Haas F1 prepares for final run of flyaway races with updates

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For Haas F1 Team, with low expectations and the challenge of flyaway races at the start of the season, the bar was exceeded with the team’s miraculous start. Romain Grosjean’s sixth place in the team’s debut at Melbourne, followed by fifth in Bahrain and eighth in Russia has netted Haas 22 of its 28 points.

But in the European season, Grosjean has only scored once, and the entire team’s been 11th way too much for their liking. Grosjean was 11th last time out in Monza and teammate Esteban Gutierrez has seemingly been perpetually 11th; the young Mexican has four 11th-place results this season, just shy of a World Championship point.

Team principal Guenther Steiner said the team will miss the convenience of its on-site unit but also is ready to tackle the remainder of the calendar, which is all flyaway races. After Singapore, races in Malaysia, Japan, the U.S., Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi follow to wrap up the team’s inaugural season.

“It’s nice to have your own equipment with you,” Steiner said in the team’s pre-race advance. “You know where you are going and don’t have to change every weekend, but then again, it’s just part of our job to always deal with what we are given. All of the supplies we take to flyaways we ship in sea containers, so it’s all of our stuff. It’s just in a different building and it needs to be set up. Our trucks and hospitality unit will be serviced and repaired and they’ll come back out in the springtime.”

Some updates are coming to the Haas VF-16 chassis for Singapore – the team’s last ones for 2016 – and Steiner is hopeful the tweaks will see the team back in the points, ending its recent run of 11th-place finishes.

“I think we’re at a good point in finding solutions and finding the balance of the car,” Steiner said. “We are bringing updates to the car in Singapore which, hopefully, will help us go faster. The midfield is so close and we are just at the end of it. I think it’s all about execution. Just a little bit more and we will get in the points.

“I would say we are the sixth- or seventh-best team. I think we opened up a gap to the people behind us in the competition speed-wise, but Force India and Williams are still going strong in front of us and we are battling with McLaren, so it’s just a very tight midfield.

“Front wing, modifications to the floor and the brake ducts. We’re aiming to reduce corner sensitivity so the car is more consistent, and enhance aerodynamic performance and overall efficiency.

“We finished developing this year’s car completely more than two months ago. These changes came from wind tunnel data and it took a little bit of time to develop the parts. We took our time so we are better prepared for next year. This is the last update for the 2016 car.”

Steiner said ending the run of 11th place results would be a massive step forward for the team. Haas currently sits eighth in the Constructor’s Championship, 17 points behind Scuderia Toro Rosso and 20 behind McLaren, with those two teams potential targets the rest of the year.

“The frustrating thing is finishing 11th five times. You’re almost there, but you’re not there,” he said.

“Eleventh is the first spot out of the points. Again, frustrating, but you know you are not far off and you are doing well. The 11th position has been earned by merit. We didn’t luck into it five times. We qualified once in the top-10 and made it to Q3 in Italy, so I think we are encouraged, but still disappointed that we don’t have more points.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
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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)