MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: United States GP

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Formula 1 arrives in Austin, Texas for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix knowing that we could see the coronation of a three-time world champion on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton has led the championship standings from the very beginning of the year in Australia, but will become the first British driver to successfully defend his F1 title if he can win at the Circuit of The Americas and other results go his way.

Hamilton arrives in Austin with an advantage of 66 points over Sebastian Vettel and 73 over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. Should he leave COTA with a buffer of 75, he will be world champion yet again.

Ahead of what promises to be one of the most entertaining and important weekend’s of the 2015 grand prix season, here are the latest picks from the MST F1 writers.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. It’s bound to happen, isn’t it? Lewis Hamilton has been at his brilliant best in 2015, and it would be all the more fitting for him to wrap up his third F1 world title in America, a country he has such strong bonds to. Him P1, Rosberg P2 and Vettel P3 will give him the title – a result other than that would come as a surprise.

Surprising FinishRomain Grosjean. RoGro enjoyed one of his finest ever races at COTA back in 2013 when he fended off Mark Webber for P2 in the final stages of the race. The Lotus E23 Hybrid should run quite well here, so I’ll tip Grosjean to pick up a good haul of points.

Most to ProveCOTA. With Mexico posing a threat by returning to the calendar, this weekend’s race is an important one to COTA. A champion being crowned will do little harm to its standing.

Additional Storyline to WatchTexan rain. It hasn’t rained in Austin since August, but this weekend is poised to be a washout. This should make for a fascinating grand prix should rain strike, just as we saw last time it did so at Silverstone. And of course, we must #BlameTony for the rain.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. The man more or less should apply for dual citizenship at this rate. Loves the country, loves the circuit and if he leads a Mercedes 1-2, he’ll clinch his third World Championship.

Surprising Finish: Felipe Nasr. This was a rare track Sauber had a good qualifying run last year, courtesy of Adrian Sutil, but a first-lap coming together with Sergio Perez cost a chance at points. Outside chance for a say eighth or ninth place finish on pure performance here, to follow on from a good race in Russia.

Most to Prove: Kimi Raikkonen. Needs a bounce back weekend and good points after his error in Sochi.

Additional Storyline to Watch: Rossi comes home. For only the third time in the last 25-odd years, an American driver gets to race in the USGP. Rock on, Alexander Rossi. May the ‘Merica be strong as a Bald Eagle pushes your No. 53 Herbie the Lovebug tribute number Manor Ferrari chassis to a better finish than would otherwise be anticipated.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari

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.”