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Ricciardo revels in double Red Bull Malaysia podium, defends Vettel move

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Daniel Ricciardo was pleased to play a part in Red Bull’s first double-podium finish of the 2017 Formula 1 season on Sunday in Malaysia, clinching third place after fending off Sebastian Vettel late on.

As Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen swept to the team’s second win of the season, Ricciardo enjoyed a rather lonely race before being hounded by Vettel with 10 laps to go, the Ferrari driver having started last.

Ricciardo was able to keep Vettel at bay with a hard-but-fair defensive move before pulling clear as his rival’s tires began to give way, causing him to drop back quickly.

“I saw Seb was coming, I closed the door a bit later towards the apex. I don’t know how it looked from the outside,” Ricciardo said.

“I don’t know if he was unhappy about it or whatever but it didn’t seem over aggressive from my side, it didn’t feel like I did a real late move or anything.

“From there I expected him to keep coming, keep coming and then I guess maybe kill the tires trying to chase me and then getting close to me.”

After starting the season well off the pace of the front-runners and lucking into a win in Baku, Ricciardo was glad to see Red Bull charge to its best result of the year in Malaysia.

“This double podium is a very positive result for us today,” Ricciardo said. “Obviously Max got the big one and drove well so congrats to him for the win, he drove strong all weekend.

“There were a few extra bits available for the cars here and I think we’re going to try that again in Suzuka. It looks positive for us at the high downforce circuits.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race IndyCar stars in iRacing at Michigan

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).