Federated Auto Parts 400

Another Chase controversy brewing? This time, it’s Logano, per reports (UPDATED)


Thought we were done with controversies regarding the 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup? We may not be.

An Associated Press report Wednesday revealed there may have been collusion between Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports, both Ford teams, to help Joey Logano into the Chase.

The AP’s Jenna Fryer, who was also first with the penalties doled out to Michael Waltrip Racing on Monday night, reviewed radio transmissions believed to be between Front Row crew chief Frank Kerr, who works on David Gilliland’s No. 38 car, and the team spotter.

The spotter said to Kerr, “We’ve got the big dog and all his cronies,” to which Kerr responded, “Travis knows what I’ve been asking for.” Travis could be a reference to Penske Racing competition director Travis Geisler.

FOX Sports said it also learned of what it deemed “improper communication” between the two teams and said it would have more to report on the Wednesday evening edition of NASCAR RaceHub at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Prior to the Chase reset, Logano ended the race in 10th place in the standings, one point ahead of Jeff Gordon for the 10th and final locked-in position before the two Wild Card entries. He has a win this year, which Gordon does not.

UPDATE, 4:23 p.m. ET: NASCAR has just issued a statement: “NASCAR is aware of reports about the #22 and #38 radio communications at Richmond International Raceway and is looking into it, but has yet to see anything in full context that requires any action.”

UPDATE, 5:30 p.m. ET: I had a viewing of Race Hub and beyond the full radio transmission being revealed, there wasn’t much else to add at this time. There was nothing major from the transmission other than what was written above.

If NASCAR decides to take action as a result of this situation, then the story is advanced; otherwise, there’s nothing particularly new about drivers exchanging positions on the race track as the result of radio communications. It happens in plenty of races before, leading up to, and perhaps even in the Chase to help certain drivers gain positions.

If it can be proven there was collusion between the two teams, and an accompanying radio transmission emerges from Penske Racing to Front Row, then that’s when the next domino will fall.

Either way, it still sucks to be Jeff Gordon right now. He missed out initially on Saturday night, missed out again after the Waltrip penalties came down and would remain on the outside looking in of the Chase if no action is taken regarding this radio chatter.

Formula E: Team Aguri confirms da Costa for second season

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Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed for a second season with Team Aguri for the 2015-2016 FIA Formula E Championship, which begins later this month in Beijing.

He won once this past year at Buenos Aires and finished eighth in the points despite missing both the season opener and season finale due to clashes with his DTM schedule.

Said the 24-year-old Portuguese driver, “I am really happy to continue with Team Aguri and Formula E for season two. This championship is earning its respect in the world of motorsport and I am honoured to be involved. Regarding the season, I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Team Aguri team principal Mark Preston added, “It is a great pleasure to have Antonio continuing with the team for season two of Formula E. Antonio brought us our maiden win in Buenos Aires and helped to develop the team from scratch, he will continue to build on that success for season two and beyond.”

The team that bares the name of ex-Formula 1 driver and team owner Aguri Suzuki has not yet confirmed its second driver, which is the last outstanding seat to be filled on the Formula E grid.

Amlin, which had partnered with Aguri last year, is now present with the Andretti Formula E team and its drivers, Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro.

Hulkenberg leads shorter than normal FP1 in Russia

Nico Hulkenberg
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Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg posted a 1:44.355 lap of the of the Sochi Autodrom to lead a fairly abnormal, and shorter than usual, first free practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg posted the time to conclude the usual 90-minute session, to pip Nico Rosberg at 1:44.407 on his final lap. The usual 90-minute session was shortened due to a track delay for cleanup of diesel fuel on course.

Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five.

While the clock started on time for the full 90-minute session, track activity was halted for the opening 30 minutes to clean up diesel spillage on the track at Turn 8.

It left teams and drivers with just a 60-minute first free practice to tackle the Sochi Autodrom, but did not push the session later or affect the timetable for the rest of the day. However, with a damp if not entirely wet track, it made things difficult in FP1.

The delay also meant that teams weren’t able to use an extra set of Pirellis handed out at the start of FP1. Supersofts can be used for the first time in FP2.

During the delay, it did offer a chance for sarcasm, and Manor seized the opportunity following a comment from McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso noting that even with Mercedes engines next year, Manor wouldn’t move ahead of them.

NBC’s Will Buxton explained the track surface dilemma drivers would face in this session.

With just under one hour to go in the session, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was the first to head out on course, leading several others. Ericsson made the first laps of the weekend at the track where he made his final start for Caterham a year ago.

Both Williams drivers went on course on Pirelli’s wet weather tires for their installation laps. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg tried the intermediates, and Alonso was first on course in slicks.

No official times were registered until there were less than 40 minutes remaining in the session, with Alonso registering a 2:00.736 time, while putting down a bevy of sparks. He quickly lowered the mark to 1:56.327, and 1:53.854 after that. Ericsson was next in at a 1:58.926, although dropped into the 1:54 range not long after.

Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button clocked in at 1:50.920 with just under 20 minutes remaining and for the first time this year, we could say we had a McLaren Honda 1-2 on track, albeit under abnormal circumstances.

The trsck got busy in the final 15 minutes, with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen posting a 1:50.870 to lead before Alonso clocked in a 1:49.240.

A 1:47.959 from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, then a 1:45.987 from Hulkenberg followed in the final 10 minutes as times firmly began to drop. Vettel got down to a 1:45.491 shortly thereafter, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton came up two tenths shy of the mark at a 1:45.691.

Ericsson reported a power cut near the end of the session down at Sauber but otherwise there were no issues through the field, other than a handful of spins, including one from Hamilton on his final flier at the second-to-last corner.

FP2 begins from 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.