Tony Stewart led the field to the green in Monday's rain-postponed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Duck Commander 500 weather update: Backup plan set as drying continues

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UPDATE (7:11 p.m. ET): While track drying continues at Texas Motor Speedway, a backup plan has been set should the Duck Commander 500 not go off tonight in Fort Worth.

If the race is postponed tonight, the race will start on Monday at Noon ET.

UPDATE (5:55 p.m. ET): While all pre-race ceremonies have been completed, the Duck Commander 500 continues to be held up as crews work to dry out the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.

Unfortunately, the process is taking longer than usual as NASCAR executive vice president of racing operations Steve O’Donnell has confirmed that “weepers” – streams of water rising from cracks in the track surface – are proving problematic:

We’ll continue to keep you posted on any further developments, but the general consensus is that NASCAR will once again race in prime time – if it races at all this Sunday.

UPDATE (4:15 p.m. ET): Driver intros have been completed, but while Fox Sports reported that the race’s start time was 4:31 p.m. ET, NASCAR has said that the start of the race is still on hold for now:

Media reports from Texas Motor Speedway say that pre-race ceremonies will continue on but track drying will continue after their completion.

UPDATE (3:35 p.m. ET): Fox Sports is now reporting that the Duck Commander 500 has been given a start time of 4:31 p.m. ET – less than one hour from now. Driver introductions are also expected to take place shortly.

UPDATE (3:13 p.m. ET): With the Air Titans and other track dryers making their way around the damp Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR has given word that driver introductions for today’s Duck Commander 500 have now been set for 3:45 p.m. ET, about a half-hour after the originally scheduled start of the race.

A typical Sprint Cup schedule usually has the green flag drop within the hour of those intros.

Although they probably didn’t think it when they were searching for a name, Sunday’s scheduled Duck Commander 500 is rather aptly named: the weather right now at Texas Motor Speedway continues to be for the birds.

Heavy rain has pounded the Fort Worth, Texas facility since the wee hours and continues as of 1:45 pm ET, with the temperature at 51 degrees.

The race is scheduled for a 3:16 pm ET green flag, but that’s likely not going to happen.

In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service radar and forecast, rain is expected to continue for the rest of the afternoon and into Sunday evening.

At 1:30 pm ET, the NOAA revised its forecast, dropping the chance of thunderstorms this afternoon for the Fort Worth area from 100 to 80 percent.

And where the NOAA originally had tonight’s forecast at 80 percent, it has since revised things to just a “chance of showers” and a 30 percent chance at that.

Then, less than a half-hour later, the NOAA went back to its original forecast of an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms until at least early evening.

Monday’s forecast indicates a chance of thunderstorms both during the day and evening, but only at 30 percent.

NASCAR and TMS officials are weighing their options, but there’s not many.

The track does not have a curfew, so if the rain stops later tonight and the racing surface is able to be dried by several Air Titan2 vehicles on site, there could be a chance of a very late start.

The race is scheduled to be broadcast on Fox Sports, but that could change if the event is pushed back deep into the evening.

NASCAR and TMS officials likely will do everything they can to get the race in tonight, regardless of how late it starts, because the last thing both entities want to do is go head-to-head with the NCAA men’s basketball championship game between Connecticut and Kentucky Monday night in nearby Arlington, Texas.

What’s more, according to a tweet by USA Today’s Nate Ryan, the track is rented out by at least one group Monday morning as a prelude before the championship game.

And waiting until Tuesday – when temperatures are expected to be in the low 70s and in sunny conditions (with little chance of rain) – is likely out of the question, particularly since the next NASCAR race is Saturday at Darlington. That would give teams less than two days to get back to Charlotte from Texas, turn around and reload and head out to Darlington, which is about two hours from Charlotte.

We’ll update you with any changing weather conditions, as well as any updates on a potential green flag, as they become available.

But right now, it looks like it’s going to be a long afternoon’s journey into night before we hopefully see any action on the track down in Texas.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Esteban Ocon secures Mercedes DTM seat for 2016

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Sunday 29 November 2015.
Esteban Ocon (FRA, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C8733
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2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.

Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.

The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.

“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.

“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.

“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.

“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”

Trident completes 2016 GP2 line-up with Armand

2015 GP2 Series Test 3.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 4 December 2015.
Philo Armand (INA, Status Grand Prix).
Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _L0U4261
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Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.

Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.

Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.

“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.

The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.

Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.

Marchionne calls for Alfa Romeo to consider F1 entry

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  The Alfa Romeo 4C on display at the Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood Alfa Romeo Ride and Drive luncheon at The Polsky Residence on February 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
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Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.

Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.

Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.

“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.

Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.

“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.

“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”

Grosjean unveils new helmet design for first F1 season with Haas

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Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.

Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.

Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.

In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.

Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.