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Trevor Bayne looks to take Nationwide lead in Fontana

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A steady start for Trevor Bayne has him one point behind Regan Smith for the lead in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings, and he’s hoping to continue that consistency in tomorrow’s 300-miler for the NNS at Auto Club Speedway.

Bayne started the year with a third at Daytona, followed by another Top-5 at Phoenix and Top-10s at Las Vegas and Bristol. It’s led to a much closer fight for the top spot than at this time last year, which had Sam Hornish Jr. leading by 22 points over Justin Allgaier going into Fontana.

“Obviously, we want to contend for Top-5s every single weekend and I think we can do that,” Bayne said this morning at ACS. “The last race I ran here, last season, we ran Top-5 the majority of the day and got too loose at the end. Today, it is going to be all about making the right race adjustments as the track changes and being able to fire off quicker on restarts.

“I feel like that is where we struggled a little last year. Over the long run, we were pretty good. I think [crew chief] Chad Norris and I have a pretty good plan for this weekend.”

Smith has only collected two Top-10s in 14 career NASCAR national series starts at the two-mile oval, while Bayne’s best Nationwide finish there was a sixth back in 2011. However, both of them did log Top-10 runs last year in this event (Smith with a third, Bayne with a ninth).

Either way, they’ll both likely have to go through the Joe Gibbs Racing camp to contend for victory tomorrow. A Gibbs driver has won the last nine consecutive Nationwide races at ACS, and the team will have Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Elliott Sadler going for a 10th trophy.

“They have been really fast and having the drivers that they do…They are able to bounce a lot of things off of each other,” Bayne said of the Gibbs teammates. “Normally, Kyle doesn’t need anyone to bounce it off of – he has just been fast on his own.

“We need to get our [Roush Fenway Racing] teammates up to speed a little and our car up to speed where we can try three different things in a weekend and figure out which package is going to be best and what direction we need to go. Hopefully, we are going to be able to do that.”

Last weekend at Bristol, Busch collected his second Nationwide win of the year and the 65th Nationwide win of his career.

Ecclestone has ‘no doubts’ Monza will remain on F1 calendar

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MILAN (AP) Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone is confident the Italian Grand Prix in Monza can find the needed cash to stay on the calendar.

Ecclestone tells the Gazzetta dello Sport, “We will find the right solution – I no longer have doubts – to provide a future for the Italian GP.”

No circuit has hosted more F1 racing than Monza, but officials at the track outside Milan have had trouble producing the estimated 25 million euros ($26.6 million) per year that Ecclestone seeks to keep the race in place after the current contract expires next year.

Ecclstone says, “Things have been cleared up and there is only one go between, (Angelo) Sticchi Damiani, the president of the Italian Automobile Club.”

The Italian GP next year is scheduled for Sept. 4.

Alternative engine solution rejected by F1 Commission

Nico Rosberg

Plans to introduce a new alternative, cheaper engine into Formula 1 for 2017 – hypothetically a 2.2-liter V6 similar to what is seen in IndyCar – will at least temporarily go on the backburner.

The F1 Commission has rejected the so called “alternative engine solution,” where several companies submitted proposals to be that alternative supplier.

“The F1 Commission voted not to pursue this option at this stage — however, it may be reassessed after the Power Unit manufacturers have presented their proposal to the Strategy Group,” the FIA said on Wednesday.

“The parties involved have agreed on a course to address several key areas relating to Power Unit supply in Formula One,” the statement added.

Meanwhile the statement outlined four things the current manufacturers – Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda – would be tasked with improving on the current 1.6-liter formula:

Those are:

  • a guarantee of supply to teams
  • the need to reduce the engines’ cost
  • simplification of the specification
  • “improved noise”

Further meetings between the manufacturers and the governing body are scheduled, including one this weekend at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale.

As F1 heads into the final weekend of the season, political/paddock items such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s respective power unit futures, whether Renault’s takeover of Lotus will finally become official and what will happen with Manor’s team leadership stake – this marks Graeme Lowdon and John Booth’s final weekends although ex-McLaren man Dave Ryan has been hired as the team’s new racing director – are among the talking points.

Stoffel Vandoorne’s Super Formula test hampered by engine woes

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne
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You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Dominant GP2 Series champion Stoffel Vandoorne had his first go in a Super Formula car at Suzuka on Wednesday, but the engine woes that have hampered his Formula 1 team’s efforts (McLaren) all season appear to be equal opportunity woes.

Vandoorne only completed a limited day of running due to technical issues; naturally, and in an unfortunate coincidence, the Super Formula cars also have Honda power.

The Belgian is now en route from Japan to Abu Dhabi, where this weekend’s final round of the GP2 season will be held alongside the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

FIA Formula E to remain at Battersea Park following vote

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Wandsworth Council’s Community Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee voted seven to four late Tuesday night, in favor of retaining the FIA Formula E event in Battersea Park.

This will see the London ePrix – the season finale for the electric open-wheel championship – continue at the site for at least the next two seasons.

The 2016 race will run July 2-3, to avoid a direct head-to-head clash with the British Grand Prix a week later in Silverstone.

Battersea Park’s race faced local opposition in recent weeks, which put the race under threat.