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Lucas di Grassi stays cool to win frantic Mexico City ePrix

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Lucas di Grassi delivered a lesson in composure to his Formula E championship rivals on Saturday by claiming an emphatic victory in the Mexico City ePrix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Starting third on the grid, di Grassi managed to pick off Renault e.dams’ Nicolas Prost for second place just before the car swaps, before then using his FanBoost to dispose of pole-sitter and early leader Jerome d’Ambrosio one lap after pitting.

Di Grassi was not able to shake off his rivals at first, with d’Ambrosio and Prost having been joined by championship leader Sebastien Buemi and Daniel Abt, but was given the break he needed when chaos ensued just behind.

Keen to not lose sight of his championship rival at the front, Buemi attempted a move on d’Ambrosio just one lap after di Grassi had passed, only to be blocked off. A frustrated Buemi tried again a few laps later, second guessing d’Ambrosio by trying to sell a dummy – only to make contact with the Belgian.

Both drivers continued without losing a position, leaving Buemi to have a third bite of the cherry with eight laps remaining. The Swiss driver slung his e.dams around the outside of d’Ambrosio at the first corner, cutting the chicane in the process and therefore being left to give the position back.

As Buemi slowed, the train of cars behind him bunched up, much to the frustration of d’Ambrosio who now found himself at risk of losing a place to Prost. Angered by Buemi’s antics, d’Ambrosio cut the final chicane to take back second place that he believed to rightly be his, restoring the status quo.

All of this gave di Grassi a healthy buffer at the front, culminating in his third Formula E victory and a return to the top of the championship standings.

D’Ambrosio edged out Buemi in a dash to the line for second place, much to the chagrin of the e.dams driver who was left to settle for P3. However, both drivers were called to see the stewards after the race, with no decision on their tangle being made at the time of writing.

Loic Duval benefitted from the late drama to finish fourth ahead of Prost, who dropped back after receiving a penalty for an unsafe release from the pits. Robin Frijns worked his way up to sixth for Andretti Autosport, while Sam Bird ended the race seventh for DS Virgin Racing.

A late spin dropped Abt down to eighth place come the checkered flag, while Nick Heidfeld and Stephane Sarrazin rounded out the points in P9 and P10 respectively.

The next Formula E race takes place in Long Beach, California on April 2.

NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations, including NHRA Summernationals, effective immediately

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If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”