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2015 Motorsports Prepares For Thundering Season
Richard Townsend
Local racer Richard Townsend will complete at nearly all of the NHRA Heritage Drag Racing Series events this coming season with his Nitroholic car, including the upcoming Good Vibrations March Meet (March 6-8) at the Famoso Raceway near Bakersfield. Photo Courtesy Of Jeff Burghardt

The 2015 motorsports racing season looks to be very exciting for race fans. There are new racers popping up in and around the Stanislaus and San Joaquin County areas all the time.

Sonoma Raceway will now be the final event of the Indy Car season and this event will award “double points” towards the season championship. This will make the road course event one of the most important events of the looming Indy Car season, and the season championship will (more than likely) be decided at this event. The prestigious Indy 500 race is the only other event on the Indy Racing series that awards double points.

Will Power enters the 2015 Verizon Indy Car racing season as the defending champion. The season opens up at St. Petersburg, Florida with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29.

In breaking news, Jeff Gordon has announced that 2015 will be his final season as a “full-time” NASCAR competitor. Which events he will compete at in 2016, not yet known, but he will compete at all the events in the upcoming 2015 season. In 2016, Gordon will be replaced by Chase Elliott (son of Bill Elliott) in the #24 Chevy. Carl Edwards, a long time Ford Racing driver has left the Roush-Fenway Racing team and now drives for the Joe Gibbs Racing team in the #19 Toyota Camry. Trevor Bayne will take over the driving duties of the #6 Ford. The 2015 season will mark the last year of the Sprint series sponsorship with NASCAR. No announcements have been made on who the series sponsor will be in 2016.The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing season officially open at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 22.

The NHRA Drag Racing had several off season surprises. The Alanabi Top Fuel team is no longer, as the Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani has suspended all US Racing activities and association, including those in NHRA Drag Racing. Alan Johnson, the team owner and a major manufacturer of parts for nitromethane racing engines for Top Fuel and Funny Car is seeking financial backing/sponsorship partner and feels confident they will find such support. He and his team, with 2012 NHRA Mello Yello Season Top Fuel Champion driver Shawn Langdon will continue to compete in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series in 2015. They are currently entered for the season opening Winternationals in Pomona and the Car Quest Nationals in Phoenix, the first two events of the 2015 season. The second driver of his 2014 Alanabi Racing Team (Khali alBalooshi) will no longer run in Top Fuel, instead competing independently in the Pro Mod category.

Many of the top teams did pre-season testing in Palm Beach, Florida or Phoenix, Arizona. In the Schumacher camp, the newly crowned 2014 Funny Car Champion, Matt Hagan led the way with best of 3.95 seconds in his Rock Boots/MOPAR 2015 Dodge Charger. Tommy Jonson Jr., Ron Capps and Jack Beckman all had their Fuel Funny Cars running near the 4.000 second flat zone. The team Schumacher Top Fuel dragsters all tested in and around the 3.7 second zone and look to be very strong in 2015. Jimmy Prock, who left John Force Racing with two races left in the 2014 season, now is the crew chief for the Jack Beckman Funny Car. During the holiday season, John Medlen also left John Force Racing to work as an Assistant Crew Chief with Prock on the Beckman Funny Car. The John Force Racing camp was not to be outdone, with all of their Fuel Funny Cars running multiple sub 4-second elapse times, with John Force leading the way with a 3.978 second best. The big news was Brittany Force, who ran the quickest unofficial run ever in a Top Fuel Dragster at 3.69 seconds.

Meanwhile, Dave Connolly, a premier Pro Stock driver, has moved up to Top Fuel. He now drives for the Bob Vandergriff Jr’s CJ Energy team, along with three-time NHRA Top Fuel season champion, Larry Dixon. The 2015 NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Season opens with the 55th NHRA Circle K Winter Nationals in Pomona.

On the local scene, Richard Townsend will complete at nearly all of the NHRA Heritage Drag Racing Series events, including the upcoming “Good Vibrations” March Meet (March 6-8) at the famed Auto Club of Famoso Raceway near Bakersfield. His plans are also to run at all of the “Good Vibrations” Saturday Night Nitro events in Bakersfield and the California Hot Rod Reunion in October. Townsend will continue to compete with his popular 1969 Camaro “Nitroholic” Funny Car, but has plans for a new car in the near future. He is rated as one of the top five competitors in the Nostalgia Funny Car class. Mike Graham and Tyler Guzman have both of their Stock Cars ready to race in 2015, but they have not yet confirmed their schedules of events to race at, as the two are busy with work schedules at Exhaust Pros of Oakdale and Tom’s Smog.