Honda teams reign this weekend in Chevy’s backyard

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Last week, Chevrolet took over the Indianapolis 500. But this weekend on its home turf in Detroit, the Bowtie came undone.

Honda struck back hard after Chevy’s 1-2-3-4 finish at the Brickyard, as they came away with five of six possible podium positions during this weekend’s Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit doubleheader at Belle Isle Park.

They got wins from both Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud (pictured), as well as an additional third-place result from Justin Wilson on Saturday and second and third-place efforts from James Jakes and Conway on Sunday.

Pagenaud, in particular, has been something of a Honda “lifer.” He has raced with the manufacturer in some way, shape or form since 2008, when Gil de Ferran hired him as his co-driver of his Acura prototype on his sports car team in the American Le Mans Series.

“Honda are famous for making great race engines,” Pagenaud said. “That’s what they did at the Indy 500; they came back very strong. I think they understood how the engine is working a little bit better at Indy, and it’s paying off here in Detroit.

“It’s very sweet for them to win in General Motors’ city, but I want to thank GM for putting on this event,” he added, graciously. “It’s great to have promoters and partners. I wouldn’t bash them at all. But I’m definitely proud of Honda’s work and proud to be part of the family.”

The second Dual race was especially massive for the manufacturer, as they covered the entire Top 5 with Pagenaud, Jakes, Conway, Scott Dixon in fourth and Dario Franchitti in fifth.

“This one is for Honda,” said Jakes after claiming his best career IndyCar finish. “Three Hondas on the podium in Detroit again. They’ve really worked their butts off since Indy, and we’re proud of them.”

The best result that the Chevrolet camp could come up with on Sunday was a sixth-place effort from Marco Andretti, who is now tied with Helio Castroneves for the championship lead.

Both of them, along with Ryan Hunter-Reay (who finished second on Saturday for Chevy’s lone podium of the weekend), make up the top three in the standings. That may give the group a small measure of consolation after being beaten in their backyard for the second year in a row; in 2012, Honda-powered drivers Dixon, Franchitti and Pagenaud locked out the Belle Isle podium.

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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