Ford 400 Qualifying

Evernham mixed on NASCAR’s efforts to help Gen-6 race better


When it comes to NASCAR’s attempts to improve the racing on its intermediate ovals with the new Gen-6 car, three-time Sprint Cup champion crew chief Ray Evernham sees some things that he likes. He also sees some things that he doesn’t like.

Evernham, who now works as a NASCAR television analyst, called into Performance Racing Network’s “Fast Talk” earlier this week, where he gave his thoughts on the matter to host Doug Rice and former Cup driver Kyle Petty.

On the positive side of things, Evernham liked the fact that the sanctioning body is experimenting with not having a minimum ride height requirement in place on the cars – which he believes would allow more tailoring to a driver’s specific style.

“I’ve never agreed with having to hold all those heights the same because then, you’re limited to the springs, shocks, and bump stops, and not everybody likes to drive a car the same way,” he explained.

“These cars are so [aerodynamically] dependent right now that how it gets to that perfect height has really got a lot to do with driver feel, that transitional handling.”

But he also cautioned NASCAR not to add more aerodynamic pieces to the Gen-6 such as bigger spoilers.

“I really feel that we need to be going the other way,” he said. “The drivers will yell and scream and I’ve already made ’em mad at me when I’ve said that, but they need to take as much aero off the car as they can and let ’em go back to running a softer tire…I just feel like when we get so aero-dependent, it hurts our racing.”

After running through possible aero changes back in mid-October at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR will return to the 1.5-mile oval on Dec. 9 for further testing that could finalize its 2014 intermediate package.

As for Petty’s thoughts on the test, they weren’t quite as in-depth as Evernham’s but he made the observation that the good races in Sprint Cup have been coming not from the 1.5-milers, but from restrictor-plate tracks, road courses, and short ovals.

“That’s what the heart and soul of the sport is – those intermediate tracks, the mile-and-a-half tracks,” he said. “And it’s funny, because that’s where we used to have some of the greatest racing that the sport had.

“It’s gravitated and moved to the edges – Talladega and Daytona on one side, road courses on the other side and Bristol and Martinsville right in there. Those are our better races now.”

Formula E: Team Aguri confirms da Costa for second season

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Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed for a second season with Team Aguri for the 2015-2016 FIA Formula E Championship, which begins later this month in Beijing.

He won once this past year at Buenos Aires and finished eighth in the points despite missing both the season opener and season finale due to clashes with his DTM schedule.

Said the 24-year-old Portuguese driver, “I am really happy to continue with Team Aguri and Formula E for season two. This championship is earning its respect in the world of motorsport and I am honoured to be involved. Regarding the season, I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Team Aguri team principal Mark Preston added, “It is a great pleasure to have Antonio continuing with the team for season two of Formula E. Antonio brought us our maiden win in Buenos Aires and helped to develop the team from scratch, he will continue to build on that success for season two and beyond.”

The team that bares the name of ex-Formula 1 driver and team owner Aguri Suzuki has not yet confirmed its second driver, which is the last outstanding seat to be filled on the Formula E grid.

Amlin, which had partnered with Aguri last year, is now present with the Andretti Formula E team and its drivers, Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro.

Hulkenberg leads shorter than normal FP1 in Russia

Nico Hulkenberg
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Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg posted a 1:44.355 lap of the of the Sochi Autodrom to lead a fairly abnormal, and shorter than usual, first free practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg posted the time to conclude the usual 90-minute session, to pip Nico Rosberg at 1:44.407 on his final lap. The usual 90-minute session was shortened due to a track delay for cleanup of diesel fuel on course.

Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five.

While the clock started on time for the full 90-minute session, track activity was halted for the opening 30 minutes to clean up diesel spillage on the track at Turn 8.

It left teams and drivers with just a 60-minute first free practice to tackle the Sochi Autodrom, but did not push the session later or affect the timetable for the rest of the day. However, with a damp if not entirely wet track, it made things difficult in FP1.

The delay also meant that teams weren’t able to use an extra set of Pirellis handed out at the start of FP1. Supersofts can be used for the first time in FP2.

During the delay, it did offer a chance for sarcasm, and Manor seized the opportunity following a comment from McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso noting that even with Mercedes engines next year, Manor wouldn’t move ahead of them.

NBC’s Will Buxton explained the track surface dilemma drivers would face in this session.

With just under one hour to go in the session, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was the first to head out on course, leading several others. Ericsson made the first laps of the weekend at the track where he made his final start for Caterham a year ago.

Both Williams drivers went on course on Pirelli’s wet weather tires for their installation laps. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg tried the intermediates, and Alonso was first on course in slicks.

No official times were registered until there were less than 40 minutes remaining in the session, with Alonso registering a 2:00.736 time, while putting down a bevy of sparks. He quickly lowered the mark to 1:56.327, and 1:53.854 after that. Ericsson was next in at a 1:58.926, although dropped into the 1:54 range not long after.

Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button clocked in at 1:50.920 with just under 20 minutes remaining and for the first time this year, we could say we had a McLaren Honda 1-2 on track, albeit under abnormal circumstances.

The trsck got busy in the final 15 minutes, with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen posting a 1:50.870 to lead before Alonso clocked in a 1:49.240.

A 1:47.959 from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, then a 1:45.987 from Hulkenberg followed in the final 10 minutes as times firmly began to drop. Vettel got down to a 1:45.491 shortly thereafter, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton came up two tenths shy of the mark at a 1:45.691.

Ericsson reported a power cut near the end of the session down at Sauber but otherwise there were no issues through the field, other than a handful of spins, including one from Hamilton on his final flier at the second-to-last corner.

FP2 begins from 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.