Shortly after Jimmie Johnson won his sixth Sprint Cup last fall at Homestead-Miami Speedway, former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb became Public Enemy No. 1 in NASCAR Nation when he claimed that Johnson wasn’t a true athlete on a Fox Sports 1 studio show.
Johnson took the putdown largely in stride, even if he allowed himself a nod to the McNabb incident in December when he tweeted that his third-place showing in voting for the Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year was “not bad for a non-athlete.”
But it appears that the matter is water under the bridge now, as McNabb himself has dropped in on today’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California.
The ex-Philadelphia Eagle was in attendance for today’s pre-race drivers’ meeting, as shown by this Instagram video from USA Today’s Jeff Gluck.
NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton made sure to make note of McNabb’s presence, as Gluck’s colleague and NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan reports:
NASCAR.com’s Zack Albert also writes that McNabb was given a pace car ride on the two-mile Fontana oval by Michael Waltrip Racing’s Clint Bowyer, who will start fifth in today’s main event.
Albert says the two actually swapped seats during the experience, with McNabb claiming he hit 130 miles per hour behind the wheel. Bowyer, ever the wise-cracker, responded: “It’s a good thing you’re an athlete, ’cause you’re not worth a damn as a driver.”
And of course, McNabb and Johnson had a chat with each other as well, with NASCAR.com’s Holly Cain tweeting a photo for posterity.
All is forgiven? It would seem that way…
Status Grand Prix has set its sights on winning the 2016 GP2 Series championship following its decision to close down its GP3 team at the end of the current season.
Earlier this week, GP3 issued a statement confirming its team roster for the next three seasons that featured new entries from DAMS and Virtuosi Racing.
However, both Carlin and Status did not appear on the list, signalling that both had opted to leave GP3 at the end of 2015.
Status first entered GP3 back in 2010, but only set up a GP2 team in 2015 after taking over the old Caterham Racing operation.
This will now become the main focus for the Irish outfit, though, as explained by team boss Teddy Yip Jr. earlier this week.
“Status Grand Prix has not renewed entry into the GP3 Series from 2016 onwards in order to maximize focus on our GP2 campaign,” Yip said.
“Having finished second in the team championship in the inaugural GP3 Series, we have enjoyed six successful years in the category collecting nine race wins, 26 podium finishes and vying for numerous team and driver titles.
“We are very proud to have given opportunities and achieved success with drivers such as Robert Wickens, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and our current GP2 race winner, Richie Stanaway.
“We now look forward to finishing the 2015 GP2 and GP3 seasons on a high before mounting a robust GP2 title campaign in 2016.”
Both GP2 and GP3 return from a one-month break next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.
Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen has heaped praise upon Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen, supporting his decision to ignore team orders during last month’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Verstappen only turned 18 on Wednesday, but has already made a big impression on the F1 world during his first 14 races with his aggressive driving style and mature approach to racing.
In Singapore, Verstappen was told by Toro Rosso to let faster teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. go past, but refused to give up his position and eventually beat the Spaniard to finish eighth.
Writing in his Hermes blog, Hakkinen backed Verstappen’s decision to stay ahead and praised the Dutchman for his performances so far this season.
“A driver must be alert and keep track of what is happening around him at all times,” Hakkinen wrote. “That’s what Verstappen is. He does not simply let anyone pass if it’s not for the world championship, but only a few championship points.
“Verstappen is 18 years old, but the guy’s already a real pro. Young people are developing incredibly fast nowadays, and by that I don’t mean just drivers.”
Despite having more than half a season of F1 racing under his belt, Verstappen only gained his road driver’s license on his 18th birthday, having previously been under the age limit to drive a regular car in public.