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.”

IndyCar: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Recap

Photo: IndyCar
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After two days, with both featuring a lot of rain, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is finally in the books for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

With Mother Nature intervening with rain and fury over both days, it’s understandable if there’s a sense of relief that the weekend at Barber Motorsports Park is behind us.

Still, as is usually the case, Barber produced plenty of thrills, and a few spills, across the weekend of racing.

A recap of big stories to emerge from the weekend is below.

Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head…

Mother Nature was ever present on Sunday and Monday, dropping a lot of rain on Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: IndyCar

Rain races can be very fun and entertaining…if they’re able to run. Sadly, that just wasn’t the case on Sunday.

The undulating and picturesque Barber Motorsports Park is one of the most striking road courses in the country, and often produces some of the best racing anywhere. But, the nature of the track and its dramatic elevation changes can make it susceptible to standing water in heavy rains.

And that’s the exact scenario that played out on Sunday, with heavy and persistent rain hitting the track late in the morning, and hanging around the entire day.

While INDYCAR officials and Barber track crews worked tirelessly on Sunday to disperse the standing water, the rainfall was simply too heavy for them to make any impact.

While very unfortunate, postponing the finish of the race to Monday was the right decision, as several drivers explained.

“It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us,” said eventual race winner Josef Newgarden following the Sunday postponement. “We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much.”

Graham Rahal echoed Newgarden’s sentiments, also emphasizing poor visibility as a big factor in making the conditions too treacherous.

“It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue (on Sunday), no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in (on Sunday), but that’s life,” he explained.

Rest assured, Firestone makes a strong rain tire, and IndyCar teams, drivers, and track crews are more than equipped to handle a rain shower from Mother Nature. But, Sunday’s weather was simply too extreme.

Newgarden Shines in the Rain and the Sun

Josef Newgarden in Victory Lane at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: IndyCar

About the only thing as powerful as Mother Nature during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.

Last year’s IndyCar champion was quickest at the end of Friday’s practices, scored the pole on Saturday, and led all but nine laps across Sunday and Monday.

And his leads were always decisive. He quickly gapped the field when racing started on Sunday, holding down a gap of as much seven seconds over teammate Will Power in the early laps. And on Monday, he gapped the field by as much as 27 seconds during the second half of the race.

Only outside circumstances could have prevented Newgarden from getting to Victory Lane…and that nearly happened. A late rain shower in the final minutes created split strategies across the field, with Newgarden among those opting for rain tires, while Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais gambled by staying out on slicks.

Hunter-Reay, however, jumped into the pits soon after for rain tires, a move that helped him eventually finish second, while Coyne and Bourdais gambled that the track would not get wet enough to force them to pit.

Alas, with only a few minutes remaining and the rain getting heavier, conditions became too slick and Bourdais was forced to pit, handing the lead back to Newgarden and dropping Bourdais to fifth.

“More hectic than you would want at the end,” Newgarden quipped when asked about conditions at the end of the race. “It seemed like it was pretty straightforward all day. We weren’t having yellows. It was dry. Then that rain made it very nerve-racking.

Newgarden added that pitting for rain tires, and doing so early, was their best option, even though it opened the door for others to jump ahead.

“I think for us we did the only thing we could,” he said of their strategy. “We went to rains as soon as it intensified. We had to. I think it was the right thing to do, just because we’re in the lead, we have the most to lose by not putting on rains early.”

The victory, Newgarden’s second of 2018, moves him back into the championship lead with 158 points, 13 ahead of Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.

Misc.

  • Ryan Hunter-Reay enjoyed a solid weekend following a troublesome day at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver ranked in the Top 10 through practice, qualified a strong fourth, and ran a very clean race to finish second, his best finish of 2018, and he now sits only three points out of third place in the championship – he is currently sixth, with 113 points.
  • While teammate Robert Wickens has made more headlines, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe is having one of the best early-season efforts of his IndyCar career. With finishes of fourth, sixth, ninth, and second to his name through four races, Hinch sits fifth in the standings on 118 points, and is keeping himself well within reach of the championship lead. A race win would do wonders for his championship standing, but the consistent start puts him in a good position heading into the month of May.
  • Conversely, four-time champion Scott Dixon has yet to finish on the podium in 2018 – his best finish is fourth at ISM Raceway. Still, at seventh in the standings with 107 points, Dixon is within striking distance despite the quiet start.
  • Elsewhere, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud have had comparatively disastrous starts to their seasons. Power has hit the wall in three of the first four races, while Pagenaud only has a best finish of ninth, coincidentally at Barber this weekend, through four races. Power sits tenth in the championship on 81 points, while Pagenaud languishes down in 15th on 66.
  • He made not have made many friends out there, but Zachary Claman De Melo gave viewers some thrills after the Monday restart, pushing his way through the field despite being two laps down. It also created one of the highlights of the race, with he and Spencer Pigot going for a slide through Turns 7 and 8 (video below). For his efforts, Claman De Melo recorded the fastest lap of the race on his way to finishing 19th.

The Verizon IndyCar Series now has two weeks before their next race, the INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 11-12. However, the series will be plenty busy, with testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway kicking off next week.

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