Petty, Childress, JTG, Furniture Row teams testing at Watkins Glen

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After this coming weekend’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to perhaps the final “wild card” race of the regular season at the Watkins Glen International road course.

The Cheez-It 355 at the Glen on Aug. 10 could be the last big opportunity for teams not currently locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup to steal a regular season win and make the 10-race playoff run.

In the most recent “wild card” earlier this month at Daytona, Richard Petty Motorsports’ Aric Almirola won a rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 to become the 11th different driver on the Chase Grid.

Now, RPM is focusing on getting its road racing ace, Marcos Ambrose (pictured, from 2013), into the Chase. Both Almirola and Ambrose are among a group of Chase hopefuls that will be testing today and tomorrow at the Glen.

Other Cup drivers involved in the two-day session are Richard Childress Racing rookie Austin Dillon, JTG Daugherty Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger, and Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr.

Additionally, RCR Nationwide Series driver Ty Dillon is getting seat time in a Cup car after winning last Saturday in the NNS race at Indianapolis.

Among the four currently winless Cup drivers involved in the test, only Austin Dillon would make the Chase if it started now. He’s four points up on Kasey Kahne for the 16th and final spot on the Chase Grid.

But while Austin Dillon can possibly make it on points, it’s win or bust for Ambrose (22nd in Chase outlook, 48 points behind Dillon), Allmendinger (24th in Chase outlook, 93 behind Dillon), and Truex (25th in Chase outlook, 94 points behind Dillon).

One would assume the Glen would be right in Ambrose and Allmendinger’s wheelhouses. Ambrose has won two of the last three Sprint Cup races on the New York road course, while ‘Dinger earned two Nationwide Series road course wins last year and the Sprint Cup pole position this past June at Sonoma.

But Truex has performed well at the Glen in his Cup career, too (three Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in eight starts). He also won last year at Sonoma for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.