Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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So that’s that. Pre-season testing for the 2015 Formula 1 season is officially over. The next time we’ll see the cars out on track, it will be under sunny skies in practice for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 13.

How the winter has flown…

Valtteri Bottas was the man to claim the final bragging rights in testing, posting a fastest lap time of 1:23.063 to finish four-tenths of a second ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the top of the timesheets.

However, the smart money will remain on Mercedes in Melbourne. The German team opted to focus on its long run pace on Sunday as Nico Rosberg combatted the setup problems that had hindered him on Friday, meaning that he could only finish seventh at the flag.

For one last time in Barcelona, here’s the full round up in the Paddock Notebook.

SESSION REPORT

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Done and dusted

That’s it for winter testing in 2015. It seems crazy to think that as of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November, we have 100-and-odd days to go until the first race of the 2015 season. Now, we are just 14 days away from the lights out in Australia. It’s all very exciting. As testing wrapped up on Sunday, most of the teams opted to focus on their long run pace in an attempt to iron out all of the final issues before they head down under, and the pecking order appears to be shaping up.

Who’s where?

I’m going to stick my neck on the line here and try to predict some kind of pecking order. Mercedes is by and large the quickest team once again, enjoying one second-plus advantages. If you don’t think that it can repeat its domination from 2014, then think again. The W06 Hybrid is just as powerful as its predecessor, and it poised to give Mercedes yet another double title success. Williams appears to be second fastest, with Ferrari and Red Bull then just behind. Lotus is then a solid fifth, and you could argue that McLaren (when it works), Toro Rosso and Force India are anywhere in the following order. Sauber has improved, but still props up the order – until Manor Marussia turns up, that is.

Let’s not blame Pastor

When Pastor Maldonado crashed into the barrier at turn four on just his second lap of the afternoon, Twitter burst into a series of jokes and accusations. “Classic Pastor” et al. However, this one wasn’t his fault at all. A brake problem on the E23 Hybrid meant that he could not make the corner, resulting in the crash. It was an unfortunate end to what has been a very good winter for Lotus. Keep an eye on the team to make a strong comeback in 2015.

Nico and Lewis prepare for round two

With Mercedes enjoying another sizeable advantage in 2015, it seems as though the drivers’ title will prove to be the second round of Nico Rosberg versus Lewis Hamilton. If it lives up to the treat that we were offered in 2014, then that is no bad thing at all. Nico said today that although posting the fastest time of testing means nothing in the grand scheme of things, it is still a nice edge to take into the new season. When asked about it on Saturday, Lewis couldn’t care less. Let the games begin…

Coming your way in the next two weeks…

So you’ve survived the winter and now have just two weeks to go until the first race of the season. Eek! How can you get your F1 fix between now and then? NBC Sports has you covered. Following on from their adventures in 2014, we’re sending Will Buxton and Jason Swales back off for a second season of Off The Grid in 2015, starting with a digital-only special in Mexico at Force India’s new livery and sponsor launch. It will be available to watch online ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, but if you can’t wait that long, check out a teaser here.

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So that’s all for testing. Thank you as always for following our F1 coverage on MST, and be sure to join us in two weeks’ time for the first race of the year in Australia. It promises to be yet another thrilling season.

The road to the 2023 Daytona 500 is not paved for Travis Pastrana, he’ll attempt the DIRTcar Nationals

Pastrana DIRTcar Nationals
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.

In mid-January, it was announced Pastrana will attempt to qualify a third car from 23XI Racing that fields fulltime entries for Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Sponsorship will come from Black Rifle Coffee, who approached him during the offseason to ask what kind of “really cool stuff” he would like to do. Pastrana replied, “the Daytona 500” with a characteristic laugh in his voice.

“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”

But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.

After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.

Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”

The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.

And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.

While Pastrana is accustomed pitching his car sideways on a combination of left and right turns in a rally car – he won the Nitro Rallycross race at ERX Motorsports Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota last October and became the first two-time winner in the 2022/23 season at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona in November – the DIRTcar Nationals will be an entirely different proposition.

It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.

“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”

Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.

Travis Pastrana will race one of Steve Arpin’s dirt modifieds during Florida Speedweeks as he prepares for the 2023 Daytona 500. – Jacy Norgaard, World Racing Group

The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.

“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”

And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.

“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.