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

Norris made to wait for F3 title after final lap crash in Austria

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Rising British racer Lando Norris has been made to wait to secure the FIA European Formula 3 title after a crash on the final lap of Sunday’s race at the Red Bull Ring ensured the championship battle will go to the final round of the season.

Norris, 17, became part of Formula 1 team McLaren’s junior program earlier this year, and enjoyed his maiden test in a grand prix racer in Hungary over the summer, putting in an impressive display.

Norris has been racing in the highly-competitive FIA F3 series in Europe this year, a championship that has proved crucial in the careers for drivers such as Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi.

After finishing second earlier on Sunday, Norris needed to simply finish ahead of chief title rival Maximilian Günther in the final race of the weekend to clinch the championship with three races to spare.

Norris started second and retained his position throughout the race, only to come under pressure from Ralf Aron in the closing stages, the two drivers making contact on the last lap.

Norris was sent off the track and into the gravel, forcing him to retire from the race, and with Günther finishing fifth, the points gap was reduced to 72 with three races remaining at Hockenheim in three weeks’ time.

While a title win is still likely for Norris given just 75 are on offer, to have come so close to sealing it early will nevertheless come as a blow to the talented youngster.

Norris is set to be placed in Formula 2 by McLaren in 2018, but is poised to be a name that is spoken about for many years to come in F1.

Marquez fights to Aragon MotoGP win, opens up points lead

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Marc Marquez fought through to his fifth win of the 2017 MotoGP season in Sunday’s Aragon Grand Prix, extending his lead in the riders’ championship to 16 points over Andrea Dovizioso.

A fall in qualifying meant Marquez started only fifth at Motorland Aragon, and failed to make any inroads at the start of the race, running only fourth in the early stages as Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo hit the front.

Marquez was able to slowly rise up the order, passing title rival Dovizioso, Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and finally Lorenzo, taking the lead of the race on Lap 16.

Marquez ultimately crossed the line less than one second clear of teammate Dani Pedrosa, who continued his good record at Motorland Aragon to complete a one-two finish for Repsol Honda.

Lorenzo held on to take his second podium in Ducati colors in third, finishing ahead of Yamaha pole-sitter Maverick Viñales, who dropped to fifth on the opening lap and never recovered.

Rossi’s remarkable return to racing a little over three weeks since suffering a double leg break ended with a run to fifth at the checkered flag, having spent the early part of the race battling at the front before dropping back.

Aleix Espargaro finished sixth ahead of Dovizioso, who slipped to 16 points behind Marquez in the title race by only finishing seventh for Ducati.

Alvaro Bautista crossed the line eighth ahead of Tech3’s Johann Zarco, while Pol Espargaro completed the top 10.

MotoGP returns in three weeks’ time with the Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi.

Palmer calls breakthrough F1 points ‘a weight off the shoulders’

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Jolyon Palmer has conceded that his march to his first points of the 2017 Formula 1 season last time out in Singapore was “a weight off the shoulders” as he looks to gain momentum for the remaining six races of the season.

Palmer recorded his best finish in F1 under the lights at Marina Bay, crossing the line sixth in the first wet night race in the history of the sport.

The result came at the end of a tough weekend for Palmer that saw Renault confirm it would be dropping the Briton from its F1 line-up for 2018, drafting in Carlos Sainz Jr. from Toro Rosso.

Even without an F1 seat to save, Palmer hopes the result can mark the start of a strong run to finish his time with Renault through the final six races.

“Finally we had a smooth race, which is ironic given what was going on with the safety cars and the tricky weather conditions,” Palmer said.

“We made a good start, and the move on [Valtteri] Bottas was fun; a lot happened in the two hours. It feels
like a weight off the shoulders to get some points.

“I hope to push on now and get some more. I know I can do it.”

Should Palmer wish to remain in F1, his only realistic options lie with Williams and Sauber for 2018, although both teams are understood to be looking elsewhere.

A report from Autosport claims Williams has narrowed its shortlist to partner Lance Stroll next year down to existing driver Felipe Massa, reserve driver Paul di Resta and recent Renault tester Robert Kubica.

Ferrari youngster and runaway Formula 2 points leader Charles Leclerc looks nailed on to take one of Sauber’s seats next year, replacing Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein.

Marcus Ericsson is expected to keep his seat with Sauber for a fourth season, with Leclerc’s fellow Ferrari-backed youngster Antonio Giovinazzi seemingly the only alternative for the Swiss team.

Renault F1 expecting to be ‘best of the rest’ in Malaysian GP

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Renault Formula 1 bosses Cyril Abiteboul and Nick Chester are confident of being the ‘best of the rest’ behind the front-running teams and leading F1’s midfield in Malaysia next weekend.

Renault enjoyed one of its strongest weekends of the season so far last time out in Singapore, with Nico Hulkenberg qualifying fifth and Jolyon Palmer picking up eight points for P6 in the race.

The result saw Renault move up to seventh in the constructors’ championship, and Abiteboul wants to keep the momentum going as part of its bid for a top-five finish come the end of the season.

“A positive we can take from Singapore is that we have moved up a position in the constructors’ championship which means a step closer to our end of season goal of fifth place overall,” Abiteboul said.

“Reliability remains our main focus, maximum effort and flawless execution is required by all in the remaining six races to achieve that target.

“Sepang will be about negotiating the unpredictable climate and getting the best out of the whole package in the heat and humidity. As we continue to develop the chassis side, we will introduce a new engine on Nico’s car at the start of the weekend, his fourth, engine of the season.

“We fully expect to have both cars in the top 10 as we have shown our capability on a number of occasions to be the best team behind the top three.”

Technical chief Chester echoed Abiteboul’s thoughts, believing the strengths of the R.S.17 car will put the team in good stead at Sepang.

“We ought to go quite well in Malaysia with the mixture of low, medium and high-speed corners – we should be the fourth quickest car again. The car has good pace and it looked strong in the wet in Singapore,” Chester said.

“The wet running we had in Singapore is useful information for us, given Malaysia is known to throw up a few surprises with its changeable climate.

“Overall the car is working reasonably well at this stage in the season.”