At the conclusion of Jeff Gordon’s press conference this morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy mayor Greg Ballard read a proclamation that declared Sunday, July 27, 2014 – the day of this year’s Brickyard 400 – as “Jeff Gordon Day” in the city.
“I just hope my competitors are respectful of this, and on Sunday, they’ll just sort of move out of the way,” quipped Gordon, the four-time Brickyard champ and current Sprint Cup points leader.
Joking aside, Gordon feels like he has his best opportunity at becoming the first five-time winner in a stock car at IMS in a while.
“There’s no doubt that this is the best chance that we’ve had at winning this race legitimately, with the speed of the car, as we’ve had in a very long time,” said Gordon, who’s celebrating the 20th anniversary of his victory in the inaugural Brickyard back in 1994.
“It’s obvious that there’s some competitors out there that are going to be tough, including our teammates. But I think the preparation that we’ve put into it and what we’ve been working on since the break – prior, leading into that really – we’re really excited about seeing what we have here today and this weekend.
“From an overall strength of the team and speed of the cars, this is by far the best chance we’ve had of winning in a long time.”
Gordon is also enjoying the fact that he isn’t having to deal with the pressure of having to scrap for a Chase spot like he’s had over the last couple of years.
In 2012, Gordon had to rally from one lap down in the regular season finale at Richmond before he made it into the Chase with a second-place finish.
Before getting his playoff reprieve from Brian France, Gordon and his No. 24 team went through multiple bouts of inconsistency in the 2013 regular season.
But in 2014, Gordon’s been running like clockwork with a Chase-clinching win at Kansas, 13 Top-10s, and an average finish of 9.6. He says that the team’s been doing a great job of putting themselves in strong positions throughout the race weekends, but also feels that they need to improve further.
“I’ve always said that you make your own luck, and I think that we’re doing that this year,” he said. “We’re running up front, we’re qualifying up front, we’re making smart decisions, and we’ve got good race cars.
“It’s great to be in this position but we also look at our competitors and we know we haven’t won the most races and we need to win more, so we’re taking what we’ve done so far and looking at the positives and how good it is, and we’re enjoying that.
“But we’re also working really, really hard because we want to be the best out there. And I feel like even though we’re leading the points with this new system, we’ve got to be better than this if we’re going to win the championship.”
BRASELTON, Ga. – The man who helped save professional sports car racing in North America, Dr. Don Panoz, then shook it up in an even bigger way in 2012.
The DeltaWing was born of a desire to create a car with half the weight, half the horsepower and half the fuel load, but still be ridiculously efficient in terms of aerodynamics and downforce.
It would premiere to massive media attention and critical acclaim at the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans as a Garage 56 entrant, and Panoz’s vision was achieved with the help of a number of key partners. Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, Ben Bowlby, Michelin, Nissan and Highcroft Racing were the five entities most frequently connected with the car when it ran as the experimental entry at both that year’s Le Mans and then Petit Le Mans in the fall.
It nearly died on the vine as a project, however, after taking that checkered flag at Road Atlanta in an incredible fifth place overall, having made fewer pit stops than the competition, and thus proving its point.
A tortuous road followed as the difference in future direction was revealed between Panoz and the partners, and throughout the winter there was a question if the DeltaWing would live on.
Indeed it did, as nearly an entirely new team was born over that winter.
There was new tires in the form of Bridgestone – adopted from the molds made when the DeltaWing was an IndyCar idea, then rejected by that series’ “ICONIC committee” in 2010 when discussing ideas for a new car. The engine was the 4-cylinder Élan turbo, based off an MZR-R block but with almost no Mazda content in it.
There was a new crew, with staff taken from some other Atlanta-region teams, and veteran team manager David Price brought back for another tour of duty in Braselton. The livery changed; it went from sinister black to chrome and red, and the driver lineup changed once more as well. The team even took a flier on a PR rep that had exactly one race experience in that department… and to this day I don’t know why Dr. P thought I was the right person for the job, but I’m eternally grateful he did. Even if it was only a two-race stint.
The DeltaWing didn’t fit, but then again, that was the point. The car ran in the American Le Mans Series’ LMP1 class in 2013 even though it wasn’t homologated for anything, but it was better than LMP2, where it ran closer on lap times to at Le Mans the previous year.
The four years since have proven that while the DeltaWing may not have had the outright pace to contend on an every-week basis, it’s had that spirit of innovation that has fueled Panoz throughout his motorsports career, and it’s had a fan following that’s been fervent at nearly every race it runs. It’s polarizing, which is probably its best asset.
Panoz’s 20 years in motorsports since the late 1990s have featured a run of abnormal cars, from the first hybrid dubbed “Sparky,” the stealthy GTR-1, the Panoz LMP1 Roadster with the engine in front, the successful but still off-beat Esperante GT2 (which won Le Mans 10 years ago), to the stillborn, unclassified Abruzzi that disappeared after just two starts. And for good measure, he founded the American Le Mans Series on its own in 1999… after only several months of planning and preparation.
But the DeltaWing has lived on for four years, scoring a number of podiums and leading a number of laps along the way. More importantly, as a true prototype, it may be the last of its era as regulations further define sports car racing and outside-the-box creations rarely last.
The failed Nissan LMP1 experiment of 2015 – despite its crews’ best efforts – shows just how difficult it is to make something completely new “go.”
Andy Meyrick and Katherine Legge have served as the primary drivers for the DeltaWing since its 2013 evolution away from the original drivers and crew. Legge has been full-time since her debut at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, which was a race the pair and car podiumed for the first time. Meyrick started a race earlier, at the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, and ran full-time in 2013 and 2014 while running the endurance races last year and this year.
Memo Rojas (2015) and Sean Rayhall (2016) have been the other full-season drivers, and the list of other drivers who’ve driven it, or were scheduled to, is listed below.
Satoshi Motoyama’s exploits to try to fix the car at Le Mans in 2012 after it broke made him a cult hero, and the team’s rebuild following an accident in practice with a GT Cup car at the 2012 Petit Le Mans was also a memorable moment from that first year.
Marino Franchitti (2012 24 Hours of Le Mans)
Satoshi Motoyama (2012 24 Hours of Le Mans)
Michael Krumm (2012 24 Hours of Le Mans)
Gunnar Jeannette (2012 Petit Le Mans)
Lucas Ordonez (2012 Petit Le Mans)
Johnny O’Connell (2012 and 2013, both spyder iterations, testing only)
Olivier Pla (2013 12 Hours of Sebring)
Alexander Rossi (2014 24 Hours of Daytona)
Gabby Chaves (2014, 2015, 2016 endurance races)
Andreas Wirth (2016 24 Hours of Daytona)
At an event Wednesday night at the Panoz Museum, Panoz admitted that the last thing he’s doing is slowing down.
He just launched a new street car – the Panoz Esperante Avezzano, or Avezzano for short – which has a special connection for Panoz.
Panoz’s grandfather’s wife was killed in the 1915 Avezzano earthquake, which killed more than 30,000 people. A new woman that met Panoz’s grandfather to take care of the two children at the time got married to his grandfather, and the rest, as they say, is history. Because that’s Panoz’s grandmother.
“Without that earthquake… without that woman to take care of the kids, I would not be here, you would not be here, and the Panoz name would not be here,” Dr. P said last night.
And, true to form, Panoz had another surprise up his sleeve.
A surprise announcement occurred Wednesday night when Panoz caught many in the room off guard by announcing the DeltaWing will run at the Rolex 24 at Daytona next year.
The car doesn’t comply with the upcoming 2017 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) regulations, but that hasn’t stopped the car before, and its outright speed at Daytona has been on display early each of the last two years before retirements.
It makes that race a one-race extra signoff, for the visionary who continues to amaze depending on the day or situation.
Following his third straight victory in Singapore two weeks ago, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg heads into this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix as the Formula 1 drivers’ championship leader for the first time since the middle of July.
After Lewis Hamilton’s mid-season resurgence, many expected the Briton to sweep through the remainder of the year and pick up his fourth world title.
Rosberg dug deep, though, with his Singapore victory arguably being his most complete thus far in 2016. The eight-point gap to teammate Hamilton may offer some comfort, but the German shan’t rest easy on it.
It feels strange for F1 to be visiting Malaysia so late in the season. The race has traditionally been the second leg on the calendar since 2001, but the decision to shift to the end of the year and form an Asian trifecta of races with Singapore and Japan made complete sense.
Much as Malaysia proved decisive in the title race of 1999, will it do so once again in 2016?
Here’s our full preview of the race weekend at Sepang.
2016 Malaysian Grand Prix – Talking Points
Rosberg’s run to continue?
Rosberg’s bid for a maiden F1 drivers’ title in 2016 may have been kick-started by his string of four wins at the beginning of the year, but it is this current sequence that could seal it. Wins in Belgium, Italy and Singapore vaulted him back into the lead of the drivers’ championship, and a fourth on the bounce this Sunday would see his advantage extend to at least 15 points.
Both Rosberg and Hamilton have fared well in Malaysia in the past, making a winner hard to pick. Hamilton certainly has the ability to pull a victory out of nowhere, yet with Rosberg in his current vein of form, it would be tough to bet against him.
How close can Red Bull or Ferrari get?
Red Bull was expected to impress in Singapore, making Daniel Ricciardo’s run to second not much of a surprise – the fact he got within half a second of victory was perhaps more interesting.
The unique nature of the street course in Singapore means a repeat this weekend is unlikely, though. The Sepang International Circuit is a track that suits a good all-rounder car, pointing towards a Mercedes victory.
That said, the race to be best of the rest is set to rage on between Red Bull and Ferrari. Malaysia was the site of Sebastian Vettel’s shock victory in 2015, yet Ferrari knows a repeat is perhaps unrealistic. Should rain strike, though, we could see Hamilton and Rosberg face a stiffer challenge.
Resurfaced, recambered Sepang to present new challenge
One of the reasons for the date shift for the Malaysian Grand Prix was so that the planned renovations for the Sepang International Circuit could be completed. While the layout itself remains the same, the track has been resurfaced, with a number of corners having their bumps removed as a result.
Perhaps the biggest change comes at the final corner, which has been given a more pronounced camber to aid the removal of water in wet conditions. As a result, the quickest line for drivers to take may have changed, making practice crucial for track acclimatization.
JB hits 300 in Malaysia
Jenson Button will make his 300th grand prix start this weekend in Malaysia, becoming just the third driver in the history of F1 to hit that landmark. Former Honda and Brrawn teammate Rubens Barrichello still holds the record for starts at 326, while Michael Schumacher sits second on 306. Button will sit on 305 come the end of the season if he starts every race.
While McLaren’s hopes of hitting the front of the pack may remain a pipedream in 2016, Button will be aiming to bring home more solid points for the British team on a landmark race in a landmark season for the Briton.
Haas to make points return?
Haas arrived in Singapore two weeks ago hopeful of picking up its first points since Austria thanks to a raft of updates for the VF-16 car, only for the weekend to descend into something of a nightmare.
Romain Grosjean faced a litany of issues that ended with him failing to start the race, while Esteban Gutierrez finished 11th – again – to extend his points drought ever close to the three-year mark.
Alas, it could be in Malaysia where the updates finally bear fruit. Tire strategy will be key, perhaps playing into Grosjean’s hands, while the grunt of the Ferrari power unit should put the team in good shape.
2016 Malaysian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures
Track: Sepang International Circuit Corners: 15 Lap Record: Juan Pablo Montoya 1:34.223 (2004) Tire Compounds: Hard/Medium/Soft 2015 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 2015 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:49.834 2015 Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:42.062 DRS Zones: T15 to T1, T14 to T15
2016 Malaysian Grand Prix – TV Times
Free Practice 1: NBC Sports App 10pm ET 9/29 Free Practice 2: NBCSN 2am ET 9/30 Free Practice 3: NBC Sports App 2am ET 10/1 Qualifying: NBCSN 5am ET 10/1 Race: NBCSN 2am ET 10/2
The Malaysian Grand Prix runs this weekend, now shifting to October after its usual early season run for the past 15 years since 2001.
Here are the pertinent times and details for the weekend on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.
NBC Sports Group’s presentation of the 2016 Formula One season continues this weekend with comprehensive live coverage of the Malaysian Grand Prix, culminating in Grand Prix racing on Sunday at 2:30 a.m. ET/Saturday at 11:30 p.m. PT on NBCSN.
In addition to this weekend’s F1 coverage, NBC Sports Group continues its coverage of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup with live coverage from Dover International Speedway on Saturday and Sunday on NBCSN.
Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton continue their battle atop the driver standings heading into Malaysia this weekend. Rosberg currently leads with 273 points, with defending champion Lewis Hamilton close behind with 265 points. Rosberg surpassed Hamilton with his win in Singapore on Sept. 18, coupled with a third-place finish by Hamilton.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, currently fourth in the driver standings with 153 points, boasts four career Malaysian Grand Prix victories, including last year’s race. Hamilton took the checkered flag in Malaysia in 2014.
Live coverage begins exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app tonight at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT with Practice 1, followed by NBCSN’s live coverage of Practice 2 on Friday morning at 2:30 a.m. ET/Thursday at 11:30 p.m. PT. Streaming coverage on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app continues with Practice 3 on Saturday morning at 2 a.m. ET/Friday night at 11 p.m. PT, and live qualifying on Saturday at 5 a.m. ET/2 a.m. PT.
Live Malaysian Grand Prix race coverage begins Sunday morning at 2 a.m. ET/Saturday at 11 p.m. PT on NBCSN with F1 Countdown, and is followed by F1 Extra at 5 a.m. ET/2 a.m. PT.
Lead play-by-play announcer Leigh Diffey will call this weekend’s action, and will be joined by veteran analyst and former racecar driver David Hobbs, and analyst and former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team Steve Matchett. Townsend Bell will serve as the on-site reporter in Malaysia.
SEPANG, Malaysia (AP) Rainy weather may be the only thing that can stop Mercedes from clinching a third straight Formula One constructors’ title at this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix, as new championship leader Nico Rosberg seeks to capitalize on his current edge over teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes has won all but one race this year – when the teammates took each other out in a crash – and is now poised to seal the team championship with five races to spare. It needs to score only three points more than closest rival Red Bull, while preventing Ferrari from outscoring Mercedes by 22 points or more, in order to clinch the title.
Thunderstorms are forecast throughout the race weekend, and the Malaysian race and qualifying have a history of being hit by heavy rain. That may give some encouragement to Red Bull and Ferrari that they can challenge Mercedes.
A resurfacing of the track will complicate matters for all teams, as their data from previous years on tire degradation will be obsolete.
Rosberg has won the past three races to turn a 19-point deficit to Hamilton into an eight-point lead. The tension between the teammates is spilling over from the track.
“We are pushing each other very hard on the race track and even off the race track,” Rosberg said Thursday. “It’s a great battle and everything counts, in many areas.”
The German has never won on the sweeping turns and long straights of Sepang, but that should not be considered much of an omen, as he has recorded first-ever victories at five other circuits this season.
Hamilton’s campaign has taken a turn for the worse after his own hat-trick of race wins in mid-season.
“I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve had tough runs and I’ve had good runs, and it’s not particularly any different to any of those,” Hamilton said of the latest reversal of fortunes. “It’s all about how you handle it, how you deal with it.”
His handling of it was commendable in the previous race in Singapore as he took a fighting third place despite a weekend of technical setbacks.
However, Hamilton hinted at some discontent Thursday. Asked about alterations to the set-up of the car in recent races, he said: “If something changes when it doesn’t need to be changed, it can have all sorts of effects.”
“There’s other things in the background which they (the team) can apply more effort to, but that’s internal stuff,” he added.
Team management was staying neutral in the title fight between the Mercedes pair, and Hamilton said there had been no efforts to buoy his spirts following the recent championship turnaround.
“The team doesn’t have anything to say to me because we’re embarking on the team championship, which is what they care about. Me and the (drivers’) world championship are not really their priority in a sense.”
McLaren driver Jenson Button will make his 300th race start this weekend, joining Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello as the only men to reach that milestone.
“When I started in 2000, I remember speaking to my Dad, and he said, ‘How long do you think you’ll race for?’ and I said, ‘I’ll be done by the time I’m 30, and here I am at 36,'” Button said. “It definitely sucks you in, Formula One, and it doesn’t let go for a long time.”