HAMPTON, Ga. – Kasey Kahne’s 17th career Sprint Cup win couldn’t have been any larger.
Battling Matt Kenseth in a two-lap, green-white-checker drag race to the finish, Kahne punched his ticket into the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Kenseth’s Toyota wiggled heading into the white flag lap and that’s all it took for Kahne to get past, rolling to his first win in 39 starts, dating back to August 2013 at Pocono.
“We were all over the place during the race, but the guys stayed with me and worked hard,” Kahne said in Victory Lane. “I’m really happy and real thankful. We’ve had a downer year at times. … It’s been one thing after another, but now I’m in the Chase with my teammates and it’s great to be part of HMS (Hendrick Motorsports).”
Kahne becomes the 13th different driver to win a race this season, with just next week’s race at Richmond for any other winless driver to win and also make the Chase.
“This is a team effort,” Kahne said. “The guys did great tonight and I’m pretty pumped to be in here. We’re locked in. I hate that it comes down to this, Atlanta and Richmond for me. Sometimes we’re in and sometimes we’re out. We made it again, third time with HMS. I’m thankful for that.”
Beating Kenseth by a margin of .574 of a second, Kahne now joins his other three Hendrick Motorsports teammates – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon – in making the Chase.
That gives the overall organization now a 25 percent chance to win the championship – the best odds of any of the 16 teams that will make up the expanded playoff field.
All three of his HMS teammates came over to congratulate Kahne in Victory Lane.
“How the heck did you get past them?” Jeff Gordon laughed to Kahne while giving him kudos for the win.
While he came up short for a second-place finish, Kenseth still has reason to feel elated, having officially clinched his spot in the Chase on points. While he’d like for it to have been a win, he gladly settled for second and a place in the playoffs.
“Those last two laps were really intense,” Kenseth said. “… Things are looking up. I’m looking forward to the next 11 (races).”
Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, who finished third, led the field to the green flag for the final restart on Lap 333, but Hamlin’s could not catch Kenseth nor hold off Kahne, ultimately finishing third.
“I couldn’t capitalize, couldn’t get the restarts and couldn’t accelerate,” Hamlin said. “We just came up short. Third is about the place car we had tonight.”
Jimmie Johnson finished fourth, followed by Carl Edwards.
Danica Patrick had an outstanding run, finishing sixth, followed by Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola and Greg Biffle.
Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick dominated the race, leading 195 laps and appeared headed for a weekend sweep, having won Saturday night’s Nationwide Series race.
But Harvick got into a late wreck when he was pushed into the wall and the trailing car of Joey Logano by Paul Menard.
Harvick finished 19th.
It was a rough night for a number of drivers:
* Tony Stewart, making his first start after missing the last three Sprint Cup races due to the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy, ran a very strong race until Lap 122, when his car and that of Kyle Busch made contact.
Both cars suffered right side damage that required several pit stops for Stewart under caution to repair the damage. Busch’s crew was able to repair the damage to his car on just one stop.
While Stewart was able to stay on the lead lap until just before halfway (Lap 161), dropping one lap down at that point, things went from bad to worse 11 laps later.
Stewart appeared to suffer tire failure and his car went directly into the Turn 2 wall, sustaining significant damage, forcing him to limp his injured ride back to the pits and then on to the garage area, where it appeared his night had come to an end.
* Jeff Gordon was running second when his car hit the wall on Lap 79 heading into Turn 3, apparently due to a blown left front tire, Gordon told his crew over the team radio. Gordon’s car was never quite the same, ending up in 17th-place.
* Clint Bowyer, trying to hold on to his spot in the Chase, suffered a broken shifter in his car early in the race, leading to being sidelined for more than 20 laps in the garage while. Bowyer finished 38th.
* Marcos Ambrose’s two remaining chances to make the Chase with a win were abruptly cut in half when the motor on his Ford Fusion broke on Lap 123 of the 325-lap event.
* After making contact with Denny Hamlin and Josh Wise, Brad Keselowski slammed into the wall with under 30 laps to go, sustaining enough damage to send his Penske Racing Ford to the garage.
After months of renderings, INDYCAR has today revealed in full the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit.
This replaces the manufacturer aero kits that have been in use from Honda and Chevrolet since 2015.
Dallara was selected to build the kit, which comes on top of the existing base Dallara DW12 chassis that has run in the Verizon IndyCar Series since 2012.
Testing begins tomorrow at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Juan Pablo Montoya in the Chevrolet powered car, run by Team Penske and with Oriol Servia in the Honda powered car, run by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Mercedes will join the FIA Formula E championship from the start of its sixth season in 2019 after taking up its option on an entry.
Mercedes announced last October that it had secured an option to join the grid as a manufacturer from season five (2018/19), but was still evaluating an entry as of last month.
Despite having until October to make a final decision on taking up the entry, Mercedes announced on Monday that it would be going ahead with plans to join Formula E, starting from season six (2019/20).
As part of a realignment of its motorsport interests, Mercedes also confirmed that it would be quitting DTM, Germany’s leading touring car series, at the end of 2018.
“Mercedes Benz has announced a strategic repositioning of its motorsport activities: the company will conclude its participation in DTM at the end of 2018 and enter Formula E in the 2019/20 season,” a statement reads.
“This new approach will see Mercedes-Benz competing at both ends of the motorsport spectrum: in Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsport combining high technology and the most demanding competitive challenge; and in Formula E, which embodies the transformation that is underway in the automotive industry.”
“Mercedes-Benz will market future battery powered electric vehicles using the EQ label,” said Dr. Jens Thiemer, Vice President Marketing Mercedes-Benz.
“Formula E is a significant step in order to demonstrate the performance of our attractive battery powered electric vehicles, as well as giving an emotional spin to our EQ technology brand through motorsport and marketing.”
Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff added: “In motorsport like in every other area, we want to be the benchmark in the premium segment and to explore innovative new projects.
“The combination of Formula 1 and Formula E delivers that. Formula E is like an exciting start-up venture: it offers a brand new format, combining racing with a strong event character, in order to promote current and future technologies.
“Electrification is happening in the road car world and Formula E offers manufacturers an interesting platform to bring this technology to a new audience – and to do so with a completely new kind of racing, different to any other series.
“I am pleased that we were able to extend our entry option for one year to the 2019/20 season. This gives us time to properly understand the series and to prepare for our entry in the right way.”
“Today is a great day as we welcome Mercedes to the Formula E family – adding to the increasing number of manufacturers joining the electric revolution,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said.
“This step shows how much the world is changing, not only in motorsport, but the whole automotive industry. We’re witnessing a transformation that will first change our cities, and then our roads.
“Formula E is the championship that embodies that change, and together with all our teams and manufacturers we’ll keep pushing for technologies to have better and more affordable electric cars.”
A marathon Brickyard 400 is finally in the books on Sunday, but the allure of the Indianapolis 500 was a talking point among several drivers throughout the weekend within the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage.
As evidenced by two recent guest stars who’ve made their maiden Indianapolis 500 bows – Kurt Busch in 2014 and Fernando Alonso in 2017, both with Andretti Autosport (Alonso in a McLaren Honda Andretti) – when a star from another discipline of motorsport shows up for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, people take notice, and a heck of a lot of words get typed.
So who could be next from the NASCAR world making a crack at Indy, or simply paying a visit on race day? It’s always fun to prognosticate and look ahead, even if the chances seem remote and all the stars – and contracts – have to align to make it happen.
No one doubts the younger Busch brother’s ability, and the 2015 NASCAR Cup champion knows a thing or two about winning at Indianapolis. He won back-to-back Brickyards in 2015 and 2016 and was well on his way to a three-peat in 2017 before he and Martin Truex Jr. collided, continuing his unlucky, unhappy and thus far winless season.
On Friday Busch revealed he had a ride in place for this year’s Indianapolis 500, but said it fell through because his boss wouldn’t allow it. He didn’t specify whether said “boss” was wife Samantha Busch or his Cup series team boss, Joe Gibbs.
The issue with Busch running Indianapolis seems more a manufacturer-related one. Workarounds are possible but as Busch drives a Toyota in Cup, the likelihood of them being happy seeing him in a Honda – a fellow Japanese manufacturer – or a Chevrolet – a fellow NASCAR competitor – isn’t the best-case scenario. That’s not to say it can’t be done as Kurt Busch raced a Honda in 2014 while competing in a Chevrolet in NASCAR, but all parties would need to clear the way for this to happen.
This actually transitions nicely into a Kyle who could have an easier workaround from a manufacturer standpoint…
It’s the question of when, it seems, not if Larson races the Indianapolis 500. He’s said multiple times he wants to do and his team boss, Chip Ganassi has said he’s open to the idea himself. But it has to make sense from a timing standpoint. Yes, I’ll admit I wrote an admittedly last-ditch-for-2017 column about the idea earlier this year once Larson won at Auto Club Speedway, thus securing his playoff spot. But Ganassi doused water on the idea for this year in a gathering of reporters at St. Petersburg – noting how everyone blows up his social media in March and April for May of the current year, and it goes quiet in June, when the next year planning actually needs to take place.
Larson said this year’s two heavy accidents featuring his Ganassi teammates – IndyCar’s Scott Dixon and IMSA’s Sebastien Bourdais – have temporarily halted his desire.
Put aside the accidents for a minute and let’s get back to looking at Larson’s realistic prospects depending on how the manufacturer and car count scenario could shake out. There’s a good possibility Ganassi’s IndyCar program will downsize for the full season next year if one or more of its three non-Dixon drivers doesn’t return. But what that could do would be open the opportunities for a Honda engine lease and an extra chassis to run. Larson, a Ganassi driver, has driven other manufacturers for the team before; he’s won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in a Ford-powered prototype and he races a Chevrolet in NASCAR, so a Honda in IndyCar could work out for him.
Who says you can’t go home again? It’s easy to forget Kahne was a star on short tracks growing up, and had a handful of Formula Atlantic starts in 2001 before his NASCAR career began, and his Cup career started in 2004.
Kahne’s NASCAR Cup future seems uncertain at the moment but Sunday’s win at the Brickyard 400 was a massive boost for him. It ensures his playoff eligibility this year and helps further his case to see out the rest of his Hendrick Motorsports contract in 2018.
J. Douglas Boles, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track president, is renowned as a marketer and works incredibly hard from a promotional standpoint across the board. And the opportunity to have the active Brickyard 400 champion racing in the Indianapolis 500 the next year would be something to marvel at.
The reality of a situation would hinge on Kahne’s own desire to get back into open-wheel – he hasn’t been in an open-wheel car in more than a decade and he’s also a father now. But if he’s available, you wonder if it’s worth planting the seed.
Yes, I can’t believe I just typed that… and yet I also wonder if it’s possible once again. Like the others mentioned here she has been out of open-wheel for several years. She was IndyCar’s biggest star for a good six or seven years even if her results didn’t back it up.
This much we knew though. She was always good at Indianapolis, a regular top-five finisher and occasional win contender who generally took care of her equipment. She also hasn’t had the spotlight on her ability in the NASCAR side of affairs much, if at all, in recent years. Her results have been floundering at best; the occasional top-10 or top-15 finish is a surprise sprinkled in amidst a flurry of top-20s.
Like Kahne, her NASCAR future will be dictated by sponsorship and with the Nature’s Bakery lawsuit that occurred earlier this year leaving her Stewart-Haas Racing team looking to fill the gaps, you wonder how much more she’s willing to take beyond the rest of this year and into 2018.
Again, if she’s available, and more importantly if she’s interested, a comeback – especially in a year with a new universal aero kit that everyone would be learning – would undoubtedly dominate headlines.
While in this subhead, I’d also note Patrick’s boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (pictured above with Larson) would be a popular Indy 500 first-timer – particularly in a car with “BC Forever” logos and Jonathan Byrd’s support, the Byrd family having invested heavily and supported the late Bryan Clauson. It’s no secret Stenhouse and Clauson were close, and if there was a way for Stenhouse to clear the Ford manufacturer hurdle, he’d probably impress if he had the shot at the ‘500.
“Kes” actually has an IndyCar test under his belt, his surprise one-off run for Team Penske at Road America in 2016. And after his runner-up finish at the Brickyard on Sunday, he got super close to putting the fabled “blue deuce” into first place and delivering Roger Penske his first ‘400 win.
Last year, Team Penske president Tim Cindric gave it a “20 percent chance” Keselowski could one day race in both the ‘500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Better than nothing, right? It’s hard to see it for next year with Team Penske figuring to have both Helio Castroneves and/or Juan Pablo Montoya in Indianapolis 500 entries, the question being if one or both would be extra cars beyond their full season.
DALE EARNHARDT JR. AND JEFF GORDON
We can pretty much say straight up neither of these two will be racing in the ‘500. But Junior riffed this weekend, “I’ve never been to the Indy 500 obviously, so that would be a great experience. It’s an impressive place.”
Gordon’s driven the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 before, so it’d make sense and would be a natural to bestow the same honor to Earnhardt Jr. given his relationship with Chevrolet. It’s also worth noting new IndyCar team owner Mike Harding ran his Chevrolet for Gabby Chaves with Junior’s stylized No. 88 at this year’s race – and Earnhardt gave it his approval on social media.
It would not be a stretch to see Earnhardt a guest of either his longtime manufacturer or this team at next year’s race.
Just don’t expect to see him in a race car, because that might break the Internet.
One of the interesting nuggets about this 2017 Formula 1 season, as the year has ebbed and flowed between Mercedes and Ferrari on top with the occasional Red Bull surprise, is that a single driver has not recorded back-to-back victories through the first 10 races.
Sebastian Vettel kicked proceedings off at Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton then winning his first race of the year in Shanghai in the rain at the Chinese Grand Prix.
From there, it’s gone Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo, Bottas and Hamilton heading into this week’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
When looking back in the archives, you only need to look four years ago to 2013 to find the last time a season started with 10 races and no drivers having won back-to-backs Grands Prix – a streak which ran 11 races.
Kimi Raikkonen won at Melbourne to start the year, with Vettel then winning his first race of 2013 in controversial fashion in the infamous “Multi 21” Red Bull team orders fiasco with Mark Webber in Sepang at Melaysia.
Fernando Alonso then won for Ferrari, followed by Vettel, Alonso (that being his most recent Grand Prix win, Spain of 2013), Nico Rosberg, Vettel, Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton and Vettel. Hamilton’s win at Hungary in 2013 was his first win for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team after switching from McLaren.
But from here, Vettel won the Belgian Grand Prix, Round 11 of that season, for what was his fifth victory of the season… and promptly ran the table from there. After there were no back-to-back winners in 10 races, Vettel won the last nine consecutively. His radio call after winning at Circuit of The Americas – “cherish these times” because you don’t know how long they’ll last – was particularly prescient as he never won again for Red Bull after 2013, then departed for Ferrari in 2015.
A year earlier, the 2012 season set an incredible mark with the first 14 races occurring before a driver recorded back-to-back victories, and again, it was Vettel who was first to win two in a row when he did at Singapore and Japan that season. Prior to that, the campaign opened with seven winners in as many races (Jenson Button, Alonso, Rosberg, Vettel, Pastor Maldonado, Webber, Hamilton) with a handful of those then winning further races from there.
As it sits now, Vettel hasn’t won since Monaco and the Hungaroring in Budapest – a similar low horsepower, high downforce type of track – represents his best chance to win his fourth Grand Prix of the season.
Hamilton, meanwhile, is already a four-time winner this year and a five-time winner in Hungary in his career.
A Vettel win would keep the streak of no back-to-back winners alive, with 11 races without a driver going back-to-back. A Hamilton win would end it at 10 and make him the first driver to put together a streak this year.
Either way, it’s been a refreshing change of pace because here have been the runs drivers have gone on since that 11-for-11 start without back-to-backs in the last five years (three race in a row or more win streaks; there have been several more two in a row streaks):
2013: Vettel wins last nine races in a row (Rounds 11-19)
2014: Hamilton wins four straight (Rounds 2-5), then wins five straight (Rounds 13-17)
2015: Hamilton wins three straight (Rounds 14-16), Rosberg wins three straight (Rounds 17-19)
2016: Rosberg wins four straight (Rounds 1-4), Hamilton wins four straight (Round 9-12), Rosberg wins three straight (Rounds 13-15), Hamilton wins four straight (Rounds 18-21)