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PWC: Champions crowned, 2017 dates confirmed

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Beyond the Pirelli World Challenge championship in GT being decided in favor of Alvaro Parente, K-PAX Racing and McLaren on Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, there were several other championships and awards confirmed during Sunday night’s awards ceremony in Monterey.

Here’s a quick rundown of champions and awards confirmed over the weekend:

GT Driver’s Champion – ALVARO PARENTE, Porto, Portugal
GTA Driver’s Champion – MARTIN FUENTES, Mexico City, Mexico
GT Cup Driver’s Champion – ALEC UDELL, The Woodlands, Texas
GTS Driver’s Champion – BRETT SANDBERG, Allendale, N.J.
Touring Car Driver’s Champion – TOBY GRAHOVEC, Little Elm, Texas
Touring Car A Driver’s Champion – ELIVAN GOULART, Shelton, Conn.
Touring Car B Driver’s Champion – TOM O’GORMAN, Mason, Ohio
SprintX GT Sportsman Driver’s Champion – MICHAEL MILLS, Houston, Texas
SprintX GTS Sportsman Driver’s Champion – MAX RIDDLE, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

GT Manufacturer’s Champion – McLAREN
GTS Manufacturer’s Champion – FORD PERFORMANCE
Touring Car Manufacturer’s Champion – MAZDA
Touring Car A Manufacturer’s Champion – MAZDA

GT Team Champion – K-PAX RACING
GT Cup Team Champion – GMG MOTORSPORTS
Touring Car Team Champion – CLASSIC BMW MOTORSPORTS
Touring Car A Team Champion – S.A.C. RACING
Touring Car B Team Champion – HALE MOTORSPORTS

GT/GTA Crew of the Year – SCUDERIA CORSA
GT Cup Crew of the Year – CALVERT DYNAMICS
Touring Car Crew of the Year – BERG RACING
Touring Car A Crew of the Year – S.A.C. RACING
Touring Car B Crew of the Year – BLACK ARMOR HELMETS

Zimmerman Cup Crew Award – IAN WILLIS, AIM MOTORSPORTS
Jim Cook Award (Contributor to PWC) – TONY GAPLES, BLACKDOG SPEED SHOP
VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger of the Year – NATE STACY Clean Pass of the Year – PATRICK LONG
Special Recognition Award – JERRY RUSSETT

Doling out the awards wasn’t the only thing on PWC’s docket this week. Additionally, the series also formally confirmed Utah Motorsports Campus (August 11-13) and Sonoma Raceway (Sept. 15-17) as the expected fill-ins for the TBA rounds. The provisional 2017 schedule was released and explained in July.

PWC’s GT single-driver sprint events will occur at the five shared IndyCar weekends, with St. Petersburg, Road America, Mid-Ohio and Sonoma having double races and Long Beach a single race.

All eight PWC categories will be in action at the PWC standalone weekends.

There will also be five live TV races on CBS Sports Network, the series announced.

The Pirelli World Challenge finale again will take place at the famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a unique weekend set for racers and fans on Oct. 13-15. Working in conjunction with the popular European-based SRO Blancpain GT Series, the SRO Motorsports Group Intercontinental GT Challenge will include an eight-hour GT endurance contest with GT3 machines. The PWC classes for MRLS will be announced soon.

“After a successful 2016 season including 127 entries in the season finale last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, we are pleased with the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge schedule,” said Greg Gill, president and CEO of WC Vision. “There are a few remaining contracts and venue details to be worked out. We will work through those details in the coming days.”

The full schedule is below:

2017 Pirelli World Challenge Schedule

Date              Track 
March 10-12       Streets of St. Petersburg  
April 7-9         Streets of Long Beach               
April 28-30       Virginia International Raceway 
May 19-21         Canadian Tire Motorsport Park     
May 26-27         Lime Rock Park             
June 23-25        Road America  
July 28-30        Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course    
August 11-13      Utah Motorsports Campus      
September 1-3     Circuit of the Americas (COTA) 
September 15-17   Sonoma Raceway     
October 13-15     Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 
                  (With SRO International GT Challenge)

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.