Kevin Harvick: ‘I know for sure that Tony Stewart is not going to run over somebody on a racetrack”

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BROOKLYN, Mich. – Kevin Harvick is one of Tony Stewart’s closest friends. There’s a lot of loyalty, trust and similar competitive spirit back and forth between the pair to practically make them brothers.

That friendship was at the core of Harvick’s decision to leave Richard Childress Racing after 13 seasons and move to Stewart-Haas Racing this season.

As a result, with Stewart in seclusion, still grieving over the Aug. 9 sprint car accident that claimed the life of young driver Kevin Ward Jr., and with Stewart not having made any comments other than a brief statement the day after the incident, Harvick came to Stewart’s defense following Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

“I’ve known Tony Stewart for a long time,” Harvick said. “You look, you know, you see what happened. I still don’t believe that he even knew that he ran into that car.

“I know for sure that Tony Stewart is not going to run over somebody that’s on a racetrack. I don’t think there’s anybody in this garage that would. It would be hard to find somebody in the racing world that could point that car, just run somebody over.”

Harvick, who said he has not spoken to Stewart to allow him to work through his own grief over the incident, did take exception to the way much of the media has portrayed the incident and related fallout.

“It has been a difficult week,” Harvick said. “I think the hardest part for me has been the way the whole media thing has shaken down. It’s an absolute tragic accident that has happened on both sides of the fence.

“You have one young man who is dead. You’ve got a guy that we know and are part of an organization that is just getting a lot of just crazy press.

“You have just a lot of unknowledgeable people reporting on a situation that know absolutely nothing about racing. It’s just really unfortunate, the perception that has been given to him.

“I know he’ll stay strong and fight and he’ll get the right people and do all the right things. That’s the part that’s bothered me the most, is just the poor misrepresentation on the media side for him.”

Harvick lauded members of the Stewart-Haas organization for not only supporting their leader, but also in the way they’ve maintained their focus in spite of all the distractions, particularly from the media.

“Everybody just has to pitch in and do their part, make sure we do everything we can to help Tony get through his situation,” Harvick said.

“There’s a lot of strong people at our company. Gene (co-owner Gene Haas) brings a lot to the table from a financial standpoint, being a leader. There’s a lot of great sponsors that are there that are very supportive of everything we’re doing.

“I think it’s added more fire to everybody just to step up and keep everything headed in the right direction.”

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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.