With his thunder stolen by Vettel, Alonso finds himself on the outside looking in


Fernando Alonso was the man with the key to the 2015 driver market. For over a year, speculation about his future and a possible return to McLaren had been rife, but always something of a joke to the Spaniard. He continually batted away rumors in press sessions, laughing off talk of him leaving Ferrari.

He won’t be laughing now though. In a shock announcement, Sebastian Vettel confirmed today that he will be leaving Red Bull at the end of the season after six years at Milton Keynes. He seems to be bound for Ferrari, replacing Alonso, with Red Bull team boss Christian Horner going on record to say: “He’ll be a Ferrari driver, absolutely”.

Seb has stolen Fernando’s thunder, and the Spaniard’s position is far weaker than it was when he and Ferrari reportedly mutually terminated their contract on Thursday.

Alonso has been caught out by the speed at which this has all happened. After the meeting on Thursday, he looked to have the entire F1 grid bar Mercedes to choose from, with McLaren being the most obvious option. Honda will return to the sport in 2015 as McLaren’s power unit supplier, and was willing to pay whatever it took to get Alonso on board – even if it meant writing off his Ferrari contract as well as putting a huge salary on the table.

We all thought that it was a case of McLaren luring Alonso away from Maranello. Now, he appears to have nowhere else to go – and it’s all Sebastian Vettel’s fault.

This is a story that has caught like wildfire over the past few days. On Thursday, Alonso and Ferrari agreed to part company, albeit lacking an official announcement. Vettel reportedly agreed a new merchandise deal with Red Bull on the same day, only to then inform the team in a meeting on Friday night that he wants to exercise the get-out clause in his contract.

Vettel’s lack of success in 2014 has been the trigger for his departure. His deal stated that if he ranked outside the top three in the drivers’ championship on September 30th, he was free to leave.

According to reports, Vettel broke down in tears when he met Christian Horner on Friday night to inform him of his decision. However, Red Bull did not waste any time – the team had a plan in place, as proven by the decision to reveal Vettel’s move just hours after finding out itself, and confirming that Daniil Kvyat will be his replacement for 2015.

The theory before was that if Vettel were to move to Ferrari, Alonso would move in the opposite direction to Red Bull. By promoting Kvyat, this door was shut swiftly.

Fernando himself reckons it was never a viable option: “Red Bull was never a priority, so it’s not a big worry at the moment. As I said, I know what I want to do, and hopefully I will tell you soon.”

It may have never been a priority, but did give him some bargaining power with McLaren. The possibility of him going elsewhere existed: now, it does not. McLaren won’t be afraid of him bluffing about a move to Lotus or, as Felipe Massa joked, Caterham or Marusssia.

In reality, it’s unlikely Honda will change its stance. Alonso will still get a deal thought to near the $50m per year mark – astronomical figures are being banded about, such is his stock. However, the ink is not yet dry on any deal according to the team’s CEO Ron Dennis, meaning that nothing is certain by any means.

At Ferrari, Alonso has gone from hero to outsider in a matter of weeks. Many argued that he wielded too much power at Maranello, but now he has nothing. Marco Mattiacci and Sergio Marchionne are ready to bring in a new era, with Vettel leading the team’s charge. Even Kimi Raikkonen, who has been subject to so much criticism this season, is looking strong once again.

Alonso may claim that he has a wealth of options, but in reality, there are two: McLaren or a sabbatical. And the latter is one he will want to avoid, given that the whole reason for leaving Ferrari is so that he can win a third world title.

What a day for Formula 1. The sport has not been rocked by a driver announcement like this since Michael Schumacher’s move from Benetton to Ferrari back in 1996.

And we all know how that went.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)