All photos courtesy BorgWarner

Honda welcomes Sato, Borg-Warner Trophy and more on ‘Thanks Day’

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We mentioned last week how the Borg-Warner Trophy was set to embark on its first ever trip outside the U.S., en route to Japan for a couple weeks.

A highlight event for the trophy, for 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil race winner Takuma Sato and more than two dozen other Honda drivers was Honda Racing’s THANKS DAY – held this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan.

With more than 20,000 fans in attendance ranging from babies to more senior fans, questions, pictures and memories flowed throughout the day to catch their glimpse of the trophy and Sato in his home country.

Fans admire the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Beyond the event and reveal of the trophy, Sato also ran some demonstration laps on the Twin Ring Motegi oval in his No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda that he won the ‘500 with for Andretti Autosport. The laps were the first turned on the oval since the Fukushima earthquake in 2011; the last Verizon IndyCar Series race held in Japan was at Motegi’s road course, a one-time only event held in 2011. The last oval race ran in 2010.

“Today has been amazing, one of the most special days of my life. I want to thanks Honda and BorgWarner for all they have done to make today great,” Sato said.

“Honda Racing THANKS DAY is about the fans and all their passion and loyalty. It was historic for the Borg-Warner Trophy to leave the United States for the very first time ever and come to Japan, it makes us all proud!

Young fans admire the Borg-Warner Trophy.

“I have been very fortunate to spend so many years with Honda and to win the Indianapolis 500 with them has been a dream. I love the Indianapolis 500 and the Borg-Warner Trophy and to share my win and the trophy here in Japan has been something I will never forget!

“I have had a big smile all day through all the events. Running laps in my Indy winning car today in front of all the happy fans was a thrill. I loved the cheers and appreciate their support. I am a happy smiling man like the man on the Borg-Warner Trophy.”

Past McLaren Honda F1 driver Jenson Button, who announced his return to Super GT at the weekend, and Repsol Honda MotoGP riders Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez were thrilled to see the trophy and Sato during the day as well. Former Honda chief Mr. Michihiro Asaka was there to witness the trophy and car. All of them chimed in on the day, as well.

Button admires the Borg-Warner Trophy.

“That is one amazing trophy!  There are so many of my friend’s faces on it and so many Formula 1 drivers who won at Indy too.  Neat to see Dario (Franchitti) and his three silver faces and look at Takuma, what a proud smile!” Button said of the trophy, and his friends.

Marquez and Pedrosa.

The Repsol Honda riders had the chance to race at Indianapolis, but hadn’t really understood the measure of the trophy until seeing it up close.

“That is one big trophy. So cool. That would be worth winning. I like the history it represents at a great track, Indianapolis. It is nice to see Takuma with all the other winners!” said Marquez.

Pedrosa added, “Wow, I like that trophy, I wish I won that for winning my races racing at Indianapolis. That is a great trophy representing racing in the United States.”

Mr. Asaka, who was instrumental in bringing Honda into IndyCar in 1994, said this was a truly special day for the company given its racing heritage and the success being able to come home.

“We were so happy getting the first Honda driver’s face on the Borg-Warner Trophy,” he said. “There are now so many great Honda drivers represented over the years. I am very proud of our success in racing and at Indianapolis. It was not always easy but we worked very hard to reach our goals. We are very honored the trophy came to Japan. It is historic and all the fans and media can’t believe they get to see it with their own eyes today. I have seen it many times at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but I never, never thought I’d see it in Japan and at Twin Ring Motegi. This is a special, special day for all of us to share and remember.”

Sato, the Borg-Warner Trophy, and BorgWarner’s Scott Gallett.

Scott Gallett, Vice President of Market, BorgWarner Inc., put into perspective the day’s proceedings.

“It was my first time at the Honda Racing THANKS DAY. To see all the Honda Motor Sports drivers, cars, motorcycles and fans in one place at the same time makes it truly unique.

“Everywhere the Borg-Warner Trophy goes it attracts attention. The fans at the event brought this to a new higher level. They gathered to see the trophy in person non-stop all day long taking pictures and just staying to be in the presence of the iconic trophy on it’s first trip to Japan.

“Takuma Sato thanked BorgWarner and Honda repeatedly throughout the day and we could see the true joy on his face. BorgWarner was proud to help make the day more special for Takuma Sato and Honda. It was a very historical event.”

Gathering of stars at Honda Racing THANKS DAY.

Social media (more than just Sato and IndyCar) 

 

NHRA shocker in Houston: John Force fails to qualify for first time since 2008, snaps 221-race streak

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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Sunday’s eliminations in the 31st annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston  just won’t be the same without John Force.

In one of the most stunning turn of events seen in the last decade-plus in NHRA drag racing, the legendary 16-time Funny Car champion and the sport’s all-time winningest driver on Saturday failed to qualify for Sunday’s main event of the race weekend.

It marks the first time Force, who turns 69 on May 4, failed to qualify for a race since Sept. 13, 2008 in Charlotte race, snapping a string of having made the eliminations in each of the subsequent 221 races until failing to do so Saturday.

“That is hard for me,” Force said after failing to go any faster than 222.29 mph in the four qualifying rounds for the race, two on Friday and the other two on Saturday. “You earn what you get. We didn’t put it in the show. We couldn’t get to half-track.

“We have had a lot of problems all year. At least I got my final shot to get in and I didn’t make it. I will be here tomorrow rooting on Robert, Courtney and Brittany (teammates Robert Hight and daughters Courtney and Brittany Force). I’ll be signing autographs for all the fans. I am sorry to all of you fans that I didn’t make it.”

Saturday’s failure to qualify marked only the 22nd time he’s DNQ’d in his 40-year professional drag racing career. He set a drag racing record by qualifying for 395 consecutive events from 1988 until April 2007.

“I am bummed that the boss didn’t get in. That was quite a streak he had going,” Hight said of hoss and father-in-law. “There is nobody better at rallying a team and leading a comeback than John Force.

“He loves the fight and he will do whatever it takes to get his team back on top. It really isn’t something to worry about because two of our Chevys are No.1 and No. 2 right now.

“We have good combinations and we just have to duplicate one of those set ups for John’s PEAK Funny car. He’ll be back next week in Charlotte.”

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As for the other classes (information courtesy NHRA Media Relations):Leah Pritchett set a new Top Fuel track record during the final qualifying session on Saturday to secure the top spot in Top Fuel heading into Sunday.Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fifth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Defending event champion Pritchett raced her Mopar Dodge dragster to a pass of 3.680-seconds at 326.00 mph. This is her first No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of her career.

“We’ve been developing our confidence the last couple of races,” Pritchett stated. “To be able to put it on the track is phenomenal. We know we need to be exceptional because our competition is exceptional.”

Pritchett will line up against Terry Brian in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Defending world champion Brittany Force locked-in the No. 2 spot after a 3.701 at 313.80 in her Monster Energy dragster. Tony Schumacher is seeded third and will face William Litton.

Hight’s final qualifying pass of 3.894 at 317.27 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro took him to the top of the Funny Car category. This is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season, second at Houston and 58th of his career.

“This is going to be a new ball game tomorrow,” Hight said. “With fresh asphalt and the sun being out; these cars are going to spin. It’s definitely going to be fun. Two of our Chevy’s are one and two (in Funny Car) which shows we have good combinations.”

Hight will face-off against Todd Simpson Sunday morning in the first round. Teammate Courtney Force sits in the No. 2 position with a pass of 3.911 at 295.14 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro and two-time world champion Matt Hagan rounds out the top three.

Anderson, four-time Pro Stock world champion, remained atop the field Saturday with his pass of 6.492 at 213.00 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro from the first qualifying session on Friday. He notched his third consecutive No. 1 qualifier of the season and is seeking his first victory of the year.

“I haven’t had great Sunday’s yet,” Anderson stated. “I know I’m going to break through one of these days though. The weather is going to be great again tomorrow. I feel good about it, I’m excited and so far it’s just been a great weekend.”

Anderson will race Steve Graham in the first round of eliminations. Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualified in the No. 2 position with a pass of 6.504 at 212.36 in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro and Tanner Gray is third.

Eliminations at the NHRA SpringNationals begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway.

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS FOR ELIMINATIONS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.680 seconds, 326.00 mph vs. 16. Terry Brian, 4.275, 284.62; 2. Brittany Force, 3.701, 320.20 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, 4.081, 287.17; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.703, 322.73 vs. 14. Bill Litton, 3.927, 306.60; 4. Billy Torrence, 3.737, 317.87 vs. 13. Kebin Kinsley, 3.819, 313.51; 5. Antron Brown, 3.740, 324.98 vs. 12. Terry McMillen, 3.783, 314.31; 6. Clay Millican, 3.746, 315.78 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.766, 313.73; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.748, 320.05 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.766, 316.23; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.754, 318.17 vs. 9. Steve Torrence, 3.759, 313.88. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Totten, 4.636, 216.34.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.894, 317.27 vs. 16. Todd Simpson, Dodge Charger, 4.318, 288.33; 2. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.911, 313.58 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.151, 283.49; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.913, 311.85 vs. 14. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.077, 305.77; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.918, 317.42 vs. 13. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.026, 308.99; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.918, 301.94 vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.017, 307.51; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.925, 311.41 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.994, 311.34; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.926, 313.00 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.989, 313.37; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.927, 316.52 vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.938, 314.09. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 4.341, 273.05; 18. John Force, 4.625, 222.29.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.492, 213.00 vs. 16. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.775, 205.60; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.504, 212.36 vs. 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.621, 208.65; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.507, 211.99 vs. 14. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.592, 210.93; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.513, 212.29 vs. 13. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.548, 210.67; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.518, 211.99 vs. 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.545, 210.50; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.525, 212.79 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.532, 212.73; 7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.527, 212.29 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 211.79; 8. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.528, 211.93 vs. 9. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.530, 211.33.