PWC: Title battles intensify as series heads for streets of Toronto

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While open-wheel racing will take up the majority of time on the streets of Toronto this weekend, the Pirelli World Challenge is also in action with a doubleheader for the GT, GT-A and GTS classes. Rounds 9 and 10 of the season occur Saturday and Sunday; they’ll air Sunday, August 10 on NBCSN at 1:30 p.m. ET.

In GT, Johnny O’Connell has won three of four street races this season in his No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R. The defending class champion is also the defending race winner in Toronto.

Others who’ve podiumed on the street courses this year include Johnny O’s Cadillac Racing teammate Andy Pilgrim, Anthony Lazzaro in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 and Andrew Palmer in the No. 21 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra. Lazzaro’s teammate, Nick Mancuso in the No. 16 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, also has a GT-A podium on street courses but hasn’t achieved one in GT yet this year.

Those five, plus Butch Leitzinger (Bentley), Road America double winner Mike Skeen (CRP Audi), and guest drivers Nick Tandy (EFFORT Porsche) and Kuno Wittmer (Dodge Viper SRT) will also be some to watch.

The GT-A battle is wide open with five drivers having won a race this year and only Brazilian Marcelo Hahn bagging more than one victory. There are 12 cars entered this weekend.

GTS is also wide open with Kia Racing/Kinetic Motorsports teammates Nic Jonsson (No. 36 DonorsChoose.org Kia Optima) and Mark Wilkins (No. 38 PutOnTheBrakes.org Kia Optima) are separated by only a single point in the championship entering the weekend. Others who should figure into the equation are the other two street course winners this year, Lawson Aschenbach (St. Petersburg) and Dean Martin (Detroit), and veteran Jack Baldwin in the No. 73 RESET-MD Porsche Cayman S.

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Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.