Cyril Despres. Getty Images

Dakar 2017: Halfway report, Stage 6 cancellation videos

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The second half of the 2017 Dakar Rally kicks off today with the seventh stage of competition, from La Paz to Uyuni. Stage six, scheduled for Saturday, was cancelled due to miserable weather.

Videos from NBCSN’s coverage from the weekend are linked in this post. The next Dakar Rally show is Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In the 12-stage rally, the contenders for the win are starting to become clearer. How those listed below rise or fall over the next few days of competition will determine if they bring home a win.

CARS

Defending Dakar champion Stephane Peterhansel looks to extend his record run of double-digit Dakar wins, but will have to fend off two of his Peugeot teammates to do so. Sebastien Loeb, meanwhile, is poised to capture his first overall Dakar win and will look to overcome an achievable gap of just over one minute. Nani Roma (Toyota) boasts the best chance of those not driving a Peugeot trying to win.

Of note, Orlando Terranova ranks seventh in the MINI originally scheduled for American Bryce Menzies. Giniel De Villiers is eighth in another Toyota, and Romain Dumas sits 10th in a Peugeot.

Stephane Peterhansel during stage five of the 2017 Dakar Rally between Tupiza and Oruro on January 6, 2017 at an unspecified location in Bolivia. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

1. 300-Stephane Peterhansel, Peugeot, 14:02:58
2. 309-Sebastien Loeb, Peugeot, +1:09
3. 307-Cyril Despres, Peugeot, +4:54
4. 305-Nani Roma, Toyota, +5:35
5. 303-Mikko Hirvonen, MINI, +42.21

BIKES

The bike rally has almost been a process of elimination with Juan Pedrero, Joan Barreda, American Ricky Brabec and defending champion Toby Price all falling from contention and in Price’s case, dropping out entirely with a fractured left femur. Seeing the competitors rally to support Price as Price has offered updates on a quick recovery has been one of the Dakar’s highlights this year.

Among those who’ve rallied to Price is Sam Sunderland, the Englishman who’s currently the rally leader on bikes by 12 minutes over Pablo Quintanilla.

Of note, Brabec sits 21st in the rally, more than an hour behind. Barreda has fallen to 11th, and Pedrero down to 24th. Others who’ve factored in the early stages – Xavier de Soultrait (sixth), Paulo Goncalves (ninth) – are also out of the top five.

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – JANUARY 08: Sam Sunderland of Great Britain and KTM poses for a photograph during a rest day for the 2017 Dakar Rally on January 8, 2017 in La Paz, Bolivia. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

1. 14-Sam Sunderland, KTM, 15:22:05
2. 3-Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, +12:00
3. 6-Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, +16:07
4. 8-Gerard Farres Guell, KTM, +20:57
5. 16-Matthias Walkner, KTM, +29:01

QUADS

Simon Vitse leads what is at the moment a 1-4 sweep by Yamaha, with Daniel Mazzucco fifth in the first Can-Am at 47 minutes, 32 seconds in arrears.

1. 279-Simon Vitse, Yamaha, 19:32:22
2. 254-Sergey Karayakin, Yamaha, +8:14
3. 280-Axel Dutrie, Yamaha, +10:35

TRUCKS

Gerard De Rooy keeps one red, white and blue flag (Netherlands) ahead of a trio of drivers with another red, white and blue flag (Russia) in the truck category.

1. 500-Gerard De Rooy, Iveco, 14:06:07
2. 505-Eduard Nikolaev, Kamaz, +2:23
3. 513-Dmitri Sotnikov, Kamaz, +6:36

UTV

Leandro Torres leads this class by more than two hours.

1. 351-Leandro Torres, Polaris, 25:22:24
2. 342-Mao Ruijin, Polaris, +2:34:04
3. 374-Li Dongsheng, Polaris, +2:47:25

STAGE RECAPS

Stage six (cancelled due to weather)
Stage five (shortened due to weather)
Stage four and (VIDEOS)
Stage three and (VIDEOS)
Stage two and (VIDEOS)
Stage one and (VIDEOS)

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

Photo courtesy NHRA
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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.”