CART

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Champ Car World Series, which was formerly known as Championship Auto Racing Teams or CART is the name of an Open Wheel World Championship auto racing series. It replaced CART in 2004 after the Championship Auto Racing Teams Inc. filed for bankruptcy. Roger Penske, Pat Patrick and Dan Gurney originally founded the organization in 1978 along with several other team owners who had been regularly participating in various CART and IndyCar events.

Originally CART oversaw the sanctioning of Champ Car racing in the US, Canada, Mexico and Australia. Today the Champ Car World Series performs this task. Championship Car racing differs from Formula One (or F1) racing in many ways, although the cars themselves may appear very similar to the casual eye. For example, Champ Car racing usually takes place on oval tracks, cars are permitted turbocharged engines and the cars use methanol for fuel rather than gasoline. In addition, Champ Cars are about 15% heavier than F1 cars and have sculpted undersides that produce ground-hugging forces – a practice banned by the Formula One governing board in 1982. Perhaps the main difference in the two types of racing is the expense: Formula One being a much more costly endeavor due to the requirement that teams build and prepare their own chassis. Champ Car teams source their cars’ chassis from a number of independent suppliers, which fosters competition and keeps costs down.

Most modern Champ Cars use turbocharged engines built by Ford Cosworth. Although only displacing 162 cubic inches, these methanol-fueled powerhouses put out an astonishing 850 horsepower in full racing trim – enough to propel the 1,550-pound Champ Cars to a pavement-blistering 240 mph!

Champ Car World Series Website

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

February 9, 2009 by  
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The 1 200 acre Las Vegas Motor Speedway complex is situated along Las Vegas Boulevard North, and is home to four racing tracks. Speedway Motorsports Inc. are the owners of the entire complex, and have their head offices in North Carolina.

Several racing teams are based here and since 2005 the track opens twice a week for local drag racing. It provides a safe environment for drag racers and assists the authorities by discouraging drag racing in the streets. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway also hosts the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department during their driving training courses. The Las Vegas Speedway has a 600 meter paved oval that is called The Bullring; a clay oval 800 meter Dirt Track; the 1/4 mile drag strip that is known as The Strip; and the D-shaped oval Superspeedway that is 2.41 kilometers in length.

Plans to reconfigure the Las Vegas Motor Speedway track was announced in 2006. This would include “progressive banking”. Banking means the angle that you are driving at on the track. To increase this means that drivers will be able to drive higher up on the track, and can drive side by side. Also included in the new construction was a new pit road and a fan zone. The new Las Vegas Motor Speedway track was opened on 8 August 2006, and stock cars were first on the track, together with Kurt Busch. Busch is a NEXTEL Cup Champion and is always seen behind the wheel of the #2 Miller Lite Penske Dodge Charger. He was the very first NASCAR Nextel Cup Driver to test a stock car on the new reconfigured and reopened Las Vegas Motor Speedway track.

Just like any other speedway, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway has also received some nicknames. Most of the Nextel Cup Series races that have been held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway were won by drivers behind the wheel of a Ford. It was therefore often called “The Blue Oval”. The only drivers who have won here and not been driving a Ford, are Sterling Marlin, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Roush has also seen many successes here at the Las Vegas Speedway track, with drivers such as Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin. Thus, the track was known to many as “The House of Roush”. For a few years, the Winston No Bull 5 Million Dollar Bonus was held at the Las Vegas Speedway. This race would award one million dollars to the race winner and was won twice by Jeff Burton, while Jeff Gordon walked away with the prize money in the 2001 race.

Bobby Labonte

February 9, 2009 by  
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Robert ‘Bobby’ Alan Labonte was born in 1964 in Corpus Christi, Texas. He started racing at the tender age of five in a quarter midget race in his hometown. Just one year later, he won his first feature race and he started racing in quarter midget events across the US – many of which he won. In 1978 he moved up to go-karts and the whole family moved to North Carolina to support his older brother Terry who had advanced to the Cup series there. Bobby Labonte continued to race and, after competing in a number of different divisions, made his Busch Series debut in 1982. After graduating, he worked at Hagan Racing and continued to race in various divisions until 1985 when he returned to the Busch Series.

In his second season of the Busch Series, Labonte claimed his first pole position and he finished second at Road Atlanta. Just two years later he won twelve of the Caraway Speedway races of 1987 and he took the track championship that year in his own car – one of two. That year proved to be most fruitful for Labonte and he took a number of wins and top-five finishes during the course of the year. In 1990, Labonte competed in the Busch Series full time, driving his own #44 Slim Jim Oldsmobile. Besides doing well on the track, he won the Most Popular Driver award that year. He went on to win his first race at Bristol and then he won again at the Indianapolis Raceway Park. He went on to win the Championship that year and made two Cup starts at the Dover and Michigan International Speedways.

In 1993, Labonte started to drive in the Cup Series. His car was the #22 Maxwell House Ford Thunderbird and he raced for Bill Davis Racing. He had a brilliant year and even took the championship title in the Busch Series that year. His NASCAR career continued to get better and better and he has clenched many more titles and wins over the years. Today Bobby has the prestige of being the only driver to win both the NASCAR Winston Cup championship and the NASCAR Busch Series Championship. Bobby and his brother Terry Labonte are also the only two brothers to have won the championship in NASCAR’s top series.

By the end of 2009, Bobby Labonte had 21 wins to his name, as well as featuring in the Top Five 114 times, and 199 times in the Top Ten. He is currently (2010) driving TRG Motorsports’ # 71, with TaxSlayer as its primary sponsor and Doug Randolph as his crew chief.

Muscle Cars

February 9, 2009 by  
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The golden age of the Great American Muscle Car began in approximately 1964 and ended in 1971, although these dates are arbitrary. Most people agree that the Pontiac GTO, actually an option package available on the Tempest intermediate car for 1964 and ’65, was the first true muscle car and set the trend for other manufacturers to follow. With its 389 cubic inch V8 and a Hurst shifter to channel the power to the red-lined tires, the GTO made a very big impression. Pretty soon everyone wanted in on Pontiac’s game, and the late 1960s saw legendary muscle cars from Chrysler (Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Challenger), Ford (Mustang Boss 302 and Boss 429, Mercury Marauder) and Chevy (Chevelle SS 396, Corvette 427). The Buick grand Sport and Olds Cutlass 442 were other offerings from GM. Even AMC got in on the act with its fearsome Rebel Machine and AMX models.

Sadly, like all good things, the bubble had to burst. Dropping a powerful engine into a small car might sound like a great idea to you and I, but the insurance companies and highway safety regulators were hearing a different tune – one played to the sound of rising accident rates caused by too much power in inexperienced hands. By the early 1970s, horsepower ratings were in steep decline and monster engines like Chrysler’s 426 Hemi were history. A very special era in automotive history had come to an end. These days, classic muscle cars can be purchased from dealers who specialize in finding, restoring and re-selling them. Muscle cars are also sold by private individuals, often on the Internet. The right muscle car with original parts and rare options can bring 10 to 20 times its original sale price at auction.

Muscle Cars:

Mercury Comet

February 9, 2009 by  
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The sleek lines of the Mercury Comet had quite a few young gentlemen excited when it was first released by the Mercury division of the Ford Motor Company in 1960. The Comet was originally planned as an Edsel model which was developed along similar lines to the Ford Falcon, but with better trimmings and a slightly longer wheel base. It initially made use of the distinctive split grille that had become the Edsel trademark. When it was decided that the car would be marketed by Mercury instead, the Edsel grille was dropped in favor of a Mercury grille though the elliptical taillights and instrument cluster and dashboard knobs were kept for the first-year model.

Initially the changes in design and marketing strategy meant that it was difficult to classify the car properly. With its stretched 14″ Ford Falcon platform and 114″ wheelbase, it was neither a compact car nor an intermediate-sized car for the duration of the seventeen years that the Comet was produced. However Mercury eventually decided to market it as a compact car. Initially the Comet was not marketed as a Mercury, but simply as a ‘Comet’. It was available in 2 & 4 door sedans and 2 & 4 door wagons. It only officially became part of the Mercury line in 1962 when it was first marketed with the Mercury badge. There was also a ‘sport’ version of the Comet – the S-22 – which was available between 1961 and 1963. The S-22 was much the same as the regular 2-door Comets, but it featured an S-22 badge, bucket seats, a centre console, a stainless spoked steering wheel and stainless full wheel covers, amongst other things.

The Comets produced between 1960 and 1963 have a somewhat rounder shape. The initial Comets that were made between 1960 and 1961 had rather unique large, slanted taillights. Car owners could choose between a 3-speed manual or a 2-speed automatic transmission. To counter complaints about the resulting low performance of the 144 ci engine, a 170 ct with a 4-speed manual gearbox was released in 1961. In the car’s first year as an official Mercury car, some minor re-styling removed the ‘cat eye’ taillights and gave the car a sleeker look. The 1963 model was able to accomodate a V-8 engine and was also available as a convertible. The car went through quite a few more changes over subsequent years, but proved in its day to be a most noteworthy muscle car.

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