The Alabama Gang rides again: Justin Allison to race at Daytona

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NASCAR’s infamous Alabama Gang will ride again – and at Daytona, to boot.

Justin Allison, grandson of former NASCAR star Donnie Allison and grand-nephew of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, will become the third generation of Allisons to take to Daytona International Speedway’s high banks this Saturday.

He’ll compete in the 51st ARCA race at DIS, the Lucas Oil 200 presented MAVTV American Real, prior to NASCAR’s running of the Sprint Unlimited.

A cousin to the late Davey and Clifford Allison (Bobby’s sons), this will be the second career ARCA race for Justin, who started and finished 11th in his series debut last fall at Kansas Speedway.

Admittedly, having such a famous surname adds pressure, just as if his last name was Petty, Earnhardt or Jarrett. The 21-year-old Salisbury, N.C., resident is ready for the pressure, he said in a story at ARCARacing.com.

“There’s always pressure there regardless of your last name,” Justin said, adding, “I really don’t let it bother me. I just do my thing and try to block out the unwanted pressure.”

Justin has some big family shoes to fill. Davey Allison was the 1984 ARCA Rookie of the Year, won eight of 40 career ARCA Racing Series starts from 1980 through 1986, finished second in the 1984 standings and third in 1985.

Davey’s younger brother Clifford made 12 ARCA career starts from1988 through 1992, with a best of runner-up finishes at both the formidable Michigan Int’l Speedway and Pocono Raceway in 1992.

Davey and father Bobby Allison both won the Daytona 500 in their careers.

And now, even though he’s a rookie, Justin feels it’s his turn to carry on the Allison family tradition and win at Daytona.

“Our goal is to win it,” he said. “Obviously, we have to run the whole race to accomplish that, and I know I’ve got a lot to learn out there.

“I’m really looking forward to the experience, but if we’re there at the end, our goal should be nothing short of winning it. That’s why we do this.”

Saturday’s race will be the first of at least 10 ARCA events Allison plans to compete in for Team BCR. He’ll be behind the wheel of the No. 88 Havaco-Multi Services Ford, powered by a Roush Yates motor.

The younger Allison has received extensive coaching and advice from grandfather Donnie, who won 10 Sprint Cup races in his career, including the 1970 Firecracker 400 and the 1970 World 600, and had career-best finishes of third and fourth in the Daytona 500.

“He’s (Donnie Allison) always giving me advice,” Justin said. “He pretty much told me that you really have to pay attention at (Daytona) more so than the rest. He’s given me a lot of great advice. With all the experience he has in stock cars, there isn’t a paper big enough for all the advice he’s got.”

Justin learned the nuances of Daytona during ARCA’s open test there in December.

What was the biggest thing he took away from that test?

“Just pretty much hold it to the floor and turn left.”

Spoken like a true racer – and a true Allison, as well.

Norris made to wait for F3 title after final lap crash in Austria

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Rising British racer Lando Norris has been made to wait to secure the FIA European Formula 3 title after a crash on the final lap of Sunday’s race at the Red Bull Ring ensured the championship battle will go to the final round of the season.

Norris, 17, became part of Formula 1 team McLaren’s junior program earlier this year, and enjoyed his maiden test in a grand prix racer in Hungary over the summer, putting in an impressive display.

Norris has been racing in the highly-competitive FIA F3 series in Europe this year, a championship that has proved crucial in the careers for drivers such as Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi.

After finishing second earlier on Sunday, Norris needed to simply finish ahead of chief title rival Maximilian Günther in the final race of the weekend to clinch the championship with three races to spare.

Norris started second and retained his position throughout the race, only to come under pressure from Ralf Aron in the closing stages, the two drivers making contact on the last lap.

Norris was sent off the track and into the gravel, forcing him to retire from the race, and with Günther finishing fifth, the points gap was reduced to 72 with three races remaining at Hockenheim in three weeks’ time.

While a title win is still likely for Norris given just 75 are on offer, to have come so close to sealing it early will nevertheless come as a blow to the talented youngster.

Norris is set to be placed in Formula 2 by McLaren in 2018, but is poised to be a name that is spoken about for many years to come in F1.

Marquez fights to Aragon MotoGP win, opens up points lead

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Marc Marquez fought through to his fifth win of the 2017 MotoGP season in Sunday’s Aragon Grand Prix, extending his lead in the riders’ championship to 16 points over Andrea Dovizioso.

A fall in qualifying meant Marquez started only fifth at Motorland Aragon, and failed to make any inroads at the start of the race, running only fourth in the early stages as Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo hit the front.

Marquez was able to slowly rise up the order, passing title rival Dovizioso, Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and finally Lorenzo, taking the lead of the race on Lap 16.

Marquez ultimately crossed the line less than one second clear of teammate Dani Pedrosa, who continued his good record at Motorland Aragon to complete a one-two finish for Repsol Honda.

Lorenzo held on to take his second podium in Ducati colors in third, finishing ahead of Yamaha pole-sitter Maverick Viñales, who dropped to fifth on the opening lap and never recovered.

Rossi’s remarkable return to racing a little over three weeks since suffering a double leg break ended with a run to fifth at the checkered flag, having spent the early part of the race battling at the front before dropping back.

Aleix Espargaro finished sixth ahead of Dovizioso, who slipped to 16 points behind Marquez in the title race by only finishing seventh for Ducati.

Alvaro Bautista crossed the line eighth ahead of Tech3’s Johann Zarco, while Pol Espargaro completed the top 10.

MotoGP returns in three weeks’ time with the Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi.

Palmer calls breakthrough F1 points ‘a weight off the shoulders’

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Jolyon Palmer has conceded that his march to his first points of the 2017 Formula 1 season last time out in Singapore was “a weight off the shoulders” as he looks to gain momentum for the remaining six races of the season.

Palmer recorded his best finish in F1 under the lights at Marina Bay, crossing the line sixth in the first wet night race in the history of the sport.

The result came at the end of a tough weekend for Palmer that saw Renault confirm it would be dropping the Briton from its F1 line-up for 2018, drafting in Carlos Sainz Jr. from Toro Rosso.

Even without an F1 seat to save, Palmer hopes the result can mark the start of a strong run to finish his time with Renault through the final six races.

“Finally we had a smooth race, which is ironic given what was going on with the safety cars and the tricky weather conditions,” Palmer said.

“We made a good start, and the move on [Valtteri] Bottas was fun; a lot happened in the two hours. It feels
like a weight off the shoulders to get some points.

“I hope to push on now and get some more. I know I can do it.”

Should Palmer wish to remain in F1, his only realistic options lie with Williams and Sauber for 2018, although both teams are understood to be looking elsewhere.

A report from Autosport claims Williams has narrowed its shortlist to partner Lance Stroll next year down to existing driver Felipe Massa, reserve driver Paul di Resta and recent Renault tester Robert Kubica.

Ferrari youngster and runaway Formula 2 points leader Charles Leclerc looks nailed on to take one of Sauber’s seats next year, replacing Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein.

Marcus Ericsson is expected to keep his seat with Sauber for a fourth season, with Leclerc’s fellow Ferrari-backed youngster Antonio Giovinazzi seemingly the only alternative for the Swiss team.

Renault F1 expecting to be ‘best of the rest’ in Malaysian GP

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Renault Formula 1 bosses Cyril Abiteboul and Nick Chester are confident of being the ‘best of the rest’ behind the front-running teams and leading F1’s midfield in Malaysia next weekend.

Renault enjoyed one of its strongest weekends of the season so far last time out in Singapore, with Nico Hulkenberg qualifying fifth and Jolyon Palmer picking up eight points for P6 in the race.

The result saw Renault move up to seventh in the constructors’ championship, and Abiteboul wants to keep the momentum going as part of its bid for a top-five finish come the end of the season.

“A positive we can take from Singapore is that we have moved up a position in the constructors’ championship which means a step closer to our end of season goal of fifth place overall,” Abiteboul said.

“Reliability remains our main focus, maximum effort and flawless execution is required by all in the remaining six races to achieve that target.

“Sepang will be about negotiating the unpredictable climate and getting the best out of the whole package in the heat and humidity. As we continue to develop the chassis side, we will introduce a new engine on Nico’s car at the start of the weekend, his fourth, engine of the season.

“We fully expect to have both cars in the top 10 as we have shown our capability on a number of occasions to be the best team behind the top three.”

Technical chief Chester echoed Abiteboul’s thoughts, believing the strengths of the R.S.17 car will put the team in good stead at Sepang.

“We ought to go quite well in Malaysia with the mixture of low, medium and high-speed corners – we should be the fourth quickest car again. The car has good pace and it looked strong in the wet in Singapore,” Chester said.

“The wet running we had in Singapore is useful information for us, given Malaysia is known to throw up a few surprises with its changeable climate.

“Overall the car is working reasonably well at this stage in the season.”