Alliance Truck Parts 250

Regan Smith holds on for NNS win at Michigan

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Assuming the lead with 13 laps remaining, Regan Smith managed to keep Kyle Larson behind him in the final circuits to win the Alliance Truck Parts 250 at Michigan International Speedway. The JR Motorsports pilot also made serious hay in the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship by pushing his lead to 58 points over Sam Hornish Jr., who suffered a 32nd place finish after an oil pump problem emerged on his car.

“I felt confident even though he was drafting up to me,” Smith told NASCAR.com. “It seemed like once we got the car out front it really came to life. [Crew chief] Greg [Ives] made some really good calls to get us the track position.”

Parker Kligerman had control of the lead late in the running, and was hoping for rain as the event had played out under iffy weather conditions. But the wet stuff never came and Kligerman was forced to pit for fuel with 13 laps left; the stop, along with a subsequent speeding penalty on pit road, sent him to a 25th-place finish.

“We played it perfectly for that situation…I was fully for it, but it sucks when you run top-five all day,” said Kligerman. “There was debris everywhere the last 20 laps. Of course, no one threw a caution, so we ran out of fuel and finished wherever we finished.”

Austin Dillon had made history earlier Saturday by becoming the first driver in NNS history to win four consecutive pole positions. He was especially strong in the first half of the race, but had a left-rear tire go down after staying out instead of pitting following a Lap 64 caution. He went a lap down because of the issue, and eventually tumbled to a 20th-place result after tagging the wall with five laps to go.

Larson, Paul Menard, Kyle Busch and Trevor Bayne rounded out the Top 5 spots at the finish.

SCCA postpones F4 U.S. Championship race debut

F4 Test Car
Photo: F4 U.S. Championship
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Citing a lack of time in manufacturing, SCCA Pro Racing announced the new Formula 4 U.S. Championship race debut will be delayed.

The first weekend had been scheduled May 27-28 at Lime Rock Park, along with the Pirelli World Challenge.

The full release is below:

SCCA Pro Racing announced its debut weekend of the Formula 4 United States Championship has been postponed due to delays in manufacturing of a sufficient number of cars to meet the team demand.

The first race weekend, scheduled for May 27-28 at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut, will be rescheduled at a track and date to be determined to maintain a five-event championship series. The F4 U.S. Championship will now make its debut June 10-12 at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey.

“Regrettably, if the Lime Rock event were to go ahead as planned, we would be in jeopardy of leaving some drivers and teams who are committed to the series disenfranchised,” SCCA Pro Racing President and CEO Derrick Walker said. “We felt it was important that all drivers who want to participate in the F4 United States Championship be given a chance to do so. We appreciate the loyalty they have shown us.”

Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) regulations require a minimum of 12 cars for each championship event, which currently would not have been an issue for Lime Rock. However, delaying the start of the inaugural event of the F4 U.S. Championship provides the opportunity to fulfill all car orders exceeding the FIA requirement.

“We are very proud to be constructing the first FIA approved monocoque chassis in America,” said Crawford Composites President Max Crawford, whose company is producing the chassis. “We believe the F4 U.S. Championship is the start of something great for American motorsports. I fully endorse the decision to reschedule the first race, and we look forward to getting all the drivers in the lineup in New Jersey.”

Crawford is confident a sufficient quantity of cars can be produced for the current number of drivers committed to the F4 U.S. Championship to debut in New Jersey.

Justice Brothers to run 100th Indy 500 with Townsend Bell

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Bell and Justice. Photo: Justice Brothers
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A family with more than 70 years of presence at the Indianapolis 500 – the Justice family – will continue its involvement this year with Townsend Bell’s No. 29 Andretti Autosport Honda, which features California Pizza Kitchen and Robert Graham as co-primary partners.

The Justice Brothers logo will adorn Bell’s car as the family reunites with Bell, to continue a relationship dating to 2001 when Bell won the Indy Lights championship driving for Dorricott Racing.

The full release is below, and we’ll have more on the Justice family in a separate post later this month on MotorSportsTalk.

The Justice Brothers Family is once again returning to the legendary Indianapolis 500 this May to celebrate their 71st year of involvement at the 100th running with the partnership of Townsend Bell. Bell will be driving the No. 29 car for Andretti Autosport.

The company’s relationship with Bell dates back to his championship winning Indy Lights season in 2001 with Dorricott Racing.

“I’m excited to partner with Townsend in celebration of our family’s 71st year of involvement with the Indy 500, starting in 1946. With it being the 100th running of the race and Townsend teaming up with Andretti Autosport it will guarantee some special memories,” said President and CEO Ed Justice, Jr.

May the Force be with you: Happy 67th birthday, John Force

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If you’re a John Force fan, May 4 should be a national holiday.

The winningest driver in NHRA history and a record 16-time Funny Car champion turns 67 today.

And John Harold Force, born this day in 1949 in Bell Gardens, California, is still going as strong as ever.

After six of the first 24 races of the 2016 season, Force is ranked fifth in the Funny Car standings, just 55 points behind youngest daughter Courtney Force, who is tied for the points lead with Tim Wilkerson.

And daughter Brittany Force, who has two wins this season, is leading the Top Fuel points – making it the first time in NHRA history that sisters have led the point standings in two different pro classes at the same time.

All four of Force’s daughters – Adria, Ashley, Brittany and Courntey – are obviously the apple of his eye. But they let NBC Sports in on a little secret: dear old dad is one of the hardest people to shop for when it comes to birthdays and holidays.

After all, what do you give a guy who has pretty much everything?

Here’s how Ashley describes a typical birthday for her father:

Ashley Force Hood

“My dad is impossible to buy a gift for. Every gift I give him, he gives back to me at the next holiday. Or I hear him giving my gifts out to co-workers: ‘Here Joan (JFR office manager) take these car wash coupons. Here Steve (VP of Sales), here’s some movie tickets.’ I also opened a closet one day at his house and found a bunch of gifts we’d given him over the years like a carnival hot dog maker, and slippers from Sharper Image.

“Every year he tells us not to get him anything and last year my mom actually didn’t get him anything, just like he wanted. He whined and complained for weeks that she didn’t get him anything and how crushed he was! She’ll never make THAT mistake again!

Adria Force High

“So this year they just got a kitten (his name is Champs!) and I’m getting dad a gift card for PetsMart … and some Claritin!”

Force’s oldest daughter, Adria, has buying gifts for her father down-pat: “German Chocolate cake, wine, homemade tacos and Tommy Bahama dress shirts he wishes we wouldn’t spend the money on, but he really loves!”

Courtney Force

Here’s what Courtney Force had to say:

“One birthday, we tried to surprise our dad and drove him all the way out to Temecula, California, and pulled up to all these hot air balloons and told him we were taking him on a hot air balloon ride. He freaked out, refused to go and made us turn around and go home. We learned he had a fear of heights, so we never made that mistake again!”

And Brittany had this to add:

Brittany Force

“Every year when we bring up birthday celebrations to my dad we get the same response, “Don’t throw me a party, don’t buy me any gifts because I hate pretending to like them. Don’t get me a card and write a beautiful message in it cuz I have guilt when I have to throw it away. Don’t get me no cake because I have to fit in to my firesuit next week! And you all know how much I HATE surprises so don’t do that either!”

“Every year it’s a battle trying to convince him that we all want to celebrate his birthday. One year we decided to give him what he truly wanted, nothing! We took the whole family to dinner, bought no presents, no cards, no cake and didn’t sing happy birthday. When we got home he complained for a good hour that we obviously forgot his birthday or that we were playing a mean joke on him. He asked us where we were hiding the gifts and was asking if we baked a German chocolate cake or a Devils Food Cake. Whoops!!! Our mistake or his?!?!”

John Force, who recently joined Twitter, also received a number of congratulatory tweets, including:

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Munoz: “I haven’t reached my full potential”

AVONDALE, AZ - APRIL 02:  Carlos Munoz of Columbia, driver of the #26 Andretti Autosport Honda IndyCar is introduced before the Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway on April 2, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Like fellow IndyCar rookie class-of-2014 alumnus Jack Hawksworth, Carlos Munoz’s results haven’t matched his pace and potential this year.

And while on the surface it looks like there have been a handful of mistakes this year for the third-year Colombian driver – and there have been – Munoz’s efforts to improve are probably being overshadowed by the overall team struggles at Andretti Autosport.

In a case where stats don’t tell the full story, Munoz’s finished eighth, 22nd, 12th and 14th in the opening four races – the 12th at Long Beach was the only time where he was highest of Andretti’s four cars. That’s left him 15th in points, five spots back of teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay but two and three clear of Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi, respectively, heading into the month of May.

Starts of 12th, 21st, 10th and 15th also tell a similar tale, although he’s been the highest starter of Andretti’s four cars in the last two races at Long Beach and Barber.

He’s been particularly quick in practice, though. He has top-five practice results of third (Barber FP1) and fourth (Barber FP3) and a handful of other top-10 results. Like others, nailing the balance in qualifying once on Firestone’s red alternate tires has been challenging.

Incidentally, his best finish of eighth at St. Petersburg came after a misguided passing attempt drew ire from Graham Rahal and created a parking lot in Turn 4.

Yet his best drives have come at Long Beach and Barber, where Munoz has been the quickest of the Andretti quartet through most of the weekend.

“I’ve been driving so good and feel so emotionally good in the car,” Munoz told NBC Sports. “You could see it in Long Beach; I never drove so good. I was quicker than Ryan at Long Beach… and his worst qualifying in Long Beach was fourth before that.

“Then Barber, I was really quick in practice. But then in qualifying, I lost the balance on the red tires.

“I’ve never been driving so good as this year. Results haven’t shown that. The team has been lacking… it’s no secret. There’s a little bit of mechanical grip we need to find. As soon as we find it, I hope I’ll be able to fight for victories.

“I’ve done some mistakes. But speed-wise, I’ve not driven better.”

Barber was a tough weekend for Munoz, having triggered the first-lap accordion effect accident between he, Hawksworth and Mikhail Aleshin. The slow start helped contribute to the chaos.

“When you’re in the back – I checked up – but I had Aleshin in front of me,” he explained. “He accelerated, then braked. I had to lock the rear tires. It was too close. It was my mistake… but the start was way too slow.”

Overall it’s a fascinating fusion for Munoz, who overachieved as a rookie in 2014, then secured his first win last year at Detroit race one but otherwise struggled for competitiveness along with the rest of the Andretti team.

Now though he feels he’s in a better spot.

Munoz has rebounded from a heavy practice accident at Phoenix in early April to find this newfound burst of personal performance. He cleaned up his stats to where he has only had two failures to finish from contact in his last 28 starts, compared to four in his first 13 races.

The impact at Phoenix, he said, was his “first big accident” in IndyCar and forced him to quickly forget about it and move on.

“It was a big hit; if you saw the numbers you’d be amazed,” Munoz said. “But as a driver you have to forget about it and move on. After practice to go back in the car, that was good. It was my first actual big hit.

“The team always said, it’s always one. I had a hit at Fontana, replacing E.J. (Viso, in 2013). But this one was big. I know it’s part of racing when you crash. Try to move on. I feel comfortable.”

Munoz has felt better in terms of setup contribution this year, noting whereas Hunter-Reay or Andretti had been primarily used as the baseline setup in the past, now he’s able to play a greater role.

Additionally, Munoz relates to IndyCar freshman Rossi, who’s learning the ropes in this series thus far as Munoz was two years ago.

“I think this year has been better, probably because I’ve been fast compared to my teammates,” he said. “We work as a team. I know if Marco likes it, that’s better, because more or less we have the same feeling.

“Rossi was (with us) in Texas. And that’s where we try to help him as a rookie. I was a rookie two years ago. So yeah, I helped him. This is hard to get used to.”

He’s also determined and focused on being his own man in the sport, besides being “that other Colombian” besides Juan Pablo Montoya.

Colombian interest has been high in recent years with Montoya, Munoz, Gabby Chaves, Sebastian Saavedra and Carlos Huertas all having been in the series of late. Montoya remains the benchmark but Munoz and Huertas are race winners; Saavedra a polesitter and Chaves a double rookie-of-the-year in 2015, although the latter three are sidelined.

Comparisons are inevitable and while Munoz credits Montoya for getting him interested in racing, he doesn’t want to be known as “JPM 2.0.”

“He’s been a big example since I was a child,” Munoz admits. “I remember when I saw him winning his first 500 (in 2000; Munoz was 8 years old), we all went on the streets and celebrated! We were all waving the flag.

“He showed us the path to become a professional race car driver. But I want to make my name. I want to be my own man. I want to win races.”

Even more fascinating about Munoz is that while this is his third full-time season in IndyCar, he’s still only 24 years old, with room to grow. This is his fifth season in America, having done two years of Indy Lights prior in 2012 and 2013.

The setup advancements and aero kit improvements Honda has made has made the car better to drive this year, as Munoz looks to break out of the tightly bunched, yet crowded, IndyCar midpack.

“I think with the new aero kit, on the road course, I’ve felt much stronger, much more confident,” he said. “It’s easier to drive. It’s a lot more consistent. We had a nasty rear last year.

“There’s loads still to learn,” he added. “Helio (Castroneves) and Tony (Kanaan) learn stuff each race when they keep going. They’ve been doing this for a long time and they learn each time.

“My curve of learning, I still have a lot to get better at, both ovals and road courses. I haven’t reached my potential.

“As a driver or person, you’re never going to reach your potential.”