In Michigan, Hendrick quartet has a day to forget

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It’s not very often that the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut collectively suffers like it did on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

Want proof? All four Hendrick drivers – championship leader Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon – ran into trouble in the Quicken Loans 400 and all finished outside the Top 25 as a result; Johnson in 28th, Earnhardt in 37th, Kahne in 38th, and Gordon in 39th.

The last time that happened: The 2005 Toyota Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma Raceway road course. In that race, Gordon was 33rd, Brian Vickers was 34th, Johnson was 36th, and Kyle Busch was 40th.

On Sunday, Gordon was the first of the Hendrick camp to have a problem. On just the fourth lap of the race, he was collected by a spinning Bobby Labonte in Turn 2 and was then funneled into the wall.

“He just did one of those slow spins where I couldn’t tell which direction he was going to go, so I had to guess and I guessed the wrong way,” said Gordon. “I didn’t really have anywhere to go.”

That left Kahne, Earnhardt and Johnson, and all three of them showed strong pace this afternoon. Kahne took the lead from Earnhardt on Lap 90 and promptly checked out until Lap 104, when his right front tire suddenly blew and sent him careening into the wall. He had been leading by 3.6 seconds prior to the accident.

“I just was going into the corner and then it [went] ‘boom’ and turned right went straight into the wall,” said Kahne, who fell out of the Top 10 in the Sprint Cup standings (although, with his win earlier this year at Bristol, he is currently in a wild-card slot). “It was a hard hit.”

Earnhardt took over the lead after that incident, pacing the field for 23 laps until he suddenly fell off the pace. Then on Lap 131, his engine let go in a cloud of smoke – shattering the hopes of Junior Nation, which hasn’t see their man win since his triumph last June at MIS.

“There was no warning at all, even after I think we lost a cylinder,” said Earnhardt. “The gauges all looked really good. [I] flipped all the switches I could flip and nothing was really making a difference. We just had something come apart in the motor.”

Finally, HMS’ rotten afternoon ended with Johnson clouting the wall with three laps remaining while trying to mount one last attack on eventual winner Greg Biffle. Like Kahne, he was victimized by a flat tire, and he was forced to go to pit road for service.

Johnson’s lead in the championship also took a hit, as a Top-10 result from Carl Edwards (eighth) enabled him to pull within 31 points of “Five-Time” as the series heads back to Sonoma this coming weekend.

It’s a likely assumption that the Hendrick camp doesn’t want a repeat of the dark day they had there in 2005 – or of what happened to them Sunday in the Irish Hills.

NBCSN to begin coverage of 2017 American Flat Track season on July 3

American Flat Track/Andrea Wilson
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NBCSN will begin its coverage of the 2017 American Flat Track season this coming Monday (July 3) with a presentation of the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Below is the full release detailing TV coverage and times for the 18 races to be shown on NBCSN in the coming months.

STAMFORD, Conn. – June 28, 2017 – NBCSN begins its coverage of the 2017 American Flat Track season next Monday, July 3, at 11 p.m. ET, with a presentation of the season-opening Harley-Davidson DAYTONA TT event at iconic Daytona International Speedway.

Now in the midst of its 64th consecutive season, American Flat Track is the most historic form of American motorcycle racing and 2017 marks the dawning of a new golden era for the sport. The series boasts two diverse and highly-competitive classes and is headlined by powerful, twin-cylinder motorcycles in the AFT Twins class, with spirited single-cylinder machines battling it out in AFT Singles.

Play-by-play announcer Jason Weigandt will handle play-by-play duties for the season, alongside veteran Superbike racer and multi-time American Flat Track race winner Larry Pegram and pit reporter Heather DeBeaux.

In addition to the 18 primetime premieres, NBCSN will present weekday encore telecasts of each one-hour show. NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs – will provide streaming coverage alongside NBCSN’s premiere telecasts. FansChoice.tv, a cornerstone of American Flat Track’s digital strategy, will continue provide live streaming coverage for every round of the 2017 season.

Below is the full telecast schedule on NBCSN for the 2017 American Flat Track season:

Date Location Network Time (ET)
Mon., July 3 Daytona International Speedway NBCSN 11 p.m.
Mon., July 10 Dixie Speedway NBCSN 11 p.m.
Mon., July 17 Charlotte Motor Speedway NBCSN 11 p.m.
Thur., July 27 Turf Paradise NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., August 3 Cal Expo Fairgrounds NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., August 10 Illinois State Fairgrounds NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., August 17 The Red Mile NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., August 24 Remington Park NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., August 31 Allen County Fairgrounds NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., September 7 Rolling Wheels Raceway Park NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., September 7 Calistoga Speedway NBCSN 11 p.m.
Thur., September 14 Buffalo Chip NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., September 14 Black Hills Speedway NBCSN 11 p.m.
Thur., September 21 Peoria Motorcycle Club NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., September 21 Illinois State Fairgrounds NBCSN 11 p.m.
Thur., September 28 Williams Grove Speedway NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., September 28 Texas Motor Speedway NBCSN 11 p.m.
Thur., October 12 Perris Auto Speedway NBCSN 10 p.m.

Pirelli announces tire picks for Italian GP at Monza

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Pirelli has announced its Formula 1 tire picks for the Italian Grand Prix weekend at Monza in September, mirroring its selection from 2016.

As is standard for all F1 races, Pirelli will take three compounds to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, favoring a mid-range selection of super-softs, softs and mediums for all drivers to use.

The Italian company took the same compounds to its home race in 2016, which was completed on a mix of one- and two-stop strategies by teams.

Given the more conservative nature of Pirelli’s 2017 compounds, it is likely that most will be able to get home on one stop in September despite the high-speed nature of the Monza circuit.

Drivers will be required to complete the final stage of qualifying on the super-soft compound, as well as save at least one set of either mediums or softs to use in the race.

Graphic courtesy of Pirelli

The Italian Grand Prix takes place on September 3, 2017.

IMSA news roundup: Watkins Glen

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship resumes action this weekend with the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, its sixth event of 2017 and Round 3 of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.

Leading into the race, a handful of recent news stories have added intrigue to the already noteworthy event, and a couple could play prominent roles as the weekend progresses.

Ed Brown to Retire from Prototype Driving With an Eye on GT3

Ed Brown, co-founder of Tequila Patrón ESM and President and CEO of Patrón Spirits International, will step out of the No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi after the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, citing ongoing business commitments.

“I have been racing for 14 years. I have had a ball, but given the tremendous growth of Patrón, it’s more important than ever that I more fully commit my attention to the global business opportunity,” Brown said of his decision. “The plan was always to retire from prototype racing at some point, and now seemed like the right time.”

Brown’s racing career began to take off in 2007. Scott Sharp, then a driver for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series with sponsorship from Patrón Tequila, surprised Brown that year with a Tequila Patrón ESM branded car and a trip to a four day racing school. Only two weeks afterward, Brown was in Cleveland competing in his first race.

He contested the Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama in 2009 before advancing to the American Le Mans Series GT class the following year, piloting a Ferrari Italia F433. In 2014, Brown celebrated his first overall win, with co-driver Johannes van Overbeek, with the team now fielding an HPD ARX-03b in the Prototype class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The 2016 season perhaps brought Brown the most success he’s had as a driver, with overall wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Scott Sharp, team co-owner and driver of the No. 2 entry with Ryan Dalziel, expressed much gratitude toward Brown for his influence on the team. “It has been an amazing experience over the last 13 years,” said Sharp. “I watched a guy, who had never driven anything, push himself, become immersed in the sport, develop into a top driver, and help score some big wins! Ed has equally been instrumental off the track proving key direction and foresight for us as a team and myself as a friend.”

Pipo Derani, who helped Tequila Patrón ESM score the aforementioned Daytona and Sebring triumphs, will return to the team following Watkins Glen to partner van Overbeek for the remainder of the season.

However, it should be noted that, while Brown is stepping out of Prototype competition, his driving career is far from finished, as he’ll be testing several GT3 manufacturers going forward with an eye toward fielding a GT3 car in 2018. Further, Brown’s retirement from prototype racing will not impact the team’s plans in IMSA, in which it is committed to run through 2018.

“No doubt, I’ll be there to cheer on Tequila Patrón ESM at the races,” Brown finished. “Johannes and Pipo will make a great combination, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they will accomplish in the remaining races.”

The Glen Sees Patriotic Liveries Spread Through the Field

Because the six-hour endurance race takes place near the Fourth of July, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen will see no shortage of patriotic liveries, and a handful posted images of their liveries ahead of the event.

A sampling of the special liveries can be seen below, with Michael Shank Racing and 3GT Racing spotlighted. A spotter guide for the weekend can be seen here.

 

Motul Named Official Motor Oil of Watkins Glen International

Earlier this year, Watkins Glen entered into a new partnership with Motul and named the producer of high-performance motor oils and industrial lubricants as the official motor oil of the 2.454-mile road course.

The multi-year agreement will feature on-site presence from Motul as well as signage and ticket allotments.

“The quality of Motul products has been relied upon by those in the motorsports world for over 160 years,” said Watkins Glen International president Michael Printup. “We are thrilled to align ourselves with such a recognizable and trusted brand and look forward to working closely with them as part of our family.”

Guillaume Pailleret, President of Motul North America, echoed Printup’s enthusiasm. “We are honored to see Motul associated with The Glen, terrain of so many legendary battles on a race track. We are also very excited about that partnership with Watkins Glen for it proves our commitment to the US East Coast where our brand is making a strong push this year, both with Automotive and Powersport lubricants.”

Qualifying for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday July 1, with the race beginning Sunday July 2 at 10:00 a.m.

 

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Button calls for F1 to ‘move on’, hand Vettel no further punishment

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Recent Formula 1 driver Jenson Button believes the sport should “move on” from Sebastian Vettel’s clash with Lewis Hamilton in Baku and hand the Ferrari driver no further punishment for his sideway swipe.

Vettel drove towards Hamilton under the safety car in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, resulting in a 10-second stop/go penalty during the race for dangerous driving, the harshest available penalty bar exclusion.

The FIA confirmed on Wednesday that it would be re-examining the incident to see if any further action is warranted, with Hamilton telling NBCSN after the race in Baku that it would set a dangerous precedent if more was not done to punish Vettel.

Taking to Twitter on Thursday, Button – who spent 17 seasons racing full-time in F1 and most recently made a one-off return in Monaco with McLaren – offered his view of the situation, saying that the sport’s bosses should move on and not give Vettel any further punishment.