Dale Jr. wins 2014 daytona 500

Chase Capsules: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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88 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Crew Chief: Steve Letarte
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Best Finish: 3rd (2003)
Chase History: 7th Chase Appearance, Best finish of 5th in 2004, 2006 and 2013

Regular Season Recap: Beginning with his huge win in the season-opening Daytona 500 and his two wins at Pocono, Dale Earnhardt Jr. already has enjoyed his most successful season (and total of wins) since 2004. And there’s still 10 races remaining. Wins are great, but it’s been the consistency that has separated Junior this year from year’s past. And with the exception of just one week when he dropped to sixth, he’s fluctuated between first and fifth place in the season standings. But Junior isn’t done by any stretch. He can easily win Saturday at Richmond and perhaps grab another win or two in the Chase. Until he proves otherwise, this very well could be Earnhardt’s greatest season ever.

Jerry’s Take: An argument can be made that this has – to date – been Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s best season yet in Sprint Cup racing.

Sure, he had a career-best six wins in the first year of the Chase (2004), but starting with his win in the season-opening Daytona 500, Earnhardt has appeared more motivated to win that elusive first championship than he ever has.

He has more incentive, as well. First, this is crew chief Steve Letarte’s final season with Junior before becoming a full-time NASCAR analyst on NBC telecasts in 2015. Also, Earnhardt turns 40 next month (where has the time gone). He knows he’s already begun the downhill slide on his career.

If he’s ever to win a Sprint Cup championship, this likely will be the best opportunity he’ll ever have.

Chris’s Take: This has been building over the last year for Earnhardt, who served notice that 2014 would be a strong season for him thanks to a great 2013 Chase following his engine failure at Chicagoland.

Now, as this year’s post-season looms, he and his rabid fan base are brimming with hope that this will be the year. And why shouldn’t they be?

Junior has been in the lead pack almost all the way, and the 88 team as a whole (including outgoing crew chief Steve Letarte) is as cohesive a unit as you’ll find in the garage. I’d be surprised if these guys didn’t make it to Homestead with a chance at the Cup.

Tony’s Take: A revitalized, focused Dale Earnhardt Jr. has emerged throughout the entirety of the 2014 season and is in the best position possible to capture his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. It would be a fitting cap to a year when he and crew chief Steve Letarte are at the end of their stint together.

Problem is, lately, Junior and the No. 88 team haven’t clicked nearly as well as they did in the first half of the year. The qualifying needs to improve. Simple ninth to 12th place finishes on race day won’t get the job done. With only one top five in the last eight races, Junior has fallen behind in the Hendrick pecking order, if not the standings themselves.

He should be able to advance through the Challenger and Contender rounds easily, provided the finishes pick up. But advancing from Eliminator through to the finale at Homestead may be a greater challenge. Right now, it’s hard to see three of the four Hendrick drivers able to fight for a title at Homestead, and Junior will need to recapture that early season form if he wants to be in with a shot.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Career Statistics at Chase Tracks
Chicagoland (1.5 mile) – One win, 3 Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in 13 starts
New Hampshire (1 mile) – Zero wins, 7 Top-5s, 13 Top-10s in 30 starts
Dover (1 mile) – One win, 6 Top-5s, 11 Top-10s in 29 starts
Kansas (1.5 mile) – Zero wins, 2 Top-5s, 8 Top-10s in 16 starts
Charlotte (1.5 mile) – Zero wins, 5 Top-5s, 10 Top-10s in 29 starts
Talladega (2.66 mile) – Five wins, 10 Top-5s, 14 Top-10s in 29 starts
Martinsville (half-mile) – Zero wins, 11 Top-5s, 16 Top-10s in 29 starts
Texas (1.5-mile) – One win, 4 Top-5s, 13 Top-10s in 24 starts
Phoenix (1 mile) – Two wins, 7 Top-5s, 11 Top-10s in 24 starts
Homestead-Miami (1.5 mile) – One win, 1 Top-5s, 2 Top-10s in 14 starts

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Tony and Lauren Kanaan welcome new baby Max into the world

SONOMA, CA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Tony Kanaan of Brazil drives the #10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Dallara during practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway on September 17, 2016 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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Tony Kanaan and wife Lauren have welcomed a new baby into the world, with “TK” announcing the birth of son Max on Thursday.

Max joins other sons Deco and Leo in the Kanaan family. Kanaan reported both mom and baby are doing well.

This is the latest new arrival to the Verizon IndyCar Series, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and wife Beccy welcoming their third son Rhodes (after Ryden and Roczen) in September, and with Will Power and wife Liz expecting their first child in December.

Kanaan has re-signed with Chip Ganassi Racing and will drive the team’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda once more in 2017.

Strakka Racing cuts short WEC season due to engine issues

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17:  The Strakka Racing Gibson Nissan of Nick Leventis, Danny Watts and Jonny Kane drives during the FIA World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Silverstone race at the Silverstone Circuit on April 17, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
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Strakka Racing will take no further part in the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season due to engine issues.

Strakka has raced in the LMP2 class throughout 2016 with a Nissan-powered Gibson car, recording a best finish of fourth at Le Mans, the Nürburgring and in Mexico.

However, ongoing engine issues, – the most recent occurring in Fuji two weeks ago – difficulties getting a new engine into China for the upcoming 6 Hours of Shanghai and the severity of a possible penalty in Bahrain have prompted the British team to end its season early.

“The engine problem experienced in Japan, related to crankshaft pressure build up, is the fourth the team has encountered since the Bahrain rookie test last November and left the team with no spare units for the final round,” a statement from Strakka reads.

“With customs regulations making it near impossible to ship another engine to China and, having already exhausted its allocation of engines for 2016 with a pre-season issue and a further retirement at Spa, the team would have to take a three-minute stop and go penalty in Bahrain, effectively preventing any chance to be competitive.”

“It’s very sad that we have not been able to complete the championship due to issues beyond our control,” team principal Dan Walmsley added.

“I’d like to thank the WEC organizers, the logistics team and the engineers at Gibson for their efforts to try to get us back out on track but it just wasn’t feasible to get an engine to China and taking the penalty in Bahrain would have seen us nowhere near the rest of the P2 runners.

“We did consider all options, including trying to borrow a unit from another team but the specific fitting kit for the Gibson and the fact we’d still have to take a penalty meant we had to take the tough decision not to race.

“We’d like to apologize to our sponsors, fans and supporters not to be out racing but we will soon be announcing, before the end of November, our plans for 2017.”

F1 2017 pre-season test dates confirmed

MONTMELO, SPAIN - MAY 18:  (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using a variable planed lens) Sparks fly as Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing overtakes Jordan King of Great Britain and Manor Racing during day two of formula one testing at Circuit de Catalunya on May 18, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has officially confirmed the dates for Formula 1’s pre-season tests in 2017.

Pre-season testing has traditionally been held in Barcelona, but a number of teams were pushing to move it to Bahrain ahead of the 2017 season.

However, after teams failed to achieve unanimity, the decision was taken to keep testing in Barcelona ahead of the 2017 season.

While the dates for pre-season testing were widely reported and known, the track has now officially confirmed when it will host running.

The first four-day test will begin on February 27 and run to March 2, before a four-day break.

The second four-day test will begin on March 7 and finish on March 10.

Testing in Barcelona will provide a first glimpse of the revised F1 cars on-track together in 2017, with the technical regulations being overhauled for the new season.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will also play host to the Spanish Grand Prix from May 12-14 2017.


1. Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – February 27 – March 2
2. Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – March 7-10

In-season (TBC)
1. Bahrain International Circuit – April 18-19
2. Silverstone – July 11-12

Vasseur expected more from Magnussen, Palmer in Austin

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 21: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS16 Renault RE16 turbo on track during practice for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 21, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Renault Formula 1 chief Frederic Vasseur says he expected better from drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer in last weekend’s United States Grand Prix as both finished outside of the top 10.

Since returning to F1 as a constructor at the beginning of 2016, Renault has struggled for form, finishing in the points on just three occasions.

Magnussen recorded the team’s best result of the season so far in May’s Russian Grand Prix, crossing the line seventh, but did not return to the top 10 until the Singapore Grand Prix in September.

Palmer has just one top-10 to his name through his rookie F1 season, finishing P10 in Malaysia.

With a handful of drivers further up the field retiring in Austin last weekend, points were within reach for Magnussen and Palmer.

Magnussen could only finish 11th at the flag, but was demoted to 12th after being penalized for passing Daniil Kvyat off-track. Palmer finished 13th.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, Renault F1 boss Vasseur admitted he felt disappointed by the team’s display in Austin.

“We showed a decent performance but my expectations are high and I know better was possible,” Vasseur said.

“There were areas where we had issues and neither driver drove a perfect race.

“I really want to see us collectively maximizing every opportunity in every regard for the next three races.

“Next year we clearly should have a more competitive car. This year is about getting to a place where we are confident to maximize our potential.”

Both Magnussen and Palmer are currently fighting for their future, with Renault already confirming the arrival of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg for 2017.

Manor driver Esteban Ocon has been strongly linked with the second seat, meaning that both Magnussen and Palmer may be without a drive for 2017 should Renault decide on a total change of its line-up.