MotorSportsTalk’s Top 10 most viewed stories of 2013

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We did a bevy of year-in-review stories throughout November and December on MotorSportsTalk. Parts 1 and 2 of “The year in motors” are linked here.

Meanwhile, the following 10 stories were our highest trafficked stories this year, not necessarily our editorial staff’s favorites or most popular. If a series of posts are related to one story, that will count as one of the 10.

As you’ll see from the list below, sadly, there were way too many tragic stories to report that brought motorsports into the public eye in the wrong light in 2013.

Stories such as Tony Stewart’s season-ending leg injury and Dario Franchitti’s injury-enforced retirement, which were also unfortunate, ended just outside this list. Franchitti’s retirement was our highest-trafficked IndyCar story of the year, and that proves how big of an impact his loss on the grid will be to the IndyCar community.

Without further adieu:

10. Off-road champion Kurt Caselli dies after Baja 1000 crash

This one was a tough loss for the off-road community, with the loss of the 30-year-old motorcycle champion.

9. Report: Stewart makes formal offer to Kurt Busch

We later learned it was more Gene Haas than Tony Stewart, but this was the first seed planted in the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion joining Stewart-Haas Racing for 2014.

8. NASCAR confiscates roof flaps on 16 Cup, 15 Nationwide cars at Daytona

Of all the controversy-related NASCAR stories in 2013, this one was second only to everything around “Chase-gate” at Richmond in terms of page views.

7. NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Homestead 2013 goodbyes

A lot of drivers signed off their current teams at this year’s Homestead Cup finale.

6. Michael Schumacher injury (Initial updates, too early to give prognosis)

The seven-time World Champion’s skiing accident brought a wide range of initial reports, but is now concentrated to his medical and management teams. We continue to wish for his speedy recovery.

5. Hendrick teammates, fans, rally to Jeff Gordon’s defense

Jeff Gordon was just outside of the Chase when it ended at Richmond, and of course, was later added to the field as a 13th driver the Friday before Chicago.

4. Jason Leffler dies from injuries in dirt track accident

Dick Trickle had died in May, but Leffler’s was the first prominent on-track fatality this year, and the loss still stings several communities.

3. Former F1 test driver Maria de Villota dies age 33

This was the shock to the F1 community, with the news the former Marussia test driver was found dead in a Spanish hotel room.

2. NASCAR looking into Bowyer’s Chase-altering spin

The spin heard ‘round the world, Clint Bowyer’s Richmond spin was the catalyst for the week-long controversy in NASCAR prior to this year’s Chase.

1. Mike Skeen’s girlfriend fined, banned indefinitely from NASCAR

Perhaps this is a measure of how odd the 2013 racing season was at times. Mike Skeen’s girlfriend slapped Max Papis after the Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, and was fined and suspended indefinitely from NASCAR. Both Skeen and Papis are part-time NASCAR drivers, yet this story generated more buzz than anything else this year.

Castroneves snatches Road America pole in Penske 1-4 sweep

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Helio Castroneves has done it again, pulling another final lap flier to secure the pole position for Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) from Road America.

Castroneves has secured his third and Team Penske’s sixth pole position of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, with the Brazilian dropping a 1:41.3007 best lap on his final lap.

This is also the 50th pole of his career, which breaks a tie with Bobby Unser for third on IndyCar’s all-time list.

That supplanted Will Power in a Penske-dominated qualifying session, continuing the team’s form this weekend. Power looked set to have the pole at 1:41.3611, but that ended just behind.

The remaining two drivers of the Team Penske, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, completed the team’s top-four sweep – its third straight session where all four Penske Chevrolets locked out the top four positions.

Team Penske did this most recently in qualifying at Sonoma Raceway for last year’s season finale, except there it was Pagenaud on the pole over Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Power.

This is the second time this year Penske has gotten four cars into the Firestone Fast Six shootout, having also done so at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course earlier this year. Pagenaud missed it there while Montoya, in his only road course outing of 2017 in the team’s fifth car, made it in.

Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal upheld Honda’s honor with fifth and sixth place on the grid, but significantly off the pace.

Dixon was 1.6 seconds off while Rahal didn’t put in a representative time in the final session. Rahal didn’t use a set of Firestone’s red alternate softer compound to save a set for the race on Sunday.

Max Chilton was seventh and best of those who didn’t make it into the Fast Six, with Marco Andretti best of Andretti Autosport’s quartet in eighth.

Elsewhere Ed Jones advanced into Q2, an impressive feat for the rookie with Dale Coyne Racing and his Chicago Bears tribute helmet, while Alexander Rossi was a surprise driver to not advance out of Q1, and will start 15th.

Esteban Gutierrez is 17th and Mikhail Aleshin 19th ahead of their returns, Gutierrez after missing Texas and Aleshin after missing Friday’s practice sessions.

Times are below.

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Road America (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues from this weekend at Road America, ahead of Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass is also along for the ride, and this week features interviews from the longest track on the calendar, the 4.014-mile Road America.

Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show from Elkhart Lake, and catches up with a number of winners.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Texas winner and defending Road America winner Will Power, Texas polesitter Charlie Kimball and American veteran Ryan Hunter-Reay.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Alonso, Vandoorne’s Azerbaijan GP grid drops grow through Saturday

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Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso’s Formula 1 grid penalties for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix grew through Saturday as the stewards confirmed both McLaren drivers had taken additional power unit parts ahead of qualifying.

Vandoorne and Alonso entered the Baku race weekend anticipating grid penalties after replacing parts on their Honda power units, which have lacked both reliability and performance throughout the season.

Both drivers were handed 15-place drops on Friday ahead of practice due to initial changes, only to receive further drops in the lead up to qualifying.

Alonso currently sits with a 40-place drop to his name after an overhaul of his power unit, while Vandoorne is to drop 35 places after also taking a gearbox change before qualifying.

McLaren ailed to its worst qualifying display of the season so far in Baku as both Alonso and Vandoorne dropped out in Q1, finishing 16th and 19th respectively.

However, Alonso was not too disheartened by the result, saying it has set McLaren up nicely for the race on Sunday.

“We did a good job today in terms of preparing for the race: we only used one set of tires, put in low fuel and did some checks,” the Spaniard said.

“We know we’re not competitive around here, but the race is going to be long and demanding. We’ve seen many mistakes from almost every driver, and we need to avoid making any of those tomorrow.

“In these kinds of grands prix, we need to try and finish the race, get some data for the team, and keep developing the car.

“We need to make sure we keep away from the walls tomorrow. Let’s also hope we can end up in the points.”

Due to a strange quirk in the regulations, Alonso and Vandoorne will not share the back row of the grid in Baku – and the latter will, in fact, gain a place.

As Renault’s Jolyon Palmer failed to post a time during Q1 and therefore did not qualify for the race, he will start P20.

By virtue of having a greater grid drop than Vandoorne, Alonso will take 19th on the grid, with the Belgian starting just ahead in P18.

Stroll feeling ‘comfortable’, ‘confident’ in car after Baku Q3 run

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Lance Stroll delivered the most impressive qualifying run of his fledgling Formula 1 career so far in Baku on Saturday, charging to eighth place on the grid for Williams.

Stroll, 18, made his F1 debut at the beginning of the year with Williams after stepping up from Formula 3, but endured a baptism of fire as he failed to score any points through his opening six outings.

The Canadian charged to his maiden points finish last time out at his home race in Montreal, finishing ninth overall, and carried that momentum through to qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Stroll reached Q3 for the second time, beating his Chinese Grand Prix display by taking eighth spot, as well as outqualifying teammate Felipe Massa for the first time.

“It was a good day, and it has been a good weekend. I am comfortable and confident in the car,” Stroll said.

“I like the circuit and today everything fell into place. I missed a bit in Q3, and I think there was some more that was possible there, as we were four-tenths off compared to my lap in Q2.

“In Q3, because the track temperatures had dropped, it was hard to get the tires ready in one lap and also because of the red flag, we only had time to do one push lap.

“Sometimes around here it is better when you do one push lap, then another prep lap and then another push lap. But it is still a great result and I am just happy for the team.”