PWC: Road America beckons as thoughts for Palmer continue

Photo: PWC/K-PAX Racing

The show goes on for Pirelli World Challenge this weekend at Road America, which is back with its full complement of seven classes a month after its races at Lime Rock Park.

This weekend for PWC is its third straight last weekend in June event at Road America, but its third different type of event.

In 2014, the series returned to Road America after a several-year hiatus, as part of the NASCAR Xfinity Series (then called Nationwide Series) weekend. It rained a bit but the PWC races got in just fine.

Last year, this was a PWC feature weekend, with Maserati GranTurismo MCs entered in a support race.

Now, without calling PWC a “support race,” it’s now part of the Verizon IndyCar Series weekend – and as such, it doesn’t get the best time slots for its races. The Touring Car classes in particular get the short shrift, with Thursday at 4 and Friday at 6 their race times. There’s one GT and one GTS race apiece on Saturday and Sunday each.

There’s still 97 cars entered for the weekend across the seven classes.

It’s two cars that aren’t entered though, whose drivers likely will be on the thoughts and minds of the paddock: Andrew Palmer and Jorge de la Torre.

Both are recovering following their devastating accident at Lime Rock. While de la Torre was recently released from the hospital and will continue his rehabilitation in Texas, there has been little to no news on Palmer’s status.

Simply put, we continue to wish the best for both – Palmer in particular – as the paddock likely will do too this weekend in its first race event since Lime Rock.

Points-wise, in GT, just 24 points separate Alvaro Parente and Patrick Long, who combined have swept the last four races in May.

Parente, in the No. 9 K-PAX McLaren 650S GT3 that has a Flying Lizard Motorsports technical partnership, won both at Lime Rock after Long, in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, won both at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Four lackluster races have resigned the pair of Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.Rs to third and fourth in points although with a pre-Road America boost addition from 6000 to north of 8000 rpms, it could be a case where Johnny O’Connell and Michael Cooper get back on form this weekend.

Acura, meanwhile, is hit with a boost reduction from 4000 to north of 7000 rpms on its pair of G3-homologated Acura TLX-GTs. Both Ryan Eversley and team principal/driver Peter Cunningham, the latter of whom returns after graciously giving up his chassis for Eversley at Lime Rock with Eversley’s damaged at CTMP, will still look to shine this weekend on RealTime’s home turf, and with “PD’s” 25th annual Chicken Roast on the Friday among the weekend highlights.

Kyle Marcelli moved into fifth in points after two podiums at Lime Rock in his No. 2 CRP Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra and James Davison, who one won of three races at Road America last year (a Detroit canceled race was added on Friday), could be poised for success and his first win of the year in the No. 33 Always Evolving Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3. Same could be true for Davison’s teammate Bryan Heitkotter, who’s eighth in points in the No. 05 Nisan.

The emotional favorite, perhaps, would be Palmer’s teammate Adderly Fong in the lone No. 88 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3. Fong has finished fourth on two occasions and the Bentley has shown well at Road America each of the last two years.

Young guns are also interesting to note – Austin Cindric looks for success here (good feature from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Dave Kallmann on him here) along with fellow K-PAX teammate Colin Thompson, while Michael Lewis makes a welcome return to the series in a second Calvert Dynamics Porsche, with support from CURB Records among others. Meanwhile sports car veterans Andrew Davis (Calvert Porsche), Jon Fogarty (GAINSCO McLaren), James Sofronas (GMG Porsche) and Michael McCann (Viper), the latter of whom makes his first PWC start in eight years, round out the 17-car GT grid.

In the other classes…

  • Martin Fuentes has won eight of 11 GTA races and holds a commanding points lead.
  • Alec Udell and Sloan Urry are tied for the GT Cup lead (1054 apiece) so whoever emerges ahead of those two will take a momentum run going to Mid-Ohio.
  • GTS is a three-horse race between Lawson Aschenbach in the venerable Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R up against two GT4 car drivers, Brett Sandberg in the ANSA Motorsports KTM X-BOW GT4 and Parker Chase in the PMG Ginetta GT4. Aschenbach leads the standings, 884 to 835 over Sandberg with Chase a further seven points back on 828.
  • TC points leaders heading into Road America are Toby Grahovec (TC), Elivan Goulart (TCA) and Will Rogers (TCB).

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.