Kimi Raikkonen wins Australian Grand Prix

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Kimi Raikkonen has got his 2013 season off to a perfect start after winning the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

The Lotus driver perfected a two stop strategy which saw him finish over ten seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso in second place. The Ferrari driver pitted three times, as did pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel who completed the podium in third.

Off the start, Mark Webber was swallowed up into the midfield following a poor getaway, and Lewis Hamilton lost out to both Ferrari drivers. Felipe Massa was Vettel’s closest challenger for the lead until the first round of stops, and the Red Bull driver failed to close the gap to Adrian Sutil who had assumed the lead of the race on the harder tire. When he did stop, Raikkonen and Hamilton were released, but the Mercedes was clearly struggling on its tires. Alonso managed to edge out his teammate and Vettel at the front, and he quickly set about opening up the gap to Raikkonen who was trying to make the two stop strategy work.

Alonso pitted for a final time to hand Sutil the lead, but the Force India was quickly passed by Raikkonen, but the gap to the Ferrari was diminishing. The Finn began to ease off in order to save his tires, but Alonso could not capitalize on this as he struggled to pass Sutil for P2. When the Ferrari did get past, the gap was over seven seconds, which turned out to be too great for Alonso. For good measure, Raikkonen posted the fastest lap time with three laps to go showing just how good the Lotus E21 is on its tires.

Sutil’s race was ruined when he moved onto the supersoft tire with twelve laps to go, and he eventually lost out to Massa, Hamilton and Webber. di Resta finished just behind his teammate in P8 ahead of a struggling Jenson Button. Romain Grosjean took the final point for Lotus in P10.

The opening race of the season saw four teams vying for the race win, and with Pirelli tires proving to be the deciding factor, Raikkonen will be pleased with how he managed the race from the front and got the undercut on his rivals. Ferrari have clearly banished their 2012 car troubles, whilst Red Bull will be questioning just what changed between qualifying and the race. For Mercedes, the race moved away from them as they struggled to manage their tires, whilst McLaren will know they have a lot of work to do after scoring just two points today.

2013 Australian Grand Prix – Classification

1 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault Winner

2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +12.4 secs

3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault +22.3 secs

4 Felipe Massa Ferrari +33.5 secs

5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +45.5 secs

6 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault +46.8 secs

7 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes +65.0 secs

8 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes +68.4 secs

9 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes +81.6 secs

10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault +82.7 secs

11 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes +83.3 secs

12 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari +83.8 secs

13 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari +1 Lap

14 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault +1 Lap

15 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth +1 Lap

16 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault +2 Laps

17 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth +2 Laps

18 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault +2 Laps

Ret Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari

Ret Nico Rosberg Mercedes

Ret Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault

DNS Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari

You can follow Luke on Twitter @LukeSmithF1

NHRA: Looking at where things stand at midpoint of Countdown

Top Fuel's Antron Brown has been the most dominant driver in the current NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
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The NHRA is now halfway through its six-race Countdown to the Championship and there have been a number of surprises – both good and bad – thus far.

When the series gets back to racing next weekend at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, those drivers who have dominated their respective categories in the Countdown so far stand a good chance of pulling away.

Not to mention potentially see several drivers start falling by the wayside and be eliminated.

Let’s take a look at each of the four pro classes and analyze the haves and have not’s thus far:


Biggest surprise: Antron Brown. It’s not so much a surprise that Brown is leading the standings, but it’s more so the way he’s doing it. The 2012 Top Fuel champ has been on fire, having won all of the first three Countdown races and a personal-best seven races overall this season. Brown set a NHRA record of 12-0 in final elimination rounds this past Sunday at Reading, Pa. You can’t get much more perfect than that. Brown has been so dominating that only teammate and defending eight-time champ Tony Schumacher is within reach points-wise. The other eight drivers still in contention are between 194 and 274 points behind. At the rate he’s going, Brown could potentially clinch the championship in the second-to-last race at Las Vegas.

You Go Girl: Brittany Force, daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, has been a surprising upstart in the Countdown. While she’s 194 points behind Brown, Force is ranked third heading to Texas. She’s shown significant confidence and moxie in the first three races and if she keeps it up, she could potentially overtake Schumacher at some point for second place.

Different Team, Same Drive: Shawn Langdon lost his ride at the worst possible time, just before the Countdown began, when team owner Alan Johnson suspended operations. But give credit to fellow team owner Don Schumacher, who “borrowed” Langdon from Johnson for the Chase to replace Spencer Massey, who was released just before the Chase. Langdon has done well, but time is running out if he hopes to make one last shot to win yet another championship.


Biggest surprise: Del Worsham won the first two races of the Countdown and appears headed towards becoming only the third driver in NHRA history to win both a Top Fuel and Funny Car championship in his career. Worsham has been absolutely solid this season.

That’s The Fact, Jack: Jack Beckman has enjoyed arguably the best season of his career, a complete turnaround from last year’s draining struggle. Having left John Force at the end of last season, co-crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and John Medlen have reinvigorated both Beckman and his car. Worsham has been strong, but Beckman is only a mere 16 points back in second place. And with his win this past Sunday at Reading, momentum could potentially turn in Beckman’s direction heading to Texas.

The Numbers Game: Kudos to third-ranked Matt Hagan (90 points behind Worsham) and fourth-ranked Tommy Johnson Jr. (-98) for their strong efforts in the Countdown. Ditto for Ron Capps (105 points behind Worsham) and John Force (-150), who are both still within striking distance. However, two drivers have uncharacteristically struggled thus far in the Countdown: Alexis De Joria (ranked ninth, 207 points back) and Robert Hight (10th, 221 points back). Unless they right their respective ships, they run the risk of being eliminated at Las Vegas.


Biggest Surprise: Chris McGaha (third, 104 points behind series leader Erica Enders) and rookie Drew Skillman (sixth, -173) have definitely opened eyes this season, with each earning wins thus far in the Countdown. Also enjoying a strong run in the Countdown and a welcome resurgence overall this season is veteran racer Larry Morgan (fourth, 145 points back). Enders could potentially have her hands full in the final three races to keep these three hungry drivers at bay.

You Go Girl: Defending champ Enders has looked cool, calm and collected – just like she did en route to becoming the first female Pro Stock champ last season. With a 72-point lead over former champ Greg Anderson, Enders has become one of the best drivers when it comes to reaction times at the starting line, having won close to a dozen or more rounds just because she got the jump on her opponent at the so-called “Christmas tree.”


Biggest surprise: It would be hard to find two riders who have not been more surprising than Hector Arana Jr. (ranked third, 101 points back) and Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie (fourth, 119 points back). Arana is one of the most promising young riders on the circuit, while Savoie – after a 30-year layoff from racing – is proving that 53 (years old) is the new 23.

Back in the saddle again: Andrew Hines is gunning for his fifth bike championship, and second straight, and has done what he’s needed to do thus far in the Countdown. While Arana and second-ranked Eddie Krawiec (-89) are proving to be formidable foes, Hines appears to be ready to start pulling further away for the title.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NHRA: New book a celebration of life, love and drag racing

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The overpowering smell from nitromethane that powers Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars in the National Hot Rod Association oftentimes brings fans to tears after getting a whiff of the stuff.

Now there’s a new inspirational book that will also bring tears to the eyes of die-hard drag racing fans.

Veteran crew chief Jim Oberhofer has released “Top Fuel For Life, Life Lessons From A Crew Chief,” a touching homage to both his late wife and persevering and overcoming adversity in the highly competitive world of NHRA drag racing.

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Oberhofer wears a number of hats as vice president of one of the sport’s most veteran and successful teams, Kalitta Motorsports, including serving as crew chief for Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta’s dragster.

Oberhofer relates a number of stories about overcoming adversity in the book, but none more touching than how he watched his beloved wife “Tammy O” lose a long and painful battle to stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.

While Oberhofer has spent his life using wrenches and tools working on 10,000-horsepower engines, his new book shows that he is also a very gifted writer.

Known in the sport as “Jim O,” Oberhofer describes the fight his wife went through in gritty and descriptive prose, but with a foundation built upon what the love of his life meant to him – and continues to mean to him more than two years since she passed away.

“When you take a long hard look at your life, I guarantee you that being a winner has little to do with crossing the finish line,” Oberhofer said. “After many mistakes and a whole lot of heartache, I learned that happiness comes from a deeper, simpler place. That’s the big win.”

“Top Fuel For Life” is available on Amazon for $19.95.

Follow @JerryBonkowski