Duck Commander 500

Joey Logano charges past Jeff Gordon to Texas win in G-W-C

Leave a comment

What was effectively a Sunday cruise at Texas Motor Speedway for Joey Logano got far more interesting than he likely would have preferred.

Logano took the lead just after a restart at Lap 227 and dominated the final stages of the race – only to have a left-rear tire failure for Kurt Busch spray debris on the track and trigger the caution with two laps to go.

Coming out third after pit stops before the first Green-White-Checkered finish attempt, he was going to have to earn this one. And he did, blowing past Brian Vickers and then Jeff Gordon on the final lap to nail down a win in the Duck Commander 500.

After earning Top-5 finishes in both races last year at Texas Motor Speedway, Logano has conquered the 1.5-mile oval for the first time in his Sprint Cup career.

Additionally, he is now the seventh different winner in as many Sprint Cup races this season. With the result, he joins Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the Chase Grid, with the latter having won earlier this year in Las Vegas.

“Talk about a lot of emotions! You feel like you’re about to win the race and then the caution comes out when you’re coming to take the white and you’re ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,'” Logano told Fox Sports.

After Busch’s issue, Logano led the field to the pits where Gordon and Vickers leapfrogged him by taking two tires to Logano’s four.

That put Logano third in line ahead of Keselowski, albeit only briefly; Keselowski was tagged for speeding on pit road and had to drop to the tail end of the longest line (he would finish 15th).

Gordon got a good restart in G-W-C, but Logano quickly dispatched Vickers on the inside. Then, as the white flag waved, Logano went side-by-side with Gordon across the start/finish line.

Logano would complete the pass in Turn 1 and leave Gordon in the dust.

“The boys did a great job in the pits and we came out where we needed to be,” Logano said. “Then, I had a good enough restart and then a good enough run on [Gordon] to pass him…Man, it feels good to be back in Victory Lane, in the Chase. I’m just stoked.”

As for Gordon, who almost took a Texas A&M-sponsored car to Victory Lane in the Lone Star State, he admitted that he wouldn’t have had a chance to win without the yellow at the end.

“At one point [today], I thought we didn’t have a shot at all,” Gordon said. “We got a pretty good restart, Joey was right on me and I was pretty loose in [Turns] 1 and 2.

“I wish I’d would’ve gone a little bit higher down in 3 and 4, but he got that run off of 4 and then he got in the back of me so I thought I was gonna wreck. At that point, I was like, ‘Second would be good’ [laughs].”

Gordon can at least take solace in becoming the new Sprint Cup points leader by four points over Matt Kenseth.

Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., entered Texas as the points leader but crashed out of the race on Lap 13 after running his left-side tires into the wet infield grass and then skidding into the wall.

That was part of a bizarre beginning to the event, which started with the first 10 laps running under yellow to help track dryers put more heat in the track.

Following Earnhardt’s wreck, another Texas contender fell by the wayside on Lap 28 as Kevin Harvick suffered a terminal engine problem that continues his run of horrid luck.

Fortunately, things eventually settled down and the race took on a normal rhythm – until the caution with two laps to go jumbled everything up.

While Logano and Gordon finished first and second pretty much by themselves, Kyle Busch was left to fight off a cluster of cars for third place. But the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was able to do the job, completing a solid run after starting 29th.

Vickers faded back on the restart after Logano took care of him, but was able to nip Kyle Larson at the stripe for fourth.

Unofficial Results

1. Joey Logano, led 108 laps
2. Jeff Gordon, led 40 laps
3. Kyle Busch, led 10 laps
4. Brian Vickers
5. Kyle Larson
6. Greg Biffle
7. Matt Kenseth
8. Clint Bowyer, led 1 lap
9. Paul Menard
10. Tony Stewart, led 74 laps
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Aric Almirola
13. Denny Hamlin, led 20 laps
14. Carl Edwards
15. Brad Keselowski, led 85 laps
16. Ryan Newman
17. Jamie McMurray
18. Martin Truex Jr.
19. Trevor Bayne
20. Marcos Ambrose
21. Austin Dillon
22. David Gilliland
23. A.J. Allmendinger
24. Justin Allgaier
25. Jimmie Johnson
26. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
27. Danica Patrick
28. Casey Mears
29. Michael Annett
30. Michael McDowell
31. Cole Whitt
32. Alex Bowman
33. Reed Sorenson, led one lap
34. Landon Cassill
35. David Ragan
36. Josh Wise
37. Travis Kvapil
38. David Reutimann

39. Kurt Busch, Lap 327, Accident
40. Parker Kligerman, Lap 313, Overheating
41. Dave Blaney, Lap 272, Steering
42. Kevin Harvick, led one lap, Lap 28, Engine
43. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Lap 12, Accident

MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: 2016 Mexican GP

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 27:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing arrive at the circuit in full Dia de Muertos face paint during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 27, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Formula 1 returns to Mexico this weekend with memories of last year’s exuberant event still fresh and the championship battle finely poised.

Nico Rosberg may have lost out to Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton last weekend in Austin, Texas, but the German is still 26 points clear heading to Mexico City.

Rosberg can mathematically win the championship this Sunday, but needs Hamilton not to score and would have to win the race himself.

What can we expect in Mexico this weekend? MST F1 writers Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno make their picks.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton was effortless flawless in Austin. I’ll say he’ll carry that form through to Mexico on Sunday and tick another track off his win list.

Surprise Finish: Sergio Perez. While I doubt Perez can hit the podium, I reckon he could get among the Ferrari drivers and take home another top five finish for Force India on home soil.

Most to Prove: Esteban Gutierrez. At his first home grand prix weekend, Gutierrez needs to impress as he bids to remain with Haas for 2017.

Additional Storyline: Rosberg’s approach. Will Rosberg play things safe in Mexico? Or could he try and finish what he started with a 10th victory of the season? Keep an eye on his on-track attitude.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. It may not matter for the championship if Nico Rosberg finishes second but thanks to his on-form weekend in Austin, I think Hamilton can carry the momentum to Mexico and add this circuit to his tally of victories. A win here would tie him with Alain Prost for second all-time on 51.

Surprise Finish: Sergio Perez. Going to peg the Mexican for at least a top-five finish on home soil in Mexico City. A Mercedes-powered Williams got on the podium here last year, and I’m going to be so bold as to see Perez scores P3 here thanks to some abnormal circumstances taking the Red Bulls and Ferraris from podium contention.

Most to Prove: Renault’s current pair. I wrote the same last week, but after both Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer had a weekend to forget in Austin, either or both of them need to step up this weekend. Problem here is, it will be extra difficult considering neither raced here last year.

Additional Storyline: Mexico year two. Much as we always look at how COTA does year-on-year, will Mexico’s second outing of its return to the calendar feature the same festive crowd, atmosphere and presence or will there be a drop off?

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Sergio Perez Force India

Aoyama to replace injured Pedrosa for Malaysia MotoGP round

MOTEGI, JAPAN - OCTOBER 15:   Hiroshi Aoyama of Japan and Repsol Honda Team (rides in place of Dani pedrosa of Spain) heads down a straight during the practice during the MotoGP of Japan - Qualifying at Twin Ring Motegi on October 15, 2016 in Motegi, Japan.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Honda test rider Hiroshi Aoyama will return to the MotoGP grid this weekend in Malaysia, deputizing for the injured Dani Pedrosa.

Pedrosa sustained a fractured collarbone after crashing during practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, with Aoyama stepping in for the remainder of the weekend at Motegi. The Japanese rider finished 15th, scoring one point.

American rider Nicky Hayden stood in last weekend in Australia, but is unable to race in Malaysia due to a clash with the World Superbike Championship. As a result, Aoyama will return for the race weekend at the Sepang International Circuit.

“I’m very glad to have the chance to ride for the Repsol Honda Team again, as in Japan it was a bit challenging to start Saturday morning from FP3, to adapt to the bike and to try and find my rhythm,” Aoyama said.

“I hope this time things will work out well and I can find a good feeling with the bike since the beginning. All of us wish for Dani coming back soon, but until he is recovered I’ll do my best for Honda and for the Repsol Honda Team.

“Tuesday was my 35th birthday and I’m simply happy to be here in Malaysia, which is a country I particularly like and I look forward to enjoy racing at the Sepang Circuit.”

Rosberg focused on winning the race, not the championship, in Mexico

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 27:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP talks in the Drivers Press Conference during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 27, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nico Rosberg insists that he is only focused on winning the race and not the championship this weekend when Formula 1 visits Mexico City.

Rosberg is able to clinch his maiden F1 drivers’ championship this Sunday in Mexico, but only if he wins the race and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton fails to score any points.

The German has long insisted that he is approaching the championship on a race by race basis, and won’t change that stance in Mexico.

“I’m well aware of that,” Rosberg said when reminded he could win the title on Sunday.

“It’s been a great season so far which has put me in this position. It’s exciting to be in this championship battle with Lewis towards the end of the season.

“For me, my way of achieving the best possible result is to focus on the things that are in my control. In Mexico, that’s winning the race.

“For the championship, it’s not really in my control if I get it this weekend. It’s about winning the race and then see what happens.”

Rosberg maintained the approach when asked what winning the world championship would mean to him.

“It’s a childhood dream. But that’s where it ends for me,” Rosberg said.

“For me important this weekend is winning the Mexican GP.”

Rosberg was also asked about F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone’s suggestion over the United States Grand Prix weekend that the German winning the title would not be as good for F1 as if Hamilton won it.

“I spoke to him personally and he said that’s not exactly the way he said it,” Rosberg said.

“But for me it’s not something that’s important to me. I focus on my thing. That’s it.”

Rosberg won last year’s grand prix in Mexico when F1 returned after 23-year hiatus, and is relishing the opportunity to race in front of a passionate home crowd.

“I have great memories from here last year, winning here was awesome,” Rosberg said.

“The podium is one of the best in the year in the baseball stadium, it was absolutely phenomenal.”

Red Bull’s ‘Mad Max’ Verstappen adds flair and drama to F1

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 23: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing sits in his car in the garage before the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
1 Comment

It’s been a wild season for young Max Verstappen.

The talented Dutch teenager has been promoted to Red Bull, become the youngest winner in Formula One history and bickered with some of the top teams and drivers in the sport. His aggressive tactics have even prompted a rules clarification for safety.

“Mad Max” is brash, won’t be intimidated and to many, he’s a much-needed dose of excitement for Formula One and a future champion. The kid seized on his chance to be fast and famous and won’t let go.

“Why wait?” Verstappen said. “I have a great car, a great team, and I want it all as quickly as possible.”

Verstappen is squeezing everything he can into this season as Formula One races this week in Mexico City. At the U.S. Grand Prix in Texas last week, Verstappen provided days of drama worthy of a 19-year-old still learning how to navigate a grown-up sport.

The teams had barely left Japan two weeks earlier when Mercedes considered, then opted not to file a complaint over his defensive moves against Lewis Hamilton in a braking zone. Verstappen finished second and Hamilton’s third-place finish pushed him further back in the 2016 title chase against teammate Nico Rosberg.

By the time drivers got to Austin, several used their Friday meeting to complain about their precocious rival. Having heard similar comments several times this season, Formula One officials issued a rule clarification: blocking during braking would be deemed illegal and punished. It took about 10 minutes for the media to call it the “Verstappen Rule.”

He shrugged.

“Maybe they can get past (me), now,” Verstappen said.

Conflicts have also flared in the Red Bull garage.

After getting an early warning during the race to save his tires, Verstappen barked over his car radio that he’s “not here to finish fourth!” A few laps later, he mistakenly went into a pit stop without a team order. He was out of the race a few laps later with a gearbox problem.

Even that disrupted teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Unable to race but still mobile, Verstappen tried to nurse his car around the track before he eventually pulled over and stopped. That brought out a yellow flag, which meant Ricciardo lost valuable time in his battle for second with Rosberg. Ricciardo finished third.

“When I saw Max out there, I thought, ‘Ah hell, my boy’s done it again.’ That was a devastating moment, but we’ll keep soldiering on,” Ricciardo said.

Team leadership was not amused.

“We have 80 engineers and strategists, but it’s all useless if a driver decides alone to come into the pits,” Red Bull racing consultant Helmut Marko told Autoweek.

Verstappen is the son of race driver Jos Verstappen, who made 106 career Formula One starts, and his talent caught a lot of attention from teams growing up. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff tried to sign Verstappen when he was 14 before Red Bull snagged him.

Wolff, whose drivers are chasing each other for the team’s third consecutive championship, has alternately called Verstappen “refreshing” and “dangerous” and has even compared him to Formula One’s revered Ayrton Senna.

“He comes in here with no fear, no respect, puts the elbows out,” Wolff said earlier this season.

That approach has worn thin on some teams, most notably Ferrari and its two former world champion drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen has warned Verstappen could cause a “massive accident” with his driving.

But Verstappen’s critics have done most of their shouting at him from the rear. Before his car failed him in Texas, Verstappen finished second in Malaysia and Japan. His five podium finishes in the last 10 races are three more than Vettel and Raikkonen combined.

And back in Spain, when the Mercedes cars knocked each other out in a first-lap crash, Verstappen leaped to the front and doggedly held off Raikkonen for his first career victory in his first race for Red Bull.

Verstappen drives with swagger and a win Sunday in Mexico would come on his 20th birthday. His critics have done little damage to his confidence or skills behind the wheel.

“No,” Verstappen said. “I am a grown-up boy.”