Midfield seizes its chance in Spanish GP from fourth on back

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The retirements of Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen from Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix opened the door for nearly all of Formula 1’s midfield to break into the points. Most teams seriously nailed their opportunity.

At the front of the field, Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) had their own scrap, and were ultimately separate by just 3.4 seconds at the checkered flag. In third, Daniel Ricciardo picked up the final podium position for Red Bull, albeit more than one minute behind.

But from fourth on back, the midfield teams starred as five of the seven remaining teams made the top 10 and scored points, in Force India, Renault, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Haas.  Force India and Toro Rosso were the only teams today that got both cars in the points.

McLaren didn’t get either of its cars in the points, although Fernando Alonso had what was, from his standpoint, his best race of the season and finishing in 12th. Williams’ Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, meanwhile, had a miserable day, ending 13th and 16th.

The enthusiasm for Force India might be stunted as the team was called to the stewards post-race for a possible compliance issue with the new regulations regarding the new bigger numbers that were implemented this weekend.

Alas, it’ll be easier to have nearly each driver from fourth on back on the road recap their days, as most spoke to NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race.

4th, Sergio Perez, Force India (15th straight points finish)

“It has been a fantastic weekend for me. It hasn’t been easy. We brought some parts at the beginning of the weekend. (With) the setup of our car under those conditions, you never know what’s working and what’s not. We made sure we got safely through Turn 1, did an incredible couple of stints. Scoring 15 straight is incredible for the team.”

5th, Esteban Ocon, Force India (fifth straight points finish, best of career)

“This is what you work so hard for. I’m so happy with the result of the day. A fantastic weekend overall. We maximized the results all the time. The team is not doing anything wrong. It’s all great, and I’m so pleased with that.

“We are not the richest team on the grid but we keep up the progression. We’re always there, and we’re always going to be there.

“I think from last year, I was not expecting to be this fast at the beginning .We weren’t there in testing but we are improving all the time. We can be a real P4 in the championship easily.”

6th, Nico Hulkenberg, Renault (third straight points finish, best of season)

No quotes, but this tweet will work.

7th, Carlos Sainz Jr., Toro Rosso (equal best finish of season)

“It was good. It was a bit chaotic at the start as you saw. We gained a couple of positions. We were P9 and from there it was full on attack to try to recover. We got to P7 from P12 (on the grid), so it was good.

“As you saw, I was pushing the whole time. Pit lane, Turn 1, Turn 5 it was a great battle (with Kevin Magnussen). It was a very complete weekend; it was a lot of positives and a good P7 in the end.

“I think we saw today a race in Barcelona that people are not used to seeing in Barcelona. Usually you start and people disappear into the distance. We put on a good show. I looked at the crowd and they were pumped up. We had a good race.”

8th, Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber (best career finish; seventh on road with 5-second time penalty)

“I thought that’s the perfect strategy for today. We couldn’t two-stop. We committed to a one-stop, that was the only thing we could do… or it was no points we could get from this race. That was the risk, and it paid off.

“The first stint was really difficult. I did one stint on the soft tire. Same amount of laps. That was the most difficult part. Sainz put a lot of pressure, but I managed to put him behind me. With the five second penalty I lost that one, but I was ahead of the rest of them.

“I think I showed in Bahrain, I’m back. This race was better than any race this year. It’s nice to see my back is fine. I’m performing at a very high level. The health and fitness is back.

“It’s nice to me. It was hard to watch the other guy (Antonio Giovinazzi) driving and not be able to drive. The team suffered a lot, but I suffered even more.”

9th, Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso (went from last row of grid to ninth)

“This feels great. I’m proud of myself and my team. We pushed hard. We got it right today. I want to bring the qualifying from first three races back to me; that was my strong point. I did every lap like a qualifying one today. It was completely OK. I wasn’t struggling. I gave my all.”

10th, Romain Grosjean, Haas (inherited point after puncture cost teammate)

“All the guys spun in front of me and I lost a number of positions. We got straight into traffic. I was planning to go much longer, but we got the (virtual) safety car (virtual). The car wasn’t as good as I wanted on the medium. Hopefully we can get better.

“This is two races in a row I’m struggling with the car. I didn’t do any long run with the updates on Friday. We need to make it better for Monaco.”


12th, Fernando Alonso, McLaren (started seventh, first finish of the year)

“It has been a good weekend in general. A positive. At the moment we finished the race. Hopefully this is a first step forward on reliability. There was not the pace to be in the points

“At end of the day we had too much tire difference. For passing, I was with new softs, and Williams on old mediums.”

14th, Kevin Magnussen, Haas (spirited battle with Sainz; tire puncture after Kvyat contact)

“That one is annoying. We could have had points on both cars. There was some contact. I had a puncture from the contact. I gave it everything I had. If we had finished in the points it would have been a good finish, but we couldn’t do it.”

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

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.”