NNS Homestead Update: Logano leads race, Hornish leads championship

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At the halfway point of tonight’s season finale for the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Sam Hornish Jr. had a narrow lead in the driver’s championship as Austin Dillon – the points leader going into the race – dealt with handling problems that was preventing him from charging to the front.

Hornish, the pole sitter for today’s race, led the opening lap and was able to gain a critical bonus point on Dillon, who started 11th at the green flag. The Penske Racing trio of Hornish, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano (who is competing for the NNS owner’s championship today in the No. 22 car against the No. 54 of Kyle Busch) quickly settled into the top three spots early, while Busch and Kyle Larson followed in pursuit.

Larson and Busch managed to both get by Keselowski around Lap 15, while Dillon was only able to make minimal progress in the opening laps (moving up one spot to 10th by Lap 20) before falling back several positions with a loose No. 3 Chevy.

Meanwhile, Larson continued his rise as he passed Logano for second at Lap 33 before setting his sights on Hornish for the lead a few laps later. And on Lap 39, the future driver of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Sprint Cup car proceeded to take that lead away after clearing Hornish off Turn 2.

Larson quickly built a considerable lead, while Hornish promptly slid back to fifth behind Busch, Logano and Matt Kenseth before the first caution came out at Lap 47 for debris. On the subsequent stops, Busch was able to take the lead with Kenseth following in second to set up a Lap 52 restart.

Kenseth leaped ahead of the pack off the restart, but the run was short-lived as the yellow came out again for Corey Lajoie’s spin off of Turn 4. Lajoie, who was running 21st and is making his NNS debut today, then bounced lightly off the inside front-stretch wall before coming to a stop.

Under caution No. 2, Dillon opted to come to the pits at Lap 57 for more chassis adjustments to try and cure his car’s handling issues. The decision cost him track position, however, and he had to line up 23rd when the green came out again at Lap 61.

With Hornish lurking in third, Busch and Kenseth dueled for the lead before the former won out at Lap 63. However, Keselowski made a charge for the lead and was ahead of Busch by another debris caution at Lap 66; farther back, Dillon had peeled off five positions to move into 18th at that point.

The race resumed at Lap 70, and Keselowski pulled away as Busch, Logano, Hornish, Larson and Kenseth had it out amongst themselves behind him. When everything shook out after a few laps, it was Logano that had emerged with the runner-up position, and on Lap 83, he shot past Keselowski down the backstretch for P1.

Logano was ahead by about two seconds over Keselowski when yet another debris caution came out shortly before Lap 100 of 200. However, he was able to keep the lead after pit stops, with Busch, Kenseth, Larson and Hornish behind him. Dillon took the Lap 102 restart in 12th position.

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.