Jake Eidson began his racing career in karts, and moved up steadily through the formula car ranks. As the recipient of the first-ever IMSA Hurley Haywood GT3 Cup Scholarship, which helped Eidson secure a full season behind the wheel of a Porsche in the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, you had to wonder: How would the open-wheel driver perform in a race car that has fenders?
Quite well, we learned, after Eidson, a 21-year-old from Littleton, Colo., finished first and second in the pair of races at Sebring International Raceway last month that opened the season. He brings the points lead to the series' debut at Barber Motorsports Park April 22-23 as part of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama weekend.
And since Barber Motorsports Park is the home of the Porsche Sport Driving School, Eidson might get a little personal coaching from the school's chief instructor, Hurley Haywood. The winningest sports car endurance racer of the modern era, Haywood has five victories at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, three at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Eidson, driving the Kelly-Moss Road and Race No. 24, will need all the help he can get. He can expect tough competition from Trenton Estep of San Antonio, Texas, who finished second and third at Sebring in the JDX Racing/Hertz No. 3, and from Corey Fergus, who placed third in the second race at Sebring. The Columbus, Ohio racer will be driving the US LED/BYERS/Moorespeed No. 00 car.
Sebastian Landy of Great Falls, Va. had a fifth-place average finish at Sebring in the Forto Strong Coffee No. 49, which is prepared by the legendary Alex Job Racing team. They will be contenders once again at Barber.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA will run two 45-minute races - the first at 1 p.m. CDT on Saturday, April 22, and the second at 8:45 a.m. CDT on Sunday, April 23.
There are two separate classes, but both compete at the same time: The Platinum class is for 2017 model Porsche 911 GT3 cars, while the Gold class is for Porsche 911 GT3 cars from 2016, 2015 and 2014. The difference in speed isn't that much - there was at least one Gold class car in the overall top 10 of both races at Sebring.
In addition, racers age 45 and over run for their own honors in the Masters category in the Platinum class. This is round two in an eight-round season, ending in October at Road Atlanta.
Wright Motorsports will be bringing five cars to the race - four in the Platinum class and one in the Gold. Andrew Longe of Naples, Fla., driving the Trianon Hotels No. 47, and McKay Snow of Lehi, Utah, in the Snow Racing No. 63, had especially good results at Sebring. McKay is the younger brother of Madison Snow, who was the 2013 champion in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA, and is currently racing, and winning in, the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship's GT Daytona class.
Also contending in a Wright Motorsports car: Anthony Imperato of Brooklyn, N.Y. in the Henry Repeating Arms No. 91, and Phil Bloom, of New York, N.Y., in the No. 11. Charles Luck IV of Richmond, Va., will be racing in the Gold class in the No. 45.
Will Hardeman of Austin, Texas, will be a Moorespeed teammate to Corey Fergus, driving the Continental Automotive Group No. 19. Topp Racing is fielding cars for a quartet of Texas drivers: Jeff Mosing of Austin will be driving the Mosing Motorcars No. 01, and David Baker of Colleyville is in the Apex Capital No. 56. Two of the Topp cars will compete in the Gold class - Frank Raso of Cleburne is in the Mosing Motorcars No. 10, and Bill Smith of Dallas will be in the No. 42 Kung-Fu Saloon car.
Mark Kvamme of Columbus, Ohio, is racing the No. 43 from JDX Racing, a team car to Trenton Estep. Alejandro Chahwan of Buenos Aries, Argentina, is behind the wheel of the No. 22 Powersports Racing entry.
And rounding out the 14-car Platinum field is the most famous name in the race, but not because of his motorsports performance: C.J. Wilson of Laguna Beach, Cal., will be in just his second weekend of professional racing, driving the C.J. Wilson Racing/Porsche Fresno No. 33. Wilson, 36, spent 10 years as one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball, first for the Texas Rangers, then the Los Angeles Angels. The two-time All Star spent 2016 on the disabled list, and he retired at the end of the season, allowing him to pursue what he says is his first love: Racing, with a goal of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Baseball contracts may have prevented him from racing, but not from owning race teams - his C.J. Wilson Racing Porsche team took second and third at the 2017 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Wilson made his first professional race start at Sebring International Raceway last month, where he finished a respectable 20th in the 30-car field in race one, improving to 14th in race two. This is not a passing fancy for Wilson - expect him to be a part of sports car racing for a long time.
Finally, filling out the Gold field at Barber are three cars prepared by Kelly-Moss Road and Race, which is the defending overall champion in the series, and the team Jake Eidson selected to fulfill his season scholarship. Greg Palmer of Colgate, Wis., will be in the Copps Industries No. 44; Kurt Fazekas of Indianapolis, Ind., will drive the No. 52, and Alan Metni of Austin, Texas will drive the No. 99 iFly car.
NGT Motorsport has the final two entries in the Gold class: Fred Kaimer of Austin, Texas, will drive the No. 23 Race Deck entry, alongside the No. 25 Mapfre/Porsche Center of Puerto Rico driven by Victor Gomez IV of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Sunday's IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup USA by Yokohama race will stream live at IMSA.tv at 8:35 a.m. CDT. Both races will be broadcast live online by IMSA Radio - you can find that link, plus additional information, at IMSA.com.
Delayed television coverage of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA races will be provided on June 17, 2017 on major network affiliates in numerous U.S. markets by Sinclair Broadcast Group. The broadcast will also be available on YouTube 24 hours after it airs on television.
To determine the station in your market, use the zip code widget on the bottom right corner of the series website: porschegt3cupusa.imsa.com.
Follow IMSA on Facebook and @IMSA on Twitter with the hashtag #GT3USA for updates on the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama. Live timing for every race is available at IMSA.com, with live streaming video of all races at IMSA.tv.
Practice: 9:55 - 10:25 a.m. (CDT) and 4:45 - 5:25 p.m. Friday, April 21
Qualifying: 8:05 - 8:25 a.m. Saturday, April 22
Round 1 (45 minutes): 1:00 - 1:45 p.m. Saturday, April 22
Round 2 (45 minutes): 8:45 - 9:30 a.m. Sunday, April 23
Live timing: All on-track sessions at scoring.imsa.com and on the official IMSA App for iOS, Android and Windows
Twitter: Live text commentary from all sessions at @IMSALive