Horner: The right time for Vettel to leave Red Bull

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ABU DHABI – Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes that now is the right time for four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to leave the team, having announced his move to Ferrari for 2015 on Thursday.

Vettel confirmed at the Japanese Grand Prix back in October that he would be activating a performance-related clause in his Red Bull contract to leave at the end of the 2014 season.

At the time, Horner tipped him to move to Ferrari for 2015, with a three-year deal being announced on Thursday along with Fernando Alonso’s exit.

Vettel has been the man behind much of Red Bull’s success over the past four years, winning over 30 races and claiming four world titles to establish himself as one of F1’s all-time greats. However, Horner believes that now is the right time for him to move on to a new project.

“Obviously we’ve had a wonderful relationship with Sebastian,” Horner said. “He’s been with the Red Bull family since he was 12 years of age. He’s grown through the junior programme, through the junior categories, into his opportunity in Formula 1 with Toro Rosso, winning a grand prix in Toro Rosso and then coming to Red Bull Racing.

“Four world championships and 38 grand prix victories later I think we can look back with a huge amount of pride. We’ve grown together. He came to the team, which was still a young team at the time, and together we’ve grown into a race-winning and championship-winning combination. But as in life all things move on and evolve.

“Obviously this opportunity has come up for Seb, he’s felt it’s the right time for him and I think probably in reality it’s the right time for the team too.

“Whilst we’ll be very sorry to him go and close his career with Red Bull on Sunday evening, we’ll wish him the very best of luck and he’ll be a good friend of the team for life and as of the first of January he’s a competitor.

“Obviously more than that, I think it’s not just the experiences you share on track, we’ve got some wonderful memories from this circuit, it’s outside the cockpit and as not much more than a boy when he arrived, he now leaves us a young man, as a father and he can be incredibly proud of what he’s achieved and I think he’s been a tremendous ambassador for the sport and we’ll certainly miss him.”

Vettel’s exit marks the end of an era for Red Bull as its championship-winning team breaks up, but it is a process that many teams are currently going through. With Ferrari, the German will be at the forefront of a new regime at Maranello, and the prospect of following in Michael Schumacher’s footsteps by taking the Italian marque to the top of the sport is one that he will not want to mis out on.

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)