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

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NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations, including NHRA Summernationals, effective immediately

Photo courtesy NHRA
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If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”