With his car bearing a scheme to promote Batman flick The Dark Knight Rises, Dale Earnhardt Jr. emerged from the darkness of a 143-race losing streak and triumphed at Michigan International Speedway last summer. Since then, Earnhardt has not returned to Victory Lane in the Sprint Cup Series – a problem he hopes to correct this weekend on MIS’ two-mile oval in a car that’s promoting the latest Superman film, Man of Steel.
Earnhardt is also hoping to start regaining ground in the Sprint Cup standings as well. While he’s solidly in a Chase spot right now at fourth in the table, he’s fallen off since charging to the points lead on the strength of five consecutive Top-10 finishes to start the 2013 season. His third-place run at Pocono last weekend was his first Top-5 finish in the last nine races, and he sits 82 points behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate and championship leader Jimmie Johnson.
“We talked about it last week after the race, but we kind of had some misses here lately and not many hits,” Earnhardt said at MIS. “As far as showing up to the race track and being competitive and getting the job done putting together a full weekend, we haven’t been able to do that. We started the season off so promising – the best that I had ever started a season.
“It just seemed like things were going so perfectly and it’s the way it is in this sport: You will think you have everything going in the right direction and then odds and fate and everything else [gets] in the way.”
Earnhardt feels that his team has been working hard towards returning to more consistent performances like they had at the start of the year. But in his mind, there are still “some holes to fill” as they look to catch up with stablemate Johnson – and nothing less than becoming a regular contender for wins will do.
“We want to win more races,” Earnhardt said. “We want that to be the status quo. We want that to be the norm.”
He’ll start 12th in Sunday’s 400-miler.
Yamaha Tech3 has confirmed that rising German talent Jonas Folger will make his MotoGP debut with the team in 2017, stepping up from Moto2.
Folger, 22, finished sixth in last year’s Moto2 riders’ championship, and already has one pole position and two podiums to his name after four races in 2016.
The Kalex rider will make the jump up to MotoGP for 2017, joining the Yamaha satellite team on a one-year deal with an option for a second.
“I am super excited about the news and I still can’t believe this is happening,” Folger said.
“I have been racing for years in the motorcycling world championship and to make the move up to the premier class is a dream come true plus I’d like to thank all my sponsors that have stuck by me all these years.
“Furthermore, it’s an honor to make this step with Yamaha, Hervé Poncharal and Tech3 team who have such a long and deep history in the paddock. I will try my absolute best to repay the faith the team has put in me, and I’m really looking forward to the new adventure.
“However, I will remain completely focused for the rest of the year in the intermediate class but I can’t wait for Valencia where I will sample the Yamaha YZR-M1 for the first time.”
Folger will get his first taste of the Tech3-run Yamaha bike at the traditional end of season MotoGP test in Spain this November.
Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has called on his fans to trust and respect the Mercedes team amid unfounded allegations of sabotage in the past two races.
Hamilton suffered an issue on his power unit in qualifying for both the Chinese and Russian Grands Prix, helping teammate Nico Rosberg on his way to a streak of four successive victories to start the season.
Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff responded to claims on social media that the team was deliberately hindering Hamilton’s efforts by calling the accusers “lunatics”, before Mercedes itself wrote an open letter to its fans in response to the claims.
Hamilton has now issued a message of his own via his Facebook page on Friday:
I want you to know how grateful I am for all of your support. I’d like to ask that you please trust in my team, as I do. This is my family. These guys have been the greatest, hardest working people for me, and that is why I am now 3x World Champion.
Please don’t put any more thought into my team doing anything unjust towards me, and understand that it would be in no ones best interest for that to be the case. We’ve had the best 3 years together, and whilst it’s not going to plan right now, all will unfold in its own time.
I trust these guys 1000% and my mechanics are incredible, the best in the business. I respect them so please do the same. They are the guys that are going to make winning this championship possible.
Thank you once again.
Hamilton will bid to end Rosberg’s winning streak and get back into the title hunt when F1 arrives in Europe next weekend for the Spanish Grand Prix.
2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button questioned Red Bull’s decision to drop Daniil Kvyat for Max Verstappen as of the Spanish Grand Prix, saying the team has “short memories”.
Red Bull announced on Thursday that Kvyat would be returning to Toro Rosso, its B-team, as of the next race in Barcelona, with Verstappen moving in the opposite direction.
The decision sparked mixed reactions on social media, with many pointing out that Kvyat had been on the podium just three weeks ago in China.
Button made the exact same point in a couple of tweets sent from his Twitter account on Thursday.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have confirmed Friday that the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will have a sellout crowd, with confirmation all reserved seats have been sold.
“Every Indianapolis 500 is special, but the buzz surrounding the 100th Running has been building for nearly a year, ever since the checkered flag fell on the 99th,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said in a release. “Our fans are the best in sports and their incredible support of this year’s race will make it a truly historic day for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’”
Further information is linked here, via the IMS website.