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Raphaël Lessard had a fantastic race at the Winchester 400 in the ARCA CRA Super Series, at the Winchester Speedway until he had to retire on lap 188 because of a mechanical issue which caused him to crash.

The St-Joseph-de-Beauce native had an excellent qualifying session on Saturday, obtaining the 8th best time towards the 400-lap race of Sunday. Starting on the outside row for the race, Raphaël made his way up the leaders pack right away.

The Toyota Camry #99 FRL Express/Toyota-TRD/JBL Audio prepared by David Gilliland Racing performed great all weekend long. But a few laps before the half-way point, the left rear axle broke, which caused Raphaël to hit the wall. The entire rear wheel detached from the car and rolled down the track.

Before the fateful moment, Raphaël’s performances were suggesting a possible podium finish. Climbing-up until the 4th place, Lessard imposed himself as one of the fastest drivers on the track, and as one of the possible winner of this race. Having great battles on the track against the other drivers, Lessard and the leaders offered quite a show to the audience with a lot of overtaking.

“I was very careful with the car because I knew we had a long race ahead, I was taking my time and not taking any risks. The car was not 100% to my taste, but we were trying to make it better during the pit stops. I had two pit stops during which we changed the tires and put gas in the car,” says the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) driver.

“As for the accident, we couldn’t control it, there is, unfortunately, nothing we can do about it. I want to thank my parents, my partners and Toyota for supporting me at every race. And special thanks to the crew who made the car better all weekend long. We have to keep our head high and move on.”

Raphaël’s next race will be on October 14 at the South-Boston Speedway in South-Boston, Virginia, for the SoBo 250, a 125-lap race part of the CARS Tour series.

RLR PR

Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) will have two chances to bring home its fourth Winchester riffle in Sunday's Winchester 400 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway. Cole Rouse is entered in the No. 51 JBL Camry and Noah Gragson will be piloting the No. 18 Switch Camry.
 
Rouse's first season driving for KBM's Super Late Model team has been a successful one. The Arkansas native has collected two victories on the CARS Super Late Model Tour and enters next Saturday's series finale at South Boston (Va.) Speedway with an eight-point advantage in the championship standings.
 
The 20-year-old driver will be making his second start for KBM this year at the track that dubs itself as the "World's Fastest Half-Mile." After starting third in the Winchester 100 ARCA/CRA Super Series race that was part of the World Stock Car Festival in September, Rouse took the lead on lap seven and remained at the front of the field until he was slowed by a mechanical failure on lap 74. After dominating the majority of the event, the No. 51 team was relegated to a disappointing 11th-place finish.
 
Sunday will be Rouse's second career start in the Winchester 400. He competed in the 2015 event for Kevin Krider Motorsports, but was plagued by ignition issues. He was forced to start from the rear of the field, in the 32nd position, but had maneuvered his way just outside the top 10 on lap 147 when the issues resurfaced and ended his day. He was credited with a 31st-place finish.
 
Gragson will be making his second of three-scheduled starts behind the wheel of a KBM Super Late Model in 2017. In May, he made his debut for the team in the U.S. Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. His 14.363-second lap in practice topped the speed charts for the weekend and was faster than Denny Hamlin's Monster Energy Series track record, but he ended up qualifying 21st for the 100-lap event and after getting caught up in an accident on lap nine was relegated to a 30th-place finish.
 
The Las Vegas native is in his first full-time season driving the No. 18 Switch Tundra for KBM in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He has collected three poles,113 laps led, three top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 11.6 across 18 starts thus far in his rookie campaign.
 
The 19-year-old was victorious the last time he raced a Super Late Model. He returned to the Bullring at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway, the track where he cut his racing teeth, and won the 50-lap NASCAR Super Late Model race on Sept. 9 for Dustin Ash Motorsports.
 
Sunday will mark Gragson's second start in the prestigious Winchester 400. He started 13th and finished 11th in last year's event competing for Wauters Motorsports.
 
KBM's impressive resume of Super Late Model wins includes three wins in the All-American 400. Owner-driver Kyle Busch was victorious in 2009 and Erik Jones collected back-to-back wins in 2013 and 2014.
 
KBM PR

A dozen drivers from across the United States and Mexico will converge on northeast Florida to vie for an opportunity to follow in the tracks of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson.

The 2017 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine presented by Honda Generators will be held at Bethune-Cookman University and New Smyrna Speedway on Oct. 16-18, and will serve as a key element in the selection process for setting the driver lineup for Rev Racing in 2018. Both the combine and the team will feature an enhanced focus on seat time to increase competition at the combine and on the track next season.

The drivers invited at the combine includes several record-setting rising stars and a trio of NASCAR Next drivers. They’ll be competing for four seats with Rev Racing.

“We’ve taken an in-depth look at how the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine and we’ve worked hard to continue to take the program to the next level,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “We’ve had a number of successes – from the graduation of Suarez, Larson and Darrell Wallace Jr. to the national series, to winning races and championships on the touring and weekly series level. As we continue to evolve the program, the format of the combine and the 2018 schedule will provide a greater emphasis on driver development on and off the race track.”

Among the drivers invited are Brittany Zamora, from Kennewick, Washington, and Ryan Vargas from LaMirada, California. Zamora, 18, became the first female to win the championship in the Northwest Super Late Model Series this season, while Vargas, 16, is the youngest race winner at California’s Irwindale Speedway and finished 16th in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national standings.

They’ll be joined by current NASCAR Next driver Chase Cabre, as well as NASCAR Next alumni Collin Cabre and Ruben Garcia Jr. Garcia set the mark as the youngest champion in NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series history in 2015.

Other invitees include Macy Causey, Madeline Crane, Ernie Frances Jr., McKenna Haase, Nicholas Sanchez, Fabian Welter and Armani Williams.

Earlier this year, Causey became the first female to win a Division I Late Model feature at South Boston Speedway in Virginia; Welter has four wins and leads the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Challenge Series points; and Francis is a three-time Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli champion and leads the series’ TA standings with three events remaining. Sanchez finished fifth in the Bojangles Summer Shootout in Charlotte, driving for Rev Racing’s Legends car program.

“The roster of talent coming to the 2017 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine is one of the deepest we’ve ever had,” said Max Siegel, CEO of Rev Racing. “We’ve seen the program really grow over the last 10 years and make a substantial impact in NASCAR. We are excited to continue to work within the sport to make significant inroads and provide an opportunity for truly talented race car drivers to advance.”

The drivers will take part in media and physical assessments on Monday at Bethune-Cookman. They will undergo driving evaluations at New Smyrna on Tuesday in a Late Model Stock Car and Wednesday in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series car. In addition to being sponsored by Honda Generators, the Combine received sponsorship support from partners Bethune-Cookman, Perry’s Ocean Edge Resort in Daytona Beach, M2 Promotions and Sunoco.

From the 12 combine participants, four will be selected for the 2018 season. Three of those drivers will race full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, while also running full-time in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in a Late Model – totalling more than 30 races next season. In addition, the fourth driver will compete full-time in the Late Model program and serve as an alternate for the K&N Pro Series program.

In an expanded role for next year, Rev Racing will also select an additional four youth drivers at a future combine. Those drivers will participate in the organization’s expanded Legends and Bandelaros program next season. This past season, Rev Racing had two Legends cars in the Bojangles Summer Shootout. The team will also provide several driver development test sessions in its Late Model at Langley Speedway in Virginia and New Smyrna during the 2018 race season for prospective multicultural and female drivers.

2017 NASCAR Drive For Diversity Combine Drivers:

DRIVER   HOMETOWN
Chase Cabre   Tampa, Fla.
Collin Cabre   Tampa, Fla.
Macy Causey   Seaford, Va.
Madeline Crane   Meansville, Ga.
Ernie Francis Jr.   Dania, Fla.
Ruben Garcia   Mexico City, Mexico
McKenna Haase   Carlisle, Iowa
Nicholas Sanchez   Homestead, Fla.
Ryan Vargas   La Mirada, Calif.
Fabian Welter   Mexico City, Mexico
Armani Williams   Grosse Point, Mich.
Brittany Zamora   Kennewick, Wash.

NASCAR/Rev Racing PR

NASCAR and The Weather Company, an IBM Business (NYSE: IBM), announced today a multi-year agreement that will optimize the weather-related decision process for NASCAR as it incorporates hyper-local weather data and forecasts into their races to improve race-day operations and fan engagement. As part of the agreement, The Weather Company, via The Weather Channel brand, becomes the Official Weather Partner of NASCAR.

In collaboration with Flagship Solutions Group, The Weather Company will provide critical weather information to NASCAR through an advanced weather insights dashboard developed by Flagship that will be integrated into NASCAR’s racing operations and decision support system. Additionally, The Weather Channel will work with NASCAR on educational content, which will present fans with information on things like how weather impacts vehicle performance.

“There is an enormous amount of logistics and planning needed to support a NASCAR race, but the one thing we do not have control over is weather,” said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR vice president, officiating and technical inspection. “This partnership with The Weather Company and Flagship Solutions Group will provide NASCAR access to critical information that can improve race operations and help minimize delays, while improving the race day experience for millions of our loyal fans.”

Through this partnership, NASCAR will now have access to The Weather Company’s world-renowned weather data, as well as direct input from an onsite personal weather station, at each race. The Weather Company produces the most accurate forecast for more than 2 billion locations around the world every 15 minutes. NASCAR will incorporate hyper-local weather data and forecasts into their races to improve race-day operations and fan engagement.

“Every business needs a weather strategy - and this is especially true for a partner like NASCAR where every race has the potential to be impacted by weather,” said Bill Dow, head of media and entertainment for The Weather Company. “Having access to the most accurate, precise, and hyperlocal weather information positions NASCAR to make more informed and timely, critical business decisions that impact race day operations, as well as improve planning for future events that will help drive their success.”

The Weather Track, a real-time, weather insights dashboard, developed on the IBM Cloud and leveraging Flagship Solutions’ trademarked Infralytics™ methodology, will provide critical information including rain start and stop times, wind speed, lightning proximity, tornado/flash flood warnings, and more to help organizers optimize each event. Longer term, NASCAR plans to use weather forecasting and analytics to help improve planning.

NASCAR PR

The NASCAR Foundation announced on Thursday the four finalists for its seventh annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Presented by Nationwide, which honors NASCAR fans who are also accomplished volunteers working for children’s causes in their communities throughout the United States.

The award winner will be determined via an online vote now underway and running through Nov. 29 at 5 p.m. (ET) at NASCAR.com/Award. The award will be presented on Nov. 30 during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas. The NASCAR Foundation will donate $100,000 to the charity represented by the award winner and $25,000 to each of the other three finalists’ charities. The award honors the memory and the philanthropic legacy of the foundation’s late founder, Betty Jane France, who passed away last August.

This year’s finalists hail from three areas that host NASCAR races (Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Talladega, Alabama). Those finalists include:

  • Shannon Goldwater of Scottsdale, Arizona, the founder of Feeding Matters, which furthers advances in the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric feed disorders.
  • Julian Maha of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, the founder of KultureCity, an organization seeking to improve – and save – the lives of children with autism, while also educating society about inclusion of children with autism.
  • Tammy Richardson of Las Vegas, representing the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation that provides 25 pediatric programs and services to more than 450 children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
  • Chante Gonzalez Vido of Jamul, California, a two-time cancer survivor and head counselor at a camp for young cancer patients that is operated by The Seany Foundation, which strives to bring relief and happiness to children and their families battling cancer.

“Betty Jane France would be especially proud of this year’s finalists,” said The NASCAR Foundation Chairman Mike Helton. “All four have considerable accomplishments and would be a deserving winner of the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. We urge NASCAR fans everywhere to vote for these NASCAR fans. Our finalists represent not only their respective charities but also the very best attributes our sport has to offer.”

Since the award’s inception, The NASCAR Foundation has impacted the lives of more than 200,000 children by providing more than $1 million in contributions to charities represented by finalists for the award.

“This year’s finalists have gone above and beyond to improve the lives of those that live in their respective communities,” said Mike Boyd, senior vice president of Marketing for Nationwide. “Nationwide is honored to help raise the level of national awareness for their different charities and look forward to celebrating their accomplishments in Las Vegas later this year.”

To learn more about The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide and each of the national finalists, please visit:www.NASCAR.com/Award.

NASCAR PR

Even with an off week in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), it hasn’t been all work and no play for some members of the AM Racing team.

Before heading to Texas for a weekend of appearances at the State Fair of Texas, veteran driver Austin Wayne Self (@AustinWSelf) will return to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway to play driver coach and spotter to girlfriend Jennifer Anderson in Friday afternoon’s (Oct. 6) Better Half Dash race hosted by the Motor Racing Outreach (MRO) set to begin at 5:00 p.m.

Anderson is no stranger to speed at the race track. In addition to working alongside Self during Truck Series races, she keeps a close eye on her brother, Jordan Anderson – who also competes full-time in the Truck Series.

Anderson is set to roll off second in Friday afternoon’s 25-lap race after being bounced off the pole by Paige Keselowski, wife of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski during qualifications Monday at Charlotte’s quarter-mile track uniting pit road and the frontstretch of the track’s 1.5-mile configuration.

Her quick lap however won’t guarantee her the outside pole for Friday’s race. Fans can decide which Better Half Dash drivers gets to pick their starting spot by donating money to drivers’ causes at go2mro.com/betterhalfdash/drivers.php.

While Anderson will have the support of AM Technical Solutions for the race, she’ll be hosting the Hermie and Elliott Sadler Foundation on her No. 44 machine.

The Hermie and Elliott Sadler Charitable Foundation is dedicated to raising autism awareness and promoting research for a cure, while also supporting initiatives that improve educational opportunities for children and their families.

“I am extremely thankful that MRO has given me the opportunity to compete in this year’s Better Half Dash,” said Anderson. “So far, we’ve been very fast, so it’s all down to the race now.

“I am really honored to be representing the Hermie and Elliott Sadler Foundation on my car. We have until Thursday at midnight to make donations, so please if you can, donate anything.

“I’ve talked to my coach and spotter Austin and our strategy is simple. Take the lead and never look back. Hopefully, we can do just that for a great cause!”

Following the race, Self heads to Texas early Saturday where he’ll join partner at the GO TEXAN pavilion.

At the pavilion, Self will meet with attendees, sign autographs, take pictures, and draw for tickets to the JAG Metals 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 3.

Additionally, AM Racing’s No. 22 GO TEXAN truck will be on display for the entire Texas State Fair allowing go-getters an up close and personal view of Self’s 3,400-pound machine.

His appearance schedule at the pavilion this weekend is as follows:
  
Saturday, October 7:

  • 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Sunday, October 8:

  • 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


For more on the Texas State Fair including discounted tickets, hours of operation and more, please log onto bigtex.com/bigtexinsider.

For more on The Texas Department of Agriculture’s GO TEXAN program, please visit gotexan.org.

To learn more information on AM Racing please visit amracingteam.com.

For more on Austin Wayne Self and AM Racing, please visit awsracing.com, like his Facebook page (Austin Wayne Self) or follow him on Twitter @AustinWSelf.

AM Racing PR

Don’t expect the Freedom Autosport drivers to hold anything back during Friday’s IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season finale at Road Atlanta. They all have their sights set on a podium finish for the Mazda MX-5s.

 

“We’re going to try to win the race,” said Chad McCumbee, who co-drives the No. 25 ModSpace/Spartan Cargo Trailers Mazda MX-5 with Stevan McAleer. “We had a car last year that could win it, but we had so many obstacles. Hopefully we’ll be able to change that a bit and end the season on a high note with a win.”

“It’s disappointing knowing we’re not in it for a championship position—that’s why I drive. But we’ll give it our all in the last race of the season, and hopefully there will be a podium at the end of it,” said McAleer.

“This has been an exciting season,” stated William Mann, Vice President of Motorsports for ModSpace. “Although we aren’t contenders for the championship this year, the No. 25 team has run well this season and posted numerous podium finishes. Chad and Stevan have been competitive at Road Atlanta and have the potential to win this season finale.”

Andrew Carbonell and Liam Dwyer were on the podium just two weeks ago, finishing second at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the No. 26 Semper Fi Fund Mazda MX-5. It has left them wanting to taste champagne one more time this season.

“For the first time in two years, we’re going in with nothing to lose,” said Carbonell. “We’re also coming in with momentum and positive attitudes after finishing on the podium at Mazda Raceway. The intention is to land on the podium one more time before the season is over.”

Regardless of the results at Road Atlanta, Dwyer has a lot of praise for the Freedom Autosport crew, saying, “We’ve had fast cars at every track, we’ve been competitive, and we’ve taken wins, even at places where we weren’t expected to, like Road America. Until late in the season, we were in the running for the championship. It shows the dedication our crew has and the amount of tireless work they put into the cars all year long. We can’t thank them enough for that.”

Britt Casey, Jr., is teaming up with Tom Long again in the No. 27 TRUMPF, Inc. Mazda MX-5, and he would like to get his first series win for the TRUMPF and Cushman & Wakefield supporters who will be at the track.

“We’re still looking for that elusive win!” Casey said. “We’re pretty competitive guys. We always want to get up front. Tom and I have a similar driving style and a similar approach to racing, so every time we get together, something clicks. We tend to get good finishes.”

“Beyond getting some great results together, including second at Road America, we’ve had a lot of fun together in the races we’ve done,” said Long. “I’m looking forward to capping off the season with the team and trying to get that first victory for Britt and the TRUMPF Mazda.”

The season finale begins at 1:50 p.m. ET on Friday, October 6. It will be broadcast live via IMSA.com and the IMSA app.

A tough, hard-fought season comes to a close at Road Atlanta this weekend, in the inaugural year of the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda, a series that debuted in March at Sebring International Raceway, and since then has competed on some of the most famous race tracks in the U.S. and Canada.

 
The championships will be decided at Road Atlanta as part of the Motul Petit Le Mans weekend, where the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as well as the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series will crown their respective champions.
 
The IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda combines the proven Mazda Prototype Challenge cars - open-cockpit racers using the Elan DP02 chassis, produced by a company based near the track in Braselton, Georgia - and the brand-new, closed-cockpit LMP3s, a class developed in Europe and built by any one of six manufacturers approved by the ACO, the sanctioning body for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The LMP3 class competes globally using the same specifications everywhere.
 
The Mazda Prototype Challenge class, called the Mazda Prototype Lites when they competed at Road Atlanta a year ago, are powered by Mazda 2.0-liter MZR engines. They compete alongside the LMP3 cars, which are heavier but are powered by a 5.0-liter, 420-horsepower V-8.
 
Though the MPC and LMP3 cars race together, they are competing for separate podium finishes and season championships. In fact, there are two other races going on as well: Both LMP3 and MPC have their own Masters championship, created for drivers aged 45 and above.
 
Champions in all four will be crowned after the second race this weekend at Road Atlanta. One championship has already been decided, but others remain up for grabs.
 
In LMP3, the championship points lead has been a battle between Colin Thompson, the West Palm Beach, Florida driver of the No. 14 Kelly-Moss Road and Race/Ignite Norma M30, and Kenton Koch, the former series champion from Glendora, California, at the wheel of the No. 8 P1 Motorsports Ligier JS P3.
 
Thompson, driving the only Norma in the field, has been fast and consistent all season, but he has only two wins, while Koch has five. So why does Thompson lead Koch 185 to 167 points entering Road Atlanta? It's largely because Koch, who has a class victory at the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona on his resume, wasn't able to finalize his deal with P1 in time to make the Sebring season-opening doubleheader, so he has had to drive especially hard to make up for those lost points.
 
Koch and Thompson have indeed dominated, but the rest of the field certainly hasn't made it easy on them. Naj Husain, of The Plains, Virginia, raced here in the Lites series last year, and moved up to the LMP3 class at the beginning of 2017, and he's been very strong in the No. 3 Extreme Speed Motorsports/Cloudistics Ligier, especially the last half of this season. He is third in overall points with 138, and Husain has also clinched the LMP3 Masters championship, over Paul Fix, who presently ranks second in Masters competition.
 
Also making some solid moves late in the season is Louisville, Kentucky racer Matthew Dicken, driver of the No. 4 ANSA Motorsports/Strategic Wealth Ligier. Dicken will likely lock up at least a fourth-place finish in the LMP3 championship this weekend.
 
Meanwhile, in the Mazda Prototype Challenge class, one young driver has had a dream season, building a points lead that guaranteed him the class championship. But don't expect Kyle Masson to take it easy - he has something to prove at Road Atlanta.
 
A year ago, the Windermere, Florida driver Masson didn't have a good weekend, finishing 13th in race one, 12th in race two. Masson must have done his homework during the offseason, as he started the year with a class win in his debut at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, then came out of the box at Sebring with two MPC victories, and went on to take nine of the 11 races thus far this season.
 
Masson's No. 18 Performance Tech Motorsports/Neurospine Institute entry has been the class of the field this season, but Kris Wright would be the first to tell you he isn't unbeatable. Wright, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania driver of the No. 7 JDC Motorsports entry, was the one who first upset Masson's win streak, and he has three other podium finishes this season.
 
But certainly, the most frustrated driver in the Mazda Prototype Challenge field must be Tazio Ottis of Alameda, California, who has had a solid, consistent season, but not the results in his No. 72 JDC Motorsports/Ottis Racing entry to challenge for the championship. Still, Ottis is just one point behind Wright in championship points.
 
Another driver worth noting is also named Masson, but this would be Robert Masson, also of Windermere, Florida, where his son Kyle lives as well. Robert, a surgeon, has been improving all year as a racer, and finds himself in a tight battle for the MPC Masters championship with Aberdeen, Scotland's Stuart Rettie, driver of the No. 21 ODU Motorsports/Lion Rampant Group car, and Libertyville, Illinois' Gary Gibson, both series veterans - Gibson won overall in MPC this year at Trois-Rivieres in Canada in his No. 13 Team Perfect Pedal entry. Only seven points separate those three drivers in the points coming into Atlanta.
 
Regardless of which racers are crowned the champions in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda after the two Road Atlanta races, they will have earned their trophies over a tough season of tight competition. With nothing to lose and everything to gain for many of the drivers, expect some close, give-no-quarter competition this weekend, as Road Atlanta's complex 2.54-mile circuit rewards bravery - up to a point.
 
The IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda will hit the track for practice Wednesday and Thursday, then will qualify Thursday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. ET. Race one is set for 4:35-5:20 p.m. ET Thursday, with race two scheduled for Friday from 9:25-10:10 a.m. ET. Live timing, scoring and race coverage will be available on IMSA.tv, and a delayed broadcast of the races will be shown on FS2 Thursday, Oct. 26, at 8 p.m. ET.  The broadcast will also be available on YouTube 24 hours after it airs on television. 
 
For more information on all IMSA competition, or to access IMSA Radio, which will have live streaming audio of both races, visit IMSA.com.
 
For more information about the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series, visit www.imsa.com, follow hashtag #IMSAPC @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.
 
Schedule (All Times ET):
 
Practice: 3:45-4:15 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 4, and 8-8:40 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 5
 
Qualifying: 12:30-12:50 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5
 
Race 1: 4:35-5:20 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5
 
Race 2: 9:25-10:10 a.m., Friday, Oct. 6
 
Race Coverage: 
 
Live Streaming: The race will be live streamed at IMSA.tv. 
 
Live timing: All on-track sessions at scoring.imsa.com and on the official IMSA App for iOS, Android and Windows
 
Twitter: Live text commentary from all sessions at @IMSALive

Automatic Racing knows what it’s like to win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and the team hopes to experience that euphoria again when they enter the No. 99 Stoner Car Care Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the Mazda Raceway California 8 Hours from October 14-15.

 

The eight-hour endurance race is the third event of the season for the Intercontinental GT Challenge, and it is the first time the series has visited the United States. Automatic Racing will be entering the GT4 class with the formidable lineup of Charlie Putman, Charles Espenlaub and Eric Lux.

 

Putman and Espenlaub are fresh off of winning the 991 class championship in the 24H Endurance Series, and they finished second overall in the championship along with teammate Joe Foster.

 

“We’ve had great success in Europe this year, so it’s nice to come home for some endurance racing in the U.S.,” said Putman. “We’re looking forward to carrying the momentum from our championship into a track where we have a strong history of experience and success.”

 

“Mazda Raceway is one of our favorite tracks to visit, and this is a great way to extend our endurance racing opportunities,” noted Espenlaub. “We’re excited about teaming up with Automatic Racing again and hope that our combined forces can result in a top finish.”

 

Lux is currently on a racing sabbatical, but he’s taking a break from the break to join Automatic Racing. His most recent professional race was at Mazda Raceway in 2015, and he has won at the track in both GT cars and prototypes.

 

“I’m thrilled to join Automatic Racing and Aston Martin for the California 8 Hour endurance race!” said Lux. “My teammates Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman are familiar with the circuit and are proven endurance race winners. Although I’m temporarily breaking from my racing sabbatical, I am confident that I will be able to perform immediately. I believe we have the team, car and lineup to be on the top step after the race!”

Twenty years ago, Porsche Cars North America moved its U.S. headquarters from Reno, Nevada, to Atlanta, Georgia. When the drivers and teams participate in the season-ending doubleheader for the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Oct. 4 through 7 at Road Atlanta, they know they'll be performing before a contingent of Porsche executives and employees.

 
And it's not like they need more pressure. Just racing on the complex, hard-to-master 2.54-mile natural-terrain Road Atlanta track is more than enough to require everyone's top efforts. Add in that the hard-fought season championships in the Platinum and Gold classes are on the line, as well as the title in Masters, a sub-class in the Platinum division for drivers aged 45 and up.
 
With 14 races in the books since the season began in March at Sebring International Raceway in Florida - including events as far west as California, as far south as Texas and as far north as Wisconsin and New York - it all comes down to Road Atlanta, where the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge joins the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda to make up the Motul Petit Le Mans weekend. Porsches will contend for championships within the WeatherTech and Continental Tire series, too, helping cement a connection between Porsche and Road Atlanta that dates back to the track's opening in 1970, when Tony Dean won the inaugural 300-kilometer Can-Am event, driving a Porsche 908/02. Porsche roots run deep in the red Georgia soil.
 
There has been some powerful talent on the roster of the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA for the 2017 season, driving the all-new-for-2017 Porsche GT3 Cup car that debuted this season. Everyone has been chasing Jake Eidson, the Littleton, Colorado driver of the No. 24 Kelly-Moss Road and Race entry. Eidson was the first recipient of the annual IMSA Hurley Haywood GT3 Cup Scholarship, named for the legendary Porsche driver and backed by Porsche, IMSA and Yokohama, which awarded Eidson supplemental funding for a season's worth of racing. Eidson chose the veteran Kelly-Moss team, and it was a wise selection.
 
Eidson has won half the races in 2017 and recently clinched the Platinum Cup championship at Sonoma, but he's obviously beatable - just ask drivers Trenton Estep, Corey Fergus, Sebastian Landy and Canadian racer Scott Hargrove, who came down from British Columbia to win the first GT3 Cup Challenge USA race at Sebring in March. Hargrove, incidentally, has already wrapped up the championship in the IMSA Porsche Ultra 94 GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama back home.
 
Estep, the San Antonio, Texas driver of the No. 3 JDX Racing/Hertz entry, and Fergus, the Columbus, Ohio pilot of the No. 00 Moorespeed/US LED/Byers Imports car, have been running up front all year, both chipping away at Eidson's dominance. Landy, the Great Falls, Virginia driver of the No. 49 Forto Strong Coffee entry, moved up to the Platinum class for 2017 from the Gold class, which races GT3 Cup cars from 2014-2016. He has been improving all year, and it came together at the doubleheader on his home track of VIRgina International Raceway, where he swept the weekend. It doesn't hurt that he competes for Alex Job Racing, one of the most experienced and successful teams in Porsche racing history. Fergus is second in points behind Eidson, followed by Estep and Landy.
 
It's likely no one will be racing harder than Will Hardeman, driver of the No. 19 Moorespeed/Continental Automotive Group car, and Anthony Imperato, who is behind the wheel of the No. 91 Wright Motorsport/Henry Repeating Arms car - they are tied at 147 points in the Platinum standings, just behind Landy. And just two points behind them is McKay Snow, driver of the No. 63, a Wright Motorsports/Snow Racing teammate to Imperato.
 
There's also a close battle underway for the Platinum Masters drivers, who compete with the other Platinum drivers but also gather points separately for their own championship. David Baker, the Colleyville, Texas driver of the No. 56 TOPP Racing/Apex Capital Corporation car, has a 20-point advantage over Columbus, Ohio's Mark Kvamme, driver of the No. 43 JDX Racing entry, with Jeff Mosing of Austin, Texas, in third, in the TOPP Racing No. 01.
 
In the Gold Cup class, Fred Kaimer of Austin, driver of the No. 23 NGT Motorsport/Race Deck entry, has been in a fight with Roman De Angelis of Belle River, Ontario, driver of the No. 78 Mark Motors Racing car. In fact, teenager De Angelis has made so many racing trips south of the border that he could win the Gold championship in both the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada - he already has that one in the bag - and the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA. Kaimer has only a six-point advantage over De Angelis coming into Atlanta.
 
Victor Gomez IV, driver of the No. 25 for NGT Motorsports and Mapfre, is only eight points out the lead; he would love to take the title back home - he's from San Juan in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
 
Regardless of the race and championship winners, it's been a stellar season in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, and what happens at Road Atlanta will only build on a Porsche heritage that began 47 years ago there.
 
The IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama practices Wednesday and Thursday, and qualifies Thursday 1:05 p.m.-1:25 p.m. ET. Race one takes place at 5:45-6:30 p.m. ET. Race two is scheduled for Friday at 10:35-11:20 a.m. ET.
 
For more information about Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, visit www.imsa.com, and follow hashtags #GT3USA and @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook. Live streaming from both races will air on IMSA.tv.
 
Schedule (All Times ET):
 
Practice: 4:30-5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 4, and 8:55-9:35 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 5
 
Qualifying: 1:05-1:25 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5
 
Race 1: 5:45-6:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5
 
Race 2: 10:35-11:20 a.m., Friday, Oct. 6
 
Race Coverage:
 
Live timing: All on-track sessions at scoring.imsa.com and on the official IMSA app for iOS, Android and Windows.
 
Live streaming: All on-track sessions will be broadcast on IMSA.TV
TV: Delayed television coverage will be provided on major network affiliates in numerous U.S. markets by Sinclair Broadcast Group Oct. 28, 2017, and the broadcast will be available on YouTube 24 hours after it airs on television.
 
Twitter: Live text commentary from all sessions at @IMSALive
As the only squad currently to field teams on all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder, Team Pelfrey has the ability to mirror the ladder series’ progression through the ranks. Dale Pelfrey first fielded a team in the IRL in the late 1990s, and today focuses on nurturing young racers, hoping to one day take a driver from karting to the Verizon IndyCar Series – all under the Team Pelfrey banner. 
 
Former MRTI racer Jonny Baker handles the team’s day-to-day management, including the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires lineup that earned the 2017 Team Championship. Two of Team Pelfrey’s three Pro Mazda drivers this season came up through its ranks: Nikita Lastochkin was part of the foursome that helped the team begin its USF2000 program two years ago, and TJ Fischer moved up in the middle of his rookie USF2000 season last year. Added to the lineup in 2017 was 18-year-old Brazilian Carlos Cunha, coming off a fifth-place finish in Brazilian F3. The trio combined for 13 podiums – the only drivers to stand on the podium alongside eventual champion Victor Franzoni and runner-up Anthony Martin.
 
“If you look at our ladder system over the years, it’s been very strong in promoting drivers from F1600 into USF2000, and USF to Pro Mazda,” said Baker. “Five of our six drivers in USF and Pro Mazda were all returning drivers, and four came through F1600 and USF2000. We’re working on making budgets work so that we’re promoting more drivers from Pro Mazda into Indy Lights. 
 
“We’re fortunate that we have engineers Thomas Knapp, who has put a car on the pole at the Indy 500, Doug Forker, who has worked with [Alex] Zanardi and [Juan Pablo] Montoya, and Rick Cameron who has been at the top but still enjoys working with the entry level series. It’s great for the drivers and the young engineers who can learn from these guys. We’re lucky that we’ve always had good chemistry between the drivers and crew – all the drivers got on well, walking between tents, helping each other, enjoying being part of Pelfrey Power. We believe in the idea of a team on and off the track.”
 
The highlights were many for Team Pelfrey in 2017. Fischer reeled off three straight podiums to start the season, with Lastochkin taking podiums in both races at Road America – the first Mazda Road to Indy podiums for both drivers. Cunha’s late-season surge, with podium finishes in the final four races (including a second-place finish at the season finale at Watkins Glen), capped off a year that saw all three drivers vying for third place in the final standings – and with an Indy Lights test awarded to the top three drivers in the championship, that third position was critical. 
 
That Cunha, Fischer and Lastochkin were able to compete for such an important prize, while keeping the atmosphere under the tent positive, is a testament to the “team” aspect that Baker considers as important now as it was last season, when Pelfrey teammates Aaron Telitz and Pato O’Ward battled hard for the series title.
 
“Getting that test meant so much to them all. You could tell that there was a bit of tension, especially with Carlos and TJ coming down the stretch, with both wanting to come out on top of that battle. I do feel badly for TJ because there were a few things outside of his control that cost him. But his attitude through all of that was unbelievable. I have a huge amount of appreciation for that.
 
“I’m so proud of all our Pro Mazda drivers this year,” Baker continued. “Carlos did a fantastic job in his first full season of car racing, and TJ arguably enjoyed his most successful year to date. He should have had his first win if not for some bad luck at Road America. And Nikita earned his first MRTI podiums. There were a lot of good stories.”
 
Included in those stories was the personal and professional growth experience by each driver this season as Baker notes.
 
“Carlos didn’t speak much English at all when he first arrived, and I think being around the team and spending time here has really helped him. He has a great deal of natural talent and he’s figured out a lot of things on his own. You could see it from the first day he drove the car, and the way he finished the year was impressive. He is going to be a name you hear much more from.
 
“TJ had a good look at things last year, sitting in the same seat as Aaron and Pato, seeing where his strengths and weaknesses were. We told him some areas that he needed to improve, and he worked hard in the off season, tested and even had Pato come in and help him. And he is a different driver this year. He is arguably the most improved driver in the Mazda Road to Indy this year. Now, I can see him having a proper career in motorsports. He still has that football player in him, that absolute determination. He doesn’t know when he’s beat, so he keeps working at it and believing in himself. 
 
“With Nikita, there’s so much talent there, a huge amount of speed. He keeps it simple and gets the most out of himself, and that’s where he’s made the most progress this year. When the big sessions come – qualifying, races – he’s been able to tap into his potential more than he has in the past. Nikita is extremely competitive and he pours his heart and soul into it. He’s also very honest with himself and when you have people like that, you want to work that much harder for them.” 
 
Team Pelfrey’s Pro Mazda shop is abuzz these days with the recent delivery of two shiny new Tatuus PM-18s that will see action in this month’s Chris Griffis Memorial Test. Baker is excited to see the resurgence of the series that has been the team’s mainstay, which has seen Team Pelfrey earn three series titles and four team championships since 2012.
 
“We are very excited about that. This is where our team pedigree truly lies – it’s where we’ve won our championships and races. While we’re equally dedicated across the MRTI board, Pro Mazda is where we’ve had our sustained success for all these years and I don’t see that changing. Thomas Knapp will run the PM-18s and he’s won two championships, with Santiago Urrutia and Aaron Telitz – I don’t have any problem saying that we have the best engineer in the paddock and we’re lucky to have him. He’s so much more than an engineer and the drivers learn so much from him. 
 
“We’re talking to a number of drivers so we’ll see how that develops. We have plenty of interest but we’re here to win. We have to get the right driver lineup that allows us to go for a fourth driver’s championship and a fifth team championship.”