The Infineon Raceway is located close to Sonoma, to the north of San Francisco. It serves two purposes: that of a road course track and that of a drag strip. As it is situated in the northern California hills, the track races up and down these hills, together with challenging turns and complicated twists. Not only does the Infineon Raceway host NASCAR events but is home to the American Federation of Motorcyclists series, which holds a few motorcycle events here. Only one of the NASCAR road races is held at the Infineon Raceway. This track was formerly known as the Sears Point Raceway when it opened in 1968.
The Riverside International Raceway, that was located in California, was closed at the end of the 1988 racing season, and was demolished to make way for a new shopping center development project. This left NASCAR searching for a venue to replace Riverside, and decided on the road course at Sears Point. The name, Sears Point, refers to the geographical features of the location, and has therefore no connection to the company Sears. It was renamed after the Infineon Corporation in 2002, although most people still call it by its original name, and the name they’ve grown accustomed to.
The Infineon Raceway is a 4.05 kilometer road course that features twelve turns, and a bypass road that excludes the number 5 and number 6 turns. The bypass is named “The Chute” and it shortens the course to a total racing distance of 3.14 kilometers. The Chute was added in 1998, and is mostly used for events like the NASCAR Dodge/Save Mart 350. Most drivers do not approve of The Chute, and would prefer racing the entire course. The full course layout is used for most of the races, which includes the Grand American Road Racing Association‘s Sonoma Grand Prix.
In 2003 another modification was made to the Infineon Raceway. It is a course that is 3.57 kilometers in total and has twelve turns. This course excludes most of the twists and has a hairpin bend, for the added safety of the motorcycle riders. The motorcycle course has a runoff at turn number 11, whereas the main courses’ turn number 11 does not feature a runoff, but is a slow turn similar to the Mirabeau hairpin bend of Monaco. In addition to the various courses that are available at the Infineon Raceway, there is also a drag strip that is 400 meters, or a quarter mile, for the NHRA Drag Racing events that are held here.
Races that are currently held at the Infineon Raceway, include the AMA Superbike – Supercuts Superbike Challenge, the Dodge/Save Mart 350 that is part of the Nextel Cup, the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series and the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma that falls under the Indy Racing League.
The acronym NHRA stands for National Hot Rod Association, the governing body for drag racing in the USA that both establishes regulations and organizes events across the country. The NHRA also seeks to promote drag racing and increase the sport’s popularity with fans while retaining sponsors for events and participants.
Founded in 1951 in California by Wally Parks, the NHRA saw as its prime mandate the need to get Hot Rodders off the streets and onto legal drag strips where safety for both racers and the general public could be ensured. Today, the NHRA is the largest drag racing authority in the world, with 300 employees, 80,000 members and 35,000 licensed competitors. The NHRA has over 140 member tracks throughout North America.
The most prestigious NHRA drag racing event in North America is the U.S. Nationals that are held bi-annually in summer and winter. This popular drag racing competition is held at the Indianapolis Raceway Park, home of the legendary Indy 500. The NHRA also stages the PowerAde Drag Racing Series. This series is made up of four classes: Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Top Fuel Dragster and Top Fuel Funny Car. Other sportsman classes are held for amateur, or “Sunday” racers, who would like to compete.
The NHRA supports many special educational initiatives such as the Youth and Education Services program and the Street Legal program. NHRA events attract thousands of loyal fans, and members are enthusiastic about their chosen sport. Schedules for upcoming NHRA events can be found in newspapers, racing magazines and online.
Plymouth is a division of Chrysler Corporation, and were responsible for the productin of the two-door Plymouth Barracuda between 1964 and 1974. Originally, the Barracuda was constructed on an A-body chassis. This chassis was extremely common in the vehicles that were being manufactured by Chrysler, which included the Dodge Dart. It had the characteristics of the Valiant. The Valiant is believed to be the very first pony car, to reach the market, as it was available two weeks before the Ford Mustang.
The Plymouth Barracuda was made famous by the massive fastback rear window, that basically wrapped around, and was the largest automotive glass part that was ever installed at that time. The Barracuda’s performance was at first extremely modest, with a 180 horse power V8 engine, that would improve over the years, but also stood out due to its push button shifter that was mounted in the dashboard. All 1964 automatic Barracudas were fitted with this feature.
The year 1965 was an interesting year for the Plymouth Barracuda as two new options were introduced. The 4.5L Commando, which was a 235hp V8 engine, and the performance package that was called Formula ‘S’, and included the engine together with a standard tachometer, and upgraded wheels, tires and suspension. Over the following years, the Plymouth Barracuda would undergo various facelifts and engine changes, to remain competitive in the changing market. The 1966 model is considered unique, with the Barracuda Fish emblem being added, new grills and redesigned, chiseled features. The Plymouth Barracuda was completely redesigned in 1967. The models that followed had convertible options and notchbacks.
Engine options were improved as the competition grew. With the 7.2 L RB single four barrel carbureted engine being available, on the floors of the showrooms. In 1969 the limited addition 80 Super-Stock was released. It was a Hemi-powered Barracuda, built in 1968, that was not street legal, as it was built for racing and was often used in drag racing. A few Savage GT’s were also manufactured, that came off the second generation Plymouth Barracudas. The 1971 Hemi-powered Plymouth Barracuda and the 426 Hemi are considered extremely rare and almost priceless amongst collectors. There were only 14 Hemicuda’s manufactured in 1970, and at an auction in 2006, one was sold for US$2.16.
Production of the Plymouth Barracuda ended after a successful, ten year run, during the 1973 oil crisis. The third generation was a failure in the market, and after hanging on until 1974, the Plymouth Barracuda was discontinued. The rarity of some of the Plymouth Barracuda models is due to the public not being interested, sales being low, and therefore, not many were produced. Today, it is a classic muscle car, with many collectors just waiting for the opportunity to find one.
Autocross is a well-liked form of motorsports competition. Other than the normal wheel-to-wheel racing, as in road racing, drag racing, or oval racing, an autocross is a timed handling competition similar to rally racing, although on smaller facilities. Autocross racing events are usually held on parking lots or similar paved areas, with the temporary course marked off by traffic cones. Each race has a unique course, which means the drivers have to learn a new course each time they compete. Speeds are generally slower in absolute terms, when measured up to other forms of motorsport, they rarely exceed highway speeds, but the activity level (in driver inputs per second) can in fact be higher than even Formula One Grand Prix Racing due to the large number of differing elements packed into such small courses.
Autograss racing is a very popular type of motor racing especially in Britain. It takes place at numerous venues throughout England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. It is usually held on a quarter-mile oval track, that is laid out on natural surfaces, such as a farmer’s grass field. Anyone can take part in autograss racing. Junior drivers usually start racing at 12 years old, moving into the adult classes at 16, some drivers even race until they are about 60 or even 70. Most families will share their racing car, and Ladies’ races are also held at every single meeting.
The Demolition derby events are very popular in the USA and are usually held at carnivals and festivals. Unlike other motorsports, the Demolition derby usually consist of about 10 cars competing by deliberately ramming their vehicles into one another. The last driver whose vehicle is still operating is the winner. This can be a very dangerous sport, but serious injuries are rare. All glass is removed from the vehicle and ramming into the driver side of the vehicle is prohibited in order to make the race a little safer. Most events are held on muddy dirt tracks to even further slow the vehicles down. Drivers will usually use the back of their vehicles to ram to protect their engines in order to stay longer in the race.
Dirt Speedway Racing
Dirt Speedway Racing is one of the oldest forms of motorsport. It involves vehicles racing each other around dirt-surfaced, lightly-banked oval tracks. Originally stock car and Indycar racing were varieties of this, but evolved with the development of hard-surfaced super speedways.
When most people think of drag racing, Top Fuel dragsters are what commonly come to mind. With their huge rear tires, long bodies, spindly front wheels and flame-belching engines, Top Fuel drag racing is one of the most distinctive types of auto racing. Both NHRA sanctioned Top Fuel categories feature cars that exceed 325 miles per hour and can run the quarter mile in under 5 seconds. Now that’s fast! These awesome dragsters are fueled with a potent mixture of 85% Nitro methane and 15% Methanol.
In practice, pairs of drag racers compete against each other to cover a set distance in the briefest amount of time. The track on which the race takes place is straight and level. The distances covered are usually a quarter mile or an eighth of a mile. The race begins from a stationary positionl and thus requires very powerful engines to cover that short distance in the fastest time. The start is crucial, as a mere split second delay is often enough to lose a close race. Both drivers stare intently as yellow lights flash on a “Christmas Tree”, down to the very last pair that are green. When the green lights flash, it’s time to put the pedal to the metal. The cars shoot down the track as if they were launched from catapults, often releasing a parachute to help them brake once they cross the finish line.
There are approximately 325 drag strips operating throughout the world at any given time. Associations such as the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) and the NHRA in the United States have been set up to monitor the sport. Professional drag racing has safety standards, rules and regulations that apply equally to all participants to keep things fair and to promote good sportsmanship.
Drag racing has always been a colorful sport, and that doesn’t just apply to the “Fuelies” and Funny Cars. Drivers with larger than life personalities have dominated the sport and become legends in their own time. Don “Big Daddy” Garlits and Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney are two of the most famous Top Fuel dragster drivers of all time, while the names of Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and 13-time champion John Force are synonymous with the sport of Funny Car racing.