Jonsson to finish third.

GT/GTS/GT-A – Sunday

Lazzaro jumped GT pole sitter Andrew Palmer off the standing start for Sunday’s GT/GTS/GT-A race, but Palmer got his redemption when he passed Lazzaro on the final lap to win.

After putting wheels on the grass coming out of the Turn 10-11 complex, Lazzaro left an opportunity for Palmer, who took it and made the race-winning pass going into Turn 12.

“I pressured Lazzaro enough to make one small mistake and I capitalized,” said Palmer.

O’Connell tried to keep up with Lazzaro and Palmer as the race entered its final stages, but was unable to do so and was left to fend off Mancuso for the last spot on the GT podium.

Brazilian driver Marcelo Hahn finished 10th overall, which was enough to give him the win in GT-A.

GTS saw Baldwin lead wire-to-wire for his fifth career series win ahead of Jonsson and Lawson Aschenbach. The class race started inauspiciously with a four-car crash in Turn 1 involving the Ford Mustang Boss 302s of Roush Jr., Tony Buffomante, Dean Martin, and Alec Udell.

TC/TCB/TC-A – Saturday

Michael di Meo slipped to third position from the TC pole, but battled back to claim his first series win in just his third start.

di Meo took advantage of a battle for the lead between Jason Saini and Jon Miller and closed up to the pair. On Lap 14, he slipped by Saini for second and with six minutes left, he was able to pass Miller for the lead.

Race Control forced di Meo to give up the spot because of contact during that pass. But Miller retired soon after with a mechanical issue, enabling di Meo to inherit the lead. Saini would finish second and Adam Poland completed the TC podium.

In TC-A, Shea Holbrook and Jason Cherry locked horns throughout the 40-minute race but in the end, it was Holbrook that took home the trophy by a mere two-tenths of a second.

After swapping the lead several times up to that point, Cherry had taken it at Lap 13 only for Race Control to have him give it up because of – you guessed it – contact during the pass. Holbrook assumed P1 and was able to hold on for the remainder.

The fight for the TCB victory was settled primarily among three men: Brian Price, Tyler Palmer, and Johan Schwartz. Schwartz led the first 16 laps from pole position, but on Lap 17, Price was able to take the lead when he went by on Schwartz’s outside and Palmer’s inside at Turns 8-9.

Palmer would peel second off of Schwartz after that, but it was Price that led ’em all home – winning in his PWC debut and giving the Honda Fit its first victory since last year at Toronto. As for Palmer, he continued his impressive work in PWC with his ninth podium in 10 career PWC starts.

NHRA: Antron Brown on verge of earning 50th career Top Fuel win this weekend at Phoenix

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
Leave a comment

When you’re used to winning championships – like three in the previous five seasons – any other season finish is disappointing.

That’s kind of how NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Antron Brown looked at his fourth-place showing in the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

“At the end of the day, we had a very competitive season last year and made it to 10 final rounds,” Brown said. “But we got into the Countdown (NHRA’s six-race playoffs) and our timing was off.

“We struggled with a lot of problems we don’t usually have. Now it’s time for a new chapter for this team and time to get better. This is a new beginning for us and it’s going to be fun and exciting and we’re coming after them.”

Antron Brown hugs the NHRA Top Fuel championship trophy after winning it in 2016. (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire)

Brown had a good start to 2018, reaching the semifinals before losing to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

“We had a great performance at Pomona and I couldn’t be more proud of what our Matco/Toyota guys did,” Brown said. “Now we are going to Phoenix where we’ve won three times (2009, 2012 and 2014, and was runner-up in 2011) and we’ll just try to hit it hard and get a fourth.”

Next up on the NHRA 24-race national event circuit is the second race of the season, this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix (Chandler, Arizona).

Brown has definite plans to make it four wins in Phoenix. And if he does that Sunday, he’ll set a significant career milestone: it would be his 50th career win driving a Top Fueler and the 66th win overall (he won 16 races in Pro Stock Motorcycle before shifting from two to four wheels).

In so doing, Brown would become only the fourth Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to hit the 50-win mark. The others are Tony Schumacher (83), Larry Dixon (62) and Joe Amato (52).

This will be the second time Brown has been racing in Phoenix this month. He was part of the preseason test there for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock cars a week before the season began.

“Testing went really well there,” said Brown, leaving him optimistic that he can reach victory circle once again. “I love going back to Phoenix.”

Brown has been the most dominant driver in NHRA Top Fuel competition since 2012, winning more than twice the number of races (34) than the next most successful Top Fuel driver (16 by Schumacher) in that time period.

He also has a 71 percent overall win percentage, which exceeds both eight-time Top Fuel champ Schumacher and 16-time Funny Car champ John Force.

“I’m just pumped up, feeling like we’ve got some unfinished business from last year,” Brown said. “We had a good outing but didn’t close the deal, so this year, we’re looking forward to getting back there and getting off to a great start.”

NOTES: Brown will serve as honorary pace car driver for the March 4th Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup race at Las Vegas. He’ll be joined by teammates Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett in a weekend full of activities that they’ll all be involved in.

“I’m really excited,” Brown said. “It’s going to be my first experience as a pace car driver, and I’m just super stoked to go out there and drive the Camry pace car for Pennzoil and start those NASCAR boys off the right way. Throttle down, pedal to the metal. I just want them to get off to a great start.”

Brown has won four times at The Strip, the drag strip adjacent to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity,” he said. “It’s an honor to be out there with such talented drivers, and I know I’m going to really enjoy watching our NASCAR counterparts.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski