Racing News
Adam Sinclair

Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway almost 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  

  

 

Papa John’s International, Inc. (NASDAQ: PZZA), the world’s third largest pizza delivery company, has extended its sponsorship agreement to be the Official Pizza sponsor of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) for the 2018 drag racing season. 

 
Papa John’s involvement in NHRA drag racing began in 2016 with its sponsorship of Top Fuel drag racer Leah Pritchett and Don Schumacher Racing (DSR). The brand will continue its sponsorship of Pritchett’s Top Fuel dragster in 2018 as she and her team build on the success of their 2017 season. Papa John’s and Leah Pritchett will also continue to participate in the Charity Challenge racing series to raise money for returning military heroes and their families.  
 
“Last year, we were able to donate $100,000 to the Infinite Hero Foundation by racing my original 1971 Camaro Z28 that I had to sell years ago that led to opening the first Papa John’s,” said “Papa” John Schnatter, Founder and Chairman of Papa John’s. “We love this cause, we love racing, and can’t wait to get on the track again in 2018 to support our heroes who have served in the armed forces.”
 
Infinite Hero Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides resources to help the mental and physical issues that returning military heroes and their families may face. A portion of the funds donated to Infinite Hero Foundation will benefit Overcome Academy, a non-profit organization which focuses on specific leadership training for wounded warriors.
 
This year, Charity Challenge races will have increased competition as Leah’s DSR teammate and 3x NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown will be racing against “Papa” John in select markets. 
 
In addition to participating in the Charity Challenge races, Leah will be on-site at select Papa John’s locations throughout the year making pizzas for NHRA fans that visit the restaurants. The events will be broadcast on Facebook Live. The first Facebook Live event kicked off at Papa John’s located at 4220 NW 16th Blvd, Gainesville, FL on March 15 at 6:30pm ET.  
 
“We are thrilled that Papa John’s is continuing its relationship with NHRA,” said Brad Gerber, NHRA vice president and chief development officer. “NHRA provides high-speed excitement to more fans each year, and our growth creates a powerful platform of opportunities for sponsors like Papa John’s. We look forward to continued success in 2018.”
 
NHRA’s 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicked off in February in Pomona, Calif. For a complete schedule of events, please visit www.nhra.com. As the Official Pizza Sponsor of NHRA, the company reaches fans across the country through all 24 of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national events and on NHRA Fox Sports broadcasts. 

It wasn’t a win like the convincing one enjoyed a year ago this weekend by the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team, but Saturday’s runner-up finish by Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the 66th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring certainly felt a lot like a win considering their ability to overcome adversity at what is arguably the world’s most grueling sportscar endurance marathon.

 

The weekend started with the team struggling to find the optimum setup to compete with the other powerhouse teams in the 43-car field. And, one race after van der Zande blazed to the pole position at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Dutch driving veteran and first-year driver with the team was able to qualify just 10th on the grid Friday afternoon.

 

Undaunted, the team went to work Saturday morning with the goal of improving the racecar as the 12-hour race unfolded and relying on creative strategy to work to within striking distance of its second consecutive Sebring victory by the final hours of the race.

 

With the exception of a pair of unexpected developments along the way, that’s precisely how it turned out for the defending series champions, who bounced back from a disappointing 15th-place finish at Daytona seven weeks ago to a solid second-place finish to a lightning-fast No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi that turned out to be the car to beat all afternoon and into the night.

 

Van der Zande crossed the finish line 12.4 seconds behind Pipo Derani in the No. 22 machine he shared with Johannes van Overbeek and Nicolas Lapierre, and almost 30 seconds ahead of the third-place-finishing No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Felipe Nasr, for the team’s third podium finish at Sebring in the last four years. And it came courtesy of some stellar recovery work by the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R pit crew.

 

After a flawless opening stint by van der Zande that saw the Dutch driver gradually work his way into the top-five in the opening two hours of the race, Taylor kept the forward march going by working his way into the top-three during his first two hours behind the wheel. That was until an attempt to top off the water in the radiator during a scheduled pit stop at the three-hour, 22-minute mark was thwarted by an equipment malfunction that required an unscheduled stop two laps later to complete the radiator fill. Taylor lost just four spots back to sixth place, but was able to work his way up to fourth by the time he handed the car over to IndyCar veteran Hunter-Reay at the four-hour mark.

 

“In my first stint, I was just following the others,” van der Zande said. “We lost a few positions – I think we lost a wheel nut when I first pitted, and when I returned, we were like eighth. I could catch up a little, I could fight a little, but couldn’t make any speed out of it. The windscreen was covered with dirt, I had trouble seeing. When I came in the second time, the car was much better and I could attack.”

 

“It was starting to go well,” said Taylor, who after his first fuel-and-tire stop endured a brief scare when a GT car side-slammed him as he was exiting pit lane, but the car sustained no evident damage. “We were just trying to stay out of trouble. After my first pit stop, I was coming out of the pits, I was way right and then an Audi drove into the side of me. It didn’t damage anything and I just kept going. We were running in the top-three. We knew we just needed to stay competitive for the next several hours and then go racing once it got dark.”

 

Hunter-Reay’s first two-hour stint was solid as the team’s third driver at this year’s endurance events took over in seventh place but worked his way into the top-five by the time he turned the car back over to van der Zande just short of the six-hour mark.

 

“I was in the car during the hottest part of the day,” he said after that first stint. “I was having issues getting the rear of the Cadillac in check. We were hopeful once it started cooling down that the car we had in practice would come back to us. Turns out, it did.”

 

Van der Zande had a more eventful time in the car during his next two-hour, 15-minute stint to start the second half of the race. He stayed in the top-five – in fact, leading for five laps when he got around van Overbeek in the eventual race-winning No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi – until the right rear quarterpanel of his racecar was clipped off during contact from behind by Eric Curran in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R at the seven-hour, 21-minute mark. That led to an unscheduled stop top replace the entire rear bodywork, which the Konica Minolta Cadillac crew did in relative short order but still dropped van der Zande from third to seventh place. Van der Zande worked his way up to sixth before pitting at the eight-hour, 11-minute mark to hand the car back to Hunter-Reay for a quick stint.

 

“It was very busy out there that stint,” Van Der Zande said. “The temperature was dropping and the car began handling quite well. I was able to drive to P1 and lead comfortably. Then, when I made a move on Eric Curran on the restart, he clipped my right rear. We lost a lot of time replacing the back end of the car. I was all the way past (Curran), so I’m not sure why that happened.”

 

Hunter-Reay’s subsequent 45-minute stint was eventful only because, with the sun setting low in the sky, he began having difficulty seeing past the grungy windscreen and had trouble hitting his marks in the braking zones. Still, he moved from sixth to fourth by the time he handed the car over to Taylor at the eight-hour, 50-minute mark and was done for the day, which ended with the runner-up finish.

 

“I think we experienced the full gamut today,” Hunter-Reay said. “We had ups and downs. My stint in the middle was certainly interesting. I had oil all over the windshield and dirt on top of that. The sun was setting into turn 17 and I could barely see 3 feet in front of the car. Jordan and Renger did a great job to finish the race from there. We got some good points for the team. We were close, but not the win I want here.”

 

Taylor, meanwhile, was able to stay inside the top-five for his final stint before handing the car over to van der Zande for the final one-hour, 45-minute run to the finish.

 

Van der Zande took over in fourth place, moved up to third thanks to quick pit work by the crew on the next-to-last stop of the race, then moved into second when the No. 55 Mazda DPi had problems during the last round of fuel-and-tire stops of the race with 42 minutes to go. Van der Zande stayed out of trouble during that final run to ensure the runner-up finish.

 

“It’s not a win, but to come away with a second the way we started is good,” Taylor said. “The team adapted well to everything that happened on track and in the pits. It was a great day for the team. They executed well and it was a great points day after our finish at Daytona. We are on the right footing now heading to Long Beach. We are learning more about the new tire and hope to continue to learn more at Long Beach. We made good changes throughout the weekend on the car. We struggled a little in the heat in the middle of the day today, and then the car came back to us at night when we really needed to race.”

 

“It is fantastic,” van der Zande added. “It was hard to find a real racecar. We were trying to race in the heat, and the race finishes in the night when it is cool, so you are in survival mode during the heat of the day. The car really comes alive at night. The engineers are superstars and they know what they are doing. They give me everything I need to perform. It was an eventful day. I got tapped on the rear and they made a quick fix. I have a lot of faith in my new team. They don’t give up and they stay calm when things happen. We were the best of the rest today.”

 

With the runner-up finish, the team moved from 15th to fourth in the standings, 14 points behind the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac DPi-V.R team.

 

“What can I say? What an amazing team,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “What amazing partners – Konica Minolta, Cadillac. The drivers, Brian (Pillar, race engineer), Adam (Banet, assistant engineer) and their strategy. And all the guys on the team who worked so hard, they never gave up. We lost the back end of the car during the race. Still, we never gave up and it was nice to finish like we did and be able to say the Cadillac team is back. If you would’ve asked me halfway through the race, I wouldn’t have known what to think, but we just stuck to our plan and it worked. It’s not a win, but it’s almost as good as a win considering where we finished at Daytona, and considering all the issues we had here this weekend. Renger, Jordan, Ryan, they were incredible. Everybody did a great job. Nobody made any mistakes. It was really good.”

 

Round three of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix on the streets of Long Beach, California on Saturday, April 14. The one-hour, 40-minute sprint race will be broadcast live on FOX beginning at 4 p.m. EDT. The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team will be vying for its fourth consecutive victory in the event, run in conjunction with the IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Long Beach.

 

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson announced, on behalf of the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and Blue Bunny Ice Cream, the launch of the 2018 Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope campaign recently at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

 

One of the 2016 Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope grant recipient charities, Inside the Outdoors Foundation (Costa Mesa, California), joined Johnson to announce that not-for-profit 501c3 organizations that directly support K-12 public education will be eligible to receive one of five $25,000 grants.  The grants, totaling $125,000, will be awarded in May.

 

“Jimmie and his wife Chandra have shown incredible generosity and dedication to the Helmet of Hope program,” said Mike Wells, president and CEO, Wells Enterprises, makers of Blue Bunny ice cream. “Today’s young people are the leaders of tomorrow, and Blue Bunny is honored and proud to continue supporting an organization that positively impacts the lives of so many.”

 

The Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope program, which began in 2008, allows fans and consumers across the country to nominate their favorite education-focused charities, including parent-teacher associations, to receive a $25,000 grant, a Blue Bunny ice cream party, and special recognition on Johnson’s race helmet. Nominations will be accepted at www.helmetofhope.org through Friday, April 20. Ten semifinalists will be selected from these nominations. The public vote to choose the final five grant recipients will take place May 8 to 15.

 

“Chandra and I are thrilled to be partnering with Blue Bunny again this year, and are so grateful for their ongoing support of the Foundation,” Johnson said.  “This is such a fun program and we can’t wait to help five new charities enhance the amazing work they do to support K-12 public education across the country.”

 

To date, the Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope program has contributed more than $1 million to 101 different charities.

 

Johnson will take to the track today at Auto Club Speedway in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.  He will wear the Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope during the NASCAR Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta on July 14.

 

For additional information and to nominate a charity, visit www.helmetofhope.org.

 

Just when it seemed like the Army Racing trio of Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher, Antron Brown and Leah Pritchett were gaining traction on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel competition, it quickly slipped away Sunday during elimination rounds of the 49th annual NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway.

Schumacher entered the day on a mission to become the fifth driver in Gatornationals history to score back-to-back victories but fell in the second round when he couldn’t overcome an electronic malfunction. Brown pedaled his way into a second-round matchup with teammate Pritchett, which he won on a holeshot, before immediately losing traction in his second semifinal appearance of the 2018 NHRA campaign.

 

Schumacher, the eight-time Top Fuel world champion and reigning Gatornationals champion, opened Sunday with his best run of the weekend aboard the U.S. Army Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) – an effort of 3.717 seconds at 329.26 mph – in his first-round victory over reigning Top Fuel world champion Brittany Force. Next up was his first meeting with Shawn Reed in the second round and while staging the car, Schumacher, the five-time Gatornationals champion, was dealing with an electronic malfunction inside the cockpit. A wire shorting out led to bigger issues, including a small cockpit fire, and he wasn’t able to make a clean pass. His run of 4.604 seconds at 200.77 mph wasn’t enough to defeat Reed.

 

“We had an electric issue right when I staged the car,” Schumacher said. “I’ve never had that happen before. I hit the gas and the timers never worked. I smoked the tires because none of the timers were doing anything. I pedaled it once. Pedaled twice and I wasn’t going to catch him, so I shut it off. That’s when I saw the smoke and small fire inside the cockpit. I smacked it and put it out with my hands, but just like that our day was over. It’s frustrating to have something like that happen. We worked hard all weekend to put ourselves in a good position today and that showed in the first round when we made our best pass of the weekend. This U.S. Army team won’t quit. We all want to win so bad. We’ll get back after it and just keep plugging away. This was a great weekend for the fans of NHRA and we were just hoping to make Gatornationals history today. We’ll have to come back next year and try again.”

 

Brown, meanwhile, had trouble in his first-round matchup with Audrey Worm, losing traction in the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Racing Dragster for DSR, but he was still able make it down the track fast enough to illuminate the win light with his run of 5.162 seconds at 191.05 mph as Worm also smoked her tires. Brown was machine-like in the second round with a run of 3.793 seconds at 324.20 mph to edge Pritchett in the round’s closest race. Unfortunately, his run for a second Gatornationals triumph ended quickly in his semifinal race with Richie Crampton when he smoked the tires right at the hit and was forced to lift. He settled the car back down, but his lap of 6.132 seconds at 196.62 mph wasn’t enough to claim the win.

 

“We’re going rounds and picking things off one at a time,” Brown said. “Our Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota team is starting to get our feet under them. We're taking it one step at a time and it's coming. We just need to keep improving. It was tricky out here today. The track got hot. It just kept getting worse and worse. We were trying to keep up with it and we were getting close. We made a good lap in the second round and then we backed it off for the third round.  We just didn't back it off enough. We're going to be fine. We just need a little bit of time.”

 

Pritchett saved her best performances in the Papa John’s Pizza/FireAde/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR until Sunday. She defeated Terry Haddock in the first round with her best pass of the weekend running 3.735 seconds at 321.50 mph to advance to second round for the second consecutive event. With a spot in the semifinals on the line, Pritchett lined up next to Brown seeking her eighth victory over her U.S. Army Racing teammate. She made a quicker pass, but Brown’s advantage off the starting was the difference.

 

“We are still making progress,” Pritchett said. “I feel like we have our gremlins out of the way. Our hot rod is back, and it showed it on the track today. I take the blame for losing to my U.S. Army teammate Antron Brown. He came out stronger. It’s extremely frustrating. I missed it. I’ve been on it all weekend in both cars and missed it when it counted most. We win together as a team and it feels great. The highs are high and the lows are low. Having to sit on that for two weeks waiting for Las Vegas isn’t going to be fun, but we get to switch gears and put ourselves in the four-wide mindset. This has been an exciting, very high-paced weekend in Gainesville. I’m disappointed it ended early, and on my shoulders, but we’ll bounce back.”

 

Crampton scored his eighth career Top Fuel win and his first Gatornationals victory when Reed, who made his first career final, couldn’t make a pass because of mechanical failure on the burnout.
 

After three rounds of the 24-event NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for 2018, the top-10 drivers the Top Fuel standings are:

1. Steve Torrence (217 points)

2. Antron Brown (210 points, -7)

3. Clay Millican (204 points, -13)

4. Tony Schumacher (198 points, -19)

5. Doug Kalitta (182 points, -35)

6. Richie Crampton (163 points, -54)

7. Scott Palmer (161 points, -56)
8. Leah Pritchett (147 points, -70)

9. Brittany Force (117 points, -100)

10. Terry McMillen (116 points, 101)

 

Next up is the 19th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway April 6-8. FS1 will carry Sunday’s elimination rounds live in a three-hour show beginning at 6 p.m. EST.

Online registration for the 24th United States RoadRally Challenge (USRRC), the SCCA's premier RoadRally weekend, is open at Motorsportreg.com. This year's USRRC is hosted by the St. Louis Region Oct. 4-7 with help from the Southern Illinois Region. The annual celebration of sports cars and classic sports-car rallying will test the teamwork, time-keeping and route-following skills of SCCA® RoadRally teams from across the country.

 
As organized by the St. Louis Region, the 2018 USRRC will include four rallies -- two divisionals and two nationals -- beginning with a short nighttime divisional tour Thursday evening, Oct. 4, followed by two daylong national rallies Friday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 6. The weekend will conclude with a morning divisional GTA rally Sunday, Oct. 7, followed by an awards luncheon. This year's USRRC will offer several special features, says event chairman Jim Heine.
 
"In addition to the regular RoadRally classes defined by the Road Rally Rules -- Equipped, Limited and Stock -- we will offer two additional classes, Historic and Rookie," Heine said. "They're designed especially for beginning or occasional rally teams, whether historic or modern, or for teams from other SCCA disciplines that might enjoy participating in the USRRC. Also, we've designed the weekend so that Historic and Rookie teams can run all four events, or if they choose, just the Saturday and Sunday events."
 
Last year, the SCCA's Arctic Alaska Region played host to the annual event, with Anchorage, Alaska, serving as the headquarters city. In 2016, the USRRC, under the guidance of the SCCA's New England Region, showcased the rural roads and fall colors of Vermont. Other past USRRC locations have included Pittsburgh, Pa.; Santa Maria, Calif.; La Crosse, Wis.; Portland, Org.; and Fredericksburg, Virginia. But 2018 will be the fourth time the St. Louis Region has stepped up to host the USRRC.
 
"We are the first SCCA region to host the USRRC four times," notes St. Louis Region executive Peter Zekert. "We last hosted it in 2005. We were selected again for 2018 because of our central location and because teams that run the SCCA's national RoadRally series, of which the USRRC is a part, enjoy coming to St. Louis."
 
Before 2005, the St. Louis Region, also with help from the Southern Illinois Region, hosted the USRRC in 1998 and 2001.
 
As with this year's USRRC, the 2001 and 2005 St. Louis based "Challenge" events were run in southern Illinois, observes SCCA Southern Illinois Region executive and SCCA Board of Directors member Chris Albin. He is pleased that the October weekend will again highlight the rural landscape of the "Metro East."
 
"There is a long history of cooperation between our regions, not only in rallying, but also in other activities, and this is just another example of how the Mississippi River doesn't divide us," Albin said.
 
"We are looking forward to hosting this event again, and we believe rally teams will find the weekend enjoyable," Zekert added.
 
For more information about the 2018 USRRC, visit motorsportreg.com (http://msreg.com/usrrc2018) or the St. Louis Region's website at stlscca.org.
 
Photo Credit: James Heine
 

The Tire Rack CAM Challenge Powered by SCCA® schedule features an interesting twist this year: ProSolo® events. To keep things fresh and exciting, the first two CAM Challenge events will be take place during Tire Rack ProSolo weekends April 20-22 in Crows Landing, California, and June 1-3 at Mineral Wells Airport in Texas.

 
ProSolos are adrenaline-pumping autocross events where drivers start side-by-side, signaled to begin by a drag-racing "Christmas Tree" set of lights. Competitors then attack mirror-image courses to see who gets back to their respective finish lines first. Class competition opens the weekend and allows drivers three sessions of runs to post a best time on each side of the mirrored courses. After class winners are determined, the event then moves to single-elimination challenge rounds where Bonus Challenge, Ladies Challenge and the overall Super Challenge winner emerges.
 
Howard Duncan, SCCA's Senior Director of Rally/Solo, said several CAM drivers expressed that they miss the CAM Challenge that was part of the Lincoln ProSolo a few years ago. To address that desire this year, CAM Challenge cars will run as a single group and have a ProSolo Challenge set up just for CAM cars.
 
"We are excited about integrating the CAM cars back into the ProSolo format during the first two events of 2018," Duncan said. "Both California and Texas have had good CAM car turnouts in the past, so we expect to see healthy fields for the first two CAM events of the year."
 
The second two events of the CAM Challenge season will operate in the usual Match Tour format. The first of these two events takes place August 10-12 at Grissom Aeroplex in Bunker Hill, Indiana, followed by the September 1-2 CAM Challenge Invitational at Lincoln Airpark in Nebraska. Annually, the CAM events in Indiana and Nebraska draw the largest field of competitors each year.
 
Tire Rack CAM Challenge will continue in 2018 to have three classes for muscle cars. The CAM-T class is for car and truck body styles originating from 1954-1989 with a minimum weight without driver being 2950 pounds. The CAM-C class houses car and truck body styles from 1990 and newer, all of which must have a minimum weight without driver of 3250 pounds. The CAM-S class is for two-seater cars.
 
The 2018 Tire Rack CAM Challenge Powered by SCCA appreciates support from associate sponsors Speedway Motors, Wilwood Brakes, Detroit Speed and Forgeline Wheels. Event sponsors include Mike Maier Inc., Pro Touring F-Body.com, SPS, Good Guys, GEN II, Evolution Driving Schools, Dusold Designs, K&N Filters, Shirts 101, JDP Motorsports, and newcomers Viking Performance and ABC Performance -- who both will have displays at the August event. Additionally, Detroit Speed will staff the BFG Garage trailer, which helps all competitors sort through car and tire questions, at the ProSolo/CAM Challenge event in Texas.
 
For more information, visit the Tire Rack CAM Challenge Powered by SCCA webpage at https://www.scca.com/pages/cam-challenge.
 
Photo Credit: Rupert Berrington

Already a fan of four-wide racing and running at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Funny Car’s Tommy Johnson Jr. is excited to see what that means for him when those aspects are combined for the first time at the upcoming 19th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, April 6-8 in Las Vegas.

 
It is the debut of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series four-wide racing, one of the biggest spectacles in motorsports, on the West Coast, and Johnson, the defending winner of the Las Vegas spring race, is one of many who can’t wait for the highly-anticipated race. Add in five career final round appearances at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Johnson believes something special could take place in his 10,000-horsepower Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car.
 
“It’s neat to be part of a first event like this and it’s going to be really cool,” Johnson said. “This will be a unique one. I’ve heard from a lot of fans on the West Coast at the first two races who are excited to see four-wide racing for the first time. It really opens everybody’s eyes when they see it. But there’s tracks on tour that just seem to fit you and Vegas is that track. It’s a fun race, fun town and a great facility.”  
        
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Johnson (Funny Car) and Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 6 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 8. It is the fourth of 24 races during the 2018 NHRA season, providing fans out West the chance to see four 10,000-horsepower nitro machines go down the track simultaneously. 
 
It’s a thrill unlike anything in drag racing and Johnson has always enjoyed the intricacies of the unique race, which also takes place in Charlotte at zMAX Dragway. With double the amount of cars, it presents new challenges and difficulties, but Johnson, currently sixth in Funny Car points, likes the extra elements of facing off with three other cars.
 
“It definitely takes a lot more thinking as a driver because there’s a lot more going on,” said Johnson, who has 17 career wins. You have to have your act together and be aware of what’s going on. Me, personally, I like it. It adds a new level of difficulty, but if you can overcome that and excel at it, it gives you an advantage. There’s certain things you have to add to your routine just because of this event. It’s just another level of having to remind yourself. You can easily fall back into habits that can really bite you.”
 
It’s been a solid start to 2018 even as the team, led by crew chief John Collins, started using a new six-disc clutch set-up this season, reaching the final round in Phoenix and qualifying well at Gainesville. Johnson also knows what an early-season win can do for a team, especially in a loaded Funny Car class that features Don Schumacher Racing teammates Matt Hagan, the current points leader, Ron Capps and Gainesville winner Jack Beckman, as well as Phoenix winner Courtney Force, defending champ Robert Hight, Shawn Langdon, Del Worsham and Jonnie Lindberg.
 
“Winning an event early really takes the pressure off,” said Johnson, who finished a career-best second in 2016. “It allows you to do different things. We’re still learning the six-disc, but we’re making big progress. At Gainesville, we learned something very huge. We came into this season knowing we’re going to be learning the first part of the season, but right now we’re on a good track. I’m happy with the progress we’ve made and I think we’re running better than maybe we would have expected.”
                
Brown earned his second straight win at the spring Vegas race in Top Fuel in 2017, and is seeking his first win in 2018 against the likes of points leader Steve Torrence, Gainesville winner Richie Crampton and defending world champ Brittany Force.
               
Gray became the youngest Pro Stock winner in NHRA history a year ago and just won in Gainesville. He’ll face off with points leader Bo Butner, Jason Line and Erica Enders.
The event also features the K&N Horsepower Challenge for eight top Pro Stock drivers. Bragging rights and a hefty $50,000 paycheck is on the line for the Saturday specialty race. Greg Anderson has won two straight K&N Horsepower Challenge races.
 
The event also features competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series. After nitro qualifying on Friday, the Segal Motorsports Fire Starter, American Freedom Fighter & Lucas Oil Muy Caliente Jet Cars will thrill the fans. Known for their pre-run flame shows and after burner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
 
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 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 will feature two rounds at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Friday, April 6 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 7, at 12:10 and 2:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, April 8.
 
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 644-4444 or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.

After a race-ending accident on Saturday, Team Panoz Racing showed amazing grit and determination to get the No. 50 Avezzano GT on the grid for Sunday’s PWC GTS Championship round-four race, and the team leaves Texas determined to build on Dr. Preston Calvert’s strong driving in the No. 51 sister car.
 
For the debut of the SprintX format in the GTS class, which are 60-minute races that require a pit stop and Pro/Am driver change, Team Panoz Racing added Matt Keegan to share the No. 50 Panoz Avezzano GT driving duties with Ian James for this weekend and all future 2018 SprintX GTS races.

The weekend began with strong PWC GTS round three qualifying results. Matt Keegan qualified with a time of 2:18.681, placing him P9 and on row five of the 37-car, 19-row grid. Calvert qualified P13 on row seven with a time of 2:19.512.
 
At the start of Saturday’s round three race on the 3.4-mile, 20-turn Circuit of the Americas track, an incident involving the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT4 and the No. 3 Epic Motorsports BMW M4 GT4 forced an immediate full course caution. On the lap-four restart, Keegan spun the No. 50 Avezzano GT. Unfortunately, a crash with the No. 8 GMG Racing McLaren 570S GT4 before Keegan could recover and get underway ended both entrants’ day and forced another full course caution. 
 
This left Calvert and the No. 51 Avezzano GT to soldier on and bring home a positive result. Calvert delivered a strong performance, finishing P5 in the GTSA class and P20 overall. His quickest lap of 2:22.026 on lap 15 secured a row 11, P22 start for Sunday’s round four race. Keegan’s and James’ No. 50 would start P35 on row 18.
 
On Sunday under an overcast sky and with damp track conditions, James and Calvert, in the Nos. 50 and 51 Avezzano GTs, respectively, started the race. James immediately showed tremendous pace and gained six positions on the first lap and was in P16 overall when summoned to the pits on lap seven due to smoke. He returned to competition but pitted again on lap 10. Team Manager Tom Milner opted to not continue for safety reasons when the team discovered a rear differential leak.
 
Once again, this left Calvert to carry the Team Panoz Racing torch. Early on Calvert was P20 overall and P3 in class until contact with a competitor necessitated a drive-through penalty that dropped Calvert to P26 overall. Calvert showed good pace in the No. 51 car throughout the race and finished P25 overall and P8 in class. His quickest lap on Sunday was 2:23.631 on lap 18.
 
Though a disappointing weekend, Team Panoz Racing will build on the positives of strong qualifying times, quick pace, and the outstanding crew efforts in the face of adversity. Team Panoz Racing is committed to the full 2018 PWC GTS Championship schedule of GTS/GTSA and SprintX GTS races.

Next up for Team Panoz Racing are PWC GTS Championship rounds five and six at the Grand Prix of Virginia International Raceway, April 27-29, 2018, Alton Va. This is the second GTS SprintX weekend on the schedule with the remaining 2018 GTS SprintX races to be held at Lime Rock Park, Portland International Raceway and Utah Motorsports Campus. Please visit www.world-challenge.com for the most up to date PWC information, live streaming, and CBS Sports Network broadcast details. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat for as-it-happens updates.

The Panoz Avezzano GT race car is based on the new Panoz Avezzano sports car, the latest street-legal Panoz creation featuring a new fastback configuration, an aluminum chassis and body, and a 6.2-liter, 450-plus horsepower Panoz/Élan aluminum block V8 mated to a heavy duty, close ratio six-speed manual gearbox. Visit Panoz.com for more information.


From nearly 70 nominations submitted by Sports Car Club of America® members, a Selection Committee -- consisting of championship caliber women Solo drivers -- has deliberated and can now name this year's Wendi Allen Scholarship Fund (WASF) recipients. Named and established by the family of Wendi Allen, the scholarship honors the multi-time National Solo Champion who loved the SCCA® Solo community. The fund gives back to the sport by helping young women become more successful drivers and contributing members of the Club. This year's winners are Johanna Foege, of the St. Louis Region, Youmna Zalzal, of the San Francisco Region, and Lexie Murray, of the Central Carolina Region.

 
Look for more information about the three winners in upcoming "Take Five" articles posted to SCCA's SoloMatters webpage. Each recipient will receive $1,500 to support her travel to Tire Rack National Solo events and the Tire Rack Solo National Championship. Additionally, the SCCA will waive entry fees for scholarship recipients to all Tire Rack National Solo events attended during the year, as well as work with the Solo community and commercial partners to seek out other forms of support for the recipients, such as driver training, mentoring, products and logistical assistance.
 
In previous years, only two WASF recipients were named. This year, however, Mazda stepped up to supply funding for a third scholarship. David Cook, business development manager for Mazda Motorsports, said, "We are proud that Johanna, Youmna and Lexie are joining the ranks of many great autocrossers who earned the Wendi Allen Scholarship. We are delighted by the support of the scholarship from the community and SCCA who share our passion to help deserving drivers pursue their motorsport dreams."
 
Additional support in 2018 comes from the SCCA Foundation. Jeff Jacobs, Vice Chairman of the SCCA Foundation, said donations can be made any time through the Foundation webpage (www.sccafoundation.org/donate) with contributions designated to support the Wendi Allen scholarships. In addition, the Foundation will be holding future fundraising drives specifically in support of the scholarship fund.
 
"The SCCA Foundation will be carrying forward this terrific program initiated by the generosity of Wendi and Mark Allen," Jacobs said. "After nearly a decade of co-driving at Solo events with Wendi and Mark, I am glad we have this opportunity to continue to honor Wendi's memory and expand the reach of this program."
 
The Sports Car Club of America®, Inc., founded in 1944, is a 67,500-member motorsports organization that incorporates all facets of autocross, rally and road racing at both Club and professional levels. With headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, the SCCA annually sanctions over 2,000 events through its 116 Regions and subsidiary divisions. Much of the SCCA's activities are made possible with support from the following Official Partners: Chevrolet, the Official Truck of the SCCA; Hawk Performance, the Official Brake Products of SCCA; Mobil 1, the Official Oil of SCCA; Sunoco, the Official Fuel of SCCA; and Tire Rack, the Official Tire Retailer of SCCA. To learn more, please visit www.scca.com.
 
Photo Credit: Perry Bennett and Craig Boyle