Category Archives: The Driving Range

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.

Julia Landauer signs with Bill McAnally Racing

The Driving Range: Dani Ben-Ari

“Survivor: alum Julia Landauer is out to see how long she can last as a professional racer after signing on to be part of Bill McAnally Racing’s 4-car NASCAR K&N Pro Series lineup. She only lasted 19-days on the show.

benJulia, 24, who actually drove in a few NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model races for the team in 2009, will now compete alongside defending K&N West champion Chris Eggleston, 16-year-0ld Riley Herbst and 15-year-old Todd Gilliland. Todd is the son of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver David Gilliland. The team, which has won six K&N West titles, plans to run all four drivers in the K&N West Series along with select K&N Pro Series East events.

Landauer, who describes herself as “competitive, passionate, intelligent and driven,” not only was the 1st female champ in the 31-year history of the Skip Barber series (winning it at the age of 14). She also made history again becoming the 1st woman to win a NASCAR Limited Late Model championship at Motor Mile Speedway this past September. Julia began the night only 2-points ahead of second place, then managed to drive her #70 Intellidact/Computing System Innovations LPP racecar to 3rd place, snagging the title by 10 points.

Note: Landauer was also the 1st woman to win a race in the Limited division at Motor Mile, was the 1st woman to qualify on pole in that division, and the 1st female to ever lead the championship points in that division

Maria Teresa de Filippis. first female to race in F1 dies at 89

The Driving Range: Dan Ben-Ari

Several Maserati 250s taken at 1957 British Grand Prix

Several Maserati 250s taken at 1957 British Grand Prix

F1 racing pioneer Maria Teresa de Filippis, passed away last Friday (Jan. 8) at the age of 89. Born November 11,1926, in Naples, Italy, de Fillipis began her racing career at the age of 22, winning her 1st race, a Fiat 500, on a 10 km drive between Salerno and Cava de’ Tirreni, despite teasing from her brothers that she would never “be able to drive fast.” From there she went on to drive in the Italian sports car championship, finishing 2nd in the 1954 season, and gaining the attention of Maserati, which brought her in as the works driver.

She participated in a variety of car racing events, including hill climbing and endurance racing, before becoming the 1st woman to drive in Formula One. She finished 2nd in an event supporting the 1956 Naples Grand Prix, driving a Maserati 200S.

Although she failed to qualify for both the Monaco Grand Prix in 1958 and 1958, de Fliipis did make 3 Grand Prix starts for the Maserati team in 1958, although she scored no points. In fact, her best finish was 10th at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, after 9 cars ahead of her crashed out.

She later retired from F1 after her Porsche team boss Jean Behra died while driving in the sports car support race for the 1959 German Grand Prix at AVUS on August 1, 1959. Maria Teresa was supposed to drive at that event and was devastated by deaths of several friends during her time in the sport and especially that of Behra. She left the circuit to get married and raise a family in 1960, and did not participate in anything to do with motor racing until 1979, when she joined the International Club of Former F1 Grand Prix Drivers. She became Vice-President in 1997, and later became a founding member of the Maserati Club in 2004, serving as its chairperson.

Since de Fillipis retired from the track, only 4 other women started an F1 race. The 1st was another Italian, Lella Lombardi, who competed in 3 seasons, from 1974 to 1976. She signed up in 17 races and started 12, having her best result in 1975 Spanish Grand Prix where Lombardi finished in 6th. The race, however was stopped before 3/4 of the scheduled race distance was reached resulting in only 1/2 points being awarded. Yet it was enough to make her the only woman to score points towards the World Championship.

Next came England’s Divina Galica who attempted, but failed to qualify for the British Grand Prix, along with Lombardi (who also failed).

In 1980, Desiré Wilson of South Africa tried to qualify for the British Grand Prix. Although she did not succeed, Wilson became the only woman to win a F1 race of any kind when she won at Brands Hatch in the British Aurora F1 series on April 7. In recognition of this achievement, Wilson has a grandstand at Brands Hatch named after her.

The last woman to try to compete in a Formula One Grand Prix was Italian Giovanna Amati in 1992. She tried to qualify for 3 races, but failed each time. She was replaced by Damon Hill, who also failed to classify the car in the following races.

Courtney Force Riding Hard on her Father’s Tail for NHRA Championship

The Driving Range

Dani Ben-Ari

Legendary funny car champion John Force now finds himself in the unique position of battling his daughter Courtney for the NHRA championship. While John, who has won the honor 16 times so far remains 30 points ahead of Courtney, standings of the NHRA’s premier Mello Yello Series there are still 3 events left to run before the season finale Nov. 13-16 in Pomona, and she could still turn it around to claim her first NHRA championship. This is the first time in time in funny car history that a father and daughter are 1st and 2nd second in the point standings. Both race for John Force’s Yorba Linda, California-based team.

Courtney Force, 26, became the first woman to win back-to-back funny car races on Sunday when she defeated former Champ Matt Hagan in the NHRA Midwest Nationals at St. Louis this past Sunday. The victory also made her the first female driver to garner 4 funny car wins in one season.

She now has 7 funny car wins overall (also a record for a woman) in just her second year in the series. “We got things turned around at the right time. Right here at the start of the Countdown to the Championship is when we need to have a consistent race car, and I think that’s what we’ve got so far. To have back-to-back wins and make a move in the Countdown is just huge for us. We need to create a gap between us and everyone behind us and climb our way up to catch dad if we want to win this championship. That’s what we have our eyes set on right now.” John Force, 65, is patriarch of a family racing team, that also includes daughters Brittany (now #10 in points in the Top Fuel Category), Ashley (retired) and son-in-law Robert Hight (husband of another daughter Adria Force), and president of John Force Racing.

Note: The following is a list of Female NHRA event winners:

WINS DRIVER CATEGORY FIRST WIN LAST WIN 41 Angelle Sampey Pro Stock Motorcycle Reading 1996 Houston 2007 18 Shirley Muldowney Top Fuel Columbus 1976 Phoenix 1989 10 Erica Enders-Stevens Pro Stock Chicago 2012 Norwalk 2014 7 Courtney Force Funny Car Seattle 2012 St. Louis 2014 6 Karen Stoffer Pro Stock Motorcycle Houston 2004 Denver 2011 5 Melanie Troxel Top Fuel-Funny Car b Pomona 2006 (TF) Bristol 2008 (FC) 4 Shelly Payne Top Fuel Reading 1993 Seattle 1996 4 Lori Johns Top Fuel Pomona 1990 Memphis 1991 4 Ashley Force Hood Funny Car Atlanta 2008 Indianapolis 2010 3 Alexis DeJoria Funny Car Phoenix 2014 Indianapolis 2014 1 Lucille Lee Top Fuel Atlanta 1982 — 1 Cristen Powell Top Fuel Englishtown 1997 — 1 Peggy Llewellyn Pro Stock Motorcycle Dallas 2007 — 1 Hillary Will Top Fuel Topeka 2008 —



Boulder Museum raffles off 2014 Shelby Mustang GT 500

The Driving Range

Dani Ben-Ari


BOULDER, COLO. -The annual Shelby American Collection Fundraising Party will be taking place at the Boulder Museum on August 30. The Shelby American Collection will also be raffling off a chance to win a 2014 Shelby Mustang GT500 to support the museum and celebrate the 2014 50th anniversary of the Mustang. Would you be interested in covering this event? You can also bring cars to the event as well. I have attached the official press release as well as the Mustang they will be raffling off. Please let me know if you need any other information.

The Shelby Museum will  raffle of the $68,000, 662 Horsepower Ford Mustang GT500. The fundraiser supports the Shelby American Collection,
celebrating Mustang’s 50th Anniversary. The Shelby American Collection, home to
some of the most famous racing cars of the 1960s, has begun selling raffle tickets for a high-odds chance to win a 2014 Shelby Mustang GT500 to support the museum and celebrate the 2014 50th anniversary of the Mustang.
The drawing will take place at the annual Shelby American Collection Fundraising Party at the Boulder museum on August 30. Tickets are $50 and only 4,000 will be sold. Participants may purchase as many tickets as they want, do
not need to be present to win, and can receive one bonus ticket with the purchase of five tickets (now on sale at

“This raffle supports American auto racing heritage and the world’s finest collection of Shelby Cobras, Mustangs and Ford GT 40s,” said Steve Volk, one of the museum’s founders. “The winner will drive home in what is perhaps
the ultimate production muscle car ever made.” All funds from this event and raffle are dedicated to supporting Shelby American Collection museum operations, a non-profit, volunteer organization. For more information
visit: The charity raffle is conducted pursuant to Raffle License # 2014-08078 issued by the Colorado Secretary of State.

U.S. Postal Service Reveals Hot Rod Stamps

The Driving Range

Dani Ben-Ari

Hot Rod Stamps

Hot Rod Stamps

The U.S. Postal Service has unveiled its Hot Rods Forever Stamps, depicting two icon 1932 Ford roadsters; a black “Deuce” adorned with orange flames, and a striking red roadster, representing what many enthusiasts consider to be the “the hottest  hotrods of them all.” .The term “Deuce,” referred to the last number of its model year.

The sport took root in Southern California during the 1920s, a time when young men first began modifying Model T‘s and Model A‘s. They lowered the chassis and chopped up the bodies to reduce excess weight and increase speed. However, the cars were not referred to as ‘hot rods’ until after World War II when returning vets began finding a new outlet for their mechanical skills. A new cultural and social status surrounding the cars was also introduced.

“Driving through the dry lake beds in the Mojave Desert and areas surrounding LA in those days was a one-time experience, never to be forgotten,” wrote Wally Parks, a seminal figure in hot rodding. Parks was integral in helping found the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) in 1937 and organizing races among different classes of hot rods. “It was the nearest thing to it, as I thought then,” said Parks. “Like landing on the moon!”

Designed by Derry Noyes of Washington, DC, the two stamps were digitally created by artist John Mattos of San Francisco, and dedicated by the Postmaster on June 6th at a ceremony at the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) Street Rod Nationals East Plus at the York Expo Center in York, PA.

According to the Postmaster, “these Hot Rods stamps mark the beginning of America’s fascination with customizing fast cars. And they’re just as popular today as they were decades ago. Just like the cars they celebrate, these stamps are timeless in that they’re good for mailing First-Class letters anytime in the future.”

Also on hand at the event were Car Crazy TV host Barry Meguiar and NSRA Special Events Director Jerry Kennedy. “With an estimated 12 million hot rodders in America today, I applaud the Postal Service for recognizing that Hot Rods will forever be a symbol of our American culture,” said Meguiar.

Available in booklets of 20 stamps, customers may purchase the stamps at, at 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), at Post Offices nationwide and on eBay at Customers have 60 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may also purchase new stamps at local Post Offices, at or by calling 800-STAMP-24.

Stamps should be affixed to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others and place them in larger envelopes addressed to: Hot Rods Stamps,  Postmaster, 3435 Concord Rd.
York, PA 17402-9998

Barra named head of GM

The Driving Range

Dani Ben-Ari

Mary Teresa Barra got an early birthday present yesterday after being crowned the “queen” of America’s auto industry, replacing Dan Akerson as chief executive officer of GM, who took early retirement to care for his wife Karen . Already recognized as the “41st most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine last year, this nows makes her the first female CEO of a major global automaker.

Born December 24, 1961, Mary Teresa Makela, Barra, now a married mother of two grew up with a father who worked as a die maker at Pontiac for 39 years. She began her own career with the company at the age of 18 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. She later obtained a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business after receiving a GM fellowship in 1988. Along the way, Barra has served General Motors as a Vice President, Global Human Resources; Vice President, Global Manufacturing Engineering; Plant Manager, Detroit Hamtramck Assembly; Executive Director of Competitive Operations Engineering; as well as held several engineering and staff positions, before being named as GM’s Senior Vice President, Global Product Development February 1, 2011.

In her role as Senior VP, Global Manager, Barra was responsible for the design, engineering, program management and quality of General Motors vehicles around the world. She later assumed command for General Motor’s Global Purchasing and Supply Chain organization and was named Executive Vice President, Global Product Development & Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, and became a member of the GM Executive Operations Committee. She also serves on the Adam Opel AG Supervisory Board. According to Akerson, Mary Barra was the unanimous choice to succeed him “due to the breadth of hr experience, management record, people skills and understanding of GM’s operations.”

Note: When asked what her favorite cars are, Barra cited the Chevrolet Camaro and Firebird as her all-time favorites.

2013 Lexus ES350 – Saluting the Sizable Sedate Set – Review

By: George Straton

lexus2013Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division, is smart enough to leave well enough alone. Despite the recent trickle of more taught tuning from the LF-A supercar to the LS, GS and IS rear-drivers, there will be no F-sport coming to the front-drive ES full-size luxury sedan. Outselling the brand’s other sedans by a margin of 5 to 1 (RX Crossover not included), there is a recognition that some discriminating driver out there appreciates a sedate commute. Especially when they are stuck in the muck for two hours.

With no more give of the Camry platform on the stretching rack,  engineers went to work on transforming the full-sized Toyota Avalon. Which begat a re-designed 2013 Lexus ES. Compared to it’s predecessor, the new ES is has grown in virtually every measurable way: Wheelbase: 2″-inches; Height: 0.75+-inch; Cabin Volume: 5.5 cubic feet; Rear Legroom: 5.5″-inches in rear legroom to 40″; Trunk: 0.5 cu.ft. to 15.2.  Despite a staggering 908 page owner’s manual and 423 page infotainment supplement, the ES managed to shed 60-pounds in the process. Officially a full-size car, the ES is the one of a handful that will suit, if not pamper, an adult in the back-seat mid-section.

Drive…He Said” fastened the all-new-for-2013 Lexus ES350 onto the examination tarmac. Wearing its large sized duds better than ever. After more than two decades, the ES has been been imbued with immediately recognizable Lexus DNA on the outside. Beginning with a nose commenced on the last IS compact sports sedan, featuring the deep lower fascia, prominent hour-glass grille, and sharply swept-back light-assemblies. A high belt-line sits above sculpted doors and rocker-covers. The rear receives the GS’ pachinko LED tail-lights. And a sportier lower rear valance has integrated twin split chrome set exhaust pipes.

Dickens Described it Best:

Inside the 2013 ES350 refined decadence is defined by elegant shapes and textures. Materials such as semi-aniline leathers and highly polished wood veneers are the creme-de-la-creme. Dials rotate with the precision of Zurich combination tumbler. Doors close like those on Diebold bank vaults. Compartment covers are hinged with the fluidity of Vermont maple syrup. No appointment was appointed to this cabin without careful deliberation from folks with impeccable taste. The level of quietude: let’s just say, as in “A Christmas Carol” “… Twas The Night Before Christmas, when all through the house [Lexus ES350], not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” Indeed, there is a [computer style] mouse for scrolling through menus and making selections on 7″-inch media/ infotainment screen. Suffering from a compulsion to recklessly text while driving? The ES350 displays received messages and permits a selection of scripted responses, hands-free.

Finding the Floatiness From Pop’s Mid-70’s Coupe De Ville:

With both IS and GS rear-drive models filling the sport sedan stable, the new ES takes over the demographic where the previous edition left off: a mature audience. Simply pour some root beer onto the float-defined front strut / rear strut indie-suspension. Ride compliance has reached new heights, this on 17″ wheels trapped in 215/55 series Bridgestone Turanzas. No loose eggs will crack as the ES350 glides over crater and frost-heave. Planning an excursion through a winding canyon? Keep the Dramamine at the ready. Despite a pleasing to the touch leather and wood trimmed helm, excited inputs to the turning front wheels engender a benign reaction followed by over-reaction. The level of pitch in corners betrays a nose with 61% of the weight. A  revelation were the four-wheel disc brakes clamped down with some satisfying authority.

Let Sleeping Horses Lie:

Don’t get us wrong. The Lexus ES 350 is not lacking for power. In all, 268-equines flowing through an as-refined-as-you-can-get 3.5-Liter dual overhead cam gasoline V6 engine endowed with direct injection and variable valve timing and lift. The 6-speed torque converter auto-gearbox transitions form gear-to-gear with the fluidity of molasses. It’s also molasses slow to downshift in the name of fuel economy. Tall overdrive gearing requires heavy throttle application to get  most of the 248-lb-ft of twist. A standard active Eco-mode contributed to 24 miles on each gallon of regular petrol. Want an improvement? Step over to the ES300h gas-electric hybrid aisle.

Pockets Need Not Be Very Deep:

Our 2013 Lexus ES350 came with the goods: perforated leathers, HDD navigation; Lexus Enform mobile device app software; blind-spot warning; rear monitor; rear cross-traffic alert; park assist. At a price of $43,600 it only lacked intelligent cruise control, an unnecessary Mark Levinson hi-fi and self Guided Park Assistance, whose instructions likely consumed some 100 pages of the user manuals.

The new ES is a tip of the hat to the sizable sedate set.If there was ever a plush pillow-top mattress that rolled on four front-driven wheels the 2013 Lexus ES is it. The optional split-spoke 17″ wheels wrapped in 215/55 all-season Bridgestone Turanzas, don’t improve the dull steering response, though on-center feel is OK. The surprise here are modest sized (11.6″ up front) brake rotors which offer respectable initial friction.


VW Enthusiasts Unite: The Magical Mystery Funfest


The Driving Range

Dani Ben-Ari

Mid America Motorworks is inviting VW enthusiasts to a Magical Mystery Funfest; the 15th annual Funfest for Air-Cooled Volkswagens. The Festival is scheduled for May 31-June 2 and will be held at Mid America Motorworks’ corporate campus in Effingham, Il.

This year’s event will feature special guest two-time Bonneville Salt Flats World Record holder, Bill Hatfield and his 1999 Mexican Beetle, known as the Salt Flats Flyer. Hatfield set and reset the 36-HP Challenge’s DSS36 (dual carbs class) record with a pass of 114.909 mph.

In addition, guests can also look forward to all new expert seminars, special displays, a scavenger hunt, swap meet, Magical Mystery road tour of specialty cars, premium Saturday night entertainment and more. “Celebrity Choice” fun judging on Friday, Saturday and Sunday recognizes the stand-out VWs from the weekend.

Winners of the 2013 Platinum Bug Award and Passing on the Passion Award will also be announced during Funfest. There is still time to submit entries for the Platinum Bug Award, recognizing an individual who has shown long-term dedication to the preservation and promotion of the classic Volkswagen hobby for future generations. Entries are also being accepted for the Passing on the Passion Award, which recognizes families that share the VW hobby from one generation to the next. Nominations for both awards can be submitted at


Self-guided tours of the MY Garage Museum and Retail Store will be available throughout the weekend. See Chief Cheerleader Mike Yager’s collection of rare and famous VWs, including original Herbie cars.

Enthusiasts can register in advance for Funfest for Air-Cooled VW 2013 at or by calling 800-500-1500. Visit the website or our Facebook page,, for up to date event information.


Women drivers now rule the road

Dani Ben-Ari

Women have always influenced the actual development of the auto industry, from Bertha Benz (see and Alice Huyler Ramsey (the first woman to drive across the continental United States in 1909) to racing legend Danica Patrick. Now, for the first time in history women not only outnumber male drivers by nearly one million. And the gender gap among motorists is only expected to increase as the number of teenagers and young adults behind the wheel continues to decline, according to a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

“This changing demographic will have major implications on the extent and nature of vehicle demand, energy consumption and road safety,” commented study author Michael Sivak, who noted that “women are more likely to purchase smaller, safer and more fuel-efficient cars; to drive less, and to have lower fatality rates per distance driving.

It should also be noted that as of 2010, women not only bought 65 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S., but were credited with influencing over 80 percent of all vehicle purchases-including accessories-with those between 40-50 years old buying the most. Next come the 30-40 year olds, followed by 50-60 year olds, followed by those under 30 years of age. Last come women over 60.*

Although some experts speculate that the growing use of the internet may be part of the decline in younger drivers, a more persuasive reason may lie in the eroding economy, including the fact that there is much more unemployment for 16-24 year olds than a generation ago. Als0, the enormous rise in insurance premiums for young males under 25, not to mention gas prices and high costs of maintaining vehicles in general, are also reasons for the decline in younger drivers.

*For more information readers are encouraged to check out Car Ownership For Women by Dani Ben-Ari, currently available on and other online book vendors.