Dario Franchitti

‘Dinger, Vautier, Munoz pass Indy rookie orientation

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Three of the four rookies in this year’s 97th Indianapolis 500 have been cleared to practice with the veterans after passing the Rookie Orientation Program today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A.J. Allmendinger of Team Penske, Tristan Vautier of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport all completed the three speed phases that make the ROP this afternoon. A.J. Foyt Racing’s Conor Daly is expected to undergo his program on Monday upon his return from Spain, where he is competing this weekend in the GP3 series.

Munoz, who will also compete in the Firestone Indy Lights’ Freedom 100 at IMS on May 24 as the series’ points leader, turned 62 laps in the ROP session compared to Vautier’s 54 and Allmendinger’s 66. It was ‘Dinger who had the quickest speed of the trio, turning in a lap of 219.239 miles per hour in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet; Munoz topped out at 216.987 miles per hour in the No. 26 Unistraw Chevrolet and Vautier hit 214.747 miles per hour in his backup Honda, the No. 55T.

Before ROP began, Helio Castroneves was the first driver out this month, ensuring that a Team Penske car was first out for the fourth consecutive year at Indy. However, Castroneves quickly pulled off the track at Turn 3, leaving it to Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden to make the first complete lap of the month around the 2.5-mile oval.

Newgarden was fastest in the first of two veteran practice sessions this afternoon, running a lap of 220.263 miles per hour in his No. 21T Century 21 Honda. He was amongst nine drivers who turned at least one lap in the first veteran practice.

NHRA: New book a celebration of life, love and drag racing

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The overpowering smell from nitromethane that powers Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars in the National Hot Rod Association oftentimes brings fans to tears after getting a whiff of the stuff.

Now there’s a new inspirational book that will also bring tears to the eyes of die-hard drag racing fans.

Veteran crew chief Jim Oberhofer has released “Top Fuel For Life, Life Lessons From A Crew Chief,” a touching homage to both his late wife and persevering and overcoming adversity in the highly competitive world of NHRA drag racing.

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Oberhofer wears a number of hats as vice president of one of the sport’s most veteran and successful teams, Kalitta Motorsports, including serving as crew chief for Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta’s dragster.

Oberhofer relates a number of stories about overcoming adversity in the book, but none more touching than how he watched his beloved wife “Tammy O” lose a long and painful battle to stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.

While Oberhofer has spent his life using wrenches and tools working on 10,000-horsepower engines, his new book shows that he is also a very gifted writer.

Known in the sport as “Jim O,” Oberhofer describes the fight his wife went through in gritty and descriptive prose, but with a foundation built upon what the love of his life meant to him – and continues to mean to him more than two years since she passed away.

“When you take a long hard look at your life, I guarantee you that being a winner has little to do with crossing the finish line,” Oberhofer said. “After many mistakes and a whole lot of heartache, I learned that happiness comes from a deeper, simpler place. That’s the big win.”

“Top Fuel For Life” is available on Amazon for $19.95.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Report: Ecclestone believes F1 could be sold by year’s end

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Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone on Tuesday said the racing series is up for sale and has as many as three potential buyers.

Ecclestone told The Associated Press that a deal could still be struck by year’s end.

“I think so, maybe this year,” Ecclestone said. “There are three people mentioned to buy. So it’s a case of whether CVC or Mr. Mackenzie wants to sell.”

Ecclestone was referring to F1’s largest and controlling shareholder, CVC Capital Partners co-chairman Donald Mackenzie.

But even if F1 is sold, the 84-year-old Eccelstone doesn’t plan on going anywhere.

“The people that I’ve spoken to … have asked me if I would stay,” Ecclestone told AP.

Follow @JerryBonkowski