UPDATED: Coke Zero 400 resumes after rain delay

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UPDATE 9 (12:08 pm ET): The Coke Zero 400 has resumed after about a 22-minute rain delay and resulting red flag race stoppage. Matt Kenseth is back at the front of the field, followed by pole sitter David Gilliland. The big question now is how long will it be before the next rain stoppage. Rain is visible on the National Weather Service radar, but we should be able to get perhaps to Lap 50 before we need to worry about more rain. Remember, this is a 160-lap race, so drivers only need to get to 81 laps (one lap past halfway) for it to be an official race if rain continues to be an issue going forward for the remainder of the day. The NWS is still predicting 60 percent chance of thunderstorms this afternoon.

UPDATE 8 (12:01 pm ET): Drivers are back in their race cars and track dryers are on their way back off-track. We expect engines will be fired momentarily and cars will be back on-track. We expect at least one, possibly two pace laps before the green flag falls for the second time today.

UPDATE 7 (11:53 am ET): Although sun is showing on the front stretch, the race remains under red flag conditions. However, there’s more bad news — aka RAIN — on the horizon, based on National Weather Service radar.

UPDATE 6 (11:36 am ET): The race has been red-flagged due to rain on Lap 11. Cars are back on pit road and some are having tarps placed over them.

UPDATE 5 (11:35 am ET): The race remains under caution and’s Bob Pockrass is reporting that NASCAR has told the Air Titan track dryers to “power up.”

UPDATE 4 (11:26 am ET): Mother Nature has once again stepped in the way of NASCAR’s Coke Zero 400. The race is under caution after just six laps as rain has again begun to fall, primarily in turns 1 and 2. Oddly, the sun has again popped out around Turns 3 and 4. Matt Kenseth is in the lead, while pole sitter David Gilliland has dropped to second.

UPDATE 3 (11:22 am ET): We are underway for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Clean start. Track looks dry. Now the big question is how long will Mother Nature cooperate? Will teams’ strategy be solely to get to halfway in the event more rain comes? If that’s the case, this could become a sprint to an 81-lap race (one lap past halfway of the scheduled 160 laps).

UPDATE 2 (11:17 pm ET): Sun is shining on the frontstretch of the massive 2.5-mile, high-banked Daytona International Speedway and the green flag is still waiting to fall. There are reports of sprinkles around the track. After the lights on the pace car were turned off and it appeared we were ready to go green, the lights are back on the pace car for at least one extra pace lap.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms this afternoon and 40 percent in the evening.

UPDATE (11:10 am ET): The command to start engines has been given and we’ve begun pace laps.

NASCAR vice president of operations Steve O’Donnell just tweeted that rain is outside Turns 1 and 2.

ORIGINAL STORY: The good news: The rain-postponed Coke Zero 400 is due to start shortly after 11 am ET this morning at Daytona International Speedway.

The bad news: Rain is once again in the forecast. The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather warning for Daytona Beach and points south.

While the skies have been partly sunny for much of the morning, dark clouds are definitely on the horizon west of Daytona Beach.

A check of the NWS radar at 10:50 am ET shows a storm cell due west of Daytona and moving northeastward. However, once that cell were to pass, there’s little chance of rain for at least the following few hours. There are storms on the west coast of Florida, but it’s too early to predict if they’ll go cross-state and impact the Daytona Beach area or not.

The race is due to be televised on TNT, which could result in a Heidi-like backlash from viewers, as Lord of the Ring: The Fellowship of the King began at 9 am ET and is slated to run until 12:45 pm ET. It’s expected the network will switch to the NASCAR telecast at 11 am ET. There will be no pre-race show, with the green flag slated to fall some time around 11:10 to 11:15 pm ET.

We’ll be back with more race and weather updates as they become available.


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.