Out of the blue, Vettel’s Red Bull departure has an enormous knock-on effect

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Formula 1 has been turned upside-down overnight following the announcement that four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel will be leaving Red Bull, apparently bound for Ferrari in 2015.

It’s the only team he has ever known and the brand that has defined his success in motorsport. He’s spent more of his life with Red Bull than without it. This is, quite simply, one of the biggest driver moves in the history of the sport.

And the knock-on effects cannot be underestimated.

Let us start with Vettel himself. This could turn out to be the move that defines his racing career, just as Michael Schumacher’s decision to leave Benetton for Ferrari in 1996 did. Ultimately, he has seen a need to leave the nest and spread his wings – clearly, he feels that the time is right to walk away as the ‘dream team’ that made Red Bull a tour de force falls apart.

The German driver has clearly been thinking about this decision for some time, but the final call came in the past few days. In fact, Sebastian only told Red Bull he wanted to leave last night, having even agreed to a new merchandise deal on Thursday. Clearly, the team had a contingency plan in place though, with Daniil Kvyat swiftly being announced as his replacement.

For Kvyat, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. He has always been highly rated by Red Bull, so much so that he was given the nod ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa and Carlos Sainz Jr. for the seat at Toro Rosso in 2014. His debut season has been an impressive one, even if it hasn’t yielded a huge amour of points, but at the age of 20, he will become a Red Bull driver after just 19 grands prix. It’s a promotion that is even quicker than Vettel’s own from Toro Rosso after 25 races with the B-team.

At Toro Rosso, the first thought for many was that this news handed Jean-Eric Vergne a reprieve. He was due to be ousted from the team to make way for Max Verstappen in 2015, but with Kvyat on his way, does this leave room for the Frenchman?

Realistically, no, it does not. Just as Kvyat stole the seat from da Costa and Sainz, Verstappen took the place everyone had set for Sainz. The Spaniard is set to win the Formula Renault 3.5 title later this month, and should replace Kvyat at Toro Rosso. Just when his F1 career looked dead in the water, it has life again – although it is worth keeping an eye on da Costa and British driver Alex Lynn as other possible options for Toro Rosso.

In a matter of days, the speculation about Fernando Alonso’s future has become fact. He is set to leave Ferrari after five years of unfulfilled potential. It was meant to be the marriage that took both parties back to the top of F1 – instead, he’ll be leaving through the back door as Vettel arrives with all of the fanfare.

Strangely, Kimi Raikkonen’s position at Maranello has never been stronger. The Finn’s passion and ability was questioned earlier this year, but he has found his form in recent weeks. The arrival of Vettel will only help his cause, given that, to quote the German himself, he is the closest thing he has to a friend in F1.

So where does this leave Alonso? Apparently, McLaren or bust. With this announcement from Vettel, his bargaining power has significantly weakened. He has nowhere else to go. The rapid rate at which his relationship with Ferrari has soured has forced Vettel into action: he smelled a seat was going, and has grabbed it. The departure of Luca di Montezemolo as the marque’s president was the domino that set this chain of events off.

However, Honda will already be writing the check to get Alonso on board  at McLaren for 2015. This leaves both Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button fighting for their place at the team, and, quite possibly, their F1 careers.

It really depends on what McLaren wants for 2015. Would it rather keep on Button, an experienced and proven driver but with retirement on the horizon, or Magnussen, who is less experienced but hasn’t yet had a chance to prove himself? If K-Mag were to be jilted, it would be a harsh call, comparable to Sergio Perez’s departure from the team at the end of last season. Either way, both will be on red alert for a seat for 2015, although an early retirement might be more viable for Button if the team decides to stick with Magnussen.

Vettel’s decision even has implications further down the grid. On Thursday, I wrote how Alonso’s imminent departure could hand Ferrari junior driver Jules Bianchi the chance of a lifetime. However, with Seb coming in, the Frenchman will be forced to wait his turn – most probably until Kimi decides to retire, which could come at the end of next season. Other drivers with designs on the Ferrari seat – Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean, to name but two – will also be left hanging.

Where does Red Bull go from here though? Just as Ferrari will begin a new era in 2015, so will the defending world champions. The team will enter next season as ‘underdogs’ in a funny sort of way, given the inexperience of its driver line-up. Daniel Ricciardo has been in sensational form this year, but he will now have to lead the team in the post-Vettel era. Immense pressure, but an immense opportunity, also.

F1 entered a new dawn in 2014 with the new regulations, but a whole new era led by Vettel, Alonso and Ricciardo – not to mention the two Mercedes drivers – will begin in 2015.

What a time to be watching Formula 1. This crazy, crazy sport can even surprise itself from time to time.

So why not consider another couple of curveballs? Final word to NBCSN’s Will Buxton on this one.

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)