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Gene Haas: Door open to have F1 drivers try out NASCAR

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Could the drivers for Gene Haas’ Formula One team dip their toes into the waters of NASCAR?

At the NASCAR Media Tour Thursday, Haas said he’d be “happy to accommodate” such an occurrence for Haas F1 Team drivers Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean.

The co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing will oversee the F1 team’s first season of competition this year, 14 years after he broke into NASCAR as a team owner. Haas said he was present when Grosjean sat in the cockpit of Kurt Busch‘s No. 41 car.

“He actually fits right into the 41 car, so I think he would very interested in doing that and we actually made it if we could accommodate him, we would put him in a Cup car to try it out,” Haas said. “I think any race car driver wants to see what another sport is like and see how he would do.”

Haas said he thinks that Gutierrez, a native of Mexico, and Grosjean, a native of Switzerland, are impressed by NASCAR.

“Formula One, obviously, is a different world as far as what the cars are, the rules packages and everything,” Haas said. “When the Formula One guys come over and drive these cars they realize these are not easy cars to drive, they’re big, heavy bricks. It takes a lot more talent to noodle one of these around the track than it does say a Formula One car, which is much more precise and accurate.”

Haas went on to say if an opportunity arose, they’d be happy to give either driver a seat in Sprint Cup’s two road-course races at Watkins Glen International or Sonoma Raceway.

Co-owner and driver Tony Stewart, who is a former IndyCar driver, then chimed in on the topic.

“I think if we’re going to do that, I think it’s only fair that we get to drive the F1 car,” Stewart said. “We are under the same umbrella here.”

“Definitely, a trade system here,” said Kurt Busch, who gave open-wheel racing a try with the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

The worlds of NASCAR and Formula One have crossed before. Stewart himself swapped rides with Lewis Hamilton at Watkins Glen International in 2011.

In 2003, Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya swapped cars and took laps around the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Three years later, Montoya made the jump to racing in NASCAR, competing in five races.

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.