The organizers of the 2015 24 Hours of LeMans announced yesterday that they had officially extended an invitation to the Riley Motorsports/ TI Automotive Dodge Viper GTS-R, which quickly accepted that invitation.
The #53 Riley/TI Automotive/Viper Exchange Dodge Viper GTS-R had been the first car on the Reserve list, meaning that the team needed one of the cars on the initial entry list to drop out and create a vacancy in the lineup. The vacancy opened when the #39 Morgan Evo-Sard LeMans Prototype 2 car pulled out of the race.
The driver of the #53 Dodge Viper GTS-R is Jeroen Bleekemolen, who has raced on the American LeMans endurance circuit over the past few years. Bleekemolen will be joined by team owner Ben Keating, and while it had been expected that one of the other drivers from the American LeMans Series (now known as the Tudor United Sports Car Championship) such as Cameron Lawrence, Kuno Wittmer, Marc Goossens, or Dominic Farnbacher would join the first two, the team has brought on a new name for the 2015 LeMans race.
Marc Miller has spent the earlier portions of this racing season in the CJ Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5 in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST class, so the choice to pick him as the third driver for the Viper team comes as a surprise considering the level of skill and experience of the other drivers in the American Viper endurance team.
The 2015 24 Hours of LeMans race begins on June 13th. The Viper team will compete with a Chevrolet Corvette C7R, six teams piloting Ferrari 458 Italias, four teams with Porsche 911s and a pair of Aston Martin Vantages. Thanks to MoparBob for being the first to catch this information online. Join the discussion on the Allpar forums.
It came as unfortunate news in February when the Dodge Viper team from Riley Motorsports hadn’t made the cut for the 24 Hours of LeMans. Outside of the NHRA, Mopar racing fans are running out of drivers to pull for, so after the success in the Rolex 24, Viper racing fans had high hopes for the team in the 2015 24 Hours of LeMans.
The Riley Viper didn’t make the field for the LeMans 24 hour race, but it was the first car on the reserve list — should any cars in the given class not be able to make it to LeMans for the race, their spots will be taken from the reserve list. With the Viper team sitting in the first spot there, any car in the GT classes to drop would allow the #53 Riley Viper to get into the field.
Since February, the Riley Viper team’s status for the 24 Hours of LeMans race hasn’t changed. However, the team has been practicing with the LeMans car, with Ben Keating recently doing some shakedown work at Road Atlanta. Viper Exchange posted the picture above showing the car wearing the Tudor Series #93, stating that Keating and the Viper team were practicing for LeMans. While they don’t have an official entry thus far, the team is preparing for the race as though they will be in the field.
Realistically, the Riley Viper GT3-R has a good chance of getting into the field. Reserve cars have been included in the race in each of the past few years. In some years, so many cars dropped that there weren’t enough cars on the reserve list to fill the 56 car field, on the biggest stage in American endurance racing.
It was Camaros as far as the eye could at today’s NHRA Nationals at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
John Force took the trophy in Fuel Funny Car, beating his son-in-law, Robert Hight, to the lights. Force eliminated Matt Hagan in the quarterfinals when Hagan went up in smoke. Hight beat Tommy Johnson Jr., who hazed the tires in the semifinals. Hight also ended Ron Capps’ race day in the opening round, when Capps lost a cylinder.
Jeff Arend was eliminated by Hagan in the first Funny Car matchup of the day
Jack Beckman had an early lead in his first-round race against Cruz Pedregon but Beckman started hazing the tires around the 660-foot marker and then it appeared the blower let go right before the finish, slowing Beckman enough that Pedregon was able to beat him to the lights by 0.002 seconds or about 11 inches.
John Hale couldn’t get traction and lost his first-round meet with Tim Wlikerson.
After the smoke had cleared Hagan maintain the lead in the Funny Car standings, nine points ahead of Del Worsham. Ron Capps’ early exit dropped him from third to fifth while Tommy Johnson Jr. remained in fourth.
John Hale fell from sixth to ninth and Jack Beckman dropped to tenth but remained in the game.
In Pro Stock it was former Dodge driver Vincent Nobile against Erica Enders-Stevens, 2014 World Champion and winner of yesterday’s K&N Horsepower Challenge. Enders-Stevens got off first and took a hole-shot win, matching Nobile’s ET. Enders-Stevens is the first driver in Pro Stock History to win the Las Vegas event and the K&N Challenge in the same year twice and she did it two years in a row.
Some good news for Dodge fans: Allen Johnson finally got past the early rounds and made it to the semi-finals to get some much needed points and move up off the Countdown the Championship bump spot to ninth in the standings. Johnson was matched up the Nobile but had trouble right out of the lights and had to shut down. Johnson won his second-round race with points leader Jason Line when Line jumped the gun and turned on the red light.
Prior to his third-round match with Nobile, Johnson and his crew changed the engine in the Mopar Dart but things didn’t work out as they hoped.
“We decided not to take a chance and change the engine but when we reached the staging lanes, we suddenly realized that we had an ignition box problem that couldn’t be resolved in time and that could cause us some grief,” said Johnson who didn’t get more than a few feet from the tree before the issue ended their day. “We’re going to head to Baton Rouge to test before we head to Houston because we’re not happy. We’re not where we need to be at all but we’re going to work our butts off to get there.”
V. Gaines made it to the second round and had his own traction troubles, losing to Greg Anderson.
Deric Kramer’s Avenger was no match for Chris McGaha’s Camaro and was eliminated in Round One.
Cameron Lawrence, at the wheel of the No. 1 MOPAR Dodge Challenger, took the checkered flag this afternoon, winning the inaugural Trans Am Muscle Car Challenge at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The Trans Am Muscle Car Challenge was run separately from the the main race, Round Two of the 2015 Trans Am season. In winning Lawrence beat a field containing 16 Camaros, 11 Mustangs and one other Challenger, the No. 11 Mopar Dodge driven by Joe Stevens. Stevens finished 20th.
“Having our own race gives this class a chance to show what it’s all about,” said Lawrence. “The performance, the affordability and the quality of the racing. This class keeps on drawing everyone’s attention and hopefully we can keep these separate races going and shine the light on this class, and every class in Trans Am. I actually wasn’t too worried about running out front this weekend. I kinda knew tires would be an issue, I would have been alright hanging back a little, but there was early pressure and I probably ended up using the tires a little more than I would have liked. But we had the time and space at the end to bring it home without any issues.”
With two races completed in the 2015 Trans Am TA2 season, Lawrence, the defending TA2 champion, has won both poles and both races building a solid lead in the point standings. He has now moved up to seventh among the all-time Trans Am race winners.
The Ferrari team of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen finished third and fourth, respectively, in today’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
It was the third podium finish in three races for Vettel, who was about three seconds behind Lewis Hamilton, who cruised to his second checkered flag of the season. Nico Rosberg finished second, 0.714 seconds behind his Mercedes teammate.
The third podium keeps Vettel in second place, 13 points behind Hamilton, in what is shaping up to be a tires vs. power F1 season. A superior tire strategy secured the Ferrari win in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Kimi Raikkonen moved up to fifth, passing fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas of the Williams team.
Ferrari is second in the Constructors standings, 40 points behind Mercedes.
There was just one event but lots of qualifying in Saturday racing.
ARCA: Grant Enfinger and his won the Troop Aid 200 in Nashville, the only race with active Dodge participants that ran today. Bobby Hamilton Jr. was the top Dodge driver, finishing 11th in the No. 97 Nitroforce Industries Titan 1000 Charger. Bo LeMastus was 14th across the line in the Crosley-T&T Construction-Glad Performance Dodge.
James Swanson drove the No. 06 Kan Do Dodge to a 16th place finish, just ahead of Ricjard Altman in the No. 40 Insignia Graphics Dodge.
All of the Dodges that were entered completed the race.
Formula 1: Sebastian Vettel qualified third in preparation for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix. He was nearly a second slower than Lewis Hamilton, who set a record for the most poles in the Chinese event, and Nico Rosberg, who was just 0.042 seconds slower than his Mercedes teammate.
Kimi Raikkonen, in the other Ferrari SF15-T, qualified sixth, following Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes-powered Williams cars.
NHRA: It’s Don Schumacher Chargers in the top three spots going into Sunday’s Fuel Funny Car eliminations at the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Speedway.
There really weren’t many changes in the qualifying order or the best times. Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express/Rocky Boots Charger kept the top spot based on his Friday ET of 4.007 seconds at 318.02 mph. With his qualifying points, Hagan has retaken the lead in the Funny Car driver standings.
Despite his strong runs this weekend, Hagan isn’t taking anything for granted.
“My last two races were human error by myself (disqualified after he timed out) and then by making some bad decisions up there (with set-up) but while everyone can makes mistakes, we have a great race car. We have a really good shot to come out here tomorrow and do big things. We’re going down both lanes and putting up good numbers for the conditions.”
Jack Beckman was 0.007 seconds behind Hagan in the Infinite Hero Charger R/T with the 4.014-second/315.64-mph he posted yesterday and Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Make-A-Wish Charger kept his Friday time of 4.020 seconds at 313.07 mph.
“I am extremely happy,” said Beckman. “We got some bonus points in qualifying. We ended up second, we have a favorable set of match-ups tomorrow and we have a great running hot rod.”
Ron Capps Friday ET of 4.075 seconds at 316.5 mph was his ticket to Sunday’s elimination rounds in the NAPA Auto Parts Charger.
John Hale made only one attempt today and went up in smoke about the 440-foot marker. Hale and the ALO Drink Charger remained No. 11 in the order based on his Friday time of 4.091 seconds at 311.92 mph.
Jeff Arend dropped a spot, to No. 16. He couldn’t quite match his Friday time but the Bucky Auto Service Center Charger had a a qualifying pass of 5.090 seconds at 162.35 mph.
In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson and the Team Mopar Dart remained in the No. 8 spot, sticking with their Friday best 6.645 seconds at 208.59 mph. Two-time K&N Horsepower Challenge winner Johnson had bad tire shake and missed qualifying for this year’s event. Erica Enders-Stevens, who won in 2014, repeated her victory today.
V. Gaines qualified No. 11, just like he did yesterday. His time remained the same 6.682 seconds, but his speed improved to 207.98 mph. Deric Kramer dropped a spot when he got bumped by Vincent Nobile. Kramer and the American Ethanol/Madcap/Novo Avenger qualified 13th when were unable to best their Friday time of 6.691 seconds at 206.51 mph.
Trans Am: Trans Am TA2 drivers hit the track at 12:25 PM Eastern tomorrow for the first-ever Trans Am Muscle Car Challenge. Cameron Lawrence in the No. 1 Miller Engineering/TI Automotive Dodge Challenger captured the pole position.
Plenty of racing action this weekend with events in ARCA, Formula 1, NHRA and Trans Am.
ARCA: The Troop Aid 200 runs today at the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee. With Tom Hessert having defected to a Ford, the top Dodge drivre in the ACRA standings is Bobby Hamilton Jr. at No. 10 with 265 points. He drives one of the Carter2 Motorsports Dodge Chargers. Bo LeMastus is No. 11 with 255 points in the Crosley Dodge.
Formula 1: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were third and fourth in Friday’s practice rounds for the Chinese Grand Prix, which is scheduled for Sunday.
NHRA: Dodge drivers finished 1-2-3 in Friday’s Fuel Funny Car qualifying at the NHRA Nationals running this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Three Don Schumacher Racing team members were the top qualifiers. Matt Hagan’s Mopar Express/Rocky Boots Charger’s best run was 4.007 seconds at 318.02 mph in Round Two. Hagan was followed by Jack Beckman in the Infinite Hero Charger with 4.014-second time at 315.64 mph and Tommy Johnson Jr.’s 4.020-second ET at 313.07 mph.
Ron Capps, who missed qualifying in the opening run, qualified No. 7 with a 4.075-second pass at 316.15 mph in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge and John Hale in the Jim Dunn Racing/Alo Drinks Charger qualified tenth, running a career-best 4.091-second pass at 311.92 mph.
The only Dodge to miss making the field was Jeff Arend’s Bucky Auto Service Center Charger, which finished the day in the No. 15 spot. Arend’s best run, 5.029 seconds at 162.35 mph, came in Round One.
So far, there are just 16 cars in the field so everyone should make the elimination races on Sunday.
In Pro Stock, all three Dodge drivers made the field. Allen Johnson was the top qualifier, taking the No. 8 spot with an ET of 6.645 seconds at 208.59 mph in the Team Mopar Dart. V. Gaines and the Kendall Oil Dart qualified 11th in the order with a pass of 6.682 seconds at 207.91 mph. Deric Kramer was on the bump spot, qualifying 12th in the American Ethanol/Madcap/Novo Avenger. Kramer’s best run was 6.691 seconds at 206.51 mph.
There are 17 cars entered, so somebody’s going home tomorrow.
Trans Am: Cameron Lawrence will defend his lead in the TA2 class in a race Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be driving the No. 1 Mopar-Dodge Challenger in the second event of the Trans Am season. Joe Stevens will be at the wheel of the No. 11 Challenger.
Jack Beckman kept the Dodge win streak going by capturing the Fuel Funny Car Wally at the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals today.
Not only did Beckman bring the Dodge and Don Schumacher Racing tally to four consecutive wins, he broke a 54-race winless streak that went back to St. Louis in 2012 and he made the first-ever sub-four-second pass at the 4-Wide Nationals.
“If there was a track and a format where the new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger was perfect for us this was it,” said Beckman. “This new cockpit configuration was perfect for the Four-Wide format where it is difficult to stage. I’m just so elated. Every nitro win I have ever had has been in a Dodge Charger and this is my first in the new Mopar and I don’t think it will be the last this year.”
This is Beckman’s second Four-Wide Nationals title since the format was introduced in 2010 and the 16th Wally of his Funny Car career.
Beckman’s 3.982-second winning pass at 308.78 mph is a career-best time. It’s the fifth time he has run a sub-four-second ET. Today’s three-second pass is the 15th posted by a Dodge Charger, the most by any manufacturer.
With the win, Beckman advances to seventh in the driver standings.
The one-of-a-kind Four-Wide Nationals, held at the purpose-built zMAX Dragway, splits 16 qualifiers into four waves with competitors battling across all four lanes simultaneously. Only the top-two finishers of each wave advance to the next round of eliminations, and with only three heats necessary, the final elimination quad determines the winner, runner-up and two semi-finalists.
Tommy Johnson Jr. made it to the final four but hazed the tires and finished fourth in the group. That was still enough to lift him to fourth in the point standings.
Matt Hagan fouled out in the first heat when he took too long to stage and turned on the red light.
“There are no excuses,” Hagan said. “We had a great racecar, we were the first to the finish line. (Crew Chief) Dickie (Venables) and the guys did a great job. I was just the weak link this weekend. It’s a big lesson learned.”
Ron Capps was disqualified in the same round when his car fishtailed and grazed the wall.
The early disqualifications proved costly as Del Worsham made it to the final round and finished second, putting him at the top of the standings by two points
The first round of Pro Stock eliminations was both exciting and disappointing.
Allen Johnson posted a career-best 6.464 seconds at 214.42 mph, setting a new National record, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a slow start as Greg Anderson and Jonathan Gray pulled off hole shot wins and eliminated Johnson in the first round.
Adding insult to injury, Jason Line beat Johnson’s record time, setting a new national record ET of 6.455 seconds at 214.48 mph.
“We had the record for about one run but I just didn’t do my job as a driver on the line,” said Johnson. “We’re making very big strides with the Dodge Dart right now and that run right there, setting the record, proves it.”
Buddy Perkinson II, in Johnson’s 2012 Dodge Avenger, was quick at the start but fuel problems made him last to the finish line.
The Dodge Dart of V. Gaines made it straight down the track but finished fourth in his first round elimination quad with a 6.626/209.17.
Johnson has now dropped to tenth in the Pro Stock driver standings.
Sebastian Vettel ended Ferrari’s 34-race losing streak today by driving the new SF15-T car to the Scuderia’s first Formula 1 win since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix.
Vettel is now just three points behind 2014 Formula 1 Champion Lewis Hamilton in the driver standings.
“Grande gara, bella macchina! (A great race and a beautiful car),” Vettel said after the race. “Sorry for starting to speak in Italian, but today is such a special day for me. I don’t really know what to say, I am speechless. It’s not only one childhood dream that becomes true, it seems to be many dreams together.
“It was amazing to look down from the podium and see the mechanics, the engineers, the whole team and listen to the German and Italian anthems.
“The atmosphere in the team has always been great, but it’s just getting better and better. For today, the important thing is for all of us to enjoy this moment together and celebrate.
“I did not swap teams that much in the past, so winning for a new team is always a relief. Since I joined Ferrari I felt incredibly welcome and together we have worked to improve things. The potential, as I always said, is huge, it’s good to see what a step forward we did over the winter.
“There were a lot of changes in the background (including one driver…) which never make things easy, but everyone saw the positives of that.
“It just doesn’t compare to last year, when the (Red Bull) car was also good but I couldn’t get on top of it. With Ferrari I had a good feeling right from the start.
“This is a special day, it has been a while since both I and team won for the last time. I’d like to be in the same position at every race, but we must be realistic, Mercedes were a bit struggling today but they have a great package and our target is to make the gap smaller at every Grand Prix and make sure that we are the team right behind them.”
A two-pit-stop strategy help Vettel beat Hamilton’s favored Mercedes AMG to the checkered flag by more than eight seconds, winning the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Kimi Raikkonen, Vettel’s teammate, overcame a first-lap tire puncture to finish fourth behind Nico Rosberg, making it a Ferrari-Mercedes-Mercedes-Ferrari top four.
Hamilton, who captured the pole position yesterday, led early in the race but a decision to change tires to the harder mixture after Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson spun on Lap Four proved costly as the Ferraris remained on the track. Hamilton and Rosberg wound up with three pit stops during the race while Vettel had just two.
Mercedes still has a big lead in the constructor’s standings with 76 points to 52 for second-place Ferrari.
MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX RESULTS
RT=Retired – DNF: Did Not Finish
With his seventh-place finish for Toro Rosso, Max Verstappen of the Netherlands became the youngest driver in Grand Prix history to earn championship points. Verstappen is 17 years old.
Formula 1: Sebastian Vettel and the No. 5 Ferrari SF15-T qualified second for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix. His time was just 0.074 seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton in the No. 44 Mercedes. Qualifying was delayed by a downpour that hit in the middle of the second session. Kimi Raikkonen, in the No. 7 Ferrari, qualified 11th and had to sit out the final session.
NHRA: Since rain washed out Friday’s scheduled runs, there were only two qualifying rounds at the 4-Wide Nationals running this weekend at zMax Raceway in Concord, North Carolina.
Ron Capps, driving the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger, was the top Dodge qualifier in Fuel Funny Car, taking the No. 3 spot in the order with a 4.051-second ET. Matt Hagan was right behind in the Mopar Express/Rocky Boots Charger with an ET of 4.055 to qualify fourth. Jack Beckman qualified sixth in the Infinite Hero Charger. His ET was 4.059 seconds. Tommy Johnson Jr. is 11th in the order going into tomorrow’s eliminations: the Make-A-Wish Charger posted an ET of 4.132 seconds.
John Hale and the USD Charger posted a best ET of 4.317 seconds to take the No. 13 spot while Paul Lee ran a 4.634-second ET to clinch the No. 14 spot.
Following today’s qualifying rounds, these are the Fuel Funny Car point standings 1. Matt Hagan – 303
2. Ron Capps – 279
3. Del Worsham – 245
4. Robert Hight – 210 5. John Hale – 204
6. Tommy Johnson Jr. – 199
7. Courtney Force – 198
8. Alexis DeJoria – 193
8. Cruz Pedregon – 186
10. Tim Wilkerson – 177 13. Jack Beckman – 128
Over in Pro Stock, Allen Johnson took the No. 5 position in the Team Mopar Dart. Johnson’s best ET of 6.513 came in his first pass of the day. Buddy Perkinson, who is driving Johnson’s 2012 championship Dodge Avenger this weekend, tripped the lights in 6.528 seconds to claim the No. 9 position in the order. V. Gaines is No. 13 going into the elimination rounds. His best time was 6.683 seconds.
Pro Stock point standings as of the end of qualifying:
1. Jason Line – 319
2. Rodger Brogdon – 316
3. Drew Skillman – 266
4. Chris McGaha – 263
5. Erica Enders Stevens – 248
6. Greg Anderson – 239
7. Shane Gray – 199 8. Allen Johnson – 176
9. Larry Morgan – 154
10. Vincent Nobile – 153 13. V. Gaines – 125
Forty-five years ago today, a Dodge Charger Daytona, reportedly created from a recovered stolen car, broke the 200 mph barrier at a NASCAR track, after running within a half of a mile per hour of that speed during qualifying runs some time earlier.
In 2006, Curtis Redgap covered the full story of the racing debut of the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona for Allpar, including details on its successful run at the NASCAR track record. The car was incredibly fast when it could stretch its legs, running laps of 199.5 mph when qualifying at Talladega.
The Charger Daytona, which used aerodynamic enhancements to the Dodge Charger, ran at NASCAR for two years, and was also sold to the general public, which could see a top speed of 160-180 mph when Hemi-powered and in perfect tune. It was accompanied at the track and on dealership lots after one year by the Plymouth Superbird, which had more playful graphics. Neither sold well to the general public, which found the appearance off-putting, and some dealers reportedly converted them back into more normal-looking Chargers to get them off their hands. “Wing cars” now fetch six figures and are an attraction at car shows.
The original car was recently discovered, with a different number on it, rusting away in a yard. Allpar has the story on its recovery and restoration, as well.
Stewart Pomeroy, Jr., who documented Chrysler Corporation’s racing efforts for some years, died last Wednesday after a long illness, according to a missive from Mopar Missile reporter Gene Yetter today.
Gene Yetter, who interviews Mr. Pomeroy for Allpar some years ago, said that he was a successful drag racer in his own right, and is mentioned in an autobiography written by African-American Mopar racer Eugene Coard (Hole Shot: The Story of The Last Mutt Brother).
The No. 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge SRT Viper GT3-R finished fourth in the GT Daytona class at the 63rd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The driving team of Al Carter, Marc Goossens, Ben Keating and Cameron Lawrence were a lap down behind the winning No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America driven by Ian James, Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas.
In a frustrating turn of events, the No. 33 Viper that Ben Keating drove to a class record pole position on Friday, had taken the class lead from the No.. 23 Porsche with only minutes to go in the race, but suffered an engine failure caused by overheating due to a hole in the radiator and had to retire to the pits after 314 laps. Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Sebastian Bleekemolen took turns behind the wheel of the No. 33 car.
The No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia driven by Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and Anthony Lazzaro finished third in the race.
IMSA/Tudor GT Le Mans: Jeroen Bleekemolen drove the No. 33 TI Automotive/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R to the top spot in qualifying for today’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. He beat a trio of Porsches with a lap of 2:03.485 at 109.033 mph.
Ben Keating put the No. 93 Riley Dodge Viper SRT in the No. 9 spot on the starting grid with a time of 2:05.081.
The No. 93 car took the checkered flag at the season opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Flag-to-flag coverage of the Twelve Hours of Sebring begins today at 10:30 AM (Eastern) on FOX Sports 1.
ARCA: Next event is the Nashville ARCA 200 at the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 11, 2015. Dodges have top-five finishes in both races so far this season.
Formula 1: Following a third-place finish in Australia, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and the Ferrari SF15-T head to Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, for the Petronas Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit on March 29, 2015.
NASCAR Canadian Tire Series: Season opener at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on May 17 in Bowmanville, Ontario.
NHRA: The Sixth Annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals is set for March 27-29 at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina. Dodges have collected all three Fuel Funny Car wins so far in the 2015 Mello Yello season but aren’t doing all that well against a sea of Camaros in Pro Stock. Richie Stevens Jr. joins Allen Johnson and Mopar in a new Dart at the Spring Nationals in Houston April 24-26.
Trans Am: Round 2 of the 2015 season is scheduled for April 10-12 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Cameron Lawrence won the season-opening race in the No. 1 Miller Dodge Challenger.
While Matt Hagan’s winning streak ended in today’s first round of eliminations at the NHRA GatorNationals, Ron Capps kept the Charger streak going, collecting a third consecutive Funny Car Wally for Dodge in the 2015 Mello Yello drag racing season.
In a day of surprise upsets, Hagan went up in smoke right at the start, losing to Alexis DeJoria, but the Mopar/Rocky Boots Charger was the only Dodge that didn’t advance.
John Hale won the day’s second race, sending John Force to the showers in a pedalfest; Blake Alexander shut down No. 2 qualifier Del Worsham with his best pass of the weekend; Jack Beckman was 17 feet ahead of Chad Head at the finish line; Tommy Johnson Jr. ended Robert Hight’s race day with a hot run and Ron Capps retired the last of the John Force Racing Camaros by handing Courtney Force another first-round exit.
In the quarterfinal opener, Jack Beckman lost to Tim Wilkerson by 0.0081 seconds or about four feet. The next race was a Charger-Charger matchup between Alexander and Johnson: Alexander hazed the tires an pedaled to the finish line while the Make-A-Wish Charger lost its timing belt and stopped at about the 330-foot mark. Capps sent top qualifier Cruz Pedregon to the showers with another clean pass. John Hale, who was making just his fifth start in Funny Car competition, overcame a slow start to beat Alexis DeJoria to the finish line by 0.2761 seconds, roughly 96 feet. Team owner Jim Dunn said, “It has to be luck, he’s brand new at this.”
Alexander smoked the tires in the first race of the semifinals and it cost him: Hale made a clean pass all the way to the lights.
Wilkerson’s Levi, Ray & Shoup Mustang was the only non-Mopar to make it to the semifinals. In an incredibly close race, Ron Capps made it an all-Mopar finals by 0.0001 seconds, just about an inch.
In the final round, John Hale’s Cinderella story came to an end as Ron Capps overcame a slower start with a faster pass to claim his first Wally of the season and move up to the No. 2 spot in the driver standings. This is Capps’ 43rd Funny Car win, tying him for second place in total victories in Pro Funny Car competition.
In Pro Stock, it was three up, three down as all three Dodges were eliminated in the first round.
Allen Johnson got a slow start but was making good time when fuel problems caused a misfire and Johnson had to shut down, losing to Drew Skillman.
In the last two races of the opening round, Alan Prusiensky fell to Jason Line and V. Gaines lost to Shane Gray with clean passes all ’round.
2015 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRIVER STANDINGS
FUEL FUNNY CAR
Matt Hagan – Mopar Express/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger (2)
Ron Capps – NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger (1)
Del Worsham – DHL Toyota Camry
Robert Hight – Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro
John Hale – USD Dodge Charger
Tommy Johnson Jr. – Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger
Alexis DeJoria – Patron XO Cafe Incendio Toyota Camry
Courtney Force – Traxxas Chevy Camaro
Cruz Pedregon – Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry
Tim Wilkerson – Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang
Jack Beckman – Infinite Warrior Charger
Rodger Brogdon – RoofTec Chevy Camaro (1)
Jason Line – Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro (1)
Drew Skillman – Ray Skillman Chevy Chevy Camaro
Chris McGaha – Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevy Camaro
Sebastian Vettel delivered Ferrari’s first Formula 1 podium finish since last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix by coming in third in today’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
In his first race for the Scuderia, Vettel was 34.523 seconds behind 2014 F1 Champion Lewis Hamilton, who won the race, and brought in 15 points for Ferrari.
Last year, Fernando Alonso finished fourth in this race.
Kimi Raikkonen, driver of the other new Ferrari SF15-T car, ran as high as eighth before mechanical problems forced him to retire.
The race was marred by mechanical failures. Of the 17 cars that qualified, only 11 made it to the checkered flag and just six avoided being lapped by the dominant Mercedes cars, which finished first and second.