Truex: “99 percent chance” he’ll complete Cup race at Atlanta

Leave a comment

Martin Truex Jr. indeed has a back-up driver ready to go in case he can’t complete Sunday’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but the Chase contender said on Friday that he figures “there’s a 99 percent chance” he’ll run the entire event.

“I think for me the biggest challenge right now is still all the parts that were sprained,” said Truex, who suffered a broken right wrist in a late-race accident last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“My fingers still hurt. My knuckles are still kind of tender, so shifting is a little bit of an issue as far as the pain goes. But as far as driving the car, I was surprised at how good it felt and how normal it felt to be honest.”

Although he’s already qualified for the race in the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Ford, Scott Speed will take over Truex’s No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing if necessary.

Truex has been cleared to race by NASCAR and is driving with a special cast that’s been designed to help him grip the steering wheel. He said on Friday that his doctor believes he’ll have to wear it for at least six more weeks.

In the meantime, Truex has been busy trying to move the healing process along.

“I think the biggest thing is just rest,” he said. “There is some exercise stuff that I’ve been doing. I got help from our trainers at Michael Waltrip Racing as far as getting the tightness out from the sprained part and that’s definitely helped.

“…It definitely hurts a little bit here and there at different times, but nothing I don’t think I will be able to deal with and it should be good.”

Truex currently has the first of two Wild Card transfer spots into the Chase with two regular season races remaining before the 10-race playoff is set to begin.

Hamilton and Vettel already focused on 2018 F1 title battle

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are already looking forward to fighting each other for a fifth Formula One title next year.

With Hamilton wrapping up this year’s title two races ago, the pressure is off this week at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Both are projecting to 2018, where the four-time champions get back to the serious business of trying to catch Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio on five titles.

“Certainly we will never match him in how successful he was in such a short space of time,” Vettel said on Thursday at a news conference. “Back then racing was different. The cars were not that reliable and he still managed to be successful. (He was) the best we’ve ever had in terms of putting it all together and skill.”

Only Michael Schumacher with seven titles has won more than Fangio, who drove in F1 from 1950-58.

“It was the most dangerous period of time in motorsport. I feel honored to be so close to such a great sporting icon,” Hamilton said of Fangio. “He should be celebrated more for his success. He’s not mentioned a huge amount. He’s kind of the godfather of the sport for the drivers.”

Some may come to revere Hamilton like that in time.

He has won 62 races – second only to Schumacher’s 91 – and holds the record for pole positions with 72. The 32-year-old British driver has won three of the past four titles – losing to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016 – and was at the peak of his powers this season.

After trailing Vettel at the halfway point, he pulled away after the summer break and leads the German driver by 43 points.

Hamilton is arguably the fiercest competitor around and is already thinking about how Vettel plans to turn the tables.

“Whatever weakness Sebastian had, he’ll work on those over the winter. No one’s perfect, even I have things to work on,” Hamilton said, without a trace of irony. “He’s going to raise the bar next year and I’ll have to as well, otherwise things won’t be the same.

“Ferrari had a very, very good season. Half the season they were in the lead and that wasn’t down to luck,” Hamilton added. “Red Bull is also going to be (competing for the title) next year.”

Considering how poor Ferrari was in 2016, this year can still be viewed as a success with Vettel winning five races compared to none last year.

Vettel joked that winning the title in 2018 will be “a walk in the park” if Ferrari improves by the same amount, then took a more serious view of the situation.

“That final step is always the hardest. But the team is ready and fired up,” said Vettel, who won four titles with Red Bull from 2010-13. “We made the biggest step of all. We lost out as the season progressed. In the end we weren’t good enough to take it to the last race, but there’s so much potential still.”

He accepted that he ultimately fell short because “Lewis made less mistakes” than he did.

Poised to regain the championship lead, he crashed out of the Singapore GP from pole position back in September – turning the tide in Hamilton’s favor. Reliability issues plagued Ferrari at the next two races. He started last and finished fourth at the Malaysian GP and then qualified third before retiring from the Japanese GP.

In June, the rivals were embroiled in their most heated clash at the Azerbaijan GP in Baku.

Vettel drove alongside Hamilton’s Mercedes as they waited behind the safety car for the restart, and was adjudged to have deliberately nudged the side of him. Tempers frayed and barbs were exchanged. Vettel initially denied it was deliberate but subsequently apologized for dangerous driving.

That incident genuinely threatened to spoil their healthy rivalry, but they joke about it now.

Asked on Thursday what their highlight of the season was, both drivers – sitting next to each other – laughed easily when Baku was suggested.

Referring to the upcoming end-of-season F1 awards, Vettel put himself forward for three.

“I should get (overtaking) move of the year, personality of the year, and fair play … maybe not.”