Weird, wacky, wonderful Thunderhill is this weekend

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It’s very rare in modern racing you hear of “racing for the sake of racing.” But with the 2013 season largely in the books, championships decided, top-10 lists written and all the rest, it’s rare you get as close to a pure event full of “run what you brung” machinery that runs the gamut from jalopies to supercars.

Welcome to the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. It’s weird, it’s wacky, it’s windy, and it’s wonderful.

Nearly 250 drivers from more than 60 teams are entered for the NASA-sanctioned endurance race in Northern California. It’s not as formal as the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, which is still laid back but arguably has way more on the line as one of club racing’s top events. What it is, is an abnormal test of man, machine, cold temperatures and limited lighting with a mash up of cars you wouldn’t think could be possible to all run on one track at the same time.

Supercars like the Audi R8, fielded by Pirelli World Challenge team GMG Racing, Lexus IS and Porsche GT3 Cups are entered. There are newer model cars, like the Mazda6, Acura ILX or Ford Mustang Boss 302S.

Then there are the wacky: There’s, and I’m not making this up, No. 66 Chevy Silverado truck entered by a team called “ColdCock Whiskey Silverado” (similar to the one pictured right). A bunch of old Miatas and RX-7s are there. Radical SR3 prototypes, Panoz GTS sports cars, BMW M3s and Honda Fits. All together.

Among the drivers entered? There’s two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Jr., racing with son Al III, in a Wolf GB08S prototype. Memo Gidley, Anthony Lazzaro, Naoki Hattori, Frisselle brothers Burt and Brian and drift star Tyler McQuarrie are among the familiar names to race fans you’ll see in action this weekend. Others who have competed in PWC – James Sofronas, Jon Miller and Alex Welch to name a few – will also be on hand.

A full rundown of the teams entered and drivers entered are linked here. Match the “Team #” for drivers to see which team they will be racing with.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force has another spectacular motor explosion

Photo courtesy NHRA
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Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force endured yet another spectacular motor explosion – his third in the NHRA’s first three national event races – during Friday’s qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

It’s the kind of consistency the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ could do without.

The 68-year-old Force came to Gainesville hoping to break the jinx that saw him endure explosions in both the season-opening Winternationals and the second race of the season in Phoenix.

Both motor explosions sent Force to the hospital for examination before he returned to the race track.

Friday, even though the motor in his Chevrolet Camaro blew up again (in the second round of qualifying), at least this time, Force didn’t wind up in the hospital.

He did have his right hand bandaged from a cut suffered in the explosion, but did not have to go to the hospital this time.

He even joked about not having to add yet another ambulance bill to the nearest Gainesville hospital.

But the explosion still proved costly.

“That was another body and that hurts the financial (bottomline),” Force said. “I was out $500,000 to $600,000, and now we are probably out $800,000, going on a million. In drag racing, you have to be tough.”

He ended the day qualifying 14th, not a very comfortable position with two more rounds of qualifying set for Saturday.

Force continues to be mystified why the motors keep exploding.

“I really thought we had it, I thought we were there,” Force said. “In the first round we drove it 500 feet and shut it off. It looked great. We ran it again that run and I was only going to drive it 800 feet even if we didn’t make The Show.”

Force will attempt to improve his qualifying spot during Saturday’s final two rounds to make Sunday’s eliminations.

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