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.”

Pascal Wehrlein to make F1 debut with Manor Racing

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 19:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Mercedes GP arrives in the paddock before final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 19, 2015 in Singapore.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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2015 DTM champion and Mercedes junior driver Pascal Wehrlein will make his Formula 1 debut in 2016 after securing a seat with Manor Racing.

Wehrlein, 21, has previously tested F1 cars with both Mercedes and Force India as well as enjoying success in DTM, Formula 3 and the German Formula Masters series.

After a long winter of speculation about his future, Manor has now confirmed that it will field Wehrlein in one of its seats for the 2016 season as part of its new technical partnership with Mercedes.

“Manor Racing is a great place for me to start my Formula 1 racing career. I’m very pleased to be here,” Wehrlein said.

“It’s a small and totally focused team and I soon hope to know everyone. Though it’s my first F1 season my aim is to help Stephen and the guys achieve their goals.

“It will be a tough challenge but I think we should be able to challenge for points along the way. It’s going to be good fun.

“A word for my racing family at Mercedes-Benz, and particularly for Toto, who have guided my career this far and made this opportunity possible. Thanks for the incredible support to help me achieve my dream; now it’s down to me to grab the moment and perform on track.”

Manor team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick was pleased to confirm the signing of Wehrlein, and believes that the German can make an instant impression in F1.

“Pascal is a sharp driver with a very promising future; Manor Racing is excited to have him aboard,” Fitzpatrick said.

“We’re a small team up for a big challenge this season, so we’ve chosen a driver with the talent and hunger to match our own on-track ambitions.

“Pascal has impressed in testing for Mercedes and Force India, together with commanding performances in DTM, culminating in the championship win last year. Manor Racing is perfectly placed to help Pascal make a big impact in his first season. We’re looking forward to it!”

Wehrlein’s confirmation leaves just one seat remains open on the 2016 F1 grid, with the identity of his Manor teammate still to be decided.

American driver Alexander Rossi, Britain’s Will Stevens and GP2 race winner Rio Haryanto are all known to be in the running for the seat.

Grace Autosport continuing to build program towards May

L to R: Grace Autosports Team Principal Beth Paretta and race driver Katherine Legge launch an all-female Indy 500 team to contest the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 (PRNewsFoto/Grace Autosport)
Photo: Grace Autosport
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One of the newest teams planning to field an entry at this year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Grace Autosport, continues its preparations in what could be a hectic month of February.

The primarily female initiative, led by Beth Paretta with Katherine Legge as nominated driver, has gained traction in the last month or so with further meetings, STEM events and Legge’s standout drive in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening race, the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

While announced last May, time is of the essence for securing both an engine lease and a team partner, to go along with the crew already established.

The target to confirm both the engine and team partner is coming up next month.

“[We’d need to finalize] by the beginning of March to give it proper time,” Paretta told NBC Sports in an interview following the Rolex 24.

Paretta was on site at Daytona for the Rolex 24 for a number of meetings with manufacturers and other key industry stakeholders, to continue to promote the Grace Autosport message, brand and team.

“Yes, there were a few key meetings – some planned, some impromptu – which went very well,” she said.

“The awareness still surprises me. I was wearing a Grace Autosport hat in the paddock and a few people asked me about the team. Many people in the racing community have said they think the concept is cool and have offered help.

“I get offers for help from some guys that have worked on teams I’ve worked with in the past, which is lovely.”

Legge’s drive at Daytona in the DeltaWing DWC13 coupe didn’t hurt matters, either.

The Tim Keene-led team opted not to qualify in the treacherous, rain-soaked conditions. Legge started the car and went from 13th and last in the Prototype class field up to third within the first 20 minutes, and led by the end of the first hour.

In a career that’s had occasional standout drives, this was one of them, and came at a good time.

“Her drive in the DeltaWing was just fantastic. While she was leading overall I was talking with some other racing drivers in pit lane and one said, almost dismissively, ‘Well, that car was really fast,’” Paretta said of Legge.

“Yes, it was, but she has been an integral part of the development of that car and part of the reason why it’s become faster. Any IMSA fan knows that the DeltaWing project has had a lot of challenges so I think to see it running up front was a nice surprise for many fans. People like an underdog so I think it was really exciting to watch her climb through the field and run up front.”

Legge was due to share the car with Andy Meyrick, Sean Rayhall and Andreas Wirth before Meyrick got caught up in a strange accident, where a radio issue meant Meyrick didn’t fully hear there was another PC car stopped on course in the middle of Turn 1.

Although Meyrick braked earlier than normal to avoid it, proved by the data, he still wound up hitting Chris Cumming’s stranded car which took the DeltaWing out of the race. Cumming’s PC car was also severely wounded.

The DeltaWing aside, where Legge and Grace really seek to make strides is in STEM events. Legge and Paretta recently did an event in Indianapolis with the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc., last week.

The STEM portion is a major component of the Grace Autosport effort.

“STEM and education for girls is the foundation of Grace Autosport. It isn’t a throwaway comment connecting racing with a ’cause.’ It is why we are racing,” Paretta said.

“Even though we have yet to turn a wheel, we are working with different groups supporting educational initiatives for girls and young women. We participated in the Society of Women Engineers’ annual conference, which was held in Nashville in October, and this week Katherine and I will be delivering the keynote address to a conference for science teachers in the State of Indiana.

“So STEM education isn’t a pet cause for us, it is the cause for what we are doing. We will be making a few more announcements in the coming months that we will explain how we will connect our message to the community and the classroom.”

Jake Eidson steps up to Pro Mazda with Cape in 2016

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Jake Eidson came up short of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda championship last year, losing out to Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Nico Jamin.

Now, at the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, they’ll be teammates.

Jamin was confirmed last week with Cape for his step up from USF2000 into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and this morning Eidson, the 20-year-old out of Littleton, Colorado, was confirmed as Cape’s second driver.

“I’m extremely grateful and excited to enter my first season of Pro Mazda and to rejoin Cape Motorsport with Wayne Taylor Racing,” Eidson offered.

“After finishing second in last year’s USF2000 championship, we weren’t sure if moving up to Pro Mazda was possible. When the season was over, we tested with the Capes and quickly knew that they have a winning team. Fortunately, we were able to make the 2016 season achievable.

“I know that my goal, as well as the team’s goal, is to aim for the top spot in the Pro Mazda championship and I have a lot of confidence in their ability to make it happen. This is a dream come true and I can’t wait to get started!”

It’s a natural progression for Eidson, who ran two full seasons in USF2000. His first came with Cape in 2014 where he finished third in points, before he moved to Pabst Racing and was one of only two drivers (Aaron Telitz) to pose a threat to Jamin as the year progressed.

Eidson is supported in his efforts by Rising Star Racing, DA Lubricants Company, Bell Helmets, OMP, Team USA Scholarship, and SafeisFast.

The top three USF2000 drivers all moving up to Pro Mazda is important for the second rung on the ladder; they’ll race arguably the championship favorite in Garett Grist plus his three young, hungry teammates at Juncos Racing, with other driver announcements to come in the coming days.

Red Bull GRC confirms Wild Horse Pass for season opener

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Phoenix was listed as the season opener for the 2016 Red Bull Global Rallycross season, but a location was not confirmed.

Today though, the series has confirmed where the Phoenix round will be held: at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway.

It’s in Chandler, Arizona, technically, but it should still be a good spot for the season-opening doubleheader round.

The full release is below:

For the first time in series history, Red Bull Global Rallycross will visit the state of Arizona during the 2016 season. Red Bull GRC Phoenix, the season opener and first of four doubleheaders on the schedule, will take place at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, one of the most diverse motorsports playgrounds in the United States.

“The southwest is a crucial market for Red Bull GRC, with many of our most passionate fans located in the region,” said Red Bull GRC CEO Colin Dyne. “The opportunity to bring our unique brand of racing to the Phoenix market for the first time was something we couldn’t pass up. Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is the perfect setting for us as we look to open our finest season yet.”

Located just off of I-10, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is located only 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix, with ample parking and amenities on-site. Fans will be treated to a challenging and fast mile-long track, featuring the series’ signature 70-foot jump, and will be able to see all the action from great spectator areas overlooking the entire facility.

This will be the first time that a Red Bull GRC season begins with a doubleheader. Performing well in the opener has been a constant step towards winning a title, as no Red Bull GRC champion has ever finished worse than fourth in the first race of the year. Defending Supercar champion Scott Speed and defending GRC Lites champion Oliver Eriksson finished second and third in class, respectively, in last year’s opener; both drivers are expected to begin their title defense in Phoenix.