Camping World RV Sales 301 - Qualifying

Ryan Newman leads Pure Michigan 400 at halfway point

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After a wave of pit stops among the leaders at the halfway point, Ryan Newman (who last pitted on Lap 77 as part of an alternate strategy) stayed out on track and is currently leading in the Pure Michigan 400 ahead of Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon.

Several incidents slowed the early stages of the race. On Lap 4, Kyle Busch hit the outside wall coming off of Turn 4 and had to go to the garage for suspension repairs (he would return to the race on Lap 29).

A Lap 20 competition yellow soon followed and brought the leaders to pit road. During that sequence, Earnhardt made contact with an oncoming Kyle Larson on pit road, inflicting notable left-front damage to Larson’s car.

Then off the restart at Lap 25, Danica Patrick appeared to slide up into Jeff Burton before spinning out in front of multiple competitors.

Seven cars in all were involved in the incident, including Patrick, Martin Truex Jr., Justin Allgaier, Trevor Bayne, Michael Annett, Aric Almirola, and Matt Kenseth. Several of them made their own way to the garage, while others got their repairs on pit road.

Before the Patrick incident, Jimmie Johnson and Newman had cycled up to the lead by staying out under the competition caution (Johnson had pitted during the first caution for Busch).

They both pitted again under another caution at Lap 37, this time for debris, and Logano cycled back to the lead. Logano maintained the lead off the restart at Lap 41, but Gordon jumped to second place and later at Lap 56, Gordon and Logano split the lapped car of J.J. Yeley down the frontstretch as they fought for P1.

Logano would win the battle, but just three laps later, Gordon came back and took the point from the Penske pilot. At Lap 61, the green flag cycle began with Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, giving up fifth place on track for service.

On Lap 63, Gordon led Logano, Kevin Harvick and others to the pits. But Logano was able to beat the 24 out and then pulled a sizable gap to Gordon as they came back up to speed.

Those stops handed the lead to Earnhardt, who went in for his stop during the cycle at Lap 68 and gave the lead to Johnson. At that point, Johnson and the rest of the Top 12 were on the same alternate strategy while Logano, Gordon, and Harvick occupied 13th, 14th, and 15th respectively.

But not all was well for Johnson, who had reported earlier that his shifter handle was gone. During his stop at Lap 76, Johnson was handed a set of vise grips and wire cutters during the stops to try and help, but he was still slow to get out of the pits after his crew pushed his car for a time.

Johnson dropped one lap down following the stop. But Gordon had gotten past Logano in the interim, and it was Gordon who re-assumed the lead when Johnson pitted. Harvick also got by Logano for second at Lap 80.

Two laps later, Jeff Burton was spotted in the pits with potential electrical issues on the No. 14 car he’s driving this weekend in place of Tony Stewart. Burton eventually had to roll the stricken car behind the wall, and he later told ESPN that it was starting to smoke.

Gordon was still leading when Larson’s rough afternoon continued when he slammed into the wall between Turn 3 and 4. His No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet caught fire, but Larson was able to climb out and walk toward safety personnel.

NASCAR recently implemented rule changes to keep drivers in their cars under cautions, but in cases of emergency such as fire or smoke in the cockpit, drivers are allowed to get out.

That led to the leaders making pit stops under yellow at the halfway point. A two-tire stop enabled Earnhardt to beat the rest of the frontrunners out, but Newman stayed out to assume the lead. Logano and McMurray had pitted just before Larson’s wreck and cycled to second and third, while Earnhardt and Gordon were set to take the restart in fourth and fifth.

Williams hopes to improve on 2014 performance in Russian GP

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At this weekend’s Russian GP, Williams Martini Racing is looking for more of the same from Valtteri Bottas and a little improvement from Felipe Massa.

Last year, Bottas started and finished third while Lewis Hamilton ran away with the win, finishing 13 seconds over Nico Rosberg and 17 over Bottas in the inaugural race at the Sochi Autodrom.

Meanwhile, Massa started 18th after a fuel flow issue knocked him out of the first round of qualifying and managed an 11th-place finish.

Bottas and Massa enter the Sochi race fifth and sixth in the driver standings.

“We had a good result last year in Russia so we’re expecting another strong weekend and a good collection of points,” said Bottas in a release. “We all know the track now and it has a really good flow, with the long straights a good fit for our car.”

Bottas has finished in the top five in each of the last three races, two of which were won by Hamilton.

“Pace-wise we were close to Mercedes in Japan and I think we can be close again in Sochi, just like we were in 2014,” Bottas said, who also noted after Japan the team is set to turn its focus to its 2016 car.

Massa, who has two podium finishes this year, will try to bounce back from a DNF at Marina Bay and a 17th-place finish in Japan.

“I hope to make amends for qualifying last year and I’m confident we can have a competitive race,” Massa said in a team release.

“Russia is a very nice track with a few long straights which makes it interesting for overtaking,” Massa said of the 18-turn track. “The circuit has almost everything, starting with a straight and then moving into high-speed corners and then very slow corners in the middle sector. This makes setting up the car really important and the importance of downforce evident.”

The Russian Grand Prix can been seen on NBCSN on Sunday at 7 am ET.

Rossi: Looking ahead to Russia and returning to GP2

Rossi (right) looks for more. Photo: GP2 Series Media Service.
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It’s been just over a week since I returned to Europe from Japan, and preparations now are all focused on Russia.

I landed back in the U.K. on Monday evening, with my body clock screaming at me about how I should be on Japanese time, but I had 36 hours to relax at home in the U.K. before I was back on a plane to Spain to prepare for the next race, this time returning to my GP2 car in Russia this weekend as we fight for more wins.

SEE ALSO: Rossi: Reflecting on my first two F1 races

I spent most of the week working out and preparing with my GP2 team, Racing Engineering, who are based down on Spain’s South West coast, about an hour’s drive from Seville. It’s a beautiful part of the world, especially in early Fall as the Summers are really hot! While there, I’m either in the team’s factory or sweating through a training session. That’s my job and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

The transition back to GP2 in Russia is something I’m really looking forward to. That might sound a bit strange to some, knowing I’m an F1 race driver, but I have unfinished business in GP2 and this is very important to me and my team, Racing Engineering.

I was asked how I will manage the switch from F1 to GP2, and back again when we go to Austin where I’ll be back in an F1 car, but for me it’s simple. GP2 is a very different mindset from F1. In F1 the main target is to finish ahead of my teammate, but in GP2 we have a very realistic chance of winning every race we take part in.

We’ve proved that all season, particularly in the last couple of rounds, in Spa and Italy where we won twice, keeping the Championship alive for this weekend in Russia and, hopefully, the last races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

The battles with Stoffel have been awesome all year, and even though he has enough of a points gap to make the overall 2015 Championship a tough ask, we still want to delay whatever celebrations he has planned, and I think we have a good opportunity to do so in Sochi, and again in Bahrain and then Abu Dhabi at the end of the year.

I haven’t raced in Sochi, only simulations. I did go to Russia last year with Marussia, so I know what to expect off track, and since I’ve been in the sim I know the circuit layout well. We’ve been working on setup options and I’m with a team that has shown consistently they know how to approach every aspect of a race weekend. I’m feeling good, really good about what’s ahead.

Sochi, it’s long, particularly for a street circuit and quite a bit of it is on public roads so there’s a bit of Singapore in there, and maybe a bit of Melbourne too. It’s pretty quick, but there’s a few big braking zones and that gives us a chance to overtake, and obviously you need to be super accurate everywhere. The walls will bite, there’s very little margin for error, just like in Singapore, but I prefer street courses and normally I’m quite confident with my surroundings.

After Russia, I’m back to the UK for a week, and then it’s Austin, Texas and the U.S. Formula 1 Grand Prix. I have a very busy week already planned, but I have made sure I have time every day to train, to maintain focus and to prepare mentally and physically for what will take place in my home country.

The media interest is growing but over the years that I’ve been in and around F1, I’ve learned my priority is what happens in the car. Media work is not something you can be taught, it’s something you pick up and adapt to, being able to switch on and switch off from the demands of the media, the fans and the sponsors. I know exactly how important the media is to my career and it’s an important balance with my sporting duties driving a race car.

I’ve always been impressed by race drivers and athletes in all sports who can do that. Those who can clearly switch into race mode when they walk into the garage and get into the car, into analytical mode with the engineers, support and collaboration with the mechanics, and, I guess you’d say, promotional mode with the journalists, fans and team sponsors.

It might seem like a relatively simple task, but for a 21st century racing driver, it’s an important skill because there are many people vying for your attention. You never stop learning and improving at your craft and profession, and this aspect I keep right at the forefront of my mind, no matter what stage I’m at.

For now though, the focus is Sochi, Russia and keeping up the momentum we’ve had all year in GP2. We’ve prepared well and I can’t wait to get back into my car, push hard all weekend and fight for more race wins.

It’s all about focus.