April 16, 2018
Long Beach, Calif. (11 April 2018) This weekend will see the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship make the rapid transition from the second longest race of the year (Sebring 12 Hour) to the shortest one as the series heads to Long Beach for the 100-minute BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach (Saturday, FOX 4:00 PM ET LIVE broadcast).
After taking a second place result in the Rolex 24 At Daytona with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing DPi-V.R and then backing that up with a run to third in the Sebring 12 Hour, Whelen Engineering Racing will look to occupy the top step of the IMSA podium this weekend with drivers Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr. The team arrives at the 1.9-mile oceanside circuit atop the IMSA championship points standings on the strength of the double-podium start to the season.
For Curran, the track is one that he has raced on for over a decade in a range of different machines, having tasted Long Beach success with victories in GT competition and podiums on board IMSA Prototype machines. The transition from endurance to sprint format is just one of the elements that makes the Long Beach visit so unique.
“Long Beach is the first of the short races, so it will be interesting to see how hard everyone pushes-it is just over an hour and a half so we expect everyone will be on it at 110%” said Curran. “We are focused on the big picture and the championship but really we ultimately want to win.”
The race marks the first appearance at Long Beach for Nasr, who will bring his experience on street circuits like Monaco and Macau to bear on the concrete-lined course. Sharing the track with a range of different championships means that the weekend traditionally provides some extra challenges for the drivers.
"It is a fast, tricky track that has the concrete everywhere so you have to be on your toes,” said Curran. “We don’t have a ton of track time and the track changes a lot each time you go out as well with all the rubber that goes down. It is awesome that IMSA races here- Long Beach is an exciting place. You are really racing through the streets of Long Beach so it is an exciting environment. There is a huge fan base and lots of support from locals. It is a great vibe with all the events that go on surrounding it, and you really are in the heart of the city right on the water.”
While he didn’t grow up in the Long Beach area, the West Coast marks a sort of homecoming for Gary Nelson, who spent his formative years in Redlands, California.
“We are very fortunate to have the schedule that we have in IMSA, it is kind of an all-star collection of tracks and Long Beach is a very big event,” said Nelson, who was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in 2006. “With just 100 minutes to work with in the race, everything has to go exactly right to win here. It will be the first time at Long Beach for Felipe (Nasr), but he has experience on tracks like this and Eric (Curran) really knows his way around here. Our guys have been working hard to be ready to execute all weekend long and hopefully we can get the big trophy on Saturday.”
Whelen Engineering Racing will be a part of the traditional “Thunder Thursday” event at the Pike Outlets on Thursday evening as the drivers will be participating in the event with autograph sessions and the team will bring out the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing DPi-V.R for fans to get an up close appreciation as part of the build up to the traditionally popular event.
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