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.
Contact Adam: Email
SCHUMACHER, LANGDON, CRAMPTON AMONG QUICKEST TOP FUEL DRIVERS IN FINAL DAY OF CHEVROLET PERFORMANCE U.S. NATIONALS TESTING
Several Top Fuel drivers, including nine-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner Tony Schumacher, defending winner Shawn Langdon and noted rookie Richie Crampton, raced to impressive performances Thursday during the final day of testing at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
NHRA teams utilized the two-day open test to prepare for the world's most prestigious drag race, which will be held next weekend (Aug. 27-Sept. 1) at the famed NHRA-owned multi-purpose motorsports facility that sits just west of downtown Indianapolis. The tradition-rich event is the final race in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season and will be televised by ESPN2 with more than 10 hours of coverage on Labor Day weekend. The event also will feature the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel and Funny Car and many special activities with the sport’s legendary drivers in celebration of the milestone 60th anniversary.
Schumacher posted the second-quickest run of the day with a performance of 3.810 seconds at 323.81 mph in his U.S. Army dragster. He comes to the Big Go this season looking to win the race for a record 10th time, which would break a tie for most wins he currently shares with Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden.
“We don’t test as much as we used to, most teams don’t,” Schumacher said. “There are a lot of new parts and pieces we have to get on the car that we have to try before the race weekend and qualifying. We also have the (Traxxas) Shootout as well. It is a huge weekend, we have a chance to do something that very few cars have had the chance to do and that is to win Indy 10 times. You want to make some good laps and know that you are coming in here comfortable with your tune up.”
Another Indy win would also give the seven-time world champ momentum heading into the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs. “The Sarge” has two victories and two No. 1 qualifying positions this season and is in fourth place in the points standings.
“We have been coming on so strong and have such a great racecar and you know we keep saying we need one more run, one more run, and here we want to give ourselves four or five more runs to get what we need,” Schumacher said. “We’re definitely leaving the test session comfortable coming back in a few days.”
Defending U.S. Nationals and Traxxas Nitro Shootout Top Fuel winner Langdon clocked a performance of 3.838 at 313.07 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster and appears to be in good form heading into the event. He has one victory this season in five final round appearances and is in third place in the series standings.
"Last year we had such a great weekend winning everything there was," said Langdon, also the defending Top Fuel world champion. "But you can ask anybody, those weekends don’t come by too often. You have to appreciate those weekends and we strive for those weekends like that, but at this point we will do the best job we can. We want to get back into the winner's circle and that paycheck for the Traxxas Shootout is nice as well so we are going to do the best job we can. The main thing is just getting this car ready for the Countdown and getting that big check at the end of the year."
Rookie driver Crampton was fourth in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster with a performance of 3.814 at 322.73 as he prepares for his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals as a driver.
"Everyone wants to win the U.S. Nationals and for most of us living here in Indiana now this is a hometown race," said Crampton, a native Australian who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2012. "It is the Big Go, it is the U.S. Nationals. It is at Lucas Oil Raceway so it is a home track for the Lucas Oil family. We definitely want to win this one. There are point implications going into the Countdown and there is also that $100,000 that Traxxas is putting up. This is the No. 1 on the list of races you want to win, and me as a rookie, I’d love to win."
Al-Anabi Racing director of racing operations Brandon Bernstein got behind the wheel of Khalid alBalooshi’s dragster and posted the quickest performance of the day, a 3.801 second run at 299.26 mph. Billy Torrence was third overall with a 3.811 at 323.04 in his Capco Contractors machine, while Leah Pritchett posted her best effort of the test, a 3.858 at 310.63 in her Gumout/Dote Racing dragster.
Wednesday leader Matt Hagan continued to pace the Funny Car pack as he powered his Mopar Dodge Charger to run of 4.038 seconds at 316.75 mph. Tommy Johnson Jr. sped to the second-best time with a 4.042 at 317.19 in his Make-A-Wish Dodge and Jack Beckman was third in his Valvoline Dodge with a 4.164 at 264.96.
Below is a listing of each Top Fuel and Funny Car competitor’s best performance from Thursday’s testing:
1. Brandon Bernstein (in Khalid alBalooshi's car) 3.801, 299.26
2. Tony Schumacher – 3.810, 323.81
3. Billy Torrence – 3.811, 323.04
4. Richie Crampton – 3.814, 322.73
5. Shawn Langdon – 3.838, 313.07
6. Leah Pritchett – 3.858, 310.63
7. Spencer Massey – 3.913, 259.56
1. Matt Hagan – 4.038, 316.75
2. Tommy Johnson Jr. – 4.042, 317.19
3. Jack Beckman – 4.164, 264.96
4. Courtney Force – 6.983, 84.44
Tickets for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals are available by calling (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or logging on to www.NHRATIX.com.
More than 40 entries are set to compete at Sonoma, the series' second trip to California this year; the series raced Round 2 in Long Beach in April. Several drivers have home turf or wins to defend in the Golden State, as championship battles intensify in all classes.
11-turn, 1.99-mile permanent road circuit
Sunday, August 24, 4:40 P.M. PDT/7:40 P.M. EDT (GT/GT-A/GTS Race 2)
Live Internet Telecast (on www.world-challengeTV.com):
Sunday, August 24, 4:10 P.M. PDT/7:20 PM. EDT (GT/GT-A/GTS Race 2)
What does two Florida State Senators, a professional car race driver and a Television Sports Director all have in common? And no, this is not a bad joke!
All four of these professionals will be casting aside their normal vocations and become harness horse drivers on Saturday, September 13 at the inaugural Sunshine Stakes at Sunshine Meadows Equestrian Village off Route 441/SR7 in Delray Beach, Florida.
State Senators Joseph Abruzzo (D) Palm Beach and Marie Sachs (D) Palm Beach/Broward counties, local professional car race driver Tristan Nunez and Palm Beach TV 12’s Sports Director, Matt Lincoln, will all compete in a one mile harness horse race as part of the festivities at Sunshine Meadows. Nunez will also be bringing his Mazda Prototype Lites racecar that will be on display.
In addition to the celebrity race, there will be more than $50,000 in stakes races held at the training facility on September 13 and 20th. The races are sponsored by the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association and are for two and three-year-old trotters and pacers.
There will be a free country fair atmosphere at Sunshine Meadows. Everyone is invited to come out and bring your lawn chairs (there is only grass seating). First race post time is 11:00 am. Rain date is the next day (Sunday).
There will be free admission and parking, food trucks, vendor booths (free for 501C3 charities), arts and crafts, equine displays, pony rides and a children’s fun zone.
“We wanted to show our community what a great facility we have,” said Brandon Mills, general manager at Sunshine Meadows. “And what better way than a real country fair with horse racing, displays, children’s events and now a great local celebrity race. People don’t know that we have nearly 200 acres hidden away here right off route 441 that is home to more than 600 harness racing and equestrian horses, many of whom are world champions. I hope that everyone will come out and have some fun.”
The $2,000 Cortech Performance Edge Award will go to the AMA Pro SuperBike rider who records the fastest lap in the most races during the 2014 AMA Pro Road Racing season.
Cortech is the presenting sponsor of AMA Pro Racing's Live Timing and Scoring for both AMA Pro Road Racing and AMA Pro Flat Track. The industry-leading motorcycle gear company has been extremely gracious in allotting the winner of the prestigious Cortech Performance Edge Award a check for $2,000 following the season's conclusion at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) next month.
With just one round and two races remaining this season, SuperBike rookie Cameron Beaubier leads three-time champion and seasoned veteran Josh Hayes by a single lap. Beaubier has recorded the fastest lap in five SuperBike races this season, including Race 1 at Daytona International Speedway, both contests at Road America, Race 1 at Barber Motorsports Park and Race 1 at Mid-Ohio.
As successful as Beaubier has been, Hayes has gone stride-for-stride with him all season. Hayes has recorded four fastest laps thus far, and if he can oust Beaubier in both races at the Kawasaki Devil's Showdown, scheduled to take place at NJMP in Millville, N.J., next month, then he will have secured the Cortech Performance Edge Award for the fourth straight year, as he's won the award every season since its inauguration in 2011.
"Cortech is thrilled to help participate in what will be one of the more thrilling finishes in AMA Pro SuperBike," said Richard Kimes, CMO of Cortech. "Both Josh and Cameron are world-class athletes that know what it takes to perform on the edge, all of us at Cortech wish them both the best of luck at New Jersey."
Whoever wins, there's no denying that Beaubier and Hayes have led a Yamaha attack in 2014 that has gone unrivaled. Tune into FansChoice.tv on Sept. 13-14 to catch all of the action and see who will be crowned the next Cortech Performance Edge Award recipient. For tickets and more information regarding the season finale at NJMP, please visit http://store.njmp.com/store/category/9/69/AMA-Pro-Racing/.
TODD AND HAGAN MAKE QUICKEST RUNS DURING FIRST DAY OF TESTING FOR CHEVROLET PERFORMANCE U.S. NATIONALS
Top Fuel driver J.R. Todd and Funny Car pilot Matt Hagan raced to the quickest passes Wednesday during the opening day of testing for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at historic Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
NHRA teams utilized the first day of the two-day open test to prepare for the world's most prestigious drag race, which will be held Aug. 27-Sept. 1 at the famed NHRA-owned multi-purpose motorsports facility that sits just west of downtown Indianapolis. The event, which will also feature the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel and Funny Car and many special activities with the sport’s legendary drivers to celebrate the milestone 60th anniversary, is the final race in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season and will be televised by ESPN2 with more than 10 hours of coverage on Labor Day weekend.
Todd blasted down the historic Indy dragstrip with a category-best performance of 3.768 seconds at 314.17 mph in his Optima Batteries dragster. Todd, who comes to Indy hoping to wrap up the 10th and final position for the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs, said he and his Kalitta Motorsports team were continuing to work out the bugs with his brand new race car that they introduced last weekend at Brainerd.
"We brought out a new car in Brainerd and wanted to get data on it and struggled in qualifying and didn’t make any full runs," Todd said. "The idea was to come here and see if the car is similar to Doug’s and that was the plan when we built the thing is to make it pretty identical to his car. The plan is to get some data on it and go from there and get ready for next week. Overall the plan is to get it close to the Mac Tools car so we can share info and help each other out. With them at the top and us in the No. 10 spot, the overall goal is for these cars to finish one and two at the end of the year and that is what we are striving for."
Todd, who joined the Kalitta Motorsports team at the Las Vegas race in April, leads 11th place driver Bob Vandergriff Jr. by 130 points for the 10th and final playoff spot in Top Fuel.
"It would have been nice to wrap up the Countdown last week in Brainerd, but it is going to take a miracle for us to get bumped out of the tenth spot," Todd said. "I’m not saying it isn’t going to happen, but our main focus is the race. Take care of the race and everything else will take care of itself. It is the biggest race of the year and we don’t want to worry about the Countdown. We can just focus on getting this thing qualified hopefully Friday night solidly and go to work from there."
Rookie driver Richie Crampton posted the day's second best time with a 3.773 at 320.97 in the GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster and defending winner Shawn Langdon, who also won the Traxxas Shootout in Top Fuel one year ago, powered to a testing best of 3.774 at 320.97 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. Antron Brown, 2011 U.S. Nationals winner, was fourth in his Matco Tools dragster with a 3.782 at 314.61.
In Funny Car, Hagan was quickest with a testing best of 4.032 seconds at 309.70 mph driving an all-black Team Mopar Dodge Charger.
"We are testing some new stuff and it is all going real well," Hagan said. "We laid down a nice number and it is fun to be out on the track with conditions and everything like that. Our car is starting to come around and running real good numbers, some of the best numbers we’ve run all year. I think we’re really starting to peak at the right time. Things are starting to come around."
Hagan is one of the Funny Car drivers who would like to add a U.S. Nationals victory to his racing resume. Last year here he was the No. 1 qualifier and set low E.T. and top speed, which are both the current track records, but like all of his rivals, the Virginia cattle rancher wants to add his name to the list of Indy winners.
"We are here to get tuned up for Indy," said Hagan, who has one victory this season and is seventh in the points standings. "Everybody wants to get that trophy because that is the biggest race of the year and every driver wants to put that trophy on their shelf. You don’t want to walk away from your career and say ‘I never won Indy.’"
Robert Hight's crew chief, Mike Neff, posted the second quickest time at 4.036 at 315.42 driving the Auto Club Ford Mustang. Jack Beckman, who is 11th in points and needs a strong performance at Indy to make the Countdown playoffs, posted a 4.046 at 317.87 in his Valvoline Dodge Charger. Four-time Indy winner John Force's best lap of the day was a 4.060 at 315.34 in the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang. Force comes to Indy as the new points leader in Funny Car and is riding a five-race final round streak. He and Ron Capps will also decide the Funny Car final from Brainerd at Indy on Saturday during the third qualifying session.
Force's daughter Courtney drove her Traxxas Mustang to a testing best of 4.101 at 316.45. Courtney is also trying to get her first Indy victory and follow in the footsteps of her older sister Ashley, a two-time winner of the Big Go. Courtney would also like to keep the current JFR streak of U.S. Nationals victories going, which started in 2008 with Hight.
"It is a lot of fun coming out here for testing," she said. "It is a lot more laid back and it is exciting. It is always great being back here with the teams and the pressure is off. It kind of helps you as a driver since we will be back on this track next week for the U.S. Nationals. It is nice to get a few laps under your belt. We want to get the win at the U.S. Nationals and we start that when we get into qualifying. In the long run everyone is looking to have a consistent racecar when we get into the Countdown and this is where you prep for that."
Steve Johnson made the only Pro Stock Motorcycle runs of the day and produced a best of 7.042 at 189.12 on his Suzuki. Former world champ Von Smith made the quickest Pro Mod run of the day with a 5.956 at 239.10 in his vintage Camaro.
Below is a listing of each Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Mod competitor’s best performance from Wednesday’s testing:
1. JR Todd – 3.768, 314.17
2. Richie Crampton – 3.773, 320.97
3. Shawn Langdon – 3.774, 320.97
4. Antron Brown – 3.782, 314.61
5. Spencer Massey – 3.791, 323.19
6. Brittany Force – 3.808, 322.04
7. Billy Torrence – 3.835, 322.73
8. Tony Schumacher – 3.857, 259.31
9. Khalid alBalooshi – 3.864, 311.34
10. Leah Pritchett – 3.885, 275.56
1. Matt Hagan – 4.032, 309.70
2. Mike Neff (running Robert Hight car) – 4.036, 315.42
3. Jack Beckman – 4.046, 317.87
4. John Force – 4.060, 315.34
5. Tommy Johnson Jr, - 4.099, 309.49
6. Courtney Force – 4.101, 316.45
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Steve Johnson – 7.042, 189.12
1. Von Smith – 5.956, 239.10
2. Billy Glidden – 6.351, 177.49
3. Danny Rowe – 6.357, 153.60
4. Steve Matusek – 6.446, 147.94
5. Mike Castellana – 13.024, 64.80
Tickets for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals are available by calling (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or logging on to www.NHRATIX.com.
NHRA Pro Stock racer Erica Enders-Stevens, Top Fuel racer Tony Schumacher, and Funny Car racer Jack Beckman meet the press
On Wednesday, August 20, Pro Stock racer Erica Enders-Stevens, Top Fuel racer Tony Schumacher, and Funny Car racer Jack Beckman took part in a teleconference with assembled media discussing the NHRA Mello Yello Drag racing season so far. It was a lively discussion at times, and gave everyone who had the honor of listening in a glimpse into the minds of some of the top racers in professional drag racing today.
THE MODERATOR: Erica joins us after leading the Pro Stock points for the majority of the season. She'll head to Indianapolis where she'll be looking to get her No. 1 spot back before the playoffs begin with an untimely second round upset in Brainerd, she lost the point series lead, unofficially, to Jason Line. You have had a strong season. You kind of come into Indy knowing that after completion of the Brainerd race you'll lose that No. 1 spot. What's your mindset coming into that event?
ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS: My mindset is going to be the same as it has been all year. I'm extremely blessed to be in the position I am in with, with a great team at Elite Motorsports standing behind me. But it's been a dream season up to this point. And we're hopeful to carry that momentum and that confidence through the end of the year, and I'm very optimistic about what's to come.
Q You did have that early round exit in Brainerd. Did you and your team diagnose what happened there?
ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS: Yes, we immediately found our problem. It was a parts failure, and we threw it in the trash and we're heading to St. Louis early next week to test prior to the U.S. Nationals. So everything will be fine and back to normal. It's just one of those fluke deals that happens occasionally. We've been fortunate enough to not encounter things like that very much this season. So I guess every once in a while it's everybody's turn to go through that. And it just so happened at Brainerd it was our turn. It was unfortunate. It certainly wasn't the comeback we were hoping for after taking those two races off in Sonoma and Seattle to get our engine program up to speed as we're bringing on two team cars starting in Indy in addition to our team driven by my husband, Richie Stevens and Shane Tucker is returning from Australia as well. So just one of those deals. But we figured the problem out and we'll be ready to go in Indy.
Q Erica, with the momentum you had throughout the season and to kind of lose it, having to take races off, that kind of thing, now you're coming back, it wasn't really magic that you and your team had. You had a lot of effort, a lot of work. You can put all that back together. What's your take on just getting that feeling back again heading into Indy and then into the playoffs?
ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS: Sure. The feeling that you speak of is not something that was lost. It was like I mentioned a second ago, just a fluke parts failure. I mean, there are a million and one things that have to go right in order to get a Pro Stock car to go down the racetrack and just an unfortunate situation in Brainerd. But you're absolutely right. There's a ton of effort and a lot of money spending and just blood, sweat and tears that go into our program. And we're right on track. We'll be just fine.
Q And as far as how do you look at say Indy and how do you look the Countdown? Indy has such an aura, but perhaps the Countdown, you know, has a little bit more for you?
ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS: Yeah, absolutely. It's how we finish the season that's going to be important. Indy obviously is the most prestigious race of the year, the Super Bowl of drag racing. So I'm very hopeful to go out there and just have a really great weekend and get our No. 1 spot back from Jason Line to go into that No. 1 seed into the Countdown into Charlotte. I don't believe any woman in a professional category has ever gone in in the No. 1 position so far. It's certainly at the top of our list of goals, but it's not detrimental if it doesn't happen, by any means. We'll just have to start out swinging in Charlotte as hard as we can and go from there and remain positive and continue to have fun as a team. And, like I said before, I'm very optimistic of what we'll be able to accomplish.
Q What does it mean to you to know that you are on the last step to what could be an extremely historical moment, not just in drag racing, but in all forms of racing throughout the world?
ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS: You know, it's really surreal to be in the position that we're in. But even if we aren't able to finish like we hope we can, it's been an extremely awesome season and I'm blessed to be in the position I am to drive for (team owner) Richard Freeman and Elite Motorsports, but, too, we've led the points for I guess 13 or 14 races of the year, almost the entire season. And we have four wins. We own both ends of the world record ET and speed wise. We won the K&N Challenge. So our accomplishments this year have just been awesome. It's a very surreal position to be in. And I know that we'll finish strong. I know that everything's going to be fine. And I'm very excited about the end of the year. It's hard to believe that we're already approaching the Countdown as it's gone by extremely fast. But I'm looking forward to it.
Q And entering the U.S. Nationals, what is it, if you even can name it, about that one facility that just gets everybody excited, every driver so excited about being there and having a chance to win?
ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS: It's just got so much history. And the legends that have raced there in the past. As a kid, I grew up watching all of these people that I looked up to, Shirley Muldowney and Bob Glidden and the ones after them, and it's just been one of those races and one of those facilities that's so awesome and holds so much history. NHRA held the first Junior Drag Racing League National Championship there in 1994. I was part of that. We run it off at that race in the eight and nine year old category and just holds a lot of really special memories there for me. In 2001 we got down to three cars out of 174 in Super Comp. And then in 2012 we were runner-up in Pro Stock as well. So I feel like I've got a lot of unfinished business there and I'm hopeful we can get it done this year. But just an awesome facility and it gives you goosebumps when you walk in the gate there. It's one of those deals that's hard to explain unless you've been there and experienced it yourself.
Q You talked about the specialness of the event. Is there that little bit of added pressure or do you kind of get hyped up knowing that it will be a Chevy car during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals?
ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS: I guess so. We certainly want to do well there for our time and for GM and Chevy Performance. But it's just a prestigious race. And I don't try to put any more weight on one race than another. They're all as equally important. Everyone is worth the same amount of points, but the U.S. Nationals is just one of those ones that would just be an added bonus to be able to put a "W" in the win column for our team. But very excited to go back.
Q You set out the Western Swing obviously for a number of reasons. But are you at all concerned about the future of Pro Stock, Pro Stock class being that Larry Morgan said it costs him roughly $3 million a year to run his Ford. Is this becoming a lot more than a rich man's golf game, and are you concerned about the survival of the class?
ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS: There are a lot of questions swirling around about Pro Stock as a class. You know, my team owner has, Richard Freeman, has brought a lot of things to the table, shedding light, if you will, on some of the issues that Pro Stock has. As a team that leases engines to other customers, we try to make it as affordable as possible. I mean, the engine leasing program is the most costly part of a Pro Stock program ranging from probably $800,000 to a million and a half dollars a year just to lease an engine, and of course you've got the cost associated with a race car, all the parts, your employees, travel expenses up and down the road. So I guess in the whole grand scheme of things there's a little bit of a concern about the future of Pro Stock considering we don't have full fields at some of these events. And that really stinks. I only started in 2004. So 10 years ago. And it's definitely taken a turn with the economy. So there are some issues that need to be addressed and worked through. But as a class, I mean, we have such a solid group of guys and then myself out there that are really working hard to make the class what it is. And I think we can have a really bright future. We just gotta keep working at it.
Q Have you looked at other classes like Pro Mod and any options besides Pro Stock for your career?
ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS: My heart and soul is in Pro Stock. I'm heavily invested. I really enjoy the challenge of driving a Pro Stock car. I love that all the pressure's on the driver's shoulder. Yes, you have to have horsepower and a really tremendous crew chief. But the cars are hard to drive. And I just love that challenge of it. I mean, I've driven a nitrous Pro Mod car and driven an alcohol Funny Car, top dragster, Super Comp, Super Gas, I've driven a lot of different classes. And I just absolutely love Pro Stock. So I'm a partner with Richard Freeman in this deal, and I feel confident that this is probably where I'll finish my career. I mean, given the attitude, I'll probably drive anything, but I absolutely love Pro Stock.
Q Erica, with your dominating performance from Elite Motorsports in the horsepower part, how much will heat and humidity come against you at the U.S. Nationals?
ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS: Being that Pro Stock is naturally aspirated, they like cool, dry weather. They run better in those conditions. The past few years at Indy has been kind of a roller coaster as far as weather is concerned. 100 degrees one day and the next day a storm came through and we're racing in 50 and 60 degree temperatures. You never really know what to expect in the Midwest, but I'm excited to go back. And I've never had crew chiefs like I have right now. (Crew chiefs) Rick and Ricky Jones are just brilliant and very methodical and analytical, and I'm really proud to be teamed up with them this year and I have all the confidence in the world we'll be just fine in Indy. And no matter what Mother Nature gives us, I'll be excited to drive and I know that they'll do a great job for us.
THE MODERATOR: Next up: Tony Schumacher is the most decorated Top Fuel driver in NHRA history. He'll head into Indy to try to win the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals for the 10th time and break a record he currently holds with Pro Stock great Bob Glidden for the most wins here at the Big Go. The seven-time Top Fuel world champion also has his eyes set on winning another world championship. Tony, you've had a very special relationship with Indy. What makes this facility so special for you?
TONY SCHUMACHER: Oh, man. Back in '96, I was hired to drive Top Fuel by the Peek Brothers, and licensed in Denver, Colorado, and got licensed on Sunday and on Monday we left for the U.S. Nationals. Showed up, qualified 16th, and that was the same year we lost Blaine Johnson and Elmer Trett. But we went to the final round. And I mean it was very special. It's been that way for nearly 60 years. A lot of people have been able to live some great moments here. And fortunately for me, we're one of the teams that have been blessed with some of the best moments.
Q Tony, athletes always talk about they never look at the stats during their career. They always look at them afterwards. But does it give you pause, when you see your name's next to Bob Glidden or next to Don Garlits. Do you ever just think, wow, and kind of revel in that?
TONY SCHUMACHER: No question about it. You're right, we don't look at the numbers. Definitely the media points them out, over and over. And I think there's no doubt that we know coming into this race that we have a chance to do something that no one's ever done. And I think it adds to the pressure. And I like that. I enjoy the pressure. But to be named with guys like who as a kid who would think your name would be listed with those kinds of names and to be in a position to have a chance to even beat some of those records. It's just… I really firmly believe I've had a very blessed life and some great teams and capable of being part of the situations and moments that we're just spectacular.
Q Tony, certainly of course you mentioned it already, certainly tracks, some tracks have more tradition than others and Indy is certainly one of those. And so many classes come to this particular race, which means there's so many drivers there. What mindset would you recommend to all competitors heading into an important race at this very important track?
TONY SCHUMACHER: I think just show up prepared. You know, we're not coming here to have a great big party. Let the fans do that, and prepare for the moment. And it's not just the drivers and teams I'm talking to. It's kids all over the place. For the media, when I do 200 speeches a year to kids. And I ask many of them: How many of you had a test this week. All of them have their hands up, because they're in school. I say, how many studied so hard you were going to get an A? They all put their hands down, laugh and giggle. I say ‘That's fine,’ But what day will you stop not preparing. What day will you show up 100 percent prepared so you leave nothing on the table and get an A plus? Because in school, like basically based on a curve, but once you graduate, that curve goes away, man. Teachers have been teaching for way too long that everyone wins and everyone gets a trophy. I will guarantee you, that is not true. That is not life. It's not how life works. I get to the finish line and my win light comes on I get a trophy. If I get there, there's no win light, they don't also give me a trophy. Even though I was pretty close, and it was a heck of an effort, nothing. You just lose. I say you show up prepared. You eat right. Get the sleep you need. You try to win Indy. You make sure if you get beat, and you can, 15 cars are going to get beat in every class, you can walk away with your head held high that you brought everything and left nothing on the table. I think it's something that people forget. They show up and it's overwhelming and it's too big, and no, it's not. Somebody's going to win. Force the issue. I heard Erica earlier say we've got a good car and I hope, I hope. No, don't hope, force the issue. It's always been my opinion. Leave nothing on the table. Show up prepared and be a machine.
Q As far as getting that record, you've got a lot of records. You get the possibility of coming away with another record at Indy. What's that mean to you, knowing that that's on the line?
TONY SCHUMACHER: It's fantastic. I thank God it's on the line because I'm a better driver when the pressure is big. I always have been. The easy races I tend to make mistakes on, the ones that don't matter. This one matters. And I know that people go oh, they're all the same. Well, this is Indy. And this is a chance. And you're not going to have that many chances. I get to drive another 10 years maybe. You're not going to have that many chances to go out and win it. People fight their whole life to win Indy once. There was a long period where we were the only car that was fast. It's not like that anymore. It's going to be difficult to win. And knowing it's going to be difficult to win is what makes us good. We'll have to try that much harder. I don't know where I'm going to find more, because I feel like I give everything I’ve got every time, but we always seem to come up with it when we need it. Always seem to find, whether it's the pressure, the rise of the heartbeat, the energy that comes with it, I don't know what it is. But we get better in these big moments.
Q I wanted to ask you about the current state of competition for a number of years we had streaking champions. You put together a long run of course, and John in the Funny Car. Last several years, though, the championship's been swapped around in practically every class. Is there something that stands out to you as a primary reason for the change there?
TONY SCHUMACHER: Most definitely. For a long time there was just me and Alan Johnson or even Alan and (Gary) Scelzi before that. There was one car that was extremely good and a lot of people trying to catch up. We developed a few extra teams. They got our knowledge. Alan Johnson left and formed a few teams that had the same knowledge. And all of a sudden we had five or six teams and then seven or eight, it really became almost up to 10 teams now that are great in all the classes. That being said, if I was going to pay money to go to a race in any sport, I would choose this right now. It is better. It is better because the drivers who came from Junior Drag Racing League, something NHRA started not that long ago, circle track racing, they've had go carts and these kids come up get better and better. Drag racing didn't have that. I waited until I was 16 and got a car and went to the local racetrack. Now we're racing these kids that are trained since they're eight. And now I think they just brought it down to six years old where they're going to learn to go down a drag strip from an early age. By the time they work their way up into the pro classes they're going to be outstanding drivers. It's what we hope for. And I hope my kids are better than me. That's what as a dad, that's what I aspire to raise my kid to be great. I hope people remember me for a good race car driver but a great father. These kids are getting better and more well trained and you're seeing them be great drivers. Garlits was a great driver. But Garlits was a great mechanic. He drove his car around. He's a great innovator. I don't know if he drove against the kids now if he would be as good as a driver as he was all around the machine. He did everything. And over the years, football players have done the same thing. You get bigger and stronger and you're trained well and you have agents and you have people showing you how to do it and doctors and mind doctors and body doctors and chiropractors, all this stuff making your body in shape ready for this intense race. We all have it now. And the driving level has gotten so good. These people are fantastic. And it makes the older guys like myself have to step up and work out more and try harder because these young guys are just prepared.
Q What about the technology, has the best technology been spread more around the sport, too?
TONY SCHUMACHER: Oh, absolutely. And, again, with Alan Johnson, he worked with Mike Green, my crew chief. They worked together and Alan left and Mike came to my car. Now we had all this technology, and then he started two new cars and it spread. And it not only spread, but it educated a lot of crew chiefs who were already very smart but helped along the way and made a number of great crew chiefs. And over the years last year, the season the year before, you expect this guy leaves, this car leaves and they've stuck together. And we've had teams two, three years now that have worked well together. And they learn each other and they get better as a team. And I show up on race day, last week qualified sixth, racing the car of Leah Pritchett, and it's not going to be an easy race. This is a car that doesn't run every race but look at how fast they can run. There's a lot of guys with some great knowledge and it makes the trophy that sits on the shelves valuable. It's hard to earn it. It's more difficult and it makes it more gratifying. And for the fans paying money, they're getting a show. They're getting their money's worth. We are entertainers. As much as I would like to think I'm a professional race car driver and athlete and all this stuff, we're entertainers. If we can entertain, we can fill the stands. If we can get that across to people, they're going to come out to these races that's what we have to do. And nobody wants to see an easy game. Nobody wants to see a one lane racetrack and I think lately it's been outstanding. At Brainerd, I lost by 5,000th of a second. Doug Kalitta put a strapping to me. And he worked me. And it's like, man, these races are great. They're not good, they're fantastic. I think for us, NHRA and Mello Yello drag racing, trying to sell a ticket to show people to come out, you're going to see something exciting, that's what we're doing. We're giving outstanding racing. And I know fans complain about 1320 and we drop it down to a thousand feet; I think you're seeing better racing than you ever did by far at quarter-mile racing.
Q Interesting comments you've already made. I'd like to know who taught you how to be so intense and to gain what you want to gain and do your children understand now the importance of what a tenth win would mean to you?
TONY SCHUMACHER: I don't know that they understand yet. My oldest son is 12. I don't know if he understands how important this one is to me. I don't know that at that young age you can even… I mean, you're still having fun. They're still having fun. They play baseball and they win and they lose, and they're reaching the age where winning is important. Up until now they were heck, I played musical chairs with my kids not that long ago, and the teacher had six chairs laid out and there were six kids. So I moved a chair and she goes oh, no, no, they all win. I was like wow, no, they don't. I think I was daddy's helper that day. I was kind of an angry daddy's helper. You're raising weak kids. I'm sorry, that's not true. I wish I got As in school but the teacher didn't give them to me just because I showed up. You have to earn this stuff. And I have that attitude. And I've had it for a long time. I can say that when I was younger I probably didn't have it. I don't know where I learned it. My father's a fantastic leader. My team, my crew chiefs have been outstanding to work with, each and every one of them. And I think really they've taught me. Being gifted in one way that I drive for the Army has been the best gift I've ever had. These are people that I'm surrounded with every day that can't lose. And that attitude rubs off. It rubs off on me, my crew chief, Mike Green, and Neal (Strausbaugh, asst. crew chief) and my guys. We all talk about how important it is to be surrounded by great people. And when you're around that good of quality people, you learn a way to figure out how to win. Whether it's through the adversity of losing, which we have seen through the last year, you get beat, you realize you don't like this. This is not how we are. And you figure it out. Smart people with education get together and figure out how to win. And I get to watch this. And it's just whatever rubbed off on me, I won't say at a young age, but at a medium young age, I'm glad it happened. I'm glad I went through the trials and tribulations of all kinds of tough things to get to where I'm at. Because buying a race car and going fast isn't what it's about. It's figuring out how to win. I won't race forever. Whatever job I take next, whatever I go off and do, I'm going to have to figure out how to be good. And all these years of difficult situations, like racing, is a test. School ended for me years ago. Learning never has. It will always continue to go on. I need to put myself around the right people to keep myself in the right direction. I think it's part of the lessons I teach during my speeches. Surround yourself with the right people. We always have centers of influence around us. The Army does and steers people in or out of the Army, away from it. And it's important to be around people that influence you correctly, that give you the right mindset to go into the game. Our battles are very intense. Very few sports do you sit at the starting line and you can see the goal, 1,000 feet away. The cone. That's the win. When you get there first you're going to be the champ. And being able to prepare for that moment really comes down to the people you surround yourself with every day.
Q You always answer so definite and so awesomely. So one last question for you. Every drag race out there, every location seems to be the same. It's a thousand foot or it used to be a quarter mile and such. What is it about Indianapolis, about the U.S. Nationals that makes it so much bigger than almost any other facility used by the NHRA?
TONY SCHUMACHER: I wish I could give you that. I think it's you guys. I think it's the media that builds it so big. And we appreciate that. We need that. Because you're right, the racetrack, I could be in Iowa. Makes no difference. A thousand feet is a thousand feet. You're told so often how big it is that the fans believe it. And when the fans believe it they show up for a race and over the years, you know, there would be so many cars that would show up to race, it became more difficult. It was a harder race to win. It pays more money. It makes you just, makes you want to win it. And I probably have more people that want to win it because we've won it so many times, the Kalittas and Dixons and the guys that we've beaten in the finals, we've taken those away. They're just aching to win this race. I watched Langdon last year, as excited as they get when they win this race it seems like they're winning a championship. If you can't be the world champ they've always said this is the race you want to win to almost make it a little more, to ease the pain a little bit of not having that championship.
Q I think you figured out your future. When you get out of the seat, I'm ready to strap in and squeeze the trigger. That's very motivational. How big is the win at Indy in starting to the run for the championship, how big is that win, putting that one, another notch in the belt, looking down the road to that big trophy at Pomona?
TONY SCHUMACHER: Oh, it's huge. And it's always been a question, should it be included in the Countdown. Is it a great place to end the battle. To me it doesn't really matter. It's such a massive race. You need this momentum. You need it. You need to go to the first race knowing you won the last one, you've got six to go. And I love golf, but you don't get to drop a ball, you can't kick the ball back on the fairway. You get beat, it's over. It's so quick and so nasty. No 500 laps. No other chance. And I think showing that you can win these four rounds, get that win at Indianapolis and go on with six races to go with absolutely no mistakes to be made, not one, you can't even think about making a mistake to win the championship. You have to be a machine, the whole team has to be perfect and flawless and having that momentum coming out of Indy is absolutely…it's possibly the most important thing you could see in the Countdown.
Q I expect you to have that trophy.
TONY SCHUMACHER: I do too. But getting beat last week by (Doug) Kalitta will help me win Indy. He put a whooping on me. He did a better job driving a race car than I did last week. It will make me step up this week.
THE MODERATOR: OK, thanks for your time Tony. Now we are joined by Jack Beckman, the 2012 Funny Car world champion, heading into the final race of the regular season on the outside looking in. His primary mission at Indy will be to earn enough points to secure a Top 10 position and advance into the Countdown playoffs. Armed with a new crew chief in Todd Okuhara, Beckman will be one of the drivers to watch coming up next week. Jack, talk about that. You have the new crew chief with Todd. The car seemed to respond and run well in Brainerd. Are you close to kind of getting everything back together to make that one last run into the top 10?
JACK BECKMAN: I think. That's the plan. I feel we painted ourselves into the corner. We win a lot of races just kind of being mediocre, and the fact that we're not in the top 10, I'm in a position I've never been in in my entire nitro career this far into the season without a guaranteed spot into the Countdown. Even though the Countdown is relatively new, we've been only doing it since, what, '07, I think, it's just something that's unfamiliar to me, and it's been very frustrating. When I was a kid I thought I would give anything just to drive one of these cars. But I think once you've been to the top of the mountain you've won races, won a championship, you set your expectations a lot higher. So I think that we've made changes to go in the right direction to get this car into the Countdown. We just need to hope it's not too late.
Q You did have success at this event last year, winning the shootout in spectacular fashion. Does that give you a little bit of confidence coming back into this track?
JACK BECKMAN: I just think it's how you take it. It can if you want it to. And it really makes no difference because it's a different year and it's different weather. Yes, it's the same racetrack, but right now it just started raining. We just made our run in testing. I ran up to the media tower and they shut off the next pair because it's raining. So the weather does so much to a racetrack with what it does to the rubber sticking there, that we won't even have the same racetrack next week that we're testing on right now let alone the same one as last year. So I'm always confident going in. I don't think because I've won two shootouts here it necessarily makes me more confident coming back to Indy.
Q Jack, you understand the elements of drag racing both as a driver and as an instructor from your past. And you mentioned how important it is for you at this point in the juncture of the season. Is there a better time to be digging deep and could you explain what really digging deep is, a place like Indy?
JACK BECKMAN: That's not my saying and that's never been my saying. I don't know what the hell it means. I think digging deep can put you in a deeper hole sometimes. I think the drivers that say that, I think their intent is meaning finding something within yourself over and above what you've been displaying. Boy, I'd like to think that I bring my "A" game up there even in qualifying. So to say we'll just try harder because this round is more important, to me that's basically admitting you haven't done your best every other round before. I just want to continue doing the best that I can each time I go up to the starting line.
Q As far as getting some momentum like having a good race at Indy, do you think momentum is as easy to achieve as it is to retrieve?
JACK BECKMAN: You know, that's a great question. And not to be sarcastic, but parachutes take away all the momentum at the end of the strip. You know, I think momentum in nitro racing means that you find that niche with your tune up where it's responding well to everything and you have enough clutch disks to get you 20 or 30 more runs without having to run out of one and replace it, that's what tends to put us in slumps or throw us a curveball. And to stick with that term, "momentum," yeah, we just haven't had any of that this year. We'd have a good car for a few runs and then it would hiccup. It would throw us a curveball. We thought we were going in the right direction and then it wouldn't. We'd either get outrun or smoke the tires. I think that bringing Todd Okuhara back, and when I say back, when I started driving at Schumacher racing in 2006, Todd was my crew chief. So it's very familiar to be around him to me even though we haven't been in the same trailer for several years. I think the intent of all of this is to give us back some direction. And what you need to do is be able to get your car to the finish line and make it predictable. Once you make it predictable, then you can lean on it and make it quick. And a quick, predictable car is pretty damned hard to beat. If you want to see that, look at what (John) Force and Robert Hight have been able to do this year. That's what two quick and predictable cars will do. They take home a lot of trophies. We've been one or the other, but not both this year. So I think that's where we're trying to get back to, is quick and predictable.
Q You had great success in 2012 when you had a crew chief swap then. You've had another crew chief swap recently. How close are you to getting all the pieces put together to really mount that campaign in order to get into the top 10 but charge hard for the championship?
JACK BECKMAN: I don't mean to sound glib with you guys, but if you can fault us drivers in our interviews, we tend to be so cliché, it gets predictable. And we tend to put such a rosy spin on everything, that you really… I wish most of these interviews were conducted at lunch over food. So you really got to understand what we were thinking and why we were thinking it. The reality is I don't know the answer to your question. With nitro in the tank and 10,000 horsepower, it's very difficult for me to tell you that we are back on track and we're going to be great. So what I'll go off of is track records. And everything I've seen Todd Okuhara do in my entire nitro career has been to take cars and make them run fast and make them run consistent and turn them into race winners. So with just knowing that, I feel much more confident about our ability to be able to go rounds here at Indy and get into the top ten. I would be surprised, I'd be devastated, and I'd also be surprised if we don't make the top ten. Tim Wilkerson's in tenth right now. It's a single car. Tim runs it on a pretty tight budget. Tim owns the car, finds the money for it, tunes the thing and drives the thing. I'm a hired driver on a seven car team for Don Schumacher Racing. And the amount of resources we have are very impressive. We have a lot of smart people over here that are able to put their heads together. If we can't get this Valvoline car into the Countdown, I'd be devastated, but it means that we didn't earn it.
Q Number one, let me say I applaud you in your answer. You're so very respectful. So my question to you is quite simple. Have you ever faced such a challenge during a racing season and what did you do at that time to overcome the issues?
JACK BECKMAN: That's an interesting question. It's an interesting term when people say "overcome." I would say more to deal with it. I had a student at the school ask me one time, well, how do you do it? You never get nervous. I said I'm human. I get nervous. They said but you don't show it. Okay. It's how you manage it, how you deal with it. You don't necessarily overcome it. You manage it. You try to control it more than let it control you. Yeah, I've had some big moments, going up there. There's a lot of races where you're not qualified going into the last session and the bump spot's pretty slow. And you know if you get in trouble and you do a good job pedaling the car, you can get the thing in. And let me tell you that's a Mount Everest, when you're looking against it. Pomona 2012, we're leading Ron Capps by two points. First round, they go up there, they win. They're now ahead of us. We have to win. We do. We go back ahead by two points. Second round, they run in front of us. They go out there and win. Those were huge moments. And again one of you had mentioned digging deep. I just think that that's a cliché that some coach came up with. You know, you should be bringing that level every single time you step up there. Every single time. So there's times that I don't have a very good light. There's times that I have tremendously good lights. Is that because I dug deeper? I don't know. Something in my thought processes, my eyes weren't focused as well. In other words, I'm capable of doing really well and I'm capable of being mediocre up there. What I have to do is not think about that. I just have to do the things that are necessary for me to be the best I possibly can every time I step on that throttle and for four seconds while I'm guiding that thing down the drag strip and hope that everything that the crew did back in the pits, that everything that Todd Okuhara, Chris Cunningham and Terry Snyder did made that car quick enough to be better than the car in the other lane. It's a ruthless sport. You know I was listening to your guys questions to Tony and he had mentioned this is one of the few sports where you can see the finish line from the starting line. So it's kind of a lot like a 100 yard dash, except there's not eight people. And there's not a second place. If you're not the winner, you lost the race. Our sport is very cruel the way it defines each heat and then the ultimate winner. NASCAR, they're delighted for a top 5 finish. You never see a drag racer who loses second round jumping up and down because he finished top 5. It's very tough on emotions out here. And when you do this a lot of time have a lot of those big moments, you just learn to temper them a little more. The highs may not be so high, and the lows not so low. And I'll stick to my last comment: If we don't get in the Countdown, it's not because of dumb luck. We had a throttle cable break on us. We were staged in oil in one race. But the reality is those two rounds didn't put us in the position that we were in, it was the course of 17 races that have got us here. So we've painted ourselves into a corner. We've put ourselves into a position where we have to be damn near flawless at Indy to get in there. Now that's just the battle. But that's the only thing I can think about right now is Indy. Our goal is to run for the championship, which it isn't possible if we're not in the Countdown.
Q Sounds to me like you just described not just drag racing and running for a championship, but life in general. So I applaud you and we'll see you at Indy?
JACK BECKMAN: Thanks to all you guys. Tony made a comment that you are the guys that make this race big. You guys are the ones that keep this sport alive. If it's not for the reporters and the announcers and photographers, we really don't have anything to present to people except the ones in the stands. So thank you guys for caring and doing great jobs.
After Road America's Road Race Showcase was plagued with caution flags Aug. 10, Ostella had little time to charge to the front, settling for sixth. It was a tough finish when he knows his No. 38 Prototype Challenge car is capable of more.
"I enjoy tracks like VIR," Ostella said. "I haven't been there since Pro Mazda in 2010, but I know there is a lot of elevation changes similar to Road America and Mosport, and those are places I really enjoy racing at. It is also a fairly long track with a variety of different corners, so I am looking forward to going back. I'll give it my all, we all want the podium.
This is the second event of the season in which Ostella will share the track with his Performance Tech teammates in the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda, an IMSA Development Series. The two types of cars ran in June at Kansas Speedway, but Ostella knows the blending of the different series could create unique challenges at VIR.
The weekend will consist of a two-day, two-part event for the PC class. The first 45-minute segment takes place at 5:25 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Aug. 23, with the final segment taking place at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 24. On-track activity will begin for Ostella with the first practice session at 2:40 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22.
For more information or to donate to Dash from Breast Cancer, click the following link: davidostella.com/dash-from-breast-cancer/.
This weekend won't mark the first time that Scuderia Corsa competes in two different races in the same weekend, but it marks the team's debut in the Pirelli World Challenge.
In Virginia, at the challenging Virginia International Raceway, the no. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 will be on the hunt for its third victory of the season in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Drivers Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Westphal are eager to put an underwhelming event at Road America, when contact badly damaged the Ferrari in the early stages of the race, behind them. Balzan and Westphal are not only looking for more victories but to help secure the GT-Daytona manufacturer championship for Ferrari.
It will mark the team's first event at the famous circuit, which will see the GT-Daytona and GT-LeMans classes race in a standalone race this weekend.
"For me, it is going to be very exciting to race our Scuderia Corsa Ferrari at VIR," said Balzan, the 2013 Rolex Sports Car Series GT class champion. "It will be my first time on the circuit, which the other drivers tell me is an amazing place. Jeff and I will be pushing hard for a win for the team, and for Ferrari, and also to help us forget about the nightmare weekend that we had in Road America. Without the prototypes, we should have a very fair competition in the GT-Daytona class and we will be pushing like crazy."
Engineer of the no. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia, Joe LaJoie, lays out the challenge of VIR.
"Overall, VIR has a nice combination of turns from slow speed up to a very fast 'S' with some pleasant elevation changes," said LaJoie. "The Ferrari can be fast with more downforce, but the car is more raceable when setup efficiently. The track has just been repaved so we will have to see what has changed.
"Turn one and two has a long, bumpy brake zone leading into a long combination of turns, which requires adequate support. It is difficult to get to full throttle quickly there. The kink before turn three can be challenging because of the long exit of turn two at about 1g, and then switching directions at 100mph and 1.4 gs. Sacrificing a bit of turn four can be advantageous in order to setup turn five. The uphill esses which follow is a fun, iconic set of corners taken in the Ferrari at 140mph - 6th gear, 1.7gs left and right, with elevation change. The high speed balance must be right on with good control. These corners lead to Oak Tree corner, which is a double-apex corner that must be driven just right to get good speed down the fastest straight of the track.
"At the end of that straightaway is turn 14, the track's biggest braking zone which also has a dog leg to the left. Lots of passing will happen there. The last two corners, turns 16 and 17, have a large speed and elevation change which requires a car with good control in order to get up to speed quickly. This leads onto the front straightaway and races down to turn one for another opportunity to pass."
Meanwhile, the no. 77 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia of Mike Hedlund will compete in the World Challenge doubleheader at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. Sonoma Raceway is located close to Ferrari Silicon Valley, which is owned by Scuderia Corsa team principals Giacomo Mattioli and Art Zafiropoulo, meaning they will make their World Challenge debut in front of a large home crowd.
"Scuderia Corsa has a massive amount of Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 experience from Europe," said Hedlund. "If you combine that with our local knowledge of the track, I expect us to be up to speed quickly. We'll do our best to put on a good show for all our friends and fans coming out to the rack and for those watching live on world-challengetv.com!"
Both World Challenge races will be streamed live at world-challengetv.com, with Saturday's race being shown on Saturday, August 23 at 2:30 PM PT and the second on Sunday, August 24 at 4:40 PM PT.
The GT-LeMans and GT-Daytona race at TUDOR Championship's Oak Tree Grand Prix will be shown on Sunday, August 24 at 4:00 PM ET on FOX Sports 1.
Head-to-Head Title Fight Between KTM Teammates Roczen and Dungey Culminates at Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Finale Saturday in Utah
It's been a summer full of excitement, highlighted by breakout seasons from a variety of riders across the 450 and 250 Classes, and this Saturday, August 23, the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, will come to dramatic conclusion in Utah for the 12th and final round on the schedule. The second annual Zions Bank Utah National will signify the series' return to the one-of-a-kind track at Tooele's Miller Motorsports Park, just outside Salt Lake City, where a season-long battle between Red Bull KTM teammates Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey will culminate with one of the two riders walking away as champion. As the 450 Class title fight continues to unfold, newly crowned 250 Class Champion Jeremy Martin will pilot his Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha on a victory lap, while the battle for second in the standings ensues over the final two motos.
Live broadcast coverage from Utah begins Saturday at 3 p.m. ET with the first motos of the 450 and 250 Classes on MAVTV. Tape delayed coverage of the final 450 Class moto can be seen on NBC Sports Network at 6:30 p.m. ET, with the final moto broadcast of the 250 Class scheduled for 1 a.m. ET on Sunday, August 24, on NBC Sports Network.
Entering the inaugural Indiana National one week ago, Dungey's late season surge and two-race winning streak has closed the gap between he and Roczen to a mere seven points. However, Mother Nature took center stage at Ironman Raceway with a downpour of rain during the early morning hours that ultimately resulted in a critical shakeup in the points that played heavily into Roczen's favor.
It's Roczen (left) versus Dungey (right) for one final time in 2014.
Photo: Simon Cudby / Racer X
Despite not winning a single moto since RedBud on Independence Day weekend and losing 19 points over that span, Roczen rebounded from what appeared to be a late season funk to return to the forefront of the premier division and reclaim control of the championship. While Roczen successfully withstood the treacherous and muddy conditions, no doubt taking advantage of his experience racing in similar conditions in Europe en route to a series-leading fifth overall win, Dungey faltered and endured his worst performance of the 2014 season.
Dungey nearly went down coming out of the gate in Moto 1, but was able to recover from his early misfortune to fight his way back to second and minimize the ground lost to his rookie teammate. With everything on the line in Moto 2, Dungey got another bad start and found himself mired outside the top 10 early. Despite his best efforts to make another climb through the running order, the field simply was too spread out for the former champion to make up the ground he needed, resulting in a season-worst ninth-place finish but still landing him on the overall podium in third.
When all was said and done, Dungey had given up 13 points to Roczen and now faces a 20-point deficit coming into Utah. While there is still a lot of racing left over the course of two motos, Dungey and Roczen's approach to the season finale is likely at different ends of the spectrum. For Dungey, being in the chase means he must enter Miller Motorsports Park with a winning mentality. A second 1-1 moto sweep this season is all Dungey can do to try and erase Roczen's lead, while the German simply needs to keep his KTM on two wheels based on his statistics this season. Through 22 motos Roczen has finished no worse than fourth, doing so on just two occasions. Should he patiently race his way to a pair of fourth-place results on Saturday afternoon, he will still secure the title no matter what his teammate does, which surely adds to his confidence and security coming into Utah.
Canard is arguably the hottest rider in the series right now.
Photo: Simon Cudby / Racer X
While all eyes will no doubt be on Roczen and Dungey on Saturday afternoon, a pair of Honda riders could ultimately play the biggest role in how this championship plays out. Both Team Honda Muscle Milk's Trey Canard and GEICO Honda's Eli Tomac have stepped up to establish a four-rider battle at the front of the 450 Class field. While Tomac has one overall win to his credit, Canard has taken two of the last three moto wins and appears to be hitting his stride at the right time. While it will take more than Canard and Tomac's involvement to keep Roczen from clinching his first career title, knowing that any one of these elite contenders can emerge victorious at Miller Motorsports Park only adds to the intrigue surrounding the championship and the level of competition in the premier class.
As last year's inaugural 250 Class winner in Utah, Tomac hopes to wrap up 2014 with his second career 450 win.
Photo: Simon Cudby / Racer X
Arguably the biggest breakout story of the 2014 season, Martin's championship-clinching effort one week ago in Indiana was just another piece to the impressive season-long effort he's amassed this summer. The reigning Rookie of the Year was a dark horse for the title following an up-and-down AMA Supercross season. However, since the opening round at Glen Helen he's been the rider to beat each and every weekend and boasts the rare distinction of leading the championship throughout the entirety of the season, putting him in the elite company of the likes of Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart and, most recently, Blake Baggett.
Martin will no doubt try to make the most of his first ride as champion.
Photo: Simon Cudby / Racer X
Martin's four wins are tops in the 250 Class and up until the second moto last weekend, he had finished inside the top 10 in every single moto this season, a feat no one else in the division could share. It's been a dream season for the sophomore rider to say the least, including his first ever win at the Martin's family-owned Spring Creek MX Park, and the emergence of his teammate and fellow sophomore rider Cooper Webb as his biggest rival has only added to the excitement in the 250 Class.
While Martin will be able to savor his day at Utah as champion, his Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha team will still be hard at work trying to conclude its banner season with a 1-2 sweep for Martin and Webb. Currently, Webb sits third in the championship standings and faces a slim two-point deficit to Baggett and his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki in second. Last year at Miller Motorsports Park, Baggett played the role of spoiler in the outcome of that championship and he's more than ready to take on both Yamaha riders, if necessary, to hold on to the runner-up spot in the points.
Webb wants nothing more than to make it a 1-2 sweep for Star Yamaha in 2014.
Photo: Simon Cudby / Racer X
With a year under its belt, Miller Motorsports Park has revamped its motocross track, which sits on the infield of the facility's world-class paved road racing course. Massive amounts of sand have been brought in as an addition to the layout while many of the track's obstacles have been redesigned to enhance the action on the track while also making the overall experience more enjoyable for riders and fans alike. Recently, Utah native Landed Powell took to the updated track and shared his thoughts in an exclusive video preview of Saturday's Zions Bank National.
Action for the Zions Bank Utah National on Saturday, August 23, begins at 10:30 a.m. ET with timed practice. Opening ceremonies get underway at 2:25 p.m. ET, with the first gate drop scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET.
Baggett will look to keep the Yamaha's at bay on last time.
Photo: Simon Cudby / Racer X
Previous Round Results
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship
Thor Indiana National
Ironman Raceway - Crawfordsville, Indiana
August 16, 2014
Round 11 of 12
450 Class (Moto Finish)
450 Class Championship Standings
250 Class (Moto Finish)
250 Class Championship Standings
MX Sports Pro Racing
MX Sports Pro Racing manages and produces the world's most prestigious professional motocross series - the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing. The industry leader in off road power sport event production and management, its mission is to showcase the sport of professional motocross competition at events throughout the United States. Through its various racing properties, partnerships and affiliates, MX Sports Pro Racing organizes events for thousands of action sports athletes each year and attracts millions of motorsports spectators. Visitwww.mxsportsproracing.com.
Alli Sports is a media, event and branded content company that specializes in action, adventure, and adrenaline based sports. Alli Properties include the Dew Tour, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, the Red Bull Signature Series and World of Adventure Sports presented by Go Pro. Alli Sports is a division of the NBC Sports Group. More information can be found at www.Allisports.com.
AMA Pro Racing
AMA Pro Racing is the premier professional motorcycle racing organization in North America, operating a full schedule of events and championships for a variety of motorcycle disciplines. Learn more about AMA Pro Racing at www.amaproracing.com.
Lucas Oil Products
Based in Corona, Calif., Lucas Oil Products, Inc is the world leader of High Performance Lubricants and Problem Solving Additives and produces and markets 272 unique formulations in thirty four countries around the globe and is growing country by country, market by market every year. Through innovative product research and development, along with progressive marketing programs, Lucas Oil Products has established itself as the top-selling additive line in the American truck-stop industry. Lucas Oil is involved in an array of motorsports sponsorships, including the "Official Motor Oil of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship." Visit: www.lucasoil.com.
MAVTV is a television network with its roots deep in the automotive world. With an unparalleled line-up of motorsports events and exclusive automotive reality shows, MAVTV is the answer for motor-heads from all walks of life. But MAVTV is much more than a motorsports destination, with original action/adventure programming, live MMA and an unbelievable library of blockbuster movies - MAVTV is a network the whole family can enjoy. A network by the people and for the people, made in America and American Real. Visit: www.mavtv.com.
(Lucas Oil Pro Motocross PR)
MAZDA factory professional auto racing driver Tristan Nunez is a force to be reckoned with on the racetrack and now speeds up his efforts off the track as he announces the formation of his foundation. The Dnt txt n drV Foundation will help further reinforce his efforts and work against distracted driving. Along with the announcement of the foundation, Nunez also released his latest PSA on distracted driving.
"My parents raised me to always take time for others and my work against distracted driving has become a huge passion point for me," said Nunez. "I've come a long way speaking to my peers and growing my Dnt txt n drV program over the years. The formation of my foundation is just another step in the direction to educate and provide visibility towards continuing to pass laws and empower people to put down their phones while driving."
Nunez's passion about distracted driving came from when he was just 15 years old as he witnessed first-hand how dangerous texting and driving can be when his mother almost crashed into the back of someone. He knew at that moment he had to do something to create more awareness about texting and driving.
The Boca Raton native started the foundation after spending three years advocating against distracted driving and working to raise awareness to prevent texting and driving. As much of the change in perceptions about drunk driving, seat belts, and now distracted driving is most influenced by gruesome images and videos of what can happen, Nunez's goal is to get to people before that happens.
The Dnt txt n drV Foundation will raise awareness and create exposure around the issue through Nunez's racing career and his efforts to communicate the dangers of distracted driving. As Nunez travels across the country with the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship racing circuit, he also builds in time to talk to anywhere between 500 to 5,000 students on a given week when he does speaking engagements. This year alone he is on track to speak to upwards of 50,000 students about the dangers of texting and driving and encourages students to take a pledge to not text and drive and to continue to spread the word throughout their community of the dangers of texting and driving.
John M. Doonan, Director of Mazda Motorsports noted, "Mazda understands the dangers of distracted driving and has partnered with Project Yellow Light on a national campaign to raise awareness among high school and college age drivers. Having young Mazda racers like Tristan Nunez taking a proactive approach with his own DNT TXT N DRV program is fabulous."
"By adding his voice to the fight against distracted driving, Tristan Nunez is saving lives," added Julie Garner, Founder, Project Yellow Light/Hunter Garner Scholarship. "Having influential, teen professional race drivers makes this effort a true peer-to-peer program. Car crashes are the number one killer of our teens and young adults, and the more we spread the word through efforts from Mazda racers like Tristan's, the quicker we will win the battle."
The Dnt Txt n drV Foundation plans to hold a series of fundraising events to support and raise capital to support scholarship programs to be awarded to others who are working to make a difference in their communities too.