John Force

John Force top honoree of auto racing media group’s 2013 All-America teams

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Legendary NHRA 16-time Top Fuel champion John Force earned his fifth Jerry Titus Memorial Award to highlight the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association’s 2013 All-America Team, announced earlier this week.

The Titus award recognizes the top vote-getter in the overall balloting. Force has won the honor more times than any other driver; no other driver has won it more than three times.

“It is always an honor to be recognized as an All-America First Team driver,” Force said. “This award is very special because the media is so important to growing our sport.

“You want to win every race and that is always my focus. Winning the championship last year was a great team accomplishment and we need to keep winning so we can keep chasing corporate America.

“I want to keep racing with my kids for as long as possible. My health good and I have the fire to keep chasing after these young kids.”

The All-America Team honored some of the best and most successful drivers across several motorsports series including open-wheel, drag racing and NASCAR for their achievements during the past racing season.

It marks the 43rd year that AARWBA has presented of the All-America Team, voted upon by media members who cover motorsports on a regular basis on both the local and national levels. Founded in 1955, AARWBA is composed of writers, broadcasters, photographers and other media professionals.

Honors were divided into first and second teams.

AARWBA’s All-America First team featured:

* Stock Car division winners: Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. Johnson won for earning his sixth Sprint Cup championship and sixth in the last eight years driving. Kenseth was chosen for his seven wins in his first full season for Joe Gibbs Racing after more than a decade at Roush-Fenway Racing.

* Drag Racing division winners: John Force and Shawn Langdon. Force with his record 16th NHRA Funny Car championship in 2013, while Langdon won the Top Fuel class for the first time in his career.

* Open-wheel division winners: Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves. Dixon won the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series Championship for the third time in his career, driving for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team. Castroneves, meanwhile, finished second in the series racing for Team Penske.

* Road Racing Team division winners: Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor earned the most votes based on winning the Grand-Am title. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won for finishing runner-up on the Grand Am circuit and in the Road Racing division votes.

* Short Track division winners: Bryan Clauson and Bobby East. Clauson captured the 2013 Sprint Car championship, while East won the Silver Crown title.

* Touring Series winners: Danny Schatz and Frank Kimmel. Schatz recorded 23 World of Outlaws Sprint Car A-Main wins in 2013, while Kimmel claimed his 10th career ARCA championship.

* At-Large winners: Sage Karam and Johnny O’Connell. Karam claimed the 2013 Indy Lights championship, while O’Connell won the Pirelli World Challenge GT title.

* Rising Star winner: Carlos Munoz. Driving for Andretti Autosport, Munoz finished third in the Indy Lights championship, winning a series-high four races, as well as pulled off an outstanding runner-up finish in the Indianapolis 500.

AARWBA also continued its tradition of naming a Second Team. Winners were:

Open Wheel: Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power.

Road Racing: Klaus Graf/Lucas Luhr and Doug Peterson.

Short Track: Daryn Pittman and Christopher Bell.

Stock Car: Kevin Harvick and Sam Hornish, Jr.

Drag Racing: Antron Brown and Jeg Coughlin, Jr.

Touring Series: Matt Crafton and Alessandro Balzan.

At Large: Drag racers Frank Manzo and Jim Whitely.

Kevin Hart, Ludacris, Marco Andretti head to Abu Dhabi for F1 finale

Marco Andretti
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Marco Andretti has had a good run of attending season finale events.

Obviously, the 28-year-old grandson of Mario Andretti rounded out his 10th season in the Verizon IndyCar Series at its own season finale at Sonoma, finishing 11th and then ending the year ninth in points.

But Andretti told NASCAR Talk’s Nate Ryan, among other reporters, at Phoenix International Raceway where he’d tested his IndyCar and then made the promotional rounds that he’d have a busy next couple weeks ahead.

“I’m watching too many races. I need to be in them!” Andretti said. “(Homestead), I’m going as Jeff Gordon’s guest. Then going to Abu Dhabi Formula 1. (Our season) needs to be longer.”

Last week, he and fellow IndyCar stars Josef Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe made the trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway – incidentally, as did Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton – to witness Jeff Gordon’s final drive before hanging up his helmet after 23 incredible years at NASCAR’s top level.

This week, it was Marco’s turn to hit Hamilton’s usual turf, as he and his friends Ludacris and Kevin Hart made the trip to Abu Dhabi to witness the F1 finale.

Marco, who had a Honda Racing F1 test in the late 2000s but never was able to make the move to emulate both Mario and Michael, each of whom raced in F1, appeared wowed by the Yas Marina Circuit once he arrived from Chicago.

Abu Dhabi F1 quals!! @kevinhart4real @ludacris

A photo posted by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

Yas is hands down the most insane facility ! #AbuDhabi. Wish I was driving !!

A photo posted by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

Andretti, Luda, Hart and crew met up with Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo at the weekend.

Andretti is continuing the trip into this week, with further posts via his Instagram page.

Hart – one of this country’s most talented and recognizable comedians at the moment – also appeared to enjoy the atmosphere.

As did Ludacris, who posted this view from a yacht.

The only way to watch the F1 Race in Abu Dhabi. #yachtlife

A photo posted by @ludacris on

The vacation crew found Hamilton after the race on Sunday night.

Hamilton’s friend, another artist in Big Sean, who’d performed the halftime show at the Philadelphia Eagles-Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, also made the flight out to Abu Dhabi.

Complete with other more obscure, random celebrities like Rick Astley – who apparently “Rick-rolled” free practice two coverage on the world feed – Edgar Davids and Dwight Yorke, it was a weekend of interesting folks hitting Abu Dhabi. My MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith noted those three, below, in various tweets over the weekend.

Out of Thanksgiving, IndyCar’s open spots are exactly in same place as this time last year

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Now that it’s a new work week and the tryptophan has hopefully worked itself through your system, you’ve had and enjoyed your family time, it’s time for the final few full work weeks of the 2015 calendar before the next round of holidays – Christmas time.

Those who already have confirmed seats for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season are certainly thankful for what they have.

Meanwhile if we flash back some 12 months to look at the then-available amount of talent waiting in the wings, here’s what stood as the unconfirmed seats:

  • Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth car (along with a formal confirmation of the full lineup)
  • Andretti Autosport, fourth car (plus a possible fifth)
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, second car
  • KVSH Racing/KV Racing Technology, second car
  • CFH Racing, No. 20 road and street course driver alongside Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • Dale Coyne Racing, both cars
  • Bryan Herta Autosport, first car

Flash forward 12 months later, and the situation is exactly identical. Those exact same seats have yet to be confirmed for 2016.

The only differences from above is that the first three drivers at Chip Ganassi Racing – four-time and defending champion Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball – already have been formally confirmed for 2016, and Sage Karam has not.

Karam’s manager told a little over a week ago that his contract was not retained for 2016; that said, it’s “only” November and conceivably he could return if enough budget is found.

Sebastien Bourdais is still anticipated to return with KVSH Racing for a third season; A.J. Foyt Enterprises also hasn’t formally confirmed, but is expected to keep its same lineup of Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth.

Gabby Chaves is expected to return for a second season with BHA, while of the other seats listed above, the second SPM seat is the most intriguing option.

Proof then that the more things change in IndyCar, the more they stay the same. And when there’s very little news on the driver market… there’s very little news on the driver market.

Race Recap: Rosberg’s hot streak continues in Abu Dhabi

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The 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may have lacked the drama of the title deciders we have been treated to at the Yas Marina Circuit over the years, but it was nevertheless an important race in setting the scene for the new season.

Nico Rosberg capped off a largely disappointing campaign with a sixth win of the year, completing his first career hat-trick following victories in Mexico and Brazil.

Teammate Lewis Hamilton was left to settle for P2 once again, and although he may have clinched his third world title in emphatic style earlier this year, the Briton will undoubtedly be wary of a renewed charge from Rosberg in 2016 following his impressive run of form.

In the final race recap video of the season, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett review the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the F1 year as a whole ahead of the long winter break.

Lowdon, Booth bid farewell to Manor in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 28:  Manor Marussia Team Principal John Booth and Manor Marussia President and Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon arrive in the paddock before final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 28, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Sporting director Graeme Lowdon and team principal John Booth both bid emotional farewells to Manor Marussia Formula 1 Team in Abu Dhabi on Sunday after resigning from their roles last month.

Lowdon and Booth were instrumental in the formation of Virgin Racing in 2010, which ultimately evolved to become Marussia F1 Team.

When Marussia collapsed financially in 2014, Lowdon and Booth managed to keep the team going and revive it as Manor for the new season, securing its place on the grid.

However, following disagreements with team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick over the future of the team, both Lowdon and Booth tendered their resignations, with today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marking the final race in their roles.

“This is of course my final race with the Manor Marussia F1 Team,” Booth said.

“At a time like this, there is so much to say but I think the single biggest sentiment I will take away is incredible pride at just how much we punched above our weight for such a small team.

“It was a greater challenge than we ever anticipated, but six years on we are still here fighting.

“I wish the team every success in the future and I will be following their progress with a great deal of satisfaction at what we created together.”

Lowdon took to Twitter to thank the Manor team, but left the door on F1 open by only saying goodbye ‘for now’.

Manor’s final race of the year ended with another double finish as Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi finished 18th and 19th respectively. After the race, both drivers paid tribute to their outgoing bosses.

“I would like to thank everyone in the team for their support, but in particular John and Graeme, who we say goodbye to here today,” Stevens said.

Merhi added: “I would like to thank the whole team, not only for this opportunity but for the hard work throughout the season. We’ve had some difficult times, but I am very proud of us.

“My thanks also to John and Graeme and I wish them well for the future. I am sure we have not seen the last of them!”