Former Le Mans, Indy 500 racers at center of drug trafficking probe

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Former race car drivers and brothers Don and Bill Whittington – who won the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans with a third driver and competed five times each in the Indianapolis 500 – are now under investigation by the DEA, which suspects them of providing Florida-based airplanes to South American drug traffickers.

The offices of the brothers’ aircraft leasing business, World Jet, were raided by DEA agents yesterday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida according to the Associated Press.

Relaying information from a DEA search warrant affidavit, the AP report states that the Whittington brothers (pictured, with the late Paul Newman at Le Mans in 1979) are also suspected of laundering money from the illegal plane-leasing deals through a resort and ranch in Colorado.

Bill’s two daughters, Nerissa and Keely Whittington, are listed as the operators of the resort – the Springs Resort and Spa in Pagosa Springs, Colorado – while Nerissa also controls the nearby Three Meadows Ranch through a company called Fawn Gulch, LLC.

The DEA’s affidavit indicates the agency’s belief that World Jet money has gone into both properties. More details from that particular document can be found in this story from the Pagosa Springs (Colo.) Sun.

Both the resort and Fawn Gulch list the same Florida corporate address as World Jet. However, it should be noted that the Whittington daughters have yet to be charged in the case.

Don and Bill Whittington went to prison in 1987 after pleading guilty to participating in a large marijuana-smuggling ring. The latter brother was forced to give up cars, boats, planes, property and a sum of $7 million to the U.S. government.

How Hamilton, Mercedes can clinch F1 titles at the United States GP

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Sunday’s United States Grand Prix could go down as a memorable race in Formula 1 history as both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes bid to clinch their fourth world championships (live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET).

Hamilton gave his chances of wrapping up the drivers’ title and re-claiming the crown he lost to Nico Rosberg in 2016 a world of good by charging to pole position on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.

However, with chief rival Sebastian Vettel starting second for Ferrari and a 16-point swing required, it seems likely that the title race could continue to next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Nevertheless, here are the permutations for Lewis Hamilton to win his fourth F1 world title on Sunday in Austin, Texas.

  • If Lewis Hamilton wins the race (25 points) and Sebastian Vettel finishes sixth or lower (maximum eight points), he is world champion.
  • If Hamilton finishes second (18 points), Sebastian Vettel finishes ninth or lower (maximum two points), and Valtteri Bottas does not win the race, he is world champion.

While Hamilton’s coronation seems likely to be postponed until the next race in Mexico, Mercedes looks nailed-on to wrap up its fourth consecutive constructors’ championship in Sunday’s USGP.

The German marque currently leads Ferrari by 145 points in the teams’ standings, and requires a lead of 129 after the race to clinch the crown.

As a result, a double top-four finish from Hamilton and Bottas would be enough for Mercedes to wrap up the title, regardless of how Ferrari fares.

The success would see Mercedes become just the fourth team in F1 history take four straight constructors’ titles, following Red Bull (2010 to 2013), Ferrari (1999 to 2004) and McLaren (1988 to 1991).

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.