The power of 3: Ricciardo finishes third in USGP, where “3” means more

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AUSTIN – The number 3 holds great significance in the U.S. motor racing scene, and today was no different in the 2014 edition of the United States Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo – who has long been a fan of Dale Earnhardt, then interacted with Dale’s son and NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. throughout the year – took on the number 3 at the start of the year when driver number choices were introduced.

MORE: Watch a full replay of the U.S. Grand Prix

Then he delivered as good a result as was possible for the Red Bull-Renault on a day when the factory Mercedes and pair of Williams-Mercedes cars were the ones to beat: a third place, in car number 3, to end a three-race podium drought.

“Yeah, the 3, it is special, it is cool,” Ricciardo said post-race. “I’m such a fan of motorsports; NASCAR I’ve followed since I was very young. Watching Dale. It was my first go-kart number as well. So it was a no-brainer for me to choose the 3.

“To come here, what better way than to have the style of Dale on my helmet. Dale Jr.’s seen that, and we’ve spoken via social media a little bit. So it’s really nice he’s supportive, and cool to see it represented in Formula One.”

So how did Ricciardo make it into podium position, considering he started fifth and then had an admittedly miserable start?

Two quick overtakes, first on Kevin Magnussen on the opening lap before a safety car period and then another on Fernando Alonso after the restart, helped clear the way for him to get back to fifth and behind the Williams pair.

From there, strategy was the deciding factor in getting ahead of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.

“I feel (the start) was my fault. I didn’t get the procedure right,” Ricciardo said.

“We had good pace. Williams were strong. I think we used good strategy to get ahead of them basically, and that paid off. We dropped a few places on the start, then got Magnussen into 12 and Alonso on the restart. I couldn’t hang with Williams at first but the longer the stint was the better we went. Mercedes was a bit out of reach, so third was the best we could do.”

That’s a true statement – Ricciardo was the only non-Mercedes powered driver within 95 seconds at the checkered flag. Fernando Alonso in sixth was 95.231 seconds in arrears of race winner Lewis Hamilton.

Third is also where Ricciardo will finish in this year’s driver’s championship, barring an unlikely turn of results for Bottas. Ricciardo has a 59-point gap to Bottas (214-155), while being 78 points back of second-placed Nico Rosberg.

Others have finished on the podium in the U.S. with car number 3 in the past, although that was frequently down to the team’s traditional numbers or the team’s previous year finish in the Constructor’s Championship.

Although mathematically eligible for the championship heading into today’s USGP, Ricciardo has now been officially eliminated from that.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.