After questioning NASCAR’s integrity, 5-Hour Energy prez now says “we’re good”

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In the aftermath of last fall’s race manipulation incident at Richmond International Raceway that centered around Clint Bowyer, the president of his primary sponsor, 5-Hour Energy, wondered how NASCAR CEO Brian France could expand the Chase to include a 13th driver.

“There’s a lot of talk about integrity,” 5-Hour president Scott Henderson said to reporters at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “When the guy who’s in charge can say, ‘I can do whatever I want and I’m going to do it and I just did,’ I wonder about integrity. I want to make sure we can win in this sport, OK?”

Fast forward to now, and 5-Hour Energy has not only stuck with Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing, but is sponsoring tonight’s Sprint Cup event at Kansas Speedway and recently announced an extension that will have their brand on Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota for 24 races annually over the next three seasons.

While Henderson told USA Today and NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan that he still hasn’t spoken personally with France after the Richmond saga, he said that in regards to working with NASCAR, “we’re good.”

“Obviously, we wouldn’t have signed up for three more years if we weren’t OK with it,” he said Friday at Kansas.

Overall, Henderson feels that NASCAR’s handling of the saga was “probably a learning experience” for everyone but that things have turned out alright.

“Obviously, they made some changes on how the Chase is done this year,” he said. “So, I don’t know Brian France personally. I haven’t talked to him.

“[NASCAR president] Mike Helton is a good guy, [and] I’m sure they sat down in the off-season and figured out how do we structure this so it works going forward…I think they got it.”

Bowyer, along with MWR drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers, were fined 50 points each after Richmond last fall. That caused Truex to fall out of the Chase, and elevated Ryan Newman into the post-season as a Wild Card.

Jeff Gordon was later added to the Chase as the aforementioned 13th driver by France.

Williams to wait until new year before making 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams will wait until the new year before making an announcement regarding its Formula 1 driver line-up for the 2018 season.

Williams holds the final vacant seat in F1 for next year, with Felipe Massa retiring at the last race of the 2017 season in Abu Dhabi at the end of November.

The Brazilian’s departure has opened up a seat alongside Lance Stroll for 2018, which looked poised to be taken by Robert Kubica, over seven years after he last raced in F1 before injuries sustained in a rally accident appeared to cut his career short.

Doubts emerged about Kubica’s comeback following a test with Williams in its 2017-spec car in Abu Dhabi after the final race of the season, leading to Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin becoming the favorite.

Besides Kubica and Sirotkin, ditched Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also an option, but Williams has now confirmed it will make no decision on its line-up until the new year.

Sirotkin first entered the frame in F1 in 2013 when he became a development driver at Sauber, with Russian backers SMP Racing pushing to get him a race seat for the following year.

Sirotkin missed out on a full-time role at the team, leading him to focus on racing in Formula Renault 3.5 for 2014 before spending two years in GP2, where he finished third in the standings in both seasons.

Renault struck an agreement to sign Sirotkin in a junior role in 2016, leading to a number of practice run-outs over the last two seasons, but he was passed over for a 2018 race seat when it signed Carlos Sainz Jr.

Williams emerged as an option for Sirotkin following a successful maiden test with the team in Abu Dhabi alongside Kubica, with talks now set to continue over the holiday period.

Sirotkin has not taken on a full-time race program this year, making just a single competitive appearance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with SMP Racing in the LMP2 class.

Sirotkin has also been involved in the development of the team’s BR Engineering-designed LMP1 car for the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship season, and is likely to secure a seat should he miss out on the role at Williams.