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Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire

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After a wet and wild ride at Daytona, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series are heading for New England this weekend with a stop at the one-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The low-banked, sweeping corners of the “Magic Mile” makes passing relatively difficult; as such, the matter of gaining and keeping track position is critical to success here. Expect to keep track of varying pit/fuel strategies among the teams, especially late in the running.

Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 could also give us a bit of a glimpse into the Chase this fall, as New Hampshire hosts the second race of NASCAR’s 10-race playoff.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know for Round 19 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…

NEW HAMPSHIRE-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota)
· Two wins, four top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.1
· Average Running Position of 12.4, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.0, sixth-best
· 233 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.704 mph, sixth-fastest
· 3,352 Laps in the Top 15 (70.3%), 12th-most
· 452 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 11th-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Three wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 15.3
· Average Running Position of 13.7, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.4, 12th-best
· 187 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 920 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.559 mph, 10th-fastest
· 3,380 Laps in the Top 15 (62.9%), 11th-most
· 516 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota)
· One win, six top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.1
· Average Running Position of 14.0, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 93.1, seventh-best
· 206 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.532 mph, 12th-fastest
· 3,465 Laps in the Top 15 (64.5%), eighth-most
· 480 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· Seven top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 15.7
· Average Running Position of 11.7, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.3, fifth-best
· 236 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 1,002 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.860 mph, fourth-fastest
· 3,976 Laps in the Top 15 (74.0%), fourth-most
· 568 Quality Passes, third-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 16 top fives, 22 top 10s; four poles
· Average finish of 10.6
· Series-best Average Running Position of 7.4
· Driver Rating of 109.2, second-best
· Series-high 433 Fastest Laps Run
· 893 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 125.062 mph
· Series-high 4,804 Laps in the Top 15 (89.5%)
· Series-high 618 Quality Passes

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota)
· Two wins, seven top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 9.0
· Average Running Position of 10.8, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 102.9, fourth-best
· 284 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.821 mph, fifth-fastest
· 3,547 Laps in the Top 15 (74.4%), seventh-most
· 526 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· One win, five top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.7
· Average Running Position of 13.0, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.1, 11th-best
· 156 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· 904 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.568 mph, ninth-fastest
· 3,430 Laps in the Top 15 (63.9%), ninth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Three wins, nine top fives, 17 top 10s
· Average finish of 9.2
· Average Running Position of 9.7, third-best
· Driver Rating of 105.8, third-best
· 430 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 938 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.866 mph, third-fastest
· 4,453 Laps in the Top 15 (82.9%), second-most
· 602 Quality Passes, second-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips / Shark Week Chevrolet)
· One win, three top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 17.0
· Driver Rating of 92.4, 10th-best
· 331 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· 948 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.697 mph, seventh-fastest
· 3,411 Laps in the Top 15 (63.5%), 10th-most
· 487 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· Three wins, six top fives, 15 top 10s; seven poles
· Average finish of 14.0
· Average Running Position of 13.0, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.5, ninth-best
· 158 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.537 mph, 11th-fastest
· 3,935 Laps in the Top 15 (73.3%), fifth-most
· 456 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 14 top fives, 17 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.9
· Average Running Position of 9.1, second-best
· Series-best Driver Rating of 111.0
· 408 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.972 mph, second-fastest
· 4,182 Laps in the Top 15 (82.5%), third-most
· 535 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Chase Grid (After 18 of 26 regular season races)
1. Jimmie Johnson, 3 wins, 596 points
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2 wins, 624 points
3. Brad Keselowski, 2 wins, 586 points
4. Joey Logano, 2 wins, 546 points
5. Carl Edwards, 2 wins, 543 points
6. Kevin Harvick, 2 wins, 514 points
7. Jeff Gordon, 1 win, 651 points (Points Leader)
8. Kyle Busch, 1 win, 524 points
9. Denny Hamlin, 1 win, 493 points
10. Aric Almirola, 1 win, 452 points
11. Kurt Busch, 1 win, 422 points
12. Matt Kenseth, no wins, 580 points
13. Ryan Newman, no wins, 534 points
14. Paul Menard, no wins, 516 points
15. Clint Bowyer, no wins, 509 points
16. Austin Dillon, no wins, 494 points

17. Greg Biffle, no wins, 490 points
18. Brian Vickers, no wins, 484 points
19. Kyle Larson, no wins, 482 points
20. Kasey Kahne, no wins, 482 points

source:

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Track Data
Season Race #: 19 of 36 (07-13-14)
Track Size: 1.058-mile
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 2 to 7 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 2 to 7 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 1 degree
Banking/Backstretch: 1 degree
Frontstretch Length: 1,500 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,500 feet
Race Length: 301 laps / 318.46 miles

Top 10 Driver Rating at New Hampshire
Tony Stewart……………………….. 111.0
Jeff Gordon………………………… 109.2
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 105.8
Denny Hamlin………………………. 102.9
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 97.3
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 95.0
Kyle Busch…………………………… 93.1
Ryan Newman……………………….. 92.5
Kasey Kahne………………………… 92.4
Kevin Harvick………………………… 91.1
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Brad Keselowski, Ford, 135.922 mph, 28.022 secs., 07-12-13
2013 race winner: Bryan Vickers, Toyota, 98.735 mph, (03:14:10), 07-14-13
Track qualifying record: Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 136.497 mph, 27.904 secs., 09-20-13
Track race record: Jeff Burton, Ford, 117.134 mph, (02:42:35), 07-13-97

New Hampshire Motor Speedway History
· Groundbreaking for New Hampshire International Speedway, as New Hampshire Motor Speedway was originally named, was Aug. 13, 1989.
· The 1.058-mile oval is located on approximately 1,200 acres; the multi-use complex is the largest sports facility in New England.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was on July 11, 1993 – won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace.
· Speedway Motorsports, Inc. agreed to purchase New Hampshire International Speedway from Bob and Gary Bahre on January 11, 2008 and then renamed the track New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Notebook
· There have been 38 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway; one per year from 1993 through 1996 and two per year since.
· 150 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway; 122 in more than one.
· Four drivers have competed in all 38 races at New Hampshire: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Joe Nemechek.
· Mark Martin won the inaugural Coors Light pole at New Hampshire in 1993 with a speed of 126.871 mph.
· 18 drivers have Coors Light poles at New Hampshire, led by Ryan Newman with seven.
· Five drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at New Hampshire: Ken Schrader (1997 sweep); Jeff Gordon (1998-1999); Rusty Wallace (1999-2000); Ryan Newman (twice – 2003-2004 and 2011 sweep); Juan Pablo Montoya (2009-2010).
· Youngest New Hampshire Coors Light pole winner: Brian Vickers (07/17/2005 – 21 years, 8 months, 23 days).
· Oldest New Hampshire Coors Light pole winner: Bill Elliott (07/21/2002 – 46 years, 9 months, 13 days).
· 23 different drivers have won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, led by Jeff Burton with four.
· Two drivers have posted consecutive wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Jimmie Johnson (2003 sweep) and Kurt Busch (2004 sweep).
· Youngest New Hampshire winner: Joey Logano (06/28/2009 – 19 years, 1 month, 4 days).
· Oldest New Hampshire winner: Mark Martin (09/20/2009 – 50 years, 8 months, 11 days).
· Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at New Hampshire in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with nine; followed by Roush Fenway Racing with seven.
· Five different manufacturers have won at New Hampshire; led by Chevrolet with 18 victories; followed by Ford with 11 and Toyota with four.
· Jeff Burton is the only driver to win the July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway three consecutive years in a row (1997, ’98 and ’99)
· Five of the 38 (13.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at New Hampshire have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Ryan Newman in 2011.
· The Coors Light pole is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (five) than any other starting position at New Hampshire.
· Eight of the 38 (21%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at New Hampshire have been won from the front row: eight from the pole and seven from second-place.
· 20 of the 38 (52.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Nine of the 38 (23.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at New Hampshire have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at New Hampshire was 38th, by Jeff Burton in 1999.
· Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are tied for the series lead in runner-up finishes at New Hampshire with five each.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-five finishes at New Hampshire with 16; followed by Tony Stewart with 14.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-10 finishes at New Hampshire with 22; followed by Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson with 17 each.
· Ryan Newman leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at New Hampshire with an 8.042.
· Denny Hamlin leads NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at New Hampshire with an 9.000.
· All 15 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners at New Hampshire Motor Speedway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Ryan Newman and Joey Logano won at New Hampshire in their second appearance.
· Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at New Hampshire without a win at 29.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the July 1, 2007 race won by Denny Hamlin over Jeff Gordon with a MOV of 0.068 second.
· 16 of the 30 NSCS races scored by electronic scoring at New Hampshire Motor Speedway have had a Margin of Victory less than a second.
· Two of the 38 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races have resulted with a green-white-checkered finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): 2006 (300/308) and 2013 (301/302).
· Four of the 38 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was June 28, 2009 – the race was called on Lap 273, 28 circuits shy of the 301 scheduled laps.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway four times: 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2009.
· Two active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have made their first career start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Joe Nemechek (7/11/93), and Joey Logano (9/14/08).
· Brad Keselowski (9/19/10) is the only active driver to post his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
· Four active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Joe Nemechek (9/19/99), Ryan Newman (9/15/02), Clint Bowyer (9/16/07) and Joey Logano (6/28/09).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at New Hampshire with 1,352 laps led in 38 starts.
· Danica Patrick is the only female driver that has competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

source:

NASCAR in New Hampshire
· There have been 38 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in New Hampshire, all at NHMS. Additionally, NHMS has hosted 27 Nationwide and 16 Truck Series races.
· 15 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as New Hampshire; Jamie Aube is the only one of the 15 to record a victory in NASCAR national series competition. Aube won July 12, 1987 at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, ME; it was his only start that season.

Column: Commending the NHRA for the clean house it keeps

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Sometimes, the most obvious things are the easiest to overlook.

I was speaking with a fellow reporter the other day and the conversation turned to how NHRA has had so few scandals compared to other sports over the last 25 years or so.

While other professional sports leagues have had more than their share of drug use, gun use, DUI’s, domestic violence and more, the NHRA – for the most part – has been relatively free of such sordid activities within its four major professional classes: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Granted, everyone is not a choirboy or choirgirl in the NHRA. There have been a few instances over the years that a rumor may have raised eyebrows, but for the most part, the teams and the sanctioning body have made sure that if there is a problem, they’ll police themselves and make sure the problem is corrected quickly.

The biggest scandal that the NHRA has faced in the last quarter-century came early in the 1990s when three-time Pro Stock champion Darrell Alderman pled guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine.

The NHRA suspended Alderman for his off-track actions for nearly two seasons, but he eventually returned to competition after paying his debt to society on the federal level as well as to NHRA. He even won a third Pro Stock championship (1994) after returning to the sport’s good graces.

He’d go on to race for another decade before retiring from the sport.

“The NHRA made a very strong statement,” Alderman said in a January 3, 1992 statement after his suspension was first announced. “What I did was wrong and this is the penalty I have to pay.”

Alderman is a classic success story of someone who did wrong, admitted he was wrong and then did everything in his power to turn his life around – and he did.

nhra logo

Since then, there have been no similar occurrences of significant wrongdoing within the NHRA and on as large of a scale as Alderman’s actions.

Sure, there have been occasional rumors at times, but few have been substantiated. That means either that the NHRA has kept a tight lid on indiscretions, or more likely, keeps a pretty darn clean house – certainly a much cleaner house than many other pro sports.

That’s why we don’t see or hear about some of the sport’s biggest stars — like John Force, Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown, Ron Capps and so many others — ever getting into trouble with either the law or the sanctioning body.

Admittedly, there was one case as recently as last season when a pro driver suddenly up and disappeared from his ride with a major team in the heat of the late summer part of the season.

Fans and media were told that driver was simply released from his contract, but the real reason – the abundance of allegations and rumors notwithstanding – was never officially revealed. There’s no need to rehash that now, as the driver has since returned part-time to racing in 2016, but in a different competition category.

But other than that, NHRA has had a very clean slate over the last 25 years – and that says a great deal about the sanctioning body’s integrity, ideology and how it watches out over its flock of drivers, crew chiefs, team owners and crewmembers.

It’s because of that clean housekeeping that we also rarely hear about cars failing to pass pre- or post-race inspection or see drivers or crew chiefs suspended for cheating.

A large part of why NHRA can be congratulated has to do with its family-friendly atmosphere. Perhaps more so than any other sport, the NHRA fosters an environment that sees families – including two, three and even four generations – not only being part of the sport, they also likely become and stay closer because of the sport, as well.

Think of how popular the NHRA’s Junior Dragster program has grown over the last 20 years. Several of today’s big stars, including Erica Enders and Leah Pritchett, started out in Junior Dragster racing with their families. They’re just a few of the many examples of today’s young drivers who got their start – with their families right beside them in the pits – in Junior Dragster competition.

As I said earlier, few major sports have the kind of clean track record that NHRA — and IndyCar, as well, I might add — have.

And while NASCAR runs a clean house for the most part, there have been a number of instances in the last decade of drivers, crew members and the like being suspended or penalized for indiscretions such as drug use or DUI’s.

Still, on a whole, motorsports – with NHRA at the forefront – has been a shining example that other pro sports leagues could learn a great deal from.

After all, from both my perspective as a reporter who has covered drag racing for over 30 years and you as a longtime fan of the sport, admit it: Wouldn’t you rather read about who won a race or set a national record then who was caught using drugs or got arrested for DUI or hitting their wife or girlfriend (or husband or boyfriend)?

I mean, the NHRA keeps such a clean house – and that we’ve become so used to it that we rarely think about it – until it comes up on rare occasion much like in the conversation I had with my friend last week.

Then again, maybe it has something to do with one of the key logistics of the sport: it’s a heck of a lot easier to stay on the straight-and-narrow both on a drag strip and in life.

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Chime confirms Zak Brown to step down as CEO at year’s end

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Brown (right) with United Autosports team. Photo: United Autosports
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This is big in the business of racing department, with news Zak Brown will step down as Group CEO of CSM Sport & Entertainment at year’s end.

CSM acquired Brown’s Just Marketing International, or JMI, in 2013 as part of its expanding portfolio. Brown’s JMI company has long been a company that’s brought a number of high-profile companies into motorsports as sponsors, often in F1 and/or NASCAR.

Brown’s United Autosports team has also had success on the track, and just yesterday won the LMP3 title in the European Le Mans Series with a Ligier JS P3 Nissan. Team co-owner and managing director Richard Dean is also exploring a potential American expansion for the team in 2017 as LMP3 comes Stateside in IMSA’s renamed Prototype Challenge series, the former Mazda Prototype Lites.

Given the fluid development in terms of F1’s ownership structure with Liberty Media set to buy into the sport, Brown’s personal future is always a talking point because he’s been mentioned in the past as a potential successor to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Anyway, watch this space following this news.

Here’s the formal release from Chime:

It has been announced today that Zak Brown intends to step down as Group CEO, CSM Sport & Entertainment, at the end of the year. Chris Satterthwaite, CEO of Chime Communications, will join the CSM leadership team through to the end of the year.

During his term as CEO, Zak oversaw greater integration of the CSM group of agencies, positioning the business to take advantage of its international footprint and market-leading expertise.

Zak founded JMI, the world’s largest motorsport marketing agency, in 1995, which was acquired by CSM, the sport and entertainment division of Chime Communications, in 2013.

Zak commented: “I feel privileged to have been part of an extraordinary team during my tenure. I’m satisfied that we have achieved what I set out to do, from the successful integration of JMI into CSM through to preparing a strong business for a successful future.” He continued: “I would like to thank both Chris Satterthwaite and CSM Chairman Lord Coe for their invaluable support and commitment, without which these accomplishments and many more would not have been possible. I will take this experience forward to my next chapter in the arena I know best, motorsport.”

Chris Satterthwaite, CEO, Chime Communications commented: “I would like to thank Zak for his formidable focus, inspired and passionate leadership of CSM which has been instrumental in galvanising and preparing the business for the future. We wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Zak has agreed to continue his involvement with CSM as Chairman of the Global Advisory Board and Non-Executive Chairman of its motorsport arm, JMI.

Typically busy year for Mazda racing rolls into final stretch of 2016

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Doonan and Jonathan Bomarito. Photo courtesy of IMSA
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There’s been a lot of good points of pride for Mazda in its 2016 season across its usual wide range and spectrum of motorsports.

The last month or so has featured that spectrum in motion, whether in open-wheel, in sports cars, with the new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Invitational at its “spiritual home” of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, or in club racing as was witnessed this weekend at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs.

It’s probably easiest to break it down with John Doonan, director of motorsports, Mazda North American Operations, as the month of September draws to a close and October beckons.

Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires done for 2016

Fuller breakouts on each of the three Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires series – Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 – will follow in the coming days on MotorSportsTalk.

Jones (11) and Stoneman (27) are two of the six Indy Lights title contenders. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Jones (11) and Stoneman (27) fought for Indy Lights title. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Admittedly there were some challenges peppered throughout the campaign. A number of niggling mechanical woes popped up to various competitors at various times in Indy Lights; the Pro Mazda car count was low as that series prepares for its car transition while USF2000 staged a typically hard fought battle at the front of the field in the final year of running for the venerable Van Diemen chassis with the tried-and-true Elite-built Mazda engine in the back, before the new Tatuus USF-17 chassis comes online in 2017.

Three solid champions were crowned in the form of Ed Jones (Indy Lights), Aaron Telitz (Pro Mazda) and Anthony Martin  (USF2000) and the three take home a combined more than $2 million in the form Mazda Advancement scholarship support.

“Each one takes on its own personality,” Doonan told NBC Sports. “Clearly, we saw some challenges in Pro Mazda just based on field size. The competition was outstanding, certainly in the top seven, eight cars. We tried to address those things. With the announcement in July of added incentives for the 2017 prize package, we’re hoping to see an increased car count throughout the season.

“For me, that all the championships came down to literally the last race – not the last race weekend, but the last race – what more could you ask for to give all these drivers the opportunities to test their skills and compete, but be under pressure.

“This particular program gives drivers the chance to work and hone their public relations skills, their fitness, their engineering relationship with their team and engineers, and obviously some big events with big crowds. The added pressure is what this is all about, for these races to come down literally to the last race itself and in some cases, the last lap, is pretty incredible. We’re thrilled to be part of this. We can’t wait for the new USF-17. We can’t wait to see what the competition is like in Pro Mazda and see what Pro Mazda drivers from this year jump up to Indy Lights.”

The Mazda Road to Indy will also stage the annual Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course from Oct. 7-9, which provides a first glimpse at who could be driving where in 2017.

Sports cars – Going for one IMSA title and in search of elusive first win

Dwyer is one of Mazda's key drivers in CTSC. Photo courtesy of IMSA
Dwyer is one of Mazda’s key drivers, and Freedom Autosport one of its key teams, in CTSC. Photo courtesy of IMSA

The tried-and-true Mazda MX-5 looks poised to capture its second straight Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge championship if Stevan McAleer and Chad McCumbee can bring home the bacon for a second different team in ST. They won last year for CJ Wilson Racing and now look to deliver for Freedom Autosport; they’re up by eight points on second place and 10 on third going into the Road Atlanta this week.

How they’re even in this position is remarkable itself given at Circuit of The Americas a couple weeks ago, fourth gear and ABS failed on the team’s No. 25 car, before teamwork came in the form of support from the team’s sister car driven by U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer (pictured right) and Andrew Carbonell.

“I was trying to roll as much entry speed as I could, more than anyone would normally use,” said McAleer. “I knew I had Andrew to push me out of the corners.”

“I was there to push him to get him up to speed,” said Carbonell. But it wasn’t easy. “It was a fine, fine balance. I also had to keep my car cool. As hot as it was at COTA, we were seeing some extreme temperatures. I was doing everything I could to manage his time loss, our engine heating and the championship points. It would have been bad to have his car lose a gearbox and my car blows a motor!”

You can read the full story here.

MazdaPrototype70On the team’s Prototype side of the program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the most promise shown in three years has failed to produce that elusive first win, with particularly strong chances lost at Mazda Raceway, Watkins Glen, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Road America. The No. 55 car of Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez has three poles and one podium; the No. 70 car of Joel Miller and Tom Long has a best finish of fourth on three occasions. A win would be a nice way to finish off the potential the car, and team, have shown all year.

MazdaPrototype55The team celebrated its 25th anniversary of its 1991 overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, the first and thus far only Japanese manufacturer to do so (Toyota came tantalizingly close this year to matching that, but Mazda offered nothing but support for them and commiserations thereafter).

The Mazda Prototype Lites presented by Cooper Tires will crown its champion at Road Atlanta next week in the form of one of two JDC Motorsports drivers, Austin Versteeg or Clark Toppe.

There’s also titles to be won in the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car classes; those titles will be decided at, you guessed it, Mazda Raceway the weekend of Oct. 7-9.

Photo: Mazda
The first race for new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car back in May, prior to global invitational. Photo: Mazda

Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Invitational debuts to great acclaim

Part of the “Soul Red Finale” weekend at Mazda Raceway two weeks ago was the debut of the inaugural Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Invitational, which brought a mix of U.S. drivers from the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires and international aces from around the world in the new Global MX-5 Cup car, which debuted this year.

Three U.S. drivers ended 1-2-3 with Sick Sideways Racing and MX-5 Cup points leader Nathanial Sparks taking the global championship over teammate John Dean II with Robby Foley in third. Moritz Kranz and Yuui Tsutsumi were the two highest finishing international drivers in fourth and fifth. Foley won the first race under yellow while Sparks took the second.

This was the pinnacle in a huge debut year for the new Global MX-5 Cup car, with over 100 of the new car ordered in the U.S., announced back in June.

Doonan said of the new car’s success and the inaugural MX-5 weekend, “Yeah, it’s amazing. Fifty cars was what we thought was legitimate, with a $53,000 cost and 50 cars was kind of the target we thought we’d sell. But as of (Monday, Sept. 12), it’s been 116 cars in less than 12 months.

“So, we’re really excited about that and based upon the Global Invitational, a lot of regions around the world are starting to take notice of that and we’re hoping they can establish a series like we’ve had here in the States for the last 10-15 years, and eventually get to a place where there’s a Mazda MX-5 Cup running globally in all these different countries and we do come together for a true global finale. This weekend was an exercise to show all our colleagues around the world that this is what it’d be like when we get a real finale together.”

Club racing success in SCCA and NASA

There were five Mazda-powered SCCA National Runoffs Champions this year:

  • Matt Reynolds, Boerne, Texas – E Production Mazda MX-5 Miata
  • Justin Hille, Ypsilanti, Michigan – Spec Miata
  • Matthew Machiko, Wexford, Pennsylvania – Formula Mazda
  • Ryan Norman, Aurora, Ohio, Formula Atlantic Swift 016a Mazda
  • Stacy Wilson, Englewood, Tennessee – GT3 Mazda RX-7

And also five Mazda-powered NASA Eastern States Champions:

  • Tyler Kicera, Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania – Spec Miata
  • Matt Rivard, Kansas City, Missouri – NP01 Mazda MZR
  • Dillon Dexter, Central City, Nebraska – PTD Mazda MX-5 Miata
  • Warren Dexter, Central City, Nebraska – PTE Mazda MX-5 Miata
  • Mark Burt, Deland, Florida – ST3 Mazda RX-7

One of Mazda’s major lines of note is that more Mazdas are road raced anywhere on a given weekend than any other brand and the success for those drivers, among others, is proof of that.

Doonan said, “Thanks to all of our Mazda Motorsports family members who competed at Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen and congratulations to our latest class of Mazda-powered club racing champions. I can’t wait to see if one of these champions moves on in winning the Mazda Road to 24 or Mazda Road to Indy Shootout.”

On the whole: Doing a lot with a small family

I’m not entirely sure there’s only one John Doonan given the breadth and reach of involvement Mazda Motorsports has throughout the country. But pinning what I think is the lone Doonan down makes it apparent that it is about the team he has in play, to be able to pull all of this off.

“It’s not easy. We do have a very small staff,” Doonan admitted. “I think the critical element in all this is to stay the course of the strategy, but also to continuously improve. We’re constantly meeting and talking about what we can do better and what the industry is doing and what we need to be doing.

“But I think it’s staying laser-focused on what our goals are, and that is a solid foundation of grassroots racing, a driver development program both on the open-wheel side both with the Mazda Road To Indy and the closed-wheel side with Mazda Road to 24, with the pinnacle peak of the pyramid being our top global sports car program.

“And as a sports car program, that’s where the heart of our entire brand is. And to have drivers who have come through the Mazda Road to Indy or the Mazda Road to 24 are the foundational drivers of that program, or bringing Spencer (Pigot) in for endurance races. I’m pretty certain in that room tonight here at the banquet that there’s another endurance driver, as well.

“I’m really proud of where we are – and looking for a nap in the off-season for both myself and my staff.”

2016 SCCA Runoffs National Champions crowned at Mid-Ohio

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Shadowen won GTL. Photo: SCCA
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This weekend marked one of the highlights – if not the outright highlight – of the club racing season as the SCCA National Championship Runoffs took place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The Runoffs were held at Mid-Ohio for quite a while before moving to Road America and then in the last two years, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Daytona International Speedway. Next year, they go to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Here are this year’s National Champions:

FRIDAY

  • Formula Enterprises: Scott Rettich
  • American Sedan: Andy McDermid
  • Prototype 1: Jim Devenport
  • Touring 2: Kurt Rezzetano
  • Formula Vee: Michael Varacins
  • E Production: Matt Reynolds
  • Formula 500: Steven Thompson
  • STU: Joe Moser
  • GT-2: Trent Hindman
  • Touring 4: Oscar Jackson

SATURDAY

  • Touring 3: Derek Kulach
  • SRF: Todd Harris
  • Formula Mazda: Matthew Machiko
  • Spec Miata: Justin Hille
  • STL: Kevin Boehm
  • GT-Lite: Peter Shadowen
  • Formula 1000: Kevin Roggenbuck
  • H Production: Brian Linn
  • B-Spec: David Daughtery

SUNDAY

  • Formula Atlantic: Ryan Norman
  • GT-3: Stacy Wilson
  • Formula Continental: John LaRue
  • F Production: John Walker
  • Formula F: Neil Verhagen (15 years, 242 days old – youngest National Champ in history)
  • SRF Gen3: Cliff White
  • Touring 1: Ross Murray
  • Prototype 2: Jeff Shafer
  • GT-1: Cliff Ebben