Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Format MPG Track Days Off To A Good Start

Motorsports Journal/Performance & Racing Tech Talk managing editor Edmund Jenks takes the first drive of the day at Big Willow in the new 5th generation Dodge VIPER T/A production two-seater super car. The Yorange 2015 Viper has not been outfitted with the SRT performance division’s 707-horsepower Hellcat engine (which was available in a lime green Charger and also driven at Big Willow) but its 8.4-liter V-10 engine is now rated at 645 horsepower, up 5 horses on the previous model year. Torque remains unchanged at 600 ft.-pounds. Production of this particular model in specialized colors (Competition Blue, Yorange, and Venom Black) will be limited to 96 units. Image Credit: Albert Wong

New Format MPG Track Days Off To A Good Start

The Motor Press Guild (MPG), the largest automotive media association in North America, re-launched its annual Track Days media event with an all-new program this week on Oct. 14-15 at the Hilton Pasadena, the Rose Bowl, and Willow Springs International Speedway.

Pulling in elements from business retreats and professional conferences, the re-imagined MPG Track Days program included a discussion panel led by A-list media, presentations from industry executives and exclusive test drives of more than 50 new cars, trucks and SUVs on public roads, closed courses and an historic raceway.

Chris Kersting, CEO of SEMA, the trade association representing the $33B automotive aftermarket industry, shared his insights on the latest parts and accessory trends ahead of the SEMA Show. The SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show, scheduled for November 4-7 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and plays host to more than 130,000 attendees and is where the industry comes to do business. For the first time in the Show's nearly 50-year history, the general public will be invited to partake in the action at a separate event called SEMA Ignited after the Show closes.

MPG Track Days “Secrets of Success in Automotive Journalism” panel shared many strongly held opinions in a lively and open, back and forth, forum. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

MPG Track Days' professional media panel this year, entitled "Secrets of Success in Automotive Journalism," was moderated by Sue Callaway, editor-in-chief of THE AUTO 100 and senior contributing editor at Fortune magazine. Callaway and the panel shared insights on what it takes to be an influential journalist in today's complex media world. Panelists included "BJ" Chris Woodyard, auto industry reporter at USA Today; "The Retiring" Mark Vaughn, west coast editor at Autoweek; "Just a grateful blogger" Michael Harley, west coast editor at; "From radio to video" Micah Muzio, managing editor for video, Kelley Blue Book; and "Managing Motormouth" Michelle Naranjo, editor-in-chief at A second panel discussed the role of technology in the auto industry, from design to driving.

As in years past, MPG journalist members drove and evaluated vehicles from nearly every automaker in various environments on road, off road and on track. A back-to-back comparison test of compact SUVs and luxury sedans were staged at the historic Rose Bowl, followed by a street drive through scenic Pasadena. On-track drives at Big Willow and Streets of Willow courses were held at the historic Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, CA. An off-road course through the hills overlooking the Raceway hosted a selection of trucks and SUVs, including the incredibly capable 550hp Lingenfelter Chevy Reaper pickup truck.

The much anticipated, limited-edition Reaper, a no-nonsense performance off-road edition of the 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup, is now available at select General Motors dealerships nationwide. The heavily customized Chevy Silverado that can be ordered with a supercharged 550hp 6.2L, comes in red, white, gray and black with a long list of standard features: three-inch lift, long-travel off-road suspension; Fox Racing shocks; 20-inch exclusive Reaper wheels mounted on General Grabber LT tires; and a Lingenfelter performance exhaust system. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

"Our track event has always provided a vital comparative driving experience for professional journalists to evaluate several cars in a short amount of time," said Joni Gray, MPG president. "This year, we've stepped up our program with newsworthy speakers and hands-on instruction to provide our members with even more content to fill the stories, reviews, TV segments and podcasts they create in the automotive media space."

MPG members were treated to a special ride along in a 2015 Nissan GT-R NISMO - one of only three in the country -- with 2011 Nissan GT Academy winner Bryan Heitkotter.

On the evening of Oct. 14, the gala dinner prepared by celebrity executive chef Gina Rodriguez was served. Rodriguez was a contestant on Food Network's hit show, Chopped. In the morning following the dinner, members were transported between the Hilton Pasadena and Willow Springs on Wi-Fi enabled luxury corporate coaches, which allowed members to network and be productive on the 90 minute ride each way.

MPG Track Days was open to all Motor Press Guild members, but only journalist members were credentialed to drive vehicles.

For information about becoming a member of MPG, please visit, or follow us on the MPG Facebook and Twitter pages.

Presenting Sponsors:
SEMA - Specialty Equipment Market Association
Nissan North America

Sponsor provided street drive cars lined up on the parking lot tarmac at the Southwest front entrance of the Rose Bowl complex. Journalist members had an enjoyable time driving a neighborhood street course that had all cars pass by a California Highway Patrol field office just off of the 210 Freeway. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

Participating Sponsors:
Volkswagen of America
Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America
Mercedes-Benz North America
Ford Motor Co.
Subaru of America
Kia Motors
Hyundai Motors
Chrysler Corp.
Alfa Romeo
Honda North America
BMW North America
Porsche Cars North America
Land Rover
Tesla Motors
PR Newswire
(ht: Doug Stokes - MPG Track Days Committee)

... notes from The EDJE

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Irwindale Event Center's "Night of Champions 2014" Has Tight Points Battles In 3 Of 5 Events

The crazy-wild Lucas Oil Terminal Velocity Jet Dragster will be making a special appearance on the oval track and is scheduled to do a spectacular "burn down" (and that means to the ground) of a cast-off automobile or two during the "Night of Champions 2014" at IEC. Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

Irwindale Event Center's "Night of Champions 2014" Has Tight Points Battles In 3 Of 5 Events

Irwindale Event Center's "Night of Champions 2014" Presented by 805 will be held this coming Saturday, October 18, 2014. Five Speedway divisions and one west coast touring series will take to the banked asphalt at Irwindale with five 2014 track championships at stake all on one exciting night.

NASCAR sanctioned Pick Your Part Super Late Models. Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

The featured NASCAR sanctioned Pick Your Part Super Late Models division have put on great show at every race this year and now head into their final race with the first two competitors tied in points at 274 each. It just can't get any closer than a tie for first place points after completing the first six of a seven race championship season.

The leading duo: Toni McCray from Highland has won one of the six races, finished second twice and has a string of good finishes to her name, and Corona's Jason Patison has a three-race winning streak in the "Supers" going in.

Stringing together a lot of very good finishes, Linny White (Fontana) is right there in third at 272 points, only 2 scant clicks behind McCray and Patison. If anyone doesn't think that Mister White is coiled-up like a cobra and ready to strike, they've been watching the wrong races. Almost like a one-race "chase", the first points for this one have been figuratively reset to zero and there's Linny looking for a way to grab that 100* smackers and win the whole Super Late show on the very last go-round.

Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

... And the Seidner's Collision Centers Mini Stocks division are only 2 points shy of a tie coming in on Saturday night. Covina's Dusty Morgan has not won a race all year but smart driving and a string of top finishes sees him here two (full) points up on Robby Harryman from Anaheim (316 -314). Harryman has won two races in the eight-race series, but also had a couple of not-so-hot finishes, keeping the points close and the competition (Garrett Green from Long Beach is only 4 points behind Harryman in third!) so tantalizingly tough and tight among the mighty mini stocks.

Universal Studios Hollywood™ Bandoleros division. Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

Thirty-eight points separate Twin Peaks' McKenzie Eshleman from Lomita's Ryan Vargas in the Universal Studios Hollywood™ Bandoleros division. Vargas has been perfect in 2014, winning each and every one of the ten "Bando" events run thus far at Irwindale.

Under any other set of circumstances Eshleman would be said to be having a great year, the young lady notching high finishes at every event, but then there's Vargas winning every race that see the two 38 points apart first from second. Now factor in Allison Gay from Lakeside who is only 16 markers back in third. There are two races and 150 points still on the table for these youngsters (50 on Friday night and 100 for the finale on Saturday). Can Vargas go undefeated for an entire season?

Stand by (better still, the public is urged to go to right now and grab a whole handful of discount tickets for October 18 to witness the battle for a shot at track history).

Irwindale Race Trucks division. Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

Running race nine of a 10-event 2014 season, the Irwindale Race Trucks division points leader has what looks (by the above standards anyway) like a huge 40 point jump on second place, but we must remind again that this one is for 100 (not the standard 50) points.

Already crowned as the 2104 Lucas Oil Late Model division champion, Rancho Cucamonga's own Ryan Partridge has a 40-point lead over his neighbor Christian McGhee (from Claremont) who, in turn has a 20-point advantage over rookie sensation Lacie Price from Bellflower. Partridge has won the lion's share of the IRT races this year (7 of the 9 run so far) but the Irwindale points system (and some very good driving by youngsters McGhee and Price) have kept the show close and the championship outcome to be determined on October 18.

In what is the largest lead in divisional points for the Irwindale championship events running on Saturday night, Alta Loma's Brent Scheidemantle will lead the INEX Legend Cars division onto the Speedway's low-banked (and tricky) third-mile track with a 72-point cushion over Studio City's Aaron Wells (442 to 370).

This will be the tenth and final race of the 2014 season for these very popular and very quick little motorcycle-engined replicas of early NASCAR stockers. Chad Schug (Oak Hills) is third only 20 back of Wells in the closely-matched "spec" series. There's a hundred to be had in the points pile, which means, of course, that a misstep can cost a lot to a frontrunner in terms of final placings on the points page in the big book of racing for 2014 at Irwindale.

The Spears S2 Tour Series will be back for their final Irwindale visit on October 18 with young Brandon Weaver from Bakersfield leading the points with 1,428 after the first seven of their 10-race touring season. Nastasia Dodd from Bass Lake is 129 points back at 1,299 with Bill Waters (Simi Valley) only 10 behind her. Johnny Butler from Arcadia and Kenny Smith from Oak Hills round out the S-2 top five at 1,261 and 1,180 points respectively. The S-2's are a locally-designed and built "spec" (all components and engines are identical) class and the racing is always razor-sharp and exceedingly close.

In addition to all of the above high-level championship short track competition, the crazy-wild Lucas Oil Terminal Velocity Jet Dragster will be making a special appearance on the oval track and is scheduled to do a spectacular "burn down" (and that means to the ground) of a cast-off automobile or two.
Figure-8 Chain Racing (two cars chained together on each team). Image Credit: Irwindale Event Center

The night will also feature the return of Figure-8 Chain Racing (two cars chained together on each team) in a wild exhibition event!

For those who attend and are over 21, Firestone Walker Brewing Company will be on hand with $2 beers for all of their brands on site, including their very popular 805 - hence "Presented by 805!"
(ht: IEC)

... notes from The EDJE