The Racing Capital
of the World
July 18, 2013 | By Matt Cleary
The first race of the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard will be the Brickyard Sports Car Challenge, round seven of the 2013 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge championship.
The 2.5-hour race starts at 2 p.m. Friday, July 26, so you just might need to leave work a little early.
With a huge field of cars that everyone can relate to, a deep field of talent, and some of the best racing on the continent, it will be well worth it.
What exactly IS the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge?
The first thing you need to know is that it is like the Rolex Sports Car Series in that there are two different classes racing their own race at the same time on the same track, the 13-turn, 2.534-mile Grand Prix road course at IMS. And with more than 30 cars in each class fighting for their own race win, it can get very busy.
Picture staging two football games, one NFL and one college match-up, on the same field, at the same time. That is pretty much what GRAND-AM racing is like, with everyone fighting for a little bit of their own space as things can get really crowded, really fast.
What kind of cars race in this series? In a way, the series embodies what NASCAR was so many years ago – stock cars that have been race-prepared.
Most of the cars look exactly like what you might find in the parking lot at Kroger. There are two classes. GRAND-AM calls them “ST” and “GS,” but it might be easier to remember them as the “reality” class and the “dream” class.
The “dream” cars in the GS class include the championship-leading Porsche 911, the BMW M3 that won the most recent race at Watkins Glen, and a fleet of gleaming new Aston Martin Vantages.
There is also a strong bit of muscle in the GS class mix, as Stevenson Automotive campaigns the Chevrolet Camaro, and none other than Roush Performance has two Ford Mustangs set to go this weekend. One of the Mustangs will be driven by Reba McEntire’s son Shelby Blackstock, for you music fans.
The “reality” cars in the ST class are indeed, straight out of the grocery store parking lot. Honda Civics, Mazda’s MX-5 and Mazdaspeed 3, as well as the Volkswagen Jetta and a Nissan Altima or two all will do battle for ST class honors.
While they look like grocery getters, don’t be fooled: These cars have been very specially prepared, up to the tune of a quarter-million dollars. The teams trim every last ounce of weight they can find out of the car, making room for the complex cages they build inside each one to create a safety zone inside the car.
“What makes our series unique, interesting and exciting for the fans is that the cars we race start their lives as the very cars that they drive to work, to school or to get groceries in,” said Compass 360 Racing team owner Karl Thomson, who has seen his team take multiple GRAND-AM championships in Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge competition. “In fact, some of our race cars are purchased as theft-recovery cars, that through the magic of our crew, we turn into championship-winning race cars.
“NASCAR started out as real ‘stock car’ racing and has since moved to purpose-built cars, and so our series really embodies the spirit of that series in its fledgling days. When people start watching our races, they see how exciting they are. And racing at the Brickyard is a very big deal. It's the place where each and every one of our drivers wants to have the chance to kiss the bricks.”
While the Brickyard Sports Car Challenge will take place before the Brickyard Grand Prix for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, don’t start thinking of it as a warm-up band. With nearly 20 different makes and models fighting for a trophy, the racing is outstanding. Evenly matched cars, the normal traffic hazards of multi-class racing, some long-running driver grudges and a deep pool of driver talent means there is a lot to see.
“I think it is one of the best series in the country,” said team owner Keith Burton, who fields two BMWs in the ST class and bases his team in nearby Brownsburg, Ind. “I got my start in open-wheel, so it is a very special thing to come to the Speedway and compete as an owner. It is great to race at home, but of course it is very busy--one of our cars is on display on the showroom floor at Dreyer and Reinbold (Indianapolis car dealership), so we ’ll pick it up and take it to the track to race it.”
And just like the Super Weekend, where Sprint Cup stars like Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski jump down into the Nationwide Series, the same thing happens in Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge with drivers like Bill Auberlen, John Edwards, Michael Marsal and Paul Dalla Lana scheduled to run in both GRAND-AM races Friday, making for a very busy day.
So now, you’ve got a few days to come up with that excuse to leave work a little bit early next Friday...