Photo: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

Brian France: NASCAR not looking at limiting Cup drivers racing in lower series

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NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers coming in and dominating Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series events always seems to rile up a fair portion of the sport’s fan base.

But NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France has indicated that there’s no movement coming from the sanctioning body to limit participation from Cup drivers in the lower two national series.

“That’s always a question, when a Cup driver gets in and has a lot of success – Mark Martin did that for a long time in the Nationwide – and there’s always that balance,” France said to reporters today at Daytona International Speedway.

“But where we usually come out on that is that the younger drivers gain valuable experience even if somebody gets on a run and tends to win more events than is normal. So we try to balance that out, but we lean on the side of the greater experience for the younger drivers to get a chance to compete against, and also for our fans to want to watch the elite drivers not just on Sundays.

“We tend to let the events unfold the way they unfold.”

Cup star Kyle Busch, who also competes semi-regularly in Nationwide and the Truck Series, holds the Nationwide Series’ all-time wins mark with 66 – his most recent coming in May at Dover.

During today’s conference, a reporter at DIS noted that fan animosity over Cup drivers racing in the lower series tends to spike when the polarizing Busch is at the front in those events.

However, France insisted that the idea of a cap was not “an individual issue.”

“It’s true that if a Cup driver dominates in a lower division, it’s understandable why people will shake their head, and we understand that,” France said. “As I said, we balance that against the idea that fans like to see the younger drivers with the veterans, and the younger drivers, most of them, almost all of them, like to figure out where they’re at on the skill curve.

“So that’s good for them to compete against, and it’s unique to motorsports.  That’s how it’s always been.  But we have to balance all this, and we’ll do the best we can as we go along.”

Last night’s Nationwide race at Daytona was won by Cup regular Kasey Kahne. Six of the 16 Nationwide races this year have been won by non-Cup drivers (Regan Smith, Daytona 1; Chase Elliott, Texas and Darlington; Elliott Sadler, Talladega; Sam Hornish Jr., Iowa; Brendan Gaughan, Road America).

NHRA: John Force, Tony Schumacher earn first wins in over a year

NHRA winners Sunday at Denver (left to right): Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
(Photos, videos courtesy NHRA)
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It was like old times in Sunday’s final round of the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver.

For the first time in over a year, the two winningest drivers in nitro fuel history reached the winner’s circle.

John Force, winningest driver in NHRA annals, earned his 144th career Funny Car victory, while Tony Schumacher, winningest driver in the Top Fuel ranks, earned his 81st career win in a dragster.

Also earning wins at the Morrison, Colorado track were Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Force (3.965 seconds/319.45 mph) defeated daughter Courtney (3.963/314.75) in the Funny Car final. Not only was it John Force’s first win since June 2015, it was also the seventh of his career at Denver.

“I didn’t have a monkey on my back, it was a gorilla,” Force said in a NHRA media release. “I needed this real bad. I told Courtney I love her, but I am giving this everything I’ve got.

“Let’s face it, we’ve been getting beat up lately by the Schumacher and Kalitta teams. It’s a great day to come here and look like we know what we’re doing.”

https://youtu.be/UI1w0vVD3k4

At 67, the elder Force becomes the oldest driver to win a NHRA Funny Car race.

“Let’s face it, the competition is the best I’ve ever seen,” said Force, who became the first Funny Car driver to ever break the four-second barrier at Bandimere Speedway. “It’s tough to race my little girl there and it was a close one. I can do this game. I love it. I don’t have anywhere to go. I am going to keep doing this. I want to keep building this sport.”

As for Schumacher, he won for the third time in his career at Bandimere, notching his first win since early July 2015 (at his home track, Route 66 Raceway, in suburban Chicago).

Schumacher (3.802 seconds at 324.28 mph) defeated Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown (5.199/144.75) after the latter slowed at half-track in the final round to earn the victory.

“To win one of these trophies you have to beat some bad dudes, and we beat a bunch of them today from Doug Kalitta to Antron Brown,” said Schumacher, who outran Kalitta in round one, top qualifier Steve Torrence in the quarterfinals and Clay Millican in the semis to advance to the final round meeting with Brown. “I’ve enjoyed great moments in racing during my career, but coming back from a huge deficit when people have counted you out like we have done this weekend is the most satisfying to me.”

https://youtu.be/Op5NgZGDENk

But there was good news for defending series champ Brown, even in defeat: he remains in the lead of the Top Fuel standings, holding a 57-point edge over second-ranked Doug Kalitta.

In Pro Stock, Johnson (6.982 seconds at 197.34 mph) won for a record seventh time at Bandimere (along with three other runner-up finishes), defeating Vincent Nobile (7.037/196.82).

“We stunk the place up all weekend during qualifying,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t have given us a one percent chance to win all weekend. The magic up here is just on our side for some reason.”

Johnson becomes the first driver other than points leaders Jason Line or Greg Anderson to win a Pro Stock race this season. Line and Anderson combined to win the first 13 races of the 24-race season.

https://youtu.be/V-t0GeWTKbY

“I am sure I am speaking for everyone in the pits, but to break that juggernaut is big,” Johnson said. “We might have got a break or two along the way, but I guess that was that mountain magic. It was great to win here for all the great Denver and Mopar fans and to get the win on live TV on FOX.”

Sunday’s race was a milestone in NHRA history as it marked the first time in the sanctioning body’s 65 years that a race was televised on national network television (FOX TV).

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines (7.134 seconds at 188.33 mph) became the winningest two-wheel rider in history, earning his 45th career triumph, defeating teammate Eddie Krawiec (7.148/187.21).

In addition, it was Hines’ third win of the season.

https://youtu.be/NAcEDV9T5U4

“Coming back to win on the mountain, it means a lot,” Hines said. “My team has had my motorcycle really dialed in right now. It is our third final in a row and I am just riding the wave. I don’t think I’ve ever put eight runs like that together in a weekend. The bike is such a joy to ride right now.”

The annual “Western Swing” continues next weekend (July 29-31) at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Tony Schumacher; 2.  Antron Brown; 3.  Clay Millican; 4.  J.R. Todd; 5.  Shawn Langdon; 6. Richie Crampton; 7.  Brittany Force; 8.  Steve Torrence; 9.  Doug Kalitta; 10.  Scott Palmer; 11. Chris Karamesines; 12.  Bill Litton; 13.  Terry Haddock; 14.  Rob Passey; 15.  Leah Pritchett; 16. Terry McMillen.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  John Force; 2.  Courtney Force; 3.  Robert Hight; 4.  Del Worsham; 5.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 6. Matt Hagan; 7.  John Hale; 8.  Ron Capps; 9.  Jack Beckman; 10.  Alexis DeJoria; 11.  Todd Simpson; 12.  Chad Head; 13.  Cruz Pedregon; 14.  Jim Campbell; 15.  Jeff Diehl; 16.  Tim Wilkerson.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Allen Johnson; 2.  Vincent Nobile; 3.  Jason Line; 4.  Greg Anderson; 5.  Bo Butner; 6.  Alex Laughlin; 7.  Erica Enders; 8.  Chris McGaha; 9.  Shane Gray; 10.  Jeg Coughlin; 11.  Richie Stevens; 12.  Drew Skillman; 13.  Deric Kramer; 14.  Matt Hartford; 15.  Alan Prusiensky.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Andrew Hines; 2.  Eddie Krawiec; 3.  Jerry Savoie; 4.  LE Tonglet; 5.  Angelle Sampey; 6.  Chip Ellis; 7.  Cory Reed; 8.  Matt Smith; 9.  Hector Arana Jr; 10.  Shawn Gann; 11.  Tyler Fisher; 12. Karen Stoffer; 13.  Angie Smith; 14.  Michael Ray; 15.  Scotty Pollacheck; 16.  Hector Arana.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL RESULTS:

Top Fuel: Tony Schumacher, 3.802 seconds, 324.28 mph  def. Antron Brown, 5.199 seconds, 144.75 mph.

Funny Car: John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.965, 319.45  def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.963, 314.75.

Pro Stock: Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.982, 197.39  def. Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 7.037, 196.82.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.134, 188.33  def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.148, 187.21.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.788, 321.19 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.832, 320.74; Clay Millican, 3.821, 316.23 def. Terry Haddock, 4.284, 286.80; Antron Brown, 3.870, 308.28 def. Rob Passey, 4.396, 208.91; Steve Torrence, 3.843, 321.35 def. Chris Karamesines, 4.089, 297.02; Richie Crampton, 4.113, 280.37 def. Bill Litton, 4.178, 280.49; Brittany Force, 3.829, 317.05 def. Terry McMillen, 5.684, 125.96; J.R. Todd, 3.844, 318.62 def. Scott Palmer, 4.019, 282.78; Shawn Langdon, 4.288, 194.97 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.877, 181.45;

QUARTERFINALS — Brown, 3.840, 317.05 def. Langdon, 3.831, 316.90; Millican, 3.857, 313.80 def. Force, 4.204, 271.95; Todd, 3.841, 322.11 def. Crampton, 3.862, 312.57; Schumacher, 4.083, 275.73 def. Torrence, 4.381, 194.49;

SEMIFINALS — Schumacher, 3.839, 319.90 def. Millican, 3.841, 317.49; Brown, 3.826, 307.86 def. Todd, 3.915, 274.05;

FINAL — Schumacher, 3.802, 324.28 def. Brown, 5.199, 144.75.

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.047, 316.45 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.078, 301.47; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.972, 315.42 def. Jim Campbell, Toyota Camry, 5.964, 126.59; John Force, Camaro, 4.001, 312.35 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 6.219, 94.02; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.024, 317.12 def. Todd Simpson, Camaro, 4.411, 230.57; John Hale, Charger, 4.303, 240.64 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.324, 232.71; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.992, 320.58 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 5.846, 123.67; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.039, 318.62 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, Broke – No Show; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.041, 306.40 def. Chad Head, Camry, 5.001, 158.93;

QUARTERFINALS — J. Force, 4.038, 310.98 def. Hagan, 4.050, 317.64; C. Force, 4.016, 315.56 def. Johnson Jr., 4.032, 315.71; Hight, 3.997, 322.81 def. Hale, 4.161, 289.38; Worsham, 4.052, 317.42 def. Capps, 4.399, 213.27;

SEMIFINALS — J. Force, 4.005, 316.60 def. Worsham, 4.054, 315.78; C. Force, 3.937, 322.04 def. Hight, Foul – Red Light;

FINAL — J. Force, 3.965, 319.45 def. C. Force, 3.963, 314.75.

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 7.000, 197.13 def. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 7.026, 195.62; Allen Johnson, Dart, 7.000, 196.59 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 7.047, 197.74; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.995, 197.22 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 7.054, 195.73; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.945, 198.47 def. Richie Stevens, Dart, 7.033, 195.85; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 15.319, 55.23 was unopposed; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 7.025, 196.22 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.992, 198.12; Erica Enders, Dart, 6.970, 197.42 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 7.989, 188.31; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.959, 197.94 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 7.049, 195.14;

QUARTERFINALS — Nobile, 7.031, 196.50 def. Laughlin, Foul – Red Light; Anderson, 6.998, 197.25 def. McGaha, 7.020, 196.24; Johnson, 7.000, 196.53 def. Enders, 7.006, 195.62; Line, 6.977, 197.57 def. Butner, 6.979, 197.86; SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.986, 196.42 def. Anderson, 6.968, 197.19; Nobile, 16.014, 52.83 def. Line, Foul – Red Light; FINAL — Johnson, 6.982, 197.39 def. Nobile, 7.037, 196.82.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

ROUND ONE — Cory Reed, Buell, 7.234, 183.49 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.278, 184.09; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.204, 185.89 def. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.320, 182.26; Chip Ellis, Buell, 15.210, 93.84 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, Foul – Red Light; Angelle Sampey, Buell, 7.204, 183.49 def. Hector Arana, Buell, Foul – Red Light; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.230, 184.09 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.285, 183.82; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.234, 184.77 def. Tyler Fisher, Suzuki, 7.284, 182.90; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.213, 184.90 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.370, 179.85; Matt Smith, 7.251, 183.67 def. Angie Smith, 7.314, 180.00;

QUARTERFINALS — Savoie, 7.221, 184.35 def. Sampey, 7.299, 184.35; Tonglet, 7.304, 182.33 def. M.Smith, 16.874, 44.19; Krawiec, 7.245, 184.37 def. Ellis, 7.317, 183.42; Hines, 7.234, 184.77 def. Reed, 12.995, 60.23;

SEMIFINALS — Krawiec, 7.218, 186.23 def. Savoie, 7.227, 184.42; Hines, 7.151, 187.34 def. Tonglet, 7.228, 184.90;

FINAL — Hines, 7.134, 188.33 def. Krawiec, 7.148, 187.21.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Antron Brown, 1,145; 2.  Doug Kalitta, 1,088; 3.  Steve Torrence, 982; 4.  Brittany Force, 953; 5.  Tony Schumacher, 916; 6.  Shawn Langdon, 800; 7.  J.R. Todd, 799; 8.  Clay Millican, 681; 9. Richie Crampton, 660; 10.  Leah Pritchett, 553.

Funny Car: 1.  Ron Capps, 1,120; 2.  Courtney Force, 998; 3.  Jack Beckman, 976; 4.  Matt Hagan, 881; 5. (tie) Robert Hight, 877; Del Worsham, 877; 7.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 855; 8.  John Force, 821; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 793; 10.  Alexis DeJoria, 733.

Pro Stock: 1.  Jason Line, 1,548; 2.  Greg Anderson, 1,466; 3.  Bo Butner, 955; 4.  Allen Johnson, 885; 5. Vincent Nobile, 758; 6.  Drew Skillman, 753; 7.  Chris McGaha, 661; 8.  Shane Gray, 658; 9.  Jeg Coughlin, 613; 10.  Alex Laughlin, 595.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 742; 2.  Andrew Hines, 633; 3.  Angelle Sampey, 534; 4.  Jerry Savoie, 500; 5. Chip Ellis, 386; 6.  Hector Arana, 375; 7.  LE Tonglet, 364; 8.  Matt Smith, 290; 9.  Steve Johnson, 268; 10.  Michael Ray, 262.

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Greaves car, lineup confirmed for FIA WEC’s Mexico City race

MONTEREY, CA - MAY 03:  Bruno Junqueira prepares to drive during practice for the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 3, 2014 in Monterey, California.  (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)
Junqueira (above) back in action. Photo: Getty Images
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The LMP2 grid will grow by one for the next FIA World Endurance Championship race, the 6 Hours of Mexico City, with the confirmation of the Greaves Motorsport Gibson 015S Nissan.

Greaves will run the lineup of Roberto Gonzalez, brother of race promoter and RGR Sport by Morand team owner and co-driver Ricardo Gonzalez, along with Bruno Junqueira and Luis Diaz.

Junqueira and Roberto Gonzalez have been co-drivers in the past with the Rocketsports (RSR) team in the Prototype Challenge class of the American Le Mans Series.

Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images

Diaz (right) is another prototype class veteran, with recent PC experience (8Star Motorsports and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports) added to his LMP2 days with Fernandez Racing.

All three of them also competed in Champ Car World Series races in Mexico City, with Gonzalez and Diaz part of a six-Mexican driver entry in the 2003 race (Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain Jr., Mario Dominguez and Rodolfo Lavin).

Ricardo Gonzalez co-drives the No. 43 RGR Sport Ligier JS P2 Nissan with Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque in the WEC.

Sainz pleased to match McLaren’s pace in Hungary

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 24:  Carlos Sainz of Scuderia Toro Rosso and Spain during the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 24, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
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Carlos Sainz Jr. was pleased with a “solid” performance in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand prix that saw him finish eighth for Toro Rosso.

Sainz spent much of the race in close contention with his childhood racing hero Fernando Alonso, finishing just three seconds behind the McLaren driver at the checkered flag.

The result means that Sainz has scored points in all but one race he has finished in 2016, leading Toro Rosso’s charge in the constructors’ championship.

“[A] solid race again, up to [the] pace of McLarens. Pretty pleased with that,” Sainz told NBCSN after the race.

“Fernando got us at the start and that was about it. Impossible to pass from there and he controlled it.

“But it’s a very solid weekend from the team to close the first half of the season quite well, and we’re pretty happy.”

Toro Rosso is just five points clear of McLaren in the constructors’ championship, but Sainz hopes that a step in performance next weekend in Germany will help him to open up the gap once again.

“We have a step hopefully coming in Germany, and a step forward in performance,” Sainz said.

“McLaren has got ahead of us which is a bit worrying.

“But we will try to compensate that and see if we can hold them back.”

FIA WEC confirms July date for 2017 Nürburgring round

Audi R18 (2016) #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest), Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer
Audi R18 (2016) #8 (Audi Sport Team Joest), Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval, Oliver Jarvis
© Audi Sport
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FIA World Endurance Championship officials have confirmed that next year’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring will take place on July 16.

The WEC ventured to the Nürburgring for the first time in 2015 before enjoying a successful return over the weekend, with a crowd of 58,000 fans turning up on Sunday.

During the race won by the no. 1 Porsche crew of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard, it was confirmed that the WEC will return to the Nürburgring in 2017 over the July 14-16 weekend.

 

However, it was flagged up on Twitter that this is the same weekend scheduled to host the Formula E double-header in Montreal.

Around two-thirds of the Formula E grid also race in the WEC, with the two championships preventing clashes so that drivers do not have to pick between them. As a result, it seems inevitable that one of the races will have to change date.