NHRA rescinds ‘one-percent’ national record rule

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One of the most contentious rules in motorsports is no longer – and fans and drivers are likely to rejoice as a result.

In a surprise move on Monday, the National Hot Rod Association announced that it is doing away with its “back-up rule,” where a national record would only be recorded by the sanctioning body if, during the same national event, the driver made either a preceding or succeeding run within one percent of the potential record-breaking speed or elapsed time.

Starting with the season-opening Circle K Winternationals on Feb. 11-14 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, when a driver makes a record-setting run, it will be recognized as just that, a true record-setting run.

The NHRA competition committee approved the change not only for the premier Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, but also for the J&A Service Pro Mod Series and the Lucas Oil Series Alcohol classes.

However, there is a slight tradeoff, particularly for elapsed time national records, per an NHRA media release: “As is currently the case with all national speed records and Alcohol elapsed time records, points will no longer be awarded for elapsed time national records.”

NHRA senior vice president of racing operations Graham Light issued the following statement: “The one-percent policy was adopted during the early development stages of the timing system and wasn’t as reliable as the technology that we are fortunate to have in race control today.”

There will still be oversight to make sure there are no malfunctions or other glitches that could affect a record-setting run.

“We will still examine every national record run to make sure the incremental numbers support the performance, in addition to inspecting every vehicle for compliance with class requirements,” Light noted.

The move comes at a particularly advantageous time, as the season-opening Winternationals has produced a number of national records over the years. Now, any new records set in this year’s race will not have to go through the added one-percent requirement to verify the setting of a new national record.

Here’s a list of the current NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national records:

Top Fuel

* Elapsed Time (ET):  3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. 2015, Brainerd, Minn.

* Speed: 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. 2015, Brainerd, Minn.

Funny Car

* E.T.:  3.884 sec. by Jack Beckman, Nov. 2015, Pomona, Calif.

* Speed:  331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. 2015, Pomona, Calif.

Pro Stock

* E.T.:  6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.

* Speed:  215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.

Pro Stock Motorcycle

* E.T.:  6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Mohnton, Pa.

* Speed:  199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”