MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 28:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, climbs into his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 28, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
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Jeff Gordon joins Wayne Taylor Racing for Rolex 24 at Daytona

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Wayne Taylor Racing has announced that four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will join its line-up for the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, racing in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.

Gordon retired from full-time competition at the end of 2015 season before making a series of stand-in appearances through 2016 for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The American will now return to Daytona for the Rolex 24 in January, racing alongside Max Angelelli and brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor.

Here is the release in full.

Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, who was part of the driver lineup when Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) competed in its very first race in 2007, returns to join full-time co-drivers of the all-new No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R Ricky and Jordan Taylor and veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli for next month’s 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 2017 season opener.

Gordon, who has 805 career Sprint Cup starts with 93 victories and championships in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001, retired from full-time competition in 2015. He co-drove to a solid podium finish in his only career sportscar event – the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona – alongside Angelelli, Jan Magnussen and team owner and three-time sportscar racing champion Wayne Taylor in the No. 10 WTR prototype.

“I really enjoyed racing in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2007 with Max, Wayne and Jan,” said Gordon, now an analyst during NASCAR on FOX broadcasts. “When I announced I would no longer be competing full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, my hope was that I would get an opportunity like this to compete again in such a prestigious event – with Konica Minolta and Wayne Taylor Racing – with the hopes of winning it this time. I know that Ricky and Jordan are super-fast, and I believe it will be a very strong combination.”

The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team has been a fixture on the Rolex 24 podium in recent years, finishing second in 2013, 2014 and this season and crossing the finish line third in 2015 before being penalized for a drive-time violation one week later. This year’s runner-up finish included Formula 1 veteran Rubens Barrichello in the driver lineup and the 2013 runner-up effort included then-reigning IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. Team owner Wayne Taylor, who co-drove in his final career Rolex 24 during the team’s runner-up finish in 2014, won the prestigious event alongside Angelelli and Frenchman Emmanuel Collard in 2005 en route to that season’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship.

“We are excited to have Jeff back in the lineup with us for the 2017 Rolex 24,” Taylor said. “He was with us when we started this race team back in 2007 and he helped us finish on the podium. We have kept in close touch ever since and have always been looking for another opportunity to have him join our driver lineup. That opportunity is finally here after his retirement from full-time competition in NASCAR and we are very much looking forward to working with him again.”

Ricky and Jordan Taylor, who each have 14 major North American sportscar victories, co-drove to three wins this season – at Long Beach, California, Detroit, and Austin, Texas. They finished third in the WeatherTech Championship standings with the final two events at Circuit of the Americas. In addition to their runner-up finish at the season-opening Rolex 24 this year, they added podium finishes at Bowmanville, Ontario and Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and Road Atlanta.

“Having Jeff Gordon join the team is really a dream come true for all of us,” said Ricky Taylor, who co-drove the No. 10 prototype full-time with Angelelli from 2010 through 2012 before joining his brother the past three seasons. “It is a huge compliment to how well-respected the team has become over the years for someone with the history and career of Jeff Gordon to want to be a part of it. For me, it will be surreal to drive alongside a legend and I can’t wait to hear all of the stories he has to share from his years of racing. I’m sure he will be a great addition to the lineup and hopefully we can all get our first Rolex 24 win together.”

“It’s really exciting to have Jeff Gordon coming on board with us for Daytona next year,” said Jordan Taylor, who co-drove the No. 10 prototype to the 2013 Rolex Series driver championship with Angelelli in 2013. “It used to be common to have NASCAR guys joining teams for the Rolex but, over recent years, it’s become less and less frequent. Jeff Gordon is a name that everyone knows worldwide. He is one of the biggest names in motorsports. He drove with my dad and Max at the Rolex back in 2007, so it’ll be cool to have a 10-year reunion with him and the team. Sportscar racing offers a unique perspective for drivers, where we have to share the same car. I can’t wait to compare notes and feedback with such a legend of our sport. It’s going to be an experience of a lifetime.”

Angelelli, one of the winningest drivers in sportscar racing history with 27 career victories and 72 podiums, was particularly ecstatic to co-drive once again with Gordon.

“I think it is exceptional to have Jeff back with us after 10 years,” said Angelelli, who in 2014 stepped out of his full-time driving role with WTR, the organization in which he has been a partner with Wayne Taylor since 2007. “In a way, I’m such a fan of his, but I look forward to sharing our new Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R racecar with him, discussing our setup and race strategy. It was great the first time – we might have won that race if some things would have gone our way. Now that it’s happening again, with the new car, it’s going to be absolutely great.”

The 55th Rolex 24 is set for Jan. 28 to 29, 2017, with the annual three days of Roar Before the 24 testing set for three weeks prior.

Vettel, Raikkonen complete hot laps in Ferrari F1 cars at Daytona

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Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed their final Formula 1 run-outs of 2016 on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, taking part in a special demonstration for the Ferrari Finali Mondiali.

The Finali Mondiali acts as the world final for the continental Ferrari Challenge series, bringing together competitors from the North America, Europe and Asia Pacific championships.

As part of the weekend’s running, Vettel and Raikkonen were on hand to complete demonstration laps behind the wheel of recent Ferrari F1 cars, with Vettel also completing some donuts in front of the main granstand at Daytona.

Here are some of the videos and pictures from the event.

Sebastian Vettel dismisses suggestion he could replace Rosberg at Mercedes

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP is congratulated by Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari on the podium during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Sebastian Vettel has brushed off suggestions that he could take Nico Rosberg’s vacant Formula 1 seat at Mercedes next year, saying his focus lies on working with Ferrari to improve on their 2016 season.

Rosberg sensationally announced on Friday that he would be retiring from F1 with immediate effect, just five days after winning his maiden World Championship.

Rosberg’s move has sent the driver market into a late flux, with Mercedes’ Niki Lauda claiming that half of the F1 grid has been in touch regarding the seat despite many of them having contracts.

Vettel has been named as a possible candidate for Rosberg’s seat despite having one year remaining on his Ferrari deal, but when speaking at the Finali Mondiali at Daytona International Speedway, the German stressed he is focused on his current commitments at Maranello.

“I think it’s no secret the fact that me and Kimi Raikkonen have a contract for next season,” Vettel is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Kimi and I are already committed. In 2017 we will be competitive.

“We have not reached the goal this year, but now it will be important to do the job at the factory in the next two months.

“I am confident that we will definitely present an improved package.”

Vettel signed off with a message to Rosberg, wishing the retiring champion “happy holidays!”

Vettel finished 2016 fourth in the drivers’ championship without a win to his name as Ferrari struggled to keep up with Mercedes and Red Bull in the pecking order.

Mercedes is set to begin its search for a replacement on Monday, with the other big-name driver besides Vettel linked to the seat being McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.

Should Mercedes want to promote one of its junior drivers, Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon are both also available, although neither has more than a season of F1 experience.

Hamilton not chasing number one status at Mercedes after Rosberg exit

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 25: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks in the Paddock during practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 25, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton says he is not chasing number one driver status at Mercedes as the team begins its search for a replacement for Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg edged out Hamilton for the F1 drivers’ championship in Abu Dhabi last Sunday before sensationally announcing his immediate retirement from the sport five days later.

Mercedes has said it will take its time when looking for a replacement for Rosberg, with the majority of the F1 grid tied up contractually for 2017.

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have both been linked with the Mercedes drive in the wake of Rosberg’s departure, leading to questions about whether Hamilton would want another big-name star alongside him.

Mercedes has always stressed that it does not have a number one driver, and Hamilton said that he would not insist on that changing when his new teammate arrives.

“I’ve never been a driver to ever request that,” Hamilton said when asked about number one status.

“I know a lot of the other drivers Sebastian, Fernando make sure that’s in their contract.

“I’ve just always asked to have equal rights. As long as we’re treated fairly, it doesn’t really matter who’s alongside you.

“But of course, we’ve got great team bosses, who I’m sure will choose the right people to be representing the brand.”

Whoever replaces Rosberg will become Hamilton’s fifth teammate in F1, the Briton having previously worked with Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen and Jenson Button during his time at McLaren before joining Mercedes in 2013.

Rosberg: Hamilton’s late-season form ‘the best Lewis I’ve ever seen’

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo neads Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track  during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg believes that Lewis Hamilton produced some of the best performances of his career towards the end of the 2016 Formula 1 season when the Briton had nothing to lose in the championship fight.

Rosberg clinched his maiden F1 drivers’ championship by five points in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, defeating Hamilton for the first time during their time as teammates.

Rosberg closed out the season with four straight second place finishes, with Hamilton’s run of victories in the same period not being enough to catch up in the standings.

Speaking in a video produced by Mercedes after his championship win, Rosberg said that he felt the most pressure after his final win of the season in Japan, the result that meant he could wrap up the title without taking another victory.

“The changing moment was Suzuka for me, when all of a sudden I had the 33-point lead and that meant it was in my hands, and it’s mine to lose, because it was enough to do second-second-second and third,” Rosberg said.

“That’s when really the pressure started for me because it became real, the chance to win the championship and to beat Lewis. It was real.”

Rosberg was only assured of the title when he crossed the finish line in Abu Dhabi, with Hamilton going deliberately slow in a bid to back the German into the chasing pack.

“Abu Dhabi was intense. It was the most intense experience I’ve ever had in a race car,” Rosberg said.

“Even qualifying, the laps in qualifying, not easy really. And for sure it has an impact on your performance. It’s not possible that you do the same performance as if you’re in Lewis’ position where he has nothing to lose.”

Rosberg believes that the lack of pressure brought the very best out of Hamilton, as he closed out the campaign with four consecutive victories from pole position.

“That’s why he got the pole positions and why I was second in the last couple of races because he’s free, has no weight and nothing to lose,” Rosberg said.

“It was the best Lewis I’ve ever seen, the last few races, because not only was he completely free, but also the most determined and motivated ever, working as hard as ever.

“[It was] massively difficult to beat him in those circumstances.”

Rosberg announced on Friday that he would be retiring from racing with immediate effect, meaning we have likely seen the last of his rivalry with Hamilton in F1.