Rookies haven’t had a particularly easy time of breaking into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in recent years. However, series debutantes are in the spotlight for this weekend’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway as three drivers will be making their Cup debuts.
Chip Ganassi’s top prodigy Kyle Larson and Richard Childress Racing development driver Brian Scott have been previously announced as entrants for Charlotte this Saturday night. Blake Koch is a late add to those two, in the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Ford.
Kevin Harvick, who won in only his third ever Sprint Cup start (Atlanta, 2001, in a memorable photo finish over Jeff Gordon), said it’s harder for younger drivers to come in because the cars in the Nationwide Series and trucks in the Camping World Truck Series simply don’t measure up to Cup cars.
“There’s not as good of a training ground as there used to be,” Harvick said Thursday at Charlotte. “The Nationwide cars and Trucks are so slow. The Cup car and the driving style is so drastically different, so it makes the experience of Cup drivers more valuable. When I started, the cars were more similar. We raced on same tire pretty much every week and cars were faster. It would be good for our sport for the guys coming in – Larson I hope will be successful – and do what he needs to do. The chances aren’t there as much to take chances on the younger guys. The training ground not as good as it used to be.”
Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson added the comparative lack of testing is also an issue.
“For me it’s more the limited testing,” he said. “I got 24 test days to sort stuff out. We didn’t race at Martinsville yet, or Pocono, so we could test there and get me up to speed.”
Johnson’s first full season was in 2002; this weekend marks 12 years since his Cup debut in the fall race at Charlotte in 2001. Johnson’s team could test at Martinsville and Pocono because the No. 48 team was not yet a full-time entrant. When teams reach that full-time status, they can only test at tracks that do not hold Sprint Cup races, as Martinsville and Pocono do.
2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.
Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.
The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.
“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.
“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.
“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”
Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.
Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.
Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.
“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.
The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.
Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.
Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.
Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.
Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.
“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.
Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.
“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.
“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”
Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.
NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.
Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.
Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.
In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.
Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.