(Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Richmond is Chase make-or-break for MWR drivers Bowyer, Vickers

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Virtually every winless driver in the top 30 in points is still hoping for a Hail Mary chance to make it into the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup this Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

But the pressure is perhaps the most on Michael Waltrip Racing’s two Cup drivers, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers.

Bowyer had been in the Chase picture up until this past Sunday’s race at Atlanta. Between Kasey Kahne’s win and Bowyer’s 38th-place finish, the latter is now on the outside looking in when it comes to the Chase bubble.

Bowyer enters Richmond 23 points behind Greg Biffle, who is the driver on the bubble for the 16th and final Chase berth.

Bowyer can still make the Chase on points if Biffle has a tough night at Richmond and finishes 24 positions behind Bowyer in the race.

Vickers, meanwhile, is a distant 78 points behind Biffle. The only way Vickers can make the Chase is to win Saturday.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Vickers said in a team media release. “It’s going to be intense, that race, knowing that it’s not just about the guys on the cusp for points, it’s about anyone that can win.

“The intensity is going to kick in. To be honest with you, it’s been there all year. I think that every week you show up, your goal is to win and you do everything you can to try to get that win.”

Perhaps not wanting to jinx his chances, Bowyer isn’t talking about the pressure on him this weekend. But he still has plenty to say about the race itself.

“This is one of my best race tracks,” said Bowyer, who has two wins, three top-5 and nine top-10 finishes in 17 starts at the ¾-mile oval. “Looking back over the years you always have a track that fits your driving style and you’re confidence level is more for some reason and this has always been the case for me.

“We’ve run well in the Nationwide Series, always run well in the Cup Series and I’m always excited to get there. This is a fun racing weekend. The fan base is awesome. Night races are always extra special. I’m looking forward to having another good run. Like I said, this is one of my favorite race tracks. People all across the country ask you where your favorite tracks are and this is first or second on my list.”

But Bowyer and Vickers also return to the track that one year ago was the site of one of NASCAR’s biggest scandals in years.

In last season’s final Chase qualifying race at Richmond, MWR executive vice president/general manager Ty Norris wound up being suspended by NASCAR for an attempt to manipulate the finish to get then-MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase.

The ploy proved extremely costly for the organization, which was fined a NASCAR record $300,000, and also lost long-standing sponsor NAPA, which pulled its sponsorship after the incident.

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Greaves car, lineup confirmed for FIA WEC’s Mexico City race

MONTEREY, CA - MAY 03:  Bruno Junqueira prepares to drive during practice for the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 3, 2014 in Monterey, California.  (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)
Junqueira (above) back in action. Photo: Getty Images
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The LMP2 grid will grow by one for the next FIA World Endurance Championship race, the 6 Hours of Mexico City, with the confirmation of the Greaves Motorsport Gibson 015S Nissan.

Greaves will run the lineup of Roberto Gonzalez, brother of race promoter and RGR Sport by Morand team owner and co-driver Ricardo Gonzalez, along with Bruno Junqueira and Luis Diaz.

Junqueira and Roberto Gonzalez have been co-drivers in the past with the Rocketsports (RSR) team in the Prototype Challenge class of the American Le Mans Series.

Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images

Diaz (right) is another prototype class veteran, with recent PC experience (8Star Motorsports and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports) added to his LMP2 days with Fernandez Racing.

All three of them also competed in Champ Car World Series races in Mexico City, with Gonzalez and Diaz part of a six-Mexican driver entry in the 2003 race (Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain Jr., Mario Dominguez and Rodolfo Lavin).

Ricardo Gonzalez co-drives the No. 43 RGR Sport Ligier JS P2 Nissan with Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque in the WEC.

Sainz pleased to match McLaren’s pace in Hungary

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 24:  Carlos Sainz of Scuderia Toro Rosso and Spain during the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 24, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
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Carlos Sainz Jr. was pleased with a “solid” performance in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand prix that saw him finish eighth for Toro Rosso.

Sainz spent much of the race in close contention with his childhood racing hero Fernando Alonso, finishing just three seconds behind the McLaren driver at the checkered flag.

The result means that Sainz has scored points in all but one race he has finished in 2016, leading Toro Rosso’s charge in the constructors’ championship.

“[A] solid race again, up to [the] pace of McLarens. Pretty pleased with that,” Sainz told NBCSN after the race.

“Fernando got us at the start and that was about it. Impossible to pass from there and he controlled it.

“But it’s a very solid weekend from the team to close the first half of the season quite well, and we’re pretty happy.”

Toro Rosso is just five points clear of McLaren in the constructors’ championship, but Sainz hopes that a step in performance next weekend in Germany will help him to open up the gap once again.

“We have a step hopefully coming in Germany, and a step forward in performance,” Sainz said.

“McLaren has got ahead of us which is a bit worrying.

“But we will try to compensate that and see if we can hold them back.”

FIA WEC confirms July date for 2017 Nürburgring round

Audi R18 (2016) #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest), Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer
Audi R18 (2016) #8 (Audi Sport Team Joest), Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval, Oliver Jarvis
© Audi Sport
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FIA World Endurance Championship officials have confirmed that next year’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring will take place on July 16.

The WEC ventured to the Nürburgring for the first time in 2015 before enjoying a successful return over the weekend, with a crowd of 58,000 fans turning up on Sunday.

During the race won by the no. 1 Porsche crew of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard, it was confirmed that the WEC will return to the Nürburgring in 2017 over the July 14-16 weekend.

 

However, it was flagged up on Twitter that this is the same weekend scheduled to host the Formula E double-header in Montreal.

Around two-thirds of the Formula E grid also race in the WEC, with the two championships preventing clashes so that drivers do not have to pick between them. As a result, it seems inevitable that one of the races will have to change date.

Palmer ‘gutted’ after spin costs him first F1 points in Hungary

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 24:Jolyon Palmer of Great Britain driving the (30) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS16 Renault RE16 turbo on track  during the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 24, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
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Jolyon Palmer felt “gutted” after a likely top-10 finish in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix was lost following a spin in the closing stages, costing him his first Formula 1 points.

2014 GP2 champion Palmer joined Renault for its return to F1 as a constructor in 2016, but arrived in Hungary without a point to his name from the opening 10 races of the season.

Palmer was left disappointed on Saturday after a red flag knocked him out of qualifying at the first hurdle, but a long first stint brought him into contention for points.

Palmer moved into the top 10 after jumping Nico Hulkenberg in the pits, only for Renault’s hard work to be undone when he spun off at Turn 4, losing three positions in the process.

The Briton was ultimately classified 12th after Esteban Gutierrez’s time penalty, extending his points drought to 11 races.

“I’m gutted as my first points in Formula 1 were there for the taking,” Palmer said.

“The car was good and I was driving well within myself in P10. I turned in the same as normal at turn four – I wasn’t hanging everything out and I was looking after the tires – but for some reason I lost the car in a massive snap.

“I need to look at everything with my engineers to see if there is anything we could have done to prevent it.

“I was running tenth, we had completed all our pit stops, we had good pace relative to those ahead and behind so it looks like we’ve made a real step forward this weekend.

“It was the best drive of my career today and just one small spin took away those points.

“I’m gutted today but I’ll be fighting to get in the same position or better in Hockenheim.”