(Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

NASCAR legend Bill Elliott serves as fill-in spotter for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Phoenix

Leave a comment

It doesn’t get much better than this.

When Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. needed a fill-in spotter for Friday’s practice and qualifying, as well as Saturday’s practice at Phoenix International Raceway, he couldn’t have picked a better candidate with impeccable credentials.

With Bill Elliott also at PIR to help and serve as spotter for son Chase in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, Earnhardt asked Awesome Bill from Dawsonville if he’d be his spotter, as well.

Let’s see, a former Sprint Cup champion, a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee and the only driver who has more Most Popular Driver trophies (16) than Earnhardt (11) – yep, it was a no-brainer for Earnhardt.

And it was a no-brainer for Elliott, who promptly accepted the invitation.

Earnhardt’s usual spotter, TJ Majors, was unable to make the trip due to an intestinal infection, so Earnhardt didn’t have to look far for a replacement, especially since Chase Elliott drives for the Earnhardt-owned JR Motorsports’ Nationwide Series team.

Talking to the NASCAR Wire Service before Friday’s first practice, Earnhardt was excited to have Elliott atop the spotter’s stand at PIR.

“It’s going to be a difficult situation not having (Majors), but we’ve got Bill Elliott, of all people, (who) is going to fill in during practice,” Earnhardt said. “That’s going to be pretty awesome.

“A lot of Most Popular Driver awards right there, like 27, or something like that. It’ll be interesting going through knockout qualifying, me and Bill both for the first time.”

The combination clicked right from the get-go: In their first practice together, Elliott helped pace Earnhardt to the fastest speed of the session with a best lap of 138.723 mph.

Then with Elliott giving him more great directions, Earnhardt did very well in NASCAR’s new qualifying procedures, earning the fifth starting spot for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Because he’ll be flying back home with his son after Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, Bill Elliott will not be on the spotter’s stand on Sunday. Jeff Dickerson, who has filled in for Majors in the past, will assume those duties.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Wolff: Wehrlein, Ocon deserve Formula 1 roles

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 23:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Mercedes GP drives during Formula One testing at the Red Bull Ring on June 23, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mercedes AMG Petronas team boss Toto Wolff believes that junior talents Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon have both earned their roles in Formula 1 for the 2016 season “on merit”.

Wehrlein will make his grand prix debut in 2016 with Manor Racing after winning the DTM title for Mercedes last year, becoming the youngest champion in the history of the series.

Ocon has been loaned to Renault Sport F1 Racing for its comeback season, and will work as the team’s reserve driver following his GP3 title success last year.

Wolff feels that both drivers deserve their chance in F1 this year, and also said that Mercedes will look to expand its junior program across the course of the season.

“We’re delighted that Pascal and Esteban will tackle a fresh set of challenges in 2016,” Wolff said. “Our aim is to build their experience in the best possible environment and, following positive discussions with our counterparts at Manor and Renault, it became clear that their respective Formula 1 programmes presented ideal opportunities to achieve that.

“It is very pleasing to see young drivers earning their spot in Formula 1 on merit and to see that talent is being rewarded by the system. Pascal and Esteban have proven themselves to be amongst the top young drivers out there – and both come into 2016 as champions of their respective series.

“But they still have plenty to learn and they will be staying humble, with their feet on the ground. This is an important year for them and we will be following their progress with great interest, while also looking to expand our junior program.

“Mercedes-Benz has a strong tradition of developing young racing talent and our eyes are very much open to other promising prospects for the future.”

Social roundup: When Mika Hakkinen met CJ Wilson, and other cool shots

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 15:  Former F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen is seen during practice for the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 15, 2011 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

What happens when you put a McLaren P1 owned by baseball star and CJ Wilson Racing team principal, and occasional driver, CJ Wilson, with two-time F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen, and you turn them loose at The Thermal Club for a track day?

Pure awesomeness.

Of course there’s other cars besides the McLaren and hockey legend, Teemu Selanne, was also on site.

This really isn’t a post so much that needs words, but one that does need proper photos and noise.

The CJWR pairing of Marc Miller and Daniel Burkett, who drive the No. 33 One Capital/Motor Oil Matters Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport dubbed “Darth Cayman” in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, have been coaching and driving at an event this weekend out at The Thermal Club, a luxury race track in California.

See a mix of photos and videos below:

Ecclestone gives Monza until end of February to resolve F1 future

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 06:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates on the podium next to Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari after winning the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 6, 2015 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has given officials at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza until the end of February to resolve the future of the Italian Grand Prix.

Monza has hosted the Italian Grand Prix for all but one year since 1950 when the F1 world championship was formed, establishing itself as one of the series’ most historic and legendary venues.

However, its future has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months following a cut in the amount of tax relief that the race receives by the Italian government.

Ecclestone said back in November that he had “no doubts” the race would remain on the calendar and extend its contract beyond the end of 2016 when it expires.

However, the 85-year-old has now cast fresh doubt on the race in an interview with Reuters, giving the circuit until the end of February to resolve its future.

“It’s Italian. A lot of conversations at the moment and not much action,” Ecclestone said.

“They said to me a few months ago: ‘Everything is sorted out, we know exactly where we are and it’s all agreed and no dramas.’

“And now I heard yesterday it’s become very political… They’ll get on with it. Or not. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Nothing we can do about it.

“The only people that can sort this out are the people that are currently involved in Italy. They can take as long as they like, provided it’s by the end of this month.”

The 2016 Italian Grand Prix is set to take place at Monza on September 4.

Here’s what a sub-4 second, 300-mph NHRA driver’s eye view looks like

Leave a comment

This was published earlier this week from NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series testing at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., but the timing of it being posted today is to serve as a teaser to the 2016 NHRA season at Pomona Raceway in California.

Ride on-board with Shawn Langdon of Don Schumacher Racing for a test run. This is simply nuts, as thousands of horsepower are put to the ground for a 3.77-sec, 316 mph pass in testing.