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Past Indy 500 top rookie Jim McElreath dies at 89

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The 1962 Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year, Jim McElreath, has died at age 89. The full release is from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and is linked below:

Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee Jim McElreath, the 1962 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and a veteran of 15 starts in the “500” between 1962 and 1980, passed away Thursday, May 18 in his hometown of Arlington, Texas. He was 89.

One of the last eight surviving drivers who could claim to have driven a front-engined car in the “500,” McElreath was 34 years old and had been racing on short tracks for 16 years when he burst on the scene at Indianapolis in 1962.

Driving a 6-year-old Kurtis-Kraft Offenhauser-powered “roadster,” once owned and driven by Ray Crawford, McElreath qualified seventh and went on to cause quite a stir by passing A.J. Foyt and Rodger Ward in the early stages to run second by Lap 20. He ended up finishing sixth, many observers suggesting he was hampered by pit stops that were performed less rapidly than those by the contestants ahead of him.

McElreath eventually scored a half-dozen finishes of sixth or higher in the “500,” topped by a third-place finish in 1966 behind Grand Prix drivers Graham Hill and Jim Clark. He finished fifth in 1967 and 1970, and sixth in 1962, 1963 and 1974.

McElreath won a total of five United States Auto Club National Championship races, most notably the inaugural Ontario (California) 500 in 1970 after a late-race, topsy-turvy duel with Art Pollard. He also won the Phoenix 150, which opened the 1966 season, after posting three wins in 1965, at Trenton, New Jersey in April and the first two races at the Langhorne, Pennsylvania, circuit after its dirt surface was paved over with asphalt.

A steady and reliable finisher, McElreath piled up enough points to rank second behind Mario Andretti in the 1966 USAC National Championship standings while also finishing third in 1963, 1965 and 1970. He started 167 National Championship events between 1961 and 1980 and finished in the top five 47 times.

In 1971, the first year in which dirt track races no longer counted towards the USAC National Championship and instead were moved to form a brand-new series, McElreath won the inaugural event, a 100-miler at Nazareth, Pennsylvania, when it was still a 1 1/8th-mile dirt track.

A pure racer who did much of his mechanical work on the dirt cars and sprint cars he drove, McElreath made history in 1977 by being joined by his son James to become the first father and son ever to attempt to qualify for the same Indianapolis 500. Jimmy, as he preferred to be called, succeeded, but the spirited last-minute, four-lap qualifying run by young James came up just a little short.

Sadly, young James lost his life in a sprint car accident before the season could be completed, perishing in early October at Winchester, Indiana.

Two great racing families came together when Jimmy and Shirley McElreath’s daughter, also Shirley, married Tony Bettenhausen, son of the late two-time National Champion and younger brother of Gary and Merle. Jimmy even named Tony as his chief mechanic in 1979, just as Tony was about to embark upon his Indianapolis 500 driving career.

But further tragedy struck the families Feb. 14, 2000 – several years after Tony had retired as a driver to become a noted team owner – when Tony and Shirley were among those lost when their private aircraft went down near Leesburg, Kentucky.

McElreath is survived by his wife, Shirley; daughter, Vicky Thornton; granddaughters Bryn and Taryn Bettenhausen; and great granddaughter, Kendyl Bettenhausen. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to Speedway Children’s Charities Texas in honor of McElreath. Checks can be sent to Speedway Children’s Charities Texas, 3545 Lone Star Circle, Fort Worth, TX 76177.

F1: Recapping the past week’s news

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Grosjean Three Penalty Points Away from a One-Race Ban

Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean could face a one-race ban if he accrues three more penalty points, per Formula1.com.

Grosjean, who had seven penalty points to his name entering last week’s Grand Prix of Singapore was assessed two more for ignoring blue flags in last week’s race.

Grosjean was in the midst of a battle with Sergey Sirotkin as race leaders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen approached. FIA rules dictate that when a driver is given a blue flag, he or she must move over and let the faster car(s) through, irrespective of any in-race battle they may be involved in.

However, Grosjean continued to push Sirotkin as they battled for position, and did not immediately yield to Hamilton, which allowed Verstappen to close in.

Hamilton and Verstappen both eventually got by, though Hamilton was particularly alarmed by the incident.

“These guys were moving around … and they wouldn’t let me by,” he said in the aforementioned Formula1.com story. “It was definitely close and my heart was in my mouth for a minute.”

Grosjean did issue an apology afterward, and offered his side of the story.

“I’m sorry if I blocked anyone, it was not my intention,” Grosjean said. “I believe I did my best. I was fighting with Sergey, who was doing a little bit of go-kart racing out there. I couldn’t really slow down. Pierre [Gasly] was on my gearbox and Sergey was on my front wing. I passed him, then as soon as I passed him, I let Lewis by.”

Any driver who accumulates 12 penalty points in a span of 12 months is automatically handed a one-race ban. For Grosjean, his current tally began on October 29, 2017, meaning if he receives three more between now and October 29, 2018, he will be forced to sit out one race.

F1 Signs Sponsorship For In-Play Betting

Per BBC Sport, Liberty Media, which owns Formula 1, has signed a sponsorship rights agreement with Interregional Sports Group to develop and manage in-race betting platforms for grands prix.

The sponsorship, worth a reported $100 million U.S. dollars, would help generate “new ways to engage with the sport,” said managing director Sean Bratches in the BBC Sport story.

Liberty and F1 officials would also work with Sportradar, which collects and analyzes sports data, to track betting and ensure no fraudulent activities take place.

Arrivabene Takes Responsibility for Ferrari Missteps

Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene has said he accepts full responsibility for the miscues Ferrari has made during the 2018 Formula 1 season.

“The only mistake you see in front of you is me. I’m responsible for the team,” Arrivabene said in a piece posted on Crash.net.

He added, “When the result is not coming, it’s my responsibility. Not the responsibility of Sebastian (Vettel) or the engineer or the responsibility of the mechanics. It’s my responsibility.”

The statement, made on the Friday press conference prior to the Singapore Grand Prix, is especially poignant in the wake of a somewhat clumsy Italian Grand Prix. The team faced criticism after Kimi Raikkonen scored the pole, ahead of the championship-contending Vettel.

Vettel, too, has not been infallible. Most notably, he had contact with Valtteri Bottas on the opening lap of the French Grand Prix, spinning Bottas and damaging Vettel’s front wing – Vettel eventually finished fifth – and he crashed while leading the German Grand Prix. These incidents are among multiple black marks that have blighted Vettel’s championship challenge.

However, despite the errors, Vettel remains unshaken ahead of the final six races of 2018.

“We don’t have to fear any track that is coming, our car is working well in every track, so there’s nothing to fear until the end of the season. Russia should suit our car, it’s getting better for us every year,” Vettel said in a separate Crash.net piece.

He added, “There are still a lot of races to go and points to score. I never believed we have the faster car by a large margin like people said, but I know we have a very good car.”

Currently, Vettel trails Hamilton by 40 points in the driver’s championship, while Ferrari trails Mercedes by 37 points in the constructor’s championship.

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