Cheez-It 355 At The Glen

A.J. Allmendinger breaks into Chase with 1st career Sprint Cup win


In a battle of perhaps the two best road racers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose went toe-to-toe for the win today at Watkins Glen International after a restart with two laps to go.

In the end, the clash of the titans went to Allmendinger, who held off a major challenge from Ambrose on the penultimate lap and pulled away to win the Cheez-It 355.

With his inaugural Sprint Cup victory, Allmendinger has also effectively earned himself a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup as the 12th different driver to win this season.

In the process, he may have denied Ambrose his best opportunity to also make the post-season with four regular season races to go.

“I love you guys! Thank you!,” Allmendinger hollered as he celebrated by doing burnouts in his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet.

When he arrived in Victory Lane, Allmendinger made sure to acknowledge the family of Kevin Ward Jr., the 20-year old racer that was killed Saturday night in New York State when three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart’s car struck him under caution in an sprint car event.

“I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” Allmendinger said of the Wards. “We’re a community here, and we’re all thinking about you.”

Stewart did not compete in today’s race, and his No. 14 car was instead driven by Nationwide Series racer Regan Smith.

The day started somber with news of the Stewart/Ward incident, whose investigation remains ongoing at this time.

But for Allmendinger, the day ended happily as he celebrated the culmination of a two-year saga that began with him losing his full-time Sprint Cup ride with Team Penske in 2012 after he failed a drug test.

After getting reinstated by NASCAR for completing its Road to Recovery program, Allmendinger bounced around in 2013 between part-time gigs in Sprint Cup, the Nationwide Series, and the Verizon IndyCar Series – racing in the latter two leagues for his old Cup boss, Roger Penske.

He made the most of his second chance by earning two Nationwide road course wins for Penske at Road America and Mid-Ohio. And last August, he announced his full-time return to Cup with JTG Daugherty starting this season.

Now, he’s put the small, single-car outfit into the hunt for stock car racing’s ultimate prize.

“My gosh, I can’t believe we’ve won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race,” Allmendinger beamed. “With this whole 47 team – [team owners] Tad Geschickter, Jody Geschickter, Brad Daugherty, all the great sponsors we have – our first Cup victory together, my first victory…I love these guys.

“I just wanted it so bad for them and this team. They work so hard. I wasn’t gonna let Marcos take that from me.”

A rash of late cautions set the stage for the final duel between Allmendinger and Ambrose. With 13 laps to go, Josh Wise came to a stop off of the bus stop chicane to bring out the yellow.

The top eight drivers – with Allmendinger and Ambrose at the front of the field – stayed out during the caution. But the restart with nine laps to go was short-lived when in Turn 1, Kyle Larson appeared to tap Matt Kenseth, who then went up into Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson spun around on the track and with nowhere to go, Smith was collected.

After that was cleaned up, another restart took place with five to go and had Ambrose go to the inside of Allmendinger as they entered the esses. The two remained side by side until they got to the inner loop, when Ambrose finally cleared him to take the point.

But Allmendinger responded by getting a run off the final Turn 7 corner and went inside on Ambrose down the front stretch.

Allmendinger was in the middle of completing the pass before the caution came out again for two separate incidents involving Denny Hamlin and Alex Kennedy.

Hamlin spun out of Turn 7 and slid into the water/sand barrels that cover the start of the concrete pit road barrier. Meanwhile, Kennedy made contact with Reed Sorenson in Turn 1 and slammed into the ARMCO barrier.

The twin incidents brought out the third red flag of the afternoon, with the first two reds stemming from a violent, multi-car crash on Lap 56 that primarily involved Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, and Michael McDowell.

Allmendinger and Ambrose quickly went to the front after the race resumed under green at Lap 60, and stayed there as all of the late yellows set up their wild battle to the end.

Following the restart with two laps left, Allmendinger held back Ambrose until Turn 5, when Ambrose got into the back of Allmendinger, pushing him up the track.

But Allmendinger hung tough on the inside going down the short stretch into the left-hand Turn 6. Going into the corner, Ambrose had to give up space for Allmendinger, who took the point and left Ambrose to fight off Kurt Busch for runner-up honors.

Busch wound up third, while Larson finished fourth and Carl Edwards rounded out the Top 5.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International
Unofficial Results

1. 47-AJ Allmendinger, led 30 laps
2. 9-Marcos Ambrose, led 19 laps
3. 41-Kurt Busch
4. 42-Kyle Larson
5. 99-Carl Edwards, led 3 laps
6. 22-Joey Logano
7. 4-Kevin Harvick
8. 16-Greg Biffle
9. 20-Matt Kenseth
10. 55-Brian Vickers
11. 88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12. 5-Kasey Kahne, led 3 laps
13. 78-Martin Truex Jr.
14. 1-Jamie McMurray
15. 13-Casey Mears
16. 3-Austin Dillon
17. 51-Justin Allgaier
18. 43-Aric Almirola
19. 34-David Ragan
20. 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
21. 10-Danica Patrick
22. 38-David Gilliland
23. 36-Reed Sorenson
24. 11-Denny Hamlin
25. 32-Boris Said
26. 77-Nelson Piquet Jr.
27. 15-Clint Boywer
28. 48-Jimmie Johnson, led 6 laps
29. 40-Landon Cassill, Running, Lap 89
30. 66-Joe Nemechek, Running, Lap 89
31. 7-Michael Annett, Running, Lap 88
32. 27-Paul Menard, Running, Lap 87
33. 33-Alex Kennedy, Accident, Lap 86
34. 24-Jeff Gordon, led 29 laps, Running, Lap 86
35. 2-Brad Keselowski, Running, Lap 85
36. 23-Alex Bowman, Running, Lap 85
37. 14-Regan Smith, Accident, Lap 81
38. 98-Josh Wise, Running, Lap 78
39. 83-Ryan Truex, Suspension, Lap 69
40. 18-Kyle Busch, Running, Lap 69
41. 31-Ryan Newman, Lap 55, Accident
42. 95-Michael McDowell, Lap 55, Accident
43. 26-Cole Whitt, Lap 9, Accident

Stefan Johansson’s latest blog: COTA reflections, blocking thoughts

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 23: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer leads Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo, Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H Ferrari 059/5 turbo (Shell GP), Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H Ferrari 059/5 turbo (Shell GP), Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer and others on track during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Stefan Johansson’s latest blog entry looks back at last weekend’s United States Grand Prix from Circuit of The Americas, where Johansson was in attendance, with a deeper dive look through the field.

He also touches on the final three races ahead as Mercedes AMG Petronas teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton fight for the title, and continued thoughts on blocking, especially in the wake of new rules implemented during the Austin weekend about drivers moving in a brake zone.

It’s the latest conversation with Jan Tegler live on Johansson’s website, and continues with what we’ve been chronicling throughout the year on

Johansson notes the title battle is down to one thing for the next few races, with Rosberg needing to lose more than seven points in one of the next three races if he loses the title. He enters this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix up 26 points.

“More than anything else between these two, it really comes down to who gets the start right and at least in Lewis case also some reliability issues. That’s it. That’s all the difference there is between them,” Johansson writes.

On COTA, Johansson laments the track doesn’t lend itself to particularly good racing, and whoever emerges in first place after Turn 1 often is good to go for the rest of the race.

“It’s the nature of the track. It’s another [Hermann] Tilke-designed track basically so it’s built to the same template as most of the rest he’s done,” Johansson explains. “Unfortunately, they don’t produce very good racing in general because they all seem to have one corner followed by a kink or another corner and you can never get a proper run on a guy ahead of you as you’re going through them.

“The corners leading onto the long straights are all sort of aero-dependent which means that if you get somewhat close to the car in front you lose your front end which means you have to lift slightly and then the gap remains too big to have a go when you arrive to the braking zone – often even with DRS engaged. It’s the same problem you have on so many modern circuits.

“Whoever gets through the mess at the first corner in the lead – that’s pretty much where they end up. With the cars at the front so closely matched it’s pretty predictable from there on.”

With Max Verstappen’s driving tactics coming under the microscope once again, with the way he denied Lewis Hamilton in Suzuka and with some of his other moves this year having been scrutinized, F1 moved to rule that drivers could not move in the brake zone.

Johansson talked a bit about Verstappen here, as well as the rule itself and the mentality drivers have these days.

“This moving under braking – even if it’s just a little wiggle – makes it very difficult for the guy behind. Once you hit the brakes you’re more or less committed to one line, so if you’re the car following and you’ve decided to make an attempt to pass where there is a gap by leaving your braking to the very last moment and the driver in front of you suddenly moves across and the gap is no longer there it makes it almost impossible for the guy behind to avoid even hitting him. You either completely blow the corner or you hit the guy you’re trying to pass, which in fact we have seen numerous times lately, where parts of the front wing suddenly go flying because there was contact under braking.

“We’ve talked about this many times but this blocking nonsense in racing goes back quite a few years. There’s a great video of Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve (1979 French Grand Prix at Dijon). If you watch that, it was an intense battle where they traded second place several times and you see how they raced back then. There was no blocking and that’s how everyone raced. Sadly, these dirty tactics slowly crept into the system by a few drivers who then became heroes to the generations that followed and because the FIA didn’t clamp down on it early enough it’s now become the norm and every young driver thinks that’s how you should race.”

Johansson also notes that with a rotation in race stewards, there is often no consistency in terms of penalties applied.

“I think it would have been easy for (Felipe) Massa to stay to the inside of the corner. And when you leave the door wide open a driver like (Fernando) Alonso will always make a move. Knowing how difficult it is to pass around there the only option is really to go for the “surprise” move which is exactly what Alonso did. You have to make a move when the driver ahead least expects it because there’s hardly any other place to pass on that track.

“It’s the same thing Rosberg did to (Kimi) Raikkonen in Malaysia but Nico got a 10-second penalty. Alonso got nothing and it’s the same old story – rulings at random. These were almost identical incidents but the stewards’ rulings were not identical. One time you get a penalty, next time you don’t.  What do you do as a driver?

“I think [Mark] Blundell who was the steward in Austin did the right thing but it shows there’s no consistency whatsoever in the control tower.”

There are several more great nuggets within Johansson’s latest blog, which you can view in its entirety here.

Previous linkouts to Johansson’s blog on MotorSportsTalk are linked below:

Additionally, a link to Johansson’s social media channels and #F1TOP3 competition are linked here.

Ocon focused on racing as Mercedes considers next move in F1

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 22: Esteban Ocon of France and Manor Racing walks in the Paddock during qualifying for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Esteban Ocon says he is focused purely on his racing commitments with Manor in Formula 1 amid speculation about a possible move for 2017.

Ocon won the GP3 title in 2015 as an affiliate member of Mercedes’ young driver program, before being loaned to Renault in a reserve role for the first half of this season.

When Rio Haryanto’s backing fell through, the Mercedes-powered Manor team drafted in Ocon as a replacement to partner fellow Mercedes youngster Pascal Wehrlein.

An impressive start to life in F1 has resulted in Ocon being linked with a drive at a number of F1 teams for 2017, including Force India and Renault.

However, with Mercedes managing his career, Ocon is choosing to focus on doing his talking on-track as the F1 season enters its final three races.

“I’m already really happy to make the progress we made with [Manor]. Together we have done a really strong job,” Ocon said.

“It hasn’t been an easy thing to arrive half way through the season but I’m happy with the progress.

“Mercedes is managing my career, so at the moment I’m trying to focus on the remaining races and, yeah, we will see from there on how it goes.

“I’m focusing as much as I can on the remaining races. If you do a strong job there will always be talks and opportunities.”

Ocon is rated highly by Renault, but would need to be released from his Mercedes contract if he were to race for the French manufacturer.

Force India does have an available seat after Nico Hulkenberg’s decision to move to Renault for 2017, and given Mercedes’ links to the team, there may be a place for Ocon there. However, Felipe Nasr is thought to be the front-runner for the seat thanks to his significant financial backing.

A look to the future: 2017 Michelin Challenge Design cars revealed

All photos: Michelin
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This was not the best week for sports car racing with Audi’s departure from the FIA World Endurance Championship confirmed at the end of this season.

However, as Audi raised the game in so many aspects, so too could the next generation of designers, and that’s where Michelin Challenge Design comes in.

Announced last Friday, the winners of 2017 Michelin Challenge Design’s “Le Mans 2030: Design for the Win” competition were revealed, created in partnership with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest.

There were more than 1,600 entrants from more than 80 countries who came up with design ideas for the next generation of cars.

“The winners of our 2017 Michelin Challenge Design presented numerous highly innovative features for the Le Mans race in the year 2030 and the quality of work from this year’s entries was truly outstanding,” said Thom Roach, vice president of original-equipment marketing for Michelin North America.

“We congratulate the winners for their thought-provoking, visually captivating designs for the world’s greatest endurance race, Le Mans 24 Hours.”

The three winners of the 2017 Michelin Challenge Design, and their designs, are linked below. Further information is available here via

Winners of the 2017 Michelin Challenge Design:

  • First place: Tao Ni of Wuhu, China, for design entry “Infiniti Le Mans 2030”
  • Second place: Daniel Bacelar Pereira of Vila Real, Portugal, for “Bentley 9 Plus Michelin Battery Slick”
  • Third place: Kurt Scanlan of Toronto, Canada for “Cierzo C1”

First Place


Second Place


Third Place


Red Bull GRC adds electric series for 2018

Speed leads. Photo: Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool
Photo: Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool
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Red Bull Global Rallycross will add an electric standalone series to its Supercars and GRC Lites divisions from the 2018 season. Further details about what type vehicles and the name of the series will be present will come in the coming year.

Here’s the release, below:

Red Bull Global Rallycross will continue to position itself at the forefront of motorsport technology with the creation of an all-electric vehicle series for the 2018 season. Electric vehicles will be added to Red Bull GRC race weekends as a distinct, standalone series, joining the Supercar and GRC Lites classes in the series’ race program. Red Bull GRC, in conjunction with USAC (United States Auto Club), will serve as the governing body for the new series.

“Red Bull Global Rallycross is pleased to add to our rallycross platform an electric series,” said Red Bull GRC CEO Colin Dyne. “The 2018 season will be a landmark year for us as we welcome electric vehicles to the grid for the first time. The electric car is one of the hottest topics in the automotive industry, and manufacturers across the globe have recognized its immense potential. We want to embrace this technology by welcoming it into our series as we continue to grow and expand.

“Our current platform is the most enticing in motorsports right now to a young, millennial audience. Our small displacement, high-horsepower, turbocharged engines allow our manufacturers to showcase the performance capabilities of their current millennial-focused offerings, and provide a glimpse into the exciting future of the automotive industry. This electric series will add a new dynamic that will never replace the current formula, but will be an important part of our expansion.”

Having just wrapped up its sixth season, Red Bull GRC has consistently been responsible for major announcements that have accelerated the growth of the sport of rallycross. The Supercar class now features four manufacturer partners: Ford, Subaru, Honda, and Volkswagen. In 2015, Red Bull GRC also became the first racing series to compete on an active United States military installation.

Further details on Red Bull GRC’s upcoming electric class will be released in the coming year.