O’Connell claims PWC GT title in dramatic fashion

Johnny O'Connell. Photo: Cadillac Racing
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MONTEREY, Calif. – Johnny O’Connell entered the Pirelli World Challenge season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a 26-point lead and has ended it with a 61-point lead over title rival Olivier Beretta to claim his fourth straight GT class championship.

Yet that points gain does not tell the story of what was a dramatic, tense, action-packed 20th and final race.

While the pair of NGT Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3s dominated the race – Alessandro Balzan winning from Alessandro Pier Guidi – the story of the title came down to O’Connell and Beretta, after Beretta had cleanly driven from 12th place up to fourth in the 50-minute race.

On Lap 25, Beretta made a passing attempt of O’Connell at the Corkscrew, with O’Connell concerned the damage would be too much to knock him out of the race.

Beretta seemed to poise to seize the title at that point, but was issued a drive-through penalty from Race Control for avoidable contact.

Beretta then retired at Turn 11 with just over five minutes remaining, and O’Connell’s title was secured, despite a 12th place finish.

In the race, Balzan beat Pier Guidi, Ryan Dalziel, Andy Pilgrim and Michael Lewis. Eric Lux (GT) and Colin Thompson (GT Cup) claimed additional class victories.

The title for O’Connell marks his fourth consecutive championship in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing entry, although first in the first year of the new FIA GT3-spec Cadillac ATS-V.R.

Frankie Montecalvo (GTA) and Thompson (GTC) secured the other class titles.

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change