almirola wins at daytona2

Aric Almirola earns first career Sprint Cup win in rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

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There’s no other way to explain it: Mother Nature is a Richard Petty fan.

With persistent rain falling for the third time in Sunday’s Coke Zero 400 — due to rain postponing the originally scheduled race on Saturday — NASCAR officials decided to call the race after 112 of the scheduled 160 at Daytona International Speedway laps and declared Aric Almirola and the legendary No. 43 Ford of Richard Petty Motorsports the winner.

The win comes 30 years almost to the day that Petty earned the 200th and final win of his legendary Hall of Fame career, coming at Daytona and in front of then-U.S. President, the late Ronald Reagan. Almirola was only 12 days old when Petty won that race.

It was Almirola’s first career Sprint Cup victory in 125 starts and also the first time that the No. 43 has reached victory lane since John Andretti in April 1999 in Martinsville.

“Man, this is so awesome,” Almirola told TNT. “The amount of effort that has gone into this race team this year, with everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports trying to get better and trying to build this race team back to a winning race team the way it deserves to be, it’s been so cool to watch it grow.

“To get this US Air Force Ford Fusion into victory lane, 30 years to the weekend that Ricahrd Petty won his 200th win, is really, really special. The Good Lord was really looking out for us today. We had a really fast car nonetheless, but I’ll take ’em any way we can get ’em.

“And we’re going to be in the Chase. This race team deserves to be in the Chase. I told everybody at the beginning of the year that I promised I’d get them to victory lane and, lo and behold, we’ve done it.”

By virtue of the victory, which came 48 laps shy of the scheduled 160 laps, Almirola all but punches his ticket to the Chase for the Sprint Cup, marking the second time RPM has made the 10-race playoff (Kasey Kahne did so in 2010, finishing 10th in the final season standings).

“I’ve said time and time again how much I wanted to win this race,” Almirola said. “This is my home race, two hours from Tampa, Florida (where he grew up). I grew up sitting in those grandstands watching the Daytona 500 and Firecracker 400 and dreamed about what it would be like to race here — and man, I just took the 43 car to victory lane today in Daytona.

“This is so cool to get all these guys, who’ve been working on this race team for a long team and haven’t had a chance to get to victory lane with this 43 car, this is so, so special.”

Brian Vickers finished second, followed by Kurt Busch, who led the most laps before the race was ruled official.

Casey Mears finished fourth, followed by Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell, Danica Patrick in eighth, Clint Bowyer and Almiroloa’s RPM teammate Marcos Ambrose in 10th.

When the green flag dropped Sunday, drivers were fighting to get to the halfway point of the race due to more rain on the National Weather Service radar that appears to be closing in on the area.

The race got underway at about 11:22 am ET. Pole sitter David Gilliland gave up his lead on Lap 5 to Matt Kenseth. The race was placed under caution just one lap later due to, what else, rain.

After a few moments and five more laps under caution, NASCAR decided to red flag the event at Lap 11 when rain began to fall steadily, primarily in the backstretch area. Cars were brought to pit road, where they sat until the race resumed after an approximately 22-minute rain delay.

Kenseth assumed his spot at the front of the pack with Gilliland right behind, but Tony Stewart made fast work of getting to the front and led a number of laps until disaster struck for him and 14 other drivers.

On Lap 21, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. appeared to get loose. Jeff Gordon, who was behind Stenhouse, attempted to slow down but inadvertently got into the right rear of Stewart’s car, sending him spinning.

Like a pinball, Stewart triggered a wreck that collected several favorites to win the race, including himself, Stenhouse, Gordon, Kentucky winner Brad Keselowski, fellow Stewart Haas racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Danica PatrickDenny Hamlin, Kenseth, Marcos AmbroseTrevor BayneAJ Allmendinger,Kyle LarsonJimmie JohnsonMichael WaltripCarl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Although Stenhouse told TNT that he got loose after the car in front of him, driven by Bobby Labonte, suddenly slowed, Stewart was not a happy camper nonetheless.

“We’re a quarter of a lap away from getting a competition caution, and Stenhouse is going to be a hero,” Stewart told TNT. “I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to him there, but that took out a bunch of good cars for no reason.

“…No matter what I say right now, somebody’s going to be mad and somebody’s going to disagree with it. But I think it’s a pretty dumb excuse to have the caution come out 500 yards too early.”

Then came Lap 98.

Racing against the possibility of more rain on the horizon, the field was heading into Turn 1 on Lap 98 when it appeared on TV replay that Greg Biffle‘s Ford got into the rear of Kasey Kahne‘s Chevrolet, spinning him and then hooking the Ford of Joey Logano, starting sheer mayhem.

From that point on, drivers begun flying all over the race track, with Kyle Busch winding up upside down in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Fortunately, the younger Busch brother was uninjured. His car was slowly righted onto its wheels and Busch climbed out, receiving a round of applause from the crowd.

According to NASCAR statisticians, the following cars were involved in the wreck:

Kasey Kahne, Clint BowyerAlex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, David GillilandJustin AllgaierRyan NewmanPaul MenardJosh WiseMichael AnnettRyan TruexMatt KensethBobby LabonteJamie McMurrayLandon CassillMarcos Ambrose, Joey Logano, David RaganDenny HamlinDanica PatrickBrad KeselowskiTerry LabonteReed Sorenson and Michael McDowell.

“I’m just so unhappy,” Biffle told TNT. “It was just close-quarters racing. Kasey went into the middle and ran into the back of the 13 car and slowed way up and I hit the back of the 5. We weren’t lined up. He moved down for some reason when he hit the 13 (Casey Mears) or something, but just a chain reaction.

“You just never know cars are going to slow down that quick. I had a shove from the 34 (David Ragan) from behind and you just can’t react that fast, unfortunately.”

“I knew there was going to be trouble there,” David Gilliland said. “I probably should have given myself more room. Cars were just sliding around all over. … What a mess. Not the day we were looking forward.”

Kahne noted, “I was just getting hit from behind. I was in a tough spot. … I’m not exactly sure what happened. It’s too bad.”

Kyle Busch said, “It just felt like a slow carnival ride. I guess that’s fitting for the Fourth of July, but not here for Daytona. … I just got T-boned at the end there and toppled me over.”

Jamie McMurray added, “It was a helpless feeling.”

The race resumed on Lap 104 with Aric Almirola in the lead, only to have the race go back under caution due to rain five laps later. Three laps later, the race was redflagged and after a more than 30-minute wait, Almirola had earned his first career Sprint Cup victory.

We’ll be back with more shortly.

 

Jaguar pleased to support Massa’s FE test, kick-start season four testing

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Felipe Massa of Brazil and Williams in the garage  during final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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Jaguar Formula E chief James Barclay was pleased to support Felipe Massa’s first Formula E test earlier this month as the team began its season four test cycle.

Massa previously expressed an interest in moving into Formula E before re-gaining his Williams Formula 1 seat for 2017, but continued to lay plans for his post-F1 days by testing for Jaguar three weeks ago.

The test saw Jaguar begin its season four on-track development, with 15 days of private testing permitted for all teams before the start of the new campaign in December.

“It was a really great opportunity,” Barclay told NBC Sports in Buenos Aires last weekend.

“Formula E asked us to support that, Felipe had expressed an interest so I’m really pleased we could support that. Great to give him the opportunity.

“He enjoyed it which was nice to be part of really. Obviously useful time for us in terms of our season four development as well.”

While Barclay remained coy about the extent of Jaguar’s testing looking to season four, he took heart from the fact that it had commenced running so early in the year.

“Well you can imagine there’s only so much we can say, but the point is that we started our season four development fairly early on, and our focus absolutely is on our performance this year,” Barclay said.

“One of the nice things is we have a longer lead time for season four for development. So the lessons we’ve learned from season three is really how we can apply that for season four.

“There aren’t a lot of test days, so we’re making the most of those. It’s one of those early tests that allows us to ratify where we’re going, nice to get under our belt at this stage.”

The test has led to suggestions that Massa could be in the frame to join Jaguar in Formula E for season four, but Barclay said it was too early to begin discussing its future driver plans.

“Felipe has a Williams Formula 1 drive,” Barclay said.

“We’re really happy where we are with Adam [Carroll] and Mitch [Evans], really early in our program at this point in time. Just nice to give [Massa] the opportunity to be honest.”

Jaguar enjoyed its strongest weekend in Formula E yet in Buenos Aires as Evans qualified seventh and flirted with the points, but the team remains at the foot of the teams’ championship three races into its debut season.

Lewis Hamilton hopes Liberty ‘do something new’ with Formula 1

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP waves to the crowd after qualifying on pole position during qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton hopes Formula 1’s owner Liberty Media will “do something new” with the sport as he believes it has become “outdated”.

Liberty completed an $8 billion takeover of F1 in January, with American executive Chase Carey becoming the racing series’ new CEO and chairman following Bernie Ecclestone’s departure.

Liberty’s plans for F1 remain largely unclear, but areas that have been hinted at include greater fan engagement and a push to expand the sport in key markets such as the United States.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Hamilton expressed his desire to see change from Liberty and make F1 great again.

“I don’t feel Formula 1 is winning, and it hasn’t been for a long time. That is to do with rule changes and not engaging the fans enough,” Hamilton said.

“There still is a great following in Formula 1 and I am excited for the new owners coming in and I hope they do something new.

“Formula 1 is a bit outdated. If you look at other sports, they are further ahead in the entertainment factor. Formula 1 is really catching up and they have a lot of catching up to do.”

Hamilton enters 2017 chasing a fourth world title, having tasted success in 2007, 2014 and 2015, the latter two coming with his current Mercedes team.

Mercedes launched its new car for the 2017 season, the W08 Hybrid, earlier today at Silverstone in England, with Hamilton on hand for the unveil.

Force India’s Mallya, Renault’s Abiteboul clash over F1 2017 chances

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director looks at the VJM10 car during the Sahara Force India Formula One team launch at Silverstone on February 22, 2017 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Force India owner Vijay Mallya and Renault Formula 1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul have clashed following comments made by the latter regarding the chances of privateer teams in 2017.

Force India finished as the leading privateer outfit in 2016, securing its best-ever constructors’ championship result of P4 at the end of the season, while Renault struggled during its first year back in F1 as a constructor, ending up ninth.

2017 sees the introduction of new technical regulations that are set to shake up the pecking order, with the rate of development also set to become more intense through the campaign.

Abiteboul told reporters earlier this week that he thought private teams such as Force India would struggle to keep up with its manufacturer rivals, believing that 2017 would become an “arms race”.

“I think this season will also really be an arms race,” Abiteboul said, as quoted by crash.net.

“I really feel for the teams who are under-resourced because clearly when I see this car that we are presenting today is not the car that will test in Barcelona and the car in Barcelona is not the car that will race in Melbourne.

“I think most of the car build budget for Force India will be gone by now just to cope with the new regulations. So that is something that we are also taking into account.

“With the level of resources that we have we should be easily capable of beating teams like Haas, like Force India and so on and so forth.”

Mallya hit back during Force India’s car launch on Wednesday, saying that he hoped Abiteboul would come to regret his comments.

“We have always dreamed big. We have never had conversations even in private that we cannot break into the top three,” Mallya said.

“That is going to be our objective. We will certainly give it our best shot.

“I read an article this morning where Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul said teams like Force India may struggle in an arms race. Good luck to him. He may have to eat his words.

“It’s not the amount of arms you have, but the quality of your weaponry.”

Mallya also fired back at Abiteboul on Twitter late on Wednesday evening.

Force India and Renault will go head-to-head on-track for the first time in 2017 at the Australian Grand Prix on March 26.

Wolff: Mercedes factory ‘buzzing’ over W08 launch

xxxx during the launch of the Mercedes formula one team's 2017 car, the W08, at Silverstone Circuit on February 23, 2017 in Northampton, England.
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Mercedes-Benz motorsport chief Toto Wolff has extolled the new W08 EQ Power+, formally revealed Thursday at Silverstone after months of development and preparation.

The car that will attempt to deliver Mercedes AMG Petronas its fourth consecutive driver and constructor championships is distinctly different from the other three revealed so far, Sauber, Renault and Force India. The nose isn’t stepped and the car first premiered today without a shark fin over the engine cowling.

Wolff said the car’s preparation at Brackley and Brixworth has been a thoroughly exciting process.

“The new rules for 2017 were designed to make the fastest F1 cars ever through a big increase in aerodynamic performance. They should be more physical to drive and hopefully more spectacular for the fans to watch. The proof will come in the opening races but we have probably achieved that target,” Wolff said.

“Of course, in terms of relative performance, it’s clear that any rule change brings with it a big reset but also a big opportunity. This is the time to stay humble and keep our feet on the ground. None of the teams has raced under these rules and we all have the same points right now: zero.

“But the dominant feeling in the team right now is one of excitement – the factory is buzzing with anticipation. It has been a really motivating challenge to develop a brand new car concept and I have never seen our determination to succeed higher than it is right now.”

Wolff continued with his initial positive praise of new recruit Valtteri Bottas, who steps into the seat vacated by last year’s World Champion Nico Rosberg.

“Of course, we had a curve ball from Nico late last year that left us scrambling a little bit in the winter,” he said. “But we found a great solution with Valtteri and I am sure that he will form a strong partnership with Lewis. They have both been working hard in the factory with the technical teams and, although we have a different dynamic to manage than in recent seasons, I don’t expect the competition between them to be less intense. And that’s how we like it.

“This year, in-season development will play a big role in determining the championship outcome. None of us know where we will stand at the first race but I am confident that, whatever that position is, we have the people and the capability to deal with every challenge that comes our way. This will be the season where our full works team can show its true strength.”

Mercedes added the new EQ name to its chassis designation as part of its overall brand launch for electric mobility. Mercedes says the name EQ stands for “electric intelligence.”