Austin Dillon goes from hot asphalt to cold steel on ice

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Even with Richard Childress as his grandfather, Austin Dillon knew he couldn’t just skate through his rookie season in Sprint Cup racing.

But Dillon is hoping skating of a different kind will help him in his quest to win races and eventually Sprint Cup championships, according to a story by Mike Brudenell of the Detroit Free Press.

Dillon worked out Thursday with 2014 Olympic ice dancing gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White at the G-M Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Canton, Mich.

Now, Dillon has a history of being a good athlete, but that’s primarily been in stick-and-ball sports.

But when it came to skating, Dillon took to it like a Zamboni: he started slow and then picked up speed, according to Brudenell.

“I’m pretty nervous — I’m going to need a helmet and a HANS device on,” Dillon said as he waited to meet Davis and White. “Are you kidding me? There are good people out there. I don’t have training wheels on. I’m going to get run over.”

Click here to see the video of Dillon’s foray of cold steel on ice.

Dillon, Davis and White got together to promote the Aug. 17 Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.

Davis and White, who both attend the University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor, will serve as grand marshals for the event and will also give the command to start engines at the two-mile, high-speed Brooklyn, Mich. racetrack.

“Charlie and I are from the Great Lakes area and are proud to represent Michigan all over the world, and the link for us acting as grand marshals for the Pure Michigan 400 race is great,” Davis said. “Speed is a huge part of what we do (on ice). But, obviously, we’ve never experienced anything like Austin goes through. We are super excited to be going to MIS.”

Added White, “We’re getting a chance to embrace other things after the Olympics. Michigan will be our first real race experience — what a start!”

By the end of the workout, Dillon was – no pun intended – out of gas, but also exhilarated, considering he had never skated on ice until earlier this year.

“That was a blast,” Dillon said. “I’m definitely going to do that again. I had the best teachers you could ever have.”

Given that he knows how to handle a baseball bat – he was on a team that went to the Little League World Series in his younger days – and now that he has skating down-pat, Dillon might want to pick up a hockey stick and start practicing with it.

You know, just in case this whole NASCAR thing doesn’t work out.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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.