SHEHEEN: Toyota Eyes Sprint Car Racing

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Ralph Sheheen Mug
Ralph Sheheen

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — World of Outlaws officials and executives from Toyota Racing Development met during last month’s NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals.

According to Andy Graves, executive engineering technical director for TRD, the topic was Toyota’s desire to build a 410 sprint car engine for World of Outlaws competition.

This was the first time the two groups had met in person to discuss the possibilities.

Toyota plans to build the block. However, the powerplant would utilize a lot of parts sourced from current suppliers involved in sprint car racing as officials want to help support the racing industry.

It is Toyota’s intention to run more than just two cars, but there won’t be a Toyota factory team. Instead, Toyota hopes to build a cost-effective engine and make it available to any team that wants one.

Look for Indianapolis-based Speedway Engine Development, which builds a lot of the successful Toyota midget engines, to be heavily involved in the development of the new 410 powerplant.

Toyota hopes to be competing in 410 sprint car racing with its engines powering machines in the World of Outlaws before the end of next year.

– Had a nice to visit with former Formula One star Mark Webber during the Knoxville Nationals. He grew up watching sprint car races in his native Australia.

Webber seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his time at the famed Iowa dirt track. He was a guest of NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon.

Webber was all over Knoxville, taking in all of the local fun and festivities that make the Nationals such a special experience.

– A big thank you to Chevrolet Racing head honchos Jim Campbell and Terry Dolan for the invite to the unveiling of the new mid-engine C8 Corvette. As a Corvette owner and fan this was a real treat.

The event took place inside a blimp hanger in Tustin, Calif. Even though many are sad to see the demise of the classic front-engine design, I can tell you firsthand that the new layout is spectacular.

The event was invite-only and pretty secretive up until the last few days. Even upon receiving the invite, it was pretty cryptic as to what you were being invited to attend.

Upon entering the massive hangar, white editions of each generation of America’s Sports Car were on display. Once the crowd was seated in the grandstands, the show was started and soon the new ’Vette was introduced to the world.

When the stage show, which was full of some very cool high-end production elements, was finished, we were invited up on to the stage to take a close-up look at the most highly anticipated sports car in recent memory.

It is a remarkable car full of the latest technology and performance pieces and parts. The performance numbers are staggering with a 0-to-60 time of less than three seconds and a top speed of more than 190 mph with a price tag less of less than $60,000.

Corvette racing legend Ron Fellows was also in attendance. Fellows thinks those numbers might even be a little bit soft of what the C8 is truly capable.

Fellows also said his exceptional Ron Fellows Performance Driving School at Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club will have a fleet of new C8s on hand early next year for its students.

We can all expect to see the C8 in race trim when the green flag waves to kick off the 2020 sports car season.

We had a chance to sit inside the new Corvette and we’re anxiously awaiting an opportunity to drive one.

– We were honored to have been the grand marshal for a late-July racing program at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif. It is one of the tracks where I first called racing action on the microphone.

All American Speedway is a tremendous paved short track run by Bill McAnally and his talented staff. The track has been greatly improved since the days we were a Saturday night regular there.

The action was outstanding, the food was great quality at a fair price and the grandstands were packed. Short-track stock car racing is alive and well in Northern California.

– Did you know legendary drag racer and aviation entrepreneur Connie Kalitta has a plane designed just to ship prized horses around the globe? It’s named, “Air Horse One.”