Photo: CJ Wilson Racing

IMSA: CJ Wilson set to drive in Porsche GT3 Cup

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For years, CJ Wilson has more or less joked that he’s a race car driver with a Major League Baseball pitcher’s frame. Being a left-hander has its benefits.

Wilson’s racing career though has been limited to occasional tests and running at the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill at December in recent years.

That is set to change this year, with Wilson confirming during IMSA Radio’s coverage of night practice for the Rolex 24 at Daytona that he’ll be driving himself within the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama in one of Porsche’s newer 991-spec GT3 Cup cars. The entry has partnered with Porsche of Fresno for the effort.

The CJ Wilson Racing team principal formalized his racing relationship last year with the premiere of two Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsports in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS class, a step up to the top category of the series after winning the ST class championship with Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer in a Mazda MX-5 in 2015.

That Cayman GT4 program continues this year for its second season, but this announcement formalizes Wilson’s long-stated desire to expand his team into additional championships.

“The time is now, really,” Wilson told NBC Sports in a recent interview. “We’ve been looking at expanding into Porsche GT3 Cup for a while now, and we’ve been working really for Danny (Burkett) to put together a Canada Cup program. As a younger guy, he needs to continue to get challenged by higher-power cars. If he’s in a Cup car, that helps him for his steps forward sooner rather than later.

“With Danny and I talking, we saw GT3 Cup was good. I’ve wanted to go there for a while. Porsche has come out with the second-gen 991, and I’ll be testing it and racing it as well.”

Wilson expanded on how valuable a Porsche GT3 Cup car can be beyond just a North American standpoint.

“That’s what I’ve wanted to do for some time,” Wilson said. “(Porsche) really has the ultimate customer program. You can put anyone in one of those cars, and stick them in a race in so many possible series – Pirelli World Challenge, IMSA, Porsche Club, NASA, SCCA. Or you could be more ambitious and run Bathurst, or Spa, or any historic race.

“Let’s look forward to having this car and keeping it as an asset, and maybe travel with it to Europe or Bathurst. There will be one-off races in the States; I think there’s an eight-hour at (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca), and possibly another endurance race at COTA.

“If the COTA thing comes to fruition, I have to do to that race. Say if you’re running an endurance race there – Circuit of The Americas is the best track in America – and if it’s 2 in the morning and you want a taco, you can go get a taco! You’d be racing cars, listening to some music and eating a taco.”

Food aside, it’s the passion of driving that is fueling this planned transition for Wilson, as he winds down his professional MLB career. He recently participated in a brand video for Porsche (linked below), and it also in the process of ramping up his automotive business interests.

“You have to feel it… you feel this urgency and the danger, precision, emotion that comes with it,” Wilson said. “When a team like Toyota loses at Le Mans, it’s super painful.

“But that’s what racing is. That’s what sports are about – that human triumph and effort level. I’m really excited to get the racing season going, but I’m super nervous to actually drive.”

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).