Jimmie Johnson withstands multiple late restarts to win at Pocono

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One week after losing a potential victory at Dover on a restart penalty, Jimmie Johnson managed to stave off his rivals on multiple late restarts to win today’s Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Johnson had to contend with a vibration on his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as well, but still was able to lead 129 of 160 laps. However, after a long run of mostly green-flag action, the race took on a disjointed feel with five caution periods within the final 35 circuits.

That enabled the front-runners to make it to the finish on fuel, but that also meant Johnson had to fend off repeated attacks on his lead when the green flag would come back out.

“Those restarts – man, there’s only so many tricks you have,” Johnson told TNT’s Marty Snider in Victory Lane. “[You have] to play by the rules. They were figuring out everything I could do in that [restart] zone, and fortunately, I was able to get the lead and everything worked out in the end.”

The final two restarts of the day had Johnson’s HMS teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., poised to strike in second place after a quietly impressive afternoon. But each time, Johnson was able to hold off NASCAR’s most popular driver, and on the final restart, Greg Biffle managed to get past Earnhardt for second.

“We want to get a win,” said Earnhardt, who wound up third. “I could see it right there in front of me today. Jimmie had been so fast all weekend but I really thought we got close. If we keep getting closer, we’ll get one.”

As for Biffle, who vaulted from fourth to second on the final restart with four laps remaining, he felt that he didn’t have anything for Johnson but still wished he could’ve gotten closer to him.

“I was gonna have to get up beside him and take the air off him – something to try and get an advantage,” said Biffle. “But I gave him such a good push on the restart, I couldn’t catch up with him. When we got single-file, that was the first time I’d been up front and I thought my car would be good enough to try and catch him, but I couldn’t get him.”

Tony Stewart followed up his win one week ago with a solid fourth-place run, and his teammate Ryan Newman was right behind in fifth to mark a solid day for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.