Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Michaela Stanton: from cheerleading to race cars

Michaela Stanton was 12 years old, a competitive cheerleader like her older sister, when she told her dad she wanted to give auto racing a try.
Her dad, Jeff, was a regular at Ventura Raceway, attending races as a fan for decades. He was elated that his daughter wanted to start racing instead of dragging him to cheerleading competitions. But her real debut comes in August when the 15-year-old junior midget racer can break out her sports compact car and race against the adults.
For more on her development as a racer, click here for the Daily News story.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beckman prepares for Gateway; Hornaday fourth at Kansas

Jack Beckman finally broke through with his first NHRA funny car win of the season. Now he heads to a track where he has never qualified for the elimination rounds.
Beckman, a driver from North Hills, won the NHRA funny car final at Atlanta Dragway in Georgia two weeks ago. The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series is at Gateway International Raceway this weekend. In two previous trips to Gateway as a funny car driver, Beckman has failed to qualify into the Sunday elimination rounds.
“There's nowhere to go but up,” said Beckman, a driver for Don Schumacher Racing. “It’s always nice getting back in the car after a win because even though it doesn’t make a difference mechanically, or to the race track, it’s a mental high psychologically for the crew. We all can’t wait to get back in there and try to continue our streak in St. Louis and break the so-called Gateway jinx.”
Beckman enters the Gateway races second in the funny car standings. He trails teammate Ron Capps by 69 points. Ashley Force Hood, a driver from John Force Racing, is third in the funny car standings, one point behind Beckman.
“It's all good,” Beckman said. “It’s nothing but positive going in there. I talked to the guys in the DSR shop and everybody is still standing eight feel tall after getting that first win. That’s the first taste of blood for the year and you want it again and you want it quick.”

Ron Hornaday Jr. was fourth in the rain-delayed NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway on Monday. Mike Skinner won the race, followed by Johnny Benson and Brian Scott. Brian Ickler, a driver from San Diego, was fifth.
“I thought our pit strategy was going to work out,” said Hornaday, driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado for Kevin Harvick Inc. “We had the freshest tires of anyone out there. Rick Ren (crew chief) made a good call. Had we have gone to the end of this thing; I think we would have been the truck they were all chasing. It’s really frustrating to race this way, but you can’t control Mother Nature. I just want to thank all of my guys on this Copart team. I had an awesome truck, I just hate we didn’t get the chance to show what we had there at the end.”
Hornaday moved into second place in the Truck Series standings, 25 points behind Skinner.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday roundup

NHRA funny car driver Ron Capps, driving the No. 51 car for Bill McAnally Racing and Race for Autism, finished sixth in a NASCAR Late Model race at Madera Speedway on Saturday night. Capps, a driver for Don Schumacher Racing in the NHRA, leads the funny car standings. (photo courtesy Don Schumacher Racing)

Daniel Herrington, driving for Valencia’s Bryan Herta and his Bryan Herta Autosport, finished sixth in the Firestone Indy Lights race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday.
“I’m very happy because our cars finished sixth (Daniel) and eighth (James),” Herta said via Twitter. “It was a crazy race with lots of big crashes, luckily everyone was OK.”
Sebastian Saavedra won the race. Camarillo’s Charlie Kimball was 13th.
Eric Holmes, a driver from Escalon, won the NASCAR Camping World Series West race at Madera Speedway on Saturday night. He leads the West Series standings after four races.
“We definitely had the best car tonight,” Holmes said after the race. “It was just all a matter of who was on top on the restarts. It made it tough.”
Canyon High graduate Greg Pursley was fifth. He won the West Series season opener at Thunderhill Raceway in Texas. Jason Bowles of Ontario was seventh.
Ron Capps, a NHRA funny car driver for Don Schumacher Racing, finished sixth in a NASCAR Late Model race at Madera Speedway on Saturday night. Capps, the leader in the NHRA funny car standings, was driving a car for Bill McAnally Racing and Race for Autism.
“It was only my second time in a Late Model and it was on another short track,” said Capps. “It was a very difficult track, very slick. I don’t have a lot of experience in these cars so my goal was to do well and bring the car back in one piece, which was similar to what happened in Roseville last year.
“It was so much fun. I can’t get over how much fun it is to be locked in a battle with somebody on a short track like that and have the other car within inches of you racing side by side for three or four laps with your spotter talking in your ear at the same time. For us drag racers our runs so over so quickly, usually in about four seconds, and we just don’t get to enjoy it.”

Joanides Late Models

Nick Joanides, a driver from Woodland Hills, won the second NASCAR Late Model race at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale on Saturday night. It was a twin races night in the Late Model division at the track. Joanides was second in the first Late Model race. He took over the lead in the Late Model standings at the track.

Travis Irving wins NASCAR Late Model race at Irwindale

Travis Irving, a driver from Corona, won his first NASCAR Late Model race of the season Saturday night at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. It was a night of twin races in the Late Model division. Irving finished ahead of Nick Joanides in the race he won. Joanides has won five races at the track this year. He has two wins in the Late Models and three in the Super Late Models. Irving was 12th in the second race.

Irving, Joanides win NASCAR Late Model races at Irwindale

Travis Irving of Corona won the first of two NASCAR Late Model races on Saturday night at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. It was his first win of the season and he was the third different winner in as many races at the track. Nick Joanides of Woodland Hills, who won the Late Model season opener, was second, followed by Mike Johnson of Covina.
Tim Huddleston of Agoura Hills, the reigning Late Model champion at the track, was fourth and Andrew Myers, who won the second Late Model race of the season, was fifth.
Joanides won the crashed-filled second race. Huddleston’s car was one of the many that didn’t make it to the end. Only 12 of the 28 cars that started the race finished on the lead lap. Thirteen of the cars were either involved in a crash or withdrew from the race early.
Myers spun out Huddleston in turn 4 and destroyed the front end of Huddleston’s car. Myers was ejected from the race by track officials. He was sent to the back of the field at the start of the race for rough driving, but rallied into third place before spinning out Huddleston. Myers entered the twin races tied for the lead in the Late Model standings with Huddleston.
Joanides, driving with a cracked bone in his hand, took over the lead in the Late Model standings with his first- and second-place finishes. He also leads the Super Late Model standings at the track. Joanides broke his hand in a crash during the Super Late Model race last week.
Johnson finished second in the second Late Model race. Darren Cheek of San Bernardino was third, followed by Sean Bennet of Crestline and Jeff Peterson of Riverside.
Daryl Soggins of Sunland won his first race of the season in the Mini Stocks division. Steve Rogers was second, followed by his son, Tyler Rogers of Riverside. Tyler Rogers won the first two Mini Stocks races of the season.
Ken Michaelian of Lawndale won his third race in a row in the NASCAR Classic Stocks division at the track. Tommy Acosta of Chino was second, followed by Harry Michaelian of Calabasas.
Larry Cirquettini of Redlands won the NASCAR Super Stocks race. It was his third win in a row. Rich DeLong III of Santa Clarita was second, followed by Ken Brown of Cherry Valley.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rich DeLong

Rich DeLong III of Santa Clarita had the second-fastest car in qualifying for the NASCAR Super Stocks race at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. He finished second in the race. Only eight cars showed up for the Super Stocks race

Friday, April 24, 2009

Toyota Speedway at Irwindale Preview - April 25th Edition

Saturday, April 25th marks the sixth weekend of racing this season at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. The Auto Club Late Models headline the event with twin races, and all Auto Club members will receive free general admission seating.

Entering their third weekend of racing, the Auto Club Late Models have consistently had the highest car counts at Toyota Speedway. Tim Huddleston of Agoura Hills is tied atop the point standings with Andrew Myers of Carlsbad. Myers dominated the 50-lap feature two weeks ago, after finishing third in the series opening race. Huddleston, the three-time series champion, including the last two seasons, is still looking for his first win of the season. Huddleston has finished second in both races this year. Perhaps the biggest story of the young season for the Auto Club Late Models has been the disappearance of the “blue cars”. Huddleston’s High Point Racing team consists of five cars, but only Huddleston and Dallas Colodny are in the top 10 in points. Colodny is third. Cassie Gannis (14th), Beau Debard (17th), and Travis Motley (26th) have all struggled early on. The Auto Club Late Models are scheduled to run 40 laps to open the night, and then 30 laps in the final race of the evening.

Joining the action on the half-mile will be the Super Stocks. Speaking of car counts, this class has consistently had the worst through two races, with just eight cars in the last event, down from 10 on opening night. Larry Cerquettini of Redlands has destroyed his competition in the first two races, winning both and setting two track records in the process. The only car that appears capable of hanging with Cerquettini is that of Rich DeLong III. The Santa Clarita-based racer led 12 laps last race before Cerquettini made his move. DeLong sits fifth in points after a clutch malfunction relegated him to ninth in race one. Ken Brown of Cherry Valley sits second in points with a second and third place finish through two races. Eric Sunness (third) and Scott Corriagan (fourth) complete the top five in points. The Super Stocks will run 40 laps.

As always, the third-mile will feature some of the grittiest racing at Toyota Speedway this weekend. Both the Justice Brothers Mini Stocks and the Classic Stocks will take to the inner track. Riverside’s Tyler Rogers has been on a mission in the Justice Brothers Mini Stocks so far. After missing out on a championship three-peat last year, Rogers has taken both races this season. The only competition seen thus far has come from Rogers’ teammates, Daryl Soggins of Sunland and Steve Rogers of Riverside, Tyler’s dad. Soggins and the elder Rogers sit second and third in points, respectively. The Justice Brothers Mini Stocks are scheduled to go 35 laps.

The Classic Stocks will round out the action tomorrow night, also competing on the third-mile. Ken Michaelian of Lawndale has not only dominated the series so far, but he’s done so with versatility. Michaelian cruised to a victory in the first race, and then won the figure-8 feature the same night. Last race, after starting last, he drove through the field for his third victory in as many attempts. Mike Colato Jr., of Chatsworth, sits second in points, a staggering 12 behind Michaelian. San Fernando’s Justin Good is third after three events. Canyon Country’s Tommy Mason gets my nomination for the hard luck award through three events. After career best qualifying efforts in the first two oval events, Mason was involved in a spin in the first race, suffered a mechanical breakdown in the figure-8 race, and broke an axel on his second qualifying lap during the second oval race. The Classic Stocks will run 30 laps tomorrow.

The complete interview with Roger Griffiths of Honda Performance Development

Roger Griffiths, the manager of development division at Honda Performance Development in Santa Clarita, discussed a number of topics about the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series. From technological developments to seeking competition from other engine manufacturers to preparing for the Indianapolis 500, Griffiths talked about HPD’s role in all those areas. The following is the conversation we had on Wednesday, April 22, 2009.

Q: From Honda Performance Development’s perspective, how did the engines perform at the Grand Prix of Long Beach?

A: As far as reliability was concerned, we had no issues whatsoever. The engine has been extremely reliable really for the last three years. Long Beach didn’t present us any issue that we weren’t expecting.
In all honesty, it’s a very similar race track to St. Petersburg. Some of the problems with the street courses is the relatively slow speed, which means that the cooling of the cars can sometimes be compromised. One of the things that you have with these street courses is the concrete walls, it tends to contain the heat. When you have sort of an open race track, the air’s always moving. The air on a street course is much more stationary. As the cars run around and everything gets hotter and hotter and hotter, we had a couple of cars that were getting a bit on the warm side, but nothing that was unmanageable. As far as the way engines performed, we had no issues whatsoever.

The engine is quite well-refined now. We’ve been able to ensure that not only are our performances good, but also drivability and particularly on these street races where you can quite often get into a chain of cars following each other around where it’s difficult to pass. Fuel saving becomes very key. What tends to happen is all the drivers start going into fuel saving mode, they’re leaning out the fuel mixture of the engine. In the early days, the drivability of the car suffered. The engine wouldn’t pick up well off corners because it was just too late. The benefits of understanding this engine after having run it for a few years is that we know the characteristics of it. We’ve been able to calibrate the engine mapping so that we can overcome all these drivability issues.

Year before last, we had to go away from fuel saving because we were having some issues with the transition from methanol to ethanol. We re-introduced it for the 2008 season. You could argue well everybody’s got the same engine, so what does it matter? But it’s a race strategy tool.

(Griffiths said Sam Hornish’s win in the 2006 Indianapolis 500 would not have been possible without the ability to use an alternative fuel strategy. It allowed Hornish to rally from being a lap down to winning the race).

Having not had the ability to lean the engine out, save a bit of fuel, that actually wouldn’t have been possible. It’s a race strategy tool. It’s something that a smart driver or a smart team manager or race strategist can use to good advantage. That’s how Danica (Patrick won Motegi was on a very good fuel strategy.

We actually had a number of the Indy car drivers up at HPD here in Valencia on Monday. Talking with Dario and Scott Dixon, they said that really the drivability of the engines is really good, even on lean fuel mixtures. That was very good to hear.

Q: What are some of the things Honda Performance Development is working on, technologically speaking, with the engines?

A: We have a new exhaust system on the cars. It kept the noise levels down. The Indy cars traditionally have been a bit obnoxious. They are extremely loud. It makes it a much more pleasant experience for the fans. You can actually have a conversation with the person standing next to you as opposed to screaming in their ear. One of things that motivates me to do this is walking around the paddock and seeing all the small children with ear protectors on. It’s one thing to be a little bit older and been around racing cars for 20 years, you can compromise your hearing. But when you’re 4 years old, you feel you have some responsibility to people. I think it makes it a much better family experience.

We fell in love with the development of the new exhaust. One of the key things I set out when we forwarded with this project was to have minimal impact on performance. We’ve been able to achieve that. We’ve made a big reduction in the noise reduction of the cars, but for all intent and purposes, kept the performance level exactly the same.

It’s been a good change. Everybody’s been very complimentary about it. We jokingly set a 95 percent approval rating from St. Petersburg. There was some kind of bowling club or shuffleboard club that still complained. You can’t please everybody.

More and more the IndyCar Series is looking at running in urban areas. A lot of cities are coming to the IndyCar Series, saying hey, how about you host the race here because they see it’s a good party scene, it always brings out a lot of people, good for tourism. There’s always going to be people who say, but it’s so loud. If you can come and say, no, in all honesty, we’re not that loud. Long Beach has such a history of motor racing.

Q: Has HPD been seeking competition from other engine manufacturers to join the IndyCar Series and how much longer is Honda planning on being the sole engine supplier to the IndyCar Series?

A: The goal was always to bring competition back for 2011. We have been very much active in encouraging other manufacturers to come. We’ve had a number of meetings, from starting June of last year. The first meeting, there was probably six or seven manufacturers around a table talking about Indy car racing and possible participation. We’ve had subsequent meetings since and it’s kind of narrowed down to three or four other manufacturers: the Audi, VW, Porsche group, and Fiat, Alpha Romeo people and ourselves.

There’s been a lot of discussion about other manufacturers coming. I think the original 2011 timing is looking less and less likely. It’s unlikely we’ll see any additional manufacturers involved before 2012. The reason being when we sat down in June of last year, we said if you want this engine package to be reliable for 2011, we need to know what the rules are by Jan. 1, 2009. That date has come and gone. We don’t know what the rules may be. It would take us 18 months to design an engine from scratch to build it, to run it on the dyno, to go to the race track to test it, to be ready for a debut in 2012.

We may find that we get no competition and we continue to supply engines to 2012, ’13, ’14, whatever. We’re hoping that’s not going to be the case.

Q: How is HPD preparing for the Indianapolis 500, with as many as 40 drivers and teams and 77 cars entered in the race?

A: Right now we are looking at about 40 entries for the 500. Maybe we’ll find out when it comes down to it, the real number will be 36 to 38. Compared to where we felt we were going to be even just six weeks ago, I was struggling to see how we were going to get to 33 based on the conversations I was having with people. Now here we are looking at 36 to 38 cars. It would be fabulous.
As far as supplying engines, I think last year we had 37 engines in cars last year. We’re ready for it.

Exclusive interview with Roger Griffiths of Honda Performance Development

Roger Griffiths of Honda Performance Development talked about Honda's role in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series. For this piece, he talked about how the cars performed at the Grand Prix of Long Beach and what is the timetable for another engine manufatcturer to enter the series.

Click here to read the story in The Signal.

Monday, April 20, 2009

J.R. Hildebrand wins Indy Lights race at Long Beach

J.R. Hildebrand, a driver from Sausalito, Calif., won the Firestone Indy Lights race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. It was his first Indy Lights win in nearly a year and his first at Long Beach.
Hildebrand won the pole and led every lap of the race. None of the other drivers mounted much of a challenge.
For more on the Indy Lights race, click here.

Team Drift Alliance wins Formula Drift competition at Long Beach

Team Drift Alliance with drivers Chris Forsberg, Justin Pawlak and John Russakoff won the Formula Drift exhibition at the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday.
To read about their winning runs through the streets of Long Beach, click here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Beckman, NHRA Funny Car driver, wins in Atlanta

It was rematch between Jack Beckman and Ashley Force Hood in the NHRA Funny Car final at Atlanta Dragway. Beckman came out the winner this time, beating Force Hood for his first win of the season.
“On paper, Ashley's car had us whooped,” said Beckman, a driver from North Hills. “That car’s been the class of the field for about eight, nine months. Anything can happen when you have 8,000 horsepower and nitro in the tank. It is such an awesome feeling. It’s not that you get pessimistic it’s that you just never know when you’ll make a final round with a field as tight as it is now and then we make it in Houston and just got whooped up on by Ashley.”
The two drivers met in the NHRA Funny Car final at Houston. Force Hood came away the winner in that meeting.
With the win in Atlanta, Beckman moved up to second place in the Funny Car standings. Force Hood is third in the Funny Car standings, one point behind Beckman.
“Our team has always believed that consistency is the key,” Force Hood said. “We’ve always had a really consistent car. Now we are running at the top of the pack. We’re really excited and all we can do now is try to figure out what happened and move on to St. Louis and the next race.”
Ron Capps, winner of three Funny Car events, leads the Funny Car standings.
In other action around Southern California this weekend, J.R. Hildebrand, a driver from Sausalito, Calif., won the Firestone Indy Lights race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Daniel Herrington, driving a car for Valencia’s Bryan Herta and his Bryan Herta Autosport, was 10th in the Indy Lights race in Long Beach.
“Honestly, it has been a frustrating weekend,” Herrington said. “We had some decent practices, but weren't quite happy with the car. Then with trouble getting a clean lap during qualifying, it put us at a serious disadvantage for the race. We made some more changes to the car to see how it would react, but the track seemed to change a lot and the car was a handful out there. The guys did a great job this weekend. We’ll take out top 10 and get out of here, but we definitely need to improve some on the street circuits. The spirit of the team is really optimistic about ovals and I am looking forward to Kansas.”
Camarillo’s Charlie Kimball was 19th. Jonathan Bomarito, a driver from Monterey making his Indy Lights debut and racing for a team owned in part by Ray and Leslie Mathiasen of Encino, was 18th.

Dario Franchitti wins IRL race at Grand Prix of Long Beach

Dario Franchitti won his first Grand Prix of Long Beach. The IndyCar Series driver talked about racing in Long Beach for the first time under a unified IRL and winning the race on his wife's birthday.
Franchitti's wife is Ashley Judd.

JR Hildebrand wins Indy Lights race at Long Beach

J.R. Hildebrand won the Firestone Indy Lights race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. He led from start to finish, but had an eventful first lap. He hit the wall and almost took himself out of contention.

Justin Pawlak wins Formula Drfit event with Drift Alliance at Long Beach

Justin Pawlak talks about adding John Russakoff to his Team Drift Alliance and winning at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

John Russakoff wins with Team Drfit Alliance at Grand Prix of Long Beach

John Russakoff was part of the Drift Alliance team that won the Formula Drift competition at the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday. He was a last-minute replacement on the team with Justin Pawlak and Chris Forsberg.

Bear Rzesnowiecky

Bear Rzesnowiecky, a 16-year-old driver from Las Vegas, was second in the NASCAR Super Late Model race at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. It was his best finish at the track. He talked about racing with some of the Irwindale veterans and having to add 40 pounds to his car, a new rule at the track for Chevrolet drivers.

Joanides wins third Super Late Model race of the season at Irwindale

Nick Joanides of Woodland Hills won his third NASCAR Super Late Model race of the season at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. He did it with 40 extra pounds on his car, a new rule implemented at the track for Chevrolet drivers.

Hildebrand wins Indy Lights pole; Bomarito wins confidence

J.R. Hildebrand won the pole for the Firestone Indy Lights race by .0003 seconds for today's race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Jonathan Bomarito will start alongside Hildebrand on the front row. Bomarito, a driver from Monterey, didn't find out he was racing at Long Beach until Wednesday. He is making his first Indy Lights start after spending the past three years in the Atlantic Series.
For more on Indy Lights qualifying and Bomarito's journey from Atlantic Series veteran to Indy Lights rookie, click here.

Formula Drfit drivers forced to forge alliance

Formula Drift drivers Michael Essa and Dan Pina were searching for a driver. Cody Parkhouse's teammates crashed in practice on Friday. The three formed a last-minute partnership to compete in today's Formula Drift exhibition at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
For more on their newly formed alliance, click here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Joanides wins third Super Late Model race of season at Irwindale

Adding 40 pounds to his race car didn’t make Nick Joanides any slower. He won his third NASCAR Super Late Model race of the season on Saturday night at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
After Joanides won two of the first three races of the Super Late Model season, track officials decided to add 40 pounds to the drivers who race Chevrolets. Joanides, the reigning Super Late Model champion at the track, drives a Chevrolet.
Not that it helped the Ford drivers much. Dan Moore of Burbank was the highest finishing Ford driver in the race. He was fourth.
Bear Rzesnowiecky of Las Vegas was second, followed by Danny Gay of Lakeside.
A couple of drivers, including Joanides, suffered hand injuries in wrecks during the race. Joanides might have fractured his right hand, a result of running into the car of Luis Martinez Jr. on the fourth lap. The two cars came together when Martinez had a flat tire coming around turn 3. Joanides said the impact from the crash spun his steering wheel and smashed his hand. Miles Copenhaver of Lancaster broke his wrist in a wreck.
Pat Mintey Jr. of Quartz Hill won his second race of the season in the NASCAR Super Trucks division. R.J. Johnson of Canyon Country was second for the second race in a row. Mason Britton of Sacramento was third. Britton won his first Super Trucks race of the year two weeks ago.
Chad Schug of Oak Hills won his second Legends car race in a row. Gary Scheuerell of Murietta was second, improving on an 11th place finish two weeks ago. Kenny Maler of Acton was third.
Aaron Anderson of Lancaster won the Bandoleros race. Rookie Ryan Cansdale was second, followed by Ricky Schlick.
Billy Ziemann of Bloomington won the Outlaw figure eights race. Steve Stewart of Long Beach was second.
Al Simpson, who won the opening night race in the Bandoleros, did not show up to the track.

Carlos Mencia-Hindu driver

Carlos Mencia, comedian, celebrity race car driver, talks about racing in the Grand Prix of Long Beach. He was asked what kind of driver he would be. Mencia said he might be Hindu.

Jonathan Bomarito

Jonathan Bomarito missed winning the pole by .0003 seconds for the Indy Lights race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Conrad Grunewald

Conrad Grunewald, a Formula Drift driver, crashed his team's Corvette last weekend in a race in Long Beach. He and his team had to repair the car for this weekend's team drifting exhibtion at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Drift drream come true for Kyle Mohan

Kyle Mohan, who lives in Long Beach and went to Lakewood High School, had to build race cars in secret when he was a teenager. He didn't want his parents to know about his desire to become a race car driver, even though his dad has never missed a Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Mohan, one of the Formula Drift drivers competing this weekend, will be driving a brand Mazda RX8 as part of three-car team with Conrad Grunewald and Samuel Hubinette.
Read more about Mohan and his teammates here.

All roads lead to Charlie Kimball

Charlie Kimball, who grew up in Camarillo and went to Rio Mesa High School, is racing in the Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend. He is in the No. 35 car for the Palm Beach International Raceway team for the Firestone Indy Lights race on Sunday.
Qualifying is today. This is Kimball's rookie season in the Indy Lights series. He has been in Europe racing Formula Fords and in the Formula 3 series since graduating from high school five years ago.
He was diagnosed with type I diabetes about 18 months ago and had to adjust his lifestyle to continue his racing career.
Kimball made his debut with his new team two weeks ago in St. Petersburg, Fla., for the Indy Lights season opener. The Long Beach race is the second of the Indy Lights season.
For more on Kimball, click here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Carlos Mencia 1

Carlos Mencia talks about being in the Toyota Pro-Celebrity race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach and racing against Al Unser Jr.

Awaiting Helio

Helio Castroneves is on his way to Long Beach.
The IndyCar Series driver was acquitted earlier in the day on tax evasion charges. Penske Racing was awaiting his arrival in Long Beach sometime in the afternoon. Castroneves will be back in his No. 3 car for the race.
“His best medicine will be to get back in a race car,” said Penske Racing president Tim Cindric. “His focus and his concentration are among the best. It will be like riding a bike for him.”
Penske Racing will have three cars in the Grand Prix of Long Beach with Ryan Briscoe and Will Power in the other two cars.
Power appears to be the odd-driver out. There are no plans at the moment to expand Penske Racing to a three-car team for the rest of the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series. Power will race in Long Beach and the Indianapolis 500 for Penske. There is a race at Kansas Speedway between Long Beach and the Indy 500 in May, but there are no plans to have Power race at Kansas, said Cindric.

Paul Tracy heading back to Indy

Paul Tracy will be returning to the Indianapolis 500 to race a car for KV Racing Technology, owned by Jimmy Vasser and Kevin Kalkhoven.
Tracy and the team made the announcemt Friday at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Tracy, a four-time winner at Long Beach, is only going to race in the Indy 500 for KV Racing. When asked if he expected to get any extra time in his team's new car before the Indy 500, Tracy said they don't normally make past winners go through rookie orientation.
He was making reference to the last time he was in the Indy 500 in 2002. He finished second to Helio Castroneves on a debatable pass under caution.
Tracy has raced in the Indy 500 six times. Tracy has been in three IndyCar Series races, most recently last year in Edmonton where he finished fourth.

Toyota Speedway At Irwindale Weekend Preview

Week five gets under way tomorrow night at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, and there is a full slate of competitive racing. The tracks featured series returns, as the ACDelco Super Late Models ditch the twin 25s from two weeks ago in favor of a 50 lap event. Defending series champion Nick Joanides of Woodland Hills looks to continue his dominance of the series. Joanides has two victories this season, with a second place sandwiched between them. He currently holds an 18 point lead over Irwindale legend Rip Michels of San Fernando. “The Ripper” is still searching for his first victory of the season. Dan Moore, Travis Thirkettle, and Matt Hicks round out the top five in points right now. Look out for up and comer Bear Rzesnowiecky of Las Vegas. After mechanical issues kept him from running a lap opening night, Bear secured two top fives in the twins on April 4. This may be the week for the youngster to break through.

A developing story to watch this weekend will be the addition of 40 pounds back to the Chevrolets. The Chevys has been running with a weight break to make up for the horsepower advantage the Fords have, but this week Toyota Speedway officials have evened the cars weight, which could give an advantage to Michels and Moore, both Ford drivers. Also, watch for Luis Martinez Jr. “Hot Sauce” had a brilliant showing on opening night, vying for a win and taking home second, but he was disqualified from both races two weeks ago for an illegal restrictor plate. It will be interesting to see how his team will respond.

The series responsible for one of the best races of the year returns tomorrow as well. The King Taco Super Trucks will take to the track for a 40 lap event. Two time defending series champion Pat Mintey Jr. of Quartz Hill leads the points after two races, with a win and a third place finish to his credit. But it’s the youngsters who are making a move in this class. Mason Britton of Sacramento took home the victory in a thrilling finish on April 4. That race saw Britton and RJ Johnson of Canyon Country battle side-by-side for the final 14 laps, with Britton edging Johnson by two tenths of a second. Johnson, who won the final two events of 2008 as well as Rookie of the Year in the division, had ignition problems on opening night, but rebounded nicely and is primed for his first win of the season. The father-son combo of Ron and Jeff Peterson both currently sit in the top five in points, and could also provide a feel good story for the weekend. Ron, the 2006 Super Truck champion, is looking for his first win since his return to the cockpit, while his son Jeff, the runner-up in the rookie standings last year, is still looking for his first victory at Toyota Speedway.

The ever-popular Legends series returns to Toyota Speedway for a scheduled 35 laps. In the closest race of the year so far, Chad Schug used his bumper to get around Donny St. Ours in turn 4 on the final lap. Schug, from Oak Hills, beat the Greg Biffle Development Driver by nine-hundredths of a second. St. Ours, from Upland, used a similar move earlier in the race to get around Brandon Toy. Toy, a Bakersfield native, finished third in the season opener, followed by Josh Geer and Kenny Maler Jr. in the top five. Maler made his first appearance in the top five, and could be one to watch this weekend. Ryan Reed and Tom Landreth made contact in the closing laps, sending them to 17th and 16th place finishes respectively. Landreth has won six of the eight championships in the series, including last year's, while Reed finished second in points last year, and recently signed on as a development driver for High Point Racing, where he will compete in the new S2 division later this year.

The tracks resident kids’ series returns as well, with the D and D Construction Bandoleros taking to the third-mile for 15 laps. Ryan Cansalle was awarded a victory after Al Simpson’s carburetor was found illegal in post race tech after the first race of the season. Also returning for the first time since opening night is the Pick Your Part Outlaw Figure 8s. Rod Proctor cruised to a victory in the first race of the season, beating Steve Stewart and Bare Foot Billy Ziemann.

Toyota Speedway is offering Buy 1, Get 1 Free tickets on their website for tomorrow, with racing scheduled to begin around 7pm.

On a side note, Helio Castroneves and his sister were acquitted of tax evasion charges earlier today. The jury was hung on a charge of conspiracy, but the six tax evasion charges were all cleared. I personally hope to see him back in an Indy Car sooner than later. Also, a big congratulations to NASCAR Camping World West Series driver Jason Bowles. Bowles piloted his Sunrise Ford sponsored entry to a victory last night in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation 150 at Phoenix International Raceway, passing former Sprint Cup driver Steve Park in the closing laps. Series point’s leader Eric Holmes came home second in that event.

Stanton Barrett: Stuntman to IRL

Stanton Barrett has made the transition from NASCAR to the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series. He will be racing in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend.
He is also a stuntman, most recently working on "Race to Witch Mountain" with Dwayne Johnson. Barrett was also on an episode of the TV show "Life on Mars." The series was canceled, but at least he got on one show. It helped that his brother directed that episode.
The late Paul Newman was also his godfather. Newman's name is still part of the IRL, the Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing team. Newman and Barrett's father did a lot of work in movies together. Barrett was able to work as Newmna's stunt double in one movie.
Read more here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grand Prix of Long Beach media lunch

The big names -- Penske, Ganassi, Andretti -- are back at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Unfortunately, very few of them or their drivers showed up to the media lunch at The Laugh Factory on Wednesday.
Gil de Ferran was there, proudly displaying his American Le Mans Series team's colors. Will Power from Team Penske made an appearance, as did Robert Doornbos, a driver from Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing.
Power won the Champ Car World Series race at Long Beach last year. It was the last race for the Champ Car World Series. The Indy Racing League IndyCar Series teams and drivers will take the streets this year.
But no drivers from Andretti Green Racing or Target Chip Ganassi Racing were there. That meant no Danica Patrick, no Scott Dixon, no Marco Andretti, no Dario Franchitti.
Among the drivers who were there: Davey Hamilton and Scott Sharp. Sharp apparently is going to announce that he is returning to race in the Indianapolis 500. Details are pending. For the Grand Prix of Long Beach, Sharp, like de Ferran, is racing in the American Le Mans Series.

Formula Drift drivers

After spending the day in Long Beach, and learning that I will be covering the Formula Drift event for the Long Beach Press-Telegram, I had lunch with Samuel Hubinette and Tanner Foust. Both are top Formula Drifters. Hubinette, from Newport Beach, is second in the Formula Drift Professional Championship standings after the event in Long Beach last weekend. He trails Ryan Tuerck by 12 points. Foust,a driver from Dana Point, is third in the standings.
Hubinete and Foust explained how the drifting competition will work this weekend in Long Beach. It's more of an exhibtion than an competition. The drivers will compete in three-car teams and won't go head-to-head, as was done during the Streets of Long Beach event.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NHRA, West Series notes

Jack Beckman finds himself among a long list of NHRA Funny Car drivers without a win so far this season.
Brothers Cruz and Tony Pedregon, the past two Funny Car champions, have yet to win a race in 2009. John Force, Robert Hight and Tim Wilkerson, all considered challengers for the NHRA championship when the season started, are winless to date.
Beckman, a driver from North Hills, with six career NHRA Funny Car victories, wants to add his name to the winner list after this weekend’s races at Atlanta Dragway.
“You know, it’s been an interesting year,” Beckman said. “I thought that we would have had a win by this time, but I think that most fans would have also expected that Robert Hight, John Force, Tim Wilkerson and the Pedregon Brothers all would have had wins by this time in the year.”

One bright spot for Beckman is that his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps has dominated at times in the Funny Car class. Capps has won three of the first five races this year and has emerged as the top driver in Funny Cars.
“The NAPA car, with Ron Capps and (crew chief) Ed McCulloch, has definitely risen to the occasion and set the bar pretty high for the rest of us,” Beckman said. “But, I still think this is going to be another Funny Car year where you see 10 different winners.”
The Funny Car class has been extremely competitive in recent years. Qualifying for races has been challenging, but it hasn’t been a problem for Beckman.
“To me it’s a testament to how competitive this category is,” Beckman said. “It’s so tough to win in Funny Car anymore, so the fact that the NAPA team has won three is actually amazing. And I’m happy for our teammates, but I want to be happy for our crew chief Johnny West and everyone else on the Valvoline/MTS team too.”
Beckman comes into the races at Altanta seventh in the Funny Car standings. He has one final appearance – at Las Vegas where he lost to Ashley Force Hood.
“We’re definitely going to win some races, but it would be nice if we did it this weekend in Atlanta,” Beckman said. “We’ve gone rounds everywhere but one race, so it would be nice to get the Valvoline/MTS car in the winner’s circle as soon as possible.
“We just have to keep focused on the fact that we are championship contenders, and tell ourselves that every single week. I tell you, everybody on our team has a good attitude, but there's nothing like a Sunday with the trophy in your hands to solidify that good attitude.”

The NASCAR Camping World Series West drivers will be at Phoenix International Raceway for a race on Thursday. The race is expected to draw some top prospects from across the nation, including the grandson of Richard Childress.
Austin Dillon, Childress’ grandson, won the rookie of the year in the Camping World Series East last year.
David Gilliland, a driver from Riverside, is entered in the West Series race. He is also expected to drive in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the track on Sunday.
Steve Park, a former Cup Series driver, is entered in the West Series race at Phoenix, as is Andrew Myers of Carlsbad, who has been racing in the NASCAR Late Model division at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
Mike David of Modesto won the West Series race at Phoenix last year.
Greg Pursley, a Canyon High graduate, is second in the West Series standings after winning the season opener in Kyle, Texas, and finishing sixth in Roseville.
Jason Bowles, a driver from Ontario, is fourth in the West Series standings.
Eric Holmes of Escalon leads the West Series standings after two races. He won the West Series race at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., two weeks ago.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

ARCA Series leader finishes 8th at Irwindale

Justin Lofton, the leader in the ARCA Series standings, finished eighth in the NASCAR Late Model race at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. He was racing a car for Paul Copenhaver Racing. Paul Copenhaver was Lofton's crew chief at Irwindale.
Now Copenhaver has his own race team. His 18-year-old son Miles drives the team's No. 8 car. Lofton was in the No. 88 car for PCM.
Lofton also drives for Eddie Sharp Racing, a team out of Denver, in the ARCA Series. He has two top-fives in two ARCA races and leads the series standings. Lofton, a 23-year-old who calls Westmoreland, Calif., home, said he will return to race at Irwindale when his ARCA schedule allows. He might even race in the NASCAR Super Late Model division at the track.
For a video interview of his return to Irwindale, click here.

Myers wins NASCAR Late Model race at Irwindale

Andrew Myers of Carlsbad thought the last NASCAR Late Model race at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale was 10 laps too long. The number of laps in Saturday night’s race was just right.
Track officials added 10 laps before the start of the season opener in the Late Models two weeks ago. Myers ended up second, losing the lead in the race to Nick Joanides of Woodland Hills in the last 1o laps.
Myers won his first race of the season, holding off Tim Huddleston of Agoura Hills, the reigning Late Model champion at the track. Travis Irving of Long Beach was third. Myers was only planning on racing in the first five races of the Late Model season, but if he is leading the points standings after the fifth race, he might continue racing at the track.
For a video interview of Myers after the race, click here.
He will also be racing in the NASCAR Camping World Series West race at Phoenix International Raceway on Thursday.
Joanides, who had a three-race winning streak at the track, finished ninth. He won the first two NASCAR Super Late Model races and the season opener in the Late Models.
Justin Lofton, a driver from Westmoreland, Calif., and the leader in the ARCA Series, was in the Late Model race. He has two top-five finishes in two ARCA Series races this year. He won the pole for the most recent ARCA Series race at The Salem Speedway in Indiana.
He rallied in the waning laps of the Late Model race at Irwindale to finish eighth. He used to race regularly at Irwindale before moving up to the ARCA Series. He teamed up with Miles Copenhaver, a driver from Lancaster, to form a two-car team for the Late Model race.
Tyler Rogers of Riverside was the third repeat winner of the night at Irwindale. He won the Mini Stocks race. Daryl Scoggins of Sunland was second, followed by Richie Altman of Wildomar.
Ken Michaelian of Lawndale extended his winning streak to three races at Irwindale. He won the Classic Stocks race after taking the figure 8 and Classic Stocks season openers two weeks ago.
Larry Cerquettini of Redlands won his second NASCAR Super Stocks race in a row. Only eight cars started the Super Stocks race, down two cars from opening night two weeks ago. It was one of the smallest fields to start a race at Irwindale. The biggest field to start a Super Stocks race at Irwindale was 45 cars, twice in 2001.

Only eight Super Stocks start race at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale

Rich DeLong III of Santa Clarita was one of only eight cars to start the NASCAR Super Stocks race. A combination of factors, poor economy and the impending debut of the S2 stock car among them, have led to the diminished car count.
The Super Stocks once started 45 cars in a race. It happened twice in 2001. DeLong and his dad maintain three of the cars in the Super Stocks division. DeLong said he is doing what he can to keep the series alive, but it looks like the days are numbered for the Super Stocks division.
For his comments, click here.
Logan Henson, a driver from Valencia in the NASCAR Late Models, made a number of changes to his car since opening night. He overhauled his engine after finishing seventh in the opening night race. The changes paid off somewhat in qualifying. He was fourth fastest. Another change is on his car's hood. He is carrying the Dream Center as a sponsor.
To hear Henson's comments about the changes to his car, click here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bryan Herta's big plans for the future

Bryan Herta, who made his debut as a race car team owner in the Firestone Indy Lights season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., last weekend, talks about his plans for the future. His immediate goal is to win an Indy Lights race. His long-term goals include moving up to the IRL IndyCar Series and perhaps entering this year's Indianapolis 500.
Read about his plans and his thoughts on racing in the Grand Prix of Long Beach at The Signal.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Biffle going off-road before Phoenix

Before Greg Biffle makes his way to Phoenix International Raceway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in a couple of weeks, he’ll swing through Primm, Nev., for an off-road race.
Biffle will take part in the Best in the Desert Terrible’s 250 driving a Ford F-150 SVT Raptor R. He’ll go from Primm to Phoenix for the Cup race a few days later.
“When I think of Raptor the first thing that comes to mind is a proven off-road piece with its finish in the Baja 1000, and I think it’s a long-time overdue, if you want my opinion,” said Biffle, who is participating in the event’s Fun Run on April 16 before heading to Phoenix for Saturday night’s NASCAR event. “Up to this point, no manufacturer has built a truck like this. People had to do it themselves, so there’s a definite market out there and I’m excited about it. I’ve been paying attention and watching some of the desert testing that they’ve done and I can’t wait.”
Before Biffle graduated to the Cup cars, he was a NASCAR Truck Series champion. But this will be the first time he’s raced in an off-road truck.
“I really enjoy off-roading. I enjoy riding motorcycles. I enjoy my sand car,” said Biffle, who will be driving the F-150 SVT Raptor R being campaigned by former Ford Rough Riders Rob MacCachren and Steve Olliges in all five Best in the Desert races this year. “I’ve never pre-run Baja or anything like that, and I might do that this year, but I’ve never really been in a specific off-road. I’ve watched the stuff on Speed a lot. It looks fun and it looks exciting to do, so I’d like to mess with it a little bit.”

Harvick, Hornaday visit Walter Reed

NASCAR drivers Ron Hornaday Jr., center, and Kevin Harvick, right, visit the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Tuesday.

Kevin Harvick and Ron Hornaday Jr. spent Tuesday visiting injured soldiers at the Water Reed Army Medical in Washington, D.C.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars is one of the sponsors on Hornaday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team, owned by Kevin Harvick. Harvick and his wife DeLana have teams in the Truck and Nationwide Series.
“This is an opportunity very few people get to experience,” said Kevin Harvick, a driver from Bakersfield. “I am very proud of our affiliation with the VFW and all of the programs they offer to our veterans and their families. I was able to personally say thank you to some of our country’s finest men and women who have given so much for all of us. This visit was an eye-opening experience at how far medical research has come and it was truly an honor to be able to meet and talk with these brave men and women.”
Hornaday and the Harvicks toured the medical center, signed autographs and listened to the stories the soldiers had to tell. A few years back, Hornaday went with a group of other NASCAR drivers to Iraq to visit soldiers.
“I really value our relationship with the VFW, it is through our affiliation with them that we get the opportunity to come to places like this,” said Hornaday, who used to race at Saugus Speedway and lived in Palmdale. “It is incredible to listen to the stories and hear how desperately these patients want to get well only to rejoin their battalion. This visit was a real honor. I got the opportunity to shake hands with true heroes. I am so thankful for each and every person in this hospital, not only the patients but the doctors and nurses who are taking care of them. A visit like this really makes you proud to be an American.”

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday night roundup

Drivers for Don Schumacher Racing are leading three of the four national divisions in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series after the races at The Strip in Las Vegas.
Tony Schumacher leads the Top Fuel standings after winning in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Ron Capps leads the Funny Car standings. He was also a winner in Las Vegas.
Matt Smith leads the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings.
“I'm tremendously ecstatic,” said team owner Don Schumacher. “It was great to have Ron win today, to have Tony win today, have Matt Hagan get to the final, a rookie like that. Tommy DeLago is doing a great job over there. All my Funny Cars are doing a great job, the dragsters are all doing a great job, and we’re number one in the points with the Pro Stock Motorcycle also. Ron and Tony are really stepping this program up. They’re doing one great, great job.”
Things are going well for Don Shcumacher Racing. Hagan, a rookie in the Funny Car division, met Capps in the final at Las Vegas. Hagan beat Jack Beckman, his Don Schumacher Racing teammate and a driver from North Hills, in the quarterfinals.
"It's just frustrating because it dropped a cylinder early and we're trying to figure out what caused that to happen. The Valvoline/MTS guys are looking at the data right now," Beckman said. "All we can do is keep our chins up and go out and make some good runs in Atlanta and get a hone in on this because that was an absolute surprise to us. It hadn't done that at all this weekend. We'll figure it out."
Beckman beat Ashley Force Hood in the first round at Las Vegas. Force Hood, a driver for her dad’s John Force Racing, was coming off her first win of the season.
“We had a team meeting this afternoon and I told our team that we never get any luck," Force Hood said. "Not even a glimmer of luck. We have a really good car but every close race we are on the losing side. We have lost races that I would want to make the run we made since it would have won any other time or other part of the ladder. You think one of these days we will get some luck.”

Eric Holmes of Escalon won the NASCAR Camping World Series West race at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., on Saturday night.
It was the first win of the year in the West Series for the Bill McAnally Racing driver. He was a winner at All American Speedway last year.
“I had an excellent car,” Holmes said. “(Crew chief) Ty Joiner and the whole BMR team gave me a great NAPA Toyota Camry. Last lap finishes like Texas are a lot of fun, but these are more fun for my team, to have such a dominant car. It was an easy car to drive and I was just patient all night.”
Greg Pursley, a driver from Newhall, graduate of Canyon High School in Canyon Country and winner of the West Series season opener at Thunderhill Raceway in Texas, was sixth.
Jason Bowles, a driver from Ontario, was second in the West Series race at All American Speedway. He was followed by Paulie Harraka from Failawn, N.J. in third.