St. Petersburg notes: PWC, MRTI triple-dips heading into Sunday


ST. PETERSBURG – While the Verizon IndyCar Series season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the headliner this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, it’s not the only event occurring on the 1.8-mile street course – far from it.

Through Saturday, there have already been seven total races, three apiece from the Pirelli World Challenge and Mazda Road to Indy, and one from the Stadium Super Trucks (won by Sheldon Creed). Here’s some quick recaps of the trifectas:


The opening GT/GTA/GT Cup presented by MOMO race of two, held earlier Saturday, was marred by a 25-minute caution to open the race following a multi-car pileup off the standing start. Then it ended under yellow after another crash in the final 10 minutes (all drivers were released after the accidents).

In the interim time of the 50-minute race, Ryan Eversley seized his moment to deliver a popular first GT win for both himself and RealTime Racing’s new Acura TLX-GT.

Eversley qualified on pole in wet conditions on Friday, held the lead off the line, survived a mid-race attack from his first name namesake Ryan Dalziel in the green conditions, and crossed the line under yellow for the win. It comes on Acura’s 29th anniversary in the U.S., to the day, and a day after Eversley’s father’s birthday.

Eversley leads the podium. Photo: Pirelli World Challenge

“The thing that concerned me the most going into the race was the standing start,” Eversley told MotorSportsTalk. “We only had a short amount of practice time, and the two starts I did in practice I wasn’t really happy with. It turned out, my car has a software update, like my iPhone! We changed a few things.

“When lights went out I let the clutch out, easy, and the launch control took over. I saw (Kevin) Estre in my mirrors. The most common thing people do is overshoot their brake zone going into (Turn) 1, so I broke early, and they caught up. It immediately went yellow.

“On the restart, I could see Dalziel’s eyes! That kid put the older HPD on the front row at Sebring last week. He’s one of the fastest guys I could think to race. I’m living my dream this weekend.”

Michael Lewis (EFFORT Racing) and Phill Fogg Jr. (TruSpeed Autosport) were GTA/GT Cup class winners on the day.

The two GTS races, held on Friday and Saturday, respectively, saw utter domination by the Ford Mustang Boss 302 brand. Dean Martin took Friday’s win with Spencer Pumpelly, an endurance racing veteran making a one-off weekend return to Pirelli World Challenge, taking Saturday’s and matching Eversley as another Atlanta-area native who won.

“They appeared to go two wide, Dean drifted out wide. They moved out with the momentum, and I knew that hole would be open. We’ll chalk it up to a little bit of luck,” Pumpelly said of his win.

“Man I just had a blast driving this car and this series. I had a good time this weekend. As a driver I love endurance racing.  But this is a different world of sports car racing, a lot of similarities. I’ll remember this weekend for a very long time; this win is up there with a bunch of others.”


Each of the three divisions on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – had their season-openers on Saturday. A full breakdown of the Indy Lights race can be found here.

Eidson en route to win. Photo: USF2000

Both Jake Eidson (USF2000, Pabst Racing) and Neil Alberico (Pro Mazda, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) dominated their respective races. Eidson drove for Cape in USF2000 last year, and enjoyed a perfect start to his Pabst career with a flag-to-flag win from pole in the 18-lap race. Cape’s pair of Aaron Telitz and Nico Jamin completed the podium.

“You couldn’t really ask for much more!” Eidson said. “The Pabst team did a lot of work in the offseason to make sure we had the best opportunity to win. The yellows made it interesting – when you’re leading, you never want to see the safety car, you’d rather keep the gap as long as you can.”

In Pro Mazda, Alberico scored his first career series win after coming close but no cigar in 2014. The Californian beat Santiago Urrutia (Team Pelfrey) and Florian Latorre (Cape); both made their series debuts in this race.

“Half the battle on a street course is qualifying. We qualified first, so that’s half the work already done,” Alberico said. “Then it’s just a matter of keeping your head down and running a clean race, and that’s what we did.”


PWC GT/GTA/GT Cup has their second race of the weekend, Round 4 on the season, on tap for Sunday with each of the Mazda Road to Indy divisions also in action once again on Sunday.

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”