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Offseason recap: Verizon IndyCar Series

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Everyone likes to say the offseason feels shorter than it actually is, and the winter of 2016 was a case study in that for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Few seasons in recent history have seen as much movement among drivers and teams from the top of the grid all the way to the bottom, although a lot of it happened in the early stages of the offseason.

Ahead of the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, here’s a look at what happened in this whirlwind of an offseason.

  • October 5: Josef Newgarden joins Team Penske, replacing Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya will pilot a fifth entry for Team Penske at the Indianapolis 500 (announced on October 31).
  • October 7: Chip Ganassi Racing announces it will run Honda engines and aero kits after running Chevrolet engines and aero kits since 2014 (the aero kit was introduced in 2015).
  • October 11: Tony Kanaan re-signs with Chip Ganassi Racing.
  • October 12: Dale Coyne Racing signs Sebastien Bourdais to replace the outgoing Conor Daly. They also beef up their engineering staff, adding Craig Hampson as Bourdais’ engineer.
  • October 13: Larry Foyt announces that A.J. Foyt Racing will become a Chevrolet team in 2017. (The announcement is made official in January of 2017).
  • November 4: JR Hildebrand fills the seat Newgarden vacated at Ed Carpenter Racing after racing a part-time entry for the team since 2014. Spencer Pigot returns as his teammate for the road/street races, formally announced in January, and may pilot a third entry at the Indy 500. Ed Carpenter returns to run the oval races.
  • November 14: Dale Coyne Racing completes its driver lineup before Thanksgiving arrive. The team signs 2016 Indy Lights champion Ed Jones to partner Bourdais.
  • November 15: A.J. Foyt Racing completes a massive overhaul. Gone are incumbent drivers Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth and in are young guns Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly. Will Phillips, George Klotz, and Daniele Cucchiarroni highlight the team’s structural overhaul as well.
  • December 2: Andretti Autosport formally signs Takuma Sato to replace the outgoing Carlos Munoz.
  • January 16: Rumors begin circulating that Mikhail Aleshin’s 2017 sponsorship is in jeopardy due to political conflicts with the United States and Russia.
  • January 21: Word arrives that KV Racing Technology is on the verge of closing, and won’t make the grid for 2017.
  • February 1: Aleshin’s sponsorship situation is seemingly sorted out and he formally rejoins Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. However, rumors persist that politics will impact his funding. In separate news, the team announces they will test test IMSA ace Luís Felipe “Pipo”Derani and former Auto GP champion Luis Michael Dörrbecker at Sebring in March.
  • February 2: Another of the one-off Indy 500 entries is announced. Sage Karam and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing confirm they will again partner for the 101st running of the Indy 500.
  • February 21: Unfortunately, KV Racing Technology shuttered its doors over the winter. However, their assets, including a pair of chassis, have been acquired by Mazda Road to Indy team owner Ricardo Juncos, whose teams have been a staple of the MRTI ladder for years. He is expected to field two cars at the Indy 500 and may run additional races this year.

Dakar Rally Stage 13: Carlos Sainz has second overall victory in sight

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Editor’s note: Check out expanded video highlights of Stage 13 Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Carlos Sainz is nearing his second Dakar Rally victory while Nasser Al-Attiyah strengthened his bid for second by winning Friday’s 13th stage of the endurance race.

Sainz finished sixth in his Team Peugeot ride and holds a lead of 46:18 over Al-Attiyah’s Toyota.

“I tried to play it safe, even if there were plenty of tricky parts,” said Sainz, who won the Dakar Rally in 2010 but had failed to finish the past five races because of mechanical problems. “Since the start, there has been a lot of drama in this race and it’s not over until we’ve crossed the finishing line. It’s not a crazy Dakar, but it’s very difficult. I hope everything will go OK (Saturday).”

Defending race winner Stephane Peterhansel is in fourth overall, trailing by 1:28:08 after crashing and finishing 20th in the penultimate stage. The Frenchman has a record 13 overall wins in the Dakar but is unlikely to earn another despite rebounding well from a crash in the seventh stage that had knocked him from the overall lead.

In other divisions, Eduard Nikolaev (trucks), Matthias Walkner (motorcycles), Ignacio Casale (Quads) and Reinaldo Varela (SxS UTV) are on the cusp of capturing overall wins entering the final stage.

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STAGE 13 RESULTS, CARS

  1. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, Toyota, 5:02:22
  2. Argentina’s Lucio ALvarez, Toyota, 5:13:38
  3. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, Toyota: 5:15:28
  4. Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, X-Raid, 5:17:29
  5. Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen, X-Raid, 5:21:46

OVERALL 

  1. Spain’s Carlos Sainz
  2. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, 46:18 behind
  3. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, 1:20:00 behind
  4. France’s Stephane Peterhansel, 1:28:08 behind
  5. Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, 2:46:32 behind

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TRUCKS

  1. Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev, Kamaz, 5:59:02
  2. Russia’s Airat Mardeev, 5:59:52
  3. Czech Republic’s Martin Kolomy, Tatra, 6:05:08
  4. Belarus’s Siarhei Vlazovich, 6:26:47
  5. Czech Republic’s Dmitry Sotnikov, 6:31:56

OVERALL 

  1. Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev
  2. Belarus’s Siarhei Vlazovich, 3:53:59 behind
  3. Russia’s Airat Mardeev, 5:21:05
  4. Czech Republic’s Martin Kolomy, 9:01:18
  5. Czech Republic’s Dmitry Sotnikov, 10:04:29

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MOTORCYCLES

  1. Australia’s Toby Price, KTM, 4:48:33
  2. Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, Honda, 4:50:36
  3. France’s Antoine Meo, KTM, 4:51:17
  4. Austria’s Matthias Walkner, KTM, 5:00:05
  5. Spain’s Juan Pedrero Garcia, 5:03:45

AMERICAN RIDERS

15th: Mark Samuels (Honda), 5:19:40

18th: Shane Esposito (KTM), 5:27:14

37th: Andrew Short (Husqvarna), 5:58:14

68th: Bill Conger (Husqvarna), 7:16:00

OVERALL 

  1. Austria’s Matthias Walkner
  2. Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, 22:31 behind
  3. Australia’s Toby Price, 27:45
  4. France’s Antoine Meo, 50:17
  5. Spain’s Gerard Farres, 1:01:19

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QUADS

  1. Argentina’s Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli, 5:55:16
  2. Paraguay’s Nelson Augusto Sanabria Galeano, 5:58:34
  3. Chile’s Ignacio Casale, 5:59:19
  4. Argentina’s Nicolas Cavigliasso, 6:02:22
  5. Brazil’s Marcelo Medeiros, 6:02:23

OVERALL

  1. Chile’s Ignacio Casale
  2. Argentina’s Nicolas Cavigliasso, 1:37:16 behind
  3. Argentina’s Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli, 2:05:12
  4. Brazil’s Marcelo Medeiros, 4:25:26
  5. Peru’s Alexis Hernandez, 4:34:37

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SxS UTV

  1. France’s Patricie Garrouste, Polaris, 6:29:40
  2. Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela, Can-Am, 6:39:39
  3. France’s Claude Fournier, Polaris, 7:33:17
  4. Spain’s Jose Pena Campos, Polaris, 7:41:200

OVERALL 

  1. Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela
  2. France’s Patricie Garroueste, 53:28 behind
  3. France’s Claude Fournier, 10:02:12
  4. Spain’s Jose Pena Campos, 10:06:01

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SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

Champions in all five classes will be crowned Saturday after the 14th and final stage concludes in Cordoba, Argentina.

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