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Weekend Wrap: Two national records; no wins

by Bill Cawthon on

It was a rare winless weekend for Dodge but it wasn’t a total loss.

Dodges were runners-up in ARCA and NHRA events and two national records were set by Dodge drivers.


ARCA: Kyle Weatherman and the No. 22 Cunningham Motorsports Dodge were second across the finish line in the 100 that ran today at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Tom Hessert in the No. 77 Barbera’s Autoland Dodge was fifth while James Swanson’s No. 48 Kan Dodge finished ninth. Three Top Ten finishes is unusually good for Dodge in ARCA racing. Alex Clubb finished two laps off the lead, coming in 17th in the No. 97 U.S. Bonding/Clubb Lawn & Landscaping Dodge. Brad Dubil had to retire after 96 laps following an accident with the No. 89 JC Dubil Dodge and overheating forced the exit of Con Nicolopoulos and the No. 06 Wayne Peterson Racing Dodge after 64 laps.

Formula One: Sebastian Vettel was on his way to another podium when his right rear tire blew on the next-to-last lap, forcing him out of the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. The mishap gave Team Lotus its first podium since late 2013.

The blowout may have been the result of Ferrari’s strategy of having only one pit stop for the entire race.

Tires were an issue for other teams, as well. Felipe Massa of the usually high-scoring Williams team complained bitterly about the Pirelli tires.

Kimi Raikkonen, who started 16th following a transmission change and a five-place grid penalty, finished seventh. The transmission in Raikkonen’s SF15-T gave out on Saturday, leaving him stranded on the track during qualifying. Since the change was unscheduled, Raikkonen was assessed a five-spot grid penalty.

IMSA/Tudor United Sportcar Championship: Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen finished seventh in the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway.

Sort of keeping it in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles “family,” Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell won the race in their No. 63 Ferrari 458 Italia. Former Viper driver Kuno Wittmer and Christina Nielsen, who is currently at the top of the IMSA GT Daytona-class standings, were the runners-up in the No. 007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage.

NHRA: For only the fourth weekend in the 2015 Mello Yello NHRA drag racing season, a Dodge was not in the winner’s circle. Tommy Thompson Jr. lost to Robert Hight’s Auto Club Camaro in the final round, giving the veteran John Force Racing driver his first Wally in more than a year.

Even with the loss, Dodge drivers are in the top three spots in the driver standings. Jack Beckman is the new leader, followed by Matt Hagan and Tommy Johnson Jr. Ron Capps is sixth in the standings.

Johnson eliminated Jack Beckman when the Infinite Hero Dodge fishtailed violently in their semifinal match.

But the news was far from bad for Beckman. He set a new national Fuel Funny Car ET record of 3.901-seconds and the 107 points he rolled up this weekend were nearly as many as High got with the win. Beckman goes into the U.S. Nationals, the final race of the regular season, with a 50-point lead over Matt Hagan, who is about the only driver who could unseat him.

This means that a Dodge driver has had the points lead for the entire 2015 season to this point.

In the quarterfinals, Beckman outran Hagan in the quickest and fastest Funny Car race in history. Beckman certified his national Funny Car ET record and Hagan certified a new national Funny Car speed record of 329.58 miles per hour. Beckman broke his own record from just a few weeks ago and Hagan broke Courtney Force’s record set in May.

John Hale eliminated Courtney Force in the opening round in a wild race that saw Force’s car gyrate down the track. Force’s loss clinched Ron Capp’s berth in the Countdown to the Championship even though Capps lost to Hight in the same round.

This means that all four Don Schumacher Racing Funny Cars have confirmed reservations in the Countdown.

Allen Johnson will also be in the Countdown, having clinched his own spot by qualifying on Saturday. He shut down Dave Rivers in the opening round but lost to Jason Line when the Team Mopar Dodge Dart developed severe tire shake right at the start.

V. Gaines ended his race day in the opening round wit a loss to Jason Line. This essentially ends Gaines’ chances at the Countdown.

Deric Kramer also went out in the first round. He had a great light but Chris McGaha was faster down the track, easily making up the difference.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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