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All Straus’d Out

Dani Ben-Ari.

These days 21-year old Aurora Straus is not only busy running to classes at Harvard University, where she plans to study English with a minor in mechanical engineering, but continues to put her pedal to the metal as a professional race car driver on weekends competing in the Pirelli GT4 East races in the Blancpain World Challenge behind the wheel of Rennsport-One Team’s BMW M4GT4 with co-driver Connor Bloum. The pair have been partnered together since 2017. However, she did partner with, NASCAR’s Kaz Grala at Daytona to drive 2nd Bimmer World Racing M4 GT4 in January of this year.

Auora’s first experience behind the wheel came when she was just 13, when her father, Ari Straus enrolled her in a “safe driver lesson” at the Monticello Motor Club in the Catskills, NY, where he serves as its CEO.

While her dad’s intention was for her to learn car control skills, Aurora says that after the session with instructor Stevan McAleer, he let her continue to drive around for a few “fast laps,” just for fun, and “It was like a switch was tripped.”

“I will never forget the feeling of the machine under me. I was so small, and I had never experienced so much power. It was the first time I had ever gone into the triple digits,” said later stated in an interview with the Post.

After that, McAleer, 2015 Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge Champion, began to coach her in Go-Kart racing, and soon had her racing in several International Trophy Cup and Skip Barber Cup races. She then went semi-pro in the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup for two seasons before making her Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge (CTSC) debut at Watkins Glen in July 2016. At the time, the Cold Spring, NY native became the sole teenage girl to compete as a professional sportscar driver in the United States and Canada.

After graduating high school. Straus chose to “Gap Year” before starting Harvard to compete for a full World Challenge season in a BMW, ending the 2018 season, with 4 podiums, including 2 wins, and finishing 2nd overall for the season championship, earning “Rookie of the Year honors.

“Two percent of racing is getting behind the wheel. Ninety-eight percent is raising money with sponsors, testing the car, signing with a team,” she said. “It’s all time-consuming. It’s thousands of hours of work for a race that at any point could go badly. In racing, you don’t have the privilege to try things twice. You have one option and the stakes are extremely high. If you do badly, you’ve wasted tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she told the Harvard Gazette upon beginning the school year.

In the meantime Straus is seeking to help steer other young women towards success through her non-profit “Girls With Drive” Foundation.

“My long-term goal with racing is to use it as a platform for Girls With Drive,” she said. “What sold me on staying in racing was the young girls who came to watch me at the track. I amassed a small following, and they would drive from racetrack to racetrack and I realized I accidentally have an effect on girls. If I didn’t do this, who would be here for these girls?”

Boot it with Cookie

Dani Ben-Ari

The Driving Range

Louise Cook, aka “Cookie,” is actively seeking sponsors as she returns to the road for her World Rally Championship home event, the WRC Wales Rally GB, one of Britain’s largest sporting events. The event kicks off on October 3rd. In doing so, her team is offering supporters a special “Boot It” package giving businesses the chance to benefit from a combination of Rally Car Branding, Social Media content and eye-catching Action Shots from the whole event for £500 ($625.30)+VAT. Meanwhile, “petrol heads,” are being offered the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a rally car on a gravel forest stage for an additional £500+VAT with the Boot It 2 package.

Born May 14, 1987, Louise Cook began her official British rally driver career in the 2006 Rockingham Stages, piloting a Prugeot 205 alongside co-driver Stefan Davis. The youngest driver in the race, Cookie ended up with a rank of 51 out of 105 competitors. Although she later claimed the British Rally Championship Ladies’ title in 2010 and 2011, and became the first woman to win the FIA Production Car Cup for Drivers of 2WD in 2012.

Her subsequent career, however, has suffered several setbacks due to serious health problems including a broken collarbone, which forced her to withdraw from the season-ending Rally Catlunya. Then, just days before she was scheduled to compete in the 2015 Rally d’Italia, she suffered post-surgical problems preventing blood flow from an artery. Consequently, she was rushed to the hospital, unable to compete. Even so, her results throughout the season earned her the title of being the first woman to clinch a WRC title with the FIA Production Car Cup for Drivers of 2WD.

Cook’s greatest setback however, has been financial: Raising the money to compete. In 2017, she was forced to sell several of her trophies on E-bay to cover fees for WRC-3 season that year. Unfortunately, she was still unable to come up with the funding to take part in the fourth round of the season, despite being listed for the Tour de Corse. Yet, thanks to another bout of crowd-funding, Louise was able to drive Team Floral’s Ford Fiesta R2T for the Deutschland in 2018, placing third place, out of four. She then followed the race with a ninth-place finish in the season’s next round, rally Turkey.

If you’re interested in supporting Cookie continue her quest for success on the British World Rally Championship Round, you can donate to the cause by contacting her directly at  louise@rallyteamgb.com

Lexus LC (9260A) 500 Coupe

Introduced in 2018, the LC 500 although not officially a replacement for the SC 430, took a while to appear. Teasing with flashes of the RC coupes, the RC takes on a lot of high-end competitors; namely, Mercedes-Benz SL, BMW 6-Series. Minor updates have been made for 2019, the result is a beautiful iteration of a handsome sports car. Why, there is even room for four-although rear-seating is tight and reserved for those who are small, or under the age of ten. If one does nothing else but gaze at this piece of auto excellence, it sure adds class to any driveway.

Maneuvering Lexus’ 5.0-liter V8 engine is no small task.  Effortless might describe it, but it can be daunting. This writer put the petal to the metal when turning a corner (so passengers could feel what this is all about), not realizing an officer was headed the other direction, keeping an eye on me. Perhaps he was surprised to see a woman behind the wheel! With horsepower of 471, this car is decent and refined, shall we say?  As with all Lexus products, the LC has impeccable manners. Ride quality is as expected from Lexus, the adjustable suspension provides a good between a comfortable coupe ride and sportiness.  The interior is high-quality, the seating in top-of-the-line leather and simulated suede.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Lexus’ infotainment system is clumsy and awkward. The touchpad interface is frustrating, and we just gave up when trying to find a decent channel. Lexus took aim at improving it by adding Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility, for those accustomed to operating them. The central display is 10-3-inches, including two USB ports, nav system and 12-speaker audio system with satellite radio. Dynamic voice control and in-car WI-FI are also standard. For safety, a forward collision warning with automatic braking and lane departure warning and intervention are standard equipment. A 12-speaker Premium audio system is standard. Would you expect less?

Available in only one trim level, the LC 500 is available in Hybrid, and offers a longlist of standard equipment. Our test LC came with a few options (listed below), bringing the final price to just under $97,000. For those who must have it all, Lexus offers several packages and stand-alone options.  Rear drive and a 10-speed automatic transmission make this a dream to drive. Steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles are also standard. Beginning this year, Lexus reprogrammed the shift logic of the transmission to offer a smoother driving feel.

Also standard are the 20-inch wheels, adjustable suspension, LED exterior lights, heated and auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, auto high-beam control, ambient interior lighting, power-adjustable tile-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise, heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats with driver-seat memory. This coupe is all luxury.

For those drivers navigating chillier temps, you may want to opt for the All-Weather package which includes heated steering wheel and windshield de-icer. And if you must, you can add the Convenience package with front/rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. A Touring package is also available and includes simulated suede headliner, upgraded leather upholstery and Mark Levinson audio.

We would have liked to have a tad more time in the LC, but at the same time, found it a little intimidating taking it anywhere. We got a kickout of starting it up. As with all sports cars, whichever is your favorite, you crave that throaty engine and exhaust tune. You can count on precise steering, handling and braking in the LC. Tuned more for comfort, Lexus didn’t scrimp on performance. Much like my Corvette, the LC is a fine cruising car. In fact, it may perform best out on the highway. Around town driving is also pleasurable as the LC’s suspension is excellent and absorbs all matter of road problems.

What may be a challenge for those in their upper years is navigating the in/out of the low seating. Also, the doors, as with most couples are very heavy and a bit awkward. The high doorsill is high so carefully turning one’s body and stepping out is indicated. The steering wheel swings away, which is another thoughtful help. But those are the prices you pay for a sporty coupe.

Visibility in the LC 500 is good, surprisingly, even with a swooping back window. And interior room is comfortable with two adults sitting up front.

SPECS

MSRP: $92,200; total vehicle price $95,915; delivery $1,025

Engine: 5.0-liter, V8 DOHC 32 valve, Dual  VVT-1 Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence, 471 HP., 398 lb.ft.torque

Transmission: 10-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic

Wheelbase: 113 in.

Length: 187.4 in.

Width: 75.6 in.

Height: 53 in.

0-60: 4.4 seconds

Top speed: 168 mph

Models: Hybrid 500h ($96,810); 500 Inspiration Series ($105,615)

EPA MPG: 16/25

Tank: 21.7 gal.

Seating: 4

Options: Convenience Package: Intuitive Park Assist ($1,000) and Head-up Display ($900); Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System ($1,220); Premium Paint ($595).

Years: 2018,2019, 2020

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Fastest Woman on 4-wheels Jessi Combs killed trying to set new land speed record

Diana Duel…The Driving Range

Fast was just never fast enough for racer/TV personality Jessi Combs, who died August 27th while racing a converted fighter jet across the Alvord Desert in Oregon. She was attempting to surpass her own record set September 7, 2016, when she hit a top speed of 477.59/mph driving the Other American Eagle. That record came just 3 years after she initially claimed  the women’s 4-wheel land speed record driving the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger at Alvord on October 9, 2013. She did so with an official run of 398.954 mph, and a top speed of 440.709 mph. Far outpacing the 308.51 mph mark set in 1965 by Lee Breedlove, who had held the crown for an amazing 48-years.

Just days before the fatal crash, Jessi posted on Instagram that she hoped to break 512mph.

It may seem a little crazy to walk directly into the line of fire… those who are willing, are those who achieve great things. People say I’m crazy. I say thank you,’ she wrote, adding the hashtags #gottabreak512 #aimingfor619

In addition to being the 2014 Ultra 4 Spec Class National Champion with Falken Tire, other successes included winning the 2016 King of the Hammers with the Savvy Off Road team in the EMC Modified Class and a 2017 12th place finish in the Unlimited Class driving the same Stock Mod car. She also won the 2015 — Rallye Aicha des Gazelles (9 off-road rally race) – 1st – First Participation – 10th overall ; 2015 — SCORE Baja 1000 – 2nd – Class 7; 2014 — Ultra 4 King of the Hammers – 1st – Spec Class; 2014 — Ultra 4 National Championship – 1st – Spec Class; 2014 — Ultra 4 Western Region Series – 1st – Spec Class; 2014 — Ultra 4 American Rock Sports Challenge – 3rd – Spec Class; 2014 — Ultra 4 Glen Helen Grand Prix – 2nd – Spec Class; 2014 — Ultra 4 Stampede – 1st – Legends Class; and the 2011 2011 — SCORE Baja 1000 – 2nd – Class 10.

Born July 27, 1980 in Rockerville, South Dakota, Jessica Combs graduated from Wyo-Tech in the Collision & Refinishing Core Program, as well as the Street Rod Fabrication and Custom Fabrication and High Performance Powertrain programs in 2004. Upon graduation, the school gave her her first professional job when the marketing department hired her (and a fellow student) to construct a car from the ground up in 6- months. The car was to debut at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Marketing Association) show in Las Vegas.

In addition to time spent behind the wheel, Combs’ career put her in front of the camera on several television shows, including 12 episodes during the 7th season of MythBusters, and a 4-year stint as the host of Xtreme 4×4, a part of the Powerblock. Before quitting the show following a serious accidents. In October 2011, Combs began recording an AOL Autoblog Show called The List of 1,001 Car Things To Do Before You Die, an award winning automotive based adventure series along side co-host Patrick McIntyre.

New episodes of The List continue to air with Combs’s co-host Patrick McIntyre. That same year she also became the host of the Velosity Channel’s All Girls Garage ( a program about women repairing and upgrading new and classic cars). She remained with the show until 2014. Other appearances included acting as co-host with Chris Jacobs during the sixthh season of Overhaulin’ on the Discovery and Velocity Channels in 2012, and the Discovery Channel panel show Break Room just last year.

2020 Kia Soul X-Line

Always a pleasure, the Kia Soul is a favorite. We have three in the family, one 2020 just purchased. This car just keeps getting better and better. The extended wheelbase adds to a smoother, more even ride. The Soul is quieter, more than accommodating and a pleasure to motor around. In a very crowded field, the Soul easily stands out and has since its inception. The competition includes the likes of the Fiat 500x, Ford EcoSport, Nissan Kicks, Toyota C-HR, Hyundai Kona and Jeep Renegade. We can’t imagine the Soul’s styling ever getting old.

More defined for 2020, the Soul is a tad edgier with sharper light fixtures, a grille that stands out and bigger and brighter “boomerang” taillights. Our test Soul was the x-line model, making it seems a bit more ‘rugged.’ Added are plastic fenders, additional cladding up front, silver accents and trim-exclusive 18-inch wheels. Feeling a little off-road, the 2020 Soul x-line adds new trim, rather than anything functional. Although there has been talk of adding all-wheel-drive to the Soul’s lineup, it hasn’t happened yet.

Matching the Soul’s exterior changes are some inside the car, including a silver trim panel on the front door. Triangular air vents are up-to-date, and the cloth seats are attractive, sturdy and two-tone black and grey texture.

The standard engine produces 147 horsepower which seems adequate for a car of this size. One can opt for the turbocharged engine of the GT-Line. Horsepower is increased to 201 hp. And torque at 195 lb.ft. The 2020 Soul LX trim level offers optional 6-speed manual, the EX trim gives you 17-inch wheels and the GT-Line, and GT-Line Turbo have the 18-inch wheels.

The standard engine in the 2020 Kia Soul provides 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, while the available turbocharged engine of the GT-Line adds some desired omph. Turbo trim increases horsepower to 201 and torque to 195 lb-ft.  The 2020 Soul LX trim has the option of a 6-Speed manual transmission or an Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) while all the other trim levels equipped with the standard 2.0L Inline 4-Cylinder engine work solely with the IVT.  The turbocharged engine option pairs with a 7-Speed Dual Clutch transmission for optimal fuel economy specs.

All trim levels of the 2020 Kia Soul have auto on/ off headlights and the top trim level gets loaded with LED headlights, LED taillights, LED positioning lights, and the EX and GT-Line Turbo trims have heated outside mirrors as well.  The LX and S trim levels have 16” wheels while the EX trim level has 17” wheels and the GT-Line, X-Line, and GT-Line Turbo have trim specific 18” wheels.

The interior has been somewhat updated and provides a 7-inch color touchscreen display (10.25 inch in top two trim levels). All offer Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity; the GT-Line Turbo trim adds Harman Kardon audio with subwoofer.  Wireless charging capability is offered on the GT-Line Turbo and EX trim, as well as automatic climate control, smart key with pushbutton start/stop and dual level cargo board for added cargo space.

As expected in today’s automobiles, safety equipment abounds, including dual front advanced airbags and seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, ABS with Brake Assist, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Management, hill-start assist and tire-pressure monitoring. Auto on/of headlights are always helpful, a roof rack is standard for tose needing extra cargo carrying options. Power windows, A/C, AM/FM/MP3 , remote keyless entry, cruise, tilt/telescopic steering column and center console all standard.

Our test Kia came equipped with the X-Line package which includes Blind Spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Collision Warning, Lane Change Assist, X-Line Exterior Body Cladding, Front Fog Lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, Roof Trim and leather wrapped steering wheel/shift knob, at no charge.

One can’t miss with this little gem of a Kia product. From it’s distinctive styling, to pricing, to clever and comical advertising since 2010, the Soul is our favorite pick of all the available hatch’s on the market today.

SPECS

MSRP: $21,490; total vehicle price $22,615 X-line features included

Engine: 4-cylinder, 16-valve, 2.0-liter, multi-point fuel injection, 118 lb. ft. torque, 130 hp

Transmission: 6-speed automatic,CVT, FWD

Wheelbase: 101.2 in.

Height: 63.5 in.

Width: 70.9 in.

Length: 163 in.

Tires: 235.45/r18

Wheels: 16-inch Steel wheels (standard)

Weight: 2,942 lbs.

Tank Capacity: 14.2 gal.

Warranty: 5 yr/60,000-mile limited basic warranty; 5 yr/60,000-mile Roadside Assistance, 10 yr/100,000-miles limited powertrain

Trim levels: 1.6-L, 6 M/T ($16,490); 1.6L, 6 A/T (18,190); 2.0L+6 A/T ($20,490); 1.6T! 7 DCT ($22.990); EV ($33,950); EV+ ($35,950);

2019 Mazda3 Hatchback, w/Premium Package

There seem to be plenty of hatchbacks on the road these days; always a handy combination of pizzazz, spunk and space.

Included are the likes of Chevy Sonic, Chevy Cruze Hatch, Ford Focus, VW Golf GTI (a favorite), Hyundai Veloster, Kia Forte5, Buick Regal Sportback, Audi A3 Sportback 3-tron, Honda Fit, and BMW3, to name a few. Pricing varies as does the image one wants to portray. Our hatchback from the fleet was the 2019 Mazda3, with the Premium Package in the Polymetal Gray Mica with red interior. A different kind of gray, the Polymetal stands out, making its own statement rather than blending in with today’s popular gray and silver paints.

For the most part, we enjoyed driving the Mazda3 hatchback, except when first attempting to go somewhere. We found it necessary to pull out the manual to figure out how to undo the automatic parking brake: Start car…buckle seatbelt…put car in gear and tap accelerator. Doesn’t seem that hard, but it was frustrating. Not all vehicles today automatically throw on the parking brake. The need for it, we’re not just sure, unless you’re parking on a hill.

The other irritating feature was the sound system, operated from the center console (Multi-functional Commander Control), much like Lexus’ system. There were two preset stations (one religious, the other Far Right talk radio: neither one to our liking) we couldn’t get beyond. Never did I figure out how to find other available stations, how to set them or even find something else to listen to. I’m sure it’s much simpler than assumed, but I lost the patience needed, apparently, to get it right.

Somewhat modest, yet comfortable, the Mazda3 interior is small, but accommodating for 4-5. Not much legroom between the rear seats and the front seats for long-legged passengers. The remaining cargo space, with rear seats up, is limited. Nothing about the dash or interior of the Mazda3 stands out. Simple and functional, but nothing worth noting. Standard equipment is as usual including A/C, alloy wheels, AM/FM/Radio Bose (12 speakers), automatic headlights, cargo area light, cruise, daytime running lights, driver/front passenger climate controls, electric steering, interval wipers (we liked this), leather steering wheels, power adjustable exterior mirror, power door locks, power windows, rear window defogger, rear wiper, remote lock, speed sensing locks, steering mounted controls, telescoping steering tilt steering and tire inflation/pressure monitor. Front seats were heated, and sound system includes the Bose 12-speaker and 8.8 inch color display screen.

Options on our test Mazda3 hatchback included cargo mat ($90), floor mats, all-weather ($125), illuminated door sill trim plates ($425), frameless auto-dim mirror ($275), navigation so card ($450), and the Premium Package, including Active Driving Display (windshield), Adaptive front Lighting System, leather seats, black finish alloy wheels, front LED signature illumination, Rear LED Signature Illumination, Power sliding glass moonroof, and paddle shifters. Safety features include anti-theft engine immobilizer, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rearview backup mirror, advanced smart city brake support. Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, Driver Attention Alert, ABS w/brake assist, front-side impact airbags, Advanced Dual front airbags, side impact and front/rear airbags, along with Lane Departure Warning System and Lane Keep Assist. We had to get used to the Smart Brake Support which let us know with a chime that both brake pedal and accelerator pedal were being applied simultaneously.

Mazda suffered an unexpected fall in sales of its core Mazda3 compact sedans and hatchback. Due to a remodel of their cars and revamped engines aiming to compete with premium European brands like BMW. However, the price increases that accompanied the changes backfired as U.S. drivers continue to prefer SUV’s and larger vehicles.

The Mazda3 is a fun car to drive and agile around turns. Rated by Popular Mechanics to be one of the best Hatch’s on the road, the Mazda hatch’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 186 horse is spunky and enough for the size and weight of the hatchback. Don’t expect to be overpowered. It’s peppy and might be able to compete with the VW GTI. What you will get though, is the Mazda promise of traditional “fun,” even if the price tag is a tad higher than choices like Kia Soul, Chevy Sonic, etc.

   

SPECS

MSRP: $28,900; total vehicle price $31,460, delivery $920, total $31,460, 5 seats

Engine: 2.5-liter, DOHC 4-cylinder, 186 hp, 186 lb. ft. torque.

Transmission: 6-speed automatic, FWD

Tires: 215/45/R18

Wheels: 18-inch alloy

EPA Fuel Economy: 24/32 mpg., up to 26/35

EPA fuel tank capacity: 13.2 gal.

Wheelbase:107.3 in.

Height: 56.70 in.

Width: 70.70 in.

Length: 175.60 in.

Weight: 3,082 lbs.

Cargo volume: 20, 1 cu.ft.

Trimlevels: AT4-door, SKYACTIV ($21,000), Select AT4-dr. SKYACTIV ($22,600), Select AT 4-Door SKYACTIV AWD ($24,000), Preferred AT 4-Door, SKYACTIV ($24,200),2.5 AT 5-Door SKYACTIV AWD ($25,000), Preferred 2.5 AT 5-Door SKYACTIV ($25,200), Preferred AT 4-Door SKYACTIVE AWD ($25,600), Premium AT 4-Door SKYACTIV ($26,500), Preferred 2.5 AT 5-Door SKYACTIV AWD ($26,600), Premium AT 5-Door, SKYACTIV ($27,500), Premium MT 5-Door SKYACTIV ($27,500), Premium AT 4-Door SKYACTIV AWD ($27,900), Premium 2.5 AT 5-Door SKYACTIV AWD ($28,900).

Warranty: 60 mth/60,000-mile powertrain, 36 mth/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper, 24-hour roadside assisstance

Editorial,Susan Frissell, Publisher

What was once very much a ‘rite of passage,’ obtaining a driver’s license was first on the list of most of my friends when we turned 16. Perhaps not so in other cultures, but very much so in American culture.  What was once so exciting, has become a nerve-wracking event for teens and parents alike. Motor-vehicle accidents continue to be the leading cause of death among drivers aged 16-19. This age group is also the group with the highest risk of crashes.

Hand in hand with this fact are the financial implications. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 15- to 19-year-olds made up only 6.5% percent of the population. Yet, they were responsible for 8.4% percent of all costs resulting from motor-vehicle injuries. This percent does not include the costs of auto maintenance, insurance premiums, possible traffic citations and other vehicular incidents, big expenses that can increase over time.

To work on this reality, WalletHub analyzed the teen-driving environment in all 50 states using a collection of 23 key metrics. The data includes ranges from number of teen driver fatalities to average cost of car repairs to presence of impaired-driving laws.

Although teens are responsible for their own driving consequences, much of the emotional and financial burden goes to the parents. In those areas, the study determined, it is up to lawmakers to implement programs and policies to reduce the numbers of accidents, fatalities.  a panel of experts were asked to share their thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. What tips do you have for parents of teen drivers?
  2. What is the biggest risk that teen drivers face?
  3. What tips do you have for minimizing the costs (insurance, etc.) associated with having a teen driver in the household?
  4. Should we increase the age at which an individual is eligible for a license to 18?
  5. What should policymakers do to increase the safety of teen drivers?

Among some of the findings of the WalletHub study were states with the most teen DUI’s: Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota and South. The states with the fewest DUI’s included Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. And those with the highest number of teen fatalities included South Dakota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Alabama and Wyoming.

Those states providing the best teen driver’s graduated driver-licensing program laws include Delaware and New York. Those states with the worst programs were Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.

Formula E Championship Shayk’n and stirred during Season Finale in Brooklyn

The Driving Range….Dani Ben-Ari

Bradley Cooper’s ex, Russian supermodel Irina Shayk certainly got motors racing  when she showed up for the ABB FIA Formula E season finale at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook Sunday July 14th. In fact, drivers and fans alike found her electrifying as she posed along side several drivers, as well as Formula E Founder and Chief Executive Officer Alejandro Agag after the pair took a spin together in a BMW i8 safety car.

“Driving the car with Alejandro was so exciting. It’s amazing to see how far Formula E has come in the 4 years since I was at the race in Los Angeles. The positive message Formula E brings regarding sustainability and renewable energy is commendable and I’m honored to be here for the final race of the season,” commented Irina .

While Shayk cheered on Nissan e-dams’ driver Sebatien Buemi, who won the first half of the double-header event on Saturday, and Robin Frijins of Envision Virgin Racing who captured the checkered flag on Sunday, neither driver was able to prevent last year’s Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne of the TECHEETAH team from taking his the championship title in the ABBA Formula Series for the second consecutive year. Vergne won the series thanks to the sport’s complicated points system.

Keeping Score

In addition to using the standard FIA 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1, three points are awarded to the driver who captures the pole position. Meanwhile the driver who sets the fastest lap (provided they finish in the top ten) receives another point. A driver’s end of season total comprised his best results.

Meanwhile, each of the 11 competing teams’ total is calculated by combining the scores for their two drivers throughout the season. As the this year’s finale, five teams still had a shot at winning the season’s two-day finale set on a temporary track along Brooklyn’s waterfront Races are run on temporary tracks from 1.2-2.1 miles long set up in cities around the world beginning the season at the Ad Diriyah Grand E-Prix in Saudi Arabia and continuing on in Santiago, Chile; Mexico City; Hong Kong; Rome; Seoul, Paris, Berlin, London; Los Angeles; and New York. An additional site is set to be announced for China for the 2019-2020 calendar year.

Each event commences with two practice sessions in the morning, an opening 45-minute session followed by a further 30-minute session. Qualifying sessions (lasting a total of one hour) are held later in the day. During that time, the racers are split into four groups of five or six, with each group having six minutes to set their best lap. Full power of 250 kW is available throughout. Since the second season, the six fastest drivers then go out again, one-by-one, in the Super Pole shoot-out to determine the top six grid positions.

Note: Founded in 2011, Formula E, is the first major battery-electric motor sports series. Formula E is similar to Formula 1. However, while E–race cars may appear to look like their Formula 1 counterparts they do not have their speed or endurance. Each team designs and builds its own drivetrain all Formula E cars which are now powered by an 800 lb electric battery capable of going from 0-60 in 2.6 seconds, but only have a top speed of 175 mph. Races, themselves, last only 45 minutes plus one lap.

NASCAR Driver McKenna Hasse Sprints to Become America Ninja Warrior

Dani Ben-Ari

Twenty-two year-old Sprint Car racer McKenna Haase recently switched lanes competing on America Ninja Warrior during city tryouts in Tacoma, Washington in May (seen on TV June 24). Although she had been training as a Ninja for more than two years, the rookie was only able to make it to the third obstacle before crashing into the water.

“All of a sudden, I was trying to hit the mat and I just had a bad dismount. It was really, really upsetting because it’s something if I had just taken my time, I could have easily done it,” Haase said during an after event interview.

In fact, Mckenna’s family nickname is “Monkey” due to her incessant love for climbing on rocks, jungle gyms and other daredevil stunts, according to relatives.

While making it through the course and hitting the buzzer would have been a dream come true, Haase stated that one of the main reasons she decided to become a Ninja Warrior was to improve her driving skills on the track, by helping her develop full body strength. In turn, she feels that her training as a driver also helped prepare her for the physical and mental rigors of the games. Not only does driving race cars at top speeds require a lot of upper body, as well as core and neck strength to steer the cars, it also involves a great deal of cardio exercise to keep them under control.

Keeping things under control on the trace track is something McKenna Hasse has been learning to do well, ever since a chance encounter with Kasey Kahne at a shopping mall inspired her to begin racing on the dirt and then Go-Karting st the age of 13. Today the Des Moines, Iowa native is now a 360 division racer, who also operates her own team, Team Haase Racing (THR) LLC , as well as runs Compass Racing Development LLC mentoring kids on how to become race car drivers, managing safety gear, and how to obtain sponsors.

Her own sponsors presently encompass a wide variety of businesses including: MidAmerican Energy, Wyckoff Heating & Cooling, Wreckamended Collision Center, Iowa Select Farms, Casey’s General Stores, Hooker Harness, Larry Huff, Klug Insurance Services, Eagle Motorsports Inc, Pro-Line Building Co., Bell Helmets, Nice Curbs & Concrete, Lamo Footwear, My Race Pass, Champion Signs, Trixies Salon, Drain Tech Plumbing, Des Moines Industrial Products, Tom and Terry Wilson, MPI Steering, Essentia Water, Bubbl’r Water, Auto-Jet Muffler Corporation, Vinyl Cup Records, Shade Tree Auto, Gabus Automotive Group, Delta Dental of Iowa, K&C Drywall, and Lutheran Church of Hope.

While becoming the first and only female feature winner at Knoxville Raceway in over 100 years (2 times) is currently the highlight of McKenna’s racing career to date, other 360 Sprint achievements over the past seversal years include: 2 Sprint Invaders trophy dash wins; Breaking the Knoxville 18-lap track record ; Becoming Knoxville Nationals B-Main Qualifier, and being named Junior Fan Club Driver of the Year. Before that she won 3 heat wins as a 2017 Rookie; 1 quick time w/ASCS National Tour Knoxville Nationals B-Main Qualifier; Junior Fan Club Driver of the Year (3 years in a row) in 2017-2018. In 2016 McKenna earned 1 quick time; as well as 6 podiums; 10 top fives; 13 top tens and 4 heat wins in 305 Sprints at Knoxville Raceway.

Note: While McKenna is the first female race car driver to compete on America Ninja Warrior, she is not the first to NASCAR driver to try and race for the buzzer. Previous contestants during past seasons have included Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ben Kennedy, while Indy drivers have included Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden. Meanwhile, it should be mentioned that American Ninja Warrior co- hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila acted as joint-grand marshals of this year’s 103rd  Indianapolis 500.

Brenda Jackson: 1954-2019

JR Motorsports has announced the passing of Earnhardt family matriarch Brenda Jackson at the age of 65, on April 22, 2019, following a hard fought battle with cancer.

Brenda was literally born into racing as the daughter of legendary NASCAR fabricator Robert Gee, who constructed winning cars for many celebrated drivers, including Dale Earnhardt, who she married in 1972. The pair had two children, Dale Jr., and Kelley, before splitting up over the pressure of his trying to establish his professional career.

After a house fire destroyed their home, Brenda took the kids back to her home state of Virginia to live with her father and begin a new life. She eventually married Norfolk firefighter Willie Jackson, in 1985. The family then moved back to North Carolina when Willie retired in 2004, and Brenda soon began working with Kelley and Dale Jr. at JR Motorsports as an accounting specialist,  for the next 15 years.

According to a company spokesman, “Jackson became an ‘instant favorite to her friends and colleagues at JR Motorsports, and her sarcastic musings and straightforward approach injected a brand of humor at became part of its fabric as it grew into a full-time NASCAR racing operation in 2006 and a championship-winning team in 2014.”

“I am a very, very lucky woman, as I get to interact with my kids almost every day,” she commented in 2018. “I’ve got two bright, beautiful kids that I am very proud of. Kelley’s standards are very high. She conducts herself that way and she expects that of everyone else. Dale Jr. just gets bigger and bigger. I am very proud of his accomplishments, but as a mother I am proudest of the way he handles himself with honesty and the way he cares about his family and his friends.”

She was also a staunch supporter of her son’s decision to retire from full-time racing due to his own health struggles caused by multiple concussions, and devoted much of her energy working with The Dale Jr. Foundation and other charitable efforts.

In addition to her children Dale Earnhardt Jr. (wife Amy), Kelley Earnhardt Miller (husband L.W.), Brenda Jackson is survived by her husband of 33 years, William M. Jackson Jr., step-daughter Meredith Davis (husband Jonathan); her grandchildren Karsyn Elledge (18), Kennedy Elledge (13), Wyatt Miller (7), Callahan Davis (16), Claudia Davis (13), and Isla Rose Earnhardt (11 months); her brothers Robert Gee (wife Beverly) and Jimmy Gee; as well as her much loved Pekingese dog, Scully.

Memorial contributions may be sent to Piedmont Animal Rescue or Hospice and Palliative Care of Iredell.