IndyCar: Ryan Hunter-Reay wins in wild dash to finish at Iowa (VIDEO)

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A late gamble gave Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport yet another jackpot at Iowa Speedway.

The reigning Indianapolis 500 winner took fresh tires under the last caution of tonight’s Iowa Corn Indy 300, and he was able to get everything he could out of them after the final restart with nine laps to go.

Picking off positions one-by-one, Hunter-Reay finally surged past Tony Kanaan for the lead with two laps left and went on to earn his third Verizon IndyCar Series win of the year – and the fifth consecutive IndyCar triumph at Iowa for the Andretti team.

“We took the tires as a big gamble,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN in Victory Lane. “Our tires were shot before that, so we took ’em – and, credit to [engineer] Ray Gosselin and [team owner] Michael Andretti for making that call because I didn’t think we’d have enough time.

“…That was really great. Man, that was fun. That was like a video game at the end, it was just shredding through it. The DHL Honda was just on fire at the end.”

The win also boosts Hunter-Reay’s championship hopes with six races remaining in the season. He now moves to third in the standings at 32 points behind new leader Helio Castroneves, who finished eighth to take a nine-point lead over Will Power heading into next weekend’s doubleheader at Toronto.

Also charging hard in the last dash to the finish was Josef Newgarden, who pitted for tires with Hunter-Reay. He took the restart in 11th, but like Hunter-Reay, he rocketed toward the front and ultimately finished about six-tenths of a second behind the former series champion.

“That was the weirdest experience I’ve had in a race,” Newgarden said. “It’s almost unfair. You put on new tires like that and you just have so much more grip than everybody.

“It was a great call and I knew it was going to be an interesting race because Graham [Rahal] and Ryan [Hunter-Reay] had done it in front of me – and I thought, ‘If this is gonna play out, it’s going to be between us.’ And Ryan got a good jump, and I got a good jump with him, and we kept carving up to the top.”

Meanwhile, Kanaan was left wanting again after putting together a dominant performance. Last weekend at Pocono, he led the most laps but a late fuel strategy did not go his way.

In Iowa, he again led the most laps – 247 in all. But instead of celebrating his first win as a member of Chip Ganassi Racing, he finished third.

“It’s one of those things,” Kanaan shrugged. “They took a gamble. It’s a shame because we dominated the race. I had a lot of fun. But what can I do?”

Kanaan’s teammate Scott Dixon finished fourth, followed by Ed Carpenter in fifth. However, the owner/driver’s night was not without controversy as he was involved in the incident that provided the last caution of the night.

With 19 laps remaining, Carpenter appeared to come down in Turn 3 as Pocono winner Juan Pablo Montoya tried to look on the inside for a pass. Montoya then went briefly below the yellow line before sliding up into the wall to bring out the yellow.

However, INDYCAR chose to take no action in regards to penalties against Carpenter.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES AT IOWA – IOWA CORN INDY 300
Official Results
Order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, team-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (13) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti-Honda, 300, Running
2. (21) Josef Newgarden, SFHR-Honda, 300, Running
3. (2) Tony Kanaan, Ganassi-Chevy, 300, Running
4. (1) Scott Dixon, Ganassi-Chevy, 300, Running
5. (10) Ed Carpenter, ECR-Chevy, 300, Running
6. (14) James Hinchcliffe, Andretti-Honda, 300, Running
7. (15) Graham Rahal, Rahal-Honda, 300, Running
8. (3) Helio Castroneves, Penske-Chevy, 300, Running
9. (4) Ryan Briscoe, Ganassi-Chevy, 300, Running
10. (7) Charlie Kimball, Ganassi-Chevy, 300, Running
11. (11) Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt-Honda, 300, Running
12. (5) Carlos Munoz, Andretti-Honda, 300, Running
13. (18) Justin Wilson, Coyne-Honda, 300, Running
14. (9) Will Power, Penske-Chevy, 300, Running
15. (20) Jack Hawksworth, Herta-Honda, 296, Running
16. (19) Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske-Chevy, 280, Contact
17. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, KV/AFS-Chevy, 258, Mechanical
18. (8) Marco Andretti, Andretti-Honda, 229, Mechanical
19. (6) Sebastien Bourdais, KVSH-Chevy, 130, Mechanical
20. (22) Carlos Huertas, Coyne-Honda, 78, Driver Illness
21. (12) Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt-Honda, 47, Contact
22. (16) Takuma Sato, Foyt-Honda, 47, Contact

Race Statistics:
Winners average speed: 131.923
Time of Race: 02:01:58.8160
Margin of victory: 0.5814
Cautions: 7 for 68 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 4 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Dixon 1
Kanaan 2 – 42
Castroneves 43 – 76
Kanaan 77 – 247
Dixon 248 – 263
Kanaan 264 – 297
Hunter-Reay 299 – 300

Point Standings: Castroneves 471, Power 462, Hunter-Reay 439, Pagenaud 421, Montoya 405, Munoz 358, Andretti 337, Dixon 331, Briscoe 307, Kanaan 305.

F1 Paddock Pass: Australian Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

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And so, the 2017 Formula 1 season is officially underway with the Australian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari are on top, having beat Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes both on strategy and on pace to kick off this new era in the sport’s history.

A recap of the day from the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne occurs below in the latest edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series, Paddock Pass, as F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales go into the paddock to run down the stories of the day.

MORE: Full Australian Grand Prix event replay; Mosaic replay

The podium saw Vettel ahead of Hamilton, with Mercedes’ new driver Valtteri Bottas coming third on debut for the team.

Other interviews that occurred during NBCSN’s post-race coverage on F1 Extra included with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen, who came fourth and fifth respectively, with Force India’s Esteban Ocon who scored his first career point, and with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who doggedly dragged his McLaren Honda into a potential points-paying finish before a late-race retirement.

Paddock Pass is in three parts and can be viewed below.

Haas’ sophomore F1 season starts badly with double DNF in Australia

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The Haas Formula 1 team’s sophomore campaign got off to a bad start on Sunday as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were both forced to retire from the Australian Grand Prix.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation into F1 last year, making its debut in Australia 12 months ago.

Grosjean scored a memorable sixth-place finish on that day in Melbourne, and looked poised to repeat the result in 2017 after qualifying sixth on Saturday.

A poor start was Grosjean drop to seventh, but he managed to hold position through the opening stint of the race ahead of the pit stop cycle.

However, Grosjean had no chance to wield some strategic genius as Haas did last year, with a water leak forcing him to retire while inside the top 10.

“I suddenly lost a lot of power. I told the guys, then the next thing I knew I had to slow down the car,” Grosjean explained.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result, but again, right now I’m hot and we’re all disappointed to lose a seventh-place position, but the car was there in qualifying in P6. The start wasn’t ideal, so we need to improve that. I felt I was faster than the Williams, so there’s huge potential in the car.

“I guess the key for us is to keep the momentum and get the consistency we didn’t have last year, where I’d be fifth in Bahrain then 19th in China. I really want to improve on that and get more consistency in terms of results. If we do that, then I’m sure there are going to be plenty of races where we can score good points.”

Grosjean’s new teammate for 2017, Kevin Magnussen, suffered an early setback when he clashed with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson on the first lap, and ultimately retired due to a suspension issue stemming from the incident.

“I had Ericsson on the outside and I understeered into the side of him, which was unfortunate. I lost my front wing and damaged the car a little bit,” Magnussen said.

“We changed the front wing and then I went for a long test session to feel the car and learn a bit more about it, which was good. It feels good and the car is fast.

“That’s the really positive thing from this weekend. The car is there. We just have to make it finish and score points.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “Not the race we wished for, or we expected. With Romain it looks like we had a water leak. We don’t know yet where that came from.

“Obviously, Kevin’s race was destroyed in the third corner after the contact with Ericsson. He then ended up later with a suspension failure, which we still have to investigate why.

“The good thing we take out of here is that the car seems to be fast. We need to work on a few parts and, hopefully, we can get back strong again in China in two weeks.”

Sam Posey previews 2017 with ‘The Winds of Change’ (VIDEO)

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As the 2017 kicks off from Australia, our resident poet laureate Sam Posey has penned his latest essay on what’s to come ahead of the new year.

Here’s a look ahead to the new season, with Posey’s “The Winds of Change” looking at the vast transformation in the sport that occurred over the winter, from the change in ownership, to the change in cars, to the change in the lineups… and to the change in the pecking order.

An archive of Posey’s 2016 essays are linked here.

Sprint car veteran Dave Steele killed in accident at Desoto Speedway

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Open-wheel veteran and occasional NASCAR racer Dave Steele was killed Saturday night in an accident at Desoto Speedway in Bradenton, Florida during a sprint car race. The veteran driver out of Tampa was 42 years old.

According to SPEED SPORT, Steele reportedly crashed while driving for position in his winged sprint car, in the Southern Sprintcar Shootout Series event.

The track confirmed Steele’s passing in a Facebook post, writing: “Desoto Speedway owners and staff are saddened by tonights passing of David Steele in the Sprint car feature. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends who were all in attendance, to see him try to win his 100th florida race.”

Steele made three starts in the Indy Racing League in 1998 and had been brought on by Panther Racing as a development driver for the team’s first crack at a two-car effort, then teammate to Scott Goodyear, the last two races of that season. He was entered as a second car for the 1999 Indianapolis 500 but did not qualify. He also drove in the Indy Lights series a few years later in a handful of races.

In USAC though, Steele was regarded as one of the top drivers on the circuit, with a sterling record. As of the end of 2016, he had 26 USAC National Sprint Car wins, 16 Silver Crown wins (third all-time) and 18 National Midget wins, for a total of 60 wins that proved his versatility in USAC’s three primary types of cars, both on pavement and on dirt.

A number of tributes and condolences have already come in on social media. Note the one from Michael Lewis, an up-and-coming sports car driver out of California who’s won races in Pirelli World Challenge, and whose father Steve Lewis was the architect of the old Beast/Pink entries, which Steele used to drive for.