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Sochi Autodrom names grandstand after Vitaly Petrov

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The Sochi Autodrom has named its Turn 2 grandstand after Russia’s first Formula 1 driver, Vitaly Petrov, ahead of this year’s grand prix.

Petrov made his F1 debut in 2010 with Renault before scoring his first podium finish at the Australian Grand Prix in 2011, with the team rebranded as Lotus.

Petrov joined Caterham for 2012 but failed to score any points, and was dropped by the team for 2013 when it opted to sign Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde.

The Russian then moved into DTM and has since found a home in sportscars, racing for SMP Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship last year.

Petrov has now been honored by the Sochi circuit, which is set to host its fourth F1 race on April 30, with the Turn 2 grandstand set to bear his name.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the organizers of the 2017 Formula 1 VTB Russian Grand Prix for the honor and respect shown to me. This is a really significant event in my life!” Petrov said.

“I’m sure that the grandstand named after me will always be packed, because it is located in one of the most exciting places of the track, where at the end of a straight the cars accelerate to 339 km/h, and all 20 drivers attack each other at the entry of the second right-hand corner.

“Throughout the race, we will also see some amazing overtakes! Once again, thank you to all my fans, as well as Formula 1 fans.”

Petrov is the second driver to have a grandstand named after him in Sochi, the first being Daniil Kvyat, who was the first Russian F1 racer to compete on home soil at the 2014 event.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?