Just two events and four races into the new season for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, one thing is clear: The 2017 IMSA Hurley Haywood GT3 Cup Scholarship appears to have gone to the right driver.
Jake Eidson was awarded the scholarship, which helped him secure a full season behind the wheel of a Porsche in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA series. And the 21-year-old driver from Littleton, Colo. has delivered – taking one of the two races at the season opener at Sebring International Raceway, and sweeping both races at Barber Motorsports Park.
Eidson’s only loss in his No. 24 Kelly-Moss Road and Race entry was to Scott Hargrove, who was visiting Sebring before returning to his home in British Columbia, Canada, to contest the 2017 season in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama, where Hargrove won the championship in 2014. And in that race Eidson lost – well, it wasn’t by much. He finished second. And then he beat Hargrove in the next race.
Now the question is: Who can beat Jake Eidson in the next round of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA racing, coming up this weekend at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas?
The answer may come from just down Interstate 35 in San Antonio. Trenton Estep, the 17-year-old high school junior, has driven the JDX Racing Hertz No. 3 to second place in points behind Eidson. Estep has finished either second or third in three of the four races this season, and he’s a genuine threat to unseat Eidson at the top of the podium. Plus, he’d love to do it in front of fans at his home track.
It doesn’t hurt that JDX, based in Loveland, Colo., was founded by Jeremy Dale, who is a savvy team owner and a veteran driver with a pair of IMSA wins in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Mark Kvamme, of Columbus, Ohio, is Estep’s teammate in the JDX No. 24.
If indeed home field advantage is a factor, there are multiple drivers and teams that will be a factor at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, where the third round of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama will take to the track May 4-6. It’s part of the Advance Auto SportsCar Showdown, which also features the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series.
Of the 23 entries – 14 in the Platinum class, which features the new 2017 Porsche 911 GT3, and nine in the Gold class, which uses Porsche 911 GT3 cars from 2014-2016 – nine drivers list Texas hometowns.
And even some of the drivers who aren’t from Texas have close Texas ties. Example: C.J. Wilson, who retired from a stellar Major League Baseball career as a pitcher at the end of 2016, and is now pursuing a second career in professional sports car racing. Wilson, a 36-year-old rookie racer, lists his home as Laguna Beach, Calif., and his No. 33 is sponsored by Porsche Fresno, one of several dealerships he owns.
But Wilson’s team, C.J. Wilson Racing, is based in Austin, from which the team also fields Porsches for the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series. And Wilson played for the Texas Rangers from 2005 to 2011, and he was an American League All-Star his last season there.
Wilson, who drives in the Platinum class, will face off against a pair of Texas drivers from TOPP Racing in Cresson, just south of Fort Worth. Jeff Mosing of Austin will be in the Mosing Motorcars No. 01, teamed with David Baker of Colleyville, in the Apex Capital Corporation No. 56. Both those drivers also compete in the Masters category, a class-within-a-class in the Platinum field that serves as a separate championship for drivers ages 45 and up.
TOPP Racing also has a pair of Texas drivers in the Gold class – Bill Smith of Dallas in the No. 42 Kung-Fu Saloon car, and Frank Raso of Cleburne in the Mosing Motorcars No. 10.
Moorespeed is an experienced Porsche team from Austin, led by General Manager Price Cobb, a 24 Hours of Le Mans winner. Moorespeed driver Corey Fergus of Columbus, Ohio, is driving the US LED No. 00, and Will Hardeman of Austin is behind the wheel of the Continental Automotive Group No. 19. Fergus is third in Platinum class points.
Wright Motorsports is based in Ohio and has five cars in the race. Charles Luck IV, of Richmond, Va., is behind the wheel of Wright’s lone Gold entry, the No. 45. And there are four Wright racers entered in the Platinum class: McKay Snow of Lehi, Utah, is in the Snow Racing No. 63, teamed with Andrew Longe of Naples, Fla., in the Trianon Hotels No. 47. Anthony Imperato is driving the Wright No. 91, sponsored by Henry Repeating Arms, and Phil Bloom of New York is in the No. 11.
Keep an eye on Sebastian Landy, who moved from the Gold to the Platinum class in 2017 and is now driving for Alex Job Racing, one of the most respected Porsche tuners in the world. Landy, of Great Falls, Va., is behind the wheel of the Forto Strong Coffee No. 49.
Aside from points leader Eidson, Wisconsin-based Kelly-Moss Road and Race, the defending series champion, has five additional drivers in the Circuit of The Americas field, and two are Texans: David Ducote of Houston will be in the No. 6, with teammate Alan Metni of Austin in the iFly No. 99.
Metni and Ducote are competing in the Gold class, as are Kelly-Moss racers Greg Palmer of Colgate, Wis., in the Copps Industries No. 44, and Kurt Fazekas of Indianapolis in the No. 52. Tom Haacker of La Quinta, Cal., will compete in the Platinum class in the No. 80. Fazekas is second in Gold class points, and could assume the lead at COTA, as points leader Roman de Angelis isn’t entered in the Texas event.
Still another Texan, Fred Kaimer of Austin, will race in the Gold class in the NGT Motorsport Race Deck No. 23. His NGT partner, also in the Gold class, is Victor Gomez IV of San Juan, Puerto Rico in the Mapfre/Porsche Center of Puerto Rico No. 25.
Round three of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama will consist of two 45-minute races on the 3.4-mile Circuit of The Americas road course, the only track in the U.S. to also host a Formula 1 event. There are two practice sessions on Thursday, May 4, at 8:55 a.m. and 1:55 p.m. Qualifying is Friday at 10:15 a.m., and race one is Friday at 6:40 p.m. Race two will be on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. The Friday race will be broadcast live starting at 6:30 p.m. on IMSA.tv. All times are CDT.
Both IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup USA by Yokohama races will stream live at IMSA.tv and will be broadcast live online by IMSA Radio – you can find that link, plus additional information, at IMSA.com.
Practice: 8:55 – 9:25 a.m. (CDT) and 1:55 – 2:35 p.m. Thursday, May 4
Qualifying: 10:15 – 10:35 a.m. Friday, May 5
Round 1 (45 minutes): 6:40 – 7:25 p.m. Friday, May 5
Round 2 (45 minutes): 11:00 – 11:45 a.m. Saturday, May 6
Source. LST Marketing