Vickers drives smoothly to top 10 in first Gibbs start

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Brian Vickers’ debut race with Joe Gibbs Racing ended in the top 10, an eighth place finish in the No. 11 FedEx/March of Dimes Toyota in Saturday’s NRA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Texas Motor Speedway.

The result was overlooked given his teammate Kyle Busch’s win and two other issues of controversy after the race (Brad Keselowski post-race outburst and a man who shot himself during the race).

In his first start substituting for the injured Denny Hamlin, Vickers started 15th and made it to seventh just 40 laps into the 334-lap race. A consistent run from there saw him briefly in the top five and sixth after the last round of pit stops before falling back to eighth.

Vickers, who along with Elliott Sadler races with JGR in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, will both be in JGR Cup cars next weekend at Kansas. Sadler makes his first Cup start of the year in a fourth JGR Toyota, the No. 81 Alert Energy Camry.

Dodge to celebrate 50th anniversary of Hemi motor at NHRA U.S. Nationals

Photo courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
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When this year’s NHRA U.S. Nationals plays out from August 29 through September 3 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, a lot of folks are going to be channeling one of the most famous lines in motorsports:

“Hey, that thing got a Hemi?”

Dodge and parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Thursday – on National Hemi Day, no less – announced that it will celebrate the Hemi’s 50th anniversary of Super Stock cars with the 18th annual Dodge Hemi Challenge during the U.S. Nationals.

Cars that will take part in the Challenge will be 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda cars – “The most iconic of the Mopar package cars,” touted a Dodge press release – in a head-to-head battle.

The Dart and Barracuda were purpose built for use solely on a drag strip. The 23 entrants in the Challenge will drive their personally owned versions of the ’68 ‘Cuda and Dart.

The winner of the Challenge – which will be held August 30-31 – will take home a $15,000 purse, while cash rewards will be available for all 16 drivers that qualify for final eliminations.

“The Dodge brand is proud to serve as title sponsor of the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge, an event that spotlights the legacy and power of the 426 HEMI engine,” said Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Cars, Dodge//SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA North America.

Beahm added, “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda Super Stock cars that debuted back in 1968 and are still competing today, which makes our support of this edition of the HEMI Challenge extra special.”

One special incentive for contestants is the 42.6-pound NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge trophy, created in the spirit of the 426 (cubic inch) HEMI engine.

Jimmy Daniels has won the Challenge the last two years and goes for a three-peat in this year’s race within a race. His father, Jim Daniels, won the race in 2010.

The Challenge’s all-time winningest driver is Charlie Westcott Jr. of Parma, Michigan, who captured the Challenge in six different years: 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

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