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Brickyard 400 Update: Strategies shifting, but Kahne’s leading at halfway

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In a race that has been filled with strategy plays, Kasey Kahne holds the point at the halfway mark of today’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Kahne took the lead off a restart at Lap 73, and is ahead of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano.

Pole sitter Harvick narrowly led the first lap but Gordon took the lead going into Turn 1 from his fellow Chevy driver.

In clean air, Gordon quickly grew the lead to more than four seconds before a competition caution came out at Lap 20 so teams could check tire wear on a green surface after overnight rains.

Logano chose to stay out on the track, but the rest of the leaders decided to pit. Gordon won the race off of pit road with a two-tire stop, but Logano took over the lead.

Other strategy plays ensued in these stops as well, with Jimmie Johnson going fuel-only and Harvick choosing to take four tires instead of two.

Logano took the inside line for the restart at Lap 26 and kept the point, while Gordon struggled to get going and bottled up the outside line. He eventually settled down in fourth behind Logano, Kahne, and Johnson, while those farther back jostled aggressively for positions.

Also losing out on the restart was Brad Keselowski, who was pinned behind Gordon when he spun his wheels and dropped all the way back to ninth as a result.

Kahne eventually got past Logano in Turn 3 for the point at Lap 32, and a few turns later, Logano came in for his first stop under green. That started a wave of green-flag stops featuring Kahne coming in from the lead at Lap 38, which handed the lead to rookie Kyle Larson.

Larson would hold the lead until Lap 43, when he and Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray hit the pits together. The lead shuffled to Austin Dillon and then to Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin, who pitted under the competition caution, was able to stretch his fuel load to Lap 56 before he finally went in for his second stop. That completed the cycle and put Harvick back atop the pylon by less than half a second over Gordon.

Gordon was able to pass Harvick for the lead just before they pitted together on Lap 66. Two laps later, the first caution of the day came out when Danica Patrick slowed to a stop coming off pit road with a reported broken axle.

Patrick would eventually get the car going again, but not before NASCAR opted to throw the yellow (she eventually went back to the garage for repairs). A good chunk of cars decided to pit at this point, including Tony Stewart, Dillon, McMurray, and more.

But Hamlin kept to his fuel strategy and stayed out to maintain the lead ahead of Harvick, Kahne, Gordon, and Busch. However, Hamlin was jumped on the Lap 73 restart by both Kahne and Busch, and then Harvick dropped him to fourth by the time they came back around to the Yard of Bricks.

Russian Grand Prix extended through 2025

during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on April 29, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.
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The Russian Grand Prix at Sochi will continue to feature on future Formula 1 calendars, with event organizers confirming a long-term extension.

With the race already secure through 2020 following a past deal between then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and then-F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone, that end date has now been extended by five years through to 2025, according to Russia’s deputy prime minister Dimitry Kozak.

“We held negotiations and the contract for holding FIA Formula One racing Grand Prix in Russia has been extended till 2025,” Kozak told Russian news outlet TASS.

Sochi first appeared on the F1 calendar in 2014 and will hold its fourth race this year from April 28 to 30.

Hamilton fastest midway through day two of F1 testing

during day two of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 28, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.
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MONTMELO, Spain (AP) Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton recorded the fastest time and the most laps through Tuesday’s morning session of preseason testing.

Hamilton’s lap of 1 minute, 20.983 seconds was 0.782 seconds faster than the leading time he set during the opening day of Formula One testing at the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya on Monday.

As expected from the new regulations intended to boost speeds, Hamilton’s pace through two days is more than a second faster than the top time set on the same track through eight days of preseason testing in 2016.

The three-time world champion will hand over the wheel of the Mercedes to new teammate Valtteri Bottas for the afternoon session.

Just like Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel from Day 1, Kimi Raikkonen was the nearest challenger to Hamilton’s top speed, albeit almost two seconds slower.

Hamilton and Raikkonen also got in the most laps with 66 and 47, respectively, as Mercedes or Ferrari have yet to report any mechanical problems so far.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen could only muster the fifth fastest time.

While world champion Mercedes and Ferrari continue to outperform rival Red Bull, a pair of the more modest teams struggled to get their cars rolling.

Antonio Giovinazzi, who has substituted for Pascal Wehrlein while he recovers from a back injury, spent most of the morning waiting for Sauber to replace his car’s engine. Jolyon Palmer’s Renault, meanwhile, only emerged from the garage in the final minutes of the four-hour morning session.

The opening test will run through Thursday.

The track near Barcelona will host a second round of testing from March 7-10 before the season starts at the Australian Grand Prix on March 26.

Sauber confirms Tatiana Calderon as development driver

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Photo: Sauber F1 Team
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Colombian driver Tatiana Calderon, who’s worked to further her racing career since moving from to Europe prior to 2012, has been named a development driver for Sauber F1 Team.

Calderon turns 24 in March. Her best result thus far is second in the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 and she’s also raced in GP3 and Formula 3 over the last five years. Her results haven’t necessarily matched her ability level, as she’s shown some promise enough to be scouted out by Sauber for this F1 role.

With Sauber, she’ll be heavily involved in simulator work and also attend some Grands Prix on site, but there’s been no timetable yet for her on-track debut.

“I am extremely happy to join the Sauber F1 Team as a development driver,” Calderon said. “I want to thank Monisha Kaltenborn and the whole team for giving me this opportunity, and also Escuderia Telmex for their support. I am grateful to be working with such an established Formula 1 team and to benefit from its long experience. I look forward to working with the team and learning as much as I can. It is a step closer to my dream – one day competing in Formula 1!”

Team principal Kaltenborn added, “We are very pleased to welcome Tatiana onboard to the Sauber family. We have the opportunities and facilities to provide Tatiana a professional platform on which she can further develop her knowledge and skills in racing. I am convinced that we can provide her lots of in-depth motorsport know-how for her future career in racing.”

Calderon’s been confirmed for her race program in GP3 this year with the DAMS team, alongside fellow F1 development driver, American Santino Ferrucci of Haas, and 19-year-old Bruno Baptista.

She’s not the first female driver Sauber has had – Simona de Silvestro was on board for a similar development plan three years ago – but it didn’t end well, so here’s hoping the F1 future is brighter for Calderon.

Longtime Knoxville Raceway promoter, Ralph Capitani, dies

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Photo via @KnoxvilleRaces Twitter
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Knoxville Raceway likely wouldn’t be what it is as one of the country’s most renowned short tracks without the work of Ralph Capitani.

Capitani has died following a battle of cancer (according to Speed Sport), news of which was announced Monday by the track. The longtime promoter at the track was born in 1932.

Capitani, better known as “Cappy,” oversaw a huge rise in the stature and popularity of the track’s premier event – the Knoxville Nationals – after taking the reins as the track’s new race director and promoter in 1978.

Some of the elements Capitani worked to implement were improved facilities, purses, safety standards, car counts and audience, the latter of which saw the Knoxville Nationals eventually make it to TV. He also established the Knoxville Raceway Hall of Fame.

In his 40th year at Knoxville in 2007, Capitani said the prestige of the Knoxville Nationals remained incredible.

“I think the Knoxville Nationals is the best sprint car race of the year, bar none,” he said in 2007, via InLappedTraffic. “It is the only time you see ALL of the best sprint car drivers competing on the same playing field. It is a United States and Internationally wide event.”

He retired from the track at the end of 2011.

Knoxville Raceway released a statement confirming Capitani’s passing, and thanking him for all he did to put the track and race on the map.

A portion of the statement reads: “A visionary in the sport, Cappy aimed to make sprint car racing at Knoxville Raceway grander, the purses bigger and the grandstands fuller. He achieved them all with a smile on his face and a hearty handshake for every team owner, driver, crew member and fan that ever crossed his path.”