United States GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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AUSTIN – Lewis Hamilton’s march to the 2014 Formula 1 drivers’ championship continued at the Circuit of The Americas today as he managed to catch and pass title rival Nico Rosberg to clinch his third victory in the United States.

Yet again, Rosberg was made to look decidedly average by his teammate. The German driver simply had no answer for Hamilton’s pace, failing to hold a candle to him once he had been overtaken on lap 25 of the race. The margin at the line may only have been four seconds, but the impact of this victory is far, far greater.

This was perhaps the best of the three United States Grands Prix that have been held at the Circuit of The Americas (in terms of on-track action, that is). Not only did we have a close and well-fought fight for the race win, but throughout the field there were a number of great battles. Although the grid was two teams light, Austin still threw up a fantastic grand prix weekend that saw the tide take yet another turn in the favor of Lewis Hamilton.

RACE REPORT

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Five stars for Lewis in the Lone Star State

With five wins on the bounce, Lewis Hamilton has entered unchartered territory. Only six other drivers have won five in a row before, and only two – Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher – have won more than 10 across the course of a season. Quite simply, Lewis is making history.

Once again in Austin, he proved his champion credentials, overhauling Rosberg after lagging behind at the start as the medium tire came towards him. Ultimately, Rosberg was rather forgettable today. He kept Hamilton is sight, but lacked that extra gusto that the Briton has in abundance. Nico is yet to come from behind to win a race against Lewis this year.

The falsity of double points is clear

Without the utterly ridiculous double points race in Abu Dhabi at the end of the year, Hamilton would be poised to sew up the drivers’ championship in Brazil next weekend. He leads by 24 points, and would ordinarily need to carry a lead of 25 into the final race of the year to be champion.

Of course, now that figure is 50, even if he wins in Brazil and Rosberg retires, he could still end up losing the title. Nico’s only hope is that Lewis hits reliability problems late in the season – he’s got little else going for him at the moment.

Ricciardo continues to show Seb up

Another great display from Daniel Ricciardo in Austin today. The Australian driver rallied from a poor start to pass Kevin Magnussen, Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa en route to his eighth podium finish of the season. It was another vintage display of great racecraft from Ricciardo, who is showing experience far beyond his three years in the sport.

As for Vettel? On paper, it seems that he did a good job, jumping from the pit lane at the start to P7 at the flag and overtaking seven cars in the final four laps. However, the German driver was still in a miserable mood after the race, complaining that he was too slow in the first stint and that his late overtaking spree was “fake”. The agitation at Red Bull is perhaps beginning to show as their glorious marriage enters its final three races in 2014.

Where is Kimi?

That was the question Lotus asked last year, and it’s very true once again in 2014. Kimi Raikkonen was nowhere today for Ferrari, finishing 13th out of 15 finishers behind both Lotus drivers and a Toro Rosso. The Ferrari F14 T may not be a good car, but still – his performance was simply terrible.

Fernando Alonso kept the Maranello flag flying, albeit barely in sixth place, but he rejected the idea of it being a “disaster” in the post-race media session. Instead, he was very unflustered about it – sixth was all they could do, so fair enough. The team will hope for better in Brazil next weekend, although any hopes of catching Williams are all but over.

Thank you, COTA

Ahead of the race start, I took some time to venture out into the general admission areas and meet some of the fans who had come to this weekend’s race in Austin. As I wrote in my three features earlier this week, the American market is being cracked with this race, and the wonderful turnout proved it. The sport is being embraced in the United States, and the wonderful facility that is the Circuit of The Americas put on a show once again. So thank you, COTA, for rocking it once again this weekend.

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That’s all from the paddock in Austin. We’ll be bringing you more reports and features as the fallout continues over the next few days, and the Paddock Notebook will return for the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”