Food City 500 - Practice

UPDATE: Kyle Busch leads as rain-marred Food City 500 reaches halfway

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After a three hour, 19-minute rain delay, the Food City 500 was finally resumed at Bristol Motor Speedway shortly after 7 p.m. ET on Lap 124 of 500.

The red flag was pulled and the race resumed under yellow while jet dryers worked on parts of pit road. On Lap 136, the green flag came back out at last, with drivers racing toward a competition caution 50 laps from that point at Lap 186.

On Lap 153, Kurt Busch – who had been in fourth place out of the red flag – was able to take the lead from Matt Kenseth after riding the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s quarter panel for several laps.

Two laps later, Danica Patrick and Cole Whitt wrecked going into Turn 1, causing the leaders to check up as Whitt’s wounded car went off the banking.

But despite the caution lights flashing, Timmy Hill failed to slow down in time and slammed into the back of Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota, causing it considerable rear damage.

Kenseth made multiple trips to pit road under the caution so his team could repair as best they could. He fell back to 30th but was able to keep on the lead lap.

The green came back out at Lap 166, and 13 laps later, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray was able to get by Kurt Busch on the inside to take P1 ahead of the Lap 186 competition caution.

The leaders chose to pit, but Clint Bowyer decided to stay out and moved into the lead ahead of Kyle Busch, McMurray, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch.

Two laps after the Lap 193 restart, Kyle Busch dispatched Bowyer to take the lead. Meanwhile, Kenseth was able to charge back into the Top 5 after his incident with Hill, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. fell out of the Top 10 due to a tight-handling car.

At the halfway mark (Lap 251 of 500), Kyle Busch was maintaining the lead over Kasey Kahne, Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, Carl Edwards, and Denny Hamlin.

UPDATE – FIRST 124 LAPS (BEFORE RED FLAG)

When Sunday’s Food City 500 was stopped by rain 124 laps into the scheduled 500-lap event, several drivers that were expected to have good days found themselves playing catch-up after one-quarter of the race.

With 126 laps left to halfway and one more lap after that to make it an “official” race (one lap past halfway) if need be,

The running order when the red flag fell featured this top-10 at the time:

1 Matt Kenseth

2 Jamie McMurray

3 Brad Keselowski

4 Kurt Busch

5 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

6 Kevin Harvick

7 Kyle Larson

8 Denny Hamlin

9 Kasey Kahne

10 Aric Almirola

Joey Logano lost his power steering after about the first 20 laps and struggled from that point on, falling to 28th when the red flag dropped.

“500 laps is going to get a lot longer than I thought it was going to be around here,” Logano said. “There’s so much load here, the car’s pressing down so hard on the racetrack, it makes it so hard to steer. If feels like it’s working against you. I was already in there huffing and puffing pretty hard trying to get the thing hard.

“The good news is we’re only (nearly) 130 laps into it, so we have a long ways to go. The bad news is if we can’t fix it, we’re only 130 laps (of 500) into it. Either way, we have our work cut out for us.”

Jimmie Johnson ran near the front of the pack early on, only to have unusual shredding of the right front tire on his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Johnson was running 39th when the red flag fell, three laps behind race leader Matt Kenseth.

“We’re down multiple laps and from what we think, it’s only three,” Johnson said. “So, there’s lots of racing left. Maybe we can get those laps back, get on the lead lap and race for the win here.”

Another driver who had tire problems is Greg Biffle.

“On lap 10, it started shaking really, really bad,” Biffle said. “It wasn’t responsive when the corner came. … Possibly it broke the cords in the left front tire because three-quarters of the tire were all cords.

“Maybe it broke something in that tire that was making it not steer correctly. … We’re not going to give up. We’ve got a long ways to go.”

On the scheduled competition caution on Lap 50, Jeff Gordon and David Ragan tangled on pit road. Gordon was leaving his pit stall while Ragan was coming in.

Both cars made contact, with Gordon’s taking the brunt of the damage, dropping him all the way back to 34th. Fortunately for Gordon, much of the damage was cosmetic, his team was able to repair it quickly and he was able to work his way back up through the field to 16th when the red flag occurred.

“It was awesome when it started and it’s awesome now,” Gordon said. “We just need track position, that’s on us.

“It’s our job to get out of the pit box, it was a tough situation with the competition caution and so many cars on pit road, it’s hard to judge. It’s a setback but the guys did an excellent job, not only what they did from practice yesterday to today, and then they did a great job fixing it up right there and I was able to drive up through there pretty good.”

Parker Kligerman, who has had arguably the worst start of the season of any driver on the Sprint Cup circuit, continued to see his luck turn bad.

After pitting during the competition caution on Lap 50, Kligerman hit some type of debris that caused his car to turn violently before he even had made it from the transition road to the track surface itself.

Sprint Cup rookie Alex Bowman also had problems with the battery in his car.

On the flip side, several drivers had very good fortune in the first 124 laps before rain interrupted their continued forward progress.

Jamie McMurray looked very strong in his No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, running second behind race leader Matt Kenseth when the rain returned.

“I felt the first 10 laps when we went green, initially when the race started, the car was too free, but it just kept getting better as the race went on,” McMurray said.

Outside pole-sitter Brad Keselowski suffered some initial handling problems, but his team made the right adjustments during the competition caution and he climbed back up to third place before the rain came.

“We just got a little bit tight,” Keselowski said. “We made some adjustments and that’s the beauty of this race, it’s 500 laps and hopefully we can get all 500 in and we can keep adjusting it because the track keeps changing.”

Kevin Harvick made a big comeback before the rain came, climbing from 27th to sixth before action was halted.

“It’s unbelievable fast,” Harvick said. “We can run the bottom, middle and top.”

Let’s see if it will stay that way once racing resumes.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Red Bull GRC: Eriksson, Wiman keen to secure Honda’s first final win

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Photo: Larry Chen/Red Bull Content Pool
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Red Bull Global Rallycross resumes this weekend at Bader Field in Atlantic City, N.J. (Sunday, 3 p.m., NBC) with the longest course this season (1.102 miles), and one which could play into the hands of Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE drivers Sebastian Eriksson and Joni Wiman.

Eriksson was the top rookie in last year’s season and finished second in points; Wiman captured the 2014 series championship. But it’s been a learning year for both drivers and the Andreas Eriksson-led team this year with a brand new car.

With a longer course that features faster corners, Eriksson rates the new Honda Civic Coupe’s chances of getting its first final round win (they’ve won heats before) a bit higher.

“It should be a fast track. I like that,” Sebastian Eriksson told NBC Sports. “The engine has good power and we’ve had good starts and launches all season. Since it is a fast track, that will suit our car better. It’s a bit longer. Smaller cars do better at hairpins. But at a fast track, our car is best.”

Wiman added,  “Just looking at the track map, I can tell we are really going have a blast in the Civic this weekend. It looks long and fast and I think that bodes well for us. Sebastian [Eriksson] and I are eager to be on the top step of the podium and represent Honda, Red Bull and the entire Olsbergs MSE team.”

Eriksson expanded on how much the team has grown with Honda this year throughout this development campaign.

“The season is shorter this season than before; it started later and finishes earlier,” he said. “So for us with a brand new car, we tried to develop between races. We try to find as much as possible.

“You need to remember, the car was brand new! We started with the build very late – it was a January build for three cars. There was not a ton of testing. But we have gotten better and better. The last race was really good. We found some improvements before this time off. We hope to be competitive, and fighting for the wins.”

Eriksson also hailed BFGoodrich, which has taken over as Red Bull Global Rallycross’ tire manufacturer this year.

“The BFGs are much better. Grip-wise, it is about the same. But the Yokohamas only had one lap before falling off. Now here, it’s faster on all the laps. That makes the racing more fair. Everyone competes at the same level at the time.”

In his second year in Supercars, Eriksson’s learned a lot. He admitted he made a lot of mistakes last year and while driving better this year, hasn’t had the luck he had in his first go-around.

“I think I’ve grown a lot. I made a lot of mistakes last year. I should have been able to score more points even than I did,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of struggles this year with the car… too many DNFs in the finals, with three of them. And you lose a lot of points. All the points are in the final. In this series, you need a solid finish every race and we haven’t had that.

“Daytona was the best result-wise as you said (two third places), but in New River, we really had the pace and we had the semifinal win. Should have started from first row in the final because they canceled it because of the rain. I was positive we had the pace.

“In Washington, both Joni and second in semis. But I had the puncture. It has been a lot of bad luck. We have more speed than we have shown.”

Eriksson said growing with Honda has given him a much greater insight into their love and passion for racing. He had a chance to explore Honda Performance Development headquarters in California earlier this month.

“The thing that Honda that is so cool is it might be the only brand in the world that builds their brand and cars around racing,” he said.

“It feels almost like racing is in the first place and building cars is the second. They have a lot of tradition on both two and four wheels. IndyCar, Formula 1 and Motocross, and road racing. And now here in Red Bull GRC.

“It’s clear racing is big in the Honda family.”

Vergne fastest for Techeetah on second Formula E test day

FIA Formula E Championship 2015/16.
Beijing ePrix, Beijing, China.
Race.
Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA), DS Virgin Racing DSV-01  
Beijing, China, Asia.
Saturday 24 October 2015
Photo: Adam Warner / LAT / FE
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Jean-Eric Vergne made the most of his first public test for the new Techeetah Formula E team by topping the timesheets at Donington Park on Wednesday.

Vergne left DS Virgin Racing at the end of season two to join Techeetah, which took over from Team Aguri after a buy-out by a Chinese investment firm.

Vergne got his first run in the Renault-powered Techeetah car on Tuesday, finishing the morning session fastest with a new Formula E lap record at Donington Park.

The Frenchman’s time of 1:29.634 saw him finish 0.085 seconds clear of recent Indy Lights driver Felix Rosenqvist at the front of the pack, with season two champion Sebastien Buemi following in third place for Renault e.dams.

Daniel Abt led the afternoon session for ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, but a flurry of late red flags meant that few drivers were able to get in a late flying lap, leaving Vergne’s morning time as the overall benchmark. Abt’s time was good enough for P4 in the final standings on Tuesday.

Sam Bird finished fourth for DS Virgin Racing ahead of Nick Heidfeld and Nico Prost, with Loic Duval following in P6 for Dragon Racing.

Jaguar Racing continued its first public testing programme with Adam Carroll once again behind the wheel, sharing duties with Mitch Evans, who is being evaluated for the second seat. Evans turned in a fastest lap of 1:31.267, edging out Carroll by one-tenth of a second.

Evans was joined in the Jaguar garage by ex-Formula 1 driver and defending WEC champion Mark Webber, who mentors the young New Zealander. Ford WEC driver Harry Tincknell will take over the reins of the second Jaguar on Thursday when the first test concludes.

Updated Firestone 600 schedule, starting grid, Lap 71 running order

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This weekend’s trip for the Verizon IndyCar Series back to Texas Motor Speedway features a bit of an oddity, as it’s a return to finish the remaining 177 laps left unfinished when the series raced in June.

Here’s a quick rundown of where we are as a result of that rain delay (initial PREVIEW and What to Watch For linked here as well).

QUALIFYING

Carlos Munoz scored his first career pole position in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. Here was the full report on that from my colleague Daniel McFadin in Texas.

Here was the starting grid, below:

FORT WORTH, Texas – Qualifying Friday for the Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.455-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, and speed:

1. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 217.137
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 216.901
3. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 216.740
4. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 216.740
5. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 216.684
6. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 216.663
7. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 216.647
8. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 216.295
9. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 216.262
10. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 216.262
11. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 216.260
12. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 216.162
13. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 215.927
14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 215.751
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 215.533
16. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 215.299
17. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 215.279
18. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 215.030
19. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 214.864
20. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 214.568
21. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 213.826
22. (19) Gabby Chaves, Honda, no speed

RACE

The first stint of the race was pretty much status quo, save for Alexander Rossi’s rear tires falling off and the Indianapolis 500 champion doing a great job of saving his car.

Then Lap 42 happened and that nasty accident between Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden, which left Newgarden with a fractured right clavicle and a small fracture on his right hand.

That led to a long caution and then when the skies opened on Lap 71, 53 laps short of the Lap 124 halfway mark (600 kilometers is a 248-lap race), the race was red flagged and we were left with the scenario we are in now. The race was rescheduled to Saturday, August 27, and it’s where the IndyCar circus is needing to travel back to Texas again.

Here’s the running order on Lap 71:

1. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda
2. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda
3. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda
4. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet
5. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet
6. (19) Gabby Chaves, Honda
7. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet
8. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet
9. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda
10. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet
11. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet
12. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda
13. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda
14. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet
15. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet
16. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet
17. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1 LAP
18. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1 LAP
19. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1 LAP
20. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda 2 LAPS
21. (18) Conor Daly, Honda 29 LAPS
22. (21) Josef Newgarden Chevy 30 LAPS

COMPLETION PLAN

INDYCAR sent out this release on the Friday of Road America weekend, June 24, explaining the process to finish the Texas race:

INDYCAR has announced its plan for resuming the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway that was suspended June 12 after completing 71 of its scheduled 248 laps. The Verizon IndyCar Series race will be completed Aug. 27.

The No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda driven by Conor Daly and No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet driven by Josef Newgarden will not be permitted to participate in the continuation due to the extensive chassis and engine damage each sustained in a crash on Lap 42. James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is the race leader after 71 laps.

Cars continuing in the race will be permitted to use the chassis and engine of their choice for the completion day. Tire allotment and fuel quantity for the completion are yet to be determined. Pre-race aero setups from the June event will be mandatory for the August completion, though INDYCAR may make changes prior to the completion based on the weather forecast for race weekend.

The remaining 177 race laps will be run at the conclusion of the Aug. 27 schedule that includes:

  • A mandatory systems check (an out/in lap only);
  • A 25-minute practice session: Cars will be split into two groups, each group receiving 10 minutes of practice time with a five-minute break in between;
  • A driver autograph session on the track’s concourse;
  • Completion of the race in the evening.

Texas Motor Speedway will be announcing its plans for ticketing, credentialing, camping and various other fan-related and facility-based items in the coming weeks.

UPDATED SCHEDULE

Here’s what you can expect for the IndyCar day at Texas, which will honor police officers as well.

All times are CT, one hour behind ET.

10:00 Garages Open
4:30-4:35 Mandatory Installation Lap
4:35-4:45 Practice, Group 1
4:50-5:00 Practice, Group 2
5:30-6:15 Autograph Session, TMS Concourse
7:10 Push Out
7:25 Grid IndyCars in Restart Order
8:00 NBCSN TV Window Begins
8:15 Estimated Drivers Start Your Engines

Lewis Hamilton “refreshed” after summer break, heading to Spa

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 31: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates his win in parc ferme during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton heads into this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps both refreshed and recharged following the summer break – albeit a break which interrupted his run of four wins in a row in the month of July.

Hamilton swept into the title lead after successive wins in Austria, Britain, Hungary and Germany, and the four-for-four run of form now sees him 19 points clear of Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg heading into Spa this weekend.

As you’d expect, Hamilton went off the grid and spent a lot of time in Barbados and the Americas, but feels ready to resume his title charge this weekend. The Englishman is in search of his fourth World Championship, third in a row.

“It’s crazy how quickly this year is going by. It seems like a few weeks ago we were in Barcelona for winter testing and now we’re through the summer break, heading to Spa,” Hamilton said in the team’s race advance.

“The first half of the season was a bit of a rollercoaster, so it’s great to be in the position I’m in with more than half of the races behind us. There will be more up and downs to come, I’m sure. But the way myself and the team have performed so far gives me huge confidence.

“I’m feeling refreshed, re-energized and ready to go after a fun few weeks off, so hopefully everyone else has had a good rest too and we’ll come out fighting.”

Hamilton took pole and the win at Spa last year, marking his first Spa victory with Mercedes and second overall (McLaren in 2010).

He also has a chance to match his career-long win streak of five races in a row, achieved from the Italian through U.S. Grands Prix in 2014.

He never won more than three in a row in 2015, but this year has the four straight wins and six of the last seven dating to his surprise win in Monaco.

Additionally, he’s looking to carry the run of form for Brits in the sporting world these days.

“Spa is a great track – one that every driver enjoys. It was great to finally get back on the top step there last year, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to have another strong race this time around,” he said.

“It’s been such a proud few weeks for British sport, with the Olympics and then Cal Crutchlow becoming the first British MotoGP winner in more than 30 years. I’ll do my best to keep the flag flying this weekend. A big shout-out to the British fans heading out to this one. I’m sure they’ll be out in force as always!”