When Dale Earnhardt Jr. had his engine blow up on him during the Chase for the Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland Speedway in September, the focus for himself and his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team shifted from battling for a championship to gunning for race wins after coming up empty in the regular season.
Since that time, things have come around nicely for NASCAR’s most popular driver. While he hasn’t been able to get that elusive win, Earnhardt was able to log his third runner-up finish in the last six races (along with his sixth Top-10 finish in the last seven) at today’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“The Chicago deal is regrettable – we’d love to go back and do that over again,” Earnhardt said in post-race. “But as soon as that happened, we really changed our approach and it was more about trying to win a race. Winning a race would really lift all the team’s spirits.
“You work all season long not to go winless and not to getting to Victory Lane. So I know how much the guys want the win on the team. So that’s what we’re working for now.”
Earnhardt credited today’s result to his team’s test late last month as Texas, as well as the adjustments made during the race by crew chief Steve Letarte. Additionally, Earnhardt noted that track conditions toward the end of the race were similar to what he and HMS had encountered during the test.
Still, neither he nor anybody else could mount a challenge to race winner and new Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Jimmie Johnson.
“We gambled a little bit in the late stages of this race short-pitting and getting a lot of track position, and we had a fast enough car to keep it, but the 48 [Johnson] was in another class and nobody had anything for him,” Earnhardt admitted.
“He was just super good all through practice and in the race. I think about that a little bit. But there isn’t much you can do about it. I’ve got two races to go and we’d love to get a win in one of them and continue to have a good run here in the Chase.”
Red Bull Racing team advisor Helmut Marko believes that modern-day Formula 1 drivers are overpaid due to the reduced risk and easier driving conditions they experience.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel are two of the highest-paid drivers on the grid in 2016, earning upwards of $30 million per year from their teams.
However, Marko believes that drivers in F1 are overpaid as there is now a reduced risk of suffering a fatal accident, and that with the cars being easier to drive, their worth has decreased.
“Basically, the drivers of today are definitely overpaid for two reasons,” Marko told Sport Bild in Germany.
“Firstly, there is only a small risk that serious accidents can result in injury or even be fatal.
“Secondly, young top talent like [Max] Verstappen or [Pascal] Wehrlein can take the modern car and straight away easily do 100 laps without tiring.
“Previously you had even a Vettel have to take breaks because he was not used to the high centrifugal forces. This means that the cars are easier to drive. The drivers must do less.”
Mercedes AMG Petronas team boss Toto Wolff believes that junior talents Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon have both earned their roles in Formula 1 for the 2016 season “on merit”.
Wehrlein will make his grand prix debut in 2016 with Manor Racing after winning the DTM title for Mercedes last year, becoming the youngest champion in the history of the series.
Ocon has been loaned to Renault Sport F1 Racing for its comeback season, and will work as the team’s reserve driver following his GP3 title success last year.
Wolff feels that both drivers deserve their chance in F1 this year, and also said that Mercedes will look to expand its junior program across the course of the season.
“We’re delighted that Pascal and Esteban will tackle a fresh set of challenges in 2016,” Wolff said. “Our aim is to build their experience in the best possible environment and, following positive discussions with our counterparts at Manor and Renault, it became clear that their respective Formula 1 programmes presented ideal opportunities to achieve that.
“It is very pleasing to see young drivers earning their spot in Formula 1 on merit and to see that talent is being rewarded by the system. Pascal and Esteban have proven themselves to be amongst the top young drivers out there – and both come into 2016 as champions of their respective series.
“But they still have plenty to learn and they will be staying humble, with their feet on the ground. This is an important year for them and we will be following their progress with great interest, while also looking to expand our junior program.
“Mercedes-Benz has a strong tradition of developing young racing talent and our eyes are very much open to other promising prospects for the future.”
What happens when you put a McLaren P1 owned by baseball star and CJ Wilson Racing team principal, and occasional driver, CJ Wilson, with two-time F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen, and you turn them loose at The Thermal Club for a track day?
Of course there’s other cars besides the McLaren and hockey legend, Teemu Selanne, was also on site.
This really isn’t a post so much that needs words, but one that does need proper photos and noise.
The CJWR pairing of Marc Miller and Daniel Burkett, who drive the No. 33 One Capital/Motor Oil Matters Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport dubbed “Darth Cayman” in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, have been coaching and driving at an event this weekend out at The Thermal Club, a luxury race track in California.
See a mix of photos and videos below:
Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has given officials at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza until the end of February to resolve the future of the Italian Grand Prix.
Monza has hosted the Italian Grand Prix for all but one year since 1950 when the F1 world championship was formed, establishing itself as one of the series’ most historic and legendary venues.
However, its future has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months following a cut in the amount of tax relief that the race receives by the Italian government.
Ecclestone said back in November that he had “no doubts” the race would remain on the calendar and extend its contract beyond the end of 2016 when it expires.
However, the 85-year-old has now cast fresh doubt on the race in an interview with Reuters, giving the circuit until the end of February to resolve its future.
“It’s Italian. A lot of conversations at the moment and not much action,” Ecclestone said.
“They said to me a few months ago: ‘Everything is sorted out, we know exactly where we are and it’s all agreed and no dramas.’
“And now I heard yesterday it’s become very political… They’ll get on with it. Or not. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Nothing we can do about it.
“The only people that can sort this out are the people that are currently involved in Italy. They can take as long as they like, provided it’s by the end of this month.”
The 2016 Italian Grand Prix is set to take place at Monza on September 4.