Supercross’ Trey Canard samples Honda IndyCar simulator (VIDEO)

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The Monster Energy AMA Supercross bike series made its way to the Midwest this past weekend, heading to Indianapolis. KTM rider Ryan Dungey won Saturday night’s race at Lucas Oil Stadium.

As part of the weekend, in a cross-promotion between IndyCar and Supercross, Honda organized a get-together with one of its Supercross riders, Trey Canard, and two of its IndyCar drivers, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, at the home of its Indianapolis-based IndyCar simulator.

Canard has been unable to race this year due to injury but the Oklahoma native is on the mend and should be back shortly on his No. 41 Muscle Milk Honda. But he did get a chance to sample the simulator while in Indy, running at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, to provide him a shot at driving a piece of four wheeled-machinery.

“It’s different because you’re not using your whole body. Having to control the whole feel (of the car) between your two hands is definitely different,” Canard told MotorSportsTalk. “We’ve all driven different road cars before, and we’ve all had a steering wheel in our hands at some point. It’s really fun. You feel the whole car moving underneath you, and turn it. It was awesome.”

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Pagenaud’s pointers as Canard suits up. Photo courtesy of Honda/LAT

Before Canard’s pair of runs, Pagenaud and Newgarden offered up some notes and pointers. Once they saw Canard actually take the reins of the simulator, the two rising IndyCar stars were impressed.

“He just did a great job. He impressed right away on the second lap,” Pagenaud said. “He had a squirrely moment since he was not used to a steering wheel in his hands. But knowing how tough it is to catch it. He improved lap after lap, was aware of the environment, and knew how to exploit it. On a bike, there’s not much in the way of braking. Overall, he was very impressive and up to speed quickly.”

Canard described how he improved from his first session to his second one.

“First off I’ve never experienced anything like that before, having the downforce,” he said. “My first one I had a really hard time with the braking. I broke at an angle rather than straight. I would come into the turns with using too much track. In the car, you learn quickly you have to brake straight, and then turn. The downforce is the thing I was able to deal with better the second time out.”

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Newgarden provides pre-run lowdown. Photo courtesy of Honda/LAT

For Newgarden, having the chance to see a Supercross rider tackle an IndyCar was a cool thing to see. The Nashville native is a fairly big Supercross fan and tries to watch as many races as possible.

“It’s a super fun sport,” he said. “It’s extremely competitive and it’s actually very similar to IndyCar, where there are a lot of guys who can win every weekend.

“I love dirt bikes; they’re really cool vehicles. I’ve always wanted to be a part of it, but I’ve never driven anything on 2 wheels. Maybe the fantasy of it is why I like it.”

Newgarden did a good job of providing some behind-the-scenes shots via his social media accounts, as did IndyCar. More on this will likely come later this week.

UPDATE, Thursday, 9:45 a.m. ET: We have video! The topic shifts from simulators to scarves.

(Updated) NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations immediately, cancels NHRA Summernationals

Photo courtesy NHRA
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If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

UPDATE: Hatcher reached out again to NBC Sports later Wednesday afternoon with an addendum that could be promising for race fans in other markets: “Upon hearing the news about the Englishtown track, we’ve received a significant level of interest from other track operators about hosting a national event in 2018.  We’re not sure if this is possible for 2018, but we’re definitely looking into it, if not for 2018, then perhaps for 2019.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”