Iowa Corn Indy 300 - Day 2

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.

Grosjean unveils new helmet design for first F1 season with Haas

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Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.

Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.

Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.

In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.

Mario Andretti: 21-race calendar no bad thing for F1

FONTANA, CA - AUGUST 29:  Racing legend Mario Andretti during qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championship Race at the Auto Club Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
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1978 Formula 1 world champion Mario Andretti believes that having a 21-race calendar is no bad thing for the series as it caters to the demand for grands prix around the world.

The 2016 schedule is set to be the longest yet, featuring 21 races after the return of the German Grand Prix and the addition of the European Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Such a packed calendar has been met with mixed responses by the F1 community, with some expressing concern over the lack of breaks between races.

FIA president Jean Todt said in January that a 21-race calendar should be seen as a “privilege” by those in F1, and Andretti echoed his comments when speaking to El Pais.

“It does represent an extra burden for the teams, but they must also appreciate that it provides greater exposure to the brands,” Andretti said.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for F1 because you have an incredible demand and 21 occasions to showcase the sport.

“Plus the drivers are willing to run more races, so that calendar’s not a bad thing in my opinion.”

Andretti also spoke of the need to safeguard the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, which remains subject to confirmation for 2016 amid concerns about its financial stability.

“After all the investments that were made on this fantastic venue, all people involved need to make sure we have a grand prix,” he said.

“I think F1 needs the US and vice versa. When you look at the sponsors in every team, you see that all of them are global and most do business in America.

“It is believed that the Mexico race has taken some of the spectators away, but as time goes by, both events will help each other because people are keen to see F1.”

2016 MotoGP calendar finalized by FIM, Dorna

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - OCTOBER 25:  The MotoGP riders start from the grid during the MotoGP race during the MotoGP Of Malaysia at Sepang Circuit on October 25, 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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The calendar for the 2016 MotoGP season has been finalized by the FIM and Dorna ahead of the first race of the year in Qatar next month.

The last provisional schedule issued in November featured 18 races with just one chop-and-change as the Indianapolis Grand Prix was dropped to make way for an event in Austria.

This calendar has been given the green light by governing body FIM and commercial rights holder Dorna, finalizing the dates for the coming season.

Officials at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway came to a mutual agreement with Dorna to terminate its contract for the MotoGP race early following the last race in August.

As a result, the only American round on the MotoGP calendar is the race at the Circuit of The Americas in April.

2016 MotoGP season calendar

1. Qatar – March 20
2. Argentina – April 3
3. USA – April 10
4. Spain – April 24
5. France – May 8
6. Italy – May 22
7. Catalunya – June 5
8. Dutch TT – June 26
9. Germany – July 17
10. Austria – August 14
11. Czech Republic – August 21
12. Great Britain – September 4
13. San Marino – September 11
14. Aragon – September 25
15. Japan – October 16
16. Australia – October 23
17. Malaysia – October 30
18. Valencia – November 13

NHRA: After rough 2015, Courtney Force hopes the force is back with her in 2016

Courtney Force (Getty Images)
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It would be great to borrow a line from Star Wars and to tell NHRA Funny Car driver Courtney Force, “May the Force be with you.”

Unfortunately for the youngest daughter of 16-time Funny Car champ John Force, the force wasn’t even close to being with her in 2015.

In 2014, Courtney was one of the most successful drivers in Funny Car. She won a career-high four wins (out of a career total of seven wins), became the winningest female in Funny Car history, and earned the 100th win by a female driver in NHRA history.

It was a dream season as Force finished a career-best fourth in the standings.

But as good as everything went in 2014, it was the complete opposite in 2015. She failed to win a race, never could mount any type of consistency, and failed to reach the Countdown to the Championship for the first time in her career.

Force ultimately finished a career-worst 11th in the final Funny Car standings.

Even worse, in 24 races, she was eliminated in the first round an unheard of 15 times.

Courtney Force in action (Richard Shute/Auto Imagery)
Courtney Force in action (Richard Shute/Auto Imagery)

But heading into this weekend’s season-opening Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., there’s only one direction for Force to go, and that’s up.

“Last year was definitely tough,” Force told NBCSports.com. “There’s really nothing I can point fingers at, but I definitely think it’s going to make us feel a little bit better going into this year. We’re staying positive.”

Force started off positive in Friday’s first day of qualifying, as teammate Robert Hight had the quickest run at 3.942 seconds (at 322.19 mph), while Courtney Force was second-quickest at 3.945 seconds.

 

Much like her famous father, there was a significant amount of change that occurred for the overall John Force Racing operation in 2015.

There was a manufacturer change (to Chevrolet after nearly 20 years with Ford), a primary sponsor change (to Peak AntiFreeze and Lubricants after more than 30 years with Castrol) and just a whole different mojo than she and everyone in John Force Racing had never experienced.

Not so much in 2016, Courtney Force said.

“I feel like the pressure’s off a little bit for all our teams right now,” said Force, a big fan-favorite in the NHRA world. “With Chevy coming on board, Monster, Peak Antifreeze and Lucas (Oil) as sponsors, it was huge for us.

“To have them all really behind us definitely kind of puts us back to having comfort and knowing that we have support out here.”

Now in her fifth full season in the NHRA Funny Car ranks, as well as with primary sponsor Traxxas, Force is ready to forget about 2015 and look forward to a big leap forward in 2016.

“We definitely had a little bit of a rough year last year, but there were a few things we were trying out with the car and I think it just took us a little longer to figure it all out,” she said.

Perhaps the most significant change for Force this season is having two new co-crew chiefs: Dan Hood (husband of sister and former racer Ashley Force Hood) and Ronnie Thompson, who came over from sister Brittany Force’s Top Fuel team.

“I think the two of them are going to work well together and I’m excited,” Courtney Force told MotorSportsTalk. “We brought in a couple of other new people and switched a few positions.

“We’re definitely in our routine again, and the test at Phoenix (last weekend) definitely helped. We’re really just keeping a positive attitude going into this year.”

Father John Force expects big things this season from both Courtney and Brittany.

“I want this to be a big year for my girls,” Force told MST. “I want both Courtney and Brittany to have a big year.”

While that may put extra pressure on someone, knowing it’s your father who has high expectations, Courtney looks at it a bit differently.

“I think there’s always a little bit of pressure because he is my dad, but not really so much from him, maybe just more on myself,” she said. “I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself since I started racing. I push myself hard out here because I really love being in these cars and this opportunity, I’m just trying to take full advantage of it and really show these sponsors what we’re capable of.

“After a rough year like we had last year, I’m ready to get these things turned around and get back to how we used to be. We’ve won a lot of races, we know how to win and having the support of my dad, no, he doesn’t put that pressure on me, which is nice. I’m very lucky that I get to stay on as a driver for his team. I put pressure on myself more than anything.”

If there was one key to last year’s dismal season, it was missing the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, a six-race playoff that begins after the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

Heading to Indy, Courtney was still within striking distance of making the Chase, but things didn’t work out the way she hoped they would.

“It was hard, for sure, every week, we went out there,” she said. “At the start of the season, we were like, ‘No, we didn’t have it this weekend, but we’ve always got next weekend.’ The time window to get in there started to get smaller and further away.

“(Not making the Countdown) was definitely a shock. We had Indy to try to make some magic happen and it was out of our hands. We couldn’t do much about it. We went out and that was just the way it was going to be.

“We just kind of had to take it, learn from it and move on. It was definitely a bummer. Since my rookie year, I’ve been in the top 10 every year. But I think it will only make us stronger for this year, which is probably the most important thing that came out of it.”

But now Indy and the entire 2015 season is and will remain in Force’s rearview mirror. It’s full speed ahead in 2016, starting with this weekend’s 56th annual edition of the Winternationals.

“I can’t wait to get back in the swing of things at the start of the season, at my home track in Pomona,” Force said. “I think 2016 will be a great year for our Traxxas Chevy Camaro team and we are ready to make it our year.”

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