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Marcos Ambrose hopes for big rebound for himself, Richard Petty Motorsports in 2014

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Marcos Ambrose doesn’t mince words: Last year was the most trying season yet in NASCAR.

“Certainly, 2013 was the most difficult year of my racing career,” Ambrose said in an interview with MotorSportsTalk. “The fact that I’ve always been on an upward trend in NASCAR, 2013 was the first year that I flattened off and even dropped back down.”

And if things don’t markedly improve for the Australian native this season, it could potentially be Ambrose’s last season in NASCAR.

“If I have another year like (2013), I’m going to have to really start scratching my head and have a good hard think about what I’m doing because this year is certainly the year we need to break out and do something special,” Ambrose said.

Ambrose, 37, finished 22nd last season, the second-worst showing in his Sprint Cup career (finished 26th in 2010).

After winning one race each in both 2011 and 2012, as well as a combined eight top-five finishes those two seasons, Ambrose struggled miserably in 2013, with no wins or top-five finishes, and just six top-10s.

His average finish of 19.9 in last season’s 36 races was nothing short of embarrassing, Ambrose admitted.

“It just didn’t work out for us,” he said. “I think there was a combination of factors, the new rules package that came out, we got behind early on and I just really struggled to get a feel driving for the car. I felt like I just never had the feeling I needed.”

Yet Ambrose has good reason to feel much more optimistic heading into the 2014 season. Significant investments into improving the overall standing of Richard Petty Motorsports will hopefully pay off in big dividends.

“Our race team is really reinvigorated,” Ambrose said. “We’ve added a lot of human resources to our program in 2014 and have created a (research and development) program. That’s the first time that has happened since I’ve been at Richard Petty Motorsports.

“We’re really excited about the potential of unlocking some more brain power in our race program and we’re thrilled to not only keep what we have since I joined Richard Petty Motorsports. I joined it at a fairly tumultuous time, it was a difficult time for Richard and everybody to rebrand the company, to revive the company and take it from the crumbs.

“I’ve seen it at its darkest days and I’m really looking forward to 2014 because I think it’s the year that (RPM) can break out and really show everybody the maturity that it’s taken since I’ve been there, which is four years now. At the end of the day, we’re all racing to win and put Richard Petty back in victory lane. We’ve been able to do it occasionally over the last couple years, but we want to do it on a more frequent basis if we can.”

Petty concurs with Ambrose’s optimism, a trait that has contagiously swept throughout RPM during the offseason, bringing the company to a point it hasn’t been in a long time.

“We’re probably in the best shape we’ve been in the last three or four years,” Petty said. “Everybody knows we hit the bottom of the deal three years ago. … We just tried to get some foundation (since then). I don’t know if our year (2013) was that much better than the year before, but we were a lot more stable.”

But at the same time, Petty’s admittedly concerned about Ambrose’s future, as well as the future of the No. 9 Ford Fusion. Once the picture of optimism and excitement, last year’s struggles had a decidedly negative impact upon Ambrose.

“I don’t know how much longer he wants to stay in the U.S.,” Petty said candidly. “You know, (Ambrose has) come a long way. He’s sort of a hero in Australia just because he’s running Cup. His big deal is if he could win on a round and around racetrack, that would be the optimum for him. If he did do that, he’d probably just go home and say, ‘Thank you guys,’ but I don’t know.”

That may be the case, but Ambrose is determined to show last season was an aberration. If he can turn things around and bounce back this season as he hopes, Ambrose will likely continue his Cup career for a few more years.

“Where the rules are going this year, it’s going to give us a better chance to make the Chase and really do something special,” Ambrose said. “The gloves are off and we’re looking forward to turning a fresh page.”

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Gutierrez strongly considering alternatives to Haas F1 for 2017

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 15:  Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico and Haas F1 walks in the Paddock  during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 15, 2016 in Singapore.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Esteban Gutierrez says that he is strongly considering aleer native options to Haas for 2017 as the American team continues to wait before making a decision on its Formula 1 line-up.

Gutierrez returned to F1 full-time in 2016 after one year away, joining NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas’ new racing operation.

Gutierrez has failed to score any points in the opening 18 races of the year, while teammate Romain Grosjean has 28 to his name.

Haas is known to be currently considering its line-up for 2017, with Grosjean poised to stay.

Gutierrez’s future is less clear, but said in Thursday’s FIA press conference ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix that he wanted it to be resolved in the next two weeks.

“I think Gene has been very clear in the media. They want to wait a few races,” Gutierrez said.

“Fortunately we have other options which we are now considering strongly.

“I think it would be important to close something soon because we cannot risk to just wait a few more races to the end of the season, and risk falling between two chairs.

“Things are looking good for next season.”

When asked if he had a personal deadline for firming up his 2017 plans, Gutierrez said: “The deadline should be in the next two weeks.”

Should Gutierrez leave Haas, drives at Force India and Renault are likely to be on the Mexican’s radar, with both teams having one free seat.

Tony and Lauren Kanaan welcome new baby Max into the world

SONOMA, CA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Tony Kanaan of Brazil drives the #10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Dallara during practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway on September 17, 2016 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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Tony Kanaan and wife Lauren have welcomed a new baby into the world, with “TK” announcing the birth of son Max on Thursday.

Max joins other sons Deco and Leo in the Kanaan family. Kanaan reported both mom and baby are doing well.

This is the latest new arrival to the Verizon IndyCar Series, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and wife Beccy welcoming their third son Rhodes (after Ryden and Roczen) in September, and with Will Power and wife Liz expecting their first child in December.

Kanaan has re-signed with Chip Ganassi Racing and will drive the team’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda once more in 2017.

Strakka Racing cuts short WEC season due to engine issues

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17:  The Strakka Racing Gibson Nissan of Nick Leventis, Danny Watts and Jonny Kane drives during the FIA World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Silverstone race at the Silverstone Circuit on April 17, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
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Strakka Racing will take no further part in the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season due to engine issues.

Strakka has raced in the LMP2 class throughout 2016 with a Nissan-powered Gibson car, recording a best finish of fourth at Le Mans, the Nürburgring and in Mexico.

However, ongoing engine issues, – the most recent occurring in Fuji two weeks ago – difficulties getting a new engine into China for the upcoming 6 Hours of Shanghai and the severity of a possible penalty in Bahrain have prompted the British team to end its season early.

“The engine problem experienced in Japan, related to crankshaft pressure build up, is the fourth the team has encountered since the Bahrain rookie test last November and left the team with no spare units for the final round,” a statement from Strakka reads.

“With customs regulations making it near impossible to ship another engine to China and, having already exhausted its allocation of engines for 2016 with a pre-season issue and a further retirement at Spa, the team would have to take a three-minute stop and go penalty in Bahrain, effectively preventing any chance to be competitive.”

“It’s very sad that we have not been able to complete the championship due to issues beyond our control,” team principal Dan Walmsley added.

“I’d like to thank the WEC organizers, the logistics team and the engineers at Gibson for their efforts to try to get us back out on track but it just wasn’t feasible to get an engine to China and taking the penalty in Bahrain would have seen us nowhere near the rest of the P2 runners.

“We did consider all options, including trying to borrow a unit from another team but the specific fitting kit for the Gibson and the fact we’d still have to take a penalty meant we had to take the tough decision not to race.

“We’d like to apologize to our sponsors, fans and supporters not to be out racing but we will soon be announcing, before the end of November, our plans for 2017.”

F1 2017 pre-season test dates confirmed

MONTMELO, SPAIN - MAY 18:  (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using a variable planed lens) Sparks fly as Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing overtakes Jordan King of Great Britain and Manor Racing during day two of formula one testing at Circuit de Catalunya on May 18, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has officially confirmed the dates for Formula 1’s pre-season tests in 2017.

Pre-season testing has traditionally been held in Barcelona, but a number of teams were pushing to move it to Bahrain ahead of the 2017 season.

However, after teams failed to achieve unanimity, the decision was taken to keep testing in Barcelona ahead of the 2017 season.

While the dates for pre-season testing were widely reported and known, the track has now officially confirmed when it will host running.

The first four-day test will begin on February 27 and run to March 2, before a four-day break.

The second four-day test will begin on March 7 and finish on March 10.

Testing in Barcelona will provide a first glimpse of the revised F1 cars on-track together in 2017, with the technical regulations being overhauled for the new season.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will also play host to the Spanish Grand Prix from May 12-14 2017.


1. Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – February 27 – March 2
2. Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – March 7-10

In-season (TBC)
1. Bahrain International Circuit – April 18-19
2. Silverstone – July 11-12