NASCAR: Elliott Sadler takes over Nationwide points lead

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Regan Smith’s star-crossed history at Kentucky Speedway continued last night, and that’s helped Elliott Sadler take over the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship lead.

With 31 laps to go in last night’s John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300, Smith was jockeying for position with Kyle Larson and Ryan Reed. As they made their way down the backstretch, Reed made contact with Smith from behind and sent the latter’s car into the outside wall.

Smith then slid into the inside retaining wall for additional damage to the car. The incident relegated him to a 28th place finish, yet another in a string of bad results for him on the 1.5-mile oval.

In eight NNS starts at Kentucky, Smith has three DNFs, a top finish of only 12th in 2013, and an average finish of 26.2.

“The race was just a tough situation,” Smith said. “We tried to use pit strategy and get up front, and it worked until that caution came out after green-flag stops. That just killed us.

“It really led to us getting back in the pack and that was where we didn’t want to be. I think we all saw the results.”

While Smith limped home, Sadler was able to pull out a 10th-place finish that was enough to put him atop the NNS standings by four points over Chase Elliott, who finished in 12th. Smith is third in the standings now at eight points behind Sadler.

Heading into Daytona next weekend, Sadler said it was too early to start thinking about the points scenario – but that it was no time to be cautious either.

“You can’t play conservative,” he said. “Yes, we have the points lead and I’m happy about that because the last two weeks have killed us. Michigan running second and overheating and have to pit under green with 15 laps to go, and then running fifth at Road America and have a flat tire with four laps to go and come out running 20th.

“So, for us to sit here right now with the points lead is pretty amazing after the last couple weeks we’ve had. We’re going to go to Daytona and race like crazy and see what happens.”

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

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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.