NASCAR: Milka Duno to race selected Nationwide Series events

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Milka Duno – she of the four-year IndyCar career that included this memorable disagreement with then-fellow IndyCar driver Danica Patrick at Mid-Ohio, and not a single top-10 finish – has since made the switch to ARCA stock cars, and raced without much in the way of success for several years.

Despite the limited success, Duno has always enjoyed a healthy level of support from her native Venezuela. She’s just been less than stellar on track for the majority of her career.

And it’s with that as a preamble that we reveal this news: she’s racing selected NASCAR Nationwide Series events for RAB Racing.

Ordinarily with press releases like this you just pick out a quote or two, offer a stat or two to complement it and leave it at that for a quick post.

But in this case, I’m gonna say it’s important to show the whole thing, because it’s an… erm… shall we say there were some “performance enhancements” within the release.

Duno signs limited NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule with RAB Racing

Los Angeles, Calif. (August 4, 2014) – RAB Racing has signed multiple race-winning driver Milka Duno to compete in select races in the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series and with the entry Duno will become the first Hispanic female driver in history to compete in a NASCAR national series in the United States.

A successful driver who has competed in multiple racing series Duno has eight major race wins in the highest classes (Prototype) in the American Le Mans Series and the Grand American Rolex Series and the highest finish ever by a female driver (2nd place) in the 24 Hours at Daytona – in the now 52-year history of the race.

When she won the Rolex Series Grand Prix of Miami she became the first woman in history to win a major international race in the USA.

In 2007, Duno was also the first Hispanic female driver, in the now 103-year history of the race, to qualify for and compete in the world famous Indianapolis 500. Duno competed in the Indianapolis 500 for three consecutive seasons and in the IndyCar Series for four consecutive seasons – running partial schedules in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and a full schedule in 2010.

In making her transition to stock car racing and her ultimate entry into NASCAR Duno has been competing in the ARCA Racing Series (ARCA) for the past three seasons. In 2011 and 2012 she competed in partial schedules and in her first full ARCA season in 2013, competing with Venturini Motorsports, she finished the season 7th in the driver point standings and became the 2nd highest finishing female driver in ARCA’s now 62-year history. Duno is also the first Hispanic female driver to compete in ARCA.

During her 2013 ARCA season Duno started 2nd in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway and took the lead on the first lap and led the race for several laps – becoming the first Hispanic female driver to lead an ARCA race.

At Talladega Superspeedway she earned the pole, led the race and became the first Hispanic female driver to earn an ARCA pole. She also became only the fourth female driver in ARCA history, and only the second female driver in 25 years, to earn an ARCA pole at Talladega. Duno finished her 2013 ARCA season 3rd in most laps completed and 3rd in hard charger points.

“I’m really very excited and honored to enter into NASCAR and the Nationwide Series,” said Duno. “It has always been a goal and dream of mine to compete in NASCAR and I worked very hard in ARCA to turn this goal into a reality. I always strive to challenge myself as a driver and I’ve been fortunate to compete in many types of racing – and while the competition is always my number one focus – I am very proud of the history that I have made as a female driver, and the Hispanic sports history as well, that has been made along the way.” Added Duno, “NASCAR is the most competitive and popular racing series in the USA and I’m very proud to enter the series with RAB Racing and I look forward to competing with them in their No. 29 Toyota Camry.”

Veteran crew chief Chris Rice will helm Duno’s NNS effort. In 2013, Rice lead RAB Racing’s No. 99 Toyota Camry to two poles, two top-5 finishes, and six top-10 finishes.

“We’ve watched Milka develop in the ARCA Racing Series and feel she is prepared for the next step in her stock car racing career,” said RAB Racing owner Robby Benton. “I think that working together with Chris Rice, Milka can find a home in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. She has a very strong fan base and we hope we can attract them to follow her in her NASCAR endeavors. Milka is very intelligent and educated and we look forward to working with her.”

If you’ve followed Duno’s career for any length of time, you’re aware how enhanced those quotes and stats can be.

That aforementioned Rolex Grand Prix of Miami, Duno ran less than half an hour in the two and a half hour plus race, and co-driver Andy Wallace needed to perform a minor miracle to recover the lost time, claw back the deficit and win the race.

She was frequently black flagged in IndyCar for failing to sustain the minimum pace on road and street courses.

Leading an ARCA race at Daytona is hardly the racing world’s most memorable accomplishment.

All that aside, I do wish Duno the best, and I also hope for her sake and the team’s sake that her past performances in other forms of motorsport do not negatively impact her NASCAR career.

If it means to her as much as she says it does within this release, ideally she’s improved her craft enough in ARCA to where she will not be a potential liability on track.

Massa brushes off Vettel’s blocking complaint at end of Russian GP

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Felipe Massa brushed off Sebastian Vettel’s blocking complaint at the end of Sunday’s Formula 1 race in Russia, saying the Ferrari driver stood no chance of catching race winner Valtteri Bottas at the front of the pack.

Vettel closed up on Bottas in the final few laps of the race, getting a boost from DRS on the penultimate tour of the Sochi Autodrom as he ran less than a second behind.

Massa – Bottas’ former teammate at Williams – inadvertently gave the Finn a boost by also offering him DRS despite being a lap down, letting the Finn past into Turn 2.

Vettel was next up to try and lap Massa, expecting the Brazilian to lift through Turn 3, only for him to keep his foot in and make it difficult to overtake.

Vettel immediately complained over the radio to his Ferrari team, but it was to no avail as Bottas crossed the line 0.6 seconds clear to record his first grand prix victory. Massa finished the race ninth for Williams.

When asked about Vettel’s complaint after the race, Massa dismissed it, believing the German would not have caught Bottas anyway.

“To be honest, so many races he was not happy,” Massa told NBCSN.

“I left the right side for him. I slowed before corner four and he didn’t want to go.

“He wasn’t going to pass Valtteri in the last lap anyway, for sure.”

Massa was quick to congratulate Bottas after the race, the pair having spent three years together as teammates at Williams ahead of the latter’s move up to Mercedes for 2017.

“To be honest he deserves the win. He was a driver that showed he is at this level in the right way,” Massa said.

“People didn’t see the level he was [at Williams], but I said straight away he’d do a good job for Mercedes. He is.

“This is his track, and I’m so happy for him. He’ll get more than just the one he did today.”

Bottas joins F1’s Finnish stars with Russian GP win

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Formula One has a new Finnish iceman on top of the podium.

Valtteri Bottas kept his cool under pressure in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix to claim his first F1 victory, swooping past Sebastian Vettel for the lead on the first lap, and keeping the hard-charging German behind him on the final lap.

“When I drive, there’s not much emotion in there,” Bottas said after his win. “I’m just trying to get everything right and get every lap, every corner perfect.”

Bottas joins an illustrious list of Finnish winners, including Kimi Raikkonen who joined Bottas on the podium after finishing third. Raikkonen has long been nicknamed “The Iceman” for his cool demeanor, but Bottas showed he can be just as chilled. Long considered a potential winner, he’d made the podium 11 times before with Williams and Mercedes, but the top step was always just out of reach.

Bottas doesn’t go in for wild celebration, but he radiated calm satisfaction with a job well done.

“Hearing the Finnish national anthem is something quite special for me,” he said. “I always trust in my ability but it’s nice to get a confirmation.”

Just like Raikkonen, Bottas can occasionally get irritated by well-meaning advice from his team over the radio, and that happened Sunday.

“I had to ask for a bit more radio silence from the guys on the pit wall,” he said, “just for me to get on it and focus for it, and to feel a bit more like home. Nice and quiet, and that helped.”

A country of 5.5 million people, Finland has long punched far above its weight in international motorsport.

Just eight Finns have ever started a Formula One race. Of those, seven have made the podium at least once, five have won a race and three – Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and Raikkonen – became world champions.

Last year’s champion, Nico Rosberg, raced as a German but is the son of 1982 champion Keke.

It was his decision to retire in the winter that opened the door for Bottas to move to Mercedes from Williams. In his fifth Formula One season, Bottas now has a car capable of fighting for regular wins and hopes Sunday will prove “the first of many.”

Sitting third in the standings after four races, could a world championship be within Bottas’ grasp?

As he said on the podium, “for me that’s the only goal in my career.”

Red Bull GRC: Speed leads VW, Andretti 1-2 in Memphis opener

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The new Red Bull Global Rallycross season is underway but it’s the same driver who has ended the last two years on top, Scott Speed, who kicks off 2017 in victory lane.

The two-time defending series champion, driving the No. 41 Oberto Volkswagen Beetle GRC for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, led home his teammate Tanner Foust in GRC’s trip to Memphis to kick off the new season. The win is also Speed’s 12th in the series, most in Global Rallycross history. Speed and Foust also won their respective semifinals.

“(Being the winningest GRC driver in history) is a great stat, but those wins are all part of having a great team – starting with Tanner Foust, I have an incredible teammate. The whole Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team just worked this offseason. We put in the work, and when we wanted to stop we worked some more. When you show up to the first race and you put this kind of performance down, it just makes all that work worthwhile. Big shout out to Circle K and Oberto for coming on this year, and obviously Rockstar – thanks so much, guys,” Speed said.

Foust was second in the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Beetle, starting his 2017 season one spot worse than he did last year. He swept the Phoenix doubleheader a year ago.

Steve Arpin, in his first race under the rebranded and phased Loenbro Motorsports effort, took the privateer No. 00 Jacob Companies Ford Fiesta ST onto the podium in third place. Arpin was the most consistent threat to the Volkswagen pair last year and has done well to carry that momentum into the start of 2017.

Rookies Mitchell DeJong and Oliver Eriksson finished fourth and fifth in superb efforts for Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE, taking their Nos. 24 and 16 Honda Civic Coupes to top-five finishes in their first weekend as teammates at the Supercars level for the Andreas Eriksson-led team.

Behind them, last year’s GRC Lites champion Cabot Bigham eighth in his first Supercars start for Bryan Herta Rallysport while Sebastian Eriksson limped to seventh in the third Honda with damage in the final. Chris Atkinson retired from the race with three laps to go in the first of two Subaru Rally Team USA WRX-STis, on what was a tough day for that team.

The final only saw eight cars take the start. Mechanical issues knocked Austin Dyne out of the weekend early in his first start with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, while damage on the initial start cost Patrik Sandell any hope of a result in his first final with Subaru.

In the 10-lap final around the 1.18-mile circuit which primarily utilized the Memphis International Raceway oval with a shorter dirt section, Speed and Foust both got the jump on a start, and were never headed the rest of the way.

The battle was for third between Arpin and DeJong, with Arpin taking the Joker on Lap 5 of 10 to move past the 2014 GRC Lites champion in his second Supercars weekend – DeJong debuted at Los Angeles last year.

GRC stays down south for its next race, Round 2 at Louisville, to be held on Sunday, May 21.

F1: Russian Grand Prix post-race interviews (VIDEO)

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The Russian Grand Prix is in the books, with Valtteri Bottas scoring his first career victory at Sochi.  Bottas had both a dynamic start and a dynamic defense for Mercedes against Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to win in his 81st career start, and fourth with Mercedes since changing over from Williams.

NBCSN F1 pit reporter Will Buxton caught up with a number of drivers either during or after the race. Those interviews are below.

More videos will come in the fourth and final weekend installment of Paddock Pass, the NBC Sports Group original digital series. Stay tuned for that in the next day or so on NBCSports.com.

Anyway, Russia post-race interviews are below:

WIN. Valtteri Bottas

2. Sebastian Vettel

4. Lewis Hamilton

5. Max Verstappen

9. Felipe Massa

DNF. Daniel Ricciardo

DNS. Fernando Alonso