American football season is officially over with the Seattle Seahawks’ smackdown of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII last night.
Which means that next up in the sporting calendar is the start of two racing seasons, NASCAR’s and the NHRA’s.
Daytona Speedweeks and the Circle K Pomona Winternationals are February’s racing highlights, although testing for other series is still ongoing this month.
Here’s what’s on tap for the racing month of February (see January’s “on tap” here):
Daytona Speedweeks: From Feb. 14 through Feb. 23, 10 days of practice, qualifying and racing culminating with the Daytona 500 on the 23rd. NASCAR’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, the ARCA opener and the preseason Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel Sprint Cup events will take place. For the Daytona 500, there will be several new team/driver combination debuts, and also the much-heralded return of the No. 3 to a Sprint Cup race with rookie Austin Dillon.
NHRA’s West Coast doubleheader: The traditional first two weekends of the drag racing season commence at Pomona (Feb. 6-9) and Phoenix (Feb. 21-23). At the season opener, Courtney Force seeks to defend her Funny Car race win and father John begins another season long title defense. It’s a big year for JFR as a whole; the team enters its last year with Fords and Castrol, two flagship brands associated with the Force family for nearly 30 years.
F1’s Bahrain testing double: There wasn’t a ton of running for the contingent of Formula One teams at their first test in Jerez last week; teams spent time sorting out some initial mechanical issues with their new chassis and new powerplants. Heavier running should occur at both February tests in Bahrain; the first is from Feb. 19-22, with the second Feb. 27-March 2. Lotus, which missed the Jerez test, is the only team yet to run its new chassis.
More IndyCar testing:A mix of Florida and California tests for the IndyCar Series are on tap. Additionally, the series will hold its preseason Media Day in Orlando on Feb. 18. The series still has a handful of full-season seats to fill as we enter the final two months before its season opener in St. Petersburg at the end of March – there was little movement on the driver front in January.
Winter Series: There’s two “winter series” of note. The new four-race Florida Winter Series runs from Feb. 3-5 at Palm Beach, Feb. 12-14 and Feb. 17-19 at Homestead. Meanwhile the Cooper Tires Winterfest Championship takes place for all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. Doubleheader Pro Mazda races and tripleheader USF2000 races will occur Feb. 21-22 at NOLA Motorsports Park and Feb. 25-26 at Barber Motorsports Park, respectively; Indy Lights will have testing all four days as well.
Elsewhere: The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship tests at Sebring Feb. 20-21, in what will be another test of Balance of Performance for DP and P2 cars … FIA World Rally Championship has its second event of the season this weekend, Rally Sweden in the snow Feb. 5-8 … one endurance race of note is on tap, with the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour race for production and GT cars Feb. 7-9 … we figure there will be more Pirelli World Challenge team and driver announcements across its field.
Recent Formula 1 driver Jenson Button believes the sport should “move on” from Sebastian Vettel’s clash with Lewis Hamilton in Baku and hand the Ferrari driver no further punishment for his sideway swipe.
Taking to Twitter on Thursday, Button – who spent 17 seasons racing full-time in F1 and most recently made a one-off return in Monaco with McLaren – offered his view of the situation, saying that the sport’s bosses should move on and not give Vettel any further punishment.
Agree with you mate, if a driver at racing speed forces another driver off track he would get less punishment than a 10sec drive through https://t.co/SwZW1CAp9l
When professional athletes decide to experience sports outside of the one where they make their living, it never ceases to entertain. Case and point: Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley.
The 24-year-old Hundley spent the weekend at Road America, taking in the Kohler Grand Prix. His time at the facility began on Thursday, where he first paid a visit to Team Penske driver Will Power, who gave him a quick tutorial.
The next part of Hundley’s day saw him take a two-seater ride with none other than Mario Andretti. And, unsurprisingly, it left a big impression.
“The first lap, I’m screaming, and it’s the warm-up lap! And then the second lap: I’m just bright-eyed, going through corners. I give so much respect, that’s an awesome sport, man!” Hundley said in a media debrief afterward.
However, the day was not finished. Later on, Hundley showed off his arm strength and throwing accuracy by attempting to throw a football through the passenger side window of a moving Chevrolet Corvette. And while it took a few attempts, he eventually hit his mark.
CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.
Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.
Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.
Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.
Welcome back Roberto Merhi stepping into car 24 alongside Jonathan Hirschi and Tor Graves for one race at 6 Hours of Nurburgring. #WECpic.twitter.com/GSUvoeXUDK
The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.
Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.
The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.
Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.
On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.
“Following the recent incident at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in which Car 5 (Sebastian Vettel) was involved in a collision with Car 44 (Lewis Hamilton), on Monday 3rd July, the FIA will further examine the causes on the incident in order to evaluate whether further action is necessary,” a short statement from the FIA read.
“A statement regarding the outcome of this process will be made available before the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix (7-9 July).”