As Jimmie Jonson and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team head into Indianapolis to defend their Brickyard 400 title, they’re doing so with a 56-point lead in the Sprint Cup championship standings. But in seven weeks’ time, everything will reset for them and the rest of the title contenders as they enter the Chase.
For Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, that makes it easy to keep the team focused as the regular season winds down.
“As far as keeping our feet on the ground, it’s really rather simple with the group of guys that we’ve got,” Knaus said yesterday in a conference call. “We all know that in seven weeks, this is all going away: This point lead, the momentum, the victories, all that is going to mean nothing as soon as we get to Chicagoland Raceway, and when we get there, we have to be on top of [our game].
“So to motivate these guys right now isn’t really ‑‑ the issue is making them realize that in seven weeks, they have to take their games to the next level and that’s really hard to do. Because if you sit back now and think that you can coast until Chicago, you’re sadly mistaken, because the most important thing to do going into Chicago is to make sure you have momentum on your side, and that’s what our focus is.”
Indianapolis Motor Speedway could be a place where that momentum continues to build for them. Johnson and Knaus have claimed four Brickyard 400 wins, including their victory last year, which saw Johnson lead 99 of 160 laps and pull away to a win by almost five seconds.
To Knaus, momentum doesn’t particularly affect how he, Johnson and the 48 crew prepare each week. But, in his words, “it damn sure doesn’t hurt” and gives them confidence in their decision making – especially when it comes on the fly.
“It just gives you a level of comfort to be able to go out there and attack,” Knaus said on why that intangible matters so much. “A lot of the decisions that we make, we want to say that we are so educated and we are so prepared; a lot what have we do is just off the hip.”
The aftermath of the Chinese Grand Prix has centered around Red Bull Racing and its two drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
While one driver – Ricciardo – has garnered praise at every turn for a masterful drive from sixth to first in the second half of the race, the other – Verstappen – has again come under criticism for overzealous driving in the wake of contact with Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
A recap of the past news week for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, and the attention both Ricciardo and Verstappen have garnered, is below.
Ricciardo Surfaces as Outside Title Contender After Chinese Grand Prix Win
Prior to the Chinese Grand Prix, few would have labelled Ricciardo as a possible title contender, especially in the wake of a mechanical failure in the opening laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
However, Sunday’s victory in China not only provided a number of thrills for onlookers, it also gave Ricciardo a major boost of confidence, and he asserted afterwards that he thinks a championship push is possible.
“I really feel like, I’ve said a few times, just give me the chance to be in a title hunt and I really believe I will take it,” Ricciardo said in a piece posted on Crash.net. “I feel like I can capitalize on opportunities and I guess [China] was a good example even with a fat lip I am still pretty fast and pretty good on a Sunday.”
The victory also comes at an interesting time in Ricciardo’s career, as the 2018 season is the final one in his current contract with the Red Bull team. On the market for a new contract, Ricciardo mentioned that he’s seeking a two-year deal with whichever team he signs with.
“I don’t want to sign anything too long because I don’t know where the sport’s going,” Ricciardo said in an interview with The Times newspaper.
He added, “Ideally I’d sign a two-year contract. I think two years I can definitely be comfortable with and then see it from there. That third year will be the rule change so I will probably wait and see what happens then.”
Ricciardo also added that whether or not he returns to Red Bull is entirely down to the team’s performance this year.
“I kind of feel like if they want me to race for them they should contact me, but they haven’t,” he said. “If we win this year then I’m staying with Red Bull. It’s pretty simple. It’s really just about performance at the moment.”
Jos Verstappen Offers Constructive Criticism to Max
Max Verstappen has again come under fire for overzealous driving, and not just from rivals this time.
Perhaps most notably, Max’s father Jos Verstappen, a former Formula 1 driver in his own right, offered his thoughts this past weekend, asserting that Max needs to show more patience and a little better judgment in his overtaking moves.
“The overtake on Vettel really wasn’t on. It wasn’t possible. It was an error of judgement. In some circumstances Max just has to think more,” Jos told Ziggo Sport’s Peptalk, referenced in a Crash.net story.
However, Jos also praised his son’s driving style, noting that he hopes that part doesn’t change.
“I don’t want him to change his driving style. He passed two people at the start. He did that perfectly,” he added. That’s what we all want to see. But we don’t want to see these kinds of actions. He needs to have it under control. He needs to think.”
In addition to receiving a 10-second penalty for the incident, Verstappen also received two penalty points, bringing his total to five. A driver who gets 12 penalty points within a span of 12 months is automatically given a one-race ban.
Rubens Barrichello Recovering from Brain Tumor
Rubens Barrichello has revealed that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year after collapsing in the shower.
“Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my head. It seemed to be exploding, I had to fall on the ground and only after a few minutes I managed to reach my wife Silvana to ask for help. I immediately realized that it was a serious problem,” Barrichello said of the ordeal in an emotional interview.
Barrichello, whose health has appeared to improve in recent weeks, revealed that the recovery process has been nothing short of miraculous.
“I feel like a miracle. (The doctors) told me that only 14 percent of the people who suffered this type of problem then managed to recover completely.”
He added, “I am still going through exams and so on, but I am honestly great and the difficulties in life are the ones who show us how to grow and how to be better.”