Preview: Showcase weekend ahead for Indy Lights, TUDOR and PWC at Long Beach

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Beyond the headlining Verizon IndyCar Series’ Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Long Beach also hosts several other major race events.

While the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, drifting competition and Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks are also on the docket, we’ll provide quick previews of the other three championships we primarily cover on MotorSportsTalk, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge, racing at Long Beach this weekend:

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Photo: Carlin

INDY LIGHTS (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SDD)

A 12-car field isn’t exactly what the doctor ordered for Indy Lights’ second marquee event of the year, beyond the Freedom 100, but there’s still one key storyline heading into Long Beach: Carlin vs. the world.

Trevor Carlin’s squad left no doubt of its ability after a dominant double win on American debut in St. Petersburg, with Ed Jones winning both races flag-to-flag from pole. At St. Petersburg, they were welcomed with open arms. However, the rest of the field will be shooting for both Jones and Max Chilton, who have a clear target on their back this weekend.

This is a big weekend for American rookie Spencer Pigot, a Mazda Road to Indy veteran who will finally have the chance to make his Long Beach track debut with Juncos Racing. Pigot spent four years combined in USF2000 and Pro Mazda, but neither championship saw the Team USA Scholarship winner compete at what is essentially the MRTI home track – Mazda headquarters are based in nearby Irvine, and Team USA Scholarship founder Jeremy Shaw is a longtime California resident. Pigot’s a Floridian but no doubt appreciates the magnitude of Long Beach, and either he or teammate Kyle Kaiser would be keen to win this weekend.

Jack Harvey will lead the Schmidt Peterson quartet, with the likable Englishman looking to improve upon his pair of runner-up finishes in St. Petersburg. Teammates RC Enerson, Ethan Ringel and Scott Anderson will look to improve upon midlevel weekends in St. Petersburg.

The final four in the field – Andretti Autosport’s Matthew Brabham and Shelby Blackstock, and Belardi Auto Racing’s Felix Serralles and Juan Piedrahita – enter as relative underdogs, although Brabham will no doubt be keen to improve upon a tough St. Pete weekend in another one-off appearance.

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Photo: IMSA

TUDOR CHAMPIONSHIP (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, IMSA.com)

The TUDOR Championship heads to the streets of Long Beach for the second time, but the 10th time overall based on predecessor history. GRAND-AM ran for one year in 2006 before the first ALMS race occurred there in 2007, and ran until 2013.

Noteworthy here is the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing entry going for its third consecutive win at Long Beach, albeit spread over that 10-year period. Scott Pruett won with Luis Diaz in 2006, and with Memo Rojas last year; he’ll have a chance to make it a three-peat with fellow Californian Joey Hand in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford on Saturday.

Elsewhere Action Express Racing has finished every lap thus far in TUDOR Championship competition since the series’ inception at the 2014 Rolex 24; that’s now north of 10,000 miles in an impressive achievement. Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa always pack a punch in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP.

The Taylor brothers will also be ones to watch, while both the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda and DeltaWing will make their track debuts. The latter car has Rojas and Katherine Legge on board; Legge won her first U.S. race in 2005 at Long Beach in Formula Atlantic.

Besides the nine Prototypes, eight GT Le Mans cars make up the balance of the field. A pre-race BoP change may negate Corvette Racing’s fuel strategy advantage achieved at Sebring; nonetheless, Corvette always finds a way to persevere. Meanwhile Porsche, Ferrari and BMW look to break up the reign of dominance from Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, who have won the opening two races in their No. 3 Corvette C7.R.

source:  PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, world-challengetv.com)

With no less than 40 cars expected, Pirelli World Challenge packs a veritable smorgasbord of FIA GT3-spec car awesomeness in Sunday afternoon’s “Roar by the Shore” presented by Replay xd.

Thus far Olivier Beretta (R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) has won twice, with Kevin Estre (K-PAX Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports McLaren 650S GT3) and Ryan Eversley (RealTime Racing Acura TLX-GT) securing the other two wins. Johnny O’Connell enters this race as defending race winner and will look to repeat in the team’s new Cadillac ATS-V.R. Ryan Dalziel is also a strong win contender in his EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Beyond those five there’s still other win contenders.

The GTA subcategory has seen Dalziel’s teammate Michael Lewis dominate thus far with three wins from four starts, although DragonSpeed’s trio of Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3s are also threatening. Christina Nielsen (TRG-AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3), Bryan Heitkotter (AE Nissan GT Academy Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3) and Henrique Cisneros (MOMO NGT Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) are three others to watch in GTA.

GT Cup presented by MOMO thus far has also seen one driver win three races, in the form of Colin Thompson. Sloan Urry and Lorenzo Trefethen have also been close to winning, with Phil Fogg Jr. adding the other win this year.

More important for PWC even more than showcasing its diversity of machinery is keeping their single race clean. Cautions dominated the afternoon both Saturday and Sunday in St. Petersburg, with more than half of the 100 minutes of racing under yellow flag conditions there due to accidents. If even 40 of 50 minutes are green at Long Beach, that will be deemed a success.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.