Jimmie Johnson talks Keselowski crash from Talladega

2 Comments

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.”

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

Formula One logo
Leave a comment

TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.