TUSC: Valiante, Westbrook confirmed at Spirit of Daytona

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Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook have been confirmed as full-time drivers for Spirit of Daytona Racing in the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship. Valiante previously raced with the team in the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Series, teaming up with Westbrook to score an overall victory that year at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

“He and [Westbrook] work really well together, and I think with some of the changes we are looking at on the engineering side of our program, we should not only come out of the box much stronger, but we will hopefully be able to develop a championship-contending campaign with our VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP,” team owner Troy Flis said in a statement.

“New tracks, new rules, new races–there are a ton of new challenges for us to adjust to this year. We want to be in a position to maximize our opportunity, and having this driver line up will be an important part of that for us.”

This past year, Valiante split time with Michael Shank Racing and 8Star Motorsports. Competing in 11 Rolex Series races in 2013, his best results were a pair of back-to-back, runner-up finishes with 8Star at Mid-Ohio and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of Watkins Glen. Both of those finishes came in a Corvette DP.

“I’m really happy to have the full-season program in place and to be coming back to Spirit of Daytona Racing,” Valiante said. “It is a good feeling to have our plans in place, and to be able to now focus on what we need to do to be ready to go at Daytona.”

Also, 2013 DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller will join Valiante and Westbrook at the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. The German driver is a past champion of both the Rolex 24 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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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