Report: IndyCar grid penalties for unapproved engine swaps gone

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NBCSN IndyCar reporter Jon Beekhuis has said that the grid penalties for unapproved engine changes in the Verizon IndyCar Series will no longer be in effect.

Instead, according to Beekhuis, unapproved engine changes will result in a points penalty for the Manufacturer’s Championship, which is contested between engine suppliers Chevrolet and Honda.

Beekhuis revealed the news during tonight’s edition of the “Trackside” radio program on Indianapolis’ 1070 The Fan, which is hosted by fellow NBCSN reporter Kevin Lee and Indianapolis Star writer Curt Cavin.

However, Beekhuis also mentioned a caveat to that rule.

“If, as a team, you show negligence to the engine – let’s say you put the wrong radiator shutters or something on or you blow it up [on purpose], they will put you at the back of the field,” Beekhuis told Lee today at Barber Motorsports Park.

“I think they’ve written that in – remember [in] the old days, people used to blow up engines so you’d get new ones. So if there’s any sort of team negligence, you’ll go to the back.

“But if you don’t make your 2,500-mile [engine minimum] – and that’s another rule change – if you don’t make 2,500 miles, the penalty is going to be on the manufacturer and not on your grid spot, so that’s a huge change.”

Previously, teams had five fresh engines at their disposal and a change-out threshold of 2,000 miles on each powerplant. Now, teams have four engines allowed for the season along with the aforementioned new threshold of 2,500 miles.

As for how Chevy and Honda feel about it, Beekhuis believes that while they want the driver’s championship first and foremost, the manufacturer’s title is still important considering how much development they’ve put into their respective engines.

“I don’t think they’re going to be throwing engines at it and say, ‘Aw, forget about the manufacturer’s championship,'” he said. “I think that with the kind of money they’re spending, it’s still really important to them.

“…There’s been a ton of money spent and I don’t think you want to throw away manufacturer points. You want to try and cash in. If you’re Chevrolet or you’re Honda, you want to say, ‘Hey, we won the driver’s championship and we won the manufacturer’s [championship] and we did it on only four engines.’ That would be impressive.”

NHRA: Steve Torrence’s 2nd Top Fuel title was emotional roller coaster day

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There’s no question Steve Torrence is a proud Texan. When he’s not strapping on his racing helmet, the Kilgore, Texas resident proudly wears a black cowboy hat and shiny boots practically everywhere he goes.

It’s just part of who one of the Lone Star State’s favorite sons is.

Torrence also has a great deal to be proud of after winning his second consecutive Top Fuel championship in Sunday’s NHRA season-ending national event at Pomona, California.

In doing so, he joins seven of the biggest names in drag racing history to win back-to-back titles: Don Garlits, Joe Amato, the late Scott Kalitta, Gary Scelzi, Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon and Antron Brown.

Torrence followed up last season’s 11 wins – including being the first driver to win all six Countdown to the Championship playoff races – with nine wins in 2019, giving him 36 career wins and 55 final round appearances in his career.

But as he was interviewed shortly after he clinched the championship — even though he lost in the semifinal round of eliminations — instead of being effusive and ecstatic, Torrence was also uncharacteristically somewhat solemn and melancholy at the same time.

After publicly thanking his team – “the best in the business,” as Torrence frequently says – he also quickly paid tribute to a young man from Texas by the name of Brandon Seegers, who was tragically killed in an ATV accident last week (the young man in glasses is pictured in the tweet below).

Torrence wanted the world to know who Brandon was, calling him one of Torrence Racing’s biggest fans. It wasn’t lip service. Brandon – a 15-year-old freshman football player at Carthage (Texas) High School – truly was one of Torrence’s biggest supporters. He’ll be buried Tuesday.

Torrence also paid tribute to Brandon’s parents. The young man’s father has worked 30 years for Capco Contractors Inc., an oil and gas company owned by Torrence’s family. In a sense, because of their close relationship, Brandon and his parents are extended members of the Torrence family.

“This is for the Seegers family, who lost their little boy the Wednesday of last week,” Torrence said. “He was the biggest Capco fan there was. We’re taking the championship trophy home to him. We’re going to give it to all the Capco guys and his family.”

Admit it, when was the last time you heard someone in sports win a championship and then dedicate that effort to a young fan who was tragically killed just a few days earlier in an accident.

But that’s the kind of guy Torrence is, one of the classiest individuals in motorsports. And if you don’t really know who he is, you should, because you might understand why Torrence is who he is.

At the age of 36, Torrence is not just a survivor of the 1,000-foot dragstrips wars from New Hampshire to Seattle to Phoenix to Gainesville and everywhere in-between.

He’s also a survivor of something much more important: Before he was Steve Torrence, two-time NHRA Top Fuel champ, he was Steve Torrence, cancer and heart attack survivor. That kind of thing gives someone a much different perspective than most other individuals.

Torrence knows how fortunate he is to not only be a two-time champion, but more importantly, to be alive to earn and enjoy both of those titles. He came close, really close, to not being here anymore. That’s why Brandon’s death hit Torrence so hard.

He even tried to keep from choking up when he told the crowd about who his young friend Brandon was.

Torrence spent much of the weekend at Pomona thinking about his young fan. It definitely affected Torrence’s mindset and demeanor, especially on Sunday, with the pressure packed championship on the line.

To illustrate how different Torrence acted, he was involved in an incident after the first round that was completely out of character. While he may be one of the most competitive drivers on the NHRA circuit, he’s also normally a very level-headed, calm and cool persona.

Torrence uncharacteristically slapped young opponent and part-time Top Fuel driver Cameron Ferre in the face at the end of the drag strip after they climbed from their race cars following their first round run and exchanged words.

Normally a fan favorite, Torrence was uncharacteristically criticized on social media and was met with a wave of fan boos after the race when he climbed on stage to accept his championship trophy and the big check that came with it. A contrite Torrence eventually issued a public apology to both Ferre and fans, admitting he was wrong. The NHRA is reviewing the incident and still could penalize Torrence.

“Tensions are high,” Torrence told NHRA.com. “There’s a lot of crap going on out there, but there’s still no excuse for me acting that way. I apologize to every fan, all my racing friends and racing rivals. It was a heat-of-the moment reaction on a day when emotions were high, especially in the Capco camp. I talked to Cameron and we’ll just put it behind us and move on.”

Given the championship pressure and what he was enduring emotionally, Sunday may not have been Torrence’s finest moment or best day professionally or personally. But at the same time, he further cemented why he’s on his way to becoming one of the best drivers in Top Fuel history, that he makes mistakes and was man enough to admit when he made one.

He also cares for others and what they go through perhaps more than most because he himself came so close to not being around to enjoy the success he has enjoyed to date – and all the additional success that he’s likely to continue to enjoy for many more years to come.

 

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