Wednesday, Feb 01
Adam Sinclair

Adam Sinclair

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  

  

 

There’s no magic fix when it comes to promoting a race event. You have to plan it all out well ahead of time and ensure that you don’t waste resources on needless experimentation. In this blog post, we’ll discuss 5 tried and tested strategies for promoting your next race event.

 

No race event is the same, which is the biggest problem most marketers face when promoting it. It’s true that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every race event, but there are some ways you can predict whether the proposed promotional strategies would work out in your favor or not. The target audience is one of them — you need to tailor your marketing efforts to the interests and preferences of your audience. 

 

For instance, if it’s a school or inter-college race event, the prime target audience is the friends and family members of the participants and the schools/colleges they study at. Once you’ve figured that out, follow these strategies to get as many people to your race event as possible.

 

Put up flyers in high-traffic areas

The first and most obvious thing to do is put up your race event flyers. But that depends on the type of event you’re promoting. If it’s a school competition, the flyers should be posted all around the school, especially in places where students get together to hang out. If it’s a city-wide event, the posters should be put in subways and preferably shown via digital signage.

 

Make sure you mention all the relevant details on your poster. These include the date, time, and venue of the event along with a brief outline of the teams that are participating. Creating a poster doesn’t have to be difficult. You can use an online graphic design tool like PosterMyWall to craft one in a few clicks.

 

Advertise the event on your blog

You’re probably a part of a school, company, or some institution if you’re tasked with promoting a race event. If so, you must have an up-and-running website blog. Most business owners underestimate the power of a blog, but the truth is if you keep your audience engaged by posting valuable content, they’re going to keep coming back for more.

 

So, if your website blog receives a substantial amount of traffic each month, consider posting an article about your race event. This will let your audience know about it. I also recommend mentioning the ticket registration link in the blog so that those who are convinced of attending it can buy their tickets there and then.

 

Create a specific landing page

When you say “click here to register online” in your blog, YouTube video, or Instagram post, you need a working URL (landing page) so that people can buy their tickets. Therefore, you must have a specific landing page because the first thing visitors will see after clicking your ad is your landing page.

 

Make sure your landing page is persuasive. You should list a brief breakdown of the event like the intervals, schedule, and the participating teams. A good idea is to insert a short 2-minute video of the past race event you hosted, highlighting the excitement in the atmosphere and the winner(s).

 

Advertise heavily on social media

Social media is the most sought-after marketing tool in today’s digital age, and you do wonders with it. As far as a race event is concerned, you should focus your marketing efforts on Facebook and Instagram since they’re the most highly used platforms today.

 

As far as Facebook is concerned, consider joining local community groups and pages relevant to the race event. For instance, if the event is specific to a particular neighborhood, join groups of that neighborhood (all its schools and colleges) and post about the upcoming race event.

 

On Instagram, you can post snippets of the ongoing preparations of the venue to create an exciting environment for everyone who wants to attend or is thinking of attending the event. Don’t forget to use popular hashtags so that people can easily find your Instagram posts.

 

Create stunning posts effortlessly by using customizable social media templates that you can edit in minutes.

 

Finish it up with email marketing

Last but not least, you can promote your race event with email marketing. But this requires having a subscriber list. If you’re representing a school or college, you’d probably have a big list of students’ and parents’ emails that you can use to relay information about the upcoming race event.

 

You could bring it up in the form of a newsletter or just a simple email intended to inform them. However, make sure your subject headline is captivating because most people don’t even open irrelevant emails if the subject line doesn’t convince them. Also, avoid writing blocks of text and instead embed the poster you created in the first step in your email.

 

A few parting words

Promoting a race even is easier said than done. And that’s mostly because you have a very niche audience to target, and most of them are either students or parents. Although the above-mentioned strategies work like a charm, make sure to mix them up a bit and tailor them to your specific situation. Start with the marketing as early on as possible because it’ll give you enough time to experiment with multiple strategies and see which ones work best for you.

Marotti Autosport is giving race fans an exclusive opportunity to own a share of their race entry for the 2023 Indy 500. Those interested in learning about how they can invest alongside corporate sponsors and be part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity can visit spiritofspeedway.com. Inspired by the tradition of past car entries named after cities, the theme of Marotti Autosport’s Indy 500 program and car has been named the “Spirit of Speedway.”

“With our Spirit of Speedway program, we are the first to honor Speedway, Indiana, the hometown of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” said team owner Will Marotti, Marotti Autosport Team Owner. "With the goal to become the first fully fan-owned entry, what better way to rally support and excitement than to honor the wonderful town of Speedway.”

In 2016, Marotti partnered with Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports in the 100th running of the Indy 500. Marotti is the only active minister to have led an Indy 500 team. Marotti Autosport kicked off its first crowdfunding effort for a race-fan-owned Indy 500 entry in late 2021. Marotti has introduced grassroots efforts such as a featured banner on Main Street in Speedway and promotional support from local businesses and partners. The team is looking to capitalize on its success from the first round of funding.

For a suggested $10,000 investment, race fan investors receive a 1% ownership stake in the car and a commensurate 1% share of the prize money generated by the Spirit of Speedway entry in the 2023 Indy 500. “Our race fan investors will not only own a part of the car, but they will also have exclusive access to team announcements, driver autograph sessions, and team dinner leading up to the Indy 500. This ownership also provides first-class hospitality during the May and July Grand Prix weekends, and of course, the coveted Indy 500,” added Marotti.”

In addition to their second crowdfund, Marotti Autosport is seeking corporate sponsors for the Spirit of Speedway Indy 500 entry. “We are encouraged by the interest and conversations we’ve had thus far,” added Marotti. “We are committed to creating a motorsports program that will allow race fans to live a dream and deliver value and a platform for a corporate partner at the greatest spectacle in all of racing.” 

With this announcement, Marotti Autosport also re-launches their investor portal where race fans can learn more about the investment program and hear from team owner Will Marotti and other race fan investors involved this past season.

With the 2022 season in the books, the team is seeking a competitive IndyCar driver available in 2023 to pilot the car. “We are excited about the talent out there, and with the conclusion of the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, some additional drivers are becoming available,” added Marotti. “We have a passion for Speedway, Indiana, and the most prestigious race in the world, and we are seeking to be a competitive entry for the biggest prize in motorsports—the Borg-Warner Trophy!” concluded Marotti.

In addition to the 2016 Indy 500, Marotti Autosport competed in the 500-mile race the following year, along with additional races in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The team has also run select races in the Road to Indy ladder series. Since its inception, Marotti Autosport has been competitive, finishing as high as 12th in the 2016 Indy 500. The team ran as high as 4th place in that same race nearing the end.

For more information about Marotti Autosport and its innovative "Spirit of Speedway" fan investment program, please visit spiritofspeedway.com. Their Vimeo web page at vimeo.com/marottiautosport features team owner Will Marotti video updates and testimonies from race fan owners.

In the over-scheduled, over-programmed race of daily life, cars are often viewed as machines used for commuting – the thing that gets us from one place to another. While automobiles keep nearly a quarter of a billion Americans on the road, the world’s leading synthetic motor oil and iconic motorsports brand Mobil 1™ and the automotive lifestyle brand Hagerty™ are committed to cultivating and celebrating a more meaningful car culture that brings joy to driving and builds a community of driving enthusiasts. To fuel that purpose, today, the two brands formalized their alliance in a multi-year collaboration to serve drivers everywhere.

 

“Hagerty has a purpose to save driving and car culture. Mobil 1 has a mission to spread the love of driving,” said Scott Howard, Director, North America Finished Lubricants at ExxonMobil. “Whether it’s modern European race cars, classic American builds, the Rocket League’s virtual Octane car, or innovative creations like the Hoonipigasus, we’ve seen that the joy of driving, not necessarily what you’re driving, is what unites enthusiasts together and builds communities. Together, Mobil 1 and Hagerty will better serve, grow, and inspire drivers everywhere.”

 

Combined, Mobil 1 and Hagerty have nearly 90 years of experience protecting automobiles, creating innovative technologies, building industry relationships, and growing communities of driving enthusiasts all over the world. Together, both brands will be able to serve their consumers better by bringing automotive culture to new heights – on and off the road – with a focus on compelling content, cultivating communities, and providing car care with purpose.

 

“We started as an insurance company to protect the vehicles we all love,” said Larry Webster, Senior Vice President of Media and Editorial, Hagerty. “But we’ve grown into an automotive lifestyle brand because the passion of driving enthusiasts is so much bigger than the car themselves. The builders, the stories, the gatherings and – yes – the cars, are why more than 750,000 drivers are part of Hagerty’s Driver’s Club. Empowering people who love cars of all types is what motivates Mobil 1 and Hagerty to serve driving communities together.”

 

At the SEMA Show, the premier annual automotive trade show in Las Vegas, Mobil 1 and Hagerty announced their collaboration and formalized how they plan to serve driving enthusiasts. 

 

Creating Compelling Content

Hagerty brings a deep knowledge of car culture and a proven ability to connect with enthusiasts through high-quality content such as its existing YouTube video series “Capturing Car Culture” and “Hagerty DIY.” Meanwhile, Mobil 1 will provide access to the greatest drivers, cars, and events in the industry as a fixture on the F1 circuit, NASCAR tracks, and extreme motorsport races like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Together, the industry leaders will collaborate on exclusive, behind-the-scenes content to further showcase the best cars, stories, products and, most importantly, the people behind them as a way to entertain and inform the enthusiast community through all channels including print, digital web, video, and social media.

 

Cultivating Communities

Hagerty takes car culture seriously by attending, sponsoring, and hosting more than 2,500 events every year and is committed to offering experiential on-ramps for car enthusiasts with its world-class vehicle storage and exclusive social club, Hagerty Garage + Social that provides car lovers with a home away from home. Mobil 1 understands the importance of celebrating driving and highlighting its love of the sport in new ways – such as through its esports and gaming collaborations with Rocket League and Gen.G. Together, the two brands will curate incredible experiences for current driving enthusiasts and cultivate new opportunities to usher in a new community of drivers wherever, and however, they drive. 

 

Car Care with Purpose

Mobil 1 protects engines on the road and track and Hagerty serves more than 750,000 Drivers Club members with roadside service among other benefits – highlighting both brands’ deep understanding of the need for regular car maintenance. Consumers can expect to see exclusive product offerings through the partnership. Caring for a car properly is critical, and together, Mobil 1 and Hagerty will continue to create efficiencies for drivers to increase safety, boost performance, and educate vehicle owners and the industry. Ultimately, the expertise, technology, and education from Mobil 1 and Hagerty will help drivers maintain their cars so they can get more out of the drive. 

Freeway Insurance, the largest auto insurance and personal lines distribution company in the U.S., announced the expansion of its relationship with Trackhouse Racing and NASCAR driver Daniel Suárez for a third straight season.

Freeway Insurance and Trackhouse Racing first partnered in 2021 when Freeway Insurance was a primary sponsor during the racing organization’s inaugural season. Freeway Insurance will sponsor seven events during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series as part of the continued partnership, as well as serve as the primary sponsor on Suárez’s iconic No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro at the following regular season races: 

  • February 26, 2023:  Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, CA

  • March 12, 2023:  Phoenix Raceway, Avondale, AZ

  • March 26, 2023:  Circuit of the Americas (COTA), Austin, TX

  • June 4, 2023:  Worldwide Technology Raceway, St. Louis, MO

  • June 11, 2023:  Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, CA

  • August 20, 2023:  Watkins Glen, NY

  • September 3, 2023:  Darlington Raceway, Darlington, SC

 

“The partnership between Trackhouse, Daniel Suárez and Freeway Insurance has been a perfect fit since the start, and it was a no-brainer to continue our relationship,” said Cesar Soriano, Chief Executive Officer of Freeway Insurance. “Being able to team up with Daniel - one of the best drivers on the circuit - and have him as an ambassador for Freeway Insurance is an incredible honor, and we look forward to cheering on him and his team with NASCAR fans everywhere.”

To celebrate the renewed partnership, Suárez will be meeting with fans and launching Freeway Insurance’s #99 Replica racecars to their fleet ahead of championship weekend on November 5. Fans are invited to come to the Freeway Insurance in Phoenix, Arizona, to meet Suárez, get his autograph, take selfies with the car and receive prizes and commemorative die-cast cars, while supplies last.  

“Freeway Insurance has been there for me just like it’s been there for thousands of customers who rely on the brand for affordable insurance solutions, and I’m excited to continue our relationship,” Suárez said. “I take great pride in having the Freeway Insurance name on our cars, and hope to make them and our NASCAR fans proud next year.”

Suárez will meet fans and unveil the fleet cars from 4-5pm PT on Saturday, Nov. 5th at Freeway Insurance at 6750 W Olive Ave in Phoenix. 

To learn more about Freeway Insurance, visit  freewayinsurance.com.

With the smoke still clearing from the Final Round of the 2022 Formula DRIFT PRO Championship, the series is announcing its 2023 schedule today at SEMA in Las Vegas. The venues for the eight-round PRO Championship remain unchanged, the PROSPEC Championship will again to be decided at Utah Motorsports Park and the PRO Championship will culminate at its traditional Irwindale Speedway venue.

2023 FORMULA DRIFT CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

VENUE

LOCATION

CHAMPIONSHIP

DATE

Streets of Long Beach

Long Beach, CA

PRO

April 7-8

Super Drift

Long Beach, CA

Invitational

April 14-15

Road Atlanta

Atlanta, GA

PRO/PROSPEC

May 11-13

Orlando Speed World

Orlando, FL

PRO

May 26-27

Englishtown Raceway Park

Englishtown, NJ

PRO/PROSPEC

June 22-24

World Wide Technology Raceway

St Louis, MO

PRO/PROSPEC

July 13-15

Evergreen Speedway

Seattle, WA

PRO

Aug 11-12

Utah Motorsports Park

Grantsville, UT

PRO/PROSPEC

Sept 14-16

Irwindale Speedway

Irwindale, CA

PRO

Oct 13-14

 

In addition to the schedule announcement, Formula DRIFT is celebrating its landmark 20th Anniversary in 2023 and will introduce a number of important updates to the series, which will have a significant impact on teams and fans alike. 

One of the first major changes is the removal of the 37 driver cap on both the PRO and PROSPEC Championships. This will allow more teams to enter the series but makes qualifying more crucial than ever as only 32 drivers are able to compete in the head-to-head competition.

The teams that do qualify will be excited to learn that the PRO Prize Purse has been increased, with the payout per round doubled over 2022. And the 2023 PRO Champion will receive a significant $50,000 reward for their achievement.

Fans of the sport will be able to follow their favorite teams and drivers thanks to the creation of the official Formula DRIFT Podcast. Hosted by Jacob Gettins, he'll talk to leading protagonists as the season unfolds.

In a move that signifies the maturity and longevity of the series, Formula DRIFT has announced the creation of the Formula DRIFT Hall of Fame. The first inductees will be honored at the 2023 opening round in Long Beach. And each inductee will be awarded a unique FDHOF ring, which will be custom-made for the recipient, encrusted with diamonds and gemstones to a value of $10,000.

Furthermore, a Formula DRIFT monument will be erected in downtown Long Beach to commemorate the sport, and the name of each Hall of Fame inductee will be etched into the monument to preserve their part in history.

With celebrations planned for individual events and some special announcements to be made before the start of the 2023 season, the Formula DRIFT 20th Anniversary promises to be truly unforgettable.

 

A year ago, they stuck a toe in the water — or, more precisely, a finger on the autonomous driving software — with a woman co-captain who was an engineering senior without, coincidentally, a driver’s license. Who needs one for a driverless vehicle, even an Indy car?
 
This time, the University of Pittsburgh representation combines engineering undergraduate and business graduate students… with women as co-captains from Pitt (again) and from MIT.
 
Not only are they a diverse autonomous auto-racing team, but this Pitt group has helped the Pitt, MIT, Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Waterloo, Canada, amalgamation achieve higher speeds in their second go-round in this Indy Autonomous Challenge. The MIT-PIT-RW team enters its second full season with a race Nov. 11 at Texas Motor Speedway, where they’ll face teams filled with graduate and PhD students, teams coached by faculty members on-site.
 
While the 2021-22 team sustained a few bumps (including a wall) at the original race at the Indy 500 Brickyard last November and a January competition at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 2022-23 team led by co-captain Rotimi Adetunji — a May electrical engineering graduate now working toward a master’s in biomedical engineering (with a robotics focus) at Cornell — and MIT’s Cindy Heredia already has set team records. After new tweaks to all cars and software courtesy of the organizers, they have surpassed speeds over 100 mph in practice runs., with a record of 126 Nov. 1. They have completed the bulk of their racing qualification requirements a week and a half before race day. They have put in the long-term toil: roughly six weeks of testing since September, including three weeks at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park and another three at the Fort Worth, Texas, oval where NASCAR and Indy both compete.
 
“The car is running great!” Adetunji said. “With new hardware, there is always a bit of a rough patch at the beginning, but the team did a great job of adapting, and is consistently having productive and effective track days.
 
“We’ve had a handful of close calls, but that’s par for the course,” added Adetunji, who unlike last year’s team co-captain, Nayana Suvarna, does have a driver’s license. “The way our team has been able to learn from them and adjust quickly has shown how far the team has come. The team is comfortable with speeds over 100 mph, and that, coupled with more intelligent racing strategy and behavior implemented in the code, really puts us in a great spot…. We have been jokingly dubbed by the [Indy Autonomous Challenge] crew ‘the fastest team ready for track days.’ “
 
Adetunji has been at Texas Motor Speedway for nearly a fortnight, joined there by fellow Pitt teammate Will Muckelroy III, a junior in computer engineering, and Carnegie Mellon’s Andrew Saba, a Pitt alum (ENGR ’19). Other Pitt team members from the Swanson School of Engineering joining her during testing are: Brendan Duff, a senior in computer engineering, and Micah Nye, a junior in mechanical engineering. So 11 Pitt group members — including four undergraduates and as many graduate students — and roughly 30 of the 41 MIT-PIT-RW team members in all are expected to be on hand by race day.
 
The Pitt members primarily came through the pipeline of the Robotics and Automation Society club at Pitt. It isn’t all pushing the car to high speeds and nerding around robotics, computers and algorithms, though: These budding scientists also have published their findings. “We will continue to publish our work throughout the year,” Adetunji said.
 
Mobilitas and PNC returned as sponsors, and the MIT-PIT-RW team also enjoys support from Cadence, RRAI, IBM and RTI.
 
Four students from the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business who are driving business operations: Erin Kust, Ammar Kinkhabwala, Miriam Dukaye and Aaditi Patil — all MBA and Master of Science candidates scheduled to graduate next spring — are proud of their team and accomplishments. Pitt Business has long emphasized the importance of learning by doing as students put into practice the theories discussed in class.
 
“Leading business operations, I’ve learned to manage a lot of functions at once,” said Kust, who is in the part-time MBA program while she works as a strategy consulting manager at Elevance. “This experience has been very beneficial to my development as a future leader. I’ve learned how to quickly synthesize the complex issues we experience across all business areas and work with my team to set realistic goals and actions to get us where we need to be.” [Read more about the Pitt Business teammates here.]
 
Adetunji believes the diversity and creativity of the Pitt group, as well as the four-university racing team overall, contributes invaluably — on the track, off the track, for this week, and beyond.
 
“We want to show people that anyone can do this and help to develop the vast amount of talent that is out there,” said Adetunji, who considers herself a “citizen of the world.” “Regardless of backgrounds.
 
“When you look at motorsports, computer science and robotics, there aren’t a lot of women. I think that our team has a lot of diversity that you don’t see in this field generally, and that lets us have the tools to succeed.”
 
One small example: Heredia, her co-captain from MIT, is an MBA student – not a computer scientist, roboticist, automotive type. Another: Most of the other teams are comprised of primarily graduate students in those latter fields, some whose universities are supported by or closely aligned with major automotive manufacturers or autonomous-driving research projects.
 
“They've demonstrated what they are capable of, and I've seen them interact with these other teams on the racetrack,” said Sam Dickerson, associate professor in computer engineering and the Pitt group’s mentor/shepherd/cheerleader, though he admires how this team has developed such a thorough management and leadership structure. “[The competitor teams] too have formed deep respect for them and view them as their peers.”  

Auto Racing legend Willy T. Ribbs today endorsed Mark Dill's first children's book, "The Legend of the First Super Speedway." Dill based the new book on his original historical novel of the same name. Ribbs wrote the forward to that book, released in 2020. Not only did Ribbs race in the Indianapolis 500, but he also became the first and only African American to test a Formula One racer.

"I said it before, and I will repeat it. Mark is the perfect person to tell this previously untold tale," says Ribbs, who currently serves as Formula One's Ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion. “He brings to the surface the true-life characters that created American auto racing. It's a true, entertaining history written to engage young people. Racing is a terrific sport, and just as my work for Formula One brings new people in, it's essential to engage youngsters."

Dill, born in Indianapolis, has a life-long involvement with auto racing. Among his highlights is bringing Nortel sponsorship to the winning team of the 1997 Indianapolis 500 where he sipped milk in victory lane. Dill served as an Indianapolis Motor Speedway officer and vice president of the Sports Car Vintage Racing Association. As a young man, he raced G Production race cars in the Sports Car Club of America. During college at Indiana University, he was the news director at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

“This children’s edition of ‘The Legend of the First Super Speedway’ is dedicated to my five-year-old grandson, Toby,” says Dill. “Toby attended his first Indy 500 this past May, which happened to be my 50th. Going to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing bonds my family. I sincerely hope my children's book will help build similar traditions for thousands of other families across America.”

Rising illustrator Mary Lynn Smith created the book's colorful illustrations. Smith comes from a family of artists, and this is her first children's book.

“I came into this project with very little knowledge of auto racing and its history, and I learned a great deal about the subject,” Smith says. “Mark and his wife Esther, who did the design layout, were a joy to work with.”

The book will be generally available on November 11. Readers can find it at other major retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target. Check out www.markgdill.com for more information on the book and author. Visitors can purchase an autographed book directly from the Website and browse an online merchandise shop with various unique apparel and other items.

Kevin Hart the car guy (and international superstar) visited the SEMA Show in Las Vegas to see his brand new project for the first time; an ’87 Buick Grand National T-Top. It featured in the Magnaflow booth and was stationed across the aisle from Hart’s 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner, which starred in the Meguiar’s booth. Both cars were built by Salvaggio Design and designed by Sean Smith, ensuring the highest quality and a ridiculous attention to detail.

Wisconsin-based Dave Salvaggio has worked on numerous projects with Kevin, so they sat down with Smith to devise his beautiful Buick. And straight away, the direction was set by its name; Dark Knight.

All Hart’s cars have a name. The Roadrunner was Mike Myers, for example. It inspired Smith to devise a black and orange Halloween paint scheme with a blood-splatter effect on the leather seats, a knife handle shifter, and hockey mask-wearing Roadrunner badges.

Avoiding any Batmobile styling cues for the Grand National, the theme for Dark Knight is subtle. It’s recognizable by its sinister appearance, featuring a black exterior with a blue and grey interior that echoes the superhero’s suit and cape. Bronze details were inspired by the famous utility belt.

Aside from its theme, Hart wanted to create a Grand National resto-mod that would redefine its key elements with modern technology. However, he insisted Salvaggio and Smith retain the car’s character, including its stock fenders, to create a wolf in sheep’s clothing; something nobody would suspect. 

Already the proud owner of a Grand National GNX with its factory flares, Hart didn’t want the new car to overwhelm it. He also stipulated it must have the famous T-Top roof, which triggered the search for a very specific car.

 

GRAND NATIONAL

Once a suitable donor was found, Smith worked with the Salvaggio Design team to execute the vision with restraint. It wouldn’t be extroverted or widebody; instead they focused on details such as restyling the front bumper. Using 3D CAD technology, the front bumper was scanned and a new design was 3D-printed, incorporating functional air ducts to improve the cooling and aerodynamic properties; something they deemed necessary given the chosen powerplant. The printed bumper was then used to mold the final piece in carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber from Brothers Composites was used sparingly, limited to the hood, chin spoiler, rear spoiler and mirrors. It can also be found inside the car and under the hood, as we’ll explore later.

The next task was to “tighten” the body lines, giving them a crisper profile with a premium fit and finish. This involved reprofiling the shut lines on the doors to allow everything to flow better with the primary surfaces. 

The metalwork was fabricated by Randy Russell, Telly Violetto and Craig Ness who expertly created the engine bay, floors, rear seat delete and trunk interior.

Smith designed new door handles that subtly update the original parts. Machined from billet, they have carbon fiber inlays to echo the carbon mirrors, which were molded from the stock parts.

With all the custom parts, the Buick’s lighting and front grille are stock, but Smith couldn’t resist reimagining the Grand National badge, creating a modern interpretation.  

With the bodywork complete, the car was painted in straight BASF black – no tints or effects. It’s offset by the nickel-plate finish on the 19” HRE 501 wheels, which were chosen for their resemblance to the original equipment but with a modern twist.

 

CHASSIS

Sitting on a laser-cut and TIG-welded custom Salvaggio chassis frame, the team added a Detroit Speed & Engineering X-Gen 595 front suspension package. The bolt-in subframe increased rigidity for superior handling from the Ultimate Performance coilovers. The rear-end has a DSE four-link set up with Panhard bar.

With its powerful engine, Salvaggio returned to Brembo for the ultimate stopping power. Brembo GT six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers provided supercar braking. They also ensured massive mechanical grip thanks to the 265/30 R19  front and chunky 325/30 R19 rear Toyo Proxes R888R tires mounted on the 19x9” front and 19x11” rear HRE 501 wheels. 

650HP

When it came to the heart of Dark Knight, the team sat down with Mario Abascal from Gearhead Fabrications to discuss the options. Inevitably, the Chevrolet LS V8 was a topic of heated conversation but Mario suggested the LF4 3.6L V6 Twin-turbo engine from the Cadillac ATS-V. “It was the obvious choice for what Buick might have installed if the Grand National GNX were around today!” he told us.

Having made the suggestion, it was Mario’s mission to see it through; no easy task given the complexity of the direct injection engine and eight-speed automatic transmission.

Undeterred, Gearhead sourced a running ATS-V drivetrain assembly. Strapped to a pallet, it included the V6 engine, trans, full wiring harness, control modules, dashboard and steering system. The team then invested 45 hours to isolate each individual wire and module to learn what could be disposed without affecting the functionality. As it turns out, they were able to discard about 60% of its bulk, filling numerous trash bags.

Installing the drivetrain required not only new mounts but the oil coolers, oil filters, turbo coolant system and more had to be relocated to clear the Salvaggio frame rails. The team also had to painstakingly extend 300 wiring connections to relocate the power control module (PCM) under the newly created carbon fiber engine covers.

As a homage to the factory GNX, Mario removed the twin-turbo setup, building a single-turbo kit around a 67mm Boost Labs BL67R ball-bearing turbo with billet wheel. It was mounted to a custom header once Salvaggio Design fabricated flanges to fit to the Cadillac’s integral manifold.

Abascal built a custom exhaust from Magnaflow sections for the unique engine swap. He also fabricated the plumbing, including pipes for the factory air-to-water intercooler, which mounted in its stock position on top of the engine.

The Cadillac engine's fuel supply is governed by a lobe on the factory cam. And by fitting a Comp Cams “fuel cam,”  Abascal increased the fuel flow to feed the turbo. He then controlled engine boost, fuel, ignition and even the transmission shift points via an HP Tuners module.

Running at about 20psi boost pressure, the single-turbo Cadillac V6 was dyno-tested at 650hp on 103-octance fuel. The intention is to fit performance camshafts and reach a projected 700hp on race gas. This is a considerable increase over both the Grand National GNX at 276hp and even the ATS-V at 464hp.

“We’re so happy that everything functions as it should,” Mario told us. “The transmission shifts perfectly and even the proximity sensor in the car can detect the key fob, only allowing the engine to start if the key is nearby. It has full factory functionality and could even operate remote locking if required. We’re delighted with the engine choice,” he concluded.

To accommodate the new drivetrain and tidy the engine bay, the Salvaggio team fabricated a core support and radiator cover before creating a new firewall and installing carbon fiber inner fender wells. Carbon fiber engine covers completed the transformation once the plumbing was finished in Cerakote bronze to match the accents throughout the car.

 

LEATHER

The Dark Knight theme takes center stage inside thanks to the extraordinary work of Salvaggio Design, Sean Smith, and the talented family at Gabe’s Custom Interiors. 

Picking up on the Caped Crusader’s costume, the seats and door panels were wrapped in a combination of dark blue and grey leather. The utility belt bronze tones are introduced through contrast stitching and pinstripe details. There are also bronze accents on the cooling vents and custom billet steering wheel. The one-off wheel was heavily influenced by the original part but has been beautifully updated. 

The same can be said of the door trims, which were originally plastic but have been replaced by bronze billet pieces with carbon fiber inlays. A billet shift knob and shift boot bezel were also machined from solid, while the instrument panel was 3D printed and fitted with Holley gauges. Like everything else, it feels comfortably familiar with a modern twist.

 

TECH SPEC
Kevin Hart’s “Dark Knight” 1987 Buick Grand National T-Top by Salvaggio Design

Engine:
LF4 3.6L V6 Twin-turbo from Cadillac ATS-V built and installed by Gearhead Fabrications, custom single-turbo kit with 67mm Boost Labs BL67R ball-bearing turbo with billet wheel mounted on custom manifold, custom Magnaflow exhaust and engine mounts, Cadillac air-to-water intercooler with custom plumbing, Comp Cams fuel camshaft, programmed HP Tuners software calibration, remote-mounted oil coolers, oil filters and turbo coolant system, relocated PCM, full Cadillac electronic integration to transmission, ignition system, etc. Custom engine bay with fabricated core support and radiator cover, smoothed and reshaped firewall, carbon fiber inner fender wells, carbon fiber engine covers and bronze Cerakote plumbing

Power:

650hp on 103-octance fuel

Transmission:
Cadillac eight-speed automatic, custom mount, 9” Tru Track 3.7:1 rear-end

Chassis:
Laser-cut and TIG-welded custom Salvaggio chassis frame, Detroit Speed & Engineering X-Gen 595 front suspension package, four-link rear suspension with Panhard bar, Ultimate Performance coilovers

Brakes:
Brembo GT six-piston calipers and 14” cross-drilled rotors front, four-piston and 13” rear 

Wheels / Tires:
19x9” front, 19x11” rear HRE 501 wheels finished in nickel-plate, 265/30 R19 front and 325/30 R19 rear Toyo Proxes R888R tires

Exterior:
Salvaggio Design carbon fiber front bumper with functional air ducts, carbon fiber hood, chin spoiler, rear spoiler and mirrors by Brothers Composites, reprofiled body lines and door shut lines, custom engine bay, floors, rear seat delete and trunk, billet door handles with carbon fiber inlays, Sean Smith Grand National badges, car painted in BASF black

Interior:
blue and grey leather upholstery by Gabe’s Custom Interiors with bronze stitching and pinstripes, bronze accents on cooling vents and Salvaggio billet steering wheel, 3D-printed dash with Holley gauge pack, Vintage Air system, bronze billet door trim with carbon fiber inlays, billet shift knob and shift boot bezel 

Thanks / Sponsors:
The Plastic Cup Boys, Sean Smith Design, Brembo, Brothers Composites, Detroit Speed & Engineering, Gabe’s Custom Interiors, Gearhead Fabrications, HRE Wheels, Holley Performance, Magnaflow, Toyo Tires, Vintage Air

 

Three-day tickets to the 2023 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding are on sale to the public. The 19th annual event is set for March 3-5, 2023, in downtown St. Petersburg. 

 

Tickets are available online at gpstpete.com or by calling 727-898-4639 with pricing starting at $125 for reserved 3-Day Grandstand seats and $65 for 3-Day General Admission. Additionally, junior pricing is available for fans ages 12 and under. Pit and Firestone Paddock Passes can also be purchased. Single-day tickets will be released for sale in early 2023.

 

"The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding will be here soon! Fans need to be in St. Pete to see the start of the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season and should act now to secure the best seats with great sightlines along our stunning waterfront,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. “St. Pete’s downtown scene is one of the most spectacular in all of motorsports, and we can’t wait to have all our fans join us here again at this great event!” 

 

The weekend schedule, highlighted by the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ season-opening race, will have a full complement of racing series on track. Open-wheel development series INDY NXT by Firestone, USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires and USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires will battle on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course. Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup and GT America Powered by AWS will provide fierce stock car racing action as well. 

 

For ticket pricing and event information, visit gpstpete.com or follow Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on social media using #FirestoneGP. Joining the E-Club also provides insider access to the latest news and offers. The complete weekend racing and festival schedule will be released in early 2023.

Scholarship recipients are being announced for the upcoming joint venture between Radford Racing School and the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda (F4 U.S.) to help transition young drivers from go-karts to racecars. Patrick Woods-Toth is the first driver to be announced to the Radford Racing School F4 U.S. Scholarship Award School through a nomination from the Motomaster Ron Fellows Karting Championship. 

“We’re excited to have Patrick attend the F4 U.S. Scholarship Award school with Radford Racing School,” said Scott Goodyear, F4 U.S. Race Director. “I’ve known Ron [Fellows] for a long time and have watched the quality drivers that come out of the Motomaster Ron Fellows Karting Championship program—I’m certain Patrick will be no different.”

“The Motomaster Ron Fellows Karting Championship is thrilled to have one of its deserving kart drivers chosen to be included in the scholarship provided by Formula 4 U.S. Championship Powered by Honda,” said Ron Fellows. “Patrick Woods-Toth is a terrific talent and we’re excited to help provide him this three-day opportunity to drive an F4 car at the Radford Racing School.”

A 19-year-old from Montreal, Woods-Toth was the 2022 Motomaster Ron Fellows Karting Championship Champion, the Motomaster Canadian Karting Championship Champion and the Canadian Open Champion. When he’s not on the track, Woods-Toth keeps busy with his studies in sciences at John Abbot College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in Quebec. 

“I am as excited as I am grateful to have been chosen for this opportunity,” said Woods-Toth. “A lot of hard work and dedication has come together preparing me for an opportunity like this one. I am so thankful to everyone who made this possible, and I am looking forward to making the most of it.”

Scheduled for December 2-3, Radford Racing School’s F4 U.S. program is designed to help scholarship winners transition from karts to racecars. Motomaster Ron Fellows Karting Championship will also provide Woods-Toth with the optional third day of school, lapping day, on December 4. Nominated by some of the world’s best karting programs, scholarship recipients will travel to Radford’s facility in Chandler, Ariz., to participate in the program that utilizes the same combination that F4 U.S. uses in competition—a Ligier JS F4-16 chassis, a Honda 2.0-liter engine and Hankook tires. With ground school, skid control, lead-follow sessions, braking, shifting and handling drills, the program is uniquely designed to account for the fact that participants are some of the top karters in the world. 

Additional details about the school, including more scholarship recipients, will be announced in the upcoming weeks. 

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