Hunter-Reay “determined” to make late run for IndyCar title

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A bad three-race stretch has done damage to Ryan Hunter-Reay’s chances for a second consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series championship, but the American pilot is out to stage a rally for the title in the season’s home stretch.

This weekend, IndyCar heads for the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Sun., 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN), a track where RHR has had past success that includes podium runs in 2003 (Champ Car/American Spirit Team Johanssen) and 2011 (IndyCar/Andretti Autosport). He considers the difficult, technical circuit as one of his favorites.

“Mid-Ohio is the heart of American open-wheel road racing and I have some great memories over the years at this track,” Hunter-Reay said in a team statement. “I’ve been on the podium a few times here, and following tough weekends we had at Pocono and Toronto, we’ll be working hard to rebound and cut into the championship points lead.”

It certainly won’t be easy after trouble found him earlier this month at Pocono Raceway and in both races of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader.

At the “Tricky Triangle,” Hunter-Reay was hit from behind on pit road by an out-of-control Takuma Sato. One week later in Canada, he was victimized by multiple stalls on pit road in Race 1 and a late-race crash with Will Power in Race 2.

Finishes of 20th at Pocono and 18th/19th at Toronto now have him 69 points behind leader Helio Castroneves. He’s also fallen behind Scott Dixon, who won all three of those races – and has been the master of Mid-Ohio with four victories in the series’ six events there.

But it’s not quite time to put Hunter-Reay in the “long shot” category just yet. We’ve seen big comebacks before in IndyCar. Remember 2010, when Dario Franchitti erased a 59-point gap to Will Power in the final four races to win the title that year?

Considering that, making up 69 points in six remaining events wouldn’t appear impossible for Hunter-Reay.

“We’re a tenacious bunch at Andretti Autosport and we’re determined to make a late season run at the championship,” he said.

Lewis Hamilton comes home to Mercedes factory after fourth title

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On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.

And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.

Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.

The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.

“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.

“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.

“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”

A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.