No. 58 Porsche led the PWC field in 2017. Photo: PWC

PWC: List of 2017 champions following Monterey

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This weekend saw not just the California 8 Hours, the Intercontinental GT Challenge round held in the U.S. that featured predominately Pirelli World Challenge teams, but also the final two rounds (four races) for PWC’s three Touring Car classes, thus bringing an end to those seasons as well. PWC wrapped its SprintX season at Circuit of The Americas on Labor Day weekend, and its Sprint season for the GT and GTS classes at Sonoma two weeks later in mid-September.

World Challenge has, in recent years, evolved from a purely sprint series with only two classes to a combination sprint and semi-endurance series that has added a wealth of classes and quality drivers, teams and manufacturers along with them.

Here’s a rundown of champions, with final standings listed next to the class. No, everyone doesn’t get a trophy, but there was a significant trophy budget factored into the 2017 season:

OVERALL (Sprint and SprintX combination)

The Wright Motorsports team. Photo: PWC

Patrick Long’s combined results from the Sprint and SprintX races netted him the overall PWC title this season. The Californian and Porsche’s lone factory driver co-drove with Joerg Bergmeister in the SprintX rounds save for Lime Rock Park, when Marc Lieb filled in as Bergmeister was on another assignment. After winning the 2011 GT title, Long called this 2017 title sweeter because of the enhanced competition he and Wright Motorsports beat.

  • Drivers: Patrick Long, No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R; Manufacturer: Porsche

SPRINT (GT and GTS)

Aschenbach’s Camaro ended ahead of Ian James’ Panoz in GTS. Photo: PWC

While Long also captured the Sprint title at Sonoma, other champs of note here include PWC veteran Sofronas in GTA and his customer Kurtz in GTSA, and Aschenbach with his fifth PWC title (three in GTS, joining 2013 and 2014 titles with Blackdog in previous generation Camaros, along with one GT and one TC title).

  • GT: DriversPatrick Long, No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R; Team: Wright Motorsports
  • GTA: DriversJames Sofronas, No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
  • GT Cup: DriversYuki Harata, No. 55 Dream Racing Competition Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2; Team: Dream Racing Competition
  • GTS: Drivers: Lawson Aschenbach, No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R; Team: Blackdog Speed Shop; Manufacturer: Chevrolet
  • GTSA: Drivers: George Kurtz, No. 04 GMG Racing McLaren 570S GT4

SPRINT (TC, TCA, TCB)

Holton and the C360R Audi won PWC TC title this year. Photo: PWC

Success here for two stalwart drivers and one stalwart team within PWC. Holton and Groenke used to be teammates with Shea Racing in 2014 in TCB, with Shea Holbrook’s team serving as their starting point and place of development before they have grown since. Holton, who now races with Karl Thomson’s successful C360R outfit in both PWC and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge – and has won races in both – brought home the TC crown in a new Audi this year, while Groenke’s perseverance was rewarded after years of near-misses in TCB, in that class’ last year. Fassnacht ensured Mazda didn’t go home empty-handed this year, with the TCA title.

  • TC: DriversPaul Holton, No. 71 C360R Audi RS3 LMS; Team: C360R; Manufacturer: BMW
  • TCA: DriversMatthew Fassnacht, No. 74 S.A.C. Racing Mazda Global MX-5 Cup; Team: S.A.C. Racing; Manufacturer: Mazda
  • TCB: DriversP.J. Groenke, No. 25 Tech Sport Racing Chevrolet Sonic; Team: Tech Sport Racing

SPRINTX (GT and GTS)

Taylor and Cooper. Photo: Richard Prince/Cadillac Racing

In the SprintX series, the Taylor/Cooper combination ensured Cadillac got another title to add to its sterling resume in PWC before the manufacturer announced its departure at the end of the year. Sofronas and Harata, meanwhile, won titles in both Sprint and SprintX formats this year.

  • GT: Pro/ProJordan Taylor, Michael Cooper, No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R; Team: Cadillac Racing
  • GT: Pro/AmJames Sofronas, No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
  • GT: Am/AmHenrique Cisneros, No. 30 MOMO NGT Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 (GT Sportsman Cup)
  • GT Cup: Pro/AmAlessandro Bressan, Yuki Harata, No. 55 Dream Racing Competition Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2; Team: Dream Racing Competition
  • GT Cup: Am/AmJoe Toussaint, Corey Friedman, No. 90 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
  • GTS: Pro/AmAdam Merzon, Trent Hindman, No. 017 Case-it Racing Porsche GT4 Cayman Clubsport; Manufacturer: Porsche
  • GTS: Am/AmGreg Liefooghe, Aristotle Balogh, No. 019 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M3 E46; Team: Stephen Cameron Racing

Kyle Busch happy with first stint: ‘Put me in the car, there’s excitement!’

AP Photo/Terry Renna
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Rolex 24 at Daytona debut of the “KB Show” was cut short by a strategy maneuver but still delivered drama and a positive result.

Kyle Busch got the No. 14 RCF GT3 Lexus back on the lead lap and back in contention for a GTD victory at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was good,” Kyle Busch said with a broad smile after a 42-minute stint. “Just, uh, shit, put me in the car, and there’s excitement around! Drove all my way back to the lead lap and everything.

“Overall, we’ve had a good experience and hell I only got one stint in, so I’m ready for more. Sign me up, coach!”

The two-time Cup champion was expected to drive for at least 90 minutes, but the first full-course caution of the race (with 19 hours and 16 minutes remaining) caused AIM Vasser Sullivan to change up its drive plan. Busch was called to the pits in favor of Parker Chase.

“With all the strategy and the way the wave-bys work here, it’s quite different than what we’re accustomed to (in NASCAR),” said Busch, who likely will drive longer now later in the race. “That wasn’t bad. To get ourselves back on the lead lap and back to a position where we can start scrapping again hopefully is what we needed.

“So I got one stint in, but I’m trying to save myself and (teammate) Jack (Hawksworth) for a little later.”

Busch climbed into the car shortly after 6 p.m. as the last of the No. 14’s four drivers. He complained a few times on his radio about traffic, which he said was his biggest challenge.

“There were a couple of instances we ran down a smaller car, and (it was) just mirror driving in front of us,” he said. “That was pretty bad. We lost probably 2 seconds on that. Overall, I guess that’s road racing.

The yellow flag was exactly what Busch’s team needed after being forced to start from the rear of the field when it missed qualifying because of an engine change. Hawksworth, who started the race, said the car was “quick in the wrong places and slow in the right places” after struggling with handling and speed in the first stint.

“I don’t feel we’re out of it,” Hawksworth said. “It’s a very long race. Still early days. We need to work on having speed for the end of the race. The position right now doesn’t really make any difference. We’ll need to find some performance at the end of the race to fight for the win.”