Brad Keselowski: Changes overdue to Sprint Cup schedule; offers his ideas

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Brad Keselowski had a dream season in 2012, winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

Now Keselowski wants a dream schedule on the Cup circuit – and some of his ideas make sense.

Writing a few days ago on his blog at bradracing.com, Keselowski proposes a number of changes for the Cup slate, including increasing the number of races from 36 to 38 (adding Iowa Speedway and Road Atlanta to the schedule), having 10 “doubleheader” weeks (races on Sundays and either the preceding or following Wednesday), and an eight-week Chase (including two doubleheaders) that would wrap the season up by the end of October.

Oh yes, and let’s not forget Keselowski wants to move the Sprint All-Star race from its traditional mid-May date to after the regular season, to become similar to the NFL’s Pro Bowl scheduling.

“Why is the schedule so sacred?” Keselowski asks. “Everything else has been cut, changed, chopped, and rebuilt. Why not that?”

Keselowski proposes a three-race “western swing” after the season-opening Daytona 500 that would have the Sprint Cup Series visit Fontana, Phoenix and Sonoma in consecutive weekends.

“It would also be good for the people the travel the NASCAR circuit,” Keselowski wrote. “They could come along with us for the West Coast tour. We’d be like the Grateful Dead, with people following us everywhere we went.”

Right, and have tie-dyed firesuits, right? Groovy, Brad-io.

After the West Coast swing, Keselowski would like to see – what else? – an East Coast swing that starts in Homestead, Darlington, Martinsville, Bristol and then out to Texas.

As for the doubleheader idea, it’s intriguing – and something that fans have proposed for years, namely mid-week night races in prime-time on TV.

“Here’s why,” Keselowski said. “Like I said, there’s such a dead stretch in the middle of the season. Turn on SportsCenter on a Summer Wednesday, and what are they talking about? Tim Tebow in training camp? The only major sport that’s in full swing is baseball.”

Tim Tebow in training camp? Uh, Brad, I guess no one told you, but TT is no longer playing football. Just sayin’.

But this doubleheader idea has a lot of merit.

“We race twice a week,” Keselowski wrote. “We start hitting double headers at some of these marquee places that are not that far from each other on the map, and we do it for three weeks in a row. Michigan and Pocono. (Okay, they’re not that close, but roll with me here.) Iowa and Kansas. Dover and Loudon.”

For the record, Brad, you had me at “We race twice a week.”

While it would be hard for race teams, not to mention what happens if rain pushes race day back a day or two, but we still like the concept a LOT.

“During that stretch, everything moves to a two-day show,” Keselowski said. “You practice and qualify on one day, and race on the next. Teams that are running really well would get on a roll. Teams that are running poorly would risk falling into a slump.”

But there’s one thing that might draw the ire of some of Keselowski’s fellow Cup regulars, folks like Kyle Busch or Matt Kenseth.

“I want to take a quick moment to point out an added benefit of doing two Cup races a week — it would discourage Cup drivers from driving in the Nationwide as much,” Keselowski said. “To me, that’s a good thing. Right now, Cup drivers have financial incentives to drive in the Nationwide Series. Personally, I also like the added opportunities to keep my skills sharp. But if you’re driving double headers, it’s Cup racing, all the time.”

Check. We like that idea, too, Brad.

Then Keselowski proposes nearly week-long back-to-back stays for summer races at Daytona and Indianapolis, followed by four straight weeks of what have the prospect of being grueling doubleheaders: Kentucky/Atlanta, Pocono/Michigan, Bristol/Road Atlanta and Richmond/Talladega.

An interesting idea, indeed, although we have to question why Brad would put Talladega as the final Chase-qualifying race instead of Richmond.

Speaking of the Chase, Keselowski continues the doubleheader concept by starting the playoffs with back-to-back races at Loudon and Watkins Glen (moving a road course race into the Chase).

After a single week’s race at Chicago, there’s more back-to-backers with Kansas/Martinsville, a single race at Charlotte, a doubleheader at Dover/Texas and Phoenix.

Then, Keselowski proposes to run the All-Star race and vary its venue each year.

But we’re not done. After the All-Star race, there’s a two-week layoff before the season finale at Las Vegas. And as an incentive, the team that wins the All-Star race sits on the pole for the season conclusion in Sin City.

In other words, have a two-week buildup to the championship-determining race like the NFL has with the Super Bowl.

Keselowski admittedly makes some pretty decent points. What do you think? Leave us your thoughts on Bad Brad’s “dream schedule.”

Do you feel all dreamy about it, too, or is it one of your worst nightmares come true?

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

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CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.

FIA to re-examine Vettel/Hamilton Baku clash

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The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.

Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.

The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.

Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.

On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

More to follow.

Wickens not interested in full-time IndyCar switch despite practice run

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Robert Wickens is not interested in making a full-time switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future despite his practice run-out at Road America last weekend for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Mercedes DTM driver Wickens was called up for Friday practice at the KOHLER Grand Prix in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after Mikhail Aleshin was unable to make it in time due to immigration issues.

Aleshin was able to return to the United States in time for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Road America, with Wickens stepping back down.

The Canadian got his first taste of an Indy car in a car swap with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in March, paving the way for his practice appearance at Road America.

However, Wickens is not looking to make a full-time move over to IndyCar anytime soon despite enjoying his run-out, with his focus lying with DTM.

“Not really, to be honest,” Wickens said when asked if IndyCar was something he would like to move into in Mercedes’ ‘Tales from the Paddock’ press newsletter.

“I just want to race cars. That’s the main thing. I have no urge to leave the DTM at the moment.

“Everything is going well, and I’m really happy with Mercedes.”

Wickens also went into detail about how rapidly things moved with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having only been told the day before practice that he was required for the running.

“I planned on having a relaxing weekend at home, but on Thursday afternoon I got a call from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the team that we did the ride swap with involving James Hinchcliffe back in April,” Wickens said.

“They asked if I could go to Road America and fill in for Mikhail Aleshin who had immigration issues. Fortunately, Toto [Wolff] was happy for me to do it and I was able to jump on a plane and get to Wisconsin.

“We didn’t get to the hotel until about 10pm on Thursday, and Free Practice 1 was on Friday morning very early. It took some getting used to.

“The practice itself was fun. The track was really good. It would be amazing to have a DTM race there one day.

“I definitely wanted to do the full weekend, but the full-time driver got his immigration stuff sorted and he made it to the race track by Friday night. My duties were finished, but it was still a really fun Friday.”

Force India’s Celis gets FP1 appearances in Austria, Hungary

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Force India youngster Alfonso Celis Jr. will make his first Formula 1 race weekend appearances of the season next month, taking part in first practice for the grands prix in Austria and Hungary.

Celis, 20, joined Force India as a development driver ahead of the 2016 season, enjoying six FP1 run-outs across the course of the year.

The Mexican driver returned for 2017, taking part in pre-season testing and the running following the Bahrain Grand Prix in April.

Force India confirmed on Wednesday that Celis will return for FP1 in Austria next week, before also featuring in practice in Hungary at the end of July.