Italian GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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And so ends the European leg of the 2014 Formula 1 season. With just six races to go, the end is in sight for this year’s championship. How time flies when you’re having fun.

Today’s race at Monza was all about Lewis Hamilton. The British driver produced a drive fit for a champion, fighting back from a poor start to overhaul teammate Nico Rosberg when the German made a mistake at turn one.

From then on in, it was Hamilton’s game. His start aside – which was a technical issue, not driver error – it was a perfect performance from the British driver; a win he thoroughly deserved.

Although it may not have been a blockbuster grand prix, it was certainly an interesting one with lots of good on-track battles and stories.

Rounding off the Italian Grand Prix weekend, here is the final paddock notebook from Monza.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

The 2014 Italian Grand Prix could be described as something of an “anti-climax” by particularly cynical observers of Formula 1. After all of the hype and tension that was built up between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the lead-up to the race weekend, their on-track battle wasn’t a particularly feisty one.

In fact, the closest the two drivers came after the start was when Hamilton swept through the first chicane as Rosberg began to snake around the polystyrene boards in the run-off area.

Nevertheless, this has to go down as one of Hamilton’s best drives of the season, and perhaps a stand-out one in his career. After a poor start following a software glitch, he managed to fight back and claim a quite remarkable victory. Rosberg may have made a mistake (or two), but Lewis had to be in the right place at the right time. The mistakes would have gone unpunished if Nico had been another four seconds down the road.

The fact that both drivers kept it clean and enjoyed a hassle-free race will have brought a great deal of comfort to Mercedes. Interestingly, some suggested that Rosberg’s mistakes may have been deliberated, as forced by the team to make up for Hamilton’s loss at Spa. Maybe they were the same people who put up the “F1 is dead” banner at Monza on Friday (which, by the way, was removed).

Felipe Massa performed brilliantly to claim his first podium finish for Williams, but Valtteri Bottas was the star driver for the team. After a bad start, he fought his way through the pack to pick up fourth place, taking the team above Ferrari in the constructors’ championship. It was a day to forget for the Italian team on home soil, and it could well be that it does not manage to get back above Williams in the standings this year.

We also enjoyed a very spirited battle between Sergio Perez and Jenson Button, with the Mexican eventually prevailing. Both said after the race that they enjoyed the tussle – that is ‘real racing’. Great to see at a classic track like Monza.

Also impressive was Daniel Ricciardo’s fight through the field. He seemed a bit lost after qualifying, finishing ninth, but a long first stint allowed him to push in the second half of the race. Once again, he defeated Vettel in the same car at the same track…

Away from the track, the news about the draft calendar for the 2015 season was as expected, really. It’s good to see that Mexico and Austin will be back-to-back, giving fans in the area a choice of two grands prix. New Jersey’s omission is disappointing, but not all that surprising, it must be said.

That’s it for Monza, though. We’re back in two weeks’ time for the Singapore Grand Prix, which promises to be another thrilling event under the lights.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”