United SportsCar reveals 2014 calendar

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The merged Tudor United SportsCar Championship has, at long last, revealed its 2014 schedule. It features 12 weekends, although all four classes (P, PC, GTLM, GTD) will have an 11-race schedule thanks to a couple scheduling quirks and potential calendar clashes.

Events retained from the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series calendar include: Daytona (24 Hours), Detroit Belle Isle, Watkins Glen (6 Hours) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Those carrying over from the American Le Mans Series calendar include: Sebring (12 Hours), Long Beach, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Mosport, and Virginia International Raceway. Four events have featured on both 2013 calendars: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Road America, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, and Road Atlanta.

That blended schedule has left off only five tracks that featured on the ALMS or GRAND-AM calendars this year: Mid-Ohio, Lime Rock, Kansas, Barber, and Baltimore. None of those five being left off is of huge surprise, although Lime Rock has already hosted ALMS this year and will play host to GRAND-AM’s season finale next weekend.

Race distances, other than Daytona’s 24 hours, Sebring’s 12 and Watkins Glen’s 6, all traditional race lengths, were not revealed. It is anticipated that the standard 2-hour, 45-minute race lengths will be retained if not for all, most of the remaining races.

Nine of the 12 weekends will see all four classes, with three exceptions. Long Beach will be P and GTLM only due to a likely lack of available paddock space, Detroit will be P, PC and GTD to allow for GTLM entrants (Corvette, SRT Viper, perhaps others) to participate in the Le Mans test day in France, and Virginia will be separate PC and GTLM/GTD races. While not confirmed, it is likely VIR’s addition to the schedule came as a result of the cancellation of Baltimore’s street race announced earlier this week.

“This is, without a doubt, the best sports car schedule in the history of North America,” said IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton in the official series release. “When we announced the merger plans last year, we immediately envisioned a dream schedule, one that our industry and, most importantly, our fans would embrace. Although it wasn’t easy, we feel like we have arrived at just that. There were so many options to consider and we could have added more events, but we had to ensure that we didn’t over-tax our industry. So, we stuck to our plan of going with the ‘best of the best’ and capped the lineup at 12 events.”

Schedules for all support series in the IMSA family are forthcoming at a later date and will likely include a combination of events on USCC weekends and other facilities with other championships as headliners.  Additionally, the rounds that will be part of the North American Endurance Championship have not yet been confirmed.

Your schedule breakdown is below:

2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Schedule

Date                   Event
Jan 25-26            Daytona International Speedway (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Mar 15                Sebring International Raceway (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Apr 12                 Long Beach Street Circuit (P, GTLM)
May 4                  Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
May 31                Detroit Belle Isle (P, PC, GTD)
Jun 29                  Watkins Glen International (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Jul 13                    Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Jul 25                    Indianapolis Motor Speedway (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Aug 10                 Road America (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Aug 24                 Virginia International Raceway (PC one race, GTLM, GTD separate)
Sep 20                 Circuit of The Americas (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Oct 4                    Road Atlanta (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

Force’s daughter, Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, suffered a hard wreck at Pomona, but recovered in time to race this weekend in Phoenix.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

Follow @JerryBonkowski