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Massa, Button likely to have final F1 runs at COTA this weekend

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This weekend’s United States Grand Prix (Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC) may have special meaning for drivers Felipe Massa and Jenson Button.

Massa has already announced that this will be his last drive in the USGP as he’ll retire from F1 at year’s end, while it could well be Button’s last race in the fifth USGP at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

“Of all the newer tracks COTA is the one I enjoy the most,” Massa said in the team’s advance release. “It’s a really nice track to drive because you have everything; high speed corners, low speed corners and the long straight, which is good for overtaking.

“I also really enjoy Austin itself. It’s a very nice city with good restaurants and an amazing atmosphere during the race weekend. I’ve managed to get good results there in the past so hopefully I can enjoy a great race this year.”

Massa has twice finished fourth at COTA (in the inaugural race in 2012 and again in 2014), once apiece with Ferrari and now Williams Martini Racing. He finished 12th in 2013 and was a career-worse 17th in the 2015 race there; failing to finish last year in the rain.

Massa is currently 10th in the 2016 F1 season standings.

As for Button, while he hasn’t formally announced this will be his last time at COTA, it could well be. Stoffel Vandoorne is set to replace him at McLaren next year. Button stays on as McLaren reserve driver for 2017.

“I’m looking forward to heading back to Austin,” Button said. “I’ve been spending more and more time in the States recently and Austin is a city with passionate fans that really love their racing.

“The atmosphere downtown is really relaxed and we usually take the opportunity to sample the famous Texan cuisine in one or two of the restaurants over the course of the weekend. I’ve always liked racing at this circuit and we managed to put up a good fight last year despite not having the best outright pace, so I’m hoping for more of the same and a bit of a boost after the disappointment of our result in Japan.”

Button is coming off an 18th place finish at Suzuka, in what was a tough race weekend for McLaren. He’s also finished 18th or lower in four of his last seven events, leaving him 15th in the F1 standings coming into this weekend.

In the first four F1 races there for McLaren, Button has finished fifth (2012), sixth (2015), 10th (2013) and 12th (2014).

“COTA is one of the few anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar, and has a bit of everything: fast corners, slow corners and heavy braking zones, so you need a car with good balance, which tends to be one of the strengths of our car,” Button said.

“There’s lots of fast, sweeping corners in the first sector, the long straight in the second sector, and then the infield section in the final sector which is tight and twisty with long apexes and high g-forces.

“You really need to prepare the car for everything. For a driver it’s great fun and I hope we enjoy a better result there than in Suzuka.”

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Morris Nunn, former IndyCar and F1 engineer, team owner dies at 79

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Morris Nunn, a former Formula 1 team owner and a prominent fixture in the American Open Wheel Racing scene through the 1990s and the early 2000s, died at 79 on Wednesday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Nunn’s career in racing spans both sides of the Atlantic. He started in the 1960s as a driver before shifting his attention toward the mechanical side of the sport. He then founded a Formula 1 effort, dubbed Ensign Racing, which competed in over 100 F1 races between 1973 and 1982 – the team had a best result of fourth.

However, Nunn may be best known in the U.S. for his exploits in American Open Wheel Racing. He crossed the pond after closing the Ensign outfit in 1982, and was a part of the Patrick Racing team that won the 1989 Indianapolis 500 with Emerson Fittipaldi.

He moved to Chip Ganassi Racing in the 1990s, where he perhaps achieved the bulk of his success. He worked with Alex Zanardi as both his crew chief and engineer during Zanardi’s tenure from 1996 to 1998, and the combination saw Zanardi take Rookie of the Year Honors in ’96, followed by a pair of championships in ’97 and ’98 in the old CART series.

31 May 1997: Alex Zanardi (left) of Italy talks to Mo Nunn , engineer for the Target Ganassi Racing Team, at The Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Nunn also won the 1999 championship with then CART rookie Juan Pablo Montoya.

In 2000, he formed his own team, Mo Nunn Racing, with driver Tony Kanaan – Bryan Herta also contested a trio of events for Nunn that year after Kanaan suffered an injury – and the outfit grew to two cars in 2001, with Zanardi competing alongside Kanaan.

Nunn also ventured into the series that is now called the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2002, fielding an entry for Felipe Giaffone. They went on to win one race that year (Kentucky Speedway) and Nunn’s outfit won another in 2003, with Alex Barron at Michigan International Speedway.

Nunn was a popular and highly regarded figure in the paddock, and a number of people in the racing world took to social media to offer condolences and tributes.

IndyCar on NBC’s Robin Miller offered this detailed look at Nunn’s life in the sport on RACER.com, covering the origins of his career and the impact he had on such drivers as Zanardi and Montoya.

Nunn was 79 years of age at the time of his passing.

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