The next Race of Champions confirmed for Jan. 21-22 in Miami

Photos: Race of Champions
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The Race of Champions will make its first visit to the U.S. for the event’s next running; the all-star event won’t run in its usual December slot, but instead shifts to January in Miami next Jan. 21-22, 2017.

The event will now run one week before the traditional kickoff to the next year’s North American road racing calendar, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which runs Jan. 28-29. The Roar Before the Rolex 24 runs Jan. 6-8.

All-star drivers from around the world in various disciplines of motorsport compete in the RoC. The release confirming the details is linked below:

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The Race Of Champions (ROC) is heading to the United States of America for the first time in its history after Miami’s Marlins Park baseball stadium won the rights to host the next ROC event on January 21-22, 2017.

Built in 2012, Marlins Park is the home of the Miami Marlins, the city’s Major League Baseball franchise. The stadium features a retractable roof and can seat over 37,000 fans, who are more used to watching fastballs than fast cars. It is set to host the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game next July. Now it has seen off contenders from all over the world to stage the prestigious Race Of Champions, which will take place within the confines of the stadium itself.

In recent years ROC has visited the Stade de France in Paris (2004-2006), London’s Wembley Stadium (2007-2008), the ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic Stadium in Beijing (2009), Düsseldorf’s Esprit Arena (2010-2011), the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok (2012), Bushy Park Barbados (2014) and London’s former Olympic Stadium (2015).

Now the event is heading to the United States for the first time to soak up the heat of Miami. Florida’s sports fans will have a chance to watch the speediest action Marlins Park has ever seen as many of the world’s greatest drivers push to the absolute limit on a specially-designed racing track winding its way around the outfield.

The Race Of Champions is an annual contest which has been held for over 25 years. It brings together some of the world’s greatest drivers from motor sport’s major disciplines – including Formula 1, NASCAR, IndyCar, Le Mans, MotoGP, World Rally and the X Games – and sets them free to battle head-to-head in identical machinery.

Germany’s four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel took his first ROC Champion of Champions title in London last year after many years of trying. Now he will return to defend his crown in Miami – but first he will have to see off motor sport’s finest competitors from all over the world.

Vettel said: “I’m very happy to have finally won the individual Race Of Champions title last year in London’s Olympic Stadium and I look forward to defending my title at ROC in Miami. All the drivers are strong, and the top US drivers from NASCAR and IndyCar will certainly be extra motivated to win in front of their home fans now that the event is being held in their country for the first time.

“This will also be the first time ROC has been held in a baseball stadium so I’m curi-ous to discover the new track layout. But as always it’s the same track and identical cars for everyone so only driver skill makes the difference. The racing at ROC is al-ways very intense and the head-to-head duels often decided by fractions of a se-cond, so it’s just one strategy; flat out from start to finish!

“The Race Of Champions reminds us a lot about why we all first started racing; it’s about pure competition. The competition is very intense on the track and everyone wants to win, but it’s also about putting on a great show for the fans. I think all the drivers who have had the honour to participate in ROC fell in love with the event. It’s a privilege to be invited and to be able to come back.”

The first American drivers to sign up for ROC Miami have been unveiled as NASCAR champion Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy, Haas Automation Chevy and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.

They both have fine pedigrees of their own at the Race Of Champions. At Barbados in 2014 both Busch and Hunter-Reay topped their groups in style with three wins out of three en route to the quarter-finals. Now both drivers can look forward to soaking up the adulation of their home fans as they slug it out to take Vettel’s crown in Miami.

Busch said: “I’m honoured to once again be invited to the Race Of Champions. I had a great time last time out in Barbados and given that this year’s event will be in the US, it will make it that much more exciting. In addition, representing the US in my country will be special.

“The ROC is a particular challenge that tests versatility and adaptability with little margin for error. If the format was not challenging enough, you throw in World Champions from all kinds of disciplines, with various types of cars, which makes for a good recipe. And no matter how much we all like to say it’s ‘just for fun…’ we all want to win this prestigious event.”

Hunter-Reay added: “I’m delighted to be making my fourth straight appearance at the Race Of Champions – and especially this time with the event taking place on American soil, better yet my own backyard!”

“It is a spectacular event and a unique challenge to jump in and out of all the different cars as you go head-to-head with some of the best drivers in the world, it is a tremendous honor to be selected as a competitor for ROC. I’m proud to represent America, IndyCar and the Indy 500 and I look forward to hearing the noise of the crowds in Miami and feeling that hometown support.”

The Race Of Champions is run over two days: first comes the Race Of Champions itself (on Saturday January 21) with a flat-out battle for individual glory. Then on Sunday January 22 it’s the ROC Nations Cup when drivers pair up in teams based on nationality to bid for the title of ‘World’s Fastest Nation’. All the racing takes place in a stunning range of superfast cars.

But that’s not all. The Race Of Champions is a non-stop action event from start to finish and also features stunt shows on four wheels and two plus DJs, cheerleaders and plenty of other entertainment to keep the race fans on the edge of their seats. Tickets for both days of action have gone on sale today from http://www.raceofchampions.com.

ROC President Fredrik Johnsson said: “We are thrilled to be bringing the Race Of Champions to the United States at last. Miami’s Marlins Park is a wonderful venue and it’s our first time inside a baseball stadium. Rest assured we will put together a truly memorable event for fans of fast cars and even faster drivers.

“American race fans are passionate about their sport and I’m sure they will enjoy the great competition and shows we put on. We look forward to welcoming a packed crowd to enjoy the sight of some of the world’s best drivers battling it out. If you like non-stop action, noise and excitement, the Race Of Champions is the perfect event for you.”

Tickets for ROC Miami are now available via http://www.raceofchampions.com. For access to rights-free high-resolution imagery and to keep up with all the latest news ahead of this year’s event please visit http://www.raceofchampions.com, Race Of Champions on Facebook plus @raceofchampions and #ROCMiami on Twitter.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”