GT Daytona teams have largely supported IMSA’s decision to add Long Beach to the calendar, with one team principal stating that it will make the WeatherTech Sprint Cup “really meaningful” and a more attractive alternative to other full-season options.
Announced last week, GT3-spec machinery will return to Southern California for the first time in three years under the IMSA umbrella, with the Sprint Cup now expanding to an eight-round season that will encompass all WeatherTech Championship events except for the four Michelin Endurance Cup races.
While the move is understood to have addressed potential car count concerns at Long Beach, with slight drops in both full-season DPi and GT Le Mans entries expected next year, it also allows GTD teams to race in one of the biggest U.S. markets.
Compass Racing team principal Karl Thomson, who was the only Sprint Cup-only entrant to contest every race this year, said Long Beach will be “absolutely great” addition to the championship.
“The addition of Long Beach gives us a nice meaty eight-race sprint schedule,” Thomson told Sportscar365.
“We’ve got these iconic endurance events but now the sprint championship becomes really, really interesting, almost as a standalone for a lot of people.
“I think it makes Sprint Cup really meaningful.”
Park Place Motorsports team principal Patrick Lindsey believes the additional race could help leverage sponsorship to teams.
“It’s not my favorite track but it’s a great venue for competitors in GTD, especially who struggle a bit to attract advertising and potential advertising dollars,” Lindsey told Sportscar365.
“For us, without manufacturer support, we have to go out in the world and find those budgets. It’s a good opportunity for us to leverage a big market.”
Canadian outfit Pfaff Motorsports, which skipped the Sprint Cup-only round in Detroit this year, has also put Long Beach on its radar for next year simply because of the activation potential.
“For Pfaff, being on the West Coast, we do have a couple of dealers in Vancouver and that gives us an opportunity to activate,” team manager Steve Bortolotti told Sportscar365.
“Vancouver is obviously nowhere near Long Beach but it’s a lot easier for a day trip for them to come down and see the race.
“It’s an activation opportunity for us. It makes more sense than Detroit, although it’s substantially farther, but just from a dealer activation standpoint it’s a lot better for us.”
Shank: Long Beach Achieves Manufacturer’s Goals
While concerned from a budget standpoint, Mike Shank said Acura’s recent takeover as the title sponsor of the event makes it a financially viable undertaking for his team to likely commit.
However, Shank indicated the Long Beach race could come at the expense of the team doing Detroit, which will also be a Sprint Cup-only round next year.
“I don’t anticipate us focusing on the Sprint Cup next year,” Shank told Sportscar365.
“[Long Beach] would be about meeting Acura’s goals. They’re new to that event now after so many years with Toyota. They’re trying to make it their own. And we’ll support whatever they support.
“I’m always concerned about costs but the only counter to that now is that it’s the Acura Grand Prix now. It’s the mother track for our manufacturer.
“We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do. It’s not on our schedule currently. It came as a surprise to me, to be honest.”
Bill Riley has also stressed the importance of Long Beach from a manufacturer’s standpoint.
“GTD has X amount of different manufacturers. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Southern California is the biggest market for all of those manufacturers,” Riley told Sportscar365.
“So we have to be there for those manufacturers.
“Adding another event to the calendar isn’t the greatest thing because everything’s [already] fairly set. But next year with the 74 car, hopefully we’ll be planning to go.”
Riley said its new full-season pairing of Gar Robinson and Lawson Aschenbach will likely compete in all 12 events next year.
However, he’s suggested that a look at reducing the number of GTD-eligible races in the future should be taken into consideration.
“In the big picture, I think it would be really good if you drop some other races off and do Long Beach,” Riley said. “But obviously you can’t do that [now] because of existing contracts.”