Red Bull F1 driver Vettel walks the Marina Bay Street Circuit with team members before the Singapore F1 Grand Prix

MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Singapore GP

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As darkness descends on the 2013 Formula One season, the sport heads to its only night race in Singapore this weekend. The race has a tendency to provide drama, with the most famous race coming in 2008. After Nelson Piquet Jr. intentionally speared his Renault into the wall, Felipe Massa ended up dragging his fuel hose down the pit lane whilst Fernando Alonso jumped from P15 to win the race comfortably thanks to his team’s trickery. Every race held in Singapore has seen a safety car, and the high rate of attrition does allow for the midfield runners to fight their way into the top ten. As a result, this week’s MST predictions become all the more difficult…

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. The 2009 Singapore winner has traditionally done well here even if his results haven’t shown it. Mercedes of course thrived on the only other street circuit this year in Monaco, and it will be interesting to see whether they can match it with the different construction tires here compared to earlier in the season.

Surprising finish: Jean-Eric Vergne. Starred at Monaco and can do similarly if his car makes the finish. He’s been a frequent retirement this season. 

Most to prove: Force India. Early season promise and results have faded since the Pirelli construction change. Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta posted a double points-scoring result at Monaco and need a similarly good weekend here.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. The Monaco-esque nature of the Marina Bay street circuit could play well for the Mercedes camp. And after losing out on a potential win last year here thanks to a gearbox failure, expect Hamilton to be on top form.

Surprising finish: Felipe Massa. Massa’s moving on from Ferrari at season’s end and has declared that he’s in it for himself, not for teammate Fernando Alonso. The Brazilian will be bent on showing that he’s still got it, and that could make him quite intriguing to watch.

Most to prove: Paul di Resta. di Resta has gone scoreless in the last four events after gaining points in seven of the first eight. Fortunately for him, he comes to a circuit that saw him claim his career-best result last year, a fourth-place finish.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. As boring as this prediction may be, it’s hard to see Seb not making it three wins in a row in Singapore. His form of late has been relentless and his affinity for this circuit makes a Red Bull win all the more likely.

Surprising finish: Charles Pic. Putting my neck on the line here… but if there are a high number of retirements and Caterham’s drivers keep their noses clean, we could see them overhaul Marussia in the constructors’ championship. P12 or higher required.

Most to prove: Romain Grosjean. Following Raikkonen’s departure, RoGro now has to prove to Lotus that he is worth keeping instead of taking on Felipe Massa and/or Nico Hulkenberg in his place. A good showing in Singapore would do the Frenchman a lot of good.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Kimi Raikkonen. The Lotus hasn’t just been stronger on high-downforce tracks, it’s also been the car to beat in warmer conditions. Singapore will be a case of both, so although Raikkonen is yet to post a top-five finish here, I’m backing him to win.

Surprising finish: Pastor Maldonado. He planted the Williams second on the grid last year and produced one of his best drives in the race. If the Williams is good enough to get within range of the midfield, it could be one of his better weekends.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. For the first time in a long while, Massa is racing for himself. Not only has he said he won’t be supporting Alonso, but he’s got to prove he’s quick enough to deserve a seat with a top team. Over to you Mr Massa.

NHRA: Leah Pritchett sets new quickest national elapsed time record

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Photo: Don Schumacher Racing
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Pomona Winternationals winner Leah Pritchett added to her incredible start to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, one she came in with high hopes with anyway, with a slightly bigger accomplishment:

She set a new national elapsed time record for a 1,000-foot distance in NHRA history.

Pritchett, who drives the Don Schumacher Racing-entered, Todd Okuhara-tuned Papa John’s Top Fuel dragster, ran a 3.658-second pass at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park on Friday outside Phoenix during the first day of qualifying for this weekend’s Arizona Nationals. The speed was 329.34 mph.

Incidentally, both Pritchett and Courtney Force set unofficial best times in Top Fuel and Funny Car testing, also at Wild Horse Pass, earlier this month.

You could barely put a piece of cheese between Pritchett’s two times; her time at the test was 3.654 seconds, but because that’s a test it is not an official mark.

The previous official record in competition was a 3.671-second pass, which Steve Torrence set July 31, 2016 at Sonoma.

“To be behind the wheel of this machine that is constantly putting out time and time again fast numbers and quick numbers is, to be honest, a little bit difficult to comprehend,” Pritchett said, via NHRA.com. “It’s everything that dreams are made of. It’s almost too good to be true, but it’s not.”

For good measure, Pritchett’s teammate Tony Schumacher also eclipsed Torrence’s old mark with a side-by-side run to second at 3.667 seconds, and 323 mph and change in the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster.

Force led the Funny Car charts on the first day of qualifying, while Jason Line led Pro Stock. Both drivers drive Chevrolets.

Lest Force’s day be overshadowed, she set a record of her own. Force broke the track’s elapsed time and speed records during the opening session of qualifying for Sunday’s NHRA Arizona Nationals with a pass of 3.838 seconds at 332.67 mph.

Force lost to Matt Hagan in the Pomona finals while Line beat his KB Racing teammate, Greg Anderson, for the Pomona win.

Butterball, Andretti Autosport extension is all gravy

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the #28 Andretti Autosport Honda Dallara, practices during Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Andretti Autosport and Butterball, a U.S.-based provider of turkey and poultry products, announced a new expansion of their partnership. The newly revamped agreement will see Butterball branding on all four Andretti Autosport entries in 2017.

“Butterball has been a great partner since 2014 and I’m really excited to have them on board again this year,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay. “They were with me when I won the Indianapolis 500 which was a really special moment for everyone involved. Hopefully we can bring them back into victory lane this year, not only at Indy, but throughout the season as well.”

The machines of Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, and Takuma Sato will feature branding just below the front suspension components. Per the announcement, the placement has created a new nickname for the assembly: “the Butterball Wishbone.”

“Butterball is extremely excited about our sponsorship with Andretti Autosport in 2017,” said Butterball CEO and President Kerry Doughty. “With the addition of the new Butterball Wishbone Sponsorship on all Andretti Autosport Indy cars for the 2017 season, we are expanding the tremendously successful relationship that began with Michael and Ryan in 2014 when we won the Indianapolis 500 in our first season.”

Butterball’s tenure with Andretti Autosport dates back to May 2014, shortly before Ryan Hunter-Reay claimed victory at the Indianapolis 500. Branding has been featured on Hunter-Reay No. 28 entry ever since.

Newgarden completes busy day in Detroit

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Photo: IndyCar
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Josef Newgarden’s media prowess and charisma was again in full display on Thursday during a series promotional efforts for June’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

Specifically, Newgarden was in town for Detroit Grand Prix night at that night’s Pistons-Hornets NBA game.

The day began with Newgarden visiting a handful of Detroit news media outlets, where his most notable venture involved duking it out with Pistons mascot Hooper.

The day continued with Newgarden exploring more of the city, and getting in touch with its rock ‘n roll history.

That, Newgarden ventured to The Palace of Auburn Hills to the big promotional event of day, Detroit Grand Prix night. There, Newgarden was greeted with his own Detroit Pistons jersey and even tried a couple of half-court shots at halftime. However, he did not make any, making it less likely he’ll pursue a basketball career when he decides to hang up his helmet.

For an additional recap Detroit Grand Prix night, visit The Chevrolet’s Detroit Grand Prix twitter @detroitgp.

Entry lists revealed for MRTI Spring Training in Miami

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Kyle Kaiser in Miami, 2015. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The first real good, if not final, looks at the season to come in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires come with next week’s Spring Training, which sees four total days of action at the Homestead-Miami Speedway for all three rungs of the ladder.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will run February 27 on Homestead-Miami’s 1.5-mile oval and March 2 on the 2.21-mile road course. Meanwhile the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series will run solely on the road course over two back-to-back days, February 28 and March 1.

Indy Lights’ field seems closest to being finalized from this group, while Pro Mazda and USF2000 still have some gaps to fill.

In one other bit, Mazda will announce the teams of competition for its Soul Red-liveried drivers this year, all of whom won Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarships for their next step up this year. That’s why Aaron Telitz (Indy Lights), Anthony Martin (Pro Mazda) and Oliver Askew (USF2000) teams are listed as TBAs.

Anyway, quick notes:

Indy Lights (14 cars

All drivers on the Indy Lights entry list have been officially announced, and as noted, Telitz’s team is the only significant TBA of note. Car numbers are revealed for Zachary Claman De Melo and Matheus Leist at Carlin of 13 and 26 respectively, with the known in advance.

In terms of team breakdown, it’s four each at Carlin and Andretti Autosport (with Colton Herta’s No. 98 car an Andretti Steinbrenner Racing entry), Juncos Racing and Belardi Auto Racing each with two official cars and Team Pelfrey the lone one-car entry.

Of the 14 drivers, the field is split exactly in half between seven veterans and seven rookies.

Questions from here are whether one or two more cars not at this test will join the grid at St. Petersburg and push the number back up. Since the debut of the Dallara IL-15 Mazda in 2015, the St. Pete weekend has had 13 cars in 2015 and 16 cars last year, with this one falling in the middle.

Pro Mazda (6 cars)

In what’s very much a survive-and-advance season for Pro Mazda in the final year with its existing car, a small batch of cars come from Team Pelfrey, World Speed Motorsports and the team TBA for Anthony Martin for this test.

Within a 20-to-30-plus, multiple-class series of racing, six cars for one class wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. But six on their own for an independent series is certainly an issue. The number simply has to grow by St. Petersburg to at least eight at a bare minimum, the low-water mark last year, with 10 a significant step forward at this rate (the series had 12 cars at St. Petersburg last year).

USF2000 (22 cars)

Quite by contrast, the new Tatuus USF-17 premieres in USF2000 with 22 cars at this test and the potential of more cars by St. Petersburg (the series had 26 starters last year with two additional withdrawals).

Six returning drivers join 12 rookies and four TBAs on this list, all split among 10 teams. Dutch driver Rinus VeeKay, initially announced as driving for Benik in 2017, is listed in a third Newman Wachs Racing entry for this test.