Weekend wrapup: Somber days for F1; Logano keeps rolling in NASCAR Chase


The Japanese Grand Prix weekend saw four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel announce his departure from Red Bull, and Lewis Hamilton continue his momentum in this year’s championship with a win over Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg.

All of which has now been rendered inconsequential for sad reasons, as Marussia driver Jules Bianchi – who delivered a thrilling drive at Monaco this year to give his small team their inaugural World Championship points – is now fighting for his life.

One lap after Adrian Sutil had spun off and hit the tire barrier at Suzuka Circuit, Bianchi lost control of his car and hit the recovery vehicle that was trying to lift Sutil’s Sauber and bring it behind the guardrail.

Bianchi was taken via ground to the Mie General Hospital and underwent surgery for a severe head injury per the FIA. Meanwhile, podium celebrations for Hamilton, Rosberg, and third-place finisher Vettel were subdued.

“Everything that happened with the racing on track is secondary today,” Vettel said following the race.

Two days later, the racing world is still waiting for some piece of good news on Bianchi’s condition (Marussia has asked for patience on that subject). But for the Frenchman’s on-track peers, they’ll eventually have to put the situation aside – not forget – and get back to work. The Russian Grand Prix at Sochi is less than four days away.

F1 took another blow as well besides Bianchi’s horrible wreck. Andrea de Cesaris, who started 208 Grand Prix over 14 seasons and raced for teams such as McLaren, Jordan, and Tyrrell, died in a motorbike crash on Sunday in Italy.

#ForzaJules. Rest in peace, Andrea. Our thoughts and prayers are with both of their families.

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On the other side of the world, NASCAR had a tough act to follow in Kansas City.

The week had started with a win for the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. Then one day later, the Royals rallied to win the American League Wild Card and went on to a 2-0 lead in the AL Division Series by the time the Sprint Cup Series was set to stage its Contender Round opener at Kansas Speedway (hours after the checkered flag, the Royals would finish off the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS with a Game 3 win).

But NASCAR’s Chase delivered a compelling race that featured big trouble for several big names such as defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Brad Keselowski.

Surviving it all was Keselowski’s Team Penske amigo, Joey Logano, who held off yet another valiant effort from gonna-be-a-spoiler Kyle Larson to earn his second win in the Chase  – and more importantly, a ticket to the Eliminator Round.

Logano was cognizant of the trouble that his championship rivals were having on Sunday, but he said that didn’t stop him from going for victory even though he was already likely to be in a good points spot.

“When I see other Chase guys having troubles, that’s when you say, ‘Holy cow, this is really about a solid finish here today – you know how the race goes second, third, fourth, fifth-place finish would be great,'” he said. “It sets you up pretty good for getting to the next round. But you dangle a checkered flag in front of me, I’m going to go.

“We were able to have a fast enough car that I knew we could do it. I wasn’t going to put my car in a bad spot but I was going to be aggressive about it and try to put other people in a bad spot to make those passes. We were able to do that today.”

Meanwhile, next Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway now looms large for the aforementioned Dale Jr., Johnson and Keselowski, who face big points deficits behind the eighth-place Eliminator cutoff.

And Junior already has his mindset ready if this Twitter reply to NASCAR on NBC analysts Jeff Burton and Kyle Petty is an indication:

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16 years after taking the inaugural Petit le Mans himself, Wayne Taylor saw his sons, Jordan and Ricky, pick up a Petit victory of their own.

The Taylor brothers became the first American-born overall winners in the race’s history on Saturday night, co-driving the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP with Max Angelelli to an 11-second victory over Action Express Racing’s No. 5 Corvette DP after 10 hours around Road Atlanta.

AXR didn’t leave empty-handed though as their full-time duo in the No. 5, Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, clinched both the drivers’ and team championship during Saturday’s event.

They also earned a $100,000 bonus by capturing the team title in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s North American Endurance Cup, a “series within a series” comprised of four iconic events: The Rolex 24 at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, 6 Hours of Watkins Glen, and the Petit.

The Verizon IndyCar Series had several of its stars also on the Petit grid. That contingent was led by KV Racing Technology pilot Sebastien Bourdais, who contributed to AXR’s second-place finish with the No. 5 car.

MORE FROM PETIT: DeltaWing soars to best-ever result on home ground

Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor BitNile.com: “It is great for BitNile.com to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”