Race Weekend Update
- NASCAR heads to Darlington Raceway this weekend for the throwback Bojangles Southern 500 race weekend. Check out all the throwback paint schemes here: espn.com/jayski/cup/schemes/2017/story/_/id/20340710/2017-darlington-cup-throwback-paint-schemes
NEXT RACE: Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, TV on Sunday on NBC at 3:30 p.m. PT
Crampton named driver of SealMaster Top Fuel dragster
Kalitta Motorsports named former Rookie of the Year and U.S. Nationals champion Richie Crampton the driver of the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster. He will begin his tenure for Kalitta Motorsports at the historic U.S. Nationals and will remain in the seat for the balance of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season.
The Top Fuel pilot takes over driving duties in the SealMaster Toyota dragster for Troy Coughlin Jr., who resigned his position with Kalitta Motorsports on Saturday evening.
"It was a huge honor to get the call from Jim O (Oberhofer) asking if I could finish out the year with the team," said Crampton. "Connie Kalitta is a legend, and for me to get an opportunity like this is unreal. I am excited to jump into the SealMaster Toyota dragster and see what we can do. I never knew if I was going to be able to drive a Top Fuel dragster again, so I am extremely grateful for this opportunity."
Crampton began his NHRA career in 2007 as a crew member at Morgan Lucas Racing, eventually elevating himself to clutch specialist and car chief. However, Crampton had the desire to drive. Morgan Lucas Racing put Crampton in a Top Fuel ride in 2014, and Crampton had success nearly immediately. Crampton scored the U.S. Nationals win in his rookie season on his way to the Auto Club Road To The Future trophy. In 2015, Crampton earned five victories and finished third in the final point standings. In 72 career events, Crampton has earned seven wins, five No. 1 qualifiers and 70 career round wins.
SealMaster, the pavement maintenance industry's one-stop source for materials, products and equipment, will continue to back Kalitta Motorsports as Crampton's primary sponsor. SealMaster has been a valued partner of Kalitta Motorsports family since 2014 and a primary sponsor since 2016.
"After talking with Connie Kalitta and SealMaster, we decided Richie Crampton would make a good fit to fill the seat of the SealMaster dragster," said Jim Oberhofer, Vice President of Operations, Kalitta Motorsports. "His driving experience as well as his overall knowledge of the dragster will make him a valuable asset to Kalitta Motorsports. We were happy he was available to race in Indy."
Second four-wide event added to 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Series schedule
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will add a second four-wide racing event in 2018, in April at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, when the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals joins the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, held annually since 2010 at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, on the season schedule.
The speedway announced plans to widen The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to four lanes, and construction is already under way in anticipation of April 4-6, 2018 event.
"Four-wide drag racing has captured the interest of race fans and competitors at Charlotte's zMAX Dragway," LVMS president Chris Powell said. "It's exciting to give everyone on the West Coast a chance to see what fans back east have experienced for several years now. Four-wide drag racing was the vision of our chairman, Bruton Smith, and our chief executive officer, Marcus Smith. They are two of the key reasons that NHRA drag racing has become one of the most popular forms of motorsports in the world."
NHRA officials expressed excitement about bringing four-wide NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series to the west.
"The excitement and sensory overload of four-wide drag racing is one of the most intense displays of motorsports in the country," said Peter Clifford, NHRA president. "We look forward to presenting the four-wide experience to the dedicated NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series fans in Las Vegas and the surrounding states."
Drivers John Force and Antron Brown have had success racing four wide, as each of them has posted victories at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte. Force won the first-ever Funny Car four-wide event in 2010, and Brown is a two-time four-wide winner in Top Fuel.
"I've got to give credit to Bruton Smith for investing in the sport of NHRA drag racing," Force said. "His four-lane in Charlotte gave him two races, one with the two-lane in the Countdown and then the four-lane in the spring. It only makes sense that when he designed his Vegas track, from day one he planned on four lanes. That will allow those two races to be even more successful. So, good for you Bruton, and thank you from all of us at John Force Racing."
NEXT RACE: This weekend's U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis; finals live on FOX Monday at 10 a.m. PT.
Newgarden pulls off another bold maneuver to win at Gateway
Josef Newgarden's latest bold move led the Team Penske driver to win in the Verizon IndyCar Series' thrilling return to Gateway Motorsports Park and extend his championship lead.
Newgarden completed a daring pass of teammate Simon Pagenaud on the 218th of 248 laps on the 1.25-mile oval and he went on to win the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline by 0.6850 of a second over Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon. The triumph - Newgarden's third win in the past four races and his fourth victory this season - allowed the 26-year-old Tennessean to push his points lead to 31 over Dixon with two races remaining.
The race marked the Verizon IndyCar Series' return to the St. Louis region for the first time in 14 years. A packed main grandstand roared when Newgarden, in the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, slipped inside of Pagenaud, driving the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, heading into Turn 1. The cars touched mid-corner, forcing Pagenaud to slow as he moved up the track.
"Simon gave me a lane to work with," said Newgarden, who used an impressive crossover move to pass teammate Will Power and win the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 30. "I had a good tow on him, put my car inside in the opening, got about halfway alongside of him.
"One thing I didn't want to do was touch him too hard. I think if I would have stayed too far left, I would have jumped the curb and that would have taken both of us out," added Newgarden, chasing his first series championship in his sixth season and first with Team Penske. "I tried to get Simon to move over a little when we were coming to the opening of the corner. We both had to slow up. Fortunately, (it) worked out well for us on the (No.) 2 car side."
Pagenaud's loss of momentum on the decisive pass opened the door for Dixon, in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda, to get past for second place. Pagenaud, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, was understandably upset after finishing in third place.
"I think on a road course, that was a beautiful pass," Pagenaud said. "But we're not on a road course. There, we are going 40-50 mph (slower). Here, we're doing 190 (mph). It's completely different story."
Newgarden led 170 laps in collecting his seventh career win, delivering Team Penske its fifth straight victory and 10th this season. It was also the 196th Indy car win for the renowned team.
Dixon felt fortunate to finish second, considering he started seventh and Team Penske had secured the first four spots in qualifying. Helio Castroneves gave Team Penske three of the top four finishers when he placed fourth in the No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet. Castroneves led 52 laps to become the fourth driver in Indy car history to surpass 6,000 laps led in a career.
Conor Daly finished fifth in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet, the AJ Foyt Racing driver's best finish in his first season with the team and his best showing since placing fourth last year at Watkins Glen.
The start of the race was slowed by a pair of incidents. Tony Kanaan of Chip Ganassi Racing spun in Turn 2 on the pace lap and backed his No. 10 NTT Data Honda into the SAFER Barrier. Kanaan went three laps down while the car was repaired and eventually finished 16th.
When the green flag did wave, pole sitter Power spun in nearly the same place as Kanaan and hit the wall in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet on Lap 6. The cars of Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato touched as they slowed to avoid Power, sending both into the wall as well. None of the drivers was injured but their races were over before the night had barely begun.
"It wasn't a fun ride," Power said. "Josef went around the outside (to pass for the lead) and (I) got some of his dirty air and just lost it. Unfortunate. Very frustrating, unbelievably frustrating. ... It was just slippery, super slippery."
The Verizon IndyCar Series standings show Newgarden in the lead with 547 points, Dixon second with 516, Castroneves third at 505, Pagenaud fourth at 504 and Power fifth with 464. Graham Rahal (436 points), Alexander Rossi (422) and Sato (410) remain mathematically alive for the championship as well.
By finishing 13th tonight, Dale Coyne Racing's Ed Jones clinched Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for the season.
VIDEO: Gateway Race Highlights: www.indycar.com/Videos/2017/08/08-27-Gateway-race-highlights
NEXT RACE: The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to action with the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen; race airs live at 10 a.m. PT Sept. 3 on NBCSN.
- Wednesday Night Drags, Top the Cops and Sonoma Drift return this Wednesday. This marks the final Top the Cops event of the season.
- AFM hits the track Saturday and Sunday
- Labor Day Bracket Drags on Monday, Sept. 4.