Cling Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

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.

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.