Photo courtesy of IMSA

Christina Nielsen joins Wright Motorsports in IMSA for 2018 

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Two-time defending IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona class champion Christina Nielsen will shift to Wright Motorsports for 2018, and co-drive with 2017 Pirelli World Challenge GT champion Patrick Long in a Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan were the hallmark of consistency en route to consecutive GTD titles with Scuderia Corsa in 2016 and 2017. Wright, meanwhile, captured the Pirelli World Challenge overall and Sprint GT championships with Patrick Long this past season.

With Scuderia Corsa opting to go a different direction for its driver lineup in 2018, it left Nielsen a free agent, and a chance to return to her Porsche roots from IMSA’s Porsche GT3 Cup USA series (among others) with a championship-winning outfit is an excellent one.

“I am really looking forward to being back in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship and I’m absolutely thrilled that we’ve come up with such a strong combination with Wright Motorsports and Porsche,” Nielsen said. “I’ve had a great run for the last three years, but it won’t be easy to do what I’ve already done. For me the biggest thing is to go into 2018 without relying on any previous results. We’ll start from scratch beginning with Daytona and go from there.

“I’m also really looking forward to being back with Porsche. I’ve known John Wright since 2014 when I raced against him in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge. We’ve always tried to put something together, but there was never the right opportunity. Luckily an opportunity came up for 2018 and we were there to both grab it. I know I’ll be working with some very experienced and competent people who know what it takes and I can’t wait for the season to start.”

Photo: PWC

Wright has past IMSA WeatherTech Championship experience, but withdrew from full-time competition midway through the 2015 season. Wright has specialized in Porsche running in the Porsche GT3 Cup USA Challenge by Yokohama, with a multi-car effort annually.

“I am very pleased to have this great opportunity come together in such a short time. It is a tremendous opportunity to be heading back into the endurance racing arena with such a strong program. In my experience, I haven’t seen too many driver combination better to compete for a championship than what I think we will see in Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen,” he said.

“I’m also very happy to have Patrick back for the 2018 season” continued Wright. “Coming off this year’s championships, our momentum could not be stronger than it is now. I am looking forward to working with Christina and seeing her back behind the wheel of a Porsche. We have tried to make something happen in the past, but due to different circumstances we were never able to pull anything together. The stars have aligned to make it possible for this year and hopefully years to come.”

Nielsen’s shift to Wright follows the two title-winning years at Scuderia Corsa, and after her first full season with TRG-AMR in 2015. Wins at the 2016 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen were highlights, and she and Balzan won last year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to finally break through after an earlier season run of six consecutive podium finishes.

This separate team announcement comes on the same day and evening as Porsche’s Night of Champions, held in Germany.

‘One and Only’ Kyle Larson wins Outlaws opener at Knoxville Raceway

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Paul Arch/World of Outlaws
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The magic of dirt racing wins for Kyle Larson continued Thursday night at Knoxville Raceway, where he scored his third consecutive World of Outlaws victory at the famed half-mile track to open “The One and Only.”

After starting 10th, Larson sliced through the field and passed pole-sitter Logan Schuchart to lead the final eight laps in the No. 57 of car owner Paul Silva.

“Just an awesome race,” Larson said after earning $10,000 for his second consecutive NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victory (after winning at Pevely, Missouri, last Saturday), his sixth Outlaws victory this season and 14th of his career.

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“I was able to track Logan down and hit the bottom really well in (turns) 1 and 2 and got a run on him.  It felt like I needed to take advantage of that before we got to heavier traffic and slid him and felt some contact. So, glad to see him not in the wall or anything like that. Just, hard work there. Heartbeat is up again.”

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Kyle Larson scored his sixth World of Outlaws victory Thursday (Trent Gower/World of Outlaws).

It was the fourth Knoxville victory this year for Larson, who swept a World of Outlaws doubleheader weekend June 12-13 at the Sprint Car Captial of the World. He has more than 30 victories this year in sprint cars and midgets.

The One and Only continues Friday night with another $10,000 feature race that will set the starting lineup for Saturday’s Brownells Capitani Classic, which pays $50,000 to win.

The event is the Outlaws’ richest purse of 2020 and subs in for the annual Knoxville Nationals, which was canceled for COVID-19 concerns. Larson, a two-time Knoxville Nationals runner-up, has said winning The One and Only would be on the same as Knoxville’s signature event because of its tough three-day format.

Through the first of three nights, Schuchart and Larson are tied for second in The One and Only points standings, which factor in qualifying, heats, dash and feature races. Aaron Reutzel, an All Star Circuit of Champions stalwart who finished third Thursday, leads with 430 points.

A crash in Thursday’s 25-lap feature eliminated past Outlaws champions Brad Sweet and Donny Schatz after Cory Eliason spun in front of Sweet in Turn 1 to start the wreck, which also collected Sweet’s teammate, James McFadden. Sweet and Schatz finished outside the top 20, which moved Schuchart into the points lead for the 2020 season.

Schuchart still seemed slightly miffed after finishing second to Larson.

“As the race went on, I felt like I wasn’t hitting my marks as good,” he said. “I would have liked to of had a little bit better of a race with Kyle there. I wish his slide job was a little better there, but he’s got a reputation to live up to. That’s where you let other people make the rules and maybe we’ll get him next time.”


RESULTS

NOS Energy Drink Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 57-Kyle Larson [10]; 2. 1S-Logan Schuchart [1]; 3. 87-Aaron Reutzel [2]; 4. 2-Carson Macedo [24]; 5. 41-David Gravel [6]; 6. 21-Brian Brown [7]; 7. 71-Spencer Bayston [3]; 8. 18-Gio Scelzi [15]; 9. 12N-Joey Saldana [5]; 10. 5-Ian Madsen [19]; 11. 17A-Austin McCarl [21]; 12. 1A-Jacob Allen [11]; 13. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [16]; 14. 7S-Jason Sides [20]; 15. 24-Rico Abreu [22]; 16. 4-Terry McCarl [13]; 17. 2KS-Brooke Tatnell [18]; 18. O9-Matt Juhl [23]; 19. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [25]; 20. 83-Daryn Pittman [9]; 21. 11K-Kraig Kinser [17]; 22. 15-Donny Schatz [8]; 23. 26-Cory Eliason [4]; 24. 49-Brad Sweet [12]; 25. 9-James McFadden [14]; Lap Leaders: Logan Schuchart 1-17, Kyle Larson 18-25; KSE Hard Charger Award: 2-Carson Macedo[+20]

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Kyle Larson celebrated with his family and team after the first night of The One and Only (Trent Gower/World of Outlaws).