Preparation, de Silvestro addition pushes KV forward

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OK, it would be foolish to draw conclusions based solely on one race. But for KV Racing Technology – SH, signs are evident the team could revert back to overachieving rather than underachieving in 2013. Tony Kanaan and new teammate Simona de Silvestro opened the year fourth and sixth in St. Petersburg.

Kanaan’s third season with the Chevrolet-powered team sees his third set of teammates. He joined late ahead of 2011 and teammates Takuma Sato and EJ Viso rarely pushed him on pace, while Viso and Rubens Barrichello joined in the eleventh hour before last year.

Now, with Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro’s contracts locked in before the end of 2012, the additional time together has aided the team’s progress.

“The secret is preparation,” Kanaan said in a conference call Wednesday. “We didn’t have a lot of preparation last year. Rubens and EJ signed in late March, right before the championship. We had to hire people; we already started behind. Now, the continuity is already there. We didn’t struggle with development, or in the wind tunnel; we are just more organized.”

Additionally, the youthful and motivated de Silvestro is providing Kanaan a fresh challenge.

“Rubens coming in would push me, but our relationship was that we were ‘brothers’ forever,” Kanaan said. “Simona brought sparks and lightning into the team. I have no problem teaching her, but I like to see her want to do well; it’s her opportunity.”

De Silvestro starred in the St. Pete opener and would have scored her first career podium before her tires evaporated in the dying stages. She admitted setup, more than the gap between Firestone’s primary black or red alternate tires, makes the difference to her car’s handling.

“I think it’s more about setup,” she said. “I never struggled on the tires because I never had the power! Now it is how the car is setup, and how it eats the tires. The gap was extreme last year. I don’t know what they’ll bring to Barber yet. It might be the same as last year.”

After a week off, the IndyCar series heads to Barber on April 7 (3 p.m. EST, NBC Sports Network).

NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations, including NHRA Summernationals, effective immediately

Photo courtesy NHRA
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If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”