Ganassi Racing aims for 100th IndyCar win Saturday at Iowa Speedway

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How much weight is there on the shoulders of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam?

There could be a lot.

This hypothetical weight isn’t the kind that comes with winning yet another Indianapolis 500 (four) or series championship (10 in CART/IndyCar).

It’s the kind that comes with your next win possibly being Chip Ganassi’s 100th as an IndyCar owner.

The wait for No. 100 began as soon as Scott Dixon won last June’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway for his second win of the year.

It continues this weekend in the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway, a track Ganassi has won at twice (2008, 09′) before Andretti won the next five races.

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Michael Andretti celebrating his 1994 win at Surfer’s Paradise. (Source: Chip Ganassi Racing)

The road to No. 100 for Ganassi began when the former CART driver became a team owner on April 1, 1990. Four years later, CGR scored its first win with Michael Andretti in the season opening Australian FAI Indy Car Grand Prix at Surfer’s Paradise.

Thirty drivers have competed for Ganassi, who has 99 wins and 10 championships with five of those drivers.

The current stable of Ganassi drivers have combined to win 38 races for the owner: Dixon has 36, Kanaan and Kimball each have one and Karam has none in his part-time rookie season.

These drivers have a mixed bag at Iowa. Dixon, who earned his first win for Ganassi in 2003 at Homestead, and has two poles to his name at the .894-mile track (2007, ’08).

“Iowa is such a little bullring, it’s so fast,” Dixon said in a release. “The G-loadings that you’re getting and how quick they get the cars to perform around the track is spectacular.”

But in Dixon’s eight starts there, he has yet to finish on the podium. His best finish is fourth, three times.

“I’ve got a little bit of work to do,” Dixon said.

Kanaan, who earned his only Ganassi win thus far in the 2014 finale at Fontana, may represent CGR’s best chance to win at Iowa. The Brazilian started Andretti’s Iowa dominance in 2010, when he led 62 laps on the way to the win.

Kanaan has finished on the podium in all four races since, leading a total of 334 laps. That included leading 247 last year, before he stayed out on a final caution and then lost out to Ryan Hunter-Reay, who pitted for fresh tires and won the race.

“I can’t wait to get back to Iowa this weekend – there’s just something about these short ovals that I love,” said Kanaan, who has three podium finishes in 2015, with two on ovals. “It’s always such an exciting race, and with the way we’ve been running this season, I don’t see this weekend’s race being any different.”

Kimball’s only win came in 2013 at Mid-Ohio. His best result in four starts at Iowa is 10th last year.

“Iowa Speedway is definitely a physically and mentally demanding track, but I think that’s one reason we enjoy the challenge of it,” Kimball said. “I know the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet will be fast in clean air, but we’ll just need to work on running in traffic to make sure we can stay up front.”

Karam has ran in 10 races in two years for Ganassi. If Karam were to win, he’d be upstaging three veterans and two former champions to earn his first and Ganassi’s 100th win.

Saturday is Karam’s first IndyCar start at Iowa, but in his championship-winning single year in Indy Lights, the Nazareth, Pa., native scored one of his three wins at the track.

Despite crashing out of the Milwuakee race Sunday, Karam has shown improvements as the season’s progressed. He qualified a career-best third at Milwaukee, a race after leading the first five laps of his career at Fontana and earning his best finish in fifth.

“I feel like we have some momentum on our side with the No. 8 car program,” Karam said. “I love Iowa and was a big fan of driving this track in the ladder series. We need a good result and to continue to move forward, and I hope we can get it this weekend and capitalize on all the hard work that’s gone into this program.”

Ricky Brabec wins 2017 Sonora Rally (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Ricky Brabec wins Sonora Rally. Photo: Sonora Rally
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Honda rider Ricky Brabec, who won a stage at this year’s Dakar Rally, has captured the victory in last week’s Sonora Rally, held March 21-24 in Sonora, Mexico.

He led all four of the special stages in a start-to-finish romp for victory.

Despite Joan Barreda and Steve Hengeveld’s injuries that ruled them out of the rally, Brabec still had to focus on the job at hand.

“You are really racing against yourself out here, against the terrain,” he said in a release.  “I’m much more familiar now with open up a course than I was back in January at Dakar when I had to do it for the first time.”

Fellow Honda riders Mark Samuels and Andrew Short completed the podium. Samuels won the Sonora Rally’s Dakar Challenge, which presents a free opportunity for a rider to enter the 2018 Dakar Rally.

“The hard work of getting to Dakar is still ahead of me, but I will do everything in my power to make America proud,” Samuels said.

Polaris ATR rider Dave Sykes won the UTV class, with Eric Pucelik and Mike Shirley winning the Cars class.

On background, the Sonora Rally is the only event of its kind in North America. The rally raid format requires street legal vehicles to transit along untimed “liaison” sections and timed “special stages” over multiple days, with the lowest combined time winning the event. Now in its third year, the Sonora Rally realizes the vision of founders Scott Whitney and Darren Skilton to bring a world class rally raid event to these shores (2016 recap).

Brabec’s winning ride is captured in the below video, via Race-Dezert.

Meanwhile, because photos do this event more justice than words do, those are below (All Photos: Sonora Rally)

Webber: Alonso may not see out the season with McLaren

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Mark Webber never had the easiest time in Formula 1, particularly his latter years as the number two driver at Red Bull Racing to Sebastian Vettel.

That being said, he was never on the verge of leaving it directly until he announced his plans to move to Porsche’s LMP1 Team, where he raced for three years from 2014 to 2016 before retiring at the end of last season.

But the Australian pondered whether Fernando Alonso might not be able to see out the season with McLaren Honda, if the team and manufacturer’s woes continue.

“Alonso may not stay with the team,” Webber told Belgian outlet Sporza. “Maybe Stoffel (Vandoorne) soon will have a new teammate.”

“I could see it happen that Alonso does not drive out the season. He is very frustrated. Fernando doesn’t start for a sixth or seventh place; he wants to fight for the podium.”

Webber added that for Vandoorne’s sake, starting in a team with lower expectations might not be the worst thing for him. It may allow the Belgian rookie to learn without extra pressure, since the onus is focused on the team.

For Alonso though, time is of the essence for what’s left of his career in F1. This is his last season under contract with McLaren Honda and he made no secret of his frustration for how well he drove at Melbourne, yet the car wasn’t up for it.

“Well the race was good, one of my best races driving like that,” Alonso told NBCSN post-race. “The car’s uncompetitive and to be close for a point was a nice surprise. It was good fuel saving as well. I was surprised to keep it in the points. A suspension (issue) stopped us from getting this point.

“I feel very well prepared, driving at the best of my career, and I’m fighting for one point. That’s disappointing and frustrating. But so long as I’m driving at my best, it’s a problem for the team… not me.”

Rosberg, Button soak up their first weekends out of F1 (PHOTOS)

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Since 2008, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have won seven World Championships. The two drivers that won titles in that period not named Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – Nico Rosberg (2016) and Jenson Button (2009) – were both enjoying their first weekends not on a Formula 1 grid as full-time drivers for the first time in more than a decade this weekend as the 2017 season commenced at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Rosberg made a visit to preseason testing in Barcelona a few weeks ago for his first appearance as spectator since winning the World Championship. But he watched from home this weekend with his family and posted a few thoughts during both qualifying and the race:

We’re now quite familiar with Rosberg’s home TV set and coffee table. This is the first time Rosberg has been out of an F1 race since 2005, the year he won the first GP2 championship.

Button meanwhile paid a visit to California for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana… once he got off his couch. He checked in with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson at Fontana.

Do you guys know if there's anything good to watch on tele this weekend? @storm_and_rogue_pomskies

A post shared by Jenson Button (@jensonbutton_22) on

Given McLaren Honda’s struggles, Button is probably smart to have got out when he did. He’d been on the grid since 2000, save for a couple races out in 2005 when BAR-Honda was barred from competing after being disqualified from the San Marino Grand Prix.

Meanwhile for Rosberg, he watched as Mercedes was unable to win the season opener for the first time since 2013.

DJR Team Penske wins three of four Supercars races at Melbourne

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DJR Team Penske has won its first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship races over the weekend during the Australian Grand Prix, with Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard taking the first three wins in the four-race, non-championship race weekend.

While Penske’s teams have long succeeded in North America and have had some international success, notably a Formula 1 win at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix with John Watson, success has thus far eluded them since arriving in Supercars two years ago as majority shareholders of Dick Johnson Racing.

McLaughlin had the honor of beating Coulthard to the first win in race one of the weekend, before Coulthard doubled up with wins in races two and three. The first two races were one-two finishes, though, and McLaughlin said he’d received a text from Roger Penske in the wake of the victory.

“I got a text from Roger straight away and they’re all pretty happy,” McLaughlin told Supercars.com.

“They’re thanking me but I should be thanking them for giving me the opportunity.”

The first race was marred by this incident between Nick Percat and Lee Holdsworth, Percat having lost his brakes entering Turn 1 and crashing into Holdsworth, who was an innocent bystander.

But once the race resumed, McLaughlin held off Coulthard for the victory.

Coulthard led from start-to-finish in race two after his second straight pole position. He did the same in race three, albeit not in a Penske 1-2 as Jamie Whincup came second for Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore. McLaughlin was third.

A left-front puncture stopped Coulthard making it three in a row in the fourth race, and with steering damage, McLaughlin was resigned to 17th. Chaz Mostert took the win his Supercheap Ford, ending his own winless spell that dated to August of 2015.

Also of note from the weekend, ex-IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro in her Team Harvey Norman Nissan Altima finished 13th in race one, her best finish yet in her first full season in the series.

The Supercars series is back in action at Symmons Plains Raceway on April 7-9.  Coulthard sits second in the series championship, 51 points back of Whincup’s teammate, Shane van Gisbergen.