NASCAR reportedly considering Sprint Cup engine horsepower reduction in 2015

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In what could be the biggest of several potential changes, NASCAR officials are reportedly contemplating a reduction in Sprint Cup racing engine horsepower in 2015.

According to a report by FoxSports.com, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development Robin Pemberton said the sanctioning body is looking at ways to prolong the overall life and durability of Sprint Cup motors.

While that would be seen as a performance issue change, it could also be considered an economic change, with teams not having to spend as much as they do yearly on developing and building motors.

“It’s as much getting more use out of engines as it is (reducing) horsepower,” Pemberton said. “They kind of feed off of each other. There’s no guarantee horsepower may or may not do anything for the quality of racing, but it will allow us to do other things.”

According to the Fox report, NASCAR officials have had a series of four meetings each with Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford representatives to develop guidelines on how to reduce horsepower.

Whether that means smaller engines, more fuel efficiency (which is also likely one of the key goals of the potential changes), or perhaps even some type of restrictor plate usage remains to be seen.

The goal, according to sources FoxSports.com spoke with, is to reduce power by as much as 100 horsepower, or roughly as much as 15 percent

That would drop the power level that current Sprint Cup motors pump out from 850 to 900 hp to somewhere in the range of 750 to 800 hp, which is what motors were producing back around 2007 and 2008.

“It’s not fully appreciated the fact that we’ve had the same engine for basically 25 or 30 years and it’s at 850 or 860 horsepower, where it used to be 500,” Pemberton said. “And we are at the same race tracks where we used to run 160 (miles per hour) we’re now qualifying at 190 and running 213 going into the corners. There’s been a lot of engineering and gains made across the board.”

Scaling back power is not necessarily seen as a safety issue, but more as a means to further control costs that continue to spiral upward each season.

“It’s some about economics, and there are some who think that if you knocked a little bit of horsepower out, it could put you in a position to make the racing better,” Pemberton said. “But there’s a lot of things that go into it. There’s the mechanical grip and the tire grip and the aerodynamic grip and engine horsepower.

“Every one thing you change, you have to adjust everything around it to make it right. There’s some sort of balance in there. So, if you do a horsepower change, there’s a better than not chance that you will have to adjust aerodynamics, and that may give you the ability to adjust tires. So it’s a three-legged stool. You just have to work on them all.”

Initial response from the series’ three manufacturers has been positive, according to the Fox report.

“If it truly does potentially help the racing and then help durability on the back end, I think it’s not a bad thing to do,” said Pat Suhy, NASCAR Group Manager for Chevrolet Racing. “It’s probably going to be a fairly extensive change, a bigger change than first imagined. … I’m in favor of change when it can make things better, so I’m hopeful that it can actually make things better.”

Added David Wilson, president/GM of Toyota Racing Development, “From our perspective, the healthy thing about this is that NASCAR is working not only with the manufacturers, but all of the engine builders. And we have had a dialog with NASCAR for some time. Just the process itself is absolutely correct. It’s refreshing. We feel as stakeholders in the sport, we have a voice.”

Ford Racing director Jamie Allison agreed.

“We are actively involved with NASCAR on strategic competition and business considerations and support NASCAR’s efforts to work with the manufacturers to continually evolve the sport,” Allison told Fox.

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Castroneves snatches Road America pole in Penske 1-4 sweep

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Helio Castroneves has done it again, pulling another final lap flier to secure the pole position for Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) from Road America.

Castroneves has secured his third and Team Penske’s sixth pole position of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, with the Brazilian dropping a 1:41.3007 best lap on his final lap.

This is also the 50th pole of his career, which breaks a tie with Bobby Unser for third on IndyCar’s all-time list.

That supplanted Will Power in a Penske-dominated qualifying session, continuing the team’s form this weekend. Power looked set to have the pole at 1:41.3611, but that ended just behind.

The remaining two drivers of the Team Penske, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, completed the team’s top-four sweep – its third straight session where all four Penske Chevrolets locked out the top four positions.

Team Penske did this most recently in qualifying at Sonoma Raceway for last year’s season finale, except there it was Pagenaud on the pole over Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Power.

This is the second time this year Penske has gotten four cars into the Firestone Fast Six shootout, having also done so at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course earlier this year. Pagenaud missed it there while Montoya, in his only road course outing of 2017 in the team’s fifth car, made it in.

Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal upheld Honda’s honor with fifth and sixth place on the grid, but significantly off the pace.

Dixon was 1.6 seconds off while Rahal didn’t put in a representative time in the final session. Rahal didn’t use a set of Firestone’s red alternate softer compound to save a set for the race on Sunday.

Max Chilton was seventh and best of those who didn’t make it into the Fast Six, with Marco Andretti best of Andretti Autosport’s quartet in eighth.

Elsewhere Ed Jones advanced into Q2, an impressive feat for the rookie with Dale Coyne Racing and his Chicago Bears tribute helmet, while Alexander Rossi was a surprise driver to not advance out of Q1, and will start 15th.

Esteban Gutierrez is 17th and Mikhail Aleshin 19th ahead of their returns, Gutierrez after missing Texas and Aleshin after missing Friday’s practice sessions.

Times are below.

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Road America (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues from this weekend at Road America, ahead of Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass is also along for the ride, and this week features interviews from the longest track on the calendar, the 4.014-mile Road America.

Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show from Elkhart Lake, and catches up with a number of winners.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Texas winner and defending Road America winner Will Power, Texas polesitter Charlie Kimball and American veteran Ryan Hunter-Reay.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Alonso, Vandoorne’s Azerbaijan GP grid drops grow through Saturday

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Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso’s Formula 1 grid penalties for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix grew through Saturday as the stewards confirmed both McLaren drivers had taken additional power unit parts ahead of qualifying.

Vandoorne and Alonso entered the Baku race weekend anticipating grid penalties after replacing parts on their Honda power units, which have lacked both reliability and performance throughout the season.

Both drivers were handed 15-place drops on Friday ahead of practice due to initial changes, only to receive further drops in the lead up to qualifying.

Alonso currently sits with a 40-place drop to his name after an overhaul of his power unit, while Vandoorne is to drop 35 places after also taking a gearbox change before qualifying.

McLaren ailed to its worst qualifying display of the season so far in Baku as both Alonso and Vandoorne dropped out in Q1, finishing 16th and 19th respectively.

However, Alonso was not too disheartened by the result, saying it has set McLaren up nicely for the race on Sunday.

“We did a good job today in terms of preparing for the race: we only used one set of tires, put in low fuel and did some checks,” the Spaniard said.

“We know we’re not competitive around here, but the race is going to be long and demanding. We’ve seen many mistakes from almost every driver, and we need to avoid making any of those tomorrow.

“In these kinds of grands prix, we need to try and finish the race, get some data for the team, and keep developing the car.

“We need to make sure we keep away from the walls tomorrow. Let’s also hope we can end up in the points.”

Due to a strange quirk in the regulations, Alonso and Vandoorne will not share the back row of the grid in Baku – and the latter will, in fact, gain a place.

As Renault’s Jolyon Palmer failed to post a time during Q1 and therefore did not qualify for the race, he will start P20.

By virtue of having a greater grid drop than Vandoorne, Alonso will take 19th on the grid, with the Belgian starting just ahead in P18.

Stroll feeling ‘comfortable’, ‘confident’ in car after Baku Q3 run

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Lance Stroll delivered the most impressive qualifying run of his fledgling Formula 1 career so far in Baku on Saturday, charging to eighth place on the grid for Williams.

Stroll, 18, made his F1 debut at the beginning of the year with Williams after stepping up from Formula 3, but endured a baptism of fire as he failed to score any points through his opening six outings.

The Canadian charged to his maiden points finish last time out at his home race in Montreal, finishing ninth overall, and carried that momentum through to qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Stroll reached Q3 for the second time, beating his Chinese Grand Prix display by taking eighth spot, as well as outqualifying teammate Felipe Massa for the first time.

“It was a good day, and it has been a good weekend. I am comfortable and confident in the car,” Stroll said.

“I like the circuit and today everything fell into place. I missed a bit in Q3, and I think there was some more that was possible there, as we were four-tenths off compared to my lap in Q2.

“In Q3, because the track temperatures had dropped, it was hard to get the tires ready in one lap and also because of the red flag, we only had time to do one push lap.

“Sometimes around here it is better when you do one push lap, then another prep lap and then another push lap. But it is still a great result and I am just happy for the team.”