Swan Racing struggles reportedly worsen, future uncertain

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The future of Swan Racing in Sprint Cup racing is not looking good.

The team issued a statement Thursday that it was reevaluating its future after expected sponsorship for the two-car operation of rookies Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman failed to materialize.

Afterward, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Dave Moody, host of SiriusXM Speedway, said in his blog, “Team employees were reportedly informed (Thursday) that the team is suspending operations, and many of them are already seeking employment with other teams.”

Moody added, “(the team) may not compete in the circuit’s next race at Richmond International Raceway on April 26.”

A number of different scenarios appear to be in play.

One would be complete suspension of both teams.

A second option would be to perhaps condense operations and field only one driver, most likely Cole Whitt (photo).

Shortly after team majority owner Brandon Davis issued the statement that the organization was evaluating its options, Swan minority owner Anthony Marlowe tweeted, “My mission is to ensure @ColeWhitt races in every #NASCAR Sprint Cup event this season.”

A third option, according to sources close to Moody, “there is a possibility that Whitt’s No. 26 Toyota could be absorbed into the existing BK Racing operation, if Swan Racing is unable to continue.”

Where any of those options leave Kligerman remains uncertain.

The Swan saga appears to be one of moving too fast, too soon. Davis purchased the assets of Inception Motorsports in 2012 and rebranded it as Swan Racing, with David Stremme continuing on as its driver.

Swan remained a one-car operation in 2013, although Stremme left the team after the race at Atlanta, with several other drivers filling in for the remainder of the season including Michael Waltrip, Kevin Swindell, Kligerman and Whitt.

Swan became a two-car operation in 2014 – adding minority owners Marlowe, former NFL star Bill Romanowski and rapper 50 Cent – with Whitt and Kligerman both running full-time schedules and each vying for the Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors.

Whitt is 33rd in the Sprint Cup points standings, with a season-best finish thus far of 18th at Fontana last month.

Kligerman, however, has struggled terribly, failing to finish four of the first eight races, and has yet to finish the full length of any race, often winding up several laps behind the lead lap.

His best finish to date was 29th at Daytona, although that was a DNF. His best overall finish without a DNF was last Saturday at Darlington, where he wound up 30th. Kligerman is ranked 38th in the Cup standings heading into Richmond.

While hopes and expectations were high for Swan entering the 2014 season, this week’s events paint a dismal future in the short term – if there’s any type of future remaining at all.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Azerbaijan GP red flagged after 22 laps following chaotic sequence

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The Azerbaijan Grand Prix has been red flagged for debris following a chaotic sequence of laps that saw three safety cars be deployed following multiple incidents, leaving the track covered in debris.

The first safety car was called after Daniil Kvyat stopped out on-track, with the marshals able to recover it with relative ease, but the bunched field on the restart soon descended into chaos.

Debris from Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari caused a second safety car period to be called within a lap, but the marshals were again able to clear this easily, allowing Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to lead the field away for the second restart.

Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel made contact twice behind the safety car, leaving debris on-track at Turn 15, with both drivers blaming each other for the incident.

The greater clashes came on the first lap of green flag running as Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon clashes at Turn 3, the latter bumping Perez into the wall. Both were required to pit for repairs, and while Ocon could get back out, Perez was less fortunate, retiring from the race.

A third safety car was called, with the stewards then deciding to throw a red flag to allow the debris on the track to be cleared.

More to follow…

Hunter-Reay leads warmup at Road America

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A weekend that has been dominated by Chevrolet and Team Penske so far saw Honda jump to the top during morning warmup. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest for Andretti Autosport, followed by Max Chilton for Chip Ganassi Racing. Hunter-Reay’s teammate Alexander Rossi ended the session third, making it a Honda 1-2-3 in the morning warmup.

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was the quickest of the Chevrolet camp in fourth, followed by A.J. Foyt Racing’s Carlos Munoz in fifth.

Only 19 of the 21 drivers turned laps during the session, with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato failing to put laps in. Dixon’s No. 9 NTT Data Honda was suffering from fuel pressure problems that kept it in the garage, while Sato was feeling under the weather during the morning, and the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda team elected not to go out.

Coverage of the Kohler Grand Prix begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Nato takes F2 sprint win in Baku after Leclerc penalty

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Norman Nato picked up his first win of the 2017 FIA Formula 2 season on Sunday after a post-race penalty denied Charles Leclerc a weekend double in Baku.

Ferrari junior Leclerc took an emotional victory on Saturday just days after the death of his father, and charged from P8 on the reverse grid to take the lead from Nato late on.

However, the Monegasque driver was denied the first perfect weekend in the category (including GP2) in eight years when he was hit with a 10-second time penalty for failing to slow under yellow flags.

Despite the penalty, Leclerc was still classified second behind Nato, with Nicholas Latifi completing the podium for DAMS.

Jordan King took fourth place for MP Motorsport, while Sergey Sirotkin was fifth on his stand-in weekend at ART Grand Prix ahead of fellow Russian Artem Markelov.

Nobuharu Matsushita took seventh ahead of Luca Ghiotto, while Ralph Boschung and Sergio Sette Camara rounded out the top 10.

With second place, Leclerc extended his F2 championship lead to 42 points after chief title rival Oliver Rowland retired after leading the early part of the race.

The F2 season resumes in two weeks’ time in support of the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg.

Lauda on Hamilton’s Baku pole lap: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’

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Formula 1 legend and Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda was quick to heap praise on Lewis Hamilton after qualifying in Azerbaijan on Saturday, saying he had “never seen anything like” the Briton’s Q3 pole lap.

Hamilton charged to the 66th pole of his F1 career at the Baku City Circuit on Saturday after a last-ditch effort took his four-tenths of a second clear of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton was overjoyed by the lap, having struggled to tame the Baku circuit during its inaugural race in 2016, and three-time world champion Lauda was equally as impressed.

“We had some problems on Friday, but the team really did a fantastic job to set the car up in the right way. And Lewis with his lap today… I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lauda said, as quoted by the official F1 website.

“It was not plain sailing at all, but a lot of thinking, digging, back to the factory, and in the end the improvement the engineers and mechanics did to the car is outstanding.

“And then Lewis, what he did today, no one else I think can do that.

“He’s fantastic, especially thinking about his lap time here, because the difference he makes to everybody – it’s only Lewis.”

Hamilton will go in search of his fifth win of the season in Baku on Sunday, with coverage of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET.