Off-road racing champion Kurt Caselli, 30, dies after Baja 1000 crash (UPDATED)

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UPDATED (6:30 p.m. ET): New information has emerged about the Baja 1000 accident that claimed the life of 30-year-old racer Kurt Caselli. According to a statement from the SCORE sanctioning body, Caselli lost control of his KTM bike near race mile 792 on the 833-mile course.

As for Caselli’s KTM Racing team, it has said in its own statement that it has discovered traces on Caselli’s bike that indicate “he had collided with some small animal,” causing the crash.

Initial reports that said an on-track booby trap caused Caselli’s crash have apparently now been discredited. According to ESPN.com, Kawasaki rider Taylor Robert posted on his Facebook page that his teammate, Rickey Balbec, was the first to come upon Caselli and that Balbec went to get Caselli help while another rider, Ivan Ramirez, stayed with him.

“Even though the news didn’t come out until the night time, the accident happened while there was still daylight, and didn’t have anything to do with racing at night,” Robert said. “This was merely a racing accident.”

One of the more decorated competitors in the off-road ranks, Caselli was a three-time AMA National Hare and Hounds champion and had won the Desafio Ruta 40 Rally in Argentina this year – only his second internationally rally event after debuting in the 2013 Dakar Rally.

Despite being a newcomer to the famous race, Caselli won two Dakar stages this year. He was also a three-time champion in the World Off-Road Championship Series, or WORCS.

AMA president and CEO Rob Dingman issued this statement earlier today on Caselli’s tragic death:

“Kurt Caselli was one of American desert racing’s finest champions, and his early and untimely death is a major blow to the hearts and minds of all of us who knew him or knew of him. Caselli was a gracious competitor, a team leader and a fan favorite. His love for motorcycling showed through in everything he did, whether he was leading his fellow racers as the U.S. team captain for the International Six Days Enduro or signing autographs for a young fan.

“On behalf of the AMA Board of Directors, our staff and AMA members everywhere, we offer our condolences to the family of Kurt Caselli and thank them for sharing with us one of the sport’s finest racers and greatest men.”

Our thoughts are with Caselli’s family and friends at this time.

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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