IndyCar: Power secures pivotal third pole of season in Milwaukee

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WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Will Power captured an important and pivotal third pole of the season for Sunday’s ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet laid down the only two-lap average north of 169 mph, with a 169.262 enough to secure the pole position.

Power went out ninth in the 22-car field and like a handful of others, just caught the cloud cover over the Milwaukee Mile at just the right time.

“Yeah, I definitely wasn’t expecting those sort of speeds,” Power said. “Based on practice, we were expecting 22-second laps. Yeah, the car was very solid. Obviously had the information of my two teammates before me of which direction the balance went.

“Didn’t have to adjust the car much. Yeah, just good laps. I didn’t expect to be on pole, but I thought I’d be somewhere at the front.”

Behind him, Tony Kanaan qualified second in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, as he seeks his third Milwaukee win (2006, 2007) and first win this season. If Kanaan breaks through, he’d become the 11th different winner of 2014, which would tie a North American open-wheel record (2000, 2001 in CART).

“I think we have a pretty good chance. Like you said, the four cars are extremely strong,” Kanaan said. “We’re in the front row. We’ve been showing how quick we’ve been, how good we’ve been everywhere. We’ve just really got to get a little bit of luck on our side sometime. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll challenge Will and some of the guys.

“I think we have a good car and a chance to win.”

The pair of Chevrolets lead a Chevy-dominated top 10, where only three Hondas broke in after pacing most of practice.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Briscoe are on Row 2 – both are prior Milwaukee winners (2000, CART and 2008, IndyCar, respectively).

Josef Newgarden was the best-qualifying Honda in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda, now featuring Direct Supply primary sponsorship this weekend, in P5. Charlie Kimball posted a Milwaukee-best sixth on the grid.

Ed Carpenter and Power’s Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves make up Row 4 with Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato, the latter of whom has his primary sponsor ABC Supply Co. as the race sponsor, completing the top 10.

James Hinchcliffe, who led both practice sessions, qualified 13th in his repaired No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda, which required an all-hands-on-deck effort from the Andretti Autosport crew. Andretti’s team collectively missed the setup in qualifying with none of their cars making the top eight.

Other title hopefuls Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay struggled, clocking in at 16th and 19th on the grid respectively. They’ll have an uphill battle to stay in the championship frame from those grid positions; Pagenaud is now 65, Hunter-Reay 64 points behind Power heading into Sunday.

WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Qualifying Saturday for the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.015-mile Milwaukee Mile, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, and speed:

1. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 169.262
2. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 168.662
3. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 168.579
4. (8) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 168.266
5. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 168.233
6. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 168.123
7. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 167.775
8. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 167.561
9. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 167.079
10. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 166.915
11. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 166.742
12. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 166.501
13. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 166.195
14. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 166.032
15. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 165.851
16. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 165.818
17. (98) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 165.614
18. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 164.421
19. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 164.211
20. (34) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 164.013
21. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 162.535
22. (18) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 159.787

F1/IndyCar clashes frequent for 2018 as schedules shape up

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The latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council may not have yielded much in the way of groundbreaking news, but the confirmation of Formula E and the World Endurance Championship’s 2018 schedules did help us get a grip on next year’s racing calendar.

Perhaps the most notable thing with next year’s schedules is the heavy reduction in clashes between the FIA’s three premier track championships – F1, Formula E and WEC – next year, making good on its plans for calendar harmonization moving forward.

WEC confirmed its ‘super season’ schedule earlier this month, stretching 13 months from May 2018 to June 2019, and added Silverstone last week, with the calendar gaining FIA approval in Paris.

Of the 2018 WEC rounds, there is just one clash with another FIA track championship: between the 6 Hours of Fuji and the F1 United States Grand Prix on the October 21 weekend.

While the more pressing worry for drivers is between WEC and Formula E after the July 16 debacle this year, no WEC and F1 clashes is good news for Fernando Alonso, who could well appear at Le Mans next year as part of his Triple Crown bid.

Formula E does have a number of F1 clashes, albeit not until the sixth event of its season, with the Rome race being held on the April 15 weekend where the Bahrain Grand Prix also sits (for now – China is due to swap dates).

Other Formula E and F1 clashes come on April 29 (Paris/Azerbaijan), June 10 (Zurich/Canada) and July 29 (Montreal/Hungary), although by shifting the New York City ePrix back one week to July 14-15, a gap has been found in the schedule.

For those operating across all three series (including yours truly), there is now a busy run between the start of the F1 season in Australia and the start of the summer break in Hungary with just three empty weekends.

As for IndyCar clashes? The condensed nature of the series’ schedule and the expansion of F1’s calendar to 21 races means they are inevitable. That said, as IndyCar is outside of the FIA’s realm of control, it was never really in the mix for its harmonization plans.

Yet again there is a clash between the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, sadly something we have become accustomed to in recent years, but over half the IndyCar calendar faces an F1 clash next year.

Here’s a full run-down of the F1/IndyCar double dip weekends:

April 7-8: Chinese GP, Phoenix Grand Prix
April 14-15: Bahrain GP, Grand Prix of Long Beach
May 12-13: Spanish GP, Indianapolis GP
May 26-27: Monaco GP, Indianapolis 500
June 9-10: Canadian GP, Texas 600
June 23-24: French GP, Road America GP
July 7-8: British GP, Iowa Corn 300
August 25-26: Belgian GP, Gateway 500
September 15-16: Singapore GP, Sonoma GP

Bahrain, China ‘on-track’ to swap F1 race dates for 2018

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Next year’s Formula 1 races in China and Bahrain are “on-track” to swap dates in order to maximize their local exposure, according to the sport’s commercial chief, Sean Bratches.

The provisional F1 schedule for 2018 lists the Chinese Grand Prix as the second round of the season, taking place on April 8, with the Bahrain Grand Prix taking place one week later on April 15.

However, plans are afoot to swap the races around due to the Qingming national holiday that is set to take place in China on the April 8 weekend, potentially having a negative impact on crowd numbers at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“We’re trying to take into account global events, local events, religious holidays and things to ensure we’re maximizing the opportunity for fans to attend the grands prix,” Bratches told Reuters.

“We’re talking to both of them to that end and if we can reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which appears to be on-track to happen, you’ll probably see that,” he said.

No updates were made to the F1 schedule for 2018 at the latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris this week, meaning no switch between Bahrain and China will be ratified until the start of December at the earliest.

NASCAR America: Scott Speed’s quest for Red Bull GRC three-peat

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Red Bull Global Rallycross points leader Scott Speed is going for his third consecutive championship next month (Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC from Los Angeles) for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

Prior to that, he joined Thursday’s edition of NBCSN’s NASCAR America, checking in with his former Red Bull Racing teammate Brian Vickers, show host Carolyn Manno and analyst Steve Letarte.

Speed talked teammate dynamics – he and Tanner Foust have been the class of the Red Bull GRC field for several years – and what it takes to succeed in the diverse championship that features racing on both pavement and dirt.

“Tanner comes from more of a more rally background and I come from more of an open-wheel, road course background,” Speed explained. “You have to meet in the middle and often times that creates success. Our personalties are polar opposites and that’s a good thing.”

One other thing Speed addressed was Austin Cindric’s couple notable incidents in the last month or so. Going for his maiden NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, Cindric hit Kaz Grala at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to move for the lead and ultimately the win.

Cindric then made his GRC Supercars debut at the most recent weekend in Seattle and the two collided after a miscommunication in a preliminary race, prior to the Joker section of the course.

“He’s a young kid with not a lot of experience. He’s made a couple big mistakes. He came in like a wrecking ball,” Speed laughed.

“I was more mad because the car couldn’t restart at first. But it did, and we got going.”

Public clashes over future of Detroit Grand Prix

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DETROIT (AP) State officials are deciding whether to continue hosting the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle, a state park and island that opponents say is negatively impacted by the annual event.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is considering whether to allow the race to continue after its current five-year contract expires after the 2018 race.

The department held a public meeting Wednesday at the Belle Isle Nature Center to gather feedback. Dozens of residents attended.

Opponents voiced concerns about the race’s environmental impact. Several conservation groups have requested a third-party environmental impact study on how the race affects island habitat.

But supporters say the race shines a spotlight on Detroit and stimulates the economy.

The Grand Prix has occurred on Belle Isle periodically since 1992 and annually since 2012.