Fountain of youth for 83-year-old drag racer: 300-plus mph

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When 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force turned 65 this past May, many wondered if drag racing’s greatest senior citizen might start slowing down.

While Force insists he’ll drive for at least another five seasons, he has nothing, nada, zero on Chris Karamesines.

Known as “The Golden Greek,” Karamesines is still driving the most potent car in drag racing – a 10,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster capable of hitting 330 mph – and he just took delivery on a state-of-the-art new ride.

At the age of 83!

In fact, Karamesines is so pumped about his new canopy-covered Top Fueler, built by legendary Don Schumacher Racing, that he’s already making plans to keep racing for a long time still to come.

“The car Schumacher put together for me is beautiful,” Karamesines told Rod Geiger of Autoweek.com. “It’ll give me another 10 years. With that kind of car and [sponsor] Lucas Oil helping me, it makes it nicer to drive.”

Born in Detroit in 1931, Karamesines turned 83 on Nov. 11. He’s without question the oldest active competitor in the sport today, according to the NHRA.

And he’s been competing on drag strips around the country for – get this – since the 1950s.

That’s nearly 70 years!

And along the way, he became the first driver (unofficially) to break the 200-mph barrier (204.54 mph), back in 1960 at Alton Dragway in Illinois, according to NHRA annals.

Karamesines in 2001 was named No. 30 of the 50 greatest drivers in NHRA history and was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2006.

He continues racing part-time, as well as remains in pursuit of a lifelong dream of winning an NHRA national event. With his new ride from Schumacher, Karamesines’ chances just increased exponentially.

That’s not to say the Golden Greek has never won a race in his lengthy racing career.

On the contrary.

Not only has he been one of the most prolific and successful match racers in the country over the years, he’s also won numerous events in other racing series including the International Hot Rod Association, the American Drag Racing Association and the American Hot Rod Association.

With what is essentially a lifetime sponsorship from Lucas Oil, Karamesines can’t wait for the 2015 season to begin in early February in Pomona, Calif.

Said Karamesines, “With Lucas Oil giving us the funding and [DSR] giving me a nice car, why would I stop?”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.