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.”

F1 Preview: 2017 United States Grand Prix

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The Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas may only have hosted the United States Grand Prix since 2012, yet it has quickly made itself a big part of Formula 1’s recent championship stories.

Results at COTA have played a crucial part in all but one of the F1 championship races – the exception being 2013 when the drivers’ title had long been settled – with the track also being the site of Lewis Hamilton’s third title win two years ago.

Hamilton arrives in the Lone Star State on the verge of taking a fourth world title, and could reclaim the crown this Sunday should results fall his way.

For a driver with such an affinity for the United States as Hamilton, clinching the title in Austin would be very significant.

This race is also a significant one for F1’s owner, Liberty Media, as its first on home soil since completing its $8 billion takeover of the sport back in January.

The United States has long been a target growth market for F1 after a patchy history. Significant progress has been made in the last five years, but seeing how Liberty plays the US GP will be of interest to those with an eye on F1’s future.

Here are the key talking points ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

2017 United States Grand Prix – Talking Points

Will COTA be king-maker again for Hamilton?

There is a similar sense of inevitability heading to COTA this weekend as in 2015. It is not a case of if Lewis Hamilton will win the drivers’ championship, but when.

Ferrari’s remarkable capitulation in the last six weeks has seen Sebastian Vettel go from championship leader to heavy outsider, trailing Hamilton by 59 points with just 100 left to play for this season.

A 16-point swing will see Hamilton clinch a fourth title at COTA – full permutations here – meaning that next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix is perhaps the more likely site for his coronation.

That said, on Ferrari’s recent form, losing another 16 points would hardly come as a surprise.

Silver linings for Ferrari despite recent losses

The failures that have seen Ferrari throw away a shot at both championships in 2017 will surely lead to heads rolling come the end of the season, having been the Italian marque’s best chance of silverware since 2008.

For now though, the team must do all it can to put the brakes on its collapse and bounce back at COTA, with its race pace form in Malaysia suggesting it may not be as far off Mercedes as once feared this weekend.

Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen have both said there is no track for Ferrari to fear in the closing races this season, meaning that while the titles may already be out of reach, a fighting end to the season would at least save some face.

Alas, with Mercedes very likely to wrap up the constructors’ championship this weekend, for Ferrari to have gone from pre-season favorite with the fastest car to losing the title with three races to spare is a serious failure that will take some recovering from.

Red Bull’s flying finish to continue in Austin?

Red Bull’s late-season form is traditionally pretty good, but the team has been particularly strong in recent races as it looks to build momentum before a renewed title bid in 2014.

Max Verstappen’s dominant victory in Malaysia proved the team can win races on merit and take the fight to both Mercedes and Ferrari, while Daniel Ricciardo has also been on the podium in the last two races.

For a team that was marooned in P3 for much of the season, the updates for the RB13 car have put Red Bull into the thick of the fight at the front – sadly, there is not title race for it to influence.

Nevertheless, Verstappen and Ricciardo will be pushing hard to keep the team’s good late-season form going at COTA. Four years after the team’s last win in the USA, can Red Bull hit the top step again?

Hartley gears up for shock F1 debut

2017 has been full of odd storylines in F1, but Brendon Hartley’s shock debut with Toro Rosso this weekend has to be right up there.

Seven years after being dropped from Red Bull’s junior program, Hartley will line up in the colors of the energy drink giant’s B-team in F1 after Pierre Gasly was forced to stick to his clashing Super Formula commitments in Japan.

Toro Rosso will race with a totally different line-up to two weeks ago at Suzuka, with previously-benched Daniil Kvyat also returning in place of Carlos Sainz Jr., who moves up to Renault.

Heroics cannot be expected of Hartley, who has raced with great success in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Porsche since 2014, but it will be fascinating to see how he gets on back in single-seaters.

The Land of Liberty

Liberty Media’s takeover of F1 back in January was a significant moment for the sport’s future, with a great focus being placed on the United States given the company’s American roots and the importance of the market.

F1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey has made his ambition to make each race a Superbowl-esque event clear for some time, with plans to improve the spectacle around races still in the works.

The US GP has traditionally done very well with its off-track spectacles, with last year’s Taylor Swift concert playing a huge role in breathing new life into the race after a washout in 2015. This year, Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder will both be performing at COTA’s amphitheater.

Another big name confirmed to be attending is Usain Bolt, who will act as the official starter for the race, while iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer will be on-hand for the pre-race driver introductions, a new step for F1.

This weekend will also see the F1 paddock turn pink in aid of Breast Cancer Awareness month and Susan G. Komen, with more information available by clicking here.

2017 United States Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Circuit of The Americas
Corners: 20
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:39.347 (2012)
Tire Compounds: Ultra-Soft/Super-Soft/Soft
2016 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:34.999
2016 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:39.877
DRS Zones: T2o to T1, T11 to T12

2017 United States Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times