Hunter-Reay named RACER’s Racer, Road Racer of 2012

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The readers of RACER magazine and Racer.com have chosen IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay as their overall RACER of the Year and Road Racer of the Year for 2012.

Now in its 18th year, the RACER of the Year Awards presented by Hawk Performance is open to racers from a wide cross-section of motorsports series and determined entirely by reader voting. It’s that breadth of competition and fan-powered format that gives RACER of the Year its prestige and makes it an accolade that racers want to win.

Past winners of the overall RACER of the Year include Tony Stewart, Michael Schumacher, John Force, Lewis Hamilton and Jimmie Johnson. In joining them, Hunter-Reay becomes the first overall winner from North American open-wheel racing since Paul Tracy in 2003, the first IZOD IndyCar Series Champion and first American-born open-wheel champion to win the prestigious award.

Over the course of the season, Hunter-Reay took four victories in his Andretti Autosport Dallara-Chevrolet, more than any other driver, taking two oval wins, at Milwaukee and Iowa, and two street-course wins at Toronto and Baltimore. He clinched the title in a tense season finale at Fontana, eventually beating Will Power (Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet) by just three points.

Once again, RACER magazine and Racer.com readers voted in record numbers, powering Hunter-Reay to a comfortable victory in both categories. The Andretti Autosport driver beat NHRA Pro Stock star Erica Enders, Top Fuel champ Antron Brown and Formula 1 aces Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel to the overall RACER of the Year title.

In Road Racer of the Year voting, he finished ahead of two previous winners of the category, IndyCar’s Will Power and three-time and reigning F1 champ Vettel.

Ryan said: “I’m honored to have been chosen as the 2012 overall RACER of the Year as well as the Road Racer of the Year. A sincere thank you to all of those fans who took the time to vote. For consideration of this honor, my name was placed among distinguished drivers I feel privileged to be associated with, let alone to be the driver chosen. As the first Indy car driver selected since 2003, I’m proud to be able to represent IndyCar, Andretti Autosport and our partners DHL, Sun Drop and Chevrolet.

“While 2012 was a hard-fought season, it was also a dream season in so many ways and it certainly would not have been possible without the unwavering support I’ve received from our team, sponsors, my family and of course the fans.  Thank you for pushing me to limits I deemed unattainable, that’s what being a RACER is all about.”

Malsher will personally deliver both coveted RACER of the Year presented by Hawk Performance trophies to Hunter-Reay at a special IZOD IndyCar Series preseason event in St. Petersburg, FL on Thursday, March, 21 prior to the opening race of the series on Sunday March 24.

Other winners voted for by RACER’s readers include:

Oval Racer of the Year – 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski.

Drag Racer of the Year – 2012 NHRA Top Fuel Champion Antron Brown.

Rookie of the Year – NHRA Funny Car race-winner Courtney Force.

RACER’s editors also selected these 2012 winners:

Car of the year: Toyota TS030 Hybrid WEC LMP1 Hybrid

Career Achievement: Sebastian Loeb, 9-time FIA World Rally Champion

Previous winners of the RACER of the Year:

2011: Tony Stewart, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion

2010: John Force, NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Champion (his 15th title)

2009: Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion

2008: Kyle Busch, 8 wins in Sprint Cup, 10 in Nationwide, 3 in Craftsman Trucks

2007: Lewis Hamilton, four wins and six poles in debut F1 season

2006: Michael Schumacher, F1’s all-time winner retires after battling for 8th title

2005: Tony Stewart, NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Champion

2004: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daytona 500 winner + 5 more NASCAR victories

2003: Paul Tracy, CART Champ Car Series Champion

2002: Michael Schumacher, F1 World Champion

2001: Michael Schumacher, F1 World Champion

2000: Michael Schumacher, F1 World Champion

1999: Juan Pablo Montoya, CART Fed-Ex Series Champion

1998: Jeff Gordon, NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion

1997: Tommy Kendall, 11 wins in a row to claim 3rd straight SCCA Trans-Am title

1996: Jacques Villeneuve, On pole in first F1 start, won 4 races in his rookie season

1995: Jacques Villeneuve, CART PPG IndyCar World Series / Indy 500 Champ

Massa brushes off Vettel’s blocking complaint at end of Russian GP

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Felipe Massa brushed off Sebastian Vettel’s blocking complaint at the end of Sunday’s Formula 1 race in Russia, saying the Ferrari driver stood no chance of catching race winner Valtteri Bottas at the front of the pack.

Vettel closed up on Bottas in the final few laps of the race, getting a boost from DRS on the penultimate tour of the Sochi Autodrom as he ran less than a second behind.

Massa – Bottas’ former teammate at Williams – inadvertently gave the Finn a boost by also offering him DRS despite being a lap down, letting the Finn past into Turn 2.

Vettel was next up to try and lap Massa, expecting the Brazilian to lift through Turn 3, only for him to keep his foot in and make it difficult to overtake.

Vettel immediately complained over the radio to his Ferrari team, but it was to no avail as Bottas crossed the line 0.6 seconds clear to record his first grand prix victory. Massa finished the race ninth for Williams.

When asked about Vettel’s complaint after the race, Massa dismissed it, believing the German would not have caught Bottas anyway.

“To be honest, so many races he was not happy,” Massa told NBCSN.

“I left the right side for him. I slowed before corner four and he didn’t want to go.

“He wasn’t going to pass Valtteri in the last lap anyway, for sure.”

Massa was quick to congratulate Bottas after the race, the pair having spent three years together as teammates at Williams ahead of the latter’s move up to Mercedes for 2017.

“To be honest he deserves the win. He was a driver that showed he is at this level in the right way,” Massa said.

“People didn’t see the level he was [at Williams], but I said straight away he’d do a good job for Mercedes. He is.

“This is his track, and I’m so happy for him. He’ll get more than just the one he did today.”

Bottas joins F1’s Finnish stars with Russian GP win

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Formula One has a new Finnish iceman on top of the podium.

Valtteri Bottas kept his cool under pressure in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix to claim his first F1 victory, swooping past Sebastian Vettel for the lead on the first lap, and keeping the hard-charging German behind him on the final lap.

“When I drive, there’s not much emotion in there,” Bottas said after his win. “I’m just trying to get everything right and get every lap, every corner perfect.”

Bottas joins an illustrious list of Finnish winners, including Kimi Raikkonen who joined Bottas on the podium after finishing third. Raikkonen has long been nicknamed “The Iceman” for his cool demeanor, but Bottas showed he can be just as chilled. Long considered a potential winner, he’d made the podium 11 times before with Williams and Mercedes, but the top step was always just out of reach.

Bottas doesn’t go in for wild celebration, but he radiated calm satisfaction with a job well done.

“Hearing the Finnish national anthem is something quite special for me,” he said. “I always trust in my ability but it’s nice to get a confirmation.”

Just like Raikkonen, Bottas can occasionally get irritated by well-meaning advice from his team over the radio, and that happened Sunday.

“I had to ask for a bit more radio silence from the guys on the pit wall,” he said, “just for me to get on it and focus for it, and to feel a bit more like home. Nice and quiet, and that helped.”

A country of 5.5 million people, Finland has long punched far above its weight in international motorsport.

Just eight Finns have ever started a Formula One race. Of those, seven have made the podium at least once, five have won a race and three – Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and Raikkonen – became world champions.

Last year’s champion, Nico Rosberg, raced as a German but is the son of 1982 champion Keke.

It was his decision to retire in the winter that opened the door for Bottas to move to Mercedes from Williams. In his fifth Formula One season, Bottas now has a car capable of fighting for regular wins and hopes Sunday will prove “the first of many.”

Sitting third in the standings after four races, could a world championship be within Bottas’ grasp?

As he said on the podium, “for me that’s the only goal in my career.”

Red Bull GRC: Speed leads VW, Andretti 1-2 in Memphis opener

Photo: Louis Yio/Red Bull Content Pool
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The new Red Bull Global Rallycross season is underway but it’s the same driver who has ended the last two years on top, Scott Speed, who kicks off 2017 in victory lane.

The two-time defending series champion, driving the No. 41 Oberto Volkswagen Beetle GRC for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, led home his teammate Tanner Foust in GRC’s trip to Memphis to kick off the new season. The win is also Speed’s 12th in the series, most in Global Rallycross history. Speed and Foust also won their respective semifinals.

“(Being the winningest GRC driver in history) is a great stat, but those wins are all part of having a great team – starting with Tanner Foust, I have an incredible teammate. The whole Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team just worked this offseason. We put in the work, and when we wanted to stop we worked some more. When you show up to the first race and you put this kind of performance down, it just makes all that work worthwhile. Big shout out to Circle K and Oberto for coming on this year, and obviously Rockstar – thanks so much, guys,” Speed said.

Foust was second in the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Beetle, starting his 2017 season one spot worse than he did last year. He swept the Phoenix doubleheader a year ago.

Steve Arpin, in his first race under the rebranded and phased Loenbro Motorsports effort, took the privateer No. 00 Jacob Companies Ford Fiesta ST onto the podium in third place. Arpin was the most consistent threat to the Volkswagen pair last year and has done well to carry that momentum into the start of 2017.

Rookies Mitchell DeJong and Oliver Eriksson finished fourth and fifth in superb efforts for Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE, taking their Nos. 24 and 16 Honda Civic Coupes to top-five finishes in their first weekend as teammates at the Supercars level for the Andreas Eriksson-led team.

Behind them, last year’s GRC Lites champion Cabot Bigham eighth in his first Supercars start for Bryan Herta Rallysport while Sebastian Eriksson limped to seventh in the third Honda with damage in the final. Chris Atkinson retired from the race with three laps to go in the first of two Subaru Rally Team USA WRX-STis, on what was a tough day for that team.

The final only saw eight cars take the start. Mechanical issues knocked Austin Dyne out of the weekend early in his first start with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, while damage on the initial start cost Patrik Sandell any hope of a result in his first final with Subaru.

In the 10-lap final around the 1.18-mile circuit which primarily utilized the Memphis International Raceway oval with a shorter dirt section, Speed and Foust both got the jump on a start, and were never headed the rest of the way.

The battle was for third between Arpin and DeJong, with Arpin taking the Joker on Lap 5 of 10 to move past the 2014 GRC Lites champion in his second Supercars weekend – DeJong debuted at Los Angeles last year.

GRC stays down south for its next race, Round 2 at Louisville, to be held on Sunday, May 21.

F1: Russian Grand Prix post-race interviews (VIDEO)

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The Russian Grand Prix is in the books, with Valtteri Bottas scoring his first career victory at Sochi.  Bottas had both a dynamic start and a dynamic defense for Mercedes against Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to win in his 81st career start, and fourth with Mercedes since changing over from Williams.

NBCSN F1 pit reporter Will Buxton caught up with a number of drivers either during or after the race. Those interviews are below.

More videos will come in the fourth and final weekend installment of Paddock Pass, the NBC Sports Group original digital series. Stay tuned for that in the next day or so on NBCSports.com.

Anyway, Russia post-race interviews are below:

WIN. Valtteri Bottas

2. Sebastian Vettel

4. Lewis Hamilton

5. Max Verstappen

9. Felipe Massa

DNF. Daniel Ricciardo

DNS. Fernando Alonso