Pace car catches fire as Denny Hamlin starts final Sprint Unlimited segment in lead

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It’ll be a 20-lap shootout, starting with a mandatory pit stop, to see who wins tonight’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.

Denny Hamlin won the second segment, a 25-lap excursion that saw nearly half the field eliminated in a nine-car wreck that was triggered when Matt Kenseth came down on Joey Logano, leading to mayhem.

Hamlin was first off pit road to restart the final segment in the lead. Only one of the nine remaining drivers – which started with an 18-driver field – took four tires for the last segment, that being Ryan Newman, starting his tenure with Richard Childress Racing.

All other drivers took two tires and added fuel.

Hamlin led 24 of the first 55 laps across the first two segments.

And as if to add insult to injury, the pace car caught fire on the pace laps to prepare to start the final segment. The pace car was quickly brought to a halt and track fire and safety personnel converged upon it to put out the small blaze — certainly nothing like the inferno that took place in the 2012 Daytona 500 when Juan Pablo Montoya slammed into the rear of a track jet dryer.

Blame the full moon – that’s as logical an explanation as anything of such a strange night.

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Formula One: Recapping the past week’s news

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While the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is still two months away from beginning its 2018 season, this past week did bring about news items that filled out the 2018 grid and shed some light on individual team and car launches as the season-opening Australian Grand Prix draws closer.

Below is a recap of F1 news from this past week:

Williams Signs Sirotkin for 2018 Drive, Names Kubica as Reserve Driver

The saga of the second seat at Williams Martini Racing was finally resolved early on in the week, with former Renault Sport F1 Team test driver Sergey Sirotkin officially confirmed as a teammate to the incumbent Lance Stroll in 2018.

The announcement concluded months of speculation that saw multiple drivers test for the team in an auditioning capacity. Most notably, Robert Kubica looked to be a main contender for the seat before Sirotkin emerged as the favorite.

However, Kubica, who has not raced in Formula 1 since a devastating rally accident in 2011 left him with brutal injuries to his right arm, was named as a reserve and development driver for the team.

This announcement also completes the 2018 Formula 1 driver lineup, with all 11 teams having their seats now filled. Among those who were left without F1 drives are Paul Di Resta, who drove for Williams at the Hungarian Grand Prix in relief of Felipe Massa and even tested with them during the Winter months, and Antonio Giovinazzi, who filled in for Pascal Wehrlein at the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix.

Former Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also without a race seat for 2018, but did sign on with Scuderia Ferrari as a development driver.

Mercedes, McLaren Reveal Dates for Their 2018 Car Launches

While most teams have not yet released dates for when their 2018 cars will be publicly launched, three notables have.

Mercedes AMG Petronas will introduce its 2018 challenger on February 22nd, the same day Ferrari is doing so, while McLaren will unveil its car one day later on the 23rd.

Testing will commence on February 26th at Circuit de Catalunya.

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