Driver shortlist for 2015 Toro Rosso seat confirmed

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Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has confirmed that four drivers are in the running for the second seat at the team in 2015.

17-year-old Max Verstappen is set to become the youngest ever driver to start a grand prix in 2015 when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso, and he was due to partner current driver Daniil Kvyat.

However, following Sebastian Vettel’s shock decision to quit Red Bull at the end of 2015, Kvyat was confirmed as his replacement last weekend, continuing the team’s policy of promoting young drivers from its B team.

This has left Toro Rosso considering its options for 2015 once again, and although Formula Renault 3.5 championship leader Carlos Sainz Jr. seems to be the obvious choice, Tost has said that there are other options being considered.

“There are also other drivers [besides Sainz],” Tost said. “We have Jean-Eric Vergne, which is an experienced driver, we have Carlos Sainz Jr which is currently leading the 3.5 litre Renault championship, then we have Pierre Gasly, we have [Alex] Lynn.

“Fortunately Red Bull has a lot of very fast, high skilled drivers in the driver pool and within the next weeks, Red Bull will decide who will get this seat.”

The inclusion of Jean-Eric Vergne may come as a surprise to many, given that he has enjoyed two years at the team already. Kvyat’s promotion appears to have given him something of a reprieve, but it still seems unlikely that he will be kept on given that Red Bull has passed over him twice now. Christian Horner, team principal at Red Bull Racing, has also suggested that Vergne is not a candidate for the seat.

Sainz’s case is perhaps the strongest, given his form in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship this season. He is set to win the title in Jerez later this month, and has also been linked with a seat at Caterham towards the end of 2014.

Unlike Sainz, Pierre Gasly does not stand much of a chance of securing the seat despite a very impressive debut season in the Formula Renault 3.5 series this year. The French youngster has enjoyed an impressive junior career, and although he is definitely a driver that should grace F1 in the next few years, it may be a bit too early for him in 2015.

Alex Lynn would be the ‘curveball’ choice for Red Bull. The British driver is on course to win the GP3 championship – just as Kvyat did in 2013 – and could be the man to deny Sainz his F1 debut. If he doesn’t get the nod, a move up the ladder to GP2 would be logical for next season.

It is clear why Red Bull’s junior programme is the envy of the entire paddock, given the wealth of options available, but we should know who is moving up to F1 in 2015 in the next few weeks.

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

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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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)