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Richard Petty Motorsports’ future: Stay with Ford or potential move to Toyota, Chevy or Dodge?

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Like a wheel of fortune, around and around and around it goes, and where Richard Petty Motorsports winds up at, still nobody knows.

Although some recent reports claim RPM will shift from Ford to Toyota for 2015, RPM vice president of competition Sammy Johns told MRN.com’s Dustin Long on Saturday that there has been no movement or decision on which manufacturer the organization will align itself with.

RPM has been with Ford since the last three races of the 2009 season, switching to the so-called blue oval after nearly two seasons with Dodge.

According to reports last month, team patriarch Richard Petty has had recent meetings with representatives of both Toyota and Ford.

Ford Racing director Jamie Allison said RPM’s contract with the manufacturer does not expire after this season, contrary to what other reports and rumors have indicated.

Conspicuous by its absence in reports and rumors about RPM’s future is a lack of discussion about a potential partnership with Chevrolet.

While RPM would likely have significant resources at its disposal if it affiliated with Chevrolet – perhaps more so than it currently has with Ford – if the legendary team indeed does leave Ford, it would most likely be headed to Toyota, if reports and rumors are to be believed.

As wild as some of the rumors and reports about RPM’s future have been, it would not be completely out of the realm of possibility that RPM may stay with Ford through 2015 and then potentially spearhead a possible return to Sprint Cup by Dodge. During its last round of negotiations with Ford back in 2012, Petty said at the time he would not rule out a return to Dodge.

Of course, that depends on if Dodge wants to get back into NASCAR, a possibility company officials have had little to say about of late.

The last time RPM’s contract came up for renewal with Ford, it was subsequently left without much of a choice but to remain with Ford when Dodge announced it would leave NASCAR at the end of that season, ironically enough right after Brad Keselowski and Team Penske won the championship in a Dodge Charger.

Also weighing heavy on the minds of the RPM braintrust is whether driver Marcos Ambrose will stay with the team or leave when his current contract expires at the end of this season.

There have been several reports that Ambrose is considering returning to his native Australia and to race on the increasingly popular V8 Supercars series, with some reports having Ambrose racing for a new team potentially to be owned by legendary IndyCar and NASCAR team owner Roger Penske.

However, Ambrose recently denied those rumors and insisted he wants to remain with RPM, an organization that is on the upswing.

During January’s annual preseason NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, Petty questioned whether Ambrose indeed would return for 2015.

“I don’t know how much longer he wants to stay in the U.S.,” Petty said candidly at the time. “You know, (Ambrose has) come a long way. He’s sort of a hero in Australia just because he’s running Cup. His big deal is if he could win on a round and around racetrack, that would be the optimum for him. If he did do that, he’d probably just go home and say, ‘Thank you guys,’ but I don’t know.”

All reports and rumors aside, the Sprint Cup Series races next weekend in the backyard of the Big Three manufacturers, namely, Michigan International Speedway.

If RPM is to make any announcement, particularly if it will stay with Ford or not, or whether it will jump to Toyota, Chevy or even Dodge, MIS would be a perfect venue to do so.

On another topic, Johns told MRN.com that RPM is looking for sponsorship for up-and-coming driver Corey LaJoie, son of former NASCAR driver Randy LaJoie.

The younger LaJoie won the ARCA race at Pocono last year, but was not in the field for Saturday’s race there.

Johns said the team hopes to have LaJoie do some Sprint Cup testing soon.

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Felix Rosenqvist confirms end of Indy Lights program

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CASTLE DONINGTON, UK – Felix Rosenqvist has confirmed that his Indy Lights program has ended following his move into Formula E with Mahindra Racing.

Rosenqvist moved into Indy Lights for 2016 after winning the FIA European Formula 3 title last year, joining Belardi Racing.

The Swede won his second Indy Lights race at St. Petersburg but was forced to miss a handful of rounds due to commitments elsewhere in GT racing and DTM.

Rosenqvist won both races of the Toronto weekend, which proved to be his last in Indy Lights. A move up into a race-seat in DTM with Mercedes was announced earlier this month after Esteban Ocon claimed a Formula 1 driver with Manor, but it was his Formula E deal with Mahindra – confirmed on Monday – that prompted him to call time on his Indy Lights involvement.

“I think it was more when the Formula E got confirmed,” Rosenqvist told NBC Sports.

“The clash I have next week with Nürburgring and Watkins Glen would be there anyway as I’m Mercedes’ reserve driver in DTM, so that didn’t really change anything.

“But the fact that the next Donington test is interfering with Laguna Seca made it for sure that I cannot compete unfortunately. That’s a shame but that’s how it is.

“The deal we had with Belardi for this year was they were aware I had some clashes and there might be more clashes. It’s fine from both sides and it was expected.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t do more than we did.”

Rosenqvist remains keen to return to America in the future, having enjoyed an IndyCar test with Chip Ganassi Racing at Mid-Ohio last month.

“I think IndyCar is for sure really high on my list of things I want to do,” Rosenqvist said.

“Obviously I tried the car this year, had a really good test for Ganassi there. It’s something I would like to continue, next year or not, doesn’t really matter for me.

“But I would really like to try that one more time.”

Rosenqvist believes he could have been in contention for the Indy Lights title had he not been forced to miss a number of races, but says failing to do so may make it difficult for others to judge his ability.

“I mean I didn’t do the whole championship. I think it’s hard to rate people if they don’t do the whole championship because maybe you have less pressure,” Rosenqvist said.

“For sure I won three races, so that was definitely good. I would like to be there and fight for the title. I’m sure I could have done it.

“I think it’s up to people to judge their impression from the time I was there. I definitely enjoyed it and I would like to go back to America at one point.”

Here are your Firestone 600 at Texas (take 2) times on NBCSN

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The Verizon IndyCar Series takes what would have been an off week and now has not only an extra trip, but a short week, to head to Texas Motor Speedway for the resumption of the rain-postponed Firestone 600 from June.

Following the rain-delayed Pocono Raceway race, the remaining 177 laps at Texas take place on Saturday night.

Here’s the details for NBCSN’s coverage this weekend:

INDYCAR FIRESTONE 600 – SATURDAY AT 9:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

NBC Sports Group continues its exclusive cable coverage of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series this Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET with live coverage of the Firestone 600 from Texas Motor Speedway. This race was rescheduled after torrential rain halted the race on Sunday, June 12, after just 71 of a scheduled 248 laps were completed. Saturday night’s race will resume on Lap 72, with James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports), who held the lead at the time the race was halted, at the front of the pack.

Will Power (Penske) won the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono on Monday to move within 20 points of teammate Simon Pagenaud who continues to lead the championship standings. Power has finished in first or second place for the last six consecutive races, which includes four victories.

Coverage begins on NBCSN on Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET with pre-race coverage, followed by green flag action at 9:30 p.m. ET.

Kevin Lee (play-by-play) will call the action alongside analysts and drivers Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell. Reporters Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller will report from the pits.

Date Coverage Time (ET) Network
Sat., Aug. 27 IndyCar Pre-Race Show 9 p.m. NBCSN
IndyCar Firestone 600 9:30 p.m. NBCSN
IndyCar Post-Race Show 10:30 p.m. NBCSN

Here are your Belgian Grand Prix times on NBCSN, NBC Sports App

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 23:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP drives during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 23, 2015 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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After the summer break, Formula One is back in action this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix. Live free practice two and the race occur on NBCSN while live qualifying will occur via live streaming on the NBC Sports app (link here); it will air Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Full details and times for the weekend are below:

FORMULA ONE BELGIAN GRAND PRIX – SUNDAY AT 7:30 A.M. ET ON NBCSN

NBC Sports Group continues its coverage of the 2016 Formula One Championship this Sunday with the Belgian Grand Prix, as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton aims for his fifth consecutive win and seventh victory in eight races. Hamilton now leads the drivers’ standings (217 points) by 19 points over teammate and rival Nico Rosberg (198 points) as he races towards a fourth career F1 season championship. Hamilton won last year’s race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the second Belgian GP win of his career (2010).

Live coverage begins exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app on Friday morning at 4 a.m. ET with Practice 1, followed by NBCSN’s live coverage of Practice 2 at 8 a.m. ET. Streaming coverage on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app continues Saturday at 5 a.m. ET with Practice 3 and live qualifying at 8 a.m. ET. NBCSN will air delayed coverage of qualifying on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

Live Belgian Grand Prix coverage begins Sunday morning at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN with F1 Countdown, and is followed by F1 Extra at 10 a.m. ET.

Lead F1 announcer Leigh Diffey will call this weekend’s action, and will be joined by veteran analyst and former racecar driver David Hobbs, and analyst and former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team Steve Matchett. F1 insider Will Buxton will serve as the team’s on-site reporter in Belgium.

Times are below:

Date Coverage Time (ET) Network
Fri., Aug. 26 F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Practice 1 4 a.m. Streaming
F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Practice 2 8 a.m. NBCSN
Sat., Aug. 27 F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Practice 3 5 a.m. Streaming
F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Qualifying 8 a.m. Streaming
F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Qualifying* 1 p.m. NBCSN
Sun., Aug. 28 GP2 Belgium 6 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Countdown 7 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Belgian Grand Prix 7:30 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Extra 10 a.m. NBCSN

Clauson’s “Chasing 200 Tour” now in a race to register 200 new donors

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 20:  Bryan Clauson driver of the #39 Sarah Fisher Hartman/ Curb Agajanian car waits to take to the track for the Indinapolis 500 qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 20, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Wednesday will be the day that the late Bryan Clauson’s life will be celebrated at Kokomo Speedway in Kokomo, Ind., the Noblesville, Ind. driver’s adopted home track.

Late Tuesday night, the Clauson family announced that Bryan’s pursuit of competing in 200 races this year – “The Chasing 200 Tour: Circular Insanity,” will continue on.

Clauson, who was revealed as a registered organ and tissue donor after his passing (an important element of what made him such a special person), helped to save five lives and heal dozens more.

But now, that race will continue, with the goal of registering 200 organ and tissue donors in Bryan’s memory, announced tonight.

“This has been such a bittersweet moment for our family,” said Tim Clauson, father of Bryan Clauson.

“We miss our son terribly. However, what has kept us going is the outpouring of support from the community and Bryan’s decision to be an organ donor. We have always been proud of him for the generous person he was. Being a donor saves lives and gives us hope to see Bryan continue to live on in the lives he has helped.”

Here’s the full release, via the Clauson website.

Countless BC Forever tributes took place this past weekend at both Bristol Motor Speedway in NASCAR and Pocono Raceway in IndyCar. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one of Clauson’s closest friends, finished second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday. His emotional interview is below.