Kevin Harvick closes RCR tenure with Top-10 finish

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Following a 10th-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway tonight, Kevin Harvick was a little reflective as he looked back on his 13-year run with Richard Childress Racing that has now come to a close.

“I’m happy with everything that we have been able to accomplish as a group,” said Harvick, whose final stat line with RCR will read as follows: 23 wins, 100 Top-5s and 209 Top-10s in 466 Sprint Cup starts.

“We had a great year knowing what the circumstances were and we have won a lot of races – a lot of the marquee races. We have won Nationwide championships.

“As owners in the Truck Series and Nationwide cars, we were customers of the engine shop. So I mean, there is a lot that has happened with everything and everybody at RCR and [I’m] really proud about my past and everybody who has been involved in it – and really excited about my future.”

Harvick entered Homestead with an outside opportunity to win the Sprint Cup championship, but after being up front early, his No. 29 Chevrolet began to develop handling problems that caused him to fall out of the Top 20 before he had to pit under green at Lap 117.

He went a lap down as a result but was able to get back in sync with the leaders thanks to pit strategy. Unfortunately for him, he did not have a car capable of winning, which is what he needed to do (along with Johnson and Matt Kenseth having problems) to have any hope of taking the title.

“We just weren’t very good,” Harvick said of his race. “Just couldn’t turn like we needed to. We had one set of tires that I don’t know what was wrong with, but just like always, these guys on our Budweiser Chevy kept after it.

“Obviously, it’s not what we wanted…Sometimes, you take off with it and sometimes you don’t. We just kept working on it and salvaged a Top-10 out of it.”

Harvick finished third in the standings in his final season for RCR, which almost ended in disaster with the brief feud between Harvick and Richard Childress’ grandsons, Austin and Ty Dillon, following a Camping World Truck Series race last month at Martinsville Speedway.

After commenting harshly on the Dillons, Harvick apologized a short time later. And after some conversations after that Martinsville weekend, everyone got back to working toward the goal of finishing 2013 strong. They realized that goal, taking the win at Phoenix in the penultimate race of the year before coming to Homestead.

“I think Martinsville brought a lot of things to a head and we were able to talk about a lot of things,” Harvick said. “Really, this was the way I would want to leave, with everybody shaking hands and happy that we have been together and been successful together. ”

Now, the end has arrived for Harvick and RCR. Next year, Harvick will be driving for Stewart-Haas Racing as part of a expanded four-car lineup that will also feature Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick.

But while Harvick looks forward to the new chapter in his career, he’s also looking forward to something else.

“I can’t wait for our first hunt together as friends,” Harvick said, presumably referring to Childress. “That will be good times.”

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.