Kevin Harvick to host firefighters that saved his family Sunday at Martinsville

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Sunday will be a kind of Thanksgiving Day for Kevin and Delana Harvick.

Sure, Kevin will be racing in the STP 500 Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.

But the couple might not be there – let alone still alive – if it wasn’t for the efforts of firefighters from the Oak Ridge (N.C.) Fire department.

The first responders found and contained a smoldering fire within the Harvick’s house last November 27 before it became fully engulfed and did more damage – both property- and life-wise.

The Harvicks were awoken in the early hours of the morning by the sound of a smoke alarm. While they saw and smelled smoke, they didn’t detect any fire, but called the fire department to respond.

Smartest move they likely ever made in their lives.

The department responded quickly, and using thermal imaging equipment, found a simmering blaze between the basement ceiling and main floor of the house.

The Harvicks and son Keelan were able to get out of the house quickly and safely.

“If it weren’t for these guys, I wouldn’t have a house,” Harvick said in a team news release. “We didn’t think anything was actually on fire, because we couldn’t see any flames and figured the smoke was coming from the fireplace.”

Harvick and his son toured the Oak Hill fire station on Thursday and gave personal thanks to Chief Steve Simmons.

“Chief Simmons and his guys knew exactly what to do and were able to contain a small mess that could have been a very big mess,” Harvick said. “We’re very fortunate.”

Added Chief Simmons, “I cannot think of better example of how smoke detectors save lives than Kevin and DeLana’s story. They have a very nice home and lots of nice things, but the best investment they made in that house was the smoke alarm.”

To show further thanks, Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet team will host those firefighters who responded to the fire at Sunday’s STP 500 Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. The firefighters will also serve as honorary crew members and watch much of the race from atop the war wagon in Harvick’s pit stall.

Harvick’s race car will also carry a special “Smoke detectors save lives” decal recognizing both the firefighters and department for their life-saving efforts.

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Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.