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Long Beach heartache for Andretti Autosport

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The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was setting up very nicely for Andretti Autosport. Although Takuma Sato struggled in qualifying, teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi made the Firestone Fast Six. Marco Andretti, too, excelled in qualifying, taking the tenth spot and the grid.

Race day started off well, too. Hunter-Reay and Rossi rocketed around pole sitter Helio Castroneves off the start to run in the top five, and they ran in top three for much of the race, only dropping back during pit stop sequences.

But, the day unraveled from there for the entire team. First, Marco Andretti slowed on lap 17 and pulled off the circuit due to a sensor failure. Then, it was Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi slowing with less than 30 laps to go, both with engine issues. Then, it was Ryan Hunter-Reay’s turn, with his car coming to halt as he closed in on leader James Hinchcliffe in the final laps. Hunter-Reay problems appeared to be electrical as he said the car eventually restarted, but he never rejoined the fight.

While optimism is still high, there is disappointment that they couldn’t capitalize on their potential, as Hunter-Reay explained. “It really hurts when it’s that close to the end and I was closing on (Hinchcliffe); we were going to have a good showdown there at the end,” he said of his issues. “That’s why this sport can be so rewarding and so cruel, there’s nothing you can do. Frustrating for sure but today it was out of our hands.”

Similarly, Rossi lamented a lost opportunity to fight for the win. “I thought we had a really good shot at winning. The pace of the car was really good all day and we were able to recover from a little bit of a tricky pit stop sequence on the first stop, so it’s unfortunate because the NAPA Auto Parts car was awesome. We’ll just have to fight back at Barber. Honda has done an amazing job so it’s unfortunate,” said last year’s Indy 500 winner.

The team’s struggles saw Hunter-Reay fall to eighth in the championship, just ahead of both Sato and Andretti, who sit ninth and tenth, while Rossi sits 19th.

 

Following Kyle Lavigne.

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar to unveil new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car today in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
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If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that makes its debut today at Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

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