Red Bull’s Horner says Mercedes could lap field twice in Oz

1 Comment

By now, it’s been established that Mercedes is the favorite going into this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix while Red Bull, the reigning four-time World Champions, are battling to be competitive after a dismal run of preseason testing.

No doubt the other teams in the paddock are thrilled at this development, but Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, appears to have indicated that while his team won’t be their dominant selves, Merc’s tandem of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg may very well pick up where they’ve left off.

‘You could see a higher level of domination than we had last year,” he told the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper. “Looking at Mercedes’ race simulation, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they finished two laps ahead of everyone in Melbourne. They have a massive advantage.”

Whether it’s a last-minute bit of preseason mind games or not, only Horner knows for sure. But his additional declaration to the Mail that Hamilton is the favorite to become a two-time World Champion does go along with what’s being predicted by at least some observers going into Melbourne.

“What we know about Lewis is that he is extremely talented and naturally fast,” he said. “And he’s in a good team, so he’s probably got to be the favorite going into the season.”

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has also made Hamilton his pick for the title this season, even though he told Germany’s Sport Bild that Red Bull’s top gun, Sebastian Vettel, will ultimately be the best to adapt to the new 2014 regulations “once his car gives him the chance to do so.”

Speaking of the RB10, Horner is confident that the team and engine partner Renault will be able to turn things around by the time the World Championship calendar enters its European stage later this spring.

‘We believe it is inherently a good car,” he said, again to the Mail. “I have every confidence in the team. There’s no panic. There are engineering solutions and there is no better set of engineers in the pit lane.

“By the time we get to the European races in May, we should be OK.”

NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations, including NHRA Summernationals, effective immediately

Photo courtesy NHRA
1 Comment

If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”