Rain in the forecast midweek has not slowed this week of racing. The clouds did throw a shot over the bow at Bristol as they started their racing with the Camping World Series Trucks and the UNOH 200.

The Wednesday night race had Cole Custer up front and minutes before the rain came a lapped driver spun in front of him giving him no place to go. With a damaged truck and the added frustration of the rain, Custer could do little but soak it up. After the delay and the track went green it was Ryan Blaney who came back to win with the #29 on a green-white-checkered finish.

The rain is on tap for today (Thursday 8/20) as well but for the most part should be out for Friday and the weekend. Xfinity and Sprint Cup racing should be fast under fair skies at Bristol.

Weather should not play a big role across the border and a bit to the east as the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship takes center stage in southside Virginia. Even so, the drivers set to take multiple classes of exotics and sports cars to speed at Virginia International Raceway are equipped to run with the rain. They don’t like it, but they can do it. This showcase event is eye candy for auto and speed enthusiasts and weekend weather looks more like sunscreen than umbrellas.

The following week stock cars and the NASCAR K&N Series roll through VIR. If you love watching the big guns race at Watkins Glen then this is your local fix for NASCAR sanctioned stock car racing on this scenic road course.

Don’t pack up the your race gear just yet. Still to come for Virginia race fans is Richmond International Raceway the weekend of September 12. The final shot at the CHASE is on the line as the lights come on and the green flag drops at Richmond.

October has the CHASE full on and on the historic oval at Martinsville. The folks there are busy lining up a lot of specials and fan experience activities to live up to the history.

Racing is on. Virginia has the speed and all you need is a calendar to mark your races. While your at it, you might as well check the locals at tracks like South Boston, Motor Mile and others to fill out that calendar.

Go racing!

Weekends are racing everywhere. As an example, a lot of eyes were on the wheels of NASCAR in New York at Watkins Glen. Sprint Cup stock car racing on a road course. As it was, amidst the twists and turns of The Glen, Joey Logano won the day as Kevin Harvick ran the tank dry.

Jump a bit south and another race on another road course was crossing the checkers as they were going green in New York. The differences between these races are many but the game is the same. Drive, go fast, pass who you can, get up front and try to stay there. The racing is often close, cars break and drivers push too hard and it either pays off or they go off. Racing is racing and the price tag is a matter of details.

Twenty-Four hour racing is not new but events like Daytona and Le Mans are full of big teams with big sponsors and international, seasoned professional drivers on the top of their series. The cars they race are on the razor’s edge of technology with the absolute best engineering and testing. It’s a little different when they race 24 hours at Virginia International Raceway.

At VIR the Optima Batteries ChumpCar Series take on the full course with cars and drivers from the daily grind. The same course that hosts the world class speeds of the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship drops the green flag on “every man” racing with cars that were built on a shoe string. Safety is the only real consideration for modifications with seats and harnesses, roll cages and other requirements to protect the drivers. The cars themselves are limited in the way in which performance enhancements can be made. The focus is on giving an opportunity to anyone who wants to go racing without having to spend a lottery fortune on the latest tech, power and engineering. The cars can be found anywhere and it will cost a bit to add the safety spec but it is quite affordable as far as racing goes.

Virginia International Raceway hosts the Chumps and the 24 hour endurance test of drivers and their machines. To see it is to believe it. Some of these cars look pretty nice and except for the numbers and some stickers you likely wouldn’t give them a second glance on the highway. Many look a bit like something you might find 17th down in the third row at the local salvage yard. It’s possible that is where some of them came from. It’s a fair bet a big bunch of them have parts from there.

ChumpCar racing is the essence of “run what ya brung”. The pit crew is your family or friends and the car is what you could find for a few hundred dollars. The performance is essentially what the car was when it was a “car”. It’s obviously a fun thing to say you are a “race car driver” and have the thrill of racing. It’s also quite fun to watch. Check the schedule at Virginia International Raceway and the ChumpCar World Series websites. The Chumps are scheduled to return for racing in December. Grab a jacket or grab a car and come join in the fun.

Optima Batteries ChumpCar World Series website

Virginia International Raceway website

Photos from Saturday at Virginia International Raceway with the Optima Batteries ChumpCar Red Line Oil 24 Hour Classic, including the big rigs of the ChampTruck series earlier in the day.

ChumpCar and ChampTruck at VIR. August 8, 2015. Hi-Res digital images suitable for print are available by request / Donations accepted. Email  sales@missedgear.net  with subject VIR CHUMP Car #

 

Luck and distractions. It is all too easy to get distracted by this or that or chasing details for life or work. Luck comes through despite those distractions. Such was the case recently at Virginia International Raceway.
VIR recently hosted the Grassroots Motorsports Tire Rack Ultimate Track Car Challenge. It was scheduled for a Friday and I had not been to the track in a while so set myself up to check it out. However, I had completely overlooked that this was also the day to preview and introduce the racing and some of the drivers for the upcoming TUDOR United Sports Car Championship series and the Oak Tree Grand Prix.
Luck played out as I arrived just in time to work my way into the proceedings and catch most of the menu for one of the showcase events at VIR.
However, I think I missed lunch…
There was plenty of time for some up close Q&A with drivers with a Porsche, a Viper, a Lamborgjini, a Maserati and the Nissan GT-R / VIR track cars as the backdrop. The racing and paddock of the Grassroots Motorsports action was also filling the air and the track.
Drivers on hand included;
Andy Lally (#44 Magnus Racing Flex-Box Porsche)
Ben Keating (#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper). Keating was on the winning team in the GTD class at this year’s Rolex 24.
Spencer Pumpelly (#73 Park Place Motorsports, Vitamin-D-Pro Porsche)
Corey Lewis (Monster Energy Lamborghini Super Trofeo / Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge)
Liam Dwyer (#26 Freedom Autosport / Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge). It should be noted that Dwyer served in Afghanistan and was drastically injured losing a leg to a hidden explosive. The loss has not changed his hunger for racing as he drives with a special approved system and a prosthetic leg!
With the time on hand, which included catching some fine racing on the track with drivers from all over putting their Grassroots skills to the test, there was plenty to talk about with the drivers. From the challenge to the admiration of the track at VIR to the competition in the series so far. The track here offers grand and scenic countryside views which surround tight curves and fast straights. It is an interesting mix of history, skill and speed that kept these drivers talking. That sounds pretty basic but consider the classes and multiple series which make up the upcoming Oak Tree Grand Prix.
TUDOR Championship – GT Le Mans and GT Daytona multiple classes.
Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge – GS and ST classes.
Lamborghini Super Trofeo – The world’s fastest one-make series.
Maserati Trofeo World Series – World class racing on three continents
Porsche GT3 Cup – Back to VIR after three years.
Many of these support series have additional races scheduled for VIR to make up for weather at earlier events… So BONUS!
What else do you need to know about Virginia International Raceway? It is like a big, open park with a winding strip of pavement that offers world class motor racing. With the Oak Tree Grand Prix weekend of racing you’ll see Ford, Chevy, Dodge, BMW, Porsche, Ferarri, Aston Martin, Audi, Mazda, Nissan, Lamborghini, Maserati… It’s an automotive smorgasboard! The view, the speed, the lines, the variety…
Throw in the paddock which is open to walk through and see the teams close up. Autograph sessions with the drivers and a midway of exotics and presentations offer plenty to see off the track. Kids activities and food are also on the weekend menu. On the track the racing is also a different experience with freedom to move about with no assigned seating and racing so close you feel every turn.
The Oak Tree Grand Prix is a big weekend but not the only one. Also on tap for the rest of the season is NASCAR stock car racing with the K&N series, the Heacock Gold Cup Classic, Chump Car and ChampTruck, CCS Motorcycles and more. Go to just one event and VIR will become a favorite destination.
The Oak Tree Grand Prix is August 21-23. Visit VIR online for a full schedule and all they offer from fine dining to relaxation to driving. They even have a shooting range.
Find racing, and more, at VIR.

GALLERY – TUDOR Oak Tree Preview – Grassroots Motorsports Tire Rack Ultimate Track Car Challenge

Wow. That about sums it up.

Daytona with rain and a very late start was, from all accounts I’ve seen this morning, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s race from the start shortly before midnight.

His win was overshadowed (Junior himself was shaken and concerned) by the scene in his rear view. Pushing at speed and close quarter racing put the #11 of Denny Hamlin sideways on the apron as the #24 of Jeff Gordon and #3 of Austin Dillon went loose and essentially launched the #3 off the cars in front (#11 & #24) , tossed like a volleyball by the car behind (#15 Clint Bowyer),  and went high into the turbulent air over the field.

Dillon was simply along for the ride as the field went by underneath the #3. The Daytona catch fence separating the race track from the grandstands caught the #3 with a sudden stop ripping the heavy chain link and shearing much of the car into shattered debris. What was left fell back out on the speedway sliding and spinning on the top as the #2 of Brad Keselowski, in a sideways spin, caught the #3 again sending it spinning with another jolt.

Teams from several cars ran out to the wreck. The seconds passed with molasses but one by one the thumbs were up signalling, amazingly… stunningly… thankfully…, that Austin Dillon was not only alive but seemingly OK and responsive.

Dillon was checked over at the infield medical center and released with a bruised tailbone and arm. Other bruises will likely reveal themselves over this week. The next race at Kentucky might be just a little uncomfortable…

Other drivers expressed their relief, and thankful amazement, that Dillon was OK. Some praised the safety advances that NASCAR and tracks have made. Some others mentioned concerns over the speeds in these situations in which airflow and circumstance can still lift a car.

All were concerned for the fans. No major injuries were reported from the grandstands but five were treated in the infield while one was was treated and released from an offtrack hospital.

The question remains for NASCAR… Where is the line that separates a fan-inspiring show from driver and fan safety? It is a difficult equation. For Austin Dillon, the other drivers and a dozen fans at Daytona, the sum of that equation, thankfully for now, came out OK. The variables remain and, hopefully, safety will always be the constant.

Dillon_Crash_OK

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. Austin Dillon, however, won the standing ovation as he raised both arms outside of the shattered #3…

Racing steps it up on Memorial Day Weekend. Many Americans take the weekend to honor those who have served, and are serving, their country by making a trip to some of the biggest races of the year. NASCAR is running in Charlotte with the Coca-Cola 600. The spectacle of the Indianapolis 500 is on as well. The two races are even mixing a bit as Jeff Gordon is set to drive the pace car at Indy and then flying back to drive the #24 at Charlotte.

If that isn’t enough racing to fill your day, Formula 1 is running the famous streets of the Monaco Grand Prix. So far this season it has been a run for Lewis Hamilton with team mate Nico Rosberg hot on his heals.

F1 Monaco Grand Prix: NBC @ 7:30am

Indy 500: ABC @ noon

Coca-Cola 600: FOX @ 6:00pm

Talladega – Clean air out front at the finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Mid-field turbulence tore up some others…

The #88 of Dale, Jr. was out front and holding position while team mate Johnson in the #48 was chasing but not really catching. Others made moves including Denny Hamlin but really just opened the train to multiple lanes crossing the finish.

Talladega also saw the challenge of close racing at speed as air pressure pulled and pushed the field. Early on it was Trevor Bayne going loose with Menard on the outside and Kurt Busch on the inside. The air went rough and the tail of Bayne’s Ford went wild triggering a spin in the field that put quite a few either out or down with repairs.

For Earnhardt, it was a sweet and emotional win as he spoke somewhat softly in Victory Lane. Excited, yes, but also reserved while expressing his view on his team, his personal life and how it is all coming together with his racing and feeling really thankful. Talladega notches his first points win of the season and puts The CHASE in view for the #88.

Top 5 across the line at Talladega: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex, Jr.

Dale Jr. moves into the the #5 spot in points with Kevin Harvick still on top. Martin Truex, Jr. is second in points with solid finishes but the only driver in the top 5 with no wins in 2015. Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano fill up spots three and four.

Next up: Kansas

The weather was out there and on the radar days before the weekend at Richmond International Raceway. The hope, of course, was that some supreme intervention would take place and push the rain off by just one day. It was the race that was pushed as the rain came all day and into the scheduled race time Saturday night. The Toyota Owners 400 was run on Sunday.

It was a week before that the scheduled daylight race at Bristol was pushed under the lights by wet weather. It was the flipside at Richmond as the Saturday night race went off the stripe in the early afternoon of Sunday.

The Friday events went off under comfortable blue skies and a nice, but cool, evening. Practices and qualifying were played out as teams gathered their data and set up for racing. The Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250 was, apparently, the star shine for Toyota as Denny Hamlin took off from the pole in the FedEx #11 Toyota and, except for two laps, was out in front to the finish.

The rain delayed Toyota Owners 400 was a runaway for Kurt Busch and the HAAS Automation #41 Chevrolet. Joey Logano gave up the lead from the pole at lap 95 and Busch kept himself out front. Team mate Kevin Harvick gave him a go as did Jamie McMurray but Busch held it. Justin Allgaier even chased from the 2nd spot for a few laps. Jimmie Johnson was up close as was Kahne, Kenseth and Gordon but were mostly trying to hang on to single digit finishes.

At the checkers it was Busch, Harvick, Johnson, McMurray and Logano rolling through as winner through five.

There was also a brief and fiery reminder of just how much this sport rides the line. It was what seems to be a freak accident Friday night involving the gas can and nozzle as fuel went onto pit toad at the tail of Brendan Gaughan’s #62. Something sparked and the pit was a fireball as the Gaughan frantically pulled from the pit with flames licking off the back. Crewmembers were treated and or hospitalized but all, at this time, are reported to be OK and recovering.

It was just a day or two shy of a year ago when fire was also an issue at RIR as Goodyear tires were over heating and flaming up. Remember Clint Bowyer’s #15 rolling on flames….?


Footage FOX Sports Broadcast

Photos: Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250 (Friday 4-24)

Photos: Sprint Cup Toyota Owners 400 (Sunday 4-26)

BONUS PHOTOS: Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at South Boston Speedway (Thursday 4-23)

Rain and racing. It is not a good mix but Bristol held out and went under the lights for the Food City 500 and the fans that hung in there saw a really good race full of what makes Bristol such a thing.

It is short track racing in a bowl and they mixed it up nicely. Bumps, spins and tangles put some in the garage and everyone that crossed the finish had some kind of battle damage.

The race started a bit late and went 22 laps before a caution and rain during clean up put the covers on and Penske team mates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski in the garage.

Several hours later the lights were coming on and the laps were being run. At the end of the day, or night, it was Matt Kenseth crossing where he started… In front. Other contenders and front runners were caught up in accidents that put them either off the pace or off the track completely.

Kevin Harvick, out front for a lion’s share, saw his run stop quickly when he caught the aftermath of a Jeb Burton spin which was set off by a touch from Jimmie Johnson. Harvick’s #4 Chevy was heavily damaged and out of the run.

Stewart-Haas team mate Kurt Busch was also putting in a run for the front but a late race pit for fresh tires put him in 6th on the restart and with 8 laps to go was suddenly stopped when Carl Edwards lost it running with Gordon near the front. Busch and the #41 had no place to go but into Edward’s #19.

The remaining Stewart-Haas drivers, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick, managed to roll out with top 10 finishes.
Jimmie Johnson, despite damage and being well in the back at one point, managed to get back to second place with team mate Jeff Gordon right behind. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Ryan Newman filled the top 5.

Bristol was a boost for many in the field. Danica Patrick continues to run well with this top 10. It was Stewart’s best finish this season. Matt Kenseth has his first win since 2013. Gordon also needed a good run with not so hot performance in his last full season. Newman in the top 5 was a good run following the penalties for his team over tire handling issues.

There was also drama around the #11 and Denny Hamlin. The weather, the starting and stopping or just luck put him in a painful situation with a stiff neck. The long rain delay saw no real relief and the decision was made to put Xfinity driver Erik Jones into the #11 which he had never driven and was set, of course, for Hamlin. Jones finished 26th in his Sprint Cup “trial by Bristol fire” debut.

Now the focus rolls into Richmond. The scheduled night race of the Toyota Owners 400 is ramping up. The Xfinity series runs the night before. Some of the drivers will also be rolling out Thursday night in South Boston for the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown with the area’s top late model locals.

Hamlin should be loosened up and ready for his big charity event at SoBo and Richmon for the weekend.
Go Racing!

Texas saw a return to racing and the longer track for NASCAR and Sprint Cup following the Easter break. Jimmie Johnson made the late race move to pass Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick to take the checkers at the Duck Commander 500.

For Harvick, it was either the Easter peeps, the week off or the return to the larger track that put him back into a groove to challenge for the win and come over in 2nd. Up until Martinsville if he did not finish second he was winning. This weekend and Bristol puts him back into a short track situation and we’ll see if it was peeps or the larger track.

Johnson team mate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. crossed over in third with Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski coming across fourth and fifth.

Kurt Busch, Harvick’s team mate, has had a good, although late, start to the season but just can’t hit the win. Generally good finishes and the pole at Texas keeps him running but Texas left him from the pole to 14th.
So far, Stewart-Haas (Harvick), Hendrick (Johnson, Penske (Logano/Keselowski) have had the honors with Denny Hamlin (Gibbs) sneaking in for a win at Martinsville before Easter.

Next up is Bristol then Richmond with a little stop in between for some of the drivers making the run at South Boston Speedway for the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown to benefit Hamlin’s charity organization.

Virginia is getting a lot of big event racing packed into a relatively short time. Martinsville, Bristol and Richmond all fall in the span of just a few days over a month. Include South Boston and you have a full calendar of action.

Don’t hold back, Virginia – Go Racing!

Well, Virginia… Racing is ON!

Martinsville has had their Spring opener. Denny Hamlin won the Cup race. Joey Logano won the day before in trucks.

Bristol is coming up after the post-Easter stop out in Texas. Bristol is the weekend of April 18-19 followed one week later (April 24-25) in Richmond. It is a big bunch of weeks for NASCAR and the big guns in Virginia. Three visits (Martinsvile has run with Bristol and Richmond on the horizon) in the equivalent of one month.

However, April has much more to fill in for racing now and well into the Summer. The short tracks and other courses offer big racing often overshadowed by the “stars” of NASCAR.

South Boston has been racing since March and always serves up a good show. A lot of familiar names have passed laps at South Boston and one returns with some of his NASCAR pals in April. Mixed in with regular schedules of Late Model and other series is the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown on the 23rd (Thursday before Richmond weekend). Catch a big season at South Boston and get a dose of where NASCAR started.

Motor Mile Speedway in Radford is another of the short tracks in the area with a Summer schedule beginning in May. Late Models, Monster Trucks and drag racing are all ready to run.

Southside, Shenandoah, Lonesome Pine, Langley… Even tracks like Franklin County offer up weekly or regular scheduled racing.

North Carolina tracks also highlight the Summer with tight, fast laps and scraped fenders. From Bowman Gray in Winston-Salem to Caraway (south of Greensboro), Coastal Plains, East Carolina and Hickory the Late Models, Modifieds and more are making the race.

For even more variety to fill your racing plate, check a little spot between Martinsville and South Boston. Just outside of Danville is Virginia International Raceway. From sports cars (SCCA, Tudor, NARRA) to NASCAR (K&N) to motorcycles and more VIR has enough twists and turns and wheels to hold any fan. They even have a new Oak Tree!

Virginia is a hotbed for speed. You don’t have to wait for the TV circus to come around to find it. They are racing on short tracks, paved and dirt, all over the state. Go to Martinsville, Bristol and Richmond but make sure you visit VIR, South Boston and some others and, perhaps, cross the North Carolina border and catch some more.

Just go racing!

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