Tire switch, Ford introduction at Irwindale

January 11, 2020

first_imgDrivers who compete at Irwindale Speedway can expect two significant changes when the season starts on March 24. The first is switching from Goodyear to Hoosier tires for seven divisions that race at the track. The second is the introduction of the Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Super Late Model and Late Model divisions. NASCAR Super Late Models, Late Models, Super Trucks, Super Stocks, Pure Stocks, Mini Stocks and figure-8 cars are going to be using Hoosier tires this year in competition. The Super Trucks and Late Model divisions made the transition from Goodyears to Hoosiers near the end of the 2006 season. “For everybody it’s a pretty easy switch,” said Newhall’s Travis Thirkettle, the track’s NASCAR Late Model champion. “Everybody except the Super Late Models.” Thirkettle added that the decision to change tires was not an easy one for track officials. “The race track put a lot of effort to get the price of the tires to come down,” Thirkettle said. The other revision is the introduction of the Ford Fusion in the Super Late Model and Late Model divisions. Rip Michels, the 2006 Southwest Series champ, is returning to the Super Late Model ranks in a Ford Fusion for the Sunrise Ford Racing Team owned by Bob Bruncati. Michels is one of many Super Late Model drivers using Ford engines and the new bodies this year. “Bob is a great owner, and it’s going to be a lot of fun for the crew and me to drive for him,” said Michels, a driver from San Fernando and winner of two Super Late Model championships at Irwindale Speedway. “It is cool to see an owner in the shop a couple hours of the day helping out the race team. Plus, he is so hands on that I can take a breath and just really concentrate on driving and set-up, which is something I have not been able to do in a long time.” Saturday was the first of two open pratices scheduled at Irwindale Speedway before opening night. The open practice is from 10 a.m. to dusk and is $100 per car. NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series: Ron Hornaday Jr. leaves California Speedway with a second-place finish in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race and a little regret. Hornaday was the runner-up to race winner Mike Skinner. But Hornaday bumped Mark Martin’s truck from behind and sent him spinning into the infield grass late in the race. Martin went from leading to 23rd place as the final laps of the race winded down. “It was a great run until the last three laps or so when Mark went spinning into the grass,” said Hornaday, driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado for Kevin Harvick Inc. “We were really good off the trailer. We started changing a few things and then luckily went back to where we started.” Hornaday, a former Saugus Speedway champ from Palmdale, is fourth in the Truck Series standings after two races. Skinner and Jack Sprague, winner of the Truck Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway in Florida, are tied for the series lead. Johnny Benson is third. Hornaday is 24 points behind the leaders. Hornaday credits his new crew chief, Rick Ren, for his team’s success in the first two races. “Awesome, that’s what we needed,” Hornaday said. “Rick Ren and all the guys on the No. 33 have worked very hard. We had a great start to the season; that’s what we had to do.” Next up for the Truck Series is Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 16. Hornaday, who holds the series record for career wins with 29, won the Atlanta race in 2005. He finished 20th at Atlanta last year. American Le Mans Series: Acura is preparing to make its debut in the American Le Mans Series, which kicks off its season with the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17. Porsche and Mazda have new prototypes for the endurance race in Florida. Santa Clarita-based Honda Performance Development is preparing the engines for the three Acura-powered teams in the American Le Mans Series LMP2 division. Indy Racing League: Roger Griffiths, race team technical leader for Honda, was asked during a recent news conference how close Honda was to making an commercial ethanol-powered car. The Indy Racing League will be using Honda-powered cars with engines that use 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol. The IRL is the first racing series to use such a fuel in all its cars. Honda, which has its Honda Performance Development based in Santa Clarita, is the sole provider of engines to the IRL teams. Griffiths said he was the wrong person to ask that question. But he did say that the Honda philosophy is to embrace new technology and improve the environment. “It’s really to take the lead in technology,” Griffiths said. “Certainly by being the first race-car engine manufacturer to produce an engine that runs on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol is a big step forward.” Brian Barnhart, president and chief operating officer of the Indy Racing League, said that Honda is one of the most environmental-conscious car companies in the world, it is concerned about a green environment and has the most fuel-efficient cars on the market. With the use of ethanol in recent tests, Barnhart said the fuel efficiency of the IRL cars has increased and teams have seen a 30 percent reduction in fuel capacity. “All of that makes sense with the switch,” Barnhart said. “They very much do embrace the change to ethanol because it’s consistent with their thought process of being interested in renewable fuels, alternative fuel sources, especially fuel efficient.” [email protected] (818) 713-3715 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Thirkettle is moving up in class to the Super Late Model division. He said there are two downsides to the switch in tires for the Super Late Model teams. One is that the Hoosier tires the track decided to use for the Super Late Model division is a similar tire the defunct Southwest Series drivers used last year. “The Southwest tour guys are familiar with them,” Thirkettle said. “It gives them a little bit of an edge.” Two is that cost of the Hoosier tire is about $30 more than the Goodyears. For the Super Late Model teams, which can go through four tires a race, it could amount to thousands of dollars in extra expenses on tires alone. “I might try to stretch two races out of the tires,” Thirkettle said. “The better-funded teams won’t even try. They’ll change tires every race.” last_img

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