NASCAR races at Charlotte, Pocono and Sonoma to serve as qualifying events for renowned hot dog eating contest

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If you’re going to upcoming NASCAR races at Charlotte, Pocono or Sonoma, come hungry and bring your appetite.

The three races will serve as qualifying events for the big daddy of hot dog eating contests, the  July 4 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating contest at Nathan’s Famous on Brooklyn’s (N.Y.) Coney Island.

The first NASCAR-themed qualifier will be on May 24, the day before the Coca-Cola 600. But instead of taking place at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the event will be part of the Speed Street celebration in downtown Charlotte.

The second NASCAR-themed qualifying event will be at Pocono Raceway on June 7, and the third and final qualifier will be at Sonoma Raceway on the morning of June 22, just a few hours before the start of that day’s scheduled Toyota/SaveMart 350 Sprint Cup race.

“This will be a terrific, entertaining element to add to the NASCAR party this year,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager. “We are excited to bring this to our fans in Northern California and know it will be a great addition to our weekend.”

All told, there are 13 qualifying events for the overall eat-off on July 4. The male and female contestant who eats the most hot dogs at each qualifier will be headed to the Big Apple to be part of the final field for the big contest.

If you think you, your appetite and stomach all have what it takes, go to NathansFamous.com for more information and instructions on how to register.

But be forewarned: the reigning champ is Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., who holds the Nathan’s record of downing 69 hot dogs — yes, you read that right, 69! — and buns, as well, in 10 minutes in last year’s championship event. Chestnut has won the event each of the last seven years.

It’s not like we’re counting, but that translates into nearly seven hot dogs per minute, or one every eight-plus seconds.

Sonya Thomas of Alexandria, Va., won the female class last year, downing 36 3/4 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

Those interested in competing in a Nathan’s Famous qualifier should visitwww.nathansfamous.com to obtain information and register. All competitors must be over 18 years of age.

Official Listing of 2014 Nathan’s Famous Qualifiers:

April 26Las Vegas, NV (New York-New York Hotel & Casino)

May 3: Houston, TX (Memorial Mall)

May 17: St. Louis, MO (Busch Stadium)

May 24: Charlotte, NC (Speed Street celebration)

May 31: Bloomingdale, IL (Kmart)

June 1: St. Paul, MN (Dixie’s Stage, 695 Grand Avenue)

June 7: Long Pond, PA (Pocono Raceway)

June 7: Savannah, GA (River Street)

June 15: Queens, NY (Citifield Plaza)

June 21: Boston, MA (Government Center)

June 21: East Rutherford, NJ (State Fair Meadowlands)

June 22: Sonoma, CA (Sonoma Raceway)

June 29: Cleveland, OH (Crocker Park Shopping Center)

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IMSA: Sebring Day 2 of two-day test notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing across several IMSA sanctioned series continued at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday as preparations continue for next month’s events during the weekend of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Below are highlights from Day 2 of testing around the 3.74-mile road course.

Eurosport Racing Continues Work with Mazda Prototype Challenge Chassis

Teams in the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda championship completed their second day of testing on Tuesday. Among them, Eurosport Racing continued their work with the only Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) entries in the field, in the hands of drivers Dr. Tim George (in the No. 24 entry) and Jon Brownson (in the No. 34).

“Right now, I’m driving by myself so we’re trying to make the car comfortable enough to last an hour and 45 minutes with just me in the car,” George said of their preparation efforts. “We’re trying to set up the car where it’s quick, yet it and can last, both the car and for me to make sure we don’t tire out, get fatigued and make mistakes.”

The 1 hour 45 minute window that George referenced represents the race times for the 2018 season, up considerably from last year’s sprint format that featured a pair of 45-minute races across a race weekend.

Though that change represents a drastic shift in driving philosophy, it is one that George welcomes.

“The new rules for the endurance races are great, I enjoy it a lot,” said George. “It gives you a chance to think through things differently with strategy. It also gives you a chance if you blow it…in a sprint race if you make a mistake you don’t get a chance to come back.”

Florida Drivers in Continental Tire Challenge Eager for Hometown Race at Sebring

A strong contingent of drivers from Florida are represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring weekend will see them compete on home soil.

“I grew up in Tallahassee and I live in Orlando now, so Sebring has been my home track since day one,” said Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, which finished 14th at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here and really enjoy the place. It’s a nice, quaint little town not far from Orlando so it’s a quick, easy drive down for me.”

Fellow Floridian Ramin Abdolvahabi, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and driver of the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, revealed that, even though Sebring is only two hours from his hometown, this week’s test was his first time at the track in two years.

“I haven’t been here for two years, so coming back is like coming home,” he said. “It’s a fantastic track and it’s one of the iconic tracks in the world so being at Sebring – a small town, my hometown, welcoming – it’s fantastic. I went on the track a couple of times yesterday and it’s just like wearing an old shoe, it just fits and it’s fantastic. Hopefully, the race will go well and the weather will hold, so anyone who’s out there, come and see us!”

Frank Raso Trades in Airplanes for Porsches at Sebring

Several IMSA drivers boast “day jobs” outside of their racing gigs. Among them, Frank Raso’s work falls outside of ordinary jobs like doctor or lawyer. Rather, Raso flies airplanes for a living.

“I’m an airline pilot for a major airline,” said Raso, who tested the No. 10 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Sebring. “I’ve been flying for almost 30 years, and it’s allowed me, with all my time off and things like that to do this and fall back into racing again. I messed with it a little bit when I was younger, but it was, of course, expensive, so I got away from it for a while. I decided I wanted to get back into it in kind of my last couple of years before I get too old.”

Raso explained that the skills he practices while flying planes are more than transferable to his driving duties in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

“Flying an airliner or flying any airplane, we have checklists, but everything is kind of done in order. It’s almost in a robot fashion type of a thing where you do this, you do this, you do this and you have to make sure you hit all your marks and fly the airplane with precision.

“So, when you get in these Cup cars, with no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, and no driver assist items, you have to make sure you hit your marks, when you’re accelerating, when you’re turning in. You have to be alert. It keeps your wits about you. The car can step out at any time. They’re a very difficult car to drive, but they’re a lot of fun.”
The 54-year-old Raso posted a best finish of fourth, on four separate occasions, in a part-time schedule during the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season as a competitor in the Gold Cup class.
Newcomers Get Taste of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
A number of new drivers got to sample Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars during the two days of testing at Sebring. Among them was amateur racer Scott Welham, who got his first taste of professional racing during the two-day outing at Sebring.
And he had a strong support system backing him up in the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team, the defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions with driver Jake Eidson.
“Here, you’ve got somebody that actually does coaching, data acquisition, track management – these are all separate people – plant manager, owner, a car-setup guy, you’ve got someone that bills you – which isn’t always a good thing, but you know, you just have that huge, huge support group that enables you to focus on driving,” Welham said of the team’s influence on his development over the two days.
IMSA’s next visit to Sebring will be for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.