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Raikkonen still has NASCAR dreams

Written by
Published in Racing News
Friday, 31 October 2014 23:05

Kimi Raikkonen liked the appetizer, but he's still waiting for the full-course meal in NASCAR racing. No, Raikkonen isn't about to leave his highly prized seat with Ferrari in Formula One, but once his career in the elite open-wheel series winds down, he'd like to try his hand in the stock car ranks again.

Back in 2011, during a two-year break from F1 competition, Raikkonen raced twice during speedweeks at Charlotte in May, finishing 15th in a Camping World Truck fielded by Kyle Busch Motorsports and 27th in a Nationwide Series car .

"I was very pleasantly surprised with how nice and how fun it was," Raikkonen said. "It's not easy -- like any competitive motorsport. I really enjoyed the time. Hopefully, I can do more of those and hopefully, in the future, some Sprint Cup.

"We'll see."

The 2007 F1 champion, who also has raced in the World Rally Championship, was impressed with the challenge NASCAR presented.

"I would like to learn it more," Raikkonen said. "Like I said, it looks very easy, but it's not easy. When you look at each circuit, it just looks like an oval, but every corner is different. When you have knowledge of the sport, you can run much stronger.

"I would like to have a good, proper run at it and try to learn and make good results out of it. It's a different atmosphere, a different way of doing things than F1 or in the Rally, but I really enjoyed it.

It all started last year. A young man with aspirations to become a doctor entered a contest to do something that is just as risky as performing surgery. Hailing from Florida, this man has gone from the classroom to the race track – excelling in both extremes with amazing grades and some great runs with the team that took a chance on him.

Patrick Staropoli, 24, edged out over 700 drivers to win the PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge in 2013. Michael Waltrip Racing signed him as a development driver after a fifth-place result in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West debut in conjunction with Bill McAnally Racing. Ever since, Staropoli’s stock has risen at an abundant rate.

“The PEAK challenge gave me an awesome opportunity to get my foot in the door in NASCAR and really turn a lot of heads to get people to notice the career that I have had, which has been mostly in Florida and on the side from the main priority, which was school,” Staropoli said on “The Speedy Digest” Wednesday evening. “

During the second race of the K&N Pro Series West season at Irwindale, he drove the No. 99 Toyota to Victory Lane for the first time in his career. He followed that up with the top qualifying position in an East/West combination race at Iowa Speedway in May. In five races in 2014, Staropoli piloted his car to four top-10s and a pair of top-fives.

But the biggest challenge for Staropoli isn’t racing. It’s going to college – medical school to be specific.

After graduating from Harvard University with a 3.94 GPA – putting him in the top 10 percent for his graduating class – he moved over to the University of Miami to pursue a PhD. Adding those degrees to impressive resume, Staropoli nearly gave up his dream of becoming a racer. Fortunately, things have changed to where he can pursue both.

“Up until this whole competition took place last year, that (school) was my main focus,” said Staropoli on his outlook for school compared to racing. “I was 100 percent heading into that direction. I still race my Late Model all of the time. It was always a dream for me and it never really seemed like it would come together.”

“Once the opportunity was there and I have been able to capitalize on some of the chances that I have gotten so far, everything kind of flipping upside down and now – this is what I’m shooting for,” he continued. “Could you launch a career off of it? I think that was the biggest question out of it was. PEAK got behind me and gave me five high-exposure races. The win at Irwindale really sealed the deal and put me where I am now.”

Yet even with his success, there is a lot of uncertainty for his racing future.

With his hard work on and off the track, Michael Waltrip Racing wanted to capture his full potential. In doing so, they hired him as a marketing intern. Moving to Charlotte to chase his dreams, he understands that it might take away some time from school, but that’s fine for him with this once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I haven’t had to get coffee as much as I thought I was going to,” he joked. “They have been great to me over there. I spend my time split between learning how they approach sponsors, how they talk to them, the specific presentations and materials that they use for potential partners. It’s definitely a change of pace from being in med school. You don’t have to go see patients, but it is equally challenging. You have to go cure someone for a disease or sell sponsorship for a race car.”

The internship should help him land some sponsorship for next year. Well, that’s what his goal is. Staropoli believes the extra races on his record have put him in a better position, but he understands that you can’t do much without funding in this business.

If the opportunity comes along, you might just see the Plantation, Florida-native racing more frequently in 2015.

“My school has been working with me the entire year – giving me the space that I need to pursue this opportunity,” said Staropoli. “We’ve had some discussions about next year to see if some things fall into place – I can take time off. Medicine is an incredible field, and I love every second that I have studied to become a physician. I have no doubt in my mind that is where my path can take me, whether that is sooner or later.”

Whichever path he chooses, Staropoli’s level of dedication will surely lead him to a great amount of success. When he becomes a doctor, he’ll either be a neurologist, which he majored in and followed around some doctors to do research, or he’ll become an ophthalmologist.

With support from team owner Michael Waltrip and other team executives, he might just have a future in this sport. However, the clock is ticking. He’s hoping to announce his plans for next year in the coming weeks, but nothing is set in stone as of yet.

“The racing has a stopwatch on it and I know it is now or never to make it happen.”

Six-time race winner in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, Brennan Poole has signed a partial schedule with Team BCR Racing and Development Team. The schedule will begin where the team picked up their first win of the 2014 season at Daytona International Speedway for the annual Lucas Oil 200.
 
“I’m looking forward to working with Team BCR this year,” says Poole. “They are a great team with a strong reputation, and they have given me an awesome opportunity. I feel really blessed to be a part of this team!”
 
Poole began his ARCA Racing Series career in 2011, where he won his debut race at Salem Speedway. The 23-year-old driver went onto to win five more races at Pocono, Michigan, Elko, Springfield and most recently at Kentucky Speedway in 2014. On top of his wins, he earned four Menards Pole Awards, 18 top-5 finishes and 27 top-10 finishes during 35 series starts. Poole also managed to finish 3rd in driver’s points in 2012, while becoming the series Hoosier Speedway Champion.
 
Pairing up with Team BCR seemed to be a perfect match for Poole considering the team holds wins at more than half of the tracks the driver holds victory finishes at.
 
Team BCR Racing and Development Team earned five victories in the 2014 ARCA Racing Series season with wins at Daytona, Mobile, Salem, Pocono and Elko.  The team also compiled 9 top-5 finishes and 17 top-10 finishes, along with a Pole Award at Talladega Superspeedway during a part-time 2014 schedule.
 
Brennan Poole has signed for a minimum of ten races this season, which include the televised races on Fox Sports 1 and 2. If additional funding is secured, the team will plan to run for the 2015 Championship.
 
Marketing partners, along with a race schedule, will be announced in the next few weeks.

Team BCR PR

NEMCO Motorsports to expand late model program in 2015

Written by
Published in Racing News
Thursday, 30 October 2014 17:56

NEMCO Motorsports announced today plans to expand their late model program to include a second driver who will compete in a full-time Pro and Super Late Model Series effort in 2015.

19-year old Dominique Van Wieringen, a native of Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada, has been named as driver and will become an active figure at the race shop as the team prepares for her first outing at the Snow Flake Derby in Pensacola, Fla. in December, NEMCO Motorsports president Joe Nemechek today confirmed.

 

"We feel like we have some of the best late model equipment out there and are ready to contend for the win every time we hit the track," said Nemechek. "We've seen Dominique race at several events and feel like she'll be a great fit to expand our program. Being able to start at this level and help young drivers grow is just going to enhance our efforts in the truck series and beyond."

 

NEMCO Motorsports, which is operated by Nemechek and his family, has been active in NASCAR for nearly 25 years and boasts 25 wins on the NASCAR circuit. Today, father Joe and son, John Hunter, represent the team on the track racing in all three of NASCAR's national series and have shared driving duties in the No. 8 Toyota Tundra this season. Plans for 2015 include John Hunter, who has four late model wins this season to his credit, continuing to run in select late model events as he furthers his progression in the NASCAR ranks.

 

"We started NEMCO Motorsports in the late 1980's and have been fortunate to grow into one of NASCAR's premier teams over the years," Nemechek continued. "We couldn't be more excited to welcome Dominique aboard and we look forward to rounding out our efforts to include a strong showing at the grass roots level as well. "

 

Van Wieringen, who resides in Charlotte, NC, is currently working toward a Mechanical Engineering degree at University of North Carolina at Charlotte as a sophomore. She has been a mainstay on the JEGS/CRA circuit and a standout at Springport (MI) Speedway where she claimed the 2012 Outlaw Super Late Model Championship.

 

"When I've raced against the NEMCO Motorsports team in the past, it's been clear that they had a system going that was better than most and that this was a team of driven racers that wanted to win," said Van Wieringen. "This group strives to be the best of the best and that is what I aspire for as well. I'm thankful for the opportunity and look forward to moving my racing career another step forward and bringing the continued knowledge I get from my schooling at UNCC. I'm confident in my abilities as a driver and feel like this will be a win-win. I look forward to the upcoming year and to growing within the NEMCO Motorsports family."

 

Van Wieringen's other accomplishments include being the first woman to lead a lap and win in the JEGS/CRA All Stars Series, the first rookie to win a JEGS/CRA All Starts Series points race, 2011 Spartan (MI) Speedway Outlaw Super Late Model Rookie of the Year, 2008 WKA Regional Karting Series Junior Driver of the Year and 2007 ELKT Rotax Junior Series Karting Champion.

 

NEMCO Motorsports will field the No. 5 late model for Van Wieringen and will make an announcement later next month regarding sponsorship for their late model program. NEMCO Motorsports' 2015 plans will continue to include running a full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and select events in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

 

NEMCO Motorsports PR

Indycar reveals 2015 Verizon Indycar series schedule

Written by
Published in Racing News
Thursday, 30 October 2014 11:19

INDYCAR announced the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule today featuring 17 race events, two new race venues and a total of six ABC and 13 NBCSN event broadcasts. The diverse calendar of events - which features six ovals, six road courses and four temporary street circuits - includes a total of 13 markets making a return to the calendar from 2014.

"The Verizon IndyCar Series calendar represents another step forward in our strategy to grow the series," said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "There were several factors that led to the positive momentum we experienced in 2014 and we will continue to execute on those initiatives - continuity in our broadcast schedule, strategic growth of our schedule and improvements to how we promote our events. The continued support from our television partners at ABC and NBCSN, and the ongoing collaboration with promoters, teams and sponsor partners gives us a lot of confidence about our future."

The season opens with the series' first visit to Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet in Brasília, Brazil (March 8, NBCSN) and will be followed on the calendar by INDYCAR's North American opener on the Streets of St. Petersburg (March 29, ABC), its debut at New Orleans' NOLA Motorsports Park (April 12, NBCSN) and a return to the streets of Long Beach (April 19, NBCSN) and scenic Barber Motorsports Park (April 26, NBCSN). 

"It's great to see the Verizon IndyCar Series going back to Brazil and expanding internationally," Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti said. "Having a presence outside of the U.S. is important for the health of the series and a necessary part of growing the visibility and awareness opportunities in our industry."

Sonoma Raceway will host the Verizon IndyCar Series' season finale (Aug. 30, NBCSN), marking the first time an Indy car championship will end the season on a road course, dating back to the 2007 Champ Car finale at Mexico City.

 

"Sonoma has always been a great circuit for the Verizon IndyCar Series," said Scott Dixon, a three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner. "People always ask what my favorite track is and I often say 'the last one I won at' so it's perfect for me and Team Target. It's a very technical and challenging track and the site of the biggest Target weekend each season from a partnership perspective."

The Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will kick-off again with the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis (May 9, ABC) and will be followed by Indy 500 qualifications (May 16-17, ABC)  before the month culminates on Memorial Day weekend with the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (May 24, ABC) on the famed 2.5-mile oval. Carb Day activities on May 22 will be broadcast live by NBCSN.

Pocono Raceway (Aug. 23, NBCSN) returns to the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule at the tail-end of a summer four-race oval swing that is highlighted by a return to Auto Club Speedway (June 27, NBCSN) as well as short oval events at the Milwaukee Mile (July 12, NBCSN) and Iowa Speedway (July 18, NBCSN).

"Returning to Pocono in 2015 is great news," said Tony Kanaan, 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and former Indianapolis 500 winner. "The 'Tricky Triangle' is a very challenging racetrack for us and it provides great racing and excitement for the fans. Continuity is the key word to rebuild our fan base for that region and INDYCAR and Pocono are working very hard and thankfully making it happen. I'm obviously happy to be able to return in 2015 and finish the strong race we had in 2014."

The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix returns as a doubleheader event (May 30-31, ABC) and is followed on the calendar by a night race at Texas Motor Speedway (June 6, NBCSN). The race on Streets of Toronto has moved (June 14, NBCSN) to accommodate the Pan American Games, and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Aug. 2, NBCSN) returns to its familiar date on the calendar.

All races will be broadcast on radio by the IMS Radio Network through its affiliates, including SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

 

2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Schedule

Date

Race/Track

City

Venue

Network

March 8

Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet

Brasília, Brazil

3.4-mile road course

NBCSN

March 29

Streets of St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, FL

1.8-mile street course

ABC

April 12

NOLA Motorsports Park

Avondale, LA

2.7-mile road course

NBCSN

April 19

Streets of Long Beach

Long Beach, CA

1.968-mile street course

NBCSN

April 26

Barber Motorsports Park

Birmingham, AL

2.38-mile road course

NBCSN

May 9

Grand Prix of Indianapolis

Indianapolis, IN

2.4346-mile road course

ABC

May 16-17

Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

Indianapolis, IN        

2.5-mile oval

ABC

May 22

Carb Day

Indianapolis, IN

2.5-mile oval

NBCSN

May 24

Indianapolis 500

Indianapolis, IN        

2.5-mile oval

ABC

May 30

Raceway at Belle Isle Park

Detroit, MI

2.35-mile street course

ABC

May 31

Raceway at Belle Isle Park

Detroit, MI

2.35-mile street course

ABC

June 6

Texas Motor Speedway

Fort Worth, TX

1.5-mile oval

NBCSN

June 14

Streets of Toronto

Toronto, Canada

1.75-mile street course

NBCSN

June 27

Auto Club Speedway

Fontana, CA

2-mile oval

NBCSN

July 12

The Milwaukee Mile

Milwaukee, WI

1-mile oval

NBCSN

July 18

Iowa Speedway

Newton, IA

.875-mile oval

NBCSN

Aug. 2

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Lexington, OH

2.258-mile road course

NBCSN

Aug. 23

Pocono Raceway

Long Pond, PA

2.5-mile oval

NBCSN

Aug. 30

Sonoma Raceway

Sonoma, CA

2.385-mile road course

NBCSN

IndyCar PR

Richard Petty Driving Experience (RPDE), the world-wide leader in stock car drive and ride entertainment, will give 12 lucky participants the opportunity to experience the seventh bi-annual Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp in Las Vegas, March 8-11, 2015.

Participants of the Fantasy Camp will spend four full days exploring all that Las Vegas has to offer for racing enthusiasts. Drivers start off day one by meeting Richard Petty and Randy LaJoie, then getting the VIP treatment at the Kobalt Tools 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in the Richard Petty Driving Experience luxury suite at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The following days are a fantasy come true, with drivers climbing behind the wheel of a 600 HP NASCAR race car and driving on Las Vegas Motor Speedway, experience Zero 1 Desert Adventures in off-road terrain vehicles, and participate in the American Muscle Car Challenge in high performance street cars.  Other camp highlights include one-on-one instruction from some of the best in the business, including Randy LaJoie and the accomplished team of Petty instructors. 

The cost to participate in Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp is $10,000 and includes the aforementioned activities, as well as world-class accommodations on the Vegas strip, custom apparel, in-car videos, commemorative event photos, and a lifetime of priceless memories. 

Space is limited to 12 participants. For more information or to register, call (704) 454-6224, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.drivepetty.com/fantasyracingcamp.

Richard Petty Driving Experience PR

As a result of a new partnership between Stadium Super Trucks (SST) and SEMA – the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world - SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road Presented by TRAXXAS has moved its Nov. 5 race date in Las Vegas to Thursday, Nov. 6.

The event’s additional race date (Saturday, Nov. 1) and location remains the same with races taking place at the MGM Resorts Village. A full schedule of racing will take place both nights with other racing series joining the SSTs, including a full field of high-powered Legend Cars.

“Collectively we decided that having an additional day of promotion at the SEMA Show will be beneficial to our partnership,” said series President Robby Gordon. “Our mutual goals are to continue to build the off-road industry as a whole and moving the SST race from Wednesday to Thursday allows for an additional day of promotion within the SEMA Show, which is a benefit to the entire off-road industry.”

SEMA attendees can purchase tickets at two SST kiosks located at Show Registration in the North Hall and New Product Showcase in the South Hall, Level 2 of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Tickets are also available through www.stadiumsupertrucks.com and the MGM box office (877-274-6958 from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. PST) and are $25 for adults, and $15 for children (12 and under) and military personnel with proper ID. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and racing starts at 8 p.m. for both events.

For more information on the SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road Presented by TRAXXAS series, visit www.stadiumsupertrucks.com.

When the outlook has been at its most challenging for NHRA Funny Car icon John Force over the years, that has often brought out the very best in the 16-time and reigning world champion. 

After the departure of longtime crew chief Jimmy Prock last Wednesday with only two races remaining in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, that famed rallying response will be put to the test one more time for the legendary Force. 

He enters this weekend’s 14th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in second place, 36 points behind rival Matt Hagan. Getting past the red-hot Hagan, who won the most recent event in Reading and has two Countdown playoff victories this season, will be difficult, but doing so without Prock leaves Force and his 10,000-horsepower Castrol GTX Ford Mustang with one more massive challenge to overcome. 

“We’re going to come out swinging,” Force said. “I’ll have a good racecar in (Vegas), you can count on that. The rest is where Lady Luck takes us. I always believed that if you stand up and you fight, you do the best you can, and with a little help from the good Lord and the people around you, you'll be okay. If you win, that’s great. That’s the icing on the cake. But if you lose, and you gave it everything you got, you still won. John Force needs to get up and rally himself and his team, whether new or old, and that’s what I plan on doing.” 

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) joined Force as winners of this event last year. The race will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2. 

Force has often found a rallying cry when his back has been against the wall and it has routinely brought out some of the best performances in his career. 

After finishing ninth in 2009 without a victory that season – Force’s worst finish since 1984 at that point – and hearing whispers he may be on the decline, Force rebounded by claiming the championship in 2010, knocking off Hagan in Las Vegas and winning the final event of the season en route to the title. Force finished ninth in 2011 and 2012, winning just two races in that time but bounced back in 2013 to slip past Hagan, who led the points race for most of the season. Force won this event a year ago to finish off the world championship, meaning the added pressure, which this year again includes trying to track down Hagan, seems to bring out his best performances. 

“I race two different styles,” Force said. “When you’re in the lead, at least I do, you have a certain style to race, be protective of the points. When you’re behind, you open up and it’s guns-a-blazing. That’s how I’m going into Vegas. I told my daughters Courtney and Brittany, you can’t look at those races or any round or qualifying or a final any different than you did opening day at Pomona. The racecar doesn’t know the difference. If you set the pace of where you’re going and do what you’ve always done, then your best potential will come out as a driver in the driver’s seat. So, nope, I’m going to address Vegas and Pomona as any other race and I’ll see how the cards fall.” 

Force’s history of performing well when adversity is knocking at his door certainly reads long, but he will also have to deal with a talented Funny Car field that goes well beyond Hagan. Daughter Courtney Force trails Hagan by 72 points and is in the mix for her first championship, while John Force racing teammate Robert Hight is also still in contention.

Other Countdown competitors include Tommy Johnson Jr., who is 110 points behind Hagan in fourth, Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson and Del Worsham. The added departure of Prock adds to the degree of difficulty, but Force, who has 141 career victories, is looking forward to the challenge. 

“Look, I made the decision on this,” Force said. “I’m going to go with my decision, but I’m not going to jeopardize Robert’s chance at a title or my daughter Courtney’s chance at a title or my daughter Brittany at her first win (in Top Fuel). I don’t do business that way. Like I said, it’s not just about championships to me. It’s can I rally this team back together? That’s what I’m best at. I’ve done it a lot of times, and I’m going to try.” 

In Top Fuel, Brown, the 2012 world champ, is a two-time winner at Las Vegas, but the driver in command heading into the penultimate race is seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher. After winning three of the first four races in the Countdown, Schumacher, an eight-time winner at The Strip at LVMS, holds a 134-point lead over Doug Kalitta. Steve Torrence sits in third, reigning world champion Shawn Langdon is fourth in points while other Countdown competitors include Spencer Massey, reigning Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner Brittany Force, Khalid alBalooshi, Indy Richie Crampton and J.R. Todd.

In Pro Stock one of the most intense playoff battles is brewing between as many as five drivers. Jason Line leads the pack while Erica Enders-Stevens, Dave Connolly, Gray and Allen Johnson are all within striking range of a championship. Jonathan Gray, Jeg Coughlin, V Gaines, Vincent Nobile and Chris McGaha round out the Countdown field. 

Smith was victorious in Pro Stock Motorcycle last season en route to his second championship ring. But the 2014 season has belonged to Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec. Both have won this event three times and Hines holds a 25-point advantage over Krawiec. Hector Arana Jr. is in third and other marquee challengers in the two-wheeled category are Steve Johnson, Angie Smith, Scotty Pollacheck, John Hall, Hector Arana Sr. Michael Ray, Jerry Savoie and Angelle Sampey. 

The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and one driver will be crowned world champion at the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season finale. 

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. 

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family. 

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Oct. 31, with sessions at 1 and 4 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Nov. 1, at 1 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 2. 

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at (800) 644-4444 or visit www.LVMS.com.  For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.

2014 IHRA Super Rod Champion Michael Ruff

Written by
Published in Racing News
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 17:24

Only three drivers in the history of the IHRA have ever won the prestigious Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions more than once.

Michael Beard did it in 2009 and 2012 in two different classes. Mike Koontz won it in 2009 and again this season in Top Sportsman. And then there is Michael Ruff. Calm, cool, collected - and simply one of the best darn racers in the game today - Ruff has won the IHRA's championship tournament two of the past three years in Super Rod, setting up a bit of a dynasty for himself in the comfy confines of his home state of Florida.

Only three drivers in the history of the IHRA have ever won the prestigious Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions more than once.

Michael Beard did it in 2009 and 2012 in two different classes. Mike Koontz won it in 2009 and again this season in Top Sportsman. And then there is Michael Ruff. Calm, cool, collected - and simply one of the best darn racers in the game today - Ruff has won the IHRA's championship tournament two of the past three years in Super Rod, setting up a bit of a dynasty for himself in the comfy confines of his home state of Florida.

And, after a full day on the track and five rounds of work, Ruff found himself in his second career TOC final against Paul "Racer" Brown of Cass City, Michigan. With the championship on the line, Ruff again held the advantage on the tree with a .008 light to Brown's .012 and used that narrow edge to earn the win, running a 9.911-second elapsed time in the 9.90 index class at 149.75 mph to Brown's 9.917 at 159.63 mph.

"We started off a little slowly this weekend, but we finally got her dialed in and thankfully the weather held out," Ruff said. "We got here early on Thursday and got a good tune-up because we hadn't run much quarter-mile this year. After that we had good reaction times, the track was great and the car spoke for itself. You have to have a good hot rod under you during a race like this."

In addition to the tremendous final round, Ruff put together four stout passes during the afternoon leading up to the final in his bright blue '67 Camaro roadster. He recorded reaction times of .007, .017, .002 and .011 leading up to the finals, eliminating James Cater, Jacob Elrod and Shannon Brinkley along the way.

Ruff's toughest test of the afternoon came in the second round in a double-breakout victory over Jacob Elrod. Elrod had a perfect .000 reaction time paired with a 9.882 at 154.39 mph, but Ruff ran a tad closer to the numbers with a 9.890 at 141.47 mph to take the win. Ruff also had a key breakout victory over Division 4 champion Shannon Brinkley in the semifinals to advance to the championship bout. Ruff had a .011 light and a 9.906 at 146.46 mph to get around Brinkley who broke-out at 9.889.

"While I have been here before, it was definitely not any less stressful. Every round you know you are racing the best and you just want to go up there and not do anything stupid. You just want to run your own race and hope you put down a run good enough to beat the guy in the other lane," Ruff said.

National runner-up Brown finished the season third in Division 3 with two runner-up finishes on the year. In Memphis, he defeated David Morris, Ernie Knight and Gerald Pierce to reach the finals.

With his second championship in three years, Ruff looks forward to carrying the No. 1 on his car as he prepares for another title run in 2015 following one of the most successful seasons seen in some time.

"It has been a roller-coaster year, but it all worked out in the end," Ruff said. "I want to thank my wife Shari, Tim Takash, Vince Coasta, Tom Kundrik at Mickey Thompson Tires, Greg Samuel and crew at FTI Transmissions and Converters, Dave Hartman at Hartbeat Racing Engines, my brother-in-law Larry Hambey Jr. and everyone that helped us out during the year. Hopefully we can have another great season in 2015."

2014 IHRA Quick Rod Champion Jeremy Mason

Written by
Published in Racing News
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 17:15

Jeremy Mason has dreamt of being a champion ever since he was a little kid.

From the very first time he made a pass down a racetrack in Junior Dragster, to his move up through the ranks to a much faster dragster in Quick Rod, Mason knew he wanted to be an IHRA World Champion and put his name alongside the all-time greats that have raced before him.

But an odd thing happened to the 26-year-old racer out of Waco, Kentucky when he reached the final round of the Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions presented by AMSOIL at Memphis International Raceway. With everything on the line, Mason actually found himself quite calm and relatively relaxed for such a monumental moment in his life. In fact, you could almost say Mason was in his own little world when he pulled into the water box.

"Honestly, the first round on Sunday was probably the most nerve-racking round for me. With the washout on Saturday and the weather change, you really just had to trust your car. Getting past that round was the real key to winning the championship," Mason said. "I treated the final round like any other round, honestly. Yes, there was a lot on the line, but I was setup well for the run. I don't believe in changing how you do things for a particular race. I left the line knowing I had him significantly on the tree, I got down the track and then killed what I needed to run above the number."

With a clear mind and a determined heart, Mason put together a solid package in the finals of Quick Rod during the IHRA Summit World Finals, posting a .010 light packaged with an 8.913-second pass in the 8.90 index class at 153.63 mph to take the win over Randal Langley. Langley, from Naples, Florida, had a slightly better run of 8.907 at 172.65 mph, but his .045 reaction time did him in.

With the win, Mason collected his very first IHRA championship coming off of a season that saw him record two wins and take the Division 3 championship with the IHRA Summit Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL. But it wasn't an easy road to Memphis.

Mason actually started the year rather slowly and looked well out of the championship picture until a late surge put him atop the Quick Rod standings entering the World Finals.

"Our year started out rather rocky. For one, I haven't been able to race as much as I have in years past because I switched jobs in February and I haven't had the vacation time to take off. We also didn't start the year well in our first few races," Mason said. "But we ended up finishing strong. We had a win and runner-up in Michigan, won our final race of the year in Darlington and we turned that into a championship in the division, which is my third division championship in the last four years."

Once in Memphis, Mason overcame the tumultuous weather which threw a curveball at all racers, delaying eliminations from Saturday to Sunday. But on Sunday, Mason put together a strong showing with wins over Patrick Forster, Travis Ringguth and Steve Muller to reach the final.

In those rounds, Mason had reaction times of .015, .013 and .010 and managed a pair of double-breakout victories over Ringguth and Muller. The win over Muller in the semifinals - an 8.888 at 153.49 mph to an 8.857 at 163.20 mph - propelled Mason into the championship round.

"Man, this is just awesome. It really is a dream come true. I have been trying for about four years now and to finally get it done, what a finish to an amazing year," Mason said. "It feels awesome to be a world champion. It has been a dream of mine ever since I started in Junior Dragsters so many years ago. It feels great to know all of my persistence and dedication has paid off when it comes to drag racing."

Mason's final round opponent, Randal Langley, had one win in 2014 helping to propel him to second in the final Division 2 standings. Langley had wins over Mike Pople, Mark Miles and Mark Meadows to reach the final in Memphis.

While Mason was certainly excited about his first championship, he was also reflective of recording that championship-winning performance in his last race in his Undercover dragster as he moves to a brand new Miller Race Cars dragster in 2015. Only this time, he will be racing as an IHRA World Champion.

"That car was right there all weekend long and it was truly special for my last pass in my Undercover to be a world championship winning pass," Mason said. "I could not do all of this without the support I receive. I would like to thank my mom and dad. They have supported me throughout all of my racing. I also want to thank my girlfriend Brandi. I could not do all of this without the great companies that support and partner with me including Renegade Racing Fuels and Oils, MAHLE Motorsports, Clevite, Ohio Crankshaft and Pro System Carbs. Thank you to everyone."

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