Danica Patrick’s first full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has been a mixed bag of results and stories. Pole and eighth place in the Daytona 500 was followed by a crash in Phoenix, and a slight rebound later in the year at Martinsville with a respectable 12th place result.
Still, with results far from the topic of conversation, Patrick traveled to New York for an appearance on “The Colbert Report.” Stephen Colbert had Patrick on a jam-packed show that also included President Bill Clinton, who with Colbert’s assistance, officially launched a Twitter account. Patrick, meanwhile, chimed in on pre-race rituals and status as both a female driver, or just in general, a driver.
Mercedes continuing to explore Formula E, October deadline on entry
GENEVA, Switzerland – Mercedes has until October to make a final decision on entering the FIA Formula E championship and activating its option for a place on the grid in season five, when it would have to be a customer team.
No updates have been forthcoming from Mercedes regarding its Formula E interest since then, although a number of personnel are understood to have attended the recent Berlin race as it continues to evaluate the series.
When asked by NBC Sports about Mercedes’ Formula E plans at the FIA Sport Conference in Geneva earlier this week, head of Mercedes-Benz motorsport Toto Wolff confirmed that an evaluation was still ongoing ahead of an October deadline to trigger its option.
“We are exploring Formula E at the moment and try to form an educated opinion,” Wolff said.
“It is something that is very different, although I think they’ve done a great job in establishing the series in a couple of years only.
“We are in a fact-finding moment and we will make up our mind until October.”
Max Verstappen led Red Bull Racing to a one-two finish in the opening Formula 1 practice session ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, finishing half a second clear of teammate Daniel Ricciardo at the top of the FP1 standings.
Verstappen and Ricciardo were able to make the most of low grip conditions at the Baku City Circuit through first practice, with a number of their rivals finding things more difficult and struggling to keep their cars on-track.
Verstappen recorded a fastest lap time of 1:44.410 in the Red Bull RB13 to take P1 overall, finishing four-tenths of a second clear of Ricciardo.
Sebastian Vettel took third place for Ferrari, half a second down on Verstappen at the front after squeezing a late lap in before a red flag stoppage in the closing stages of the session.
FP1 was halted when Sergio Perez became the first driver to crash at the tight Turn 8 section, carrying too much speed into the corner and clouting the barrier with his Force India car.
Meanwhile with Esteban Gutierrez having been confirmed for the rest of the season at Dale Coyne Racing, it’s anticipated he will have his first oval test next week at Iowa Speedway, to have his first running on an oval ahead of the July 9 Iowa Corn 300.
Here’s a couple other IndyCar notes…
DIXON’S SURPRISE TO A YOUNG FAN
Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network reporter Jake Query, who will also be hosting this weekend’s Indy Lights coverage from Road America on NBCSN, found a fan letter from a young girl named Lucy addressed to INDYCAR after Scott Dixon’s wild ride at the Indianapolis 500. Lucy proceeded to thank INDYCAR for its safety efforts in keeping Dixon intact.
Elsewhere, here is a bit more from the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires and Pirelli World Challenge ranks.
First practice is in the books for USF2000 and rather than Oliver Askew being on top for Cape Motorsports, it was actually the Pabst Racing team that went 1-2-3 with Dutchman Rinus VeeKay ahead of Guyana driver Calvin Ming and Brazilian Lucas Kohl. Not bad for Augie Pabst’s Oconomowoc, Wis.-based team. Askew was fourth, and David Malukas was an impressive fifth. Full results are here.
In first qualifying for Pro Mazda, Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni took the pole with a best time of 2:06.5835, ahead of Cape Motorsports’ Anthony Martin at 2:07.9055. Team Pelfrey’s trio of Carlos Cunha, TJ Fischer and Nikita Lastochkin completed the top five. Full results are here.
Overall, the USF2000 field grows by one from the projected 18 up to 19 with F4 driver Jacob Loomis moving up to Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 Tatuus USF-17 Mazda, filling in for Ayla Agren. Agren’s full-season teammates Robert Megennis and Kaylen Frederick paid tribute to Agren, who is still here this weekend, with tribute cool shirts.
Meanwhile the Pro Mazda field dips by two. Neither Phillippe Denes, who was seventh in points heading into the weekend, nor Kevin Davis is here. It leaves the field at 15 cars, including series debutantes Kris Wright (who has tested with JDC Motorsports), Dave Zavelson and Kevin Bury. Zavelson’s car number switches from 4, listed initially, to 2.
Max Hanratty, who returns, has a new livery on his No. 6 ArmsUp Motorsports entry.
Anthony Martin is confident any issues with his Cape Motorsports Pro Mazda car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course have been sorted. The Australian proved that point by leading the opening practice session with a best time of 2:13.1661 in mixed conditions. Full times from that are linked here.
The reduced USF2000 field sees a couple drivers here who may be back later this year but others who may be done for the year. Agren, out at Team Pelfrey this weekend, is here and working towards a return later this season. Her past teammate at Pelfrey, Luke Gabin, is also here and is unsure whether he’ll be back in action for Exclusive Autosport.
Meanwhile Darren Keane, who makes his debut with Newman Wachs Racing in USF2000 this weekend, is expected to return to the team for remaining races. He’ll miss Iowa Speedway but plans to return at Mid-Ohio. Ozz Negri coaches Keane in USF2000; Tom Dyer, another Acura NSX GT3 driver, coaches the Pelfrey USF2000 drivers.
The PWC grid drops by a couple this week with a couple changes in the GT and GTA ranks. Bentley Team Absolute is down to one car with Yufeng Luo not here in his No. 78 Bentley Continental GT3, leaving only Adderly Fong. Fong, however, will miss the Mid-Ohio weekend owing to a schedule clash with the China GT Championship. Pablo Perez Companc, who was also due to race in GTA in the No. 69 Mercedes-AMG GT3, is another no-show this weekend.
K-PAX Racing has eclipsed the 100-podium plateau in recent rounds. The team’s three-car lineup resumes this weekend with Alvaro Parente, Bryan Sellers and Mike Hedlund, Parente and Hedlund having just returned from the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Austin Versteeg makes his debut in the GTS class No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-BOW GT4, a car that’s won this season in the hands of Nico Jamin. Jamin is here this weekend in his Andretti Autosport Indy Lights car.
PWC had several test and practice sessions during the day.
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Robert Wickens will temporarily fill in for Mikhail Aleshin at this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America.
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team released a statement on Thursday afternoon confirming Aleshin’s absence for at least Friday owing to immigration issues, with that potentially set to stretch into the remainder of the weekend if the situation is not resolved.
Hinchcliffe has also posted a tweet going into the weekend. The two participated in a ride-swap earlier this year where Wickens made his IndyCar test debut at Sebring (recap here) and Hinchcliffe ran in Wickens’ DTM car in Italy after the St. Petersburg opener (recap here).
The two drivers were teammates in A1 Grand Prix about a decade ago; Wickens has race experience at Road America as he finished seventh in a Formula Atlantic race in 2007. Hinchcliffe was 14th in the same race.
Beyond his DTM commitments, Wickens raced in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with Starworks Motorsport, and ran 100 laps during the week in a PC class Oreca FLM09 he shared with a handful of others. Conor Daly and Sean Rayhall were among the notables in the other car.