IMSA: Monterey Selected Pre-Race Notes & Quotes

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Following are a few pre-race notes and quotes from around the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship paddock heading into the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix:

  • WeatherTech Alex Job Racing is moving on after Sebring, where a penalty was incorrectly assessed by IMSA to the team’s No. 22 Porsche 911 GT America instead of one of the factory 911 RSRs. “After the controversy that happened at Sebring, all I can hope for is that Laguna goes smoothly. We will keep pushing our hardest, just as we always do however, I really hope the officiating has improved because we have too much invested and my crew works too hard for another disaster to happen,” said Cooper MacNeil, who co-drives with Leh Keen.
  • Spirit of Daytona’s No. 90 Corvette DP won the GRAND-AM race at Monterey in 2012 and the pole with Richard Westbrook last year. Despite a great driver lineup of “Westy” and Michael Valiante, luck hasn’t been on the team’s side this year. “This is one of the all-time great tracks and everyone is a little extra motivated when you come out to a place like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. This will be a different animal for us compared to 2012 as we’ve got an entirely new technical package so this is a new notebook for everyone. But hopefully we can unload with a quick car,” said team owner Troy Flis.
  • Wayne Taylor Racing, now with Konica Minolta sponsorship, seeks it second straight Monterey win and first this season. Jordan and Ricky Taylor have a pair of runner-up finishes (Daytona, Long Beach) in the No. 10 Corvette DP this season.
  • It will be a busy weekend for Oakland’s Johannes van Overbeek in his home race in the No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b. “JVO” participated in an annual bike ride on Tuesday of 80 miles from San Jose to Monterey. “It will be a challenging weekend to get a setup because we’re practicing with 50-plus cars in two hours, so we expect a few yellows.  Then we are racing with nearly half that number on Sunday afternoon,” he said of the weekend; he’ll share the Tequila Patron-sponsored car with Ed Brown.
  • Few drivers have as many laps at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as Jonathan Bomarito of SRT Motorsports. The Monterey native, who now lives in San Diego, seeks to provide the No. 93 SRT Viper GTS-R its elusive first win (the sister No. 91 got the team’s first at Road America last year). “I was born and raised in Monterey County and I used to ride my bike from my backyard up to the track as a kid. I’ve always been around it. I taught at the racing school up there for a number of years and it’s definitely my hometown,” he said, and will again co-drive with Kuno Wittmer.
  • MOMO NGT Motorsport won the GTC class at Monterey last year and seek an encore in a 20-plus car field, now with Kuba Giermaziak alongside Henrique Cisneros in the No. 30 Porsche 911 GT America. “There are a lot more variables to deal with this time around. The field is three times larger and we are battling different manufacturers, so you could say the difficulty has increased,” Cisneros said.
  • CORE autosport seeks a PC class three-peat this weekend, having won the opening two rounds of the season. The team has also stood on the podium in each of its three starts in Monterey. PC and GTD will race together on Sunday; Colin Braun explained the challenges that presents: “I’d say the PC class is more affected by it, because we usually have a mix of passing GTD and GTLM cars, but getting passed by Prototypes. It will be interesting to not have to worry about being passed and just focused on getting through forward traffic.”
  • BMW Team RLL has scored three straight Monterey podiums, although is yet to win at the track. “We may not have the best pace for qualifying but we have several things in our favor for this round. The Z4 GTLM is a more developed car than it was last year. Unlike our main competitors, we have lots of setup and race data from last year and should be fast out of the transporter,” said team principal Bobby Rahal.
  • P2 in GT in 2013, Team Falken Tire seeks its first podium finish with its new car this weekend. Said Bryan Sellers, who’ll co-drive the No. 17 Porsche 911 RSR with Wolf Henzler, “We had a great result and a very strong car and tire combination last year here at Laguna Seca. The new Porsche 911 RSR is a definite improvement so we are hoping for the best moving forward. We were able to learn a lot about our performance in Long Beach and have an idea where we need to make progress.”

NHRA: Looking at where things stand at midpoint of Countdown

Top Fuel's Antron Brown has been the most dominant driver in the current NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
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The NHRA is now halfway through its six-race Countdown to the Championship and there have been a number of surprises – both good and bad – thus far.

When the series gets back to racing next weekend at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, those drivers who have dominated their respective categories in the Countdown so far stand a good chance of pulling away.

Not to mention potentially see several drivers start falling by the wayside and be eliminated.

Let’s take a look at each of the four pro classes and analyze the haves and have not’s thus far:


Biggest surprise: Antron Brown. It’s not so much a surprise that Brown is leading the standings, but it’s more so the way he’s doing it. The 2012 Top Fuel champ has been on fire, having won all of the first three Countdown races and a personal-best seven races overall this season. Brown set a NHRA record of 12-0 in final elimination rounds this past Sunday at Reading, Pa. You can’t get much more perfect than that. Brown has been so dominating that only teammate and defending eight-time champ Tony Schumacher is within reach points-wise. The other eight drivers still in contention are between 194 and 274 points behind. At the rate he’s going, Brown could potentially clinch the championship in the second-to-last race at Las Vegas.

You Go Girl: Brittany Force, daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, has been a surprising upstart in the Countdown. While she’s 194 points behind Brown, Force is ranked third heading to Texas. She’s shown significant confidence and moxie in the first three races and if she keeps it up, she could potentially overtake Schumacher at some point for second place.

Different Team, Same Drive: Shawn Langdon lost his ride at the worst possible time, just before the Countdown began, when team owner Alan Johnson suspended operations. But give credit to fellow team owner Don Schumacher, who “borrowed” Langdon from Johnson for the Chase to replace Spencer Massey, who was released just before the Chase. Langdon has done well, but time is running out if he hopes to make one last shot to win yet another championship.


Biggest surprise: Del Worsham won the first two races of the Countdown and appears headed towards becoming only the third driver in NHRA history to win both a Top Fuel and Funny Car championship in his career. Worsham has been absolutely solid this season.

That’s The Fact, Jack: Jack Beckman has enjoyed arguably the best season of his career, a complete turnaround from last year’s draining struggle. Having left John Force at the end of last season, co-crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and John Medlen have reinvigorated both Beckman and his car. Worsham has been strong, but Beckman is only a mere 16 points back in second place. And with his win this past Sunday at Reading, momentum could potentially turn in Beckman’s direction heading to Texas.

The Numbers Game: Kudos to third-ranked Matt Hagan (90 points behind Worsham) and fourth-ranked Tommy Johnson Jr. (-98) for their strong efforts in the Countdown. Ditto for Ron Capps (105 points behind Worsham) and John Force (-150), who are both still within striking distance. However, two drivers have uncharacteristically struggled thus far in the Countdown: Alexis De Joria (ranked ninth, 207 points back) and Robert Hight (10th, 221 points back). Unless they right their respective ships, they run the risk of being eliminated at Las Vegas.


Biggest Surprise: Chris McGaha (third, 104 points behind series leader Erica Enders) and rookie Drew Skillman (sixth, -173) have definitely opened eyes this season, with each earning wins thus far in the Countdown. Also enjoying a strong run in the Countdown and a welcome resurgence overall this season is veteran racer Larry Morgan (fourth, 145 points back). Enders could potentially have her hands full in the final three races to keep these three hungry drivers at bay.

You Go Girl: Defending champ Enders has looked cool, calm and collected – just like she did en route to becoming the first female Pro Stock champ last season. With a 72-point lead over former champ Greg Anderson, Enders has become one of the best drivers when it comes to reaction times at the starting line, having won close to a dozen or more rounds just because she got the jump on her opponent at the so-called “Christmas tree.”


Biggest surprise: It would be hard to find two riders who have not been more surprising than Hector Arana Jr. (ranked third, 101 points back) and Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie (fourth, 119 points back). Arana is one of the most promising young riders on the circuit, while Savoie – after a 30-year layoff from racing – is proving that 53 (years old) is the new 23.

Back in the saddle again: Andrew Hines is gunning for his fifth bike championship, and second straight, and has done what he’s needed to do thus far in the Countdown. While Arana and second-ranked Eddie Krawiec (-89) are proving to be formidable foes, Hines appears to be ready to start pulling further away for the title.

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NHRA: New book a celebration of life, love and drag racing

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The overpowering smell from nitromethane that powers Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars in the National Hot Rod Association oftentimes brings fans to tears after getting a whiff of the stuff.

Now there’s a new inspirational book that will also bring tears to the eyes of die-hard drag racing fans.

Veteran crew chief Jim Oberhofer has released “Top Fuel For Life, Life Lessons From A Crew Chief,” a touching homage to both his late wife and persevering and overcoming adversity in the highly competitive world of NHRA drag racing.

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Oberhofer wears a number of hats as vice president of one of the sport’s most veteran and successful teams, Kalitta Motorsports, including serving as crew chief for Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta’s dragster.

Oberhofer relates a number of stories about overcoming adversity in the book, but none more touching than how he watched his beloved wife “Tammy O” lose a long and painful battle to stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.

While Oberhofer has spent his life using wrenches and tools working on 10,000-horsepower engines, his new book shows that he is also a very gifted writer.

Known in the sport as “Jim O,” Oberhofer describes the fight his wife went through in gritty and descriptive prose, but with a foundation built upon what the love of his life meant to him – and continues to mean to him more than two years since she passed away.

“When you take a long hard look at your life, I guarantee you that being a winner has little to do with crossing the finish line,” Oberhofer said. “After many mistakes and a whole lot of heartache, I learned that happiness comes from a deeper, simpler place. That’s the big win.”

“Top Fuel For Life” is available on Amazon for $19.95.

Follow @JerryBonkowski