2013 Korean Grand Prix Preview


The Korean Grand Prix is a race that is loved by few, yet it still marks an important stepping stone in the course of the 2013 Formula One world championship. Sebastian Vettel is simply checking off the races en route to title number four, with our latest prediction suggesting that the Indian Grand Prix is the most likely location for his coronation. His track record in Korea is nothing short of staggering, leading 93% of laps at the circuit. Having won the last three races in 2013 and the last two Korean Grand Prix, can anybody really stop Seb on Sunday?

Korean Grand Prix Talking Points

Typhoon Fitow to rain on Vettel’s parade?

Perhaps it will be an act of God that stops Vettel from making it four-in-a-row. Typhoon Fitow is rapidly moving northwards towards the Korean penninsula, but latest reports suggest that Yeongam will be spared the brunt of the storm. However, with any kind of precipitation in the area, a well-taken gamble could play into the hands of the group chasing Vettel – or act to widen the gap to the German driver.

Mercedes look to bounce back from disappointing run

After an indifferent run of form that has seen all embers of Mercedes’ title charge die out in the past few races, the Silver Arrows are looking to bounce back in Korea with a raft of aerodynamic updates to the W04 car. Quite whether it will be enough to overthrow Red Bull at the top of the timesheets remains to be seen, but both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be hoping to respond in the best possible fashion to their Singapore disappointment.

The battle for P2 hots up…

This constructors’ championship is Red Bull’s just as the drivers’ title belongs to Sebastian Vettel. However, the more interesting battle shaping up is for second place in the teams’ standings. Ferrari and Mercedes are separated by just seven points, and with six races to go, it appears this battle could be set to rumble on to Interlagos. Can the combined effort of Hamilton and Rosberg better that of Alonso and the dwindling Massa? A wet race in Korea would certainly give both teams the chance to create a gap that could prove pivotal come the end of the season.

…but have Ferrari already thrown in the towel?

With the title race effectively over, Ferrari appear to already be turning their attention to 2014 by running some parts for next season’s car in Korea. Technical director Pat Fry explained: “There will be some small development bits we can run during this year’s remaining free practice, looking more on the reliability front than anything else, which means we have busy Fridays planned for the next six races.” Given the team’s problems with upgrades so far this season, switching focus could only hinder the pace of the F138 further.

Stat attack

Following on from our regular feature looking at the notable statistics spurning from each grand prix, here are a few nuggets of information heading into the race weekend:

  • As previously mentioned, Vettel has led 93% of all laps at the Korean GP (or 153/165), winning the race twice.
  • Fernando Alonso is the only other man to have led the race, winning the event in 2010.
  • There have been five safety cars in the three previous races at Yeongam.
  • The pole sitter has never won the race, with Vettel starting from P2 in 2011 and 2012.
  • In last year’s race, there were just 34 overtakes as Red Bull romped home to a one-two finish.

Track: Korean International Circuit
Laps: 55
Corners: 18
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:39.605 (2011)
Tire Compounds: Super-soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2012 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2012 Pole Position: Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1:37.242
2012 Fastest Lap: Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1:42.037
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T18 to T1); T2 to T3

Friday – Free Practice 1: 21:00pm ET (Thursday)
Friday – Free Practice 2: 01:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 22:00pm ET (Friday)
Saturday – Qualifying: 01:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)
Sunday – Race: 02:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)

NHRA: Looking at where things stand at midpoint of Countdown

Top Fuel's Antron Brown has been the most dominant driver in the current NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
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The NHRA is now halfway through its six-race Countdown to the Championship and there have been a number of surprises – both good and bad – thus far.

When the series gets back to racing next weekend at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, those drivers who have dominated their respective categories in the Countdown so far stand a good chance of pulling away.

Not to mention potentially see several drivers start falling by the wayside and be eliminated.

Let’s take a look at each of the four pro classes and analyze the haves and have not’s thus far:


Biggest surprise: Antron Brown. It’s not so much a surprise that Brown is leading the standings, but it’s more so the way he’s doing it. The 2012 Top Fuel champ has been on fire, having won all of the first three Countdown races and a personal-best seven races overall this season. Brown set a NHRA record of 12-0 in final elimination rounds this past Sunday at Reading, Pa. You can’t get much more perfect than that. Brown has been so dominating that only teammate and defending eight-time champ Tony Schumacher is within reach points-wise. The other eight drivers still in contention are between 194 and 274 points behind. At the rate he’s going, Brown could potentially clinch the championship in the second-to-last race at Las Vegas.

You Go Girl: Brittany Force, daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, has been a surprising upstart in the Countdown. While she’s 194 points behind Brown, Force is ranked third heading to Texas. She’s shown significant confidence and moxie in the first three races and if she keeps it up, she could potentially overtake Schumacher at some point for second place.

Different Team, Same Drive: Shawn Langdon lost his ride at the worst possible time, just before the Countdown began, when team owner Alan Johnson suspended operations. But give credit to fellow team owner Don Schumacher, who “borrowed” Langdon from Johnson for the Chase to replace Spencer Massey, who was released just before the Chase. Langdon has done well, but time is running out if he hopes to make one last shot to win yet another championship.


Biggest surprise: Del Worsham won the first two races of the Countdown and appears headed towards becoming only the third driver in NHRA history to win both a Top Fuel and Funny Car championship in his career. Worsham has been absolutely solid this season.

That’s The Fact, Jack: Jack Beckman has enjoyed arguably the best season of his career, a complete turnaround from last year’s draining struggle. Having left John Force at the end of last season, co-crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and John Medlen have reinvigorated both Beckman and his car. Worsham has been strong, but Beckman is only a mere 16 points back in second place. And with his win this past Sunday at Reading, momentum could potentially turn in Beckman’s direction heading to Texas.

The Numbers Game: Kudos to third-ranked Matt Hagan (90 points behind Worsham) and fourth-ranked Tommy Johnson Jr. (-98) for their strong efforts in the Countdown. Ditto for Ron Capps (105 points behind Worsham) and John Force (-150), who are both still within striking distance. However, two drivers have uncharacteristically struggled thus far in the Countdown: Alexis De Joria (ranked ninth, 207 points back) and Robert Hight (10th, 221 points back). Unless they right their respective ships, they run the risk of being eliminated at Las Vegas.


Biggest Surprise: Chris McGaha (third, 104 points behind series leader Erica Enders) and rookie Drew Skillman (sixth, -173) have definitely opened eyes this season, with each earning wins thus far in the Countdown. Also enjoying a strong run in the Countdown and a welcome resurgence overall this season is veteran racer Larry Morgan (fourth, 145 points back). Enders could potentially have her hands full in the final three races to keep these three hungry drivers at bay.

You Go Girl: Defending champ Enders has looked cool, calm and collected – just like she did en route to becoming the first female Pro Stock champ last season. With a 72-point lead over former champ Greg Anderson, Enders has become one of the best drivers when it comes to reaction times at the starting line, having won close to a dozen or more rounds just because she got the jump on her opponent at the so-called “Christmas tree.”


Biggest surprise: It would be hard to find two riders who have not been more surprising than Hector Arana Jr. (ranked third, 101 points back) and Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie (fourth, 119 points back). Arana is one of the most promising young riders on the circuit, while Savoie – after a 30-year layoff from racing – is proving that 53 (years old) is the new 23.

Back in the saddle again: Andrew Hines is gunning for his fifth bike championship, and second straight, and has done what he’s needed to do thus far in the Countdown. While Arana and second-ranked Eddie Krawiec (-89) are proving to be formidable foes, Hines appears to be ready to start pulling further away for the title.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NHRA: New book a celebration of life, love and drag racing

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The overpowering smell from nitromethane that powers Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars in the National Hot Rod Association oftentimes brings fans to tears after getting a whiff of the stuff.

Now there’s a new inspirational book that will also bring tears to the eyes of die-hard drag racing fans.

Veteran crew chief Jim Oberhofer has released “Top Fuel For Life, Life Lessons From A Crew Chief,” a touching homage to both his late wife and persevering and overcoming adversity in the highly competitive world of NHRA drag racing.

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Oberhofer wears a number of hats as vice president of one of the sport’s most veteran and successful teams, Kalitta Motorsports, including serving as crew chief for Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta’s dragster.

Oberhofer relates a number of stories about overcoming adversity in the book, but none more touching than how he watched his beloved wife “Tammy O” lose a long and painful battle to stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.

While Oberhofer has spent his life using wrenches and tools working on 10,000-horsepower engines, his new book shows that he is also a very gifted writer.

Known in the sport as “Jim O,” Oberhofer describes the fight his wife went through in gritty and descriptive prose, but with a foundation built upon what the love of his life meant to him – and continues to mean to him more than two years since she passed away.

“When you take a long hard look at your life, I guarantee you that being a winner has little to do with crossing the finish line,” Oberhofer said. “After many mistakes and a whole lot of heartache, I learned that happiness comes from a deeper, simpler place. That’s the big win.”

“Top Fuel For Life” is available on Amazon for $19.95.

Follow @JerryBonkowski