Pirelli World Challenge: Sonoma results

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GT/GTS

A wild opening lap in Sunday’s GT/GTS Round 13 of the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge at Sonoma Raceway had multiple repercussions upon the championship in both classes.

GT points leader Johnny O’Connell stalled off the start, but was able to get his No. 3 Cadillac Racing CTS-V.R going – only to collide with GTS points leader Jack Baldwin and seven-time PWC champion Peter Cunningham in Turn 5.

O’Connell finished 12th, while teammate Andy Pilgrim led all 27 laps around Sonoma to win the race in GT ahead of Duncan Ende (No. 24 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS) and James Sofronas (No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS). By virtue of his podium finish, Sofronas took over the GT championship lead by 21 points, 1360-1339.

There was a bit of controversy involving second place in GT. Mike Skeen (No. 2 CRP Chevrolet Corvette) took the checkered flag in that position but PWC officials stopped scoring him at Lap 18, as Skeen’s team had ignored requests to serve a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact on the first lap; Skeen was eventually relegated to 11th.

Meanwhile, Baldwin’s opening-lap run-in – which rendered him unable to continue – allowed his rivals to tighten up the GTS championship.

Brandon Davis earned the class win in his No. 27 TRG Aston Martin Vantage GT4, while Lawson Aschenbach (No. 10 Blackdog Chevrolet Camaro) earned his 10th podium finish of the season with a third-place run behind runner-up Andy Lee (No. 20 Chevrolet Camaro).

Aschenbach’s podium allowed him to close within 46 points of Baldwin, 1297-1251, with Mark Wilkins 47 points behind after finishing sixth on Sunday.

TC/TCB

Saturday saw the Touring Car and Touring Car B-Spec classes stage Rounds 11 and 12, and the points leaders in both of those classes – Ryan Winchester in TC and Ernie Francis, Jr. in TCB – bolstered their title bids with weekend sweeps in their categories.

Round 11 saw Winchester take the TC checkered flag by a safe margin, but the final lap in TCB was a thriller between Francis and pole sitter Robbie Davis.

Francis, running second, was able to get a run on Davis going into the Turn 9 chicane. Davis tried to stop Francis from making the inside move come off, but was unable to do so and after a brief run into the dirt for both of them, Francis emerged with the lead and held on to it in the final few corners.

In Round 12, Francis had an easier run to his second TCB win of the weekend, ahead of Tyler Palmer and Joel Lipperini. As for TC, Winchester turned back a charge from teammate Brett Sandberg and led wire-to-wire.

Both Winchester and Francis extended their championship leads, with the former now holding a 297-point edge over Sandberg (1452-1155) in TC, and the latter now up 81 points on Davis (1322-1241) in TCB.

NBCSN will air the Pirelli World Challenge races from Sonoma on Sunday, Sept. 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).