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.

Report: Spencer Pigot out at Ed Carpenter Racing

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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Spencer Pigot will not return to Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020, according to a story Thursday by RACER.com.

The 26-year-old Floridian, who won the 2015 Indy Lights championship, is expected to be replaced in the No. 21 Chevrolet by 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay.

“I’m appreciative of the opportunity ECR gave me,” Pigot told RACER.com. “I understand the reasons they had to go in a different direction, and wish them all the best.”

In 56 NTT IndyCar Series starts, Pigot has 15 top 10 finishes, with a best finish of second at Iowa in 2018. He finished 14th in the 2019 point standings.

VeeKay, who tested in an Indy car twice for ECR in 2019, has six wins in 18 Indy Lights starts, including a weekend sweep of the final two rounds of the season at Laguna Seca in September.

A representative from ECR told NBC Sports Thursday that the team currently could not comment on any driver rumors as the team currently does not have any drivers under contract for the 2020 season, although it is presumed that owner/driver Carpenter will return to the No. 20 entry for the oval rounds.

NBC Sports will provide updates on the story once more information becomes available.