PWC: 50 cars set for a busy Barber weekend

Photo: PWC

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Following a somewhat hectic weekend at Long Beach, even despite limited track time, the Pirelli World Challenge heads to Barber Motorsports Park this weekend for a copious amount of track time and a pair of doubleheader events.

After just the GT/GTA classes raced at Long Beach, GT Cup rejoins the GT/GTA ranks this weekend and the GTS class is back as well for a pair of races.

In the GT class, Alvaro Parente heads to Barber seeking to actually win his first race on course, after winning at Long Beach following a post-race penalty assessed to Johnny O’Connell.

Parente is one of the three K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3s, along with Austin Cindric and Colin Thompson. Parente is in the same No. 9 McLaren that won race two here last year, then driven by Kevin Estre, in a 1-2 finish for the team that features the Flying Lizard Motorsports crew.

Cindric’s No. 6 McLaren is repaired after suffering damage on three quarters from his accident at Long Beach, when he got hip-checked at Turn 8 by James Sofronas.

Meanwhile O’Connell looks for a double bit of redemption in his Velocity Red No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R, both following Long Beach and at this event. The Long Beach penalty cost O’Connell his second win of the season; meanwhile the second race last year, O’Connell’s Cadillac suffered a blaze and required the use of another chassis for the next race weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

O’Connell leads Michael Lewis by 41 points (458-417); Lewis, the double St. Petersburg winner, looks for wins three and four in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. O’Connell’s teammate Michael Cooper is third in points with Parente and Patrick Long completing the top five in points. James Davison also won here last year in the No. 33 Always Evolving Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, but lost all points following a post-race technical infraction.

Others to watch in GT: Bryan Heitkotter, Davison’s teammate at Always Evolving, in a repaired No. 05 Nissan, and Jon Fogarty, whose GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team has needed to perform a minor miracle on its No. 99 McLaren 650S GT3 to get it here and running.

Martin Fuentes and Sloan Urry look to continue respective win streaks in GTA and GTC, respectively.

Elsewhere in those two classes, a handful of drivers return to GTA for the first time since COTA in March, Alec Udell has a new paint scheme on his GMG entry in GTC and Corey Fergus has a new chassis in GTC after his St. Petersburg accident.

The GTS class features a 23-car field and beyond the three race winners this season (Lawson Aschenbach, Blackdog Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R, Brett Sandberg, ANSA KTM X-BOW GT4 and Jack Roush Jr., Roush Ford Mustang Boss 302), others to watch include Ginetta driver Parker Chase and SIN driver Jade Buford, the latter of whom makes his car debut this weekend.

The full entry list is linked here.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)