Quicken Loans 400 - Practice

Jimmie Johnson finally captures 1st Sprint Cup win at Michigan


It’s not like Michigan International Speedway had been a house of horrors for Jimmie Johnson.

Prior to today’s Quicken Loans 400 at MIS, Johnson had earned four Top-5 and nine Top-10 finishes there, plus 586 laps led.

But he had never been able to break through for a win in the Irish Hills.

That problem has now been corrected.

Fuel strategy played a role in the late stages, but after pitting from the lead with 36 laps to go, the race stayed green and enabled Johnson to cycle back to P1 with nine laps left.

From there, the defending Sprint Cup champion managed to hold off Kevin Harvick for his third win in the last four points races and Hendrick Motorsports’ fifth consecutive points race win.

With Michigan now crossed off his list of tracks he’s yet to win at (a list that now only has Chicagoland, Homestead-Miami, Watkins Glen and Kentucky), Johnson also assumes the top seed on the provisional Chase Grid.

“We have figured out every way to lose this race, and today, we were able to get it done,” Johnson said to TNT in Victory Lane.

Johnson also made sure to recognize today’s Father’s Day holiday.

“For so many years, my Dad was here and I wanted to win this race with him here – I know he’s up in Upper Michigan with my two brothers racing off-road trucks – so Dad, we did it finally,” he said.

“And as a father – what an awesome day. It just tickles me deep. I’m so proud to be here.”

Also relieved over the outcome was Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, who has seen lots of heartache at MIS alongside his driver.

“It seems like we’ve had that opportunity [to win] here in the past, and with less than five laps to go, we’ve had issues of some form or fashion,” he said.

“…We’ve had to work the pit strategy correctly today. There were a lot of opportunities out there to do some leap-frogging. It was pretty awesome and a lot of fun.”

Harvick came home second after leading a race-high 63 laps, while Michigan’s own Brad Keselowski picked up a third-place finish at his home track.

Also pulling off strong days were Paul Menard in fourth and Kasey Kahne, who rallied from an early incident with Kyle Larson to finish fifth. Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Larson, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer completed the Top 10.

Unofficial Results
1. Jimmie Johnson, led 39 laps
2. Kevin Harvick, led 63 laps
3. Brad Keselowski, led 4 laps
4. Paul Menard
5. Kasey Kahne, led 1 lap
6. Jeff Gordon, led 36 laps
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., led 1 lap
8. Kyle Larson, led 2 laps
9. Joey Logano, led 29 laps
10. Clint Bowyer
11. Tony Stewart, led 1 lap
12. Jamie McMurray, led 4 laps
13. Kurt Busch, led 16 laps
14. Matt Kenseth, led 2 laps
15. Ryan Newman
16. Justin Allgaier
17. Danica Patrick
18. Juan Pablo Montoya
19. Trevor Bayne
20. Greg Biffle
21. Michael Annett
22. A.J. Allmendinger
23. Carl Edwards
24. Casey Mears
25. Marcos Ambrose
26. David Gilliland
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
28. Cole Whitt
29. Denny Hamlin
30. Austin Dillon
31. Aric Almirola
32. Reed Sorenson
33. Josh Wise
34. Brett Moffitt
35. Landon Cassill
36. J.J. Yeley
37. Martin Truex Jr.
38. David Ragan
39. David Ragan

40. Alex Bowman, Lap 169, Accident
41. Kyle Busch, Lap 169, Running
42. Brian Vickers, Lap 110, Running
43. Travis Kvapil, Lap 23, Accident

Zach Veach confirmed with Belardi to start 2016 Indy Lights season

Photo: Belardi Auto Racing
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Two-year Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series veteran Zach Veach will return to the series in 2016 following a year’s hiatus. At the moment, it’s for the start of the season only but with the intended plan of making it a full-season effort.

The young American joins the Belardi Auto Racing team, which he narrowly lost out to in his last full-time campaign in 2014 when he finished third in the points.

Veach, who turns 21 next month, is Brian Belardi’s first confirmed driver for the 2016 season. Perhaps one of the single most experienced drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy, Veach has been on all three rungs (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000) since 2010 and spent 2015 as a color commentator for the IndyCar Radio Network.

He tested for the team last month at Sebring, and will have several other tests before the St. Petersburg season opening weekend March 11-13.

“I’m very thankful for this opportunity that Brian Belardi has given me,” Veach said. “After racing against his team for so many years, I’ve always had a ton of respect for him, his crew, and of course, his cars. Belardi Auto Racing competes to win championships and I would love to give them their second Indy Lights title.

“Right now, we only have a partial program in place, but with a great amount of effort on both sides. We will be doing everything possible to try to get funding together for an entire season, so we can put a championship fight in place. I look towards winter testing, and 2016, with a lot of hope and excitement.”

“We’re really happy to have Zach confirmed with us for next year, and we’ll work closely with him to make sure that we can get the funding we need to run him all season,” Belardi added.

“He’s a supreme talent both in and out of the car, and his initial test outings in the car were just as we expected.  Zach was on-pace very early in Sebring after familiarizing himself with the new Indy Lights car, and I know that we’ll challenge for race wins and the championship next year.”

ARCA releases 2016 schedule; Mobile out, Madison (Wisc.) returns

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The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will have only minor changes to the 2016 season, the sanctioning body said Wednesday after revealing next season’s schedule.

The biggest change is Mobile, Alabama is off the schedule, to be replaced by a return to Madison, Wisconsin.

As ARCA enters its 64th consecutive year of racing, the schedule will once again feature 20 races for the third consecutive year, starting at Daytona International Speedway on February 13 and ending on Oct. 14 at Kansas Speedway.

ARCA 2016 sked



All told, there will be nine races on short tracks, eight on superspeedways, two on dirt and one on a road course.

“We are pleased to announce our full and complete schedule,” ARCA President Ron Drager said. “We feel we have once again put together a schedule that highlights the diversity of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. We are excited for the start of the new season.”

Other changes include:

* The annual Chicagoland Speedway race will be moved to Thursday night, Sept. 15, kicking off the opening weekend of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

* The road course race at New Jersey will be moved to Saturday, May 28, rather than its previous Sunday afternoon date.

* The annual dirt race at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois will shift from an afternoon to an evening race.

* The series will mark milestone events with the 75th series event at Toledo Speedway and the 99th and 100th races at southern Indiana’s Salem Speedway.

* The series will have companion races with all three of NASCAR’s pro touring series, as well as one weekend as the undercard for the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway in July.

* As for the return to Madison, Drager said, “It was important for us to schedule a race in the Menards market. Last year, we did not have a race in either Minnesota or Wisconsin and this year, we decided to go back. We are definitely looking forward to racing again at Madison and the upper Midwest.”

* The annual awards banquet takes place Dec. 12 in Indianapolis.

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Ecclestone has ‘no doubts’ Monza will remain on F1 calendar

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MILAN (AP) Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone is confident the Italian Grand Prix in Monza can find the needed cash to stay on the calendar.

Ecclestone tells the Gazzetta dello Sport, “We will find the right solution – I no longer have doubts – to provide a future for the Italian GP.”

No circuit has hosted more F1 racing than Monza, but officials at the track outside Milan have had trouble producing the estimated 25 million euros ($26.6 million) per year that Ecclestone seeks to keep the race in place after the current contract expires next year.

Ecclstone says, “Things have been cleared up and there is only one go between, (Angelo) Sticchi Damiani, the president of the Italian Automobile Club.”

The Italian GP next year is scheduled for Sept. 4.

Alternative engine solution rejected by F1 Commission

Nico Rosberg

Plans to introduce a new alternative, cheaper engine into Formula 1 for 2017 – hypothetically a 2.2-liter V6 similar to what is seen in IndyCar – will at least temporarily go on the backburner.

The F1 Commission has rejected the so called “alternative engine solution,” where several companies submitted proposals to be that alternative supplier.

“The F1 Commission voted not to pursue this option at this stage — however, it may be reassessed after the Power Unit manufacturers have presented their proposal to the Strategy Group,” the FIA said on Wednesday.

“The parties involved have agreed on a course to address several key areas relating to Power Unit supply in Formula One,” the statement added.

Meanwhile the statement outlined four things the current manufacturers – Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda – would be tasked with improving on the current 1.6-liter formula:

Those are:

  • a guarantee of supply to teams
  • the need to reduce the engines’ cost
  • simplification of the specification
  • “improved noise”

Further meetings between the manufacturers and the governing body are scheduled, including one this weekend at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale.

As F1 heads into the final weekend of the season, political/paddock items such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s respective power unit futures, whether Renault’s takeover of Lotus will finally become official and what will happen with Manor’s team leadership stake – this marks Graeme Lowdon and John Booth’s final weekends although ex-McLaren man Dave Ryan has been hired as the team’s new racing director – are among the talking points.