SRT, Dodge Challenger Coming to Trans-Am with Tommy Kendall

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SRT ® (Street and Racing Technology) Motorsports will make its debut into the Trans Am Series when Miller Racing fields two all-new Dodge Challenger SRTs at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Aug 15-16. Four-time series champion Tommy Kendall makes his re-entrance and first Trans Am start since 2004 in the TA2 series class this weekend.

As SRT Motorsports partners with Miller Racing to enter Trans Am competition for the balance of the 2014 season, Kendall will drive the No. 11 Dodge Challenger SRT while teammate and TA2 points leader Cameron Lawrence will drive the No. 1 Challenger beginning at the Mid-Ohio race, an event Lawrence won in 2013.

The mid-season manufacturer switch by Miller Racing will give the team a more-robust support base. It also brings Kendall back to the series where he won four championships in the 1990s (1990, 1995-1997). The move will also mark Dodge’s debut into the TA2 class of the Trans Am road racing series.

Kendall, who last competed in the Trans Am Series in 2004, is best known for winning championships in Trans Am and IMSA, as well as his victory in the 1995 Rolex 24 At Daytona. The heralded driver also serves as a television analyst for Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports.

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Photo: SRT Motorsports

“I’ve wanted to return to Trans Am competition for the longest time and then I finally kind of accepted that it wasn’t going to happen,” said Kendall. “It’s funny how things work. Being coaxed back into the Viper GTS-R program back in 2012 helped pave the way to my return. Over the last 10–15 years, I’ve committed to only doing things that are fun. Trans Am was a huge part of my professional life and to get to play a small part in keeping up the visibility here is really exciting.”

Kendall has the third most Trans Am victories with 28, while Lawrence has captured 14 wins in 21 series starts since 2012.

As Miller Racing switches manufacturers to Dodge, Lawrence will retain his TA2 class points. The 21-year-old driver currently holds a 35-point margin over second place.

“We definitely want to continue the success we’ve had and we’re really excited to bring Dodge on board,” said Lawrence. “We want to stay on top and keep the season rolling with the momentum we’ve had. It’d be really cool to get some wins for Dodge and SRT Motorsports this season, and although it’s going to be tough adapting halfway through the season, we’re going to do our best to get the Dodge Challenger SRT to victory lane.”

Miller Racing was formed in 2012 and the team captured the 2013 Trans Am TA2 class title when Lawrence won eight of 10 events, including the last seven-consecutive races. The team has captured 18 Trans Am victories in 26 races over three seasons.

In addition to the Trans Am partnership with Miller Racing, SRT Motorsports also fields two Dodge Viper SRT GTS-Rs in the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, and supports a customer racing program with the Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R in the IMSA TUDOR series, Pirelli World Challenge and Supercar Challenge.

The Miller Racing Dodge Challenger SRTs and Kendall will first compete in The 3-Dimensional Services Next Dimension 100 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Friday, Aug. 15. Round seven of the 2014 Trans Am Championship will take place alongside the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Mid-Ohio this weekend. Lawrence will look to defend his 2013 Mid-Ohio victory, which was his fourth of eight victories en route to the 2013 title.

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Tommy Kendall

Tommy Kendall, driver, No. 11 Dodge Challenger SRT, Miller Racing

Are you excited to team with Cameron Lawrence and Mike Miller?

“I’ve been following the series and, needless to say, I’m quite familiar with Cameron (Lawrence). I didn’t realize it was the same Mike Miller that used to run the Roush cars way, way back. I’ve watched Cameron. I always ran the No. 11, so he ran the No. 11 and we became friends on Facebook. I was kind of cheering him on because he’s a hell of a young talent. It’s a little interesting to be coming back with a fair amount of anticipation, but to me he’s the guy to beat. I’m really glad he’s my teammate because I think that will help me get up to speed and remove a lot of the variables to get going again. To have Cameron and Mike Miller’s team is really helpful.” 

How do you feel to be returning to Trans Am in the TA2 class?

“What’s so cool about the TA2 class is that the cars really do look like what they are supposed to be on the street. I’ve just seen the Dodge Challenger SRT body for the first time and it’s beautiful. I’m glad we’re going with a retro paint scheme. They captured the essence of the original car so well and it still really holds up well.”

How do you feel about continuing your relationship with SRT Motorsports?

“In driving the Viper GTS-R it was nice to be part of such a small and energetic group and I thought there was a lot of cool stuff happening with Chrysler Group in general. You have this group of people who felt like underdogs and that alone is powerful, but when it’s a bunch of smart, creative people, it’s that much better. I was excited to be a part of that. Fast forward a few years to now and SRT Motorsports is definitely on a roll. The Viper GTS-R program has gone back to the historic red and white livery and they’re starting to get some wins in IMSA TUDOR Championship and at the same time, the new Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is coming out for the street. It’s cool to be a part of something that has some energy behind it.”

Matheus Leist scores pole for Indy Lights’ Freedom 100

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INDIANAPOLIS – Persistent rain threatened to halted all track activity Thursday for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, before efforts to dry the track came good later on Friday.

But once qualifying occurred, Matheus Leist secured the pole for the marquee race of the Indy Lights season, Friday’s Freedom 100 (live, 12 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The Freedom 100 has a knack for throwing up surprise polesitters – Ethan Ringel and Ken Losch immediately come to mind – and Leist, the Brazilian rookie in his first-ever oval start, now joins that list.

Leist, driver of the No. 26 Carlin Dallara IL-15 Mazda, looked a promising prospect after posting the first official lap over 200 mph in series history, a tow-assisted lap of 201.032 mph (44.7690 seconds), and also the best no-tow speed of 199.354.

He backed up with laps of 199.268 and 199.128, respectively, for a new two-lap record of 199.198 mph. The previous mark was held by Ringel, in the first year of the new car in 2015, at 197.684 mph.

Despite seven other drivers that took their shot to beat him, none did. Colton Herta came the closest with a two-lap average of 198.648 in the No. 98 Andretti/Steinbrenner Racing entry.

Two more of Herta’s Andretti Autosport teammates posted excellent qualifying runs. Dalton Kellett, who was third here last year in what stands as his best Indy Lights finish to date, will roll off from the same position in his teal-and-white No. 28 car, while rookie Ryan Norman will start alongside in the No. 48 Andretti Autosport entry, keeping up his strong weekend.

Zachary Claman De Melo completed the top five in the second of four Carlin entries, while Aaron Telitz upheld Belardi Auto Racing’s honor with sixth on the grid.

While Herta enters Friday’s race third in points, 18 behind the top two, neither Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) nor Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport), had good qualifying runs.

With speeds of 196.058 (Kaiser) and 195.661 (Jamin), they’ll roll off from positions 11 and 13 in the 14-car field.

Here are your qualifying speeds and provisional starting lineup for Friday.

Prior to qualifying, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway crew got the track dry in time for a 20-minute practice, which Leist also led.

As you can see below, drivers spent the rain delay trying to make due of things.

The points standings heading into tomorrow’s race are below:

1. 18-Kyle Kaiser, 139
2. 27-Nico Jamin, 126
3. 98-Colton Herta, 121
4. 22-Neil Alberico, 103
5. 9-Aaron Telitz, 97
6. 26-Matheus Leist, 89
7. 5-Santiago Urrutia, 87
8. 13-Zachary Claman De Melo, 87
9. 51-Shelby Blackstock, 80
10. 31-Nicolas Dapero, 75
11. 48-Ryan Norman, 71
12. 28-Dalton Kellett, 64
13. 2-Juan Piedrahita, 55
14. 11-Garth Rickards, 54

Hinchcliffe will donate brain to study race-related concussions to help safety of sport

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INDIANAPOLIS – James Hinchcliffe is well known throughout the Verizon IndyCar Series for his sense of humor.

He’s the kind of guy that keeps not just his own team loose, but also does the same for other teams and fans.

Even when he’s talking about a serious topic, he can usually be counted on interjecting at least one or two great one-liners.

Hinchcliffe was in his usual form during Thursday’s Indianapolis 500 Media Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But while he joked at times, the underlying message he tried to get across was very serious and very poignant to all forms of motorsports.

Namely, concussions and concussion research.

Hinchcliffe went so far as to say that when he passes away, he’s ready to donate his brain to science so it can be studied, particularly for some of the impacts and resulting concussions he’s endured throughout his racing career.

“Oh yeah, 100 percent, absolutely, it’s a done deal,” Hinchcliffe replied when asked if he’d ever consider donating his brain.

He then added with a whimsy but serious reality, “If it can help, if it can be put to use, I’ve got no need for it at that point. Absolutely, I’d donate it to the cause.”

Hinchcliffe said he’s studied the topic of racing-related concussions in all forms of motorsports, particularly IndyCar and NASCAR.

The Canadian driver, who sat on the pole for last year’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, said he’s thought on occasions about the ramifications of concussions upon race car drivers.

But it was NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s concussion that forced him to sit out the entire second half of last season that greatly increased the attention of a number of drivers across all forms of motorsports.

“Honestly, I think most guys would be in a similar situation,” Hinchcliffe said. “Dale’s (Earnhardt’s) situation, I think that was something that a lot of guys had never been asked.

“But as soon as it was brought up, it was a no-brainer.”

Hinchcliffe then grew embarrassed when he realized his verbal faux pas and apologized, but his message was still on-point.

“It’s a very easy decision for us,” Hinchcliffe said. “If we can do something now, especially with something we don’t need anymore (after dying) and it’s going to help benefit the future safety of our sport, then it’s an easy call.”

Hinchcliffe starts 17th in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda for Sunday’s race, a year after qualifying for the pole position.

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Vice President Mike Pence confirms Indy 500 visit

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INDIANAPOLIS – Vice President Mike Pence, the former Gov. of Indiana, will be “back home again” this weekend for the Indianapolis 500.

The slight difference, of course, is that his main residence is now in Washington, D.C. since the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January.

Pence is a longtime fan and visitor of the race, so while he confirmed he’ll attend on Thursday, it will not be in any official capacity.

“The Vice President is a Hoosier, grew up here, and tweeted some photos. He will be here as a fan. There will be no official role for him at the Indianapolis 500,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles on Thursday.

Rumors percolated on Wednesday he’d be in attendance. On Wednesday, Boles said IMS was in the process of preparing for Pence’s arrival from security and operational protocols.

“We have heard, as have all of you, that there is a possibility the Vice President of United States,” Boles said Wednesday. “We are not in position yet to confirm or deny yet; however I can tell you we are preparing for it. As soon as we know, we hope to know by end of the day tomorrow, we’ll have another one of these briefings.”

Indeed they have on Thursday. The only major change announced was that there will be no pedestrian traffic at Gate 4.

“The Turn 2 suites, just South of those suites is what we call Gate 4. Gate 4 will be closed to pedestrian traffic beginning tomorrow,” Boles said.

Vettel not counting Mercedes out of Monaco F1 pole fight

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Sebastian Vettel is refusing to discount Mercedes from the fight for Formula 1 pole in Monaco this weekend despite the German marque’s quiet showing in Thursday’s practice sessions.

Vettel led Ferrari to the top of the timesheets in FP2 with the fastest-ever lap around the streets of Monaco, finishing almost half a second clear of the field.

Vettel’s F1 title rival Lewis Hamilton struggled through second practice, finishing over a second off the pace in eighth place for Mercedes as the team moved in the wrong direction on car setup.

Nevertheless, Vettel is refusing to discount Hamilton or teammate Valtteri Bottas from the fight for pole, believing Mercedes will find its feet again come Saturday’s qualifying session.

“I am not counting out Mercedes. They probably had a problem today, but I am sure they will be back to full force on Saturday,” Vettel said, as quoted by the official F1 website.

“It is Thursday so there is plenty of time for them to sort things out. My guess is that it will be very close – and that the five-tenths are not the reality.

“We have been able to put it together today and I am happy about that. It was a good start into the weekend. Now let’s let that sink in and see that we keep the tension until Sunday.”

Even with his own strong showing, Vettel is confident that more time can be found, particularly through the long runs that will prove critical in the race.

“The aim is to get faster. If it really works we will see,” Vettel said.

“What I can say right away that the single-lap pace is very promising, and how the long run will work is very difficult to predict, as you always run into traffic.

“My guess is that we still can get better in race trim. We will analyze every single corner and sector to see where we can find valuable time.”