Kevin Harvick, front, and Ty Dillon head to the pits after their incident at Martinsville last October. (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Ty Dillon goes from ‘punk-ass kid’ to classy winner at Indy

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INDIANAPOLIS – When Kevin Harvick unleashed a surprising barrage of unsavory comments against Ty Dillon following last October’s truck race at Martinsville, it got the entire NASCAR world talking.

Dillon and Harvick, running third and second respectively at the time, had been involved in a wreck that took out both of their rides in the Camping World Truck Series event.

The race notwithstanding, it was a trying time for Harvick, who was less than a month away from leaving the only home he had ever known in Sprint Cup racing. At the same time, the younger Dillon brother was battling for the Truck series championship.

But what should have been nothing more than a wreck turned into a vicious verbal personal attack by Harvick upon Dillon and older brother Austin.

“I don’t care what they throw at me,” Harvick said at the time, according to a story on SportingNews.com. “That’s exactly the reason I’m leaving RCR is because you’ve got those punk-ass kids coming up.”

It’s clear Harvick was talking about the two Dillon boys, taking out what appeared to be simmering anger at both for who and what they were.

Not only were they Childress’ grandsons, they were also the future of RCR – a future that didn’t hold Harvick in it.

Knowing what the future didn’t hold for him at RCR, Harvick announced before the 2013 season that it would be his last driving for Childress and he would jump to Stewart Haas Racing in 2014.

Harvick has been involved in plenty of wrecks in his career, but few have seen him get so, well, personal in the verbal venom he spewed.

“Exactly the reason why I’m leaving RCR because you’ve got those kids coming up and they’ve got no respect for what they do in this sport and they’ve had everything fed to them with a spoon,” Harvick said at the time.

“So I cut him slack all day and, you know, he just dive-bombs me in there, dumps me. … It’s a shame you’ve got to get taken out by some rich kid like that.”

The resulting response wasn’t surprising.

An angry Childress shot back at Harvick, saying, “I’m very disappointed , that’s all I can say. I’ve got too much class to say what I want to say right now. When I say it, I will say it to his face.”

Then came Ty’s turn.

“I don’t care what Kevin Harvick says,” Dillon said. “I don’t think anybody does. … I’m pretty disappointed in the things that just went down. I used to look up to that guy (Harvick).”

Then came Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250 Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as the 22-year-old Ty let his actions do the talking for him, earning his first career NNS win.

Not only did Dillon win, he beat five Sprint Cup regulars to the finish line, including Kyle Busch (runner-up), Matt Kenseth (finished third), Joey Logano (fifth), Paul Menard (sixth) … and Harvick himself in fourth place.

To his credit, while Saturday would have been a perfect place to get back at Harvick with some choice comments of his own, Dillon took the high road.

Not a peep was mentioned about Harvick or last year’s unsavory incident – when Dillon very easily could have.

But as Dillon crossed the finish line, you have to wonder if maybe he looked and saw Harvick in his rearview mirror, three cars back, and thought to himself, “Look who just got punked now.”

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Sebastian Vettel dismisses suggestion he could replace Rosberg at Mercedes

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP is congratulated by Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari on the podium during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Sebastian Vettel has brushed off suggestions that he could take Nico Rosberg’s vacant Formula 1 seat at Mercedes next year, saying his focus lies on working with Ferrari to improve on their 2016 season.

Rosberg sensationally announced on Friday that he would be retiring from F1 with immediate effect, just five days after winning his maiden World Championship.

Rosberg’s move has sent the driver market into a late flux, with Mercedes’ Niki Lauda claiming that half of the F1 grid has been in touch regarding the seat despite many of them having contracts.

Vettel has been named as a possible candidate for Rosberg’s seat despite having one year remaining on his Ferrari deal, but when speaking at the Finali Mondiali at Daytona International Speedway, the German stressed he is focused on his current commitments at Maranello.

“I think it’s no secret the fact that me and Kimi Raikkonen have a contract for next season,” Vettel is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Kimi and I are already committed. In 2017 we will be competitive.

“We have not reached the goal this year, but now it will be important to do the job at the factory in the next two months.

“I am confident that we will definitely present an improved package.”

Vettel signed off with a message to Rosberg, wishing the retiring champion “happy holidays!”

Vettel finished 2016 fourth in the drivers’ championship without a win to his name as Ferrari struggled to keep up with Mercedes and Red Bull in the pecking order.

Mercedes is set to begin its search for a replacement on Monday, with the other big-name driver besides Vettel linked to the seat being McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.

Should Mercedes want to promote one of its junior drivers, Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon are both also available, although neither has more than a season of F1 experience.

Hamilton not chasing number one status at Mercedes after Rosberg exit

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 25: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks in the Paddock during practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 25, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton says he is not chasing number one driver status at Mercedes as the team begins its search for a replacement for Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg edged out Hamilton for the F1 drivers’ championship in Abu Dhabi last Sunday before sensationally announcing his immediate retirement from the sport five days later.

Mercedes has said it will take its time when looking for a replacement for Rosberg, with the majority of the F1 grid tied up contractually for 2017.

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have both been linked with the Mercedes drive in the wake of Rosberg’s departure, leading to questions about whether Hamilton would want another big-name star alongside him.

Mercedes has always stressed that it does not have a number one driver, and Hamilton said that he would not insist on that changing when his new teammate arrives.

“I’ve never been a driver to ever request that,” Hamilton said when asked about number one status.

“I know a lot of the other drivers Sebastian, Fernando make sure that’s in their contract.

“I’ve just always asked to have equal rights. As long as we’re treated fairly, it doesn’t really matter who’s alongside you.

“But of course, we’ve got great team bosses, who I’m sure will choose the right people to be representing the brand.”

Whoever replaces Rosberg will become Hamilton’s fifth teammate in F1, the Briton having previously worked with Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen and Jenson Button during his time at McLaren before joining Mercedes in 2013.

Rosberg: Hamilton’s late-season form ‘the best Lewis I’ve ever seen’

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo neads Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track  during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg believes that Lewis Hamilton produced some of the best performances of his career towards the end of the 2016 Formula 1 season when the Briton had nothing to lose in the championship fight.

Rosberg clinched his maiden F1 drivers’ championship by five points in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, defeating Hamilton for the first time during their time as teammates.

Rosberg closed out the season with four straight second place finishes, with Hamilton’s run of victories in the same period not being enough to catch up in the standings.

Speaking in a video produced by Mercedes after his championship win, Rosberg said that he felt the most pressure after his final win of the season in Japan, the result that meant he could wrap up the title without taking another victory.

“The changing moment was Suzuka for me, when all of a sudden I had the 33-point lead and that meant it was in my hands, and it’s mine to lose, because it was enough to do second-second-second and third,” Rosberg said.

“That’s when really the pressure started for me because it became real, the chance to win the championship and to beat Lewis. It was real.”

Rosberg was only assured of the title when he crossed the finish line in Abu Dhabi, with Hamilton going deliberately slow in a bid to back the German into the chasing pack.

“Abu Dhabi was intense. It was the most intense experience I’ve ever had in a race car,” Rosberg said.

“Even qualifying, the laps in qualifying, not easy really. And for sure it has an impact on your performance. It’s not possible that you do the same performance as if you’re in Lewis’ position where he has nothing to lose.”

Rosberg believes that the lack of pressure brought the very best out of Hamilton, as he closed out the campaign with four consecutive victories from pole position.

“That’s why he got the pole positions and why I was second in the last couple of races because he’s free, has no weight and nothing to lose,” Rosberg said.

“It was the best Lewis I’ve ever seen, the last few races, because not only was he completely free, but also the most determined and motivated ever, working as hard as ever.

“[It was] massively difficult to beat him in those circumstances.”

Rosberg announced on Friday that he would be retiring from racing with immediate effect, meaning we have likely seen the last of his rivalry with Hamilton in F1.

Lewis Hamilton escapes punishment for defying Mercedes team orders in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP prepares for the race on the grid  during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton will face no punishment for defying team orders from Mercedes during the Formula 1 title decider in Abu Dhabi last weekend.

Hamilton took his fourth straight win and 10th of the season at the Yas Marina Circuit last Sunday, but fell five points short of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the final drivers’ championship standings.

In a bid to make Rosberg lose places, Hamilton slowed the pack down in Abu Dhabi, causing concern on the Mercedes pit wall as Sebastian Vettel threatened to snatch victory away.

Hamilton ignored several calls from the Mercedes pit wall to pick up the pace, risking disciplinary action from the team after going against its orders.

However, Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda has confirmed that Hamilton will not be punished and that the team has moved on from the incident.

“There is no need to say anything to Lewis,” Lauda told The Mail on Sunday.

“We have no problem about how he raced in Abu Dhabi. We have drawn a line under it.”

Mercedes’ more pressing concern at the moment is finding a replacement for Rosberg after the German’s shock decision to retire from racing with immediate effect.

Hamilton’s contract with Mercedes runs for another two years, and without erstwhile rival Rosberg to battle against, is the early favorite for the championship in 2017.