NASCAR: Martinsville win should be a relief for Kurt Busch on several levels

Leave a comment

So Stewart-Haas Racing’s two newest drivers – Kevin Harvick and now Kurt Busch – have themselves a victory in 2014. For Busch, this one is as much as a relief for the rest of his 2014 as planned, as it is a great comeback story from two years with mid-level teams.

As the sixth winner in as many NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2014, Busch has all but locked himself into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The only way he isn’t is, again, if there are more than 16 race winners within the first 26 regular season races.

In terms of his gelling with SHR, crew chief Daniel Knost and the rest of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet team, Busch and company are now starting to get the results to back up the pace they’ve had thus far throughout the first six races. With third at Auto Club Speedway last week and now the Martinsville win, that’s back-to-back top-five finishes.

“His pit calls were wonderful,” Busch said post-race. “The pit crew did an excellent job holding serve on pit road, and every time that I had a little handling issue, Daniel had a fix for it today, so great teamwork. Thank you, Daniel.”

This also takes a bit of stress off Busch for his month of May double, running in both the Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport and then the Coca-Cola 600 that night of Sunday, May 25.

So long as he produces a qualifying attempt for the Coca-Cola 600 on Thursday, May 22, he’s good to go for the Chase within the regulations. He would be free to miss the start of the Coca-Cola 600 if Indianapolis were to have some sort of delay, or if Busch was to win the 500-miler.

Of course missing the Charlotte start would defeat the whole intention of running 1,100 miles in a single day of racing.

Back in his day job, Busch is particularly proud of the teamwork already established by the No. 41 camp, which is also relieving.

“So it shows what teamwork is all about. That’s what I want everybody to take away from today is teamwork,” he said. “What better way to win than using that old cliché, can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I’ve got a Hendrick chassis and a Hendrick motor prepared by Stewart-Haas Racing, and we brought our No. 41 car home to victory lane.”

Take the controversy of the Brad Keselowski dust-up out of it and this was a needed result on several levels for “The Outlaw.”

Newgarden, Chevy top Phoenix practice

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

Friday’s two-hour practice for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix started out slowly, with only a handful of drivers turning laps in the opening 30 minutes. However, the second hour, and the final 30 minutes in particular, turned into a frenzy, with drivers making several runs and completing qualifying sims.

Josef Newgarden topped the speed charts with an average speed of 192.108 mph, the only lap above the 192 mark of the session.

JR Hildebrand enjoyed a strong run on his return after suffering a broken hand at Long Beach to run second in practice. Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power completed the top five, making it a Chevrolet sweep of the top five spots.

Heavy winds wreaked havoc on the session, with sand blowing onto the track surface throughout practice. Conditions became severe enough that practice was halted a couple minutes prior to its scheduled conclusion.

Of note: driver Ed Carpenter, in his first race outing of 2017, suffered a shortened practice due to mechanical issues and the crew reportedly was working on swapping out the fuel cell on his No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

Times and qualifying order are below. Qualifying begins at 11:00 p.m. ET (8:00 local time).

 

 

Honda defends decision to redesign F1 power unit for 2017

McLaren/LAT
Leave a comment

Honda Formula 1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa has defended the decision to redesign its power unit layout for 2017 despite suffering a number of reliability and performance issues at the start of the season.

Entering its third year since returning to F1 as an engine supplier, Honda looked to make gains by revising the layout of its power unit to mirror that of pace-setter Mercedes.

The decision appeared to backfire, though, with a lack of both performance and reliability leaving customer team McLaren frustrated and without a single point after three races.

Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference in Russia, Hasegawa was asked if the decision to revise the power unit layout was a mistake, and defending the move despite admitting to the ongoing problems.

“I don’t think we made a complete mistake from last year’s performance. We knew that we have to change everything, not only the package but also the combustion, so we tried to modify all areas,” Hasegawa explained.

“Some areas we succeeded, to reduce the weight and lower the center of gravity, but yeah, definitely we couldn’t get enough power from the combustion. So, yeah, it is just an excuse, but we still need time.

“But we don’t think we made a huge mistake, the direction was right. We are very much disappointed with our current situation.

“But because the base concept is correct, we believe we can make good progress in the middle of the season.”

McLaren’s hopes of scoring its first points of the year in Russia took a hit on Friday when Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to take new elements for his power unit, triggering a 15-place grid drop for the race.

More brake issues strike Haas in Russia F1 practice despite supplier change

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Haas Formula 1 team endured another difficult day of practice ahead of the Russian Grand Prix as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen suffered more brake issues despite changing supplier.

Haas confirmed on Thursday that it would be switching from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes, having suffered problems throughout its 14-month stint in F1.

Despite enjoying a positive test in Bahrain with Carbon Industrie parts last week, both Grosjean and Magnussen struggled with their brakes in FP1 and FP2 at the Sochi Autodrom on Friday.

Grosjean finished FP2 14th-fastest, with Magnussen breaking into the top 10, charging to ninth place in the VF-17 car.

“We’ve got very little grip. We’re really struggling with the balance,” Grosjean said. “We had some issues, as well, with the brakes over the long runs. We need to look at what we can do better with them.

“Generally, it’s just been a very difficult Friday. The car didn’t perform well – very low grip on low fuel and high fuel.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “We had a lot to do and I think we did a lot. We still haven’t got all the results yet, as we need to go through data.

“I would say the issues with the brakes were mainly because they’re new to us. We need to find out how they work. Going through the data, we will decide tomorrow what we’re doing and how we continue.

“All in all, we had pretty fruitful sessions. We did a lot of laps and we learned a lot. Now we need to get the best out of what we learned for tomorrow to go into qualifying.”

Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix, Friday edition (VIDEO)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

While the drivers may be the stars of Formula 1, their on-track escapades would not be possible without the titanic effort from those behind the scenes at their respective teams, making it key for us to hear from the people who make racing possible from time to time.

Following on from the special Friday edition of NBC Sports’ original digital series ‘Paddock Pass’ in Bahrain, Will Buxton is back with all of the interviews from the team bosses in today’s FIA press conference in Russia.

In part one, we hear from Otmar Szafnauer, COO at Force India, who gives his verdict on the team’s showing in 2017 so far and new driver Esteban Ocon’s start to the season. We also catch up with Renault technical boss Nick Chester and Pirelli’s new F1 chief, Mario Isola.

In part two, Ferrari’s engine boss Luigi Fabroni offers his thoughts on the Italian marque’s strong start to the 2017 season following Sebastian Vettel’s wins in Australia and Bahrain. At the other end of the success spectrum, McLaren’s Matt Morris and Honda’s Yusuke Hasegawa discuss the ongoing rebuilding project at woking.