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Jeff Gordon, “Pat” Patrick, Howard Hughes among Motorsports Hall of Fame inductees

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The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America unveiled its 2018 class on Friday at Daytona International Speedway. Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series champion, and U.E. “Pat” Patrick, a championship-winning IndyCar team owner, are perhaps the most prominent names of that group, though they are joined by five other motorsports figures who are all legends in their own right. The full list is below:

John Buttera – Nicknamed “Lil John,” Buttera was a championship-winning car builder in drag racing who worked alongside such names as Danny Ongais, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Tom “Mongoose” McEwen, and Don Schumacher. Buttera is also a member of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2010.

Carl G. Fisher – Fisher is best known as the man who originally designed and built the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Prior to building the famed Speedway, Fisher was also a competitor in his own right and helped increase the popularity of the automobile, which was still a novelty at the turn of the century, by participating in a series of exhibitions at several fairground tracks across the Midwest.

Howard Hughes – The founder of Hughes Aircraft, Howard Hughes set several aviation records and built some of the most advanced airplanes of his time, including the Hughes H-1 Racer, H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose” and XF-11. He was previously inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973.

Fred Merkel – One of the most successful American motorcycle racers of all-time, “Flying Fred” is a three-time AMA Superbike Champion and two-time FIM Superbike World Champion. He also has a win at the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race on his resume. His 20 AMA victories were a record that stood until 1998, and he was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 2001.

Bob Tullius – A sports car racer who began his career the 1960s, Tullius set the template for modern amateur sports car teams, being the first to combine manufacturer support, title sponsorship, high-level preparation, and branding to his programs. Tullius is a two-time Trans-Am and four-time SCCA national champion, whose Group 44 team amassed more than 300 victories in club racing, Trans-Am, and IMSA GTP competition and captured 14 national titles and three Trans-Am championships.

U.E. “Pat” Patrick – “Pat” Patrick began his career by sponsoring a race team in 1967, became a partner in a team in 1970, and owned his own race team in 1973. Patrick went on to become one of the most successful IndyCar owners of all time, with his teams scoring three Indianapolis 500 victories and two IndyCar championships. Patrick was also among the group of car owners who established the CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) sanctioning body. He was inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2016.

Jeff Gordon – A four-time NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series champion, Gordon was one of NASCAR’s biggest stars. He ranks third all-time in wins (93) and fourth all-time in championships. He has also won the Daytona 500 three times, the Brickyard 400 five times, and the Southern 500 six times, and currently holds the record for most consecutive starts (797).

The variety of backgrounds represented in the new inductees was emphasized by MSHFA President Ron Watson at the announcement.

“Our inductee classes are always intriguing but this year is even more so,” said Watson. “Howard Hughes and Jeff Gordon in the same class – that is probably the best example we’ve ever had to illustrate the breadth of our inductee roll.”

The induction ceremony, traditionally held in July, will take place in March this year.

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F1 Preview: 2018 German Grand Prix

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The German Grand Prix continues its biennial presence on the Formula 1 calendar – it’s hosted F1 events in even numbered years since 2014 – as Formula 1 returns to the Hockenheimring this weekend.

The German fans will undoubtedly be joyful in Sebastian Vettel entering his home race in the championship lead, by nine points over Lewis Hamilton. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, Vettel despite being one of the most successful and decorated drivers of his generation, Vettel has won in Germany only once (2013, at the Nurburgring) and he has never won at Hockenheim.

Conversely, Hamilton has won in Germany three times, including twice at Hockenheim (2008 and 2016).

As such, Vettel will hope to add to his points lead over Hamilton with a win on home soil, though Hamilton may be equally as motivated after watching Vettel his own home race at Silverstone two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, their 2018 championship duel will most certainly continue to be closely fought.

Talking points ahead of the German Grand Prix are below.

A Different World in 2018 vs. 2016

Nico Rosberg during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany. Photo: Getty Images

The Formula 1 landscape looked completely different back in 2016, the last time Formula 1 visited the Hockenheimring. Bernie Ecclestone was still the chief executive of Formula 1.

Nico Rosberg was partnering Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes team, and was on his way to a driver’s championship that year.

Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen were in the midst of a slump as Ferrari went winless in 2016.

The world was still getting to know a then 18-year-old Max Verstappen, the young Dutchman having won the Spanish Grand Prix in May that year.

And the cars looked completely different, with skinnier and taller rear wings and taller rear tires highlighting the appearance differences.

In 2018, Vettel and Ferrari might be the strongest combination. Rosberg is long from Mercedes, and Valtteri Bottas is doing his best to shine in the wake of Hamilton’s enormous shadow.

Verstappen is still a rising star, though he has come under fire at times for overly aggressive driving and his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo has garnered more headlines this year, with a pair of race wins alongside his status as an F1 free agent after 2018.

In short, the Formula 1 landscape is hardly recognizable from what it was back in 2016. And even though Hamilton won that year, followed by Ricciardo and Verstappen in second and third, very little will carry over from that race two years ago.

Hamilton, Mercedes Look to Take Back Momentum from Vettel, Ferrari

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 leads Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 8, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

The seesaw championship fight has tilted back in the favor of Ferrari, with Vettel leading Hamilton after finishes of third and first in Austria and England. Hamilton, meanwhile, DNF’ed in Austria and came home second in England after spinning on Lap 1.

Hamilton trails by nine points, but this is hardly an unfamiliar position for Hamilton in 2018 – he started the year trailing Vettel until he took the championship lead for the first time after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Both teams have had multiple swings of momentum this year – Vettel won the opening two races before finishes of eighth in China (he spun after contact with Verstappen) and a pair of fourth place efforts in Azerbaijan and Spain before getting two more wins in Canada and England.

Hamilton, meanwhile stumbled out of the gates somewhat with finishes of second and third before taking a fortuitous win in Azerbaijan and two dominant wins in Spain and France before the misfortune in Austria.

All told the ebb and flow of the 2018 season seems to change with every race, and while Vettel now leads Hamilton again, things could change this weekend.

Raikkonen Trying to Fend off Ricciardo, Bottas

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 6, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Kimi Raikkonen is somewhat of a forgotten man this Formula 1 season, but he does rank third in the championship at the moment, 10 points ahead of Ricciardo and 12 points ahead of Bottas.

However, both Ricciardo and Bottas are likely thought to have had better seasons – Ricciardo has the aforementioned wins (at China and Monaco) and the only thing that has kept Bottas from the top step of the podium is a string of horrendous luck.

However, Raikkonen, to his credit, has picked up the pieces whenever others around him have faltered, and he has six podium finishes through 10 races.

However, in order to fully silence any critics, and maybe even keep his Ferrari drive, Raikkonen would do well to get a win in 2018.

Misc.

  • The driver challenging Raikkonen’s position within Ferrari is Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari junior driver has five points finishes, and that could have been six if not for a pit stop error at Silverstone that caused him to leave his pit stall with a loose wheel – it forced him to retire. Leclerc’s star is on the rise, and he could shine again in Germany.
  • Nico Hulkenberg is the “other” German driver on the grid. And though he has a 24 Hours of Le Mans win to his name, he is yet to finish on the podium in an F1 race. The Renault package may not be a podium threat in usual circumstances, but if he stays clean and others falter, he could sneak in there…and doing so in his home race would make that overdue podium even sweeter.
  • After a pair of eighth place finishes, Fernando Alonso has helped McLaren at least stop the bleeding after a dismal stretch of races from Monaco through France in which the team scored zero points. However, the team still has a long way to go, and Germany could be another weekend of struggles.

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