Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.
Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.
Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network.
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Three weeks removed from the most recent round of the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, TeamSLR heads west for Round 4 of 2022 Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The series will be visiting the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course near Monterey, California, for the 13th time.
TeamSLR will be fielding a pair of entries for Sunday’s 45-lap, 75-minute race – fulltime driver Connor Mosack behind the wheel of the No. 28 High Point University/Interstate Foam & Supply/Nic Tailor Custom Fit Underwear Ford Mustang, and Jack Wood, a 21-year-old from Loomis, California, and a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular who will pilot the No. 27 SLR/M1Racecars Chevrolet Camaro this weekend.
Mosack has been on a hot streak of late with pole qualifying efforts at the last two events at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval and Road Atlanta, respectively. The 22-year-old Charlotte native looks to ride that momentum to his first win of the season this weekend.
Last year at Laguna Seca, Mosack qualified sixth and was running among the leaders before an incident dropped him to 23rd. He battled back for a 13th-place finish.
Wood returns to TeamSLR for the second time this season after qualifying 10th and finishing 24th in the TA2 season-opener at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. The fulltime driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is making use of an off weekend to return to racing in his home state while continuing to hone his road-racing skills.
Connor Mosack, Driver No. 28 High Point University/Nic Tailor Custom Fit Underwear/Interstate Foam & Supply/TeamSLR/M1 Racecars Ford Mustang:
How confident are you heading to Laguna Seca, and do you feel you can capture your third consecutive Motul Pole Award?
“I feel confident going into the race weekend at Laguna Seca. We were a top-three car there last year and I feel that we’ve gained a lot of speed since then. I think we’ll have a real shot at another pole, but the competition is tough, so we’ll have to be on our game all weekend.”
Were there any unique challenges you encountered at Laguna Seca in 2021 that you look to overcome this weekend?
“I made a mistake last year that cost us a podium, or any decent finish, really. I’ve learned where passes can be made more easily and how to go about setting them up better, so we can apply that to this race.”
Jack Wood, Driver, No. 27 TeamSLR/M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro:
Laguna Seca will be your second start in Trans Am this season and your first since February’s season-opener at Sebring. Do you feel you can make quick work of getting reacquainted with the Team SLR TA2 Camaro?
“I think it only takes a couple of laps to get used to the car and the car’s potential, but learning new tracks takes a lot of preparation.”
What do you like most about road racing in the Trans Am Series?
“I like racing in Trans Am because of the data we’re able to see as drivers. It makes it a great training tool for road-course racing, which transfers over into my Truck Series racing with GMS.”
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli heads west for a pair of back-to-back events starting with Sunday’s Trans Am SpeedFest at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, California, and concluding just up the Pacific coast at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway with the Sonoma SpeedTour on May 1.
Silver Hare Racing is carrying a pair of its TA2 racing machines for the California swing, one for 15-year-old rising star Connor Zilisch, who’ll be making his fifth career Trans Am start and fourth of the season, the other for 22-year-old Southern Californian Lawless Alan, who’s a fulltime competitor in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2022 and is taking advantage of the Truck Series’ back-to-back off weekends.
Team owner Maurice Hull, who raced at this year’s opening round at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway and the most recent round at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., scoring the top Masters finish at the latter, will once again step aside from his driving duties to focus his full attention on overseeing his two-car entry at Laguna Seca and Sonoma.
Zilisch, driver of the No. 57 Silver Hare Racing/KHI Management Chevrolet Camaro, continues to show great speed in the highly competitive TA2 class and his ability to learn racetracks with remarkable quickness. In the most recent TA2 round last March 26 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, he qualified third and was running with the leaders in the closing laps before crossing the finish line sixth. He was subsequently issued a 40-second penalty for contact deemed unavoidable in the early laps of the race.
Nonetheless, the 10th grader from Mooresville, North Carolina, remained true to the form he first displayed last fall in his Trans Am debut at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, where he became the youngest pole-winner in series history with a lap of 1:48.905. Last month, on his hometown Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval, Zilisch laid down the fastest practice and qualifying laps, as well as the fastest lap of the race.
As is quickly becoming the norm, Zilisch is expected to be one of the drivers to beat when 45 TA2 entries take to the 2.238-mile, 11-turn Laguna Seca road course for Sunday’s 45-lap, 75-minute race set for a 5 p.m. EDT start. It will be his first in-person look at the iconic hillside racetrack, but he’s confident his countless hours racing on it in the simulator will help him make short work of getting up to speed there in his Silver Hare Camaro.
Alan, a native of Van Nuys, California, will be making his competitive debut in Silver Hare equipment when he straps into the No. 25 AUTOParkIt racing machine this weekend. It will be his first Trans Am event since he drove the full 2019 season with Mike Cope Race Cars and earned TA2 Rookie of the Year honors with his fifth-place finish in the final driver standings. He qualified fourth and finished sixth at Laguna Seca that year for one of his nine top-10s in 13 races.
Zilisch and Alan, who first worked together in January at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway in a preseason Silver Hare Racing test, both competed two weekends ago in a World Racing League endurance event that featured twin eight-hour races Saturday and Sunday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington. Zilisch drove a BSI Racing Mazda MX5 Cup car in the GP2 class and made an impressive run from 34th place to eighth in the early stages of the Saturday race, but one of his co-drivers was involved in a late-race accident that ended the team’s bid, and also kept it from competing in the Sunday race. Alan co-drove a BMW M4 GT4 entry for Hammer-Motorsports to top-10 finishes both days.
Silver Hare Racing leverages its Trans Am effort to promote its arrive-and-drive program, where aspiring racers and even tenured professionals hone their road-racing skills on some of the most revered tracks in North America. NASCAR Cup Series drivers Daniel Suárez, William Byron, Harrison Burton and Christopher Bell have all wheeled Silver Hare Racing-prepared cars to burnish their road-racing abilities. In addition to top-flight equipment, Silver Hare Racing offers professional driver coaching.
The team offers six, professionally built and maintained TA2 chassis from Howe Racing for both competition and private testing. Silver Hare Racing has a dedicated, fulltime crew and operates out of a state-of-the-art facility in High Point, North Carolina. At the track, two 53-foot Featherlite transporters serve as the team’s base, each outfitted with a lounge and smart TVs for data and video review, as well as for hospitality.
“With NASCAR having so many more road-course races, it’s our goal for Silver Hare Racing to be the preferred team for drivers to get that road-course experience,” said Laura Hull, team manager, Silver Hare Racing. “We want to be that important step in the ladder for the young, up-and-coming drivers like Connor, which we’re doing in collaboration with Kevin Harvick Incorporated.
“It started when they brought him to us for testing at VIR a year ago, and now we’re delighted to have him under contract. That’s how we’re trying to position this. We want people to know we have an arrive-and-drive program, where people who want to run this track or another, we provide the opportunity for them to do that and be successful.”
Connor Zilisch, driver No. 57 Silver Hare Racing/KHI Management:
“This will be my first time at Laguna Seca. I’ve driven it on the sim a bunch. I really enjoy driving it. Lots of elevation, and a driver’s track, for sure, so I’m looking forward to that. And being on a new track is always fun. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, so I’m excited to get out there and get going.
“It races well (on the simulator). I always have fun whenever I’m racing it. For my friends and I, it’s always one of the tracks that we race at. The Corkscrew (turns seven and eight) is something a lot of people talk about. I’ve seen lots of pictures and videos of old races there and it’s something that’ll be really cool to do in real life.
“I’ve kept busy the last few weeks, coaching a lot. Two weekends ago I did my first endurance race with WRL at Mid-Ohio, which was really cool. We had some bad luck. We blew up a motor in practice, and in the final stint of Saturday’s race, my teammate got t-boned by a Porsche, which put a hole in the gas tank, so we didn’t to race on Sunday.
“The weekend before that, I got called on Tuesday to go race a shifter kart. So I flew down to NOLA (Motorsports Park in Avondale, Louisiana) and got to race a shifter kart for the first time ever, which was cool, as well – something new. Just trying new things, learning as fast as I can, and it was really good. We finished third out of 20 karts on Sunday. One of the guys in front of me was a European champion, world champion, factory driver. I was up to pace with him, but I’d get tired during the race because those things are physical, especially on that track. It was super technical and bumpy. But it was super cool, learning something new and racing against the people I was racing against.
“That WRL race taught me a lot about patience. Hopefully I can apply that this weekend. The 75 minutes we race in Trans Am is actually a lot of time compared to what I’ve been doing. Kart races are 15, 20 minutes. I know that Trans Am races aren’t going to be easy in the middle of the summer, so I’ve been working out and getting better. Hopefully some results can come our way.
“Lawless (Alan) and I met at Sebring when we tested earlier this year. We’ve been keeping in touch. He’s doing well in the Truck Series. It’ll be cool to have him with us this weekend. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Lawless Alan, driver, No. 25 AUTOParkIt/Silver Hare Racing:
“I’ve run at Laguna Seca once in Trans Am in 2019. That was my first experience there. We were fast that weekend, just made a mistake that took us out of it. We finished (sixth), but it took us out of contention. It’s one of my favorite tracks I’ve raced at in real life, I’d say. It’s just really fun. It flows well, and it always helps when you’re fast there. I had a great time there. The Corkscrew is awesome. Not much else to say about it, other than that I like the flow and all the elevation changes.
“If your car is fast there, you can make opportunities to pass just by rolling more corner speed than somebody else and getting a run down the straight. And all you have to do is brake just a little bit deeper to force them off line and you pretty much have the pass made. It’s not as hard to pass as it might seem.
“I met Maurice (Hull) that year (2019). I was running for Mike Cope, and Maurice would come into our hauler all the time just to watch videos with us. So I’ve known them (Maurice and Laura Hull) since I’ve been running TA2, and this time we’re rolling with them. The cars are fast, which we learned at the test at Sebring, so I’m excited about this weekend.
“The (NASCAR) Trucks and the TA2 cars are so different, but I think it’ll be good racing in a series that I’ve raced in before at tracks that I’ve raced at before, and just being aggressive racing with the guys up at the front in TA2. And I’m hoping that’ll translate into confidence for me in the Truck Series, looking to take some of the speed and the confidence I get in TA2 to where we’re battling up at the front in the Truck Series.”
Maurice Hull, owner, Silver Hare Racing:
“I’m stepping out of the car these next two races to help give our full attention with our staff to support our two young drivers who are moving rapidly forward in their respective careers.
“We should be very fast at Laguna Seca. We spent all our time getting these two cars ready. The dedication of the crew at the shop was very narrowly focused on these two cars and we feel really good about them. We brought (NASCAR veteran) Gil Martin on board as our new director of competition and he’s been working very closely with Derick Jennings and Jeff Holley on our preparation and our game plan for what we’re bringing out West.
“Having the three weeks off since Road Atlanta gave us a lot of extra time to devote to the West Coast races and it’s been very helpful. It’s a long haul out there and back for the crew for these next two races. It’s an endurance test in itself. The goal will be keeping our cars clean and avoiding any problems on the track at Laguna because, if we happen to need to do any major work between the two races, it could put us in a bind.
“We’re running Lawless for the first time these next two races. He’s shown some real talent in the Truck Series. He’s had some great finishes in his first full year in the series. He was TA2 Rookie of the Year back in 2019, so he’s well acquainted in the Trans Am cars. With the additional experience he’s picked up since then in a variety of other series, I’m looking forward to seeing him run extremely well up front. He was quick when we tested down in Sebring earlier this year. If he’s learned anything, it’ll be demonstrated in the racing. It’s one thing to drive fast and another thing to race. It’s huge to be able to run fast and clean and finish well in the race.”
F1 legend Emerson Fittipaldi had a chat with the VegasInsider team about the upcoming Grand Prix at Imola, heaping praise on Fernando Alonso and Alpine. Here's what the Brazilian had to say:
- Alpine and Fernando Alonso can spring a surprise in Imola
"I think the one that's there for sure is Alpine."
"Alpine is ready to be there (close to the podium) and we have to remember that Fernando Alonso is an incredible driver. You know Fernando will be there, very strong."
"Apparently, the last Grand Prix, he couldn't be on pole because he lost the quick lap. That shows his potential and the car's potential. In Australia, Fernando was extremely competitive."
- Don't underestimate Haas at Imola - AlphaTauri can also do well but they have issues with the Honda engine
"Don't forget Haas. Haas is going to be running very strong with (Kevin) Magnussen for sure."
"They improved a lot, they'll be there. That'll be the surprise team, in my opinion, the Haas team with Magnussen."
"AlphaTauri can do well, but they have (issues with) the Honda reliability."
"Williams, they can improve."
The construction of the Miami International Autodrome is “95 per cent complete” ahead of its staging of the first-ever Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix on May 6-8, 2022. Work on the 5.41km circuit started in April 2021 and all permanent structures, such as the Pit Building, Garages and Race Control Tower are close to completion, and the final lift of asphalt laying was finished in March. The focus in the final weeks will shift to the final fit of the temporary structures around the Miami Campus and minor works, such as painting curbs, which is already underway, and installing temporary safety barriers.
“We’re in the final stages of this incredible circuit that will host the first-ever Formula 1® race in Miami,” says Richard Cregan, CEO of the Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix. “We are delighted with the progress we have made and it’s a huge credit to the hard work of the team here in Miami, in consultation with both Formula 1® and the FIA to get this circuit finished in a tight timeline. We have tried to create a track that drivers love to race on and a campus that offers unique, best-in-class fan experiences; and we can’t wait for the first weekend in May to be here.”
The state-of-the-art Miami International Autodrome has been constructed in Miami Gardens within the campus of the Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins NFL team. The 19-turn track is the newest circuit built to host a round of the FIA Formula 1® World Championship. The circuit features three straights — the longest being 1.28km in length — three DRS zones and simulations predict drivers will be on full throttle for 58 per cent of the lap, with an estimated top speed of 320km/h.
Planning of the Miami International Autodrome began in the summer of 2019, while the ground-breaking process started in April 2021. Over the past 12 months, 24,000 tons of asphalt have been laid, with the final top lift completed in February 2022. The foundations of the Pit Building started on September 1, 2021 and a total of 1,130 tons of concrete has been used across the site.
The layout of the track has been formulated by Clive Bowen’s Apex Circuit Design company and work on the design has taken place in close consultation with both Formula 1® and the sport’s governing body, the FIA, to ensure the track is a challenge for the drivers and adheres to the rigorous safety standards of a modern Grand Prix facility.
Around the 5.41km circuit, a total of 2,870 Geobrugg blocks have been installed with 118 in place along the Pit Wall. Extending the length of the Miami International Autodrome are 37,000 feet of concrete barriers and debris fences (the equivalent to seven miles in length). There are also 14 pedestrian bridges that span the track — the most of any F1® circuit — to enable ease of access around the Miami Campus.
“There has been no compromise on any aspect of the circuit design or quality of construction,” says Cregan. “In my experience of working with new venues over the years, I’ve never seen as much effort on perfecting the surface of the track as we have done in Miami. Everything was exactly per the design, and everyone involved in construction has done an incredible job.”
The Miami International Autodrome will roar into life on the weekend of May 6-8, 2022 and will be the 11th different venue in the USA to host a Formula 1® race since the championship started in 1950. This year’s inaugural event will form round five of this season’s 23-race schedule.
South Florida Motorsports (SFM), promoter of the Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix has today announced details of a star-studded opening night of entertainment, special guests and live music presented by Heineken®, that will take place in the build-up to the first-ever Formula 1® race in Miami Gardens.
The Opening Party with Musical Performances presented by Heineken® will be an unforgettable evening of live music and driver introductions with a crowd full of fans expected to enjoy the event, that will also be broadcast live on F1’s social media channels. Accompanying the F1® drivers and Team Principals on stage for the show, will be drivers from the all-female support category W Series, as well a star-studded presenting line-up.
Taking place on the huge bespoke podium, where the top three drivers will receive their trophies on race day, the opening show will give fans an exclusive look into what a Miami style F1® race weekend will look like. With accompanying music by Kygo & special guests, the event is set to be a thrilling curtain-raiser to the inaugural race which takes place at the newly-built Miami International Autodrome.
Richard Cregan, CEO of the Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix said: “We can’t wait to introduce Formula 1 to Miami, and this event is the perfect way to start the race week. We’ve been working tirelessly to deliver an event that people will enjoy, and also on ways to give as many fans as possible a taste of our event. We’re thrilled that the F1 drivers, Team Principals and Kygo & special guests presented by Heineken®, will help us to do that on May 4th and officially launch our race weekend in Miami style.”
Since 2016 Heineken® has been an integral global partner of Formula 1® providing spectacular live concerts and world class entertainment in unique settings across the globe. In addition to their Event Title Partnerships and socially-responsible campaigns, Heineken® has given F1® fans an opportunity to come together to enjoy live music from amazing artists and DJs at some of the most iconic race tracks in the world. The Opening Party will be the perfect way for Heineken® to get the Miami weekend started.
The Opening Party with Musical Performances presented by Heineken® will bring together impressive music performances with internationally-renowned artist, producer and DJ, Kygo introducing a host of special guests, friends and A-list celebrities, and the whole night will take place on the stunning Formula 1® podium which overlooks both the race track and the Miami Campus fountains.
Kygo said: “I’m super excited to be working with Heineken® to perform at the Opening Party to celebrate the first ever F1 race here in Miami. Miami is such a cultural capital, and I can’t wait to see the meeting of the buzz of such a vibrant city, with the glamour of Formula 1, and I look forward to opening the weekend with a big celebration!”
The Opening Party with Musical Performances presented by Heineken® will offer a great additional opportunity for fans to experience the Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix experience. General admission tickets are on sale now and will be priced from $100. To buy tickets to attend this star-studded show, click here.
By Marty Irby
The first time I heard Bob Baffert’s name was in 1997. It was on television following the running of the 123rd Kentucky Derby, where a grey stallion named Silver Charm claimed victory, only Baffert’s second time to enter a horse in the race. Just days before my high school graduation, Silver Charm’s win came just as I was contemplating a career as a horse trainer myself.
There was certainly something captivating about the duo that called me to watch my first Preakness Stakes a few weeks later, where Silver Charm won again. And even though the beautiful grey horse fell short of claiming the Triple Crown with his defeat at the Belmont, Baffert became a national star.
As a lifelong horseman, I’ve always watched the Derby. Fortunately, my mentor convinced me training horses wasn’t going to be a sustainable path for me, but I continued to follow the careers of Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas, and others. Aside from his track record, Baffert seems like a likeable enough guy, and for many years was quite successful at charming the media, fans of horse racing, and the betting public.
Baffert went on to claim more Derby titles and wins around the globe, but it wasn’t until I attended the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in 2015 that I paused to consider the conditions horses were being forced to endure. American Pharoah claimed victory that day just as the darkest of clouds and heaviest of rainstorms approached Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore. As I stood drenched at the finish line, I wondered how anyone could choose to run a horse in the sloppy mess in front of us, and why they would endanger these horses by pushing them so hard in those conditions.
American Pharoah would go on to win the Belmont Stakes before a record-breaking crowd in Queens and fulfill Baffert’s lifelong dream of claiming all three legs of the Triple Crown in Thoroughbred horse racing – the first since Affirmed in 1978, a 37-year drought. Soon after, I began to hear rumblings of drug abuse, doping, and other egregious practices in horse racing as I was working in Congress on horse racing and other animal-related issues at the time.
It wasn’t long before I was recruited to head up the equine protection department at a national animal group in early 2016. One of the main reasons I decided to make the move was to launch a campaign to end doping and other abuses in the sport. Reps. Andy Barr, R-Ky., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., had just introduced the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act, which had only 20 House cosponsors when I turned my attention to it. A Senate companion measure hadn’t even been introduced. It wasn’t a perfect bill, and didn’t ban Lasix, but it was a good start, something we felt we could get behind, and my gut told me it was something we could get done.
As each Congress passed, new versions of the bill were introduced that expanded the measure to cover other breeds of horses and eliminate the use of race-day medication while creating a uniform national standard for testing and enforcement with one national set of rules to be overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
As the issue was elevated, Congress held hearings on the matter in late 2016, and again in 2018. Soon thereafter a rash of racehorse deaths at Baffert’s home track, Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia, Calif., drew national attention, as horses were dropping like flies. The public outrage grew and ultimately led to a terrible discovery: Justify, Bob Baffert’s second Triple Crown winner, who claimed victory in 2018, had a dirty little secret.
The public learned that Justify had tested positive for an illegal drug when he won the Santa Anita Derby, a qualifier for the Kentucky Derby and ultimately a key step for the horse to become only the 13th in American history to win all three Triple Crown races. That positive drug test was swept under the rug by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), whose vice-chairman also had a horse in training with Baffert at the time.
That incident sparked tremendous controversy in American horse racing, and nothing was done to rectify the situation. That’s when the tide turned against Bob Baffert. Justify remains the official winner of each of those races, despite the fact that California Governor Gavin Newsom cleaned house at the CHRB and removed those who were in power when the Justify scandal occurred.
Fast forward to January 2020. A third hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives was held on the then-Horseracing Integrity Act. I testified before Congress in support of the bill and discussed the Santa Anita deaths as well as the Justify scandal in my remarks.
Left to right: Marty Irby, Ed Martin, Bill Lear, Kathy Anderson, Joe DeFrancis, Chris McCarron, and Dennis Drazin all testify before the U.S. House of Representatives in January of 2020 at a hearing on anti-doping legislation | Photo: Animal Wellness Action.
A few weeks later, the FBI raided numerous stables in Florida, and the U.S. Dept. of Justice indicted 27 trainers, owners, veterinarians, and other parties in the largest illegal doping scandal the horse world has ever seen.
To his credit, Baffert penned an op-ed that week in support of the anti-doping legislation, but it was already too late – the Washington Post, published an editorial the same day as Baffert’s piece entitled “Horseracing Has Outlived Its Time.” The unthinkable for the industry was now in print with one of America’s key newspapers of record. That would get the attention of the horse racing world but concerns about horse racing were subordinated to the national crisis over the pandemic.
But one reader was still paying attention: U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a regular at the Kentucky Derby in McConnell’s hometown of Louisville, where McConnell’s political career was born as judge executive in the 1980s. The Post’s headline hit too close to home for McConnell. He soon stepped into action and used his wherewithal to bring the last major holdout in Thoroughbred racing to the table: Churchill Downs, the parent company that owns and operates the Derby.
By fall of 2020, McConnell, Barr, Tonko, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and those of us in the Coalition for Horseracing Integrity forged a new bill: the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA). It not only accomplished a ban on race-day medication and establishment of a national standard and set of rules, but it also contained a new safety provision brought by McConnell and an unlikely ally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. We saw the enactment of HISA in December of 2020, and the measure takes effect this July. Good things come to those who wait, and the horses have waited for decades to see reform.
But we knew there’d be no fairy tale ending to this story, as numerous lawsuits were filed in an effort to derail the implementation of the new law.
Enter Medina Spirit.
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, USA – APRIL 3 2016: Entrance to Churchill Downs featuring a statue of 2006 Kentucky Derby Champion Barbaro | Photo: Shutterstock Item ID: 401958640
Medina Spirit, a very unlikely candidate to win the Kentucky Derby, crossed the finish line first last May and was widely celebrated as a real-life Cinderella story. That is until a blood test came back weeks later showing the colt tested positive for betamethasone, an agent that can be used to mask pain and enhance a horses’ performance if used for that purpose. A second positive test from the split sample further corroborated the use of the drug.
A firestorm of press came quickly as Baffert claimed there was no possibility that the horse could have tested positive for Betamethasone and that the “cancel culture” that he believes has consumed the U.S. put a bullseye on the embattled trainer. A likely story for someone with dozens of repeated drug violations.
Baffert later walked back his tale as veterinarians confirmed a substance named Otomax was used on Medina Spirit, and that betamethasone was indeed a key ingredient.
Churchill Downs swiftly barred Baffert from competing at the Kentucky Derby or any other race held on the grounds of any Churchill property for two years.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA), operator of the Belmont Stakes followed suit, and barred Baffert from its tracks as well, preventing him from running horses in the third leg of the Triple Crown.
These leaders made the right decision and did right by the horse.
But Pimlico Racetrack and the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore took a different path, allowing Baffert to run the colt in the second leg despite the positive drug test. Pimlico felt tremendous backlash as the move was deemed “business as usual in Baltimore.” Medina Spirit remained under around-the-clock observation, and the little horse finished third with no drugs in his system.
Lawsuits began flying around as Baffert challenged those who sought to punish him for what NYRA called “taking a wrecking ball” to American horse racing by continuing to press the envelope and ignore the rules of the game.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) went further in 2022 to suspend Baffert for 90 days, effectively preventing him from running in the Derby this year. Baffert appealed three times, on up to the Kentucky Appellate Court, but lost in each attempt. And the KHRC stripped Medina Spirit of the Derby title.
And on Monday, Baffert’s suspension officially began. Through reciprocity, the California Horse Racing Board, with new appointees who aren’t willing to tolerate Baffert’s arrogance, issued a suspension and sent Baffert packing, taking down the trainer’s signs at his home base at Santa Anita. The New York State Gaming Commission shuttered him as well.
There’s one thing for sure, there will be no Bob Baffert Triple Crown winner this year.
The public is fed up with Bob Baffert’s shenanigans, and most of the leaders in the world of horse racing have now recognized what a tremendous liability Baffert is for the so-called “Sport of Kings.” I do wonder, has Bob Baffert jumped the shark? Only time will tell.
And to top off this good news, a Federal Judge in Texas just threw out the lawsuit that attempted to derail HISA, effectively upholding the first new horse protection law enacted in half a century. It’s no surprise to those of us who were steeped in the making of it, as some of the most brilliant legal minds in Congress, the animal protection space, and horse racing prepared a litigation-proof bill that is clearly within the confines of the U.S. Constitution and Commerce Clause.
There’s much to celebrate on the first Saturday in May this year, far more than any Derby before. Justice and the welfare of the horses have prevailed in the courts, and Bob Baffert, who I’m sure we’ll hear more about later, will have to sit this one out and will hopefully consider his own reformation. It’s too late for Medina Spirit, but is it too late for him?
Marty Irby is the executive director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C., and is a former 8-time world champion equestrian who was honored in 2020 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, II for his work to protect animals.
The Philadelphia Concours d’Elegance, the premier concours event in the City of Brotherly Love, returns on June 24-25, 2022, to celebrate the "Snakes" – the iconic Ford Shelby Cobra and Dodge Viper – each brand with its own unique provenance and cachet in the collector car world.Featured at this fifth annual event will be two of Carroll Shelby's early “employees,” Peter Brock and Chuck Cantwell, who helped establish the Shelby brand worldwide, on the street and the race track.Also expected to participate will be a member of the original Viper design team, to be announced soon.The Dodge Viper is the popular sports car that was manufactured by Dodge from 1992 until 2017. Bob Lutz, the Chrysler president at the time, suggested to Chrysler Design Center that the company should consider producing a modern high-performance supercar, and a clay model was presented to Lutz a few months later. The powerful two-seater sparked immediate interest in the Dodge brand among enthusiasts and the automotive press.Shelby hired Brock in 1961 as his first paid employee, running the Carroll Shelby School of High Performance Driving while helping to develop Shelby’s first Cobra. He continued at Shelby American until the end of the 1965 race season when the Brock-designed Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupes won the FIA’s World GT Championship. Brock also created Shelby's image for the Shelby American brand – logos, merchandise, magazine ads, and car liveries – and designed numerous other race cars for Shelby as well as the exterior components for Shelby’s Mustang GT350s.Cantwell, on the other hand, while not directly involved with the Shelby Cobra, was instrumental in advancing the Shelby brand as Project Engineer on the Mustang GT-350 and GT-500 production cars, the design and building of GT-350 R-Model race cars, followed by Trans Am cars and serving as race team engineer for the Shelby Mustang Trans Am team, earning national championships in 1965, 1966 and 1967.
Peter Brock in February 1964 following the completion of the Shelby Daytona Coupe. (Dave Friedman/Peter Brock Collection image)
Chuck Cantwell with new Shelby Mustang GT350 in 1965. (Dave Friedman/Chuck Cantwell Collection image)
The nonprofit Cool Cars for Kids, Inc. (CCfK) will stage a classic car “competition of elegance” on Saturday, June 25, at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, which in 2019 was voted the “No. 1 Car Collection in the World” by The Classic Car Trust.The Concours will be preceded on Friday, June 24, by a Preview Gala featuring legendary Super Bowl-winning Coach Dick Vermeil, who will be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame this August, and Peter Brock, who was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America this past March.“We are thrilled to be celebrating two of America’s most iconic sports cars, the Cobra and the Viper at this year’s Philadelphia Concours d’Elegance,” said Michael Tillson III, president and director of Cool Cars for Kids, and one of the country’s most highly regarded authorities on classic and sports automobiles. “Attendees of the Concours will not only have a chance to get an up-close look of many historic and legendary examples of Cobras and Vipers, but also see other classic cars from the Simeone Collection."They will also be treated to a no-holds-barred discussion about the Shelby years with Peter Brock and Chuck Cantwell. Viper representatives will also be on hand, who will be announced soon.”
The 1964 Shelby Daytona Coupe on view at the Simeone Foundation Automobile Museum. (Michael Furman image)
The 2005 Dodge Viper SRT 10 Coupe. (Stellantis Media image)
The Concours will showcase an invitation-only assembly of Cobras and Vipers and other American and European classic and historic automobiles and race cars. The fundraising event includes professional judging and awards presented for historical accuracy, technical merit, and style. The popular Hagerty Youth Judging program will also be implemented. This year’s classes are: Pre-War, Post-War, Open, Closed, Sports, Muscle and Kids Choice.Special events will offer a panel discussion with Peter Brock, Chuck Cantwell, Dick Vermeil and Viper representatives (to be announced) during Saturday's Concours, and the Friday night gala honoring Brock and Vermeil.Also included will be family-friendly activities; celebrity guests (to be announced), a Car Corral open for local car enthusiasts to exhibit their classic cars; food and specialty vendors; and access to the Simeone Museum.A special car tour for Cobra and Viper owners on Saturday morning to the Simeone Museum is also planned.Premier Concours Entries:Classic car collectors from throughout North America are invited to submit their entries for the 2021 Philadelphia Concours d’Elegance at https://www.philadelphiaconcours.com/concours-page.Car Corral Registration:Classic car enthusiasts and owners are invited to participate in this year’s Car Corral to be held on the grounds of the Simeone Museum. Individual Space, $50 (includes two tickets to the Concours). Go to https://www.philadelphiaconcours.com/corralregistration.Tickets:Tickets to the Saturday Concours can be purchased by visiting https://www.philadelphiaconcours.com/event-details/fifth-annual-philadelphia-concours-deleganceTickets to the Friday, June 24, 2002, gala, may be purchased at https://www.philadelphiaconcours.com/event-details/philadelphia-concours-preview-dinner-galaMedia Credentials:Media requesting credentials for the one-day event should go to https://www.philadelphiaconcours.com/media-credentials-formAT A GLANCE:WHAT:Fifth Annual Philadelphia Concours d’EleganceWHEN:Gala: Friday, June 24, 2002 - 6-10 p.m.Concours: Saturday, June 25, 2022 – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.WHO:Families, classic car enthusiasts, collectors, racers, one and allWHERE:Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum6825 Norwitch Dr.Philadelphia, PAFor more information, visit www.coolcarsforkids.org, or call 267-982-CCfK (2235)