07th Feb2017

The Relevant Super Bowl Commercials

by Michael Chandler

Like most people, I spent my Sunday evening at a Super Bowl party.  Gorging myself on wings and cocktail shrimp, and half-watching the game.  I also managed to half-watch the commercials, and since this is an automotive enthusiast site, we’re gonna take a look at the eight automotive commercials that aired.  Let’s start with Audi.

Audi

It’s called “Daughter”.  The daughter is in a soapbox derby, and she’s the only girl in the field.  The voice-over is the father asking himself what he is going to tell his daughter about her value, because she (and the rest of us) live in a world where women, on average, make less than men.  It’s not selling a car, although they show an S5 sedan at the end.  It’s promoting them being committed to equal pay for equal work, which is a very noble thing.  As a car ad, it’s not that great.  Considering that they showed off a sedan version of one of their coupes, which means that they’ll be making sedan versions of their coupes, which makes me irrationally angry.  As a PR piece, it was ok.

Buick

Buick is still trying to convince people that they’re not building transportation for the elderly.  An admirable goal, but Buick is always gonna have that stigma.  The ad is funny: Cam Newton destroys pee-wee football players, and Miranda Kerr shows up.  I still think Buicks are sleds for the elderly, and this ad doesn’t really change that.

FCA

They came out with two 1 minute spots, and a 30 second spot for the Alfa Romeo Giulia.  One is about returning to greatness, Riding On The Backs of Dragons, another is about predictability, Dear Predictable, and the last one is all of the cliches you could want when talking about an Alfa, Mozzafiato.  It’s pretty hard to make the Giulia look bad, and it’s a trick to make the Quadrifoglio sound bad.  Thankfully the car looks and sounds amazing in the spots, and I want one even more now.  The spots show off the car really well, and hopefully this means we’ll see more of them running around in the wild.

Ford

Like Audi, Ford didn’t show off any particular vehicle.  This was them showing off how they’ll help you (or whoever) get around in the future.  Bike sharing, Transit vans on call, vehicles that can hard park themselves.  The future is looking bright for the Blue Oval!  Or whatever.  All I know is that they’ll be pounding out F-Series trucks until the sun expands and engulfs our little, blue marble.  Did anyone else relate to some of those bad luck scenarios in the first half of that commercial?  A few of those hit too close to home for me…

Honda

The Honda ad, which was slinging the new CRV, was inspiring and creepy.  Using technology, they animated various celebrities’ year book photos.  That was the creepy part.  The inspiring part was what the celebrities were saying.  And I’m not sure the CRV, while a decent little crossover, is not the most aspirational vehicle they could be pitching…  Meh, it still works.

Kia

Melissa McCarthy, a treasure, keeps trying to defend nature.  And nature absolutely wrecks here.  Up to this point, this is the ad that is the most cohesive.  It’s pitching the Niro (pronounced Nee-ro), which is apparently the most fuel efficient crossover.  It fits with Mrs. McCarthy trying to be an eco-warrior, although hopefully it doesn’t fail like she did.  The Niro looks pretty good, and I’m curious to see what the interior looks like.

Lexus

Lexus showed off the LC500, a damn fine looking vehicle.  There was something about emotion in there, but all I remember is hearing the glorious engine noise.  And the dancing, but mostly the engine noise.  Again, damn fine looking vehicle.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz knows that your dad and his golf buddies are probably going to buy the new AMG GT Roadster, so they got Peter Fonda to reprise his role from Easy Rider for their ad.  They also know that you’ll be watching this along side them, so the tapped the Coen brothers to direct it.  It’s not a bad ad, has some humor, and Peter Fonda is still pretty bad ass.  And odds are that if you were on board for the AMG GT, then you’re on board for an al fresco version.  

And that’s the lot of them.  Let us know which was your favorite, which you hated (I’ve got an idea where some of you will go with this), and if you’ve made it this far you deserve a treat.  So, here’s the Logan ad:

*Article, Photos, Videos, and Audio clips are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.
09th Feb2016

Let’s Rate the Automaker’s Super Bowl Commercials

by Michael Chandler

Supercharged S2000 feature Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-4

A healthy chunk of us watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, and some of us watched for the commercials.  I watched because it involved going to a place where there was awesome brisket and hominy dip, but that’s neither here nor there.  Since this is an auto enthusiast website, let’s not discuss the game but instead talk about some commercials!  Specifically the commercials from the auto manufacturers.  This year we had commercials from Kia, Hyundai, Honda, Acura, Mini, Buick, Toyota, Audi, and FCA.  What were each of these manufacturers pushing, and who (or what) did they get to push whatever it is? LET’S FIND OUT TOGETHER!  And then let’s rate them on a scale from 1-10.  Sound good? Great!

Full Disclosure: I missed the first quarter, and was far more concerned with wolfing down food than with what was going on on the screen.  With the exception of Kia, Mini and Honda, this is the first time I’m seeing these commercials.

Let’s start with

Kia:

They’re pushing the new Optima with Christopher Walken and sock puppets!  OOO, look how shiny and not like any other mid-sized sedan it is!  Except it kinda looks like a Camry, and that interior doesn’t look THAT amazing.  But I do appreciate the dig they’re taking at everyone else.  Buying a mid-sized sedan is a lot like choosing socks: you just pick something that won’t stand out, and go on about your day.  Some options are more boring than others, but at the end of the day we’re talking about socks.  The things that keep your feet warm and dry, and comfortable in your shoes.  They don’t need to be flashy, and wacky sock guy isn’t a great guy to be.  I EXPRESS MY PERSONALITY THROUGH MY SOCKS!  ZABOW!!!  Please don’t be that guy, or be that guy and let me hurl grapefruits at you.  Either or.

And was anyone else hoping Christopher Walken was going to break out his monologue from Pulp Fiction?  It wouldn’t have been nearly as marketable, but it would’ve been the best commercial in twenty-years.

Score: 6.5

Hyundai:

They had four ads this year!

In the first one, titled The Chase, a pair of hikers (a guy and a gal) are being chased through the woods by two Grizzly Bears.  Thinking quickly, the guy speaks into his smart watch, and the 2017 Elantra fires up.  They hop in, and escape the bears.  Hooray!  But then the bears are given some dialogue, and I am suddenly overcome by the desire to burn whoever green lit that idea at the stake.  Why do I want to revive the practice usually reserved for witches?  You saw the vegan joke, right?  I rest my case.

The second ad is titled Ryanville, and features two ladies driving down a suburban street where every man they see is noted Canadian Ryan Reynolds.  He’s riding a bike.  He’s giving and receiving a traffic ticket.  He’s an entire construction crew.  He’s playing five on five football with nine other Ryan Reynoldses, one of whom seems way too aggressive for this being a simple pick up game.  I believe this to be the “evil” clone.

The women swoon and gawk, and damn near hit Ryan Reynolds the dog walker.  Thankfully for them (the world at large really), their Elantra has whatever they’re calling their collision avoidance and automatic braking system.  The world will have more Deadpool appearances, which makes this a much better world to live in.

First Date: Kevin Hart’s daughter goes on a date with a boy who may have nefarious intentions.  Kevin is reasonably concerned, so he let’s them take his Genesis 5.0.  The Genesis is equipped with Car Finder, which he uses to stalk the couple.  He’s at the movie they go to, he’s hiding in a pile of stuffed animals at the midway on the pier, and he shows up on a ladder hanging underneath what looks like an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter.

Their final spot was titled Better, and revolves around a boy who has a seemingly unique birth defect (condition? abnormality?): he has a V8 that produces a blue light protruding from his chest.  We see him go from baby, to toddler, to elementary school (where he knows how many moons Saturn has and can play Galaga like a pro), to high school (where he ignores his friend and talks to some attractive female classmates), to college (where he burns the midnight oil in the library), to post collegiate life (where he enjoys fitness and helping the elderly).  And then we see where he works, and who he works with.  The where appears to be a Hyundai design studio, and the who are other people with THE SAME ENGINE THING ON THEIR CHESTS!  Turns out that the engine is a metaphor.  “Better is the engine that drives us,” says Paul Rudd, who did the voice over work in all of the Hyundai spots.  We then see the intrepid lad looking at a concept vehicle that he penned.  Is Hyundai better than they were before?  Definitely.  Are they better than most of their competitors?  Well, they’re better than enough of them to remain a relevant player.

Score: 7. Blame the bears and the engines, praise Kevin Hart and Ryan Reynolds.

Honda:

In the third quarter is where America was introduced to the new 2017 Honda Ridgeline, which looks like an Odyssey that had everything behind the C-pillar cut off and replaced with a truck bed.  In this ad we have a farmer transporting sheep, a handful at a time, to a pasture for grazing.  We can hear Queen’s Somebody to Love playing from the truck as the farmer unloads what has to be his twentieth load of sheep.  He drives off, and the sheep start singing the classic song.  They stop when the farmer, and three more sheep, return.  And it’s here that we find out why the sheep are singing Queen: because of the truck bed audio system that’s an option on the new Ridgeline!  I can understand how this could be a useful feature, but I’m not 100% sure I get how it went from a note in a focus group to a thing that you can get on your truck.  Anyway, the farmer drives away and the sheep begin singing again.  Then we see the truck in front of a barn, and hear a voice over talking about the truck bed audio.  The camera slides over to reveal that the farmer’s dog is delivering the lines.  After seeing this ad, I noticed the four dogs running around the room.  I felt a sudden wave of melancholy wash over me, and I went back for more brisket and chicken nuggets.

Score: 6.  Any other song, and this would’ve been scored much lower.

Acura:

Acura was pushing the 2017 NSX, something they’ve been doing for four years now.  Instead of having Jerry Seinfeld, noted Porsche fan, trying to get the first NSX (something he didn’t do in the 2012 ad, and something he didn’t do this year), they released a 30 second version of a longer commercial they released a week before!  They show the car going from a block of aluminum to a car via all the processed that are necessary to go from block of aluminum to car, with Runnin With The Devil playing in the background.  While not a bad commercial, this is another one of the many odd steps Acura has taken during this whole NSX gestation period.  Why undercut your Super Bowl commercial by releasing the minute long version a week before the game?  I demand answers!

*pounds fist on table*

*Funko POP figures fall down*

OH MY GOD NO!!!!!!!!!

Score: 7 for the extended cut, 4 for this version.  Seriously…

Mini

Several celebrities (take that with a grain of salt) hurl labels at the Minis.  Tony Hawk, Abby Wambach, Randy Johnson, T Pain, Serena Williams, a little girl, Michael Whinnet, some racing drivers, and Harvey Keitel are all here to tell you that people who defy labels define themselves.  And they also want you to buy a Mini Clubman, which I’m gonna go ahead and say don’t.  For $29,000 there are better options, ones that don’t include a pillar running through the middle of your rear window.

By the way, does anyone remember Harvey Keitel driving an NSX in Pulp Fiction?  Why can’t HE be pushing the NSX?  Why, of all things, the Mini Clubman?

Score: 7.5. Who are some of these people??

Buick

Remember when we thought Buick was going to be cool again?  While we have the Regal GS, we have to take things like the Cascada to get it.  Is it a shorter Murano Cross Cabrio?  A taller VW Eos?  Whatever it is, it’s at a wedding and it’s criminally under vandalized.  Seriously, who are these guests and why isn’t that thing filled with balloons, tissue paper, and other random crap?  *annoyed grunt*

Since it’s a wedding, there HAS to be a bouquet toss.  The bride throws the bouquet over the assembled women vying for the flowers, and one recreates an O’Dell Beckham Jr. catch.  The bystanders remark on how Beckham Jr. like her catch was, then OBJ himself says that she was out of bounds.  Adorably hilarious.  Where’s that Avista sport coupe?  MAKE IT HAPPEN PEOPLE!

Score: 5.5.  Could’ve been worse, could’ve been a lot better though.

Toyota

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!  The only exciting Prii are not even really Prii.  The entire time this commercial was playing, I was imagining running those idiots off the road.  The day America falls in love from some bumbling idiots, running aimlessly from the cops in a Prius, is the day the fiery gates of Hell open up, and fire and brimstone fall from the sky and finish ruining our shit.

Score: Words cannot express how much I hate this commercial.

Audi


New R8?  Good.  Bowie’s Starman in the background? Amazing.  A son using said R8 to reignite his former astronaut father’s interest in life?

This was the best commercial from the auto makers for this Super Bowl.  I felt all of the feels.

Score: 11.  IT’S JUST DUSTY IN HERE, OKAY?!?

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

FCA kept it all about Jeep, and it’s 75 year anniversary.  The first one talks about all the things Jeeps have done in those 75 years, and the other talks about all the things they currently do because they’re Jeeps.  No model in particular, just Jeep.  These two fall short, especially when compared to the three stellar commercials to come out of the FCA camp in years past.

Score: 8.  Not great compared to their previous entries, but stellar compared to most of the other ones.

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.
01st Sep2015

Ford GP of Utah Day 1 Highlights

by Michael Chandler

Pirelli World Challenge Ford Grand Prix of Utah day 1 Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-60

Words and photos by Michael Chandler

And now to the highlights from Saturday’s races.  We’ll start with GT, where Johnny O’Connell (man of the people) took his ATSV.R GT3 wire to wire, holding off both of the Nissan GTR GT3s for the win.  Coming in second was JD Davison in the #33 Always Evolving GTR, and in third was Bryan Hoikotter.  Hoikotter is a graduate of the Nissan GT Academy, you know, the thing where hot shoe Gran Turismo players have a chance to become hot shoe race car drivers.  GT Academy drivers have done reasonably well, Hoikotter himself is sitting in third in the driver’s championship at the moment.

Pirelli World Challenge Ford Grand Prix of Utah day 1 Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-62

Back to Johnny for a minute.  He’s been on a bit of a dry spell since Canada.  He’s finished in the top ten at the last two stops (Mid-Ohio and Road America), but hasn’t been on the podium since returning from the Great White North.  Not only did he break that four race winless streak, he also set a new track record in the process!  Always good seeing a driver as skilled as Johnny wringing the most out of a new chassis.

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Last year the fans at Miller missed out on seeing the Realtime Racing Acura TLX-GTs.  This year the fans got to see World Challenge legend Peter Cunningham and the people’s champ Ryan Eversley hustle the Acuras around the warm, dusty track.  When the checkered flag flew, Peter held of the Bentley of Guy Smith for 8th and Ryan kept Olivier Beretta (currently second in GT Driver’s standings) behind him for 11th.  I was excited to see the Acuras, and to finally see Ryan drive in person.  He’s a good dude.

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Mark Wilkins, Canadian driver of the Korean sedan making this possibly the most international entry of the weekend, went wire to wire and collected a win in GTS.  The GT/GTA/GT Cup drivers were a little more cautious around the kerbing on the Attitudes, but the GTS guys were more than willing to hit them like they owed them money.  The only people who hit them harder might have been the TC/TCA/TCB guys.  Now, this is where I make a segue…

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Vesko Kozarov, Salt Lake’s own, drove the Skullcandy/Stance Nissan 370Z to a third place finish.  Doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, right?  Local guy, on his home track, in a car he’s very familiar with, finishes on the podium.  If that were it, this wouldn’t be much of a story.  More of a footnote really.  However, that third place finish is made all the more impressive because…

Pirelli World Challenge Ford Grand Prix of Utah day 1 Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-112

He was also cleaning up in TC!  By Saturday he had already won the first of three Touring Car races of the weekend, and by the end of the day he had collected his second win in the Skullcandy Nissan Altima.  The GTS and second TC/TCA/TCB races were back to back!  That means he drove to third in GTS, took the car back to his spot in the paddock, jumped in the Altima, made it over to pre-grid, then lined up in 8th and drove like a madman to win.  That is my highlight of the weekend: Vesko finishing on the podium in back to back races in two different classes.

Tomorrow we return with more eye candy from the weekend, with more highlights coming on Thursday.  Were you at the Pirelli World Challenge Ford Grand Prix of Utah?  What was your highlight from the weekend?  Share it with us!  Drop it in the comments!  Or post a picture you creeped of me shooting photos.  Either or.

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.
18th Sep2014

2014 Utah Grand Prix Day 2

by Michael Chandler

Utah Grand Prix Day 2 NASCAR Pro Series K&N West Michael Chandler CAMautoMag (2 of 35)

Words and photos by Michael Chandler

No time for pleasantries, let’s get right to it! The day opened up with the second Touring Car class race of the weekend, and while nobody attempted to climb over anybody else there was still some close racing.

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Nathan Stacy came into the Black Rock hairpin too hot in the #14 TSG/Ford Racing Motorsports Development Group Ford Fiesta, opening the door for Brian Price to drive the #51 Unlimited Racing/RP Performance Honda Fit right on through.  Unfortunately their battle was for third place, Johan Schwartz used the Schwartz to put his Garrett Racing/Drive4Diabetes Honda fit on top of the podium, with Andrei Kisel in the #57 Racing.ca/LaptopScreen.com Mini Cooper taking home second place.  Despite his third place finish, Brian Price took home the Driver’s Championship for the B Spec Class!

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TCA was an in house battle, with Jason Wolfe and Nik Jonsson battling for the class win.  Jason Wolfe in the #36 Wolfe Trucking/Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup squeaked out a first place finish over Nik Jonsson in the #38 Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup.  The margin of victory was .003 seconds!  Rounding out the podium was Jason Cherry in the Autism Society of America/Avpro Jets/Purposeful Architecture Shea Racing Mazda MX-5 Miata.  Jason Wolfe’s narrowest of narrow victories cemented his Driver’s Championship.

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Touring Car wasn’t nearly as hotly contested as TCA and B Spec was, but that’s not to say it was completely devoid of action.  Steven Doherty in the #94 Skullcandy/Nissan/GT Academy Altima Coupe fired off a 1:38.411 lap on his way to victory, which was better than the existing track record!  No slouch himself, Michael Pettiford in the #41 Go4It Racing Schools/ Hawk Brakes Pontiac Solstice turned a 1:38.693 lap; however, he could not overcome the lead Doherty had.  Fred Emich, #30 Emich Racing/Emich Volkswagen Jetta GLI had the same problem of an insurmountable lead, but he still parked the Jetta on the podium.  The 4th place finisher would end up taking home the Driver’s Championship: Michael DiMeo in the #71 Grand Alarms/Compass 360 Racing/Children’s Tumor Foundation Honda Civic Si.

The Touring Car classes in World Challenge didn’t garner as large of crowds as the GT classes did, and that’s a bit of a shame in my opinion.  Sure the cars aren’t as fast or as flashy, but the racing is just as good, and just as competitive as it is in the senior circuit.  If you ever get the chance: find a good seat, settle in and watch the entire field go nose to tail and try to get around each other.

Utah Grand Prix Day 2 Miller GT Michael Chandler CAMautoMag (14 of 35) Utah Grand Prix Day 2 Miller GT Michael Chandler CAMautoMag (31 of 35)

Next on the docket was the Miller GT Challenge group.  The twenty car field consisted of eight of your favorite locals in the title class, nine United States Touring Car Championship drivers, and three USTCC GT drivers.  In the UTSCC field it was a battle of BMWs, with Jason Alexandridis in the #22 Perfromance Technic M3 beating out another M3, this being the #12 of Beau Borders, for the class win.

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In the GT field it was two manufacturers vying for the win.  Unfortunately the #34 GoGoGear.com BMW of Larry Bani retired, relegating him to third place.  Finishing ahead of him was the #16 Red Star Racing BMW of Daniel Akhromstev.  Sitting atop the heap was the #98 Honda S2000 of Andrie Hartanta.

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And finally in Miller GT we saw a three way battle for first place.  Derek Wolthoff in the #08 Makes And Models/TW Racing Audi R8 LMS battled Cindi Lux in the #5 Lux Performance Dodge Viper SRT and Cole Powelson in the #23 AMS Performance/OS Giken/RaceCo Nissan GTR.  The battle raged for twenty-five laps, but nearing the end of the race a piece of the GTR’s under tray came loose and caused them to fall off the pace.  Cindi and Derrick continued the fight, but by the time the checkered flag came down it was Derrick who was in front by 4.7 seconds.

On a side note: Cole Powelson has been a friend of the site’s for many years.  Today he announced that he would be leaving his position at RaceCo to create a new opportunity for himself in motorsports.  All of us here wish him the best of luck going forward, and we can’t wait to see what he ends up doing.

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On to the Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA/GTS race, where championships were on the line!  Well, at least in GTA and GTS, the latter of which is where we begin.  Lawson Aschenbach in the #1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 needed to hold off Jack Baldwin and Mark Wilkins to claim his Driver’s title.  Fortunately for Lawson, and unfortunately for Mark, the prior race’s incident between the Kias left Mark looking up from third place in the standings, and 17th in the race.  Drew Regitz, #02 TRG-AMR Aston Martin GT4, battled with Lawson all race long, but Lawson pulled eeked out a .461 second lead by the drop of the checkered.  Jack Baldwin, in the #73 RESET-MD/GTSport Racing Porsche Cayman S took the class win by nearly a second over Lawson, but the win was not enough for Jack to claim the Driver’s Championship from Lawson.

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Less than 100 points separated the contenders for the GTA Driver’s championship, and Michael Mills (#41 Effort Racing Porsche 911 GT3R) secured his championship with his hard fought third place finish in the race.  Marcelo Hahn in the #0 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 narrowly took second place in the race behind the #54 Black River Caviar/Black Swan Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of Tim Pappas. It was Pappas who ran away from the field, and finished with a three second finish over Hahn.

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The GT class featured a podium completely devoid of Driver’s Championship contenders.  Andy Pilgrim, #8 Cadillac Racing CST-V.R, would finish fourth in the driver’s standings but his third place finish in the race secured Cadillac’s Manufacturer’s Title over Audi.  The top of the podium was decided by less than 1/4 of a second.  Robert Thorne in the #6 K-PAX Racing Mclaren MP4-12C GT3 traded blows with Ryan Dalziel in the #31 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3R, but managed to hold off the Porsche at the line.

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The real battle to watch was further down the pack.  The fight for positions 6-7-8 featured your top three Driver’s Championship contenders.  Unfortunately, the incident at the beginning of the previous day’s race that left Skeen with a broken axle pretty much secured the title for Johnny O’Connell and his #3 Cadillac Racing CTS-V.R.  Second place in the championship was still up for grabs, and Anthony Lazarro battled Mike Skeen tooth and nail for it.  Unfortunately for Anthony and the crew of the #61 R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, Mike knew the score.  His 23rd place finish the race before narrowed the gap between himself and Lazarro, so he had to outright beat him in the race or at the very least keep him close.  The Hawk Performance Audi R8 LMS Ultra ran well, but not well enough to keep the Ferrari behind it.  The 3.2 second gap, at first glance, would seem to vault Lazarro into second place; however,  Skeen only finished two places behind him.  The gap was not enough, and Mike Skeen maintained his second place.

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Finally on the day was the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race.  The Home Tracks series are the entry level series in the NASCAR system.  Do well enough there, and the potential to move into the Camping World Truck Series arises.  From there it’s Nationwide series, and finally the Sprint Cup.  Could one of these drivers be the next rising star? Who knows, but your third place finisher is the series’s Rookie of the Year.  James Bickford put the #6 Sunrise Ford/Eibach Sprint/Lucas Oil Ford on the podium and secured the ROTY honors.  Second place belonged to Bickford’s teammate Dylan Lupton in the #9 Sunrise Ford/Eibach Sprint/Lucas Oil Ford.  Taking home the win was David Mayhew in the #17 MMI  Services/Ron’s Rear Ends Chevrolet.  Two races are left in the season, and Lupton is withing striking distance of Driver’s Points leader Greg Pursley.

And so that ends our weekend at the Grand Prix.  It was quite the two days.  Below are galleries with far more photos in them, neatly divided up into their respective series.  We hope to see you again at next year’s Utah Grand Prix, or at the very least on the 27th of September for NASA Utah Round 6.

Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA/GTS

NASCAR K&N Pro Series West

Pirelli World Challenge TC/TCA/TCB

Miller GT/USTCC

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.

 

 

16th Sep2014

2014 Utah Grand Prix Day 1

by Michael Chandler

Utah Grand Prix Day 1 Michael Chandler CAMautoMag (11 of 189)

Words and photos by Michael Chandler

When Miller Motorsports Park released their 2014 schedule many, many months ago, I saw the Utah Grand Prix in September.  You remember Trent went to it years ago and got some very cool shots.  Well, now was my turn.  So I put in my application for credentials a few months in advance… And was told by John Gardener, the Marketing Communications Manager at Miller Motorsports Park, that I needed to resubmit them when the event was about a month out and that I wouldn’t have any issues getting credentials.  So I waited some more, resubmitted and was granted them!  I was going to my first big boy event, where there would be very serious photographers and big name manufacturers.  The scale of the event didn’t really hit me until the night before, when I felt like a very small fish in a very large pond.

I’m getting ahead of myself, and side tracked.  First, let’s talk about exactly what the Utah Grand Prix is.  This year there was NASCAR K&N West Series racing (which you’ll see in part two of this), Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy racing (All Porsche 911s, all of the time), Miller GT and United States Touring Car Championship (Your local favorites and the USTCC field running all at once), and finally Pirelli World Challenge Championship racing.  AKA SCCA World Challenge, this is the other big sports car racing series in the US.  This event was also a make up for the rained out opening round, and the season finale!  Championships were on the line!  And for those staring blankly at the screen, wondering what World Challenge is, here’s a break down:

GT/GTA/GTS

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Ahh, Grand Touring.  The Gentlemanly auto racers.  Actually, it’s mostly sports cars of varying degrees.  As we reported, World Challenge will let you run FIA GT3 spec cars in GT and GTA, which is why you see the Bentley Continental GT3 bearing down on the GTS class Kia Optima.  GT and GTA is the home of the GT3 cars (Continental GT3, McLaren MP4-12C GT3, Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, etc) along with Cadillac CTS-V.Rs, the Acura TLX GT (which was wrecked in the previous race and wasn’t repaired in time for this one), and in genreral cars that were too much for GTS (Alex Loyd’s Corvette and Louis-Phillip Montour’s Dodge Viper).  GTS is home to more pedestrian entries, if you want to call them that.  Mustang Boss 302S’s, Nissan 370Zs, Chevrolet Camaros, and Porsche Caymans represent the majority of the field.  Also running in the class are the Kia Optimas and Aston Martin GT4s, with the Kias competing for the Manufacturer’s Title in class.

TC/TCA/TCB

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TC is short for Touring Car, and if you’ve ever watched any of European Touring Car series then you know how wild the econo boxes can be!  Sorry, sport “sedans”; although, as you can see the Skullcandy Altima is a coupe.  That’s neither here nor there.  TC and TCA is populated by small displacement rear wheel drive cars, like the Pontiac Solstice GXP Coupe and the venerable Mazda MX-5 Miata, and front wheel drive cars like Civic Si’s, Altimas and Jetta GLIs.  TCB is the land of the little B Spec cars, Honda Fits, Mini Coopers and Fiat 500s.  Armed with this knowledge, lets get on with this story.

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I had to be at the track early.  Not pre-dawn early, but early for someone who is usually ready to face the day at the crack of noon.  I arrived, got my wrist band and found a seat in the media center.  I chatted with Michael Wells, and finally met Chance Hales.  After the meeting, Chance, myself and Shawn Pierce, who shoots for NoBraking.com, piled in to my Subaru and made our way to some corners for the practice sessions of GT/A/S TC/A/B and Miller GT.

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By lunch we made our way half way around the track.  We formed a plan for the qualifying sessions and races, and made our way to the paddock.  I dropped them at the Media Center and made my way to RaceCo to chat with Cole Powelson and Kyle Schick, and meet up with Derrick Wolthoff of Makes and Models and TW Racing.  On the way I ran into George Smith, and asked him why he suddenly disappeared from the Miller GT session.  The crank sensor in his Corvette failed, and it was an all hands on deck effort to replace it.

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Eventually I made it to the Makes and Models garage just in time to tag along with Derrick to talk about getting some fuel from some people.  Those people happened to be Audi Customer Support Racing, Global Motorsports Group and Mike Skeen who was #2 in GT Driver’s championship.  While Derrick was conducting business, I wandered about the paddock and got some photos.  I would’ve stayed for more photos, but the next session was coming up quick so I had to get my car and grab Chance and Shawn.

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Not without getting a little sidetracked though.  The Black Swan Racing SLS AMG GT3 is the most gorgeous car in the field, hands down.  And the KPAX Racing McLaren MP4-12C GT3s have names: Reginald and Edward.  Why they’re named that is beyond me, but it led me to thinking of names for the Cadillacs and the Bentleys.  The Caddys are George and James, while the Bentleys are Lord Percival Umberbottom and Duke Albert Thistleton IV.  I didn’t ask either team if they would consider naming or changing the names of their cars, but I think Cadillac would’ve been a bit more receptive to the idea.

Anyway, Chance and Shawn decided they wanted to skip the next session, and go grab some food.  I agreed with this, and off we went.

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After lunch we made our way to Witchcraft and The Attitudes for the Pirelli GT3 Cup race, which had a healthy amount of local Drivers in it who had quite a showing.  David Donner, Alan and Desire Wilson, John Scarlett, Les Long and Darrell Troester all demonstrated what is meant by a home field advantage.  We stayed in the attitudes for the World Challenge GT qualifier, before making our way down to turn one for the start of the TC race.

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And what a start it was! In the opening lap Paul Holton in the #65 Shea Racing Honda Fit collided with, and almost drove over top of, the #58 Racing.ca Mini Cooper of Glenn Nixon.  Somehow Holton’s Fit was able to continue with the race.  The same could not be said for Nixon’s Mini.  Both drivers received Driver Conduct penalties, $1000 fines and lost 20 points each.  Holton finished 9th in class, and 22nd overall while Brian Price in the #51 Unlimited Racing/RP Performance Honda Fit finished first in TCB.  Adam Poland in the Eastex Motorsports MX-5 Miata took the TC class win, and Nic Jonsson took the TCA win in Russell Smith’s #38 Kinetic Motorsports Kia Forte Koup.  After the track was cleaned up, it was time for the GT race.

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Before I tell you about the race itself, I need to tell you something we were told in the media meeting.  We were told we couldn’t be on the pit wall for the beginning of the GT race.  Why? World Challenge does a standing start, like Formula 1 does.  Most of the time, this isn’t an issue but lately drivers stalling on the start has been a problem.  When a driver stalls, and is in the middle or front of the grid, everyone behind him has to take evasive maneuvers.  Sometimes these maneuvers result in collisions, which can send pieces of the cars flying.  So for our safety, we weren’t allowed on the pit wall for the start of the race.

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This was a good thing, because guess what happened.  The GTS Kias got into each other, and Mike Skeen broke an axle in his Audi R8 LMS Ultra.  Mike made it off track under his own power, but the Kias had to be towed off.  This immediately brought out the yellow flag and the safety car.  Since this was a timed race, some of the other photographers began getting worried/annoyed, which led me to cracking off a one liner.  It was not well received.  Anyway, the Kias were finally removed, and the green flag flew again.

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After watching the calamity of turn one iron itself out (everyone is trying to get around everyone else.  Remember the incident between the Fit and the Mini?), we made our way over to the Clubhouse to grab some photos of the final three turns, where more calamity ensued.

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An incident occurred as soon as we got to Clubhouse turn.  The #6 KPAX Racing McLaren MP4-12C of Robert Thorne got into the back of the #96 Capaldi Racing/Dat Dog Ford Mustang Boss 302S of Brad Adams, causing both cars to spin out right in front of the massive and massively fast Dyson Racing Bentley Continental GT3s and Cadillac Racing CTS-V.Rs.  Thankfully nobody else was involved in the spin.

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With Mike Skeen’s race over before it began the battle for the podium came down to two iconic luxury marques: Bentley and Cadillac.  Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim battled the Bentleys of Guy Smith and Butch Leitzinger for two of the top three spots.  When the dust settled, Guy Smith was atop the podium.  His Continental beat out O’Connell’s CTS-V.R by 3.47 seconds for the top spot.  It was very nearly a 1-2 finish for the Brits, but Johnny held Leitzinger off by less than 1/10 of a second!

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Michael Mills in the #41 Effort Racing Porsche 911 GT3R took the GTA class win, and without the class leading Kias in his way or Driver’s Championship leader Lawson Aschenbach’s Black Dog Speed Shop Camaro ZL1 to worry about Nick Esayian cruised to victory in GTS in his TRG-AMR North America Natural Cures Aston Martin GT4.

And that wraps up the first of two days I spent at the Utah Grand Prix.  Stay tuned for Day 2, which held the Pirelli World Challenge final races, the Miller GT race, and the NASCAR K&N West Series race!  Below are a few galleries, neatly organized by series.

World Challenge GT/A/S

World Challenge TC/A/B

Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy

Miller GT

 

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