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2017 ChampCar Year in Review (Checkered Flag Edition)


Some of your hardworking ChumpCar/ChampCar staff after the 2017 VIR24, and Bill Strong.

 

Story by Doc Waldrop

Photos by Bill Strong, Chelsey Vickery

Good things tend to get out of hand quickly and ChumpCast Live! was no exception in 2017.What started out as a simple Podcasts by Paulie Veltum such as the 2016 Board of Directors Annual Meeting, pulling in a few Facebook Live Garage Walks with Bill Strong, commentary and some in-car streams called RacePush ballooned into full race coverage of select races in 2017 with the full support of CEO Mike Chisek and with the on-track presence of Bill Strong. The broadcast flourished even with a few setbacks like adding Doc Waldrop as the color commentator for all the races that were covered. The numbers continue to grow exponentially and 2018 looks to be a banner year!


Doc Waldrop and Bill Strong discuss the end of the VIR24 in front of cameraman Ian Strong.

In June a new Board of Directors came onboard to steer the Club and set about re-writing the By-Laws that the Club would be governed by and with a unanimous vote by the members the By-Laws were passed in the Fall. The Board also set about to increase the size of the Board from 5 members to 7. It was overwhelmingly agreed that since it was a member-owned and driven organization the new additions should come from the “rank and file” members. After a month-long voting period, Rich Sainato and Tiffany Alexander were elected and took office on January 1, 2018, for 3-year terms.


/Drive on NBC Ryan Symancek directs Mike Spinelli for their feature at the 2017 VIR24. /Bill Strong

 

ChumpCar (as it was known then) started to get more and more attention, not only from the outstanding success of ChumpCast Live! but also more “mainstream” media. The series “/Drive – Born A Car” aired in April with Season 1, Episode 5’s edition featuring host Ryan Symancek and team contesting the Barber Double-8 kicked off the coverage. The same car was again featured in the Classic 24 at Virginia International Raceway by the popular show, “/Drive on NBC Sports” filmed an episode where the popular hosts of the show, Matt Farah, Chris Harris, and Mike Spinelli, entered the BMW E30 in our longest race. They finished a respectable 50th out of 97 entries in the show that aired in Season 4, Episode 3 in late October.

 


ChampCar volunteers are what make this racing stuff all possible. They help keep everyone safe and earn racing credits while doing it. https://champcar.org/mainweb/volunteer/ /Chelsey Vickery

Out on the West Coast where the car count numbers had been declining, a private donor stepped up and commissioned an extensive survey that went out to all past and present members to assess what CCWS can do better to serve them. The survey asked about what tracks they like, what formats are best, and their present and past experiences with the Club so we can refine our “approach” to the West Coast races on our schedule.

And what a schedule! 2018 continues to be studded extensively with the bucket list tracks across North America including a return to a track that could very well claim to be the start of Real. Cheap. Racing.: Nelson Ledges will once again host a 24-hour race on its hallowed grounds in late June. Also returning to the schedule is the popular 14-hour race on the Roval configuration at Charlotte Motor Speedway and for the first time, ChampCar Endurance Series (CCES) will run the Roval course at Auto Club Speedway in California. Oregon Raceway will also be rejoining the series schedule with a Double-8 in early September. The other big featured new race on the schedule is a 24-hour race at the Utah Motorsports Campus (formerly Miller Motorsports Park) in late July. That is no less than three 24-hour races in 3 months.


Jimmie Letchworth (Equipment Manager) and Dan Diggs (Safety & Tech) discuss some of the craziness that is called Pit Lane. /Chesey Vickery

Of course, all the favorite bucket list tracks that made CCES famous among amateur racers are still there: Road Atlanta, Sonoma, Virginia International Raceway, Daytona, Road America, Watkins Glen, Sebring, and Laguna Seca. Other tracks that are gaining in popularity such as Pittsburgh, Atlanta Motorsports Park, National Corvette Museum, and Barber Motorsports Park are still on the schedule as well. They might not be as world famous as those iconic circuits, but that is merely a function of time: They will be. Another change was made from the past as the race dates are being released as the dates are secured so our loyal racers can plan their schedules out well in advance.


Ben Blass (Timing & Scoring) looks on during a drivers meeting.

The BIGGEST news of 2017 was made on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when the ChumpCar World Series was rebranded as the ChampCar Endurance Series after months of behind the scenes work. In the popular video “Change”, produced in-house by Paul Veltum, CEO and President Mike Chisek explained the change was inevitable, citing the increased level of racing and professionalism of the competitors and the continued growth of the series. A complete revamping of logos, style sheets, and a completely new website redesign would be undertaken in the coming months and implemented for the 2018 season.

We are now the ChampCar Endurance Series.


Bill Strong, Doc Waldrop, and Paul Veltum return in 2018 with ChampCar.Live 

As ChampCar.Live! (Yup, everything got rebranded) continued to experience phenomenal growth, a written race report was also started for most of the races and distributed to various media outlets along with posting on the website and Facebook pages. The numbers of viewers that ChampCar.Live was delivering to were simply beyond the staff’s wildest dreams and comments to Facebook and the YouTube streams were steady and sometimes overwhelming. ChampCar.Live plans to cover more than 20 races with Producer Paulie Veltum, on-site reporter Bill Strong, and color commentator, Doc Waldrop, along with a few guest commentators from time to time with full on-site production for 2018.


Mary Beth Morrison, Andrea Chisek handled some of the 2017s registration. The lack of “the look of worry” on this teams face means they did everything before arriving at registration.

With that in mind, the regional Chumpionships were no longer and are being replaced by a national race to be held at National Corvette Museum in June. The top 75 teams (by finishes) throughout the US will be eligible to compete for a single #1 number plate from 2017 on. Basically, the best 2 finishes from 2017 will be combined with the NCM finish in 2018. Lowest score wins the Championship.

Along with these changes, Bill Strong was brought on board full time as Media and Marketing Director and Dana Morrison’s scope of duties was expanded to Event Director. On the West Coast, the Club added Kris Oden as Western Equipment Manager and we even bought a van to assist getting our equipment out to the races. Along with personnel, an 84-page “bible” of how ChampCar manages a race, from start to finish to ensure a consistent product for our race teams. Speaking of our teams, Bill Strong is making a point to get around the country and visit some of our teams in their ships and garages for a video series, “Shop Talk”, to find out more about their operations and what keeps them on the track.


No clue why this is here. /Bill Strong

To also better serve our members and to give them additional opportunities to race and get to know each other, in late November the CCES organized the ChampCar.Sim Series, a hosted league within the popular iRacing subscription simulation series. The season consists of 40 separate sessions in advance of the actual ChampCar race at each of the tracks that are available on the iRacing platform. The final session at each track (13 races in all) will count towards a national champion with the Grand Prize being a free entry into a real ChampCar race in 2019.

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