Red Bull GRC: Ken Block rocks in Charlotte, wins Round 5

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Ken Block picked up his first Red Bull Global Rallycross victory of the season in Charlotte, North Carolina after leading wire-to-wire in the final. The Hoonigan man celebrated with an exuberant spin of his No. 43 Ford Fiesta ST immediately after taking the checkered flag at start/finish.

“Oh man, I’m stoked,” Block said to NBCSN after his first win of the year. “That was a lot of work but I led almost every single lap of this event that I was in…It was a lot of fun and it was good to have a battle. Crazy, crazy day.”

Sverre Isachsen and championship leader Nelson Piquet Jr. picked up second and third place behind Block. Additionally, Piquet was also able to increase his edge in the standings to 46 points over Scott Speed, who finished fifth.

Block grabbed the Semifinal 1 holeshot from the front row and went on to the heat win as Steve Arpin and Brian Deegan followed him in second and third to advance directly to the final.

Meanwhile, championship contenders Piquet and Speed could not crack the Top 3 in the semifinal, forcing them to try their luck later in the Last Chance Qualifier.

Semifinal 2 started with Bucky Lasek, Washington D.C. winner Patrik Sandell, and Sverre Isachsen on the front row. But after Lasek and Isachsen leaped past Sandell for first and second coming into Turn 1, New York winner Tanner Foust got into the back of Sandell and sent him crashing into the water barriers.

Sandell suffered a broken driveshaft in the incident, which drew no penalty on Foust from race officials. The remaining five cars were gridded up for a restart, and in the rush to Turn 1, Foust himself hit the water barriers and help put a piece of it in the middle of the track.

On Lap 3, Joni Wiman got past Isachsen for the lead before the red flag came out again for Austin Dyne blocking up Turn 6 after he was apparently turned around by Foust.

The cars gridded up a second time for a four-lap dash that forced Wiman to start from his back row position. Foust once again made contact in Turn 6 – this time with Lasek – and took over the lead in his battered VW.

Foust held on for first in the heat despite missing a large part of the front end on his car. Wiman and Isachsen were able to get second and third to move into the final.

In the LCQ, Piquet and Speed did what they had to do by finishing first and second. Piquet was running fourth on Lap 3 of 4 but took a well-timed joker to go all the way into the lead past Speed, Dyne and Lasek.

Those four transferred to the main event, while teammates Rhys Millen and Emma Gilmour had their Saturday come to a close.

That left the 10-car final, which was only a few seconds old when the red flag came out for Piquet. He took the start from the third row but was squeezed into the aforementioned water barriers at Turn 1.

Piquet got back to the starting gate for the restart, but he and everybody else was left in the Carolina dust by Block, who quickly pulled away from the field.

Isachsen eventually settled a tight battle for second between himself, Wiman, and Speed. But Piquet once again showed great timing with the joker to pass both Wiman and Speed for third on Lap 8.

That would be enough to give him yet another podium finish behind Block and Isachsen.

Red Bull GRC will stage Round 6 of the season on August 23 at Daytona International Speedway. NBC will air the final live that day at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Verizon confirms IndyCar title sponsor role exit after 2018

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As perhaps expected, Verizon has confirmed Friday it will end its role as Verizon IndyCar Series title sponsor following the end of its fifth year in 2018.

Reports surfaced shortly after this year’s IndyCar season finale at Sonoma Raceway that Verizon was re-evaluating its role within the series.

Indeed, as it was before becoming title sponsor in 2014, Verizon will remain a partner with Team Penske despite not also carrying the series title sponsor role.

In a statement, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles thanked Verizon for its support in this overall series role.

“Verizon has been a super sponsor and will continue to be so through all of next season. We appreciate that they reached their decision in a timely way so that we can thoughtfully and deliberately go back into the market for 2019,” Miles said in a statement, via Sports Business Journal.

Roger Penske also issued a statement, also via SBJ, saying, “We want to thank Verizon for the support they have provided the IndyCar Series and the role they have played as they helped us grow the sport as the title sponsor for the past five years. Verizon has helped the series reach new fans through their world-class activation and technology, including the Verizon IndyCar Mobile App. While they will no longer be the Series Title Sponsor after 2018, it is exciting they will still be in the sport through their relationship with our organization.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series has built a wave of momentum over the last few years with its competition level, parity and enthusiasm for some revived events, with Gateway Motorsports Park and Road America standing out as highlights being brought back after an extended hiatus.

The good news for INDYCAR (sanctioning body) is that there’s a new Dallara universal aero kit that’s been busy with testing the last few months and is now in the hands of manufacturers for manufacturer testing, and the series announced long-term extensions with Dallara, Chevrolet, Honda and Firestone earlier this year. New series champion Josef Newgarden has also been busy in a number of media events and appearances since the Sonoma season finale.

With this confirmation, INDYCAR has a new entitlement sponsor to find and a new TV contract to sort, with both existing contracts up after 2018.