After last weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski took heat for running with the leaders while being multiple laps down before he lost control and triggered a major crash during the event.
Keselowski said that he had to be aggressive in order to try and get his laps back, but several of his peers were still frustrated with what they saw as a poor decision on his part.
As for Jimmie Johnson, he said today at Kansas Speedway that if he were in Keselowski’s shoes, he probably would have chosen to ride toward the back instead. However, he admitted that such a situation is tough to be in.
“You have to think being six laps down, you are not going to get back on the lead lap,” he explained. “There is an opinion [that if] you are on the race track, you deserve a right to go race regardless how many laps down you are. I’m sure that is probably a smaller percentage of people have that opinion.
“It’s very easy when you are caught up in that wreck is to go ‘Why were you racing, you are six laps down.’ It just depends on where you are. If you are a No. 2 fan or Brad, you are probably over here. If you are [a fan of a driver] that was caught up in the wreck, you are probably in the majority in thinking it wasn’t right to race then.”
That said, Johnson believes last weekend’s incident is simply a byproduct of restrictor-plate racing, not of anything untoward by the 2012 Sprint Cup champion.
“Cars were crashed, but it’s not like – just using Brad as an example – it’s not like he went into the corner and just dumped somebody and there is going to be retaliation for a move like that,” he said. “It is plate racing and you just…throw it in the “plate bucket” and move on.
Johnson sustained damage in the Keselowski crash and then triggered a multi-car crash himself when he spun out with 13 laps to go. He managed to get home in 23rd place, but it still marked a continuation of what’s been an up-and-down season for him and his Hendrick Motorsports team.
The defending Sprint Cup champion remains winless so far in 2014, but as usual, Johnson insisted that no one in the 48 camp is panicking.
“I don’t think that we are where we want to be as a team right now, but we have had a few looks at wins and I know we will get a few more,” he said. “We just need to capitalize on that. If not, points still matter.
“There is a bigger window to make the Chase today than there was last year. Last year was 12, this year it’s 16. I don’t think there is anything to stress out about yet.”
A day after Liberty Media Corporation’s shareholders approved the proposals for its impending acquisition of Formula 1, the FIA has now done the same.
The decision was taken at today’s World Motor Sport Council meeting in Geneva and was approved unanimously. Liberty said on Tuesday night it hoped to have the full transaction completed by the end of the 2017 first quarter.
The statement from the FIA reads:
“The World Motor Sport Council has unanimously approved the change of control of Delta Topco Limited (the holding company of the Formula One Group and thus the owner of the Commercial Rights of the FIA Formula One World Championship) from CVC Capital Partners in favour of Liberty Media Corporation at an extraordinary meeting today in Geneva.
“The transaction will see the transfer of 100% of the shares in Delta Topco to Liberty Media Group, one of the tracking stocks of Liberty Media Corporation.
“During the meeting, the representatives of the prospective new owner made a detailed presentation of their strategy. The members of the World Motor Sport Council then had the opportunity to ask questions about the specifics of the agreement, the ongoing working relationship with the FIA and Liberty’s plans for the sport.
“Liberty, Formula One Group and the FIA intend to collaborate to create a constructive relationship that will ensure the continued success and the development of the FIA Formula One World Championship in the long term.
“The World Motor Sport Council’s decision confirms the FIA’s belief that Liberty, as a renowned media organisation with expertise in both sport and entertainment, is clearly well positioned to ensure the continued development of its pinnacle Championship.
“The FIA holds a one per cent shareholding in Delta Topco. As part of the sale by CVC to Liberty Media Corporation, and in line with the agreements between the FIA and the Formula One Group, the FIA will be dragged along in the sale process under the same conditions as CVC and all the other shareholders.
“The FIA looks forward to working with the new owners of the Formula One Group on further developing the unrivalled global spectacle that is the FIA Formula One World Championship for all stakeholders.”
Liberty has also added in its own statement:
“Liberty Media Corporation announced today that it has received the requisite consents and approvals from the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (“FIA”), the governing body of Formula 1, in connection with its pending acquisition of Formula 1, and that the closing conditions related to the FIA have now been satisfied. The acquisition is expected to close this month.”
Bourdais, Coyne thankful to have had time to build over winter
With both Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Jones having been confirmed relatively early in this Verizon IndyCar Series offseason – by mid-November – it marked a change of course for both Dale Coyne Racing as a team, and for its re-signed lead driver.
Coyne’s a racing lifer and he and his Chicago-based team has been part of the IndyCar fabric for more than 30 years. But throughout that time, it had become something of a running joke that Coyne usually left his driver signings very late in the winter. He even warmed to the joke as the years have gone on.
In Bourdais’ case, not knowing whether he’d have a job year-to-year was always a threat, and became particularly worrisome last offseason when KVSH Racing only formally shored up the deal for him to be back for a third year the week of the IndyCar open test at Phoenix International Raceway in late February.
As such, knowing Coyne wanted to move the program forward – starting by getting the pieces done earlier – and knowing Bourdais wanted the stability and security throughout the offseason, it made sense the deal got done when it did. That peace of mind became evident once KVSH Racing again was set to face an uncertain future as the summer dragged into fall.
“It was massive,” Bourdais told NBC Sports. “It was the first winter I’m not dreading the phone call where someone says, ‘Hey, that went down, or that did, or this happened.’ It’s very very reassuring and appealing. It’s the biggest reason why I was looking for something else. It was just not going to change with the organization we had.
“It’s no one’s fault. ‘Sulli’ (James Sullivan) did an amazing job; Jimmy (Vasser) was helping and Kevin (Kalkhoven) did what he felt he wanted or could do. You couldn’t blame the situation for what it was. But it was all planning, then money ran short and things went bad. Ultimately I’m very happy with what we’re doing here. Hopefully we can produce!”
Bourdais, knowing Coyne’s team isn’t regarded as a world-beater (yet, anyway) and with the Honda package still likely to lag a bit behind Chevrolet at most races, is again guarding against setting the expectations too high.
“I don’t want to get the expectations too high. That doesn’t help anyone,” Bourdais said. “But Dale has put a massive commitment behind the program. I’ve kind of managed to get him to agree and commit to it as early as he did. That was so crucial.
“There’s a lot of things that are working here. Mike Cannon (engineer) did a great job with Darren (Crouser, team manager). It’s the first time there’s that many engineers in the office. They don’t think they’ll be there for a year or two. They want to build something. Of course there are limitations and restrictions. Consistency in a group can go a long way on that. But we’re looking to produce the fruit of everyone’s hard work.”
The engineering shake-up at Coyne provides a veritable smorgasbord of engineering goodness in one room (more here via IndyCar.com). Bourdais’ chief engineer from KVSH, Olivier Boisson, also makes the switch to Coyne. Bourdais is reunited with his championship-winning engineer from the Champ Car days, Craig Hampson, as his lead engineer. Cannon will serve as lead on Jones’ car.
“I raced against him in Champ Car,” Bourdais laughed. “It’s crucial to have him stick around again. The more continuity in the team, the better.”
Coyne was meant to test December 9 at Sebring before a washout cut the test down in advance. The team’s first test with both cars in road and street course configuration is now at Sebring on January 24-25, with Bourdais then continuing in Florida into the weekend for the second year at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in one of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs.
Bourdais has run the gamut of teammates in his career. Oriol Servia and Bruno Junqueira won races when Bourdais was at Newman/Haas and Graham Rahal impressed as a rookie. In recent years, late deals have left drivers such as Katherine Legge, Sebastian Saavedra and Stefano Coletti scrambling to get integrated into the team, despite their ability.
Jones is unproven at the IndyCar level, but Bourdais said the talent exists for the 21-year-old Dubai-based Brit, who’s found a home in the U.S. in Miami.
“Hell, he won the championship in Lights, so we know he has talent,” Bourdais said. “It’s crucial to make sure the second car doesn’t hurt where I was going. The budget on the second car is fine, so it shouldn’t affect us in a bad way.
“If Ed can achieve and help us raise the bar, even better. That’s pretty much the way I look at it all along. But the biggest thing was making sure it wouldn’t drain the effort on my car, because otherwise you’re better off being alone.”
Bourdais turns 38 at the end of February and will embark on his 12th season in IndyCar, 10th overall (he raced part-time for Coyne in 2011, when he returned to IndyCar and in 2012) looking to build on his career record of 35 wins.
Coyne has four wins all-time and seems a good bet to add to that at least once more this year. If Bourdais can re-enter the top-10 in points after a one-year slip, it should be a good first step in the team’s turnaround.
Jenson Button’s racing plans for 2017 aren’t settled yet, other than we know he’s staying affiliated with McLaren Honda as the team’s third and reserve driver.
Honda, of course, spreads its wings in so many other forms of motorsport, Red Bull Global Rallycross among them. And given Button’s love of rallying, you wondered if one day, the 2009 World Champion might test a Honda Civic that’s entered by the Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE team.
Wonder no more. Button posted this Instagram video of him testing a one of the OMSE Civics at Sebring International Raceway, and thanked OMSE team principal Andreas Eriksson for the opportunity. Button called the test “pure driving” and “pure joy” within the caption.
Button turns 37 tomorrow and it would be a gift not just for him, but for American fans, if this test were eventually to blossom into something more with the team. The OMSE team is yet to reveal its Red Bull GRC program with Honda for the second season of competition for the Civic.
Button isn’t the first high-profile open-wheel driver to have sampled the car, as IndyCar driver Conor Daly did so as well the day after the season finale in Los Angeles.
After a shot-in-the-dark last-minute deal with Andretti-Herta Autosport to support Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 Honda at the 100th Indianapolis 500, NAPA Auto Parts entered into sponsorship immortality aboard the winning car.
NAPA will serve as co-primary sponsor for Rossi’s car at seven races this season, including the month of May in Indianapolis. St. Petersburg will see the first NAPA appearance, with additional ones at Long Beach, Road America, Watkins Glen and Sonoma.
The NAPA adorned show car has made a number of appearances around the country, including a recent one at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
“We are pleased to announce our continued partnership with one of the more iconic brands in all of motorsports, the Andretti brand” stated NAPA President, Dan Askey. “We are equally excited to partner with one of the rising stars in the sport in Alexander Rossi and proud to have Alexander representing NAPA both on and off the track. We were fortunate to come on board in May of 2016 becoming a part of history as we rode along with Alexander capturing the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Andretti Autosport remains one of the elite teams in the IndyCar Series and we look forward to what 2017 holds.”
“NAPA is a storied, American brand and I couldn’t be more proud to announce our partnership is continuing,” added Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti. “We were pleased to have previously announced that Alexander will be returning for the full season, and now to be able to confirm that NAPA is back on board – what a great way for us to start 2017. Our relationship with NAPA came together quickly during our Month of May program last year, and it wasn’t long before the partnership was written into history books. We can’t wait to add a few more pages to history together.”