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Atherton Pleased With Inaugural Sprint Cup Grid

IMSA President happy with car count in inaugural WeatherTech Sprint Cup season…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

IMSA President Scott Atherton said he’s pleased with the field for the inaugural WeatherTech Sprint Cup, in what had initially been a wait-and-see game for a number of GT Daytona competitors.

Saturday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle marks the one-and-only standalone Sprint Cup round in the new-for-2019 cup, which scores GTD points on all WeatherTech Championship races less than 2 hours and 40 minutes in length.

With Detroit not counting towards the overall GTD championship, it became an optional race for competitors, although only three of the 13 full-season entries elected to forgo the event. 

A handful of teams, including Meyer Shank Racing and Park Place Motorsports, made late commitments following Mid-Ohio.

“We’re very appreciative that they have made the commitment to come and race even though it’s not a requirement to win the WeatherTech Championship,” Atherton told Sportscar365.

A total of 12 GTD cars are set for this weekend’s 100-minute race, with several Sprint Cup-only entries, including Compass Racing’s McLaren 720S GT3, represented.

“I had dinner last night with Karl Thomson [Compass team principal], who has brought an outstanding new addition,” Atherton said.

“He made it very clear. He said, candidly, ‘If the Sprint Cup wasn’t an option, I wouldn’t be here.’

“We can argue that we wish we had additional Sprint Cup-only examples and from what was being communicated to us while we were going through the decision-making process, it seemed to have a higher level of engagement before it was announced.

“You’ll never know if we hadn’t done it what would have happened.”

Atherton said they were initially concerned on the number of overall entries for this weekend’s DPi and GTD-only race, prior to the commitments from several teams.

“Admittedly, we were all a little nervous about what we are going to end up with [car count] for Detroit,” he said. “I will tell you, 23 cars on this race track, with two very diverse classes, is plenty.

“Nobody’s going to say it wasn’t a good show. It’s going to be another great weekend for us.”

While not confirming a return to Detroit, Atherton stressed the Sprint Cup will not be a “one and done” situation and has reaffirmed it will remain a part of the IMSA landscape next year.

Whether it will remain at Detroit, which has been rumored to undergo a format change, is a “work in progress” according to the IMSA boss, who indicated the 2020 schedule will again be confirmed during the series’ annual ‘State of the Series’ at Road America in August.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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