Keselowski Seeks First MIS Win, Logano Seeking Race Win Into Chase Playoffs

(Video from NASCAR’s official YouTube account)

2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski has been close to winning at Michigan International Raceway in NASCAR’s top national series, his home race track.

With six career top five finishes in his last 17 races in the MENCS, among them a second place average during Keselowski’s championship winning season Aug 19, 2012, according to driveraverages.com — the Rochester Hills native and Team Penske look to return back to winning ways in the Irish Hills.

According to Zack Albert’s online NASCAR.com article, the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion averaged “203.097 mph” around MIS, with his Team Penske ally, Joey Logano, starting on the front row. Surprisingly, Albert’s reports says Logano was only “.006 seconds” off the pole during the final five minutes of qualifying.

Keselowski’s pole position at MIS is his first since Las Vegas Motorspeedway on March 12, according to racing-reference.info.

Logano said in a Facebook Live video by Team Penske that his second place qualifying effort is a big improvement compared to the previous MENCS races piloting his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford, and if a two-time winner this season, he hopes that advancing into the chase playoffs will be imminent.

In the last Michigan race, Kyle Larson won his third career MENCS race win at the 2-mile oval from the pole. Can Keselowski get his first win at MIS, or will it be Logano’s turn at taking home the checkered flag to secure his place among the 16 drivers in the 2017 Chase for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup? All will be revealed when the checkered flag waves 400 miles later, so strap yourself in and leave your TV clicker tuned in on NBCSN.

 

Recognizing Historical Innovation

My first car show video made since filming footage of the  65th Annual 12 Hours of Sebring.

I made this specifically to show detailed shots of classic cars at the 2nd Annual TT #330 Brunch Bunch Cruise In in Tampa, Florida.

The central theme of this video is to convey that car shows in the United States are organized as both an attraction for auto and non-auto enthusiasts of all age groups, and an event honoring automotive innovation from the past and present.

From my experience, cars shows are more than just a place for car people to gaze at vintage machinery, it is an event where people learn about the historical success of America’s automotive industry from car owners who have been following the U.S. auto market. At the same time, it is a social gathering for car owners to share stories about their cars to the public because car owners at these show venues all have a story to tell about their cars.

Automotive Videography: My New Passion Project

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Canon Vixia HF R800 Camcorder. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

I use to record videos on my smartphone, until my brother and his friends got me this Canon Vixia HFR800 Cam Corder.

After shooting video of my friend’s Toyota Truckolla project in February from my cell phone, Nikola Vlacic said to me in a phone conversation that I did very well in shooting video, and I can do even better through the use of a camcorder. He said he believed me using an actual video camera, and editing video would be a great skill set to show on my resume in pursuing a rewarding career.

Since then, I used my new camera for filming car-related activities, such as vlogging about my time at the junk yard and attending an open autocross event in Brooksville, Florida.

Though my first time using the camcorder was at the 65th Annual 12 Hours of Sebring in March, a motor racing venue I have been going to since 2013 — which is a place I call my vacation home because of my interest in cars and racing.

From my experience at Sebring International Raceway, it was hot and dry during the day, and freezing cold at night. Though the weather itself failed to weigh down my drive to film the race from every turn and sector of the 3.74-mile road circuit, for I was determined to capture the best shots based on the perspective of my naked eyes.

After spending time window shopping around the race merchandise huts before the start of the race, I strolled over to the hairpin of Turn 7 to begin my video making expedition — regarded as “Sebring’s most famous turn,” according to my race day viewing guide brochure.

The green flag waved at about 10 a.m. for the 12 hour race, as the field of 46 cars roared through Turn One Suites and Kristensen Corner while each competitor raced each other neck and neck, double filed.

About five laps later, I plotted a course to Cunningham Corner (the 10th turn of the racetrack after the Fangio Chicane) to capture more shots of race cars entering and exiting through sharp turns after driving flat out through the chicane. My desire to capture this shot, and the previous scene at the hairpin is to give a visual of the challenge drivers face in the precision of approaching turns on a racetrack without crashing either into other cars, or into the guard rails near where spectators see the action.

My journey then brings me to Bishop Bend (Turn 14) where I video recorded the cars accelerating after the Tower Turn onto Flying Fortress Straight, with the Cadillac DPi-V.R.’s and Oreca FLM09’s roaring off into the horizon leading toward Gendebien Bend (Turn 15) and the Le Mans Curve (Turn 16). My brochure says Sebring Airport near Turn 13 “gives a unique historic context” of Sebring Raceway, which was a shot I felt eager to capture behind the lenses.

Tired and thirsty from the hot, dry weather, I decided to film the final turn of Sebring near Sunset Bend before heading back to camp to have lunch, and play baseball using random fruit and Nikola Vlacic’s numb chucks for a baseball bat. I would eventually return back to Turn 17 because my brochure said Turn 17 is among the recommended places to shoot by catching “the cars as they accelerate out of Sebring’s longest turn.”

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Me on TV on the left filming footage of post-race celebration, cursor pointed at my face while wearing a University of South Florida. It’s funny that I was filming in the middle of Fox Sports 1’s coverage of the 12 Hours of Sebring — talk about making television history.  (Screenshot by Dan Fisher)

As the sun heads off to bed for the night around 8:18 p.m., the evening skies reveals its natural beauty — in addition to the United Launch Alliance Delta IV complimenting the night skies while blasting off into space. Just the perfect time to film the racing action at night both at Turn 7, and 17.

Although my video did not have the best of quality during the evening, for I am still learning the methods of video making and photography, I believe that the experience of filming a motor racing event was a life-changing moment for myself. I enjoyed it to the extent that I considered video making or photography as another professional career path to pursue. As I filmed the victory celebrations at Sebring, I began reflecting on how far I have come in my life in learning various technical skill sets — not just magazine journalism writing.

Now working part time as a beach attendant at Sharkey’s On The Pier in Venice, Florida while being active on my automotive blog, I feel more motivated than ever to continue this passion project I created in July 2016, even after I graduate with my bachelor’s degree in December. While pursuing my dream career in automotive magazine journalism, I have decided to continue using this blog as a foundation builder to express my passion for cars, and talents in multimedia works while earning money at my job to help sustain my standard of living.

This post is by no means to exaggerate or brag about what I do in my spare time, but rather provide a visual documentation of doing something I love and feel passionate about doing because I love my work while working at my own pace. I love making and presenting these multimedia projects because cars and motor racing are to me a work of art, and a way of life.

 

 

 

Motor Man Dan: 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 C7.R

Corvette Photoshop Draft

(Image and photoshopped by Dan Fisher)

This is a photo of a 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 C7.R, which was taken on a Tuesday afternoon at 5 p.m. at the University of South Florida in Tampa. I chose to take this picture of the Corvette because the sunlight illuminated through the tree foliage, making the car’s image look not too bright or too dark from the sun.

Corvette Photoshop

(Photo by Dan Fisher)

Though the light in the background is very bright, I began adjusting the hue and saturation levels to make the color more sophisticated with the sunlight.

By the completion of the project, my belief is that I used the sunlight from the background to my advantage based on my understanding of using of Adobe Photoshop CC (2017). If there was one area of improvement that can be done to this picture, taking the picture in the morning would help make the background light less radiant, enough to see the cars and bushes more crystal clear. Overall, I give the project a 4/5 rating.

Team Growth, Building Experience

(Video by Daniel “Dan” Fisher)

The first time Maxwell Dorion, 26, joined the University of South Florida Racing team, he said his motivation was to work on cars and be a team player.

A native from Seminole, Florida, Dorion said his first meeting with the Society of Automotive Engineers in the Fall 2016 semester was a life adjustment after transferring from St. Petersburg College with an associate’s degree.

“When I went to one of the club meetings, I was surprised at first how busy the team was in building Formula-style race cars,” Dorion said. “Eventually, I became use to the atmosphere after being assigned as the lead suspension designer because I worked as an auto mechanic and I enjoy working on vehicle dynamics.”

Upon his debut with the Bulls motor racing team at the 2017 Formula South Invitational event at Kennesaw State in Georgia, the mechanical engineering major had the opportunity to drive the SAE team’s F2016 racecar because of Dorion’s background hobby in autocross racing. Before the FSAE event, Dorion said he attended his first practice session with the F2016 on campus as a means to sharpen his driving skills for dynamic events.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpALQLqsZbA  (Video from the official USF SAE YouTube channel)

“I did some practice laps in one of the student parking lots with the team’s racecar,” Dorion said. “The idea for having me test the car was to come to grips with its speed and handling, which I had a lot of fun behind the wheel.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lujrh6mH4A (Video from the officials USF SAE YouTube channel)

Over time, Dorion’s hard work and team player skills contributed to helping USF Racing co-drive to a 3rd place finish during the dynamic events at the Formula South Invitational.

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Picture of USF Racing’s F2015 car at Formula SAE Lincoln, which placed 6th overall after completing both static and dynamic events in 2015. (Screenshot by Dan Fisher from the 2016 Formula SAE Michigan guide book)

USF Racing was among the eight Formula SAE teams that competed at Formula South Invitational, which the team has been building and testing Formula-style race cars every year since 2005. With Formula SAE Michigan 2017 being next on the team’s schedule, USF Racing expects continuing growth within their organization after a 47th place finish overall out of 115 FSAE teams in last year’s FSAE Michigan.  

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USF Racing shop located on campus in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

According to the team’s online website, USF Racing is part of the Society of Automotive Engineers, which is a student run club that collectively designs, fabricates, and races Formula-style racecars located beside USF Parking and Transportation Services in the ENR building. The club’s website says it comprises both undergraduate and graduate students from all majors, which handles a monetary budget and a multitude of company partnerships which allows members to build skills in marketing, finance, and project management.

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USF Racing front door entrance to the team’s office and workshop. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

USF Racing originally began as an off-road team called “BAJA SAE” in 1999, where “students are tasked to design and build an off-road vehicle that will survive the severe punishment of rough terrain and in the East competition—water.” In 2005, the team switched to building single-seater Formula cars in Formula SAE to challenge their car’s performance and efficiency.

The idea of Formula SAE, according to SAE International, is to portray teams as a “fictional” manufacturing companies assigned to build a small prototype “Formula-style race car” to be evaluated and determined for the potential of becoming a production car for the industry market. The rules of FSAE also said that each vehicle is judged “by experts from motorsports, automotive, aerospace and supplier industries on student design, cost and sales presentations.”

Zachary Evling, president and team captain of USF Racing, says the club embraces teamwork and diversity while educating members hands-on skills that are not taught in the classroom. He said the goal for FSAE is for team members to partake in hands-on projects involving the planning and manufacturing of machine products to introduce to consumers in the industrial market.

“It is a program designed to teach students hands-on skills that can help prepare them for an industrial career,” Evling said. “Although we are a team that focuses on the building of Formula-style race cars because it is fun and cool to do, USF Racing wants its members to gain a skill set for building projects and have an appreciation for innovation.”

When Evling first joined USF Racing in the Fall of 2015, he said working day and night on building FSAE racecars was also an acclimation.

After only two weeks of contemplation, the California native motivated himself to be a USF Racing member because of his interest in automobiles and motor racing. But most importantly, learning and improving his skill set in technical design, he said, was paramount in pursuing a future career in industrial engineering.

A Race Against Time: Finalizing The F2016

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Digital rough sketch of the F2016’s design, which was used as a template in the hands-on manufacturing of the car for competition. (Screenshot by Dan Fisher from Andrew Nelson’s office computer on the Safe Works program)

In the Spring of 2016, Evling advanced himself to the position of Vice President of USF Racing, including the lead aerodynamics and suspension designer for the team’s F2016 car.

With a 6th place result at Formula SAE Lincoln and a 66th overall finish at Formula SAE Michigan in the 2015, members of USF Racing were committed to build off of their success in both static and dynamic events. Though the building of the F2016 was no easy task for Evling and his USF Racing members.

“Spring 2016 was a challenge for all of our members in manufacturing the F2016 car,” Evling said. “It was also challenging for me because I was the vice president of the team while serving as the lead aero and suspension designer, which was difficult in managing my time at school.”

Andrew Nelson, USF Racing’s public relations director, said it was a matter of time management among club members to finalize the F2016 for its unveiling ceremony.

“There was intense, sleepless nights at the shop,” Nelson said. “There was even a lack of sleep from the members because among the tasks was putting the vinyls on the car for its unveiling ceremony.”

Nelson recalls the team’s overwhelming rush of completing their open-wheel car, with each member working their fingers to the bone.

In Nelson’s newsletter from April 2016, he wrote that despite the deadline for the car’s unveiling and Formula SAE Michigan fast approaching, USF Racing were successful in submitting their completed “600 page cost report” for the Michigan static event.

USF Racing’s F2016 car from the unveiling ceremony at the Galleria building at USF. (Image courtesy by Roger Cox from USFRacing.com)

After working around the clock day and night, members of USF Racing completed the F2016 car for its unveiling ceremony. According to USF Racing’s June 2016 news release , the F2016 not only got a new paint scheme, the team improved their engine and aerodynamic concept for the car.

(Screenshot by Dan Fisher from the 2016 Formula SAE Michigan guide book)

“Also new this year was the turbo we mounted to our single cylinder Suzuki LTR 450 engine,” Nelson said in the June edition. “It creates about 60 horsepower and 38 ft/lbs of torque, a gain of eight horsepower and 5ft/lbs from last year.”

Nelson also wrote that the team revised their “aerodynamic package” for the F2016 to increase its efficiency, creating “60 lbs of downforce at 30 miles per hour with fewer wing elements on the rear wing.”

The Road To Michigan

Once the F2016’s unveiling drew its final curtain, the “1,200 plus trip” to Michigan then became the second act for USF Racing.

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(Screenshot by Dan Fisher from the 2016 Formula SAE Michigan guidebook)

Nelson said in his newsletter that the Michigan trip to Camp Mcgregor took about over “1,200” miles from Tampa. However, while the team traveled in two groups so that Team Captain, Michael Ramos, and his group can spend time extracting enough data from testing their F2016 racecar before driving off to Michigan.

After two days of nonstop driving, and driver swapping for eight to 10 hours straight, the team arrived at Camp Mcgregor, each team member started setting up camp before heading to the 2-mile oval to register their car for Michigan FSAE.

Crunch Time, Go Forth F2016!

FSAEMichigan(Screenshot by Dan Fisher from the 2016 Formula SAE Michigan guidebook)

Thursday was the first day of FSAE competition, where 115 teams from across the United States registered their cars and inspected them before the static events.

“The point of inspection was to verify that every team’s car is safe to drive and meets competition regulations,” Evling said. “The static events were scheduled to where teams have to move from station to station, each of our members cover the cost report presentation, the design team covers the design presentation while our other teammates conduct the business presentation. It was a busy day then because we had to keep moving our car over to every station to present it to the judges, which made it a bit stressful to keep our focus in presenting our year-long project.”   
Nelson said FSAE teams present their cars to the judges while covering the design features of their product in their cost report, including the amount of money and time spent during the manufacturing process.

“During the static events, teams present a binder on what they have done in building their car, such as the car’s aero and suspension modifications,” Nelson said. “After the presentation, the judges then ask questions about the work that was done to the car.”
Nelson said the benefit of participating in the Design, Business Presentations, and Cost events is so that teams gain expert advice on how to improve the quality of their cars while learning how team members can apply the lessons from the static events in their professional endeavors.  

According to the official Formula SAE Michigan 2016 results, USF Racing averaged a 39th place finish out of 115 teams in the Design event, including 92nd in Presentation and 32nd in Cost.

Once Friday came, USF Racing and the 115 other teams took their cars out on the back straightaway of MIS to begin Formula SAE Michigan’s dynamic events.

Among the dynamic events was autocross. As stated in the 2017-2018 Formula SAE rules, the idea of autocross is to evaluate the car’s maneuverability and handling qualities on
a tight course without the hindrance of competing cars. FSAE also says autocross courses combine the performance features of acceleration, braking, and cornering into one event, and the average speeds of the FSAE car must produce about 40 km/hr (25 mph) to 48 km/hr (30 mph).

Here is a sample video of the Global Formula Racing from Oregon State University attempting some hot laps on the autocross layout at Formula SAE Michigan in 2016.

Nelson’s June 2016 newsletter documented the events from the autocross session, which proved to be a day of adversity for the Florida based race team.

“During our Autocross event, I was the first person to see Gary (De La Rosa) grind to a halt on the hairpin on the farthest point of the track,” Nelson said in the newsletter. “Through the fence, I yelled out, ‘What’s wrong Gary!’. Gary yelled back, ‘The front wing failed,’ so I ran all the way back to the team standing by the pit cart to tell them what happened.”

Nelson said quick repairs to the front wing were made with only 20 minutes left in the session.

“The lower canards of the car’s front wing were dragging on the ground pretty bad, which scratched the carbon fiber as if someone took a belt sander to it,” Nelson said, looking back on the Michigan event. “Because of the rain, it gave our team extended time to make more repairs to the front wing for Gary to get back on the track to earn points for autocross.”

Saturday morning’s Endurance event proved to be a cold and rainy experience, said Nelson. This dynamic event, Nelson said, judges each car’s performance on a fix time duration based on fuel economy and engine reliability.

The pouring of rain and hail continued to distract the competition from the task at hand, leaving USF Racing members and other FSAE teams frustrated and confused of the track conditions.

“The rain kept pouring down on Gary’s run in only his first 10 laps, which made the session difficult to run on slick tires,” Nelson said.

After running on wet track conditions, which were dominated by a downpour of rain and hail, USF Racing averaged 97.9 points in the Endurance session, including an efficiency score of 69.5 points. Overall, FSAE officials gave USF Racing a combined result of 486.2 points from the static and dynamic events, averaging 47th out of 115 teams, as compared to the team’s 66th place result in the 2015 event.  

Nelson said for the first time in the team’s history, USF Racing completed all dynamic events at FSAE Michigan, despite endeavoring a cold and rainy endurance session.

“After competition, we went back to Camp McGregor to rest before leaving for Tampa the next day,” Nelson said.

Nelson said in his newsletter that USF Racing focused their efforts on testing the F2016 during the summer to extract more data in the attempt to maximize the car’s performance. In addition, the team began accepting new members and drivers to be trained for FSAE competition.     

Learning & Improving As A Team

 

USF2017CarUSF Racing members gather for a team photo next to the F2017 during the unveiling ceremony at USF’s Galleria building on campus. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

Now the president of USF Racing, Evling says he is determined to contribute his leadership in educating new members every year about automotive design.

“It is an invaluable experience for a lot of people to be involved in SAE, whether their field of study is mechanical engineering or industrial engineering,” Evling said. “The program is open to all majors, which is a great place to gain hands-on experience. Whether a student is an advertising major or a marketing major, SAE provides members leadership and teamwork building opportunities in their career pursuits.”

With the covers of USF Racing’s F2017 unwrapped from the unveiling ceremony on Sunday, April 23, new driver recruits and the F2016 resting at the team’s shop, members look ahead with high expectations to grow their FSAE team and beyond.

Evling said during the ceremony at the Galleria building at USF’s Research and Innovation Park, Formula SAE require teams to construct a car for competition every year based on performance and efficiency. He said by having the design leads present the F2017 during the unveiling ceremony, the audience would experience how the SAE static events are organized for Formula SAE Michigan.

 “Our team members have to present the car in front of a few judges and compete against other teams in their presentations,” Evling said, behind the lectern. ”So we basically have to sell the fact that this is a product that can be produced and manufactured at a profitable price, and profitable for some venture capitalist. Our expectation for Michigan is that we hope to do well in both the static events and dynamic events.”

As for Dorion, being a committed team player and learner of mechanical engineering is a foundation he hopes to build for his life goals. He said despite the team devoting day and night finalizing their car for the 2017 Formula SAE Michigan season, the team continues to strive for progress and organizational growth.

“We are not a big club on campus, but we strive to have people join in learning the industrial design of projects such as cars,” Dorion said. “It’s a fun and interesting experience for me, and I continue to enjoy the experience of automotive design quite a bit.”   

 

 

From Car To Truck: My 90 Second School Video Project Of The”Truckolla”

 

It was only last year that I wrote a news article / photo essay for The Digital Bullpen about this 2001 Toyota Corolla being transformed into a truck-like design.

Last month, Truckolla Part II picked up where it left off, and finally got the make over that it deserves, according to the owner of Truckolla, Nikola Vlacic.

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Toyota Truckolla parked outside a Shell Station on a Sunday morning in Sebring, Florida. This photo was taken the day after the 2017 12 Hours of Sebring, and deep within Sebring’s road course venue, this 01 Corolla made its inaugural debut as the “Truckolla,” and I had a part in the art design of the car — correction, it’s a truck. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

 

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This was my first sketch idea of what the Truckolla ought to look like. Nikola Vlacic wanted a paint design that was simple: black with a red racing stripe. Despite the racing stripe being painted on the opposite side of the car during the project by accident, compared to the sketch — me and everyone else liked the final project anyway because I believe the stripe looks better on the passenger side. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

Now the metamorphosis is complete: Go forth Truckolla, become an automotive legend.

Anticipation For Close Racing

Video published by A Formula 1 Channel

In the world of Formula 1, it would seem that the major teams like Ferrari and Mercedes are finding comfort with their 2017 cars. New aerodynamic designs on the front, sides, and especially the incorporation of having a lower wing in the back, and a shark fin concept too.

 

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Kimi Räikkönen testing the Ferrari SF70H at Barcelona. 28 February 2017, 11:42.  Photo by Artes Max from Spain, Ferrari SF17-JB / Kimi Räikkönen / GER / Scuderia Ferrari.

With the start of the 2017 F1 season debuting on March 26, fans and media followers of F1 wonder how different the competition will be on the track as compared to last season. According to a news article on formula1.com, they are anticipating the competition to be “tight at the top.

Everyone expected the Mercedes to be super fast and super reliable straight out of the box – it’s a pattern that has become familiar over recent seasons. What far fewer predicted was that Ferrari would appear to have the measure of the world champions – a feat many thought Red Bull more likely to achieve.

In fact, with their highly innovative SF70H machine the Scuderia ended up first and second on the overall timesheet – and with Kimi Raikkonen’s benchmark notably set on Pirelli’s supersoft tyre, rather than the sticker ultrasoft.

Of course, Ferrari were quick in testing last year and then failed to win a single race, but this year their form has been such that Lewis Hamilton went as far as to suggest they could well be favourites come Melbourne – especially as he believes they have pace in hand. It was a view countered by Sebastian Vettel, who insisted the Silver Arrows are still the team to beat.

And what of Red Bull? As usual the Austrian-owned team were keeping their cards close to their chest, though Daniel Ricciardo echoed the opinion of many who watched trackside when he conceded that they aren’t quite yet on the level of Mercedes and Ferrari.

— formula1.com

My prediction regarding the 2017 F1 season is that Ferrari will be serious front runners to challenge Mercedes, including Red Bull Racing, if they can solve their reliability issues before Melbourne.

To me, Formula 1 needs more close racing at the front of the grid because races are more exciting to watch when all the big race teams have a fighting chance of challenging for the checkered flag, including the championship. Once the open wheel grid touches down on the track from down under, with lights turning from red to green, all will be revealed.

Walking In A Winter Wonder Car Show

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The 2nd Annual Winter Wonder Car and Truck Show (Photo by Dan Fisher)

LAKELAND, Fla. (01-14-2017) — Ben Labaree, 74, and his wife, Sandy, have toured the United States with the Corvettes Conquer Cancer program since 1998.

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Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour from the 2001 National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) Winter Meet in Kissimmee, Florida. (Photo from corvettesconquercancer.com.)

The idea of Corvettes Conquer Cancer, according to a brochure Labaree distributed, came from his wife, Sandy — who was a survivor of three unrelated cancers since 1974.

“In 1998, Sandy started the program after finding out she was diagnosed again in 97,”  Labaree said. “She was a volunteer for the American Cancer Society the entire time, and she held every volunteer position within the organization and eventually moved up to chairman of the board. Throughout her lifetime with the American Cancer Society, she was an advocate in helping to raise money for cancer treatment programs.”

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Sandy Labaree. (Photo from corvettesconquercancer.com)

The mission for Corvette’s Conquer Cancer has been to raise money for the American Cancer Society by traveling and speaking at Corvette-related events, while distributing cancer information to raise awareness for cancer recovery programs.

Labaree said on March 6, 2000, Sandy passed away at 53, after living with cancer for half of her life. Over the years, the Alabama native became more devoted to his wife’s cause upon learning about his diagnosis of prostate cancer in the summer of 2015. The program’s website said Labaree’s diagnosis was based on a “routine PSA test and subsequent biopsy” at the Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, where Labaree recovered from his cancer in August.  

Labaree is one of many people who attended the Winter Wonder Car & Truck Show at the Sun’ n Fun airstrip in Lakeland, Florida for the local attraction of vintage motor vehicles. The event was open for people of all ages, both for car and non car enthusiasts, to make communal connections with one another in a family-friendly environment.     

The Winter Wonder Car Show is an annual event that is sponsored by the Central Florida Street Rod Association — an organization created in 1989 as a means to form a family-oriented group of car enthusiasts who socially interact, and support groups who share general enjoyment for street rods. The car show also featured two Corvette shows and a Swap Meet event, all held at the Sun’ n Fun facility with music, food, games, and vintage cars competing for awards in 13 trophy classes.

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1960s Chevrolet Corvettes parked outside the Sun’ n Fun airplane hangars. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

The colorful display of cars at the event were like art displays at an art museum, where each array of vintage automobiles were the paintings on mother nature’s canvas. The Saturday morning weather also provided a pleasant setting — with sunny, clear skies granting airplanes at the airstrip access to travel the skies and humidity averaging as high as 78 degrees.  

Conversations among car fanatics can also be heard throughout the Sun’ n Fun facility, discussions ranging from older car owners remembering the first car they purchased in their youth, to the first production of Chevrolet Corvettes sold on the showroom floor nationwide.     

Of the hundreds of cars featured at the event, was a 2004 Ford Mustang GT Convertible, owned by Bob Burke. Casually sitting in his outdoor chair with his wife, Burke said his favorite activity at the venue is the social interaction among car enthusiasts.

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2004 Ford Mustang GT Convertible, owned by Imperial Mustangs of Polk County club member, Bob Burke. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

“The comradery here is amazing,” Burke said. “I am a member of the Mustang Club in Lakeland, so it is great to be out here with all the Corvette guys, Mustang guys, and especially the Chrysler guys who get together to talk about car while creating a communal bond with one another.”

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Ford Mustang Specs and Pricing Sheet. The Mustang has a 4-speed automatic transmission, which includes a “4.6L 2V SOHC Engine,” averaging 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

The collection of vintage cars at the facility Burke said, reminds him of the era of “The Horsepower Wars.” This was a period of time in the 20th Century that documented the rise and fall of American muscle cars in the car market, which led to the establishment of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Oil Crisis of 1973.

“Way back in the late 60s and 70s, that was the top of the line for American muscle cars,” Burke said. “Now the big three automakers are all coming out with cars that can produce up to 600 to 700 horsepower that are under warranty, which come straight from the factory.”

According to an infographic from autoinsurance.org, from 1980 to 2004, average horsepower increased by 80 percent, which led to Congress giving the EPA power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions — drawing a final curtain on The Horsepower Wars.   

For Burke, he said the essential theme of the Winter Wonder Car Show, or any car show, is about creating a family-oriented environment that brings communities closer together.   

“I have been going to these shows for a long time, and whether you are a Chevy or Ford guy, having an appreciation for all makes and models shows respect for others,” Burke said. “For the most part, all the guys with their vintage cars will talk for an hour about cars and their performance on the road. That is what cars shows are all about.”

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Corvette Swap Meet market. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

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Is your child wanting to drive a Corvette? Why not buy him this one for his birthday, or Christmas for that matter. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

Journeying through the grass parking lot of street rods,  Ocala resident, Mike Cobine, 62, was passing through one of the swap meet huts, browsing for Chevrolet Corvette parts of all models, wearing a Bridgestone ball cap and a plain white shirt. His favorite feature at the Winter Wonder Car Show is the fact that the event is also runned by the National Corvette Restorers Society while working in conjunction with the CFSRA.  

“It is a wide open area with a lot of swap meet areas to buy car parts,” Cobine said. “It is a great show, especially for a Corvette guy like me browsing for Corvette parts. I own two Corvettes: a ‘68 and a ‘63 model, and I buy a lot of parts for the ‘63 at most swap meets.”

Not only is the Ocala resident a car show goer, Cobine has a storied history of competitive motor racing in the Sports Car Club of America, a career he remembers like it was yesterday.   

“SCCA racing is divided into two groups for road racing: Club Racing and Pro Racing,” Cobine said. “Club Racing is the amateur status group I competed in, and not professional. There may be pros racing, I raced in this group just for the fun of winning trophies, not for money.”

Cobine traveled across the United States in the SCCA from 1988 to 1997, from the high banks of Daytona International Speedway to Watkins Glen International, competing in seven to eight groups of cars.

“Before that, I ran autocrosses, hillclimbs, and high speed events from 1976 to 1988,” Cobine said. “Some were SCCA, some were other groups. By a quirk, I was the 1988 Florida B-Prepared State Autocross Champion.”

Throughout his motor racing career, Cobine said has made a lot of friends with other racing drivers.
“I was friends with Can Am racers Dick Durant and Bob Klempel in the same local sports car club with them in the ’70s and all,” Cobine said. “I’ve been to Dick’s home many times. Dick was very good friends with John Martin, so I met John a few times.”

Cobine even met famous racing drivers such as Paul Newman, Mario Andretti, David Hobbs, and others.

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1972 Chevrolet Corvette SCCA racecar from the 1st annual Winter Wonder Car and Truck Show in Lakeland — once driven by SCCA motor racer, Ron Bauer. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

“Newman was simply a racer like everyone else,” Cobine said. “In 1983, we were coming out of the pits at Road Atlanta together and discussing the weather. I told him to run the slicks, as we had just spent our last $400 cash on rains for our E/Prod TR-3, so there was no way it would rain on our race and his race was after ours.”

Now retired from competition, Cobine said he is grateful and privileged to have driven various types of race cars in his career.  

“While my car was a Corvette, and I raced it from 1988 to 1994, the most intriguing cars I raced were the  F440 and F500,” Cobine said. “These were formula cars with a 500cc Rotax engine and continuously variable transmission. You put them on like a glove and they acted like an extension of your body.”

On the track, Cobine said the F440 and F500 were fun machinery to drive.

“They weren’t as fast as many, but they simply didn’t have to slow down except at places like the old hairpin at Sebring International Raceway,” Cobine said. “So lap times were great.”

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Fabulous Restorations display center outside of the Sun’ n Fun airstrip near FAA Production Studios. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

Outside the Sun’ n Fun airplane hangars, near FAA Production Studios, a 45-year-old collector car restoration business was showcasing two replica Corvette racecars to promote their enterprise: A red 1967 L88 #88, and a blue  ‘69 ZL1 #69 race car.          

The mastermind behind these replicated, race-built sports cars is the founder of Fabulous Restorations Inc. — George Haddad, 64, a native from Detroit, Michigan and a 44-year Florida resident.   

“Fabulous Restorations is an American business based in Fort Lauderdale, which devotes its efforts to restoring vintage cars and muscle cars, mostly from General Motors,” Haddad said. “It is a business that has been active for 45 years. We restore a lot of GM cars of all makes, especially Corvettes, which we have been restoring a lot of those particular cars.”

Like many fans of the Corvettes at the car show, Haddad has always been admirer of the American GM sports car, especially a fan of American cars.

Whether Haddad and his team is restoring a 1954 Chevrolet Corvette C1, or a ‘70 Chevrolet Corvette 454, — Fabulous Restorations has built a diverse group of American cars of all makes and models.

For Haddad, he loves every make and model car.

“After so many years of being in business, and a Vette fan since 1968, they are all my favorites,” Haddad said. “We do business with Corvette fans and owners in restoring these cars. I love every single one of them.”

As for the sale of these cars?

“These cars are basically not built for sale,” Haddad said. “We mainly just build and restore them to their original design, except if someone comes and offers the right amount of money to buy these Corvettes. Bottom line, a lot of these cars are my customers cars who come in and say they want their Vette to be built this way, and they pay us to do it.”

While attending Macomb Community College to try an earn an architecture degree, Haddad worked for Chrysler’s Lynch Road Assembly Plant, learning first-hand experience of automotive assembly. According to Haddad’s online bio at fabulousrestorations.com, Haddad said he then found a niche in collector car restoration and charted a course to South Florida where Haddad opened Fabulous Finishes in 1974.

“When I first started the business, I never did it to get rich or become a famous television celebrity,” Haddad said. “I did it because I am a car guy, and I have a passion for working on cars. Though the money is important because it helps you to afford the cost of doing these projects, which is an enlightening realization to have on the realities of life.”

Haddad’s brief online bio also said the company began as as body work business specializing in Corvette painting and refinishing, body repair, structural analysis, fiberglass repair and reconditioning.

After 45 years of business operations, Haddad said earning a living from his passion projects is difficult work, as well as complicated and time consuming.

Nevertheless, Haddad’s passion still burns as bright as the sun.

Walking toward the Fabulous Restorations display area, New York native and long time friend of Haddad, Gene Palladino, 74, arrived to network with other Corvette owners and enthusiasts, greeting Haddad with a handshake and complementing his success.

A native from New York, and a resident of Pace, Florida — Palladino said he loves the vintage automotive environment as much as Haddad, which is a common interest they both have shared since 1980.

“We have not worked together on cars,” Palladino said.  “It was his shop, and he had his employees. I worked for Eastern Airlines as an aircraft mechanic and spent off time with George and other friends around other Corvettes.”

Though Haddad’s success did not go unnoticed by Palladino.

“If you look up ‘Corvette’ in the dictionary, you’ll see George’s name in it,” Palladino said, 74, jokingly. “That just shows how great of a man he is, and I am not saying that to blow smoke.”  

Labaree said he also enjoys attending the Winter Wonder Car Show to hang out with other car enthusiasts, as well as with non car fanatics who attend for the appreciation of vintage motor vehicles from the 20th Century.  

What Labaree and his wife share is a common love for Corvettes. In his wife’s online bio on corvettesconquercancer.com, Sandy’s first Corvette was a 1963 Corvette convertible which she purchased on “June 7, 1977.”

After only 21 years, Labaree said he and his wife sold the 63 convertible and bought a“slightly used” 6-speed paddle shift automatic ‘97 Corvette “C5” in ‘98.  Since then, the C5 has been the primary touring car for Corvettes Conquer Cancer.

Over the course of 17 years, Labaree and the red Corvette have continued life out on the open road.

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Ben Labaree, Corvettes Conquer Cancer. (Photo by Dan Fisher)

“We went through 48 states in that car,” Labaraee said, showing pictures of the C5’s on his mobile phone from the website. “It was a very special car.”

On corvettesconquercancer.com, Labaree moved to “Decatur Alabama in 2009 and had covered 250,000 miles in the 2006 by the end of the 2016 season.”

A car devoted to long travels versus occasional joyriding on a racetrack — the Corvette C5 Labaree said, is a traveler.

“I took a video on my phone at that time, while I was driving the C5 on the road,” Labaraee said, uploading the video from his phone. “As I was driving, the car had a total of 249,999 original miles and suddenly, the odometer averaged to exactly 250,000 miles. The car don’t look like it has 250,000 miles, but they were great miles nevertheless.”  

Ganassi’s Ford GT Program Re-Establishes Dominance With Win At Rolex 24

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The Ford GT (2nd Generation) Le Mans GTE car. Set to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016. (Photo by Ford Motor Company)

It was only last year that Chip Ganassi Racing debuted the No. 66 and No. 67 Ford GT at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona — though both cars, according to autoweek.com, were plagued by “gear box issues,” which took them out of race contention.

After the No. 66 Ford GT started on pole position in the GT Le Mans class, and led majority of the race’s segments, the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans race-winning car crossed the finish line in first — though their victory included close competition from the likes of Porsche and Ferrari.

Below is an online article from sportscarchampionship.imsa.com, which relives the action in the GT Le Mans class, while the Ford GT co-drivers give their assessment on their victory and the emotions behind the wheel of the Rolex 24:

With a brand-new car for one of the top manufacturers in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans class, and three new manufacturers in the GT Daytona class, handicapping the GT cars in the 55th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona would be tough.

In the end, it was impossible.

The new GT Le Mans car was the Porsche 911 RSR for the two-car Porsche GT Team. It may look familiar, but the traditionally rear-engine 911 became a mid-engine race car, and Daytona was the world track debut of the car. Would it be fast? Would it last 24 hours on its first time out?

Yes, and yes. Both the Nos. 911 and 912 teams contended, and the No. 911 did better than that, challenging for the win at the end but settling for second, behind the favorite, the 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, which edged the Porsche by less than three seconds after 652 laps of the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway infield road course.

The win went to the team of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller, aided by IndyCar star Sebastien Bourdais, the same trio that took the Le Mans class victory. It was a matter of unfinished business for Ford, which debuted the racing version of the Ford GT here in 2016, and did not fare well. Ford brought its two North American-based GTs, as well as its two European-based cars, in an all-out assault on the Rolex 24.

And it took all four: While the No. 66 won, second was the Porsche, third was a Ferrari, fourth was a Chevrolet Corvette. And the fastest lap of all four of those cars was less that one half-second apart, and the top seven cars were all on the lead lap.

The second-place Porsche No. 911 was driven by Patrick Pilet, Dirk Werner and Frederic Makowiecki. Pilet, the driver during the last stint, wasn’t happy with second place. “I’m never happy with second,” he said. “I’m proud of the work the guys did our first time out. I did everything to overtake the Ford, I destroyed my tires trying to catch him. But I was glad I was able to maintain second for Porsche.”

Much happier was the No. 66 Ford GT team, including Joey Hand, who said the 12 hours of light but constant rain was an ordeal. “I’ve done a lot of racing in my life, and that was some of the toughest stuff I’ve dealt with,” Hand said. “But we did what we had to do. The car is dirty but there isn’t a scratch on it.”

“We didn’t put a wheel wrong,” said Bourdais, “and it paid off.”

Third was the strong-running No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE driven by James Calado, Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander, followed by the No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Corvette Racing, with drivers Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler.

With the 12 hours of Sebring coming up on March 15-18, can Ganassi’s Ford GT program carry on the winning momentum at the 3.74-mile, 17 turn venue? Only time will tell, but expect the competition in GTLM to be as high as an F-14 Tomcat patrolling the Indian Ocean.

InfoGraph: Crown Jewel NASCAR Tracks

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Crown Jewel NASCAR Tracks Infographic, created from Adobe Illustrator. (Screenshot by Dan Fisher)

Since 1948, the National Association of Stock Car Automobiles (NASCAR) has hosted more than 30 seasonal races, including five of the most prestigious events in the sport. The infographic above tells background information for each of NASCAR’s crown jewel races in the United States, in its 69 years as a national motor racing sport, while illustrating when the race tracks were constructed and the nicknames they’ve earned among the NASCAR community.

I chose this topic for this assignment because I love NASCAR, and I have been a fan since I was about 4 years old. To me, NASCAR serves as part of our nation’s history, including other sports like the NFL and MLB — where legends are made, and champions are forged through side-by-side competition that has spectators on their feet in suspense.

By applying in depth research using Google Fusion Tables and designing my infographic through Adobe Illustrator, I wanted to show how much I know about the motor sports such as NASCAR because their stories, in my opinion, make for high-quality news coverage.