Dale Jarrett, one of the five newest members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, with country music superstar Blake Shelton, who presented Jarrett for induction into the Hall on Wednesday.

NASCAR welcomes 2014 Hall of Fame induction class

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The NASCAR Hall of Fame opened its doors to its fifth induction class on Wednesday night, welcoming the Class of 2014 of racing greats Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty, Tim Flock, Jack Ingram and Edward Glenn “Fireball” Roberts.

“I’m very appreciative in that I’m in there now and I’ll be there forever,” Ingram said.

It marked the first time that four members of the same family are now enshrined in the Hall: Maurice, brother Richard (inducted 2010), late father Lee (inducted 2011) and cousin Dale Inman (inducted 2012).

“Who would have thought that the whole family would have got into the Hall of Fame together,” Maurice Petty said. “It’s great. I’m really tickled to death about it.”

It also marked the first time that a living father and son are now enshrined in the Hall: Dale Jarrett and father Ned (inducted in 2011), and the Jarretts become the third father-son combination to be chosen to the Hall (along with the Pettys and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and son Bill Jr.

The Hall is now 25 members strong, having inducted its first class of five in 2010. Selection of the sixth Hall class will be announced in late May.

Say hello to the newest members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame:

MAURICE PETTY

THE CAREER: Presented for induction by brother Richard Petty, who said of his little brother, “There wouldn’t be a Richard Petty, per se, (who) accomplished the things that he accomplished without a lot of people, but this is one of the main characters of the whole deal.” … Native of Randleman, N.C. … One of the most prolific engine builders in NASCAR history. Led Petty Enterprises to 198 wins and seven championships. Is also the first engine builder to be inducted into the Hall. … Formed legendary Petty Enterprises with father Lee and brother Richard, who preceded him as NASCAR Hall of Famers. … Was nicknamed “the Chief.”

THE QUOTE: “It was a lot of fun but the whole problem was Richard was a whole lot better (as a driver),” Maurice Petty said. “I was tearing up cars while Richard was winning races and bringing in a whole lot more money.”

TIM FLOCK

THE CAREER: Presented for induction by former Charlotte Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler. Accepting Flock’s induction was his widow, Frances. … Native of Fort Payne, Ala. … Was one of stock car racing’s early pioneers. Was a two-time champion (Grand National Series in 1952 and 1955), with 39 wins and 129 top 10s in just 187 starts, highest career winning percentage (21 percent) for a full-time NASCAR driver. … Holds NASCAR record for most pole positions earned in a season (18, 1955). … Was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. … Used to own a pet monkey, Jocko, that was well known in the sport, accompanying Flock to the racetrack on numerous occasions and even was strapped in next to Flock during seven races before getting loose. Flock had to pull into the pits and have Jocko removed. “He got the monkey off his back,” Frances Flock said with a laugh.

THE QUOTES: “We’re now almost married,” Wheeler joked after placing Tim Flock’s induction ring on the finger of his widow, Frances Flock. … Upon accepting her late husband’s induction into the Hall of Fame, Frances Flock said, “Boy, this is like being at the Super Bowl of racing here tonight. I bet my darling and the passed drivers are having one huge race in Heaven tonight. I can almost hear them telling stories.”

JACK INGRAM

THE CAREER: Presented for induction by former competitor Harry Gant. … Native of Asheville, N.C. … Arguably the greatest driver in NASCAR Busch Series history. Five-time Busch Series and Late Model champion. Won 31 races, had 122 top five and 164 top 10 finishes in 275 Busch Series starts. … Won 317 races across several NASCAR racing series. … Named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. … Nicknamed “the Ironman” for oftentimes running three or four times a week across the Southeast.

THE QUOTES: “Wouldn’t be any of them that ever win 317 NASCAR races,” Ingram said when asked if he could go out and teach some of today’s young drivers like Kyle Busch a thing or two. … “This is a major lifetime achievement for me. While I’ve won driving the car, I had plenty of help and support along the way. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here tonight,” Ingram said. … “I want to thank my fans. I still get letters every day from people all over the world,” Ingram said.

DALE JARRETT

THE CAREER: Presented for induction by country music superstar Blake Shelton. … NASCAR Sprint Cup champion in 1999. … Native of Hickory, N.C. … Earned 32 wins and 260 top 10s in 668 Cup series starts. … Named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. … Current commentator/analyst for ESPN broadcast of NASCAR races. … Was good enough to potentially be a professional golfer (turned down golf scholarship from University of South Carolina). … Was a three-time Daytona 500 winner (1993, 1996 and 2000). Also two-time winner of Brickyard 400 (1996 and 1999).

THE QUOTES: “My dad was and still is my hero, and that’s what makes tonight so special, because I’m joining him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” Jarrett said. … “This is the ultimate. For it to be the only living father-son combination and to be the first dad to see his son inducted into the Hall of Fame, I can’t tell you how special that is,” Ned Jarrett, father of Dale Jarrett. … “It does mean a lot to me,” Dale Jarrett said. “There’s a lot of people that come through this sport and I wish they’d be able to know what this feels like.” … “Nothing compares to how proud I feel tonight,” Ned Jarrett said of his son’s induction. “He’s made us proud in a lot of ways, and this just tops it all.”

EDWARD GLENN “Fireball” ROBERTS

THE CAREER: Presented for induction by former mechanic Waddell Wilson. … Native of Daytona Beach, Fla. … Had one of the most prolific nicknames in NASCAR history, called “Fireball,” which came from his prolific ability to throw a baseball as a teenager. … Perhaps the greatest driver to have never won a NASCAR championship. Even so, Roberts still won 33 races and had 122 top 10s in just 206 career starts. Biggest win was the 1962 Daytona 500. … Succumbed to burns and other injuries six weeks after a horrific and fiery crash in the 1964 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. … Considered to have been NASCAR’s first superstar.

THE QUOTE: “We are proud that our grandfather, who sacrificed his life to racing, is being honored by NASCAR, the organization that set the scene for a life well lived,” said grandson Matt McDaniel. “There is no doubt that our grandfather would have shared this special night with everyone who influenced and had an impact on him during his career, including his family, friends, colleagues and fans.”

Also announced as the winner of the Squire-Hall Award for Media Excellence was veteran journalist, TV and radio race announcer and founder of National Speed Sport News, the late Chris Economaki.

Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett said of Economaki, “He never quit. I can’t believe the energy he had. When he would leave the racetrack, he’d go to the hotel or motel and work until midnight to get ready for the next day. He was just such an inspiration to a lot of people. Just a great guy and certainly deserving of this great honor.”

‘Fast Jack’ Beckman back to living up to his nickname at Gateway

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“Fast Jack” Beckman came into this weekend’s AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in a big predicament.

He didn’t live up to his colorful nickname during last week’s Carolina Nationals, the opening race of the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

Beckman was actually more like “Slow Jack,” as he failed to advance past the first round at Carolina in last Sunday’s eliminations.

He also failed to advance past the first round in the final pre-Countdown qualifying race, the U.S. Nationals, which he won last season.

All those things combined have put even more pressure on Beckman. He left Charlotte eighth in the 10-driver Funny Car Countdown standings.

2016_Jack_Beckman headshot

Being scored 110 points behind Funny Car points leader Ron Capps, Beckman had his work cut out for him heading into this weekend’s race at Gateway, in Madison, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

And as he has done numerous times in his career, when the pressure was on him, Beckman responded, qualifying No. 2 on Saturday for Sunday’s eliminations.

Robert Hight earned the No. 1 qualifier position (3.893 seconds at 328.38 mph), but Beckman wasn’t far behind (3.907 seconds at 325.22 mph).

That’s a big start for Beckman, who won at Gateway in 2012 and ended up second in last year’s championship battle that was won by fellow veteran Del Worsham. Beckman will face Dale Creasy Jr. in the first round of eliminations.

Last season, Beckman won seven races in the 24-race NHRA national event schedule. This season has been much different, as he has just one win (Chicago in July).

But that doesn’t mean he still can’t win each of the five remaining Countdown races – which obviously would go a long way towards earning him his second career Funny Car championship (and in five seasons).

Beckman isn’t panicking after Charlotte. He’s finished first, third and second in three of the last four seasons. He knows he and his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger have the capability to make a serious championship run.

In addition to hoping he wins Sunday, Beckman is defending champion of next week’s Dodge Nationals at Maple Grove (Pa.) Raceway.

“Since you can’t control how the leading cars do, really the goal is simple: you just need to win the race,” Beckman said in a media release. “At some point we have to win the race if we have a chance.

“There’s not any other path to a championship. We lost ground we couldn’t afford to lose (at Charlotte) and we can’t afford to lose any more ground. I don’t see those teams not continuing to perform well and the only way we win the championship is to outperform them. It’s imperative we get back to our capabilities.”

A major change for Saturday’s qualifying effort paid off handsomely with his No. 2 spot for Sunday – although admittedly it was a gamble of sorts for Beckman and crew chief Jimmy Prock.

“We’re still running a five-disc clutch and we have one disc on there that when it works it’s great and when it doesn’t it smokes the tires instantly and becomes too aggressive,” Beckman said. “We’re going to take that one out and take our chances with a brand new disc. We’re taking a calculated risk but I think it’s the only choice we have.

“We have to take baby steps but we have to take them quickly or we run out of races. Before we can go quick consistently we have to get back our predictability and we have to do that by the end of (this weekend’s race at) St. Louis.

“All we can control right now is our lane. Because we’re running out of rounds, every single pass becomes more important. But if you dwell on that, there’s a high likelihood you’re not going to do as well as you want.

“As the season winds down, the pressure goes up, but if you let it affect you, you’re not going to be at your best. The only thing you can do is take a positive mindset every time you go up there.”

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Touring car legend Yvan Muller to leave WTCC after 2016

STRASBOURG, FRANCE - OCTOBER 04:   Yvan Muller of France attends the FIA pre event press conference at rally headquarters after the Shakedown of the WRC France on October 04, 2012 in Strasbourg , France.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)
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Touring car racing legend and four-time world champion Yvan Muller will leave the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the end of the 2016 season.

Muller made his name in the British Touring Car Championship before making the switch across to WTCC in 2006 with Seat.

The Frenchman claimed his first world title in 2008 before enjoying further successes in 2010, 2011 and 2013, the latter three championships won while behind the wheel of a Chevrolet.

Muller joined Citroen following its arrival in WTCC for the 2014 season, but has been unable to add to his haul of championship as teammate Jose Maria Lopez romped to three straight crowns.

With Citroen set to leave WTCC at the end of the year, Muller has decided that the time is right to follow suit and call time on a stint in the series that has seen him score 47 wins, 119 podium finishes and over 2,600 points.

“I am not sure that age is the main factor when it comes to ending a career. It’s more a matter of desire and motivation,” Muller said.

“With all the testing, the simulator sessions, the physical training and the travel to the race venues, a season of professional motor racing requires a level of personal commitment that I am no longer prepared to put in.

“At the same time, I am at a time of my life where I want to do something else and I am happy to be able to make that decision after eleven seasons of FIA WTCC.

“I’ve had some great experiences over my career. These three seasons with Citroën Racing have been particularly special, even though I never managed to be world champion with this team. But I will always be proud of having helped to build our racing programme and develop the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. I have also met some great people who are passionate about their job and have a fierce competitive spirit.

“Driving has been part of my daily life for so long that I can’t see myself stopping racing entirely. But I am going to spend more time with my family and developing my team, Yvan Muller Racing. Before that, though, I am going to put everything I’ve got into meeting the team’s goals.”

Lopez is also set to leave WTCC at the end of the year, having agreed a deal to race for Citroen sub-brand DS in Formula E for the all-electric series’ third season.

The 2016 WTCC season closes on November 25 at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.

Report: Sam Schmidt to receive America’s first driver’s license for semi-autonomous car

2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
May 29, 2016
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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team owner Sam Schmidt is set to receive America’s first driver’s license for a semi-autonomous vehicle, according to a report from Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Schmidt sustained a spinal cord injury in a testing accident at Walt Disney World Speedway ahead of the 2000 IRL season, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Schmidt went on to establish Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with programs in IndyCar and Indy Lights, both of which he still heads up.

Schmidt has previously completed laps behind the wheel of a modified 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray at Indianapolis in 2014 and in Long Beach last year, dubbed the ‘SAM project’ – semi-autonomous motorcar – developed with Arrow Electronics.

Schmidt controls the car using a breathing tube for acceleration and braking, and steers using his head movements that are picked up by infrared cameras.

Now, the SAM project is set to hit the road, with Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles will grant Schmidt the first road license for a semi-autonomous car in the country.

The report says that Arrow has worked closely with the Nevada DMV to update regulations so that Schmidt is able to drive on state roads.

“Nevada is leading the nation in promoting autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle technologies that can bring mobility and independence to people with physical disabilities, including our wounded warriors,” officials from the Nevada DMV said.

Robert Kubica scores podium finish on Renault Sport Trophy debut at Spa

16 KUBICA Robert (POL) HAMON Christophe (FRA) RENAULT RS 01 Team Duqueine action during the 2016 Renault Sport series  at Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, September  23 to 25  - Photo Eric Vargiolu / DPPI
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Robert Kubica enjoyed a successful debut in the Renault Sport Trophy at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, finishing third alongside Christophe Hamon.

Former BMW and Renault Formula 1 driver Kubica announced last week that he would be entering the race weekend at Spa after accepting an invitation from the French manufacturer.

Kubica spent five seasons racing in F1 and won the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix for BMW before having his stint in the series cut short after a rally crash ahead of the 2011 season.

Severe injuries sustained to his right arm and hand meant left Kubica spending a lengthy spell in rehabilitation before making his return to motorsport in the World Rally Championship.

The Pole made his final WRC appearance in January at the Monte Carlo Rally before making his circuit racing return in the 12 Hours of Mugello with Mercedes.

Kubica enjoyed his first qualifying session since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday ahead of the Renault Sport Trophy weekend, finishing third.

After seeing Hamon complete the first 10 laps of the race and suffer contact, Kubica completed the final 17 behind the wheel of the Renault R.S.01 car.

A late charge saw Kubica rise from P6 with 10 minutes remaining to cross the line third, six seconds behind race winners Raoul Owens and Fredrik Blomstedt.

Curiously, Kubica’s last F1 podium finish also came at Spa in 2010, finishing third for Renault behind Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber.

Kubica will return to Spa on Sunday for the sprint race, where he will race in the Pro class.