While Busch has already said that he and 17-year-old Erik Jones would split time in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra that won last year’s CWTS owner’s championship, the exact details of that hadn’t been revealed until very recently.
Jones, who became the youngest winner in CWTS history last fall at Phoenix International Raceway, will drive a 12-race schedule this year in the No. 51 that begins with the March 29 event at Martinsville Speedway.
That victory was part of Jones’ tremendous 2013 season, which also saw him take two of the top late model races in the country – the Winchester 400 at Indiana’s Winchester Speedway and the Snowball Derby at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway. He also earned his first career win in the ARCA series last August (Berlin, Mich.).
“I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the No. 51 Tundra and representing Toyota and [sponsor] ToyotaCare,” Jones said in a team release.
“I really learned a lot last year from Kyle and everyone at KBM. I felt like each time out we all grew as a team and at the end of the season I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream by winning in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions. Going into this season, I feel like we have a great chance to get back to victory lane and go out and defend our Owner’s Championship.”
As for Busch, he will be in the No. 51 for 10 races, including the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on Friday night, Feb. 21.
Darrell Wallace Jr. is already confirmed to drive KBM’s sister truck, the No. 54 Toyota Tundra.
More sponsor news has come in from Front Row Motorsports, which will welcome back transportation company CSX for a four-race swing as primary sponsor on David Ragan’s No. 34 Ford Fusion in Sprint Cup.
CSX will enjoy primary status on the No. 34 at the Daytona 500, Darlington, the August race at Michigan, and the September race at Richmond. The company will also be what the team calls a “major associate” sponsor at Pocono in August and Charlotte in October.
Ragan won last year’s spring race at Talladega Superspeedway with primary sponsorship from FarmRich Foods. They too will be back with the No. 34 this season, serving as its primary sponsor for the Phoenix race on March 2.
The entry lists for both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and BMW Performance 200, the respective curtain-raisers for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (Jan. 28-29), have been released on Wednesday and there’s not too many changes compared to the ones released for the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test earlier this month.
Within Prototype, Brendon Hartley has now been listed as fourth driver for both of the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis. The New Zealander has driven in a couple Rolex 24s before, last year with Chip Ganassi Racing, and will saddle up with ESM this year despite missing the Roar test.
GT Daytona includes a number of additions, with Turner Motorsport confirming its full race lineup of BMW factory shoes Jens Klingmann, Maxime Martin, Jesse Krohn and sports car/NASCAR veteran Justin Marks in the No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 as the biggest change.
Maro Engel (No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3), Tim Pappas (No. 991 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 R), Sven Mueller (No. 59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R), and Dion von Moltke (No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3) are among the key drivers added, though some teams have not yet confirmed those signings outright. Pappas’ confirmation brings together the principal of Black Swan Racing with Kevin Buckler’s TRG program in an interesting partnership.
Most of the Prototype Challenge field has been confirmed. Nick Boulle switches to Performance Tech Motorsports after being initially listed at BAR1 Motorsports. Starworks Motorsport’s lineup is set to include Sebastian Saavedra, Remo Ruscitti, Robert Wickens and the at-the-moment unlisted Sean Rayhall as its pro drivers.
Spencer Pumpelly, Guy Cosmo, Marc Miller, Damien Faulkner, Kenton Koch and Cameron Lawrence are among the notables still without a ride at the moment, and judging by the entry list, there’s still a number of TBDs and vacancies still within the GTD class.
The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge entry list, meanwhile, features an even balance of 20 GS and 20 ST cars for the four-hour season opener.
A day after Liberty Media Corporation’s shareholders approved the proposals for its impending acquisition of Formula 1, the FIA has now done the same.
The decision was taken at today’s World Motor Sport Council meeting in Geneva and was approved unanimously. Liberty said on Tuesday night it hoped to have the full transaction completed by the end of the 2017 first quarter.
The statement from the FIA reads:
“The World Motor Sport Council has unanimously approved the change of control of Delta Topco Limited (the holding company of the Formula One Group and thus the owner of the Commercial Rights of the FIA Formula One World Championship) from CVC Capital Partners in favour of Liberty Media Corporation at an extraordinary meeting today in Geneva.
“The transaction will see the transfer of 100% of the shares in Delta Topco to Liberty Media Group, one of the tracking stocks of Liberty Media Corporation.
“During the meeting, the representatives of the prospective new owner made a detailed presentation of their strategy. The members of the World Motor Sport Council then had the opportunity to ask questions about the specifics of the agreement, the ongoing working relationship with the FIA and Liberty’s plans for the sport.
“Liberty, Formula One Group and the FIA intend to collaborate to create a constructive relationship that will ensure the continued success and the development of the FIA Formula One World Championship in the long term.
“The World Motor Sport Council’s decision confirms the FIA’s belief that Liberty, as a renowned media organisation with expertise in both sport and entertainment, is clearly well positioned to ensure the continued development of its pinnacle Championship.
“The FIA holds a one per cent shareholding in Delta Topco. As part of the sale by CVC to Liberty Media Corporation, and in line with the agreements between the FIA and the Formula One Group, the FIA will be dragged along in the sale process under the same conditions as CVC and all the other shareholders.
“The FIA looks forward to working with the new owners of the Formula One Group on further developing the unrivalled global spectacle that is the FIA Formula One World Championship for all stakeholders.”
Liberty has also added in its own statement:
“Liberty Media Corporation announced today that it has received the requisite consents and approvals from the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (“FIA”), the governing body of Formula 1, in connection with its pending acquisition of Formula 1, and that the closing conditions related to the FIA have now been satisfied. The acquisition is expected to close this month.”
Bourdais, Coyne thankful to have had time to build over winter
With both Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Jones having been confirmed relatively early in this Verizon IndyCar Series offseason – by mid-November – it marked a change of course for both Dale Coyne Racing as a team, and for its re-signed lead driver.
Coyne’s a racing lifer and he and his Chicago-based team has been part of the IndyCar fabric for more than 30 years. But throughout that time, it had become something of a running joke that Coyne usually left his driver signings very late in the winter. He even warmed to the joke as the years have gone on.
In Bourdais’ case, not knowing whether he’d have a job year-to-year was always a threat, and became particularly worrisome last offseason when KVSH Racing only formally shored up the deal for him to be back for a third year the week of the IndyCar open test at Phoenix International Raceway in late February.
As such, knowing Coyne wanted to move the program forward – starting by getting the pieces done earlier – and knowing Bourdais wanted the stability and security throughout the offseason, it made sense the deal got done when it did. That peace of mind became evident once KVSH Racing again was set to face an uncertain future as the summer dragged into fall.
“It was massive,” Bourdais told NBC Sports. “It was the first winter I’m not dreading the phone call where someone says, ‘Hey, that went down, or that did, or this happened.’ It’s very very reassuring and appealing. It’s the biggest reason why I was looking for something else. It was just not going to change with the organization we had.
“It’s no one’s fault. ‘Sulli’ (James Sullivan) did an amazing job; Jimmy (Vasser) was helping and Kevin (Kalkhoven) did what he felt he wanted or could do. You couldn’t blame the situation for what it was. But it was all planning, then money ran short and things went bad. Ultimately I’m very happy with what we’re doing here. Hopefully we can produce!”
Bourdais, knowing Coyne’s team isn’t regarded as a world-beater (yet, anyway) and with the Honda package still likely to lag a bit behind Chevrolet at most races, is again guarding against setting the expectations too high.
“I don’t want to get the expectations too high. That doesn’t help anyone,” Bourdais said. “But Dale has put a massive commitment behind the program. I’ve kind of managed to get him to agree and commit to it as early as he did. That was so crucial.
“There’s a lot of things that are working here. Mike Cannon (engineer) did a great job with Darren (Crouser, team manager). It’s the first time there’s that many engineers in the office. They don’t think they’ll be there for a year or two. They want to build something. Of course there are limitations and restrictions. Consistency in a group can go a long way on that. But we’re looking to produce the fruit of everyone’s hard work.”
The engineering shake-up at Coyne provides a veritable smorgasbord of engineering goodness in one room (more here via IndyCar.com). Bourdais’ chief engineer from KVSH, Olivier Boisson, also makes the switch to Coyne. Bourdais is reunited with his championship-winning engineer from the Champ Car days, Craig Hampson, as his lead engineer. Cannon will serve as lead on Jones’ car.
“I raced against him in Champ Car,” Bourdais laughed. “It’s crucial to have him stick around again. The more continuity in the team, the better.”
Coyne was meant to test December 9 at Sebring before a washout cut the test down in advance. The team’s first test with both cars in road and street course configuration is now at Sebring on January 24-25, with Bourdais then continuing in Florida into the weekend for the second year at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in one of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs.
Bourdais has run the gamut of teammates in his career. Oriol Servia and Bruno Junqueira won races when Bourdais was at Newman/Haas and Graham Rahal impressed as a rookie. In recent years, late deals have left drivers such as Katherine Legge, Sebastian Saavedra and Stefano Coletti scrambling to get integrated into the team, despite their ability.
Jones is unproven at the IndyCar level, but Bourdais said the talent exists for the 21-year-old Dubai-based Brit, who’s found a home in the U.S. in Miami.
“Hell, he won the championship in Lights, so we know he has talent,” Bourdais said. “It’s crucial to make sure the second car doesn’t hurt where I was going. The budget on the second car is fine, so it shouldn’t affect us in a bad way.
“If Ed can achieve and help us raise the bar, even better. That’s pretty much the way I look at it all along. But the biggest thing was making sure it wouldn’t drain the effort on my car, because otherwise you’re better off being alone.”
Bourdais turns 38 at the end of February and will embark on his 12th season in IndyCar, 10th overall (he raced part-time for Coyne in 2011, when he returned to IndyCar and in 2012) looking to build on his career record of 35 wins.
Coyne has four wins all-time and seems a good bet to add to that at least once more this year. If Bourdais can re-enter the top-10 in points after a one-year slip, it should be a good first step in the team’s turnaround.
Jenson Button’s racing plans for 2017 aren’t settled yet, other than we know he’s staying affiliated with McLaren Honda as the team’s third and reserve driver.
Honda, of course, spreads its wings in so many other forms of motorsport, Red Bull Global Rallycross among them. And given Button’s love of rallying, you wondered if one day, the 2009 World Champion might test a Honda Civic that’s entered by the Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE team.
Wonder no more. Button posted this Instagram video of him testing a one of the OMSE Civics at Sebring International Raceway, and thanked OMSE team principal Andreas Eriksson for the opportunity. Button called the test “pure driving” and “pure joy” within the caption.
Button turns 37 tomorrow and it would be a gift not just for him, but for American fans, if this test were eventually to blossom into something more with the team. The OMSE team is yet to reveal its Red Bull GRC program with Honda for the second season of competition for the Civic.
Button isn’t the first high-profile open-wheel driver to have sampled the car, as IndyCar driver Conor Daly did so as well the day after the season finale in Los Angeles.