2011 Dodge Viper Cup Round 1 - Sebring

Morgan wins first Dodge Viper Cup Race of 2011 Newcomer A.J. Morgan, a 21-year-old veteran racer from Darien, Ill., won the first Dodge Viper Cup race of the 2011 season. He averaged 28.5 mph on a drying track, passing Texan Ben Keating prior to the back straight on the final lap at Sebring International Raceway, Sebring Florida on Saturday. That's not a misprint. The average speed is correct. The race was only four laps long; two under full course yellow after Dave Fiorelli's single-car crash right at the green flag took out the concrete wall just past the starting line. The race was finally stopped while crews repaired the wall, then the field formed for a scored lap behind the pace car leading to the re-start with Morgan at the head of the single file pack. The starter threw the green and the white flag NASCAR style, and the race came down to one flying lap free-for-all to the checker. Keating grabbed the lead from Morgan into the first turn, but Morgan jumped on a chance to get him back late in the lap: "I got beside him coming out of ten," said Morgan, a former go kart and midget driver. "We hit some puddles into the next turn and touched. A little rough racing, but I held him off to the end. We have a little work tonight to make sure the left front is OK for tomorrow." Billy Gropp brought his Dodge Viper ACR-X from sixth to third during the lap while World Challenge vet Jeff Courtney came fourth in the melee. Fiorelli was unhurt in the crash, but had to convince the rescue crew that the blood on his driving suit came from a small cut earlier in the day in the pits and not from the wall banging. His car was too damaged to run in Sunday's Race 2.

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2011 Dodge Viper Cup Round 2 - Sebring
Jeff Courtney survived an event-filled race to take Dodge Viper Cup Race Two this weekend at Sebring International Raceway. He was gridded third for the standing start and fell in behind second fast qualifier A.J. Morgan as pole man Ben Keating got a great start and entered the fast Turn One car lengths ahead of the pack. Keating did not make it through as he carried too much speed and spun off into the tire wall. He was able to back out, taking a few tires with him, and re-joined the field in last place, his passenger door stove in and various parts loosened in the undercarriage. The course was under a full-course yellow for two laps and when the race went green Courtney out-dragged Morgan, taking a short-lived lead until Morgan got a good run on him out onto the back stretch and went by. Morgan led easily, but for only a couple of laps before losing his clutch. He slowed entering that same back stretch and Courtney went by again. "At around Bishop's Bend I wanted to go from four to three and it wouldn't go," Said Morgan. "Then I noticed that the clutch pedal was flat on the floor." Morgan dropped way back as he sorted out clutchless shifting and Billy Gropp's Mopar Dodge Viper inherited second place. Gropp was black-flagged for an alleged yellow flag violation and served a drive-through penalty re-entering the fray in last place. That penalty is under review by race officials, so the finishing order is not yet official. Morgan got going again but then blew a front tire and was out of the race. By then Courtney had a huge lead on new second place man Todd Nelson. Keating clawed his way back up to third, dragging his undertray behind. Back in the paddock he acted as if he had won the race after an epic drive. Dave Fiorelli drove Keating's back-up car in the race after heavily damaging his own Dodge Viper ACR-X at the start of Race One.

2011 Dodge Viper Cup Round 3 -- New Jersey Motorsports Park
Ben Keating, Jeff Courtney and A.J. Morgan qualified within 4 tenths of each other this morning, setting up a very competitive Dodge Viper Cup Race Presented by Pennzoil this afternoon at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Pole sitter Keating led from the start, closely followed by Courtney and Morgan in a rousing fight almost to the finish. With three laps to go and Courtney pressuring Keating, there was contact and both went off, no fault to either. "I feel bad for both Ben and our guys as we had a great car and we were battling for 1st and 2nd at the time late in the race," said a disappointed Courtney. Keating was able to get going again, but had to stop to replace a cut-down tire, putting him a lap down. Morgan managed to avoid the melee and inherit the lead, while Courtney was done for the day. Morgan finished nearly half a minute clear of second place man Dave Fiorelli, who was in a fight with Michael Von Quilich. They finished three tenths apart. Guest Driver Andy Bell was fourth, just ahead of Billy Gropp, who was charging back from his own problems, including an off-track excursion. "I've never sat in a Dodge Viper before," said Bell, a professional freestyle motocross rider and holder of nine Guinness World Records. "It's an absolute beast out there. One misstep with your foot and you're doing 360s -- there's just that much torque and horsepower. And it's so much fun. I mean; you're just getting slammed back in your seat as you're accelerating out of corners. I've seen people saying on my Twitter and Facebook, 'Hey, we love Viper Cup, we're coming out to watch'." Guest Driver Jimmy Kite, a veteran Indy Car, USAC sprint car and NASCAR driver finished seventh, less than three tenths of a second behind Todd Nelson. Keating recovered to eighth place just tenths of a second ahead of David Mazyck while Courtney was tenth, three laps down. The weekend hasn't been easy so far, according to Morgan, "We were dealing with pretty sizable understeer, and we couldn't get it out of the car. So we put on those stiffer springs, and that helped out a lot. We've got a lot of work to do. We have to see what we can do to improve the car. It's not over yet." The second Dodge Viper Cup race—the fourth of the ten-race series—is on Sunday at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

2011 Dodge Viper Cup Round 4 -- New Jersey Motorsports Park
Ben Keating scalded the track in qualifying, and then led the race all the way to the checker, followed by Jeff Courtney and A.J. Morgan to make up the podium for Dodge Viper Cup Presented by Pennzoil Race 2 this afternoon at New Jersey Motorsports Park. "We had a lot of work to do last night after yesterday's incident," said Keating, referring to Courtney's contact with him that cost him the lead in Race 1. "I finished in eighth place yesterday. That put AJ Morgan and me into a tie for the championship points lead going into this race, so it was an important race for me." "The first hot lap [in qualifying this morning] on sticker tires, I went out and pushed it really hard and did a 1.23.8. We're really excited about that. It's the only 1.23 out here this weekend," Keating added. "It was more about having a good start, getting out front and getting enough of a margin so I could race the margin. That way, if there were any problems out there, there would be nobody to blame but myself. " After four rounds, Keating leads the 2011 Dodge Viper Cup Series Presented by Pennzoil. The field did not make a lap before an incident forced guest driver Andy Bell off the track, damaging his rear suspension. The race was then under a full course caution to clean up before resuming without further incident. "Unfortunately someone got a little excited on the first lap and T-boned my rear end in the eighth corner. I was out, just like that. 45 seconds into the race," said Bell, who nevertheless expressed satisfaction with his experience. "I've come away with a lot of memories. This was absolutely one of the best weekends of my life. I met a lot of new friends." Keating said, "I was grateful for the yellow laps." Jeff Courtney commented on his second place finish: "my crew pieced the car back together late last night, and with no time to line it back up etc, we knew we were a long shot. I would never say I am satisfied with a second place, but today I think it's the best we had. I got a good start and was able to pressure Ben early but the second lap yellow gave us a restart from hell and Ben gapped me pretty good there. I could never really get back to him again to apply any pressure. Ben was very fast and drove a great race." Michael Von Quilich finished fourth after another duel with Dave Fiorelli, beating him by just three tenths of a second. This reversed their positions from yesterday's race in which Fiorelli finished in front of Von Quilich by the same margin. Kurt Sollberger made up for yesterday's DNF by placing sixth ahead of guest driver Jimmy Kite. Todd Nelson and David Mazyck followed in eighth and ninth, respectively. The next Dodge Viper Cup weekend is at Virginia International Raceway, Alton Virginia, July 9-10, for races five and six.

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