56th Daytona 500

Daytona 500 update: Rain has stopped, track expected to be dry by 8:30 p.m. ET

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UPDATE: 7:15 p.m. ET: The rain has finally stopped at Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR has its AirTitan dryers on the track and the media has been informed that it is hoped the track will be dry and race-ready by about 8:30 p.m. ET. That does not mean the race will resume at that time, but it’s a good indicator that the green flag could fall shortly thereafter. More updates to follow as they become available.

UPDATE: 5:25 p.m. ET: The tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service for Volusia County, Fla., including Daytona Beach and Daytona International Speedway, has expired (at 5:15 p.m. ET). As recently as 4:45 p.m. ET, quarter-sized hail was falling in the Orlando area, about 50 miles southwest of DIS. But it is expected that particular storm cell will head south towards the area of Edgewater, Fla. As for DIS, it is still raining lightly, but AirTitan dryers are attempting to dry the track along with more conventional jet dryers. Neither NASCAR nor DIS officials have indicated when — or if — racing may resume tonight.

UPDATE: 4:26 p.m. ET: The National Weather Service has extended the tornado warning for Volusia County until 5:15 p.m. ET. Current conditions at Daytona International Speedway are light rain with heavy overcast.

UPDATE, 3:12 p.m. ET: The National Weather Service has reissued a tornado warning for Volusia County, which includes Daytona International Speedway, until 4 p.m. ET. Track and NASCAR officials have informed fans that a warning has been issued.

UPDATE, 3:05 p.m. ET: A tornado warning was issued for Volusia County, which includes Daytona International Speedway, but it has expired at 2:45 pm. Weather radar continues to show a long front of thunderstorms — including several heavy cells — that stretch all across the top of Florida and past the Panhandle.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Daytona 500 has been red-flagged by rain.

The Great American Race was stopped after 38 laps of the 200-mile race. A large band of thunderstorms is moving through the area.

The delay could take a while as the storm band on weather radar stretches back almost across the entire state of Florida.

If racing resumes but returns later, the race would have to get through 101 laps — just one lap past halfway — to be deemed official by NASCAR officials.

The red comes after the second caution of the race past Lap 31, caused when Martin Truex Jr.’s engine let go on his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet, and additional fluid was found down on the track.

In the opening 30 laps, five drivers exchanged the lead for five lead changes. Kyle Busch leads now; brother Kurt Busch has led the most laps thus far in his Stewart-Haas Racing debut.

Polesitter Austin Dillon led the opening lap before fading back, with Denny Hamlin, winner of the two other Speedweeks races thus far, then took over the point.

Kyle Larson hit the wall early, and spun later on, in what’s been a fraught Daytona 500 debut thus far.

After the first caution for Larson’s spin on Lap 23, the first round of pit stops featured drama for Matt Kenseth as he was spun into his pit stall. The two-time Daytona 500 champion was facing the wrong direction after what appeared to be contact from Trevor Bayne.

Meanwhile, Richard Petty’s driver, Marcos Ambrose, made very slight contact leaving his pit with of all people, Danica Patrick.

Kurt Busch took the lead off the pit sequence, and exchanged the lead with Hamlin and Paul Menard on the Lap 27 restart. Brother Kyle took over the point several laps later.

At the red, the top 10 order is Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Hamlin, Brian Vickers, Menard, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Dillon. Kurt Busch has dropped to 11th.

More updates to come.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Esteban Ocon secures Mercedes DTM seat for 2016

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Sunday 29 November 2015.
Esteban Ocon (FRA, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C8733
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2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.

Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.

The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.

“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.

“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.

“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.

“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”

Trident completes 2016 GP2 line-up with Armand

2015 GP2 Series Test 3.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 4 December 2015.
Philo Armand (INA, Status Grand Prix).
Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _L0U4261
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Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.

Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.

Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.

“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.

The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.

Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.

Marchionne calls for Alfa Romeo to consider F1 entry

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  The Alfa Romeo 4C on display at the Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood Alfa Romeo Ride and Drive luncheon at The Polsky Residence on February 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
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Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.

Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.

Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.

“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.

Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.

“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.

“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”

Grosjean unveils new helmet design for first F1 season with Haas

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Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.

Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.

Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.

In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.

Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.