Photo courtesy of Carlos Sainz Jr. twitter page

F1: Carlos Sainz Jr. to replace Alonso at McLaren

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WOKING, England (AP) Carlos Sainz Jr. will leave Renault to drive for McLaren in Formula 1 next year as a replacement for Fernando Alonso.

McLaren said it signed the 23-year-old Spaniard to a “multi-year” deal without giving further details.

“I’ve been a McLaren fan for as long as I can remember. It’s a great name in the sport with an incredible heritage,” Sainz Jr. said. “The list of drivers that have raced for McLaren over the years are among the heroes of Formula 1. Fernando is of course one of them, so it’s particularly special that I’ll be taking his seat.”

Alonso, a two-time F1 champion, said Tuesday he was leaving F1 at the end of the season after 32 wins, 22 pole positions and finishing F1 runner-up three times.

There is speculation that McLaren will enter the Verizon IndyCar Series with Alonso as one of its drivers. Alonso ran the Indianapolis 500 last year and was in position to win the race until his engine failed. Alonso also ran the Rolex 24 at Daytona as a warm-up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, in which Alonso was part of the winning team.

Sainz Jr. is the son of two-time world rally champion Carlos Sainz. He will likely race alongside Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne, although McLaren has yet to confirm its driver lineup.

McLaren chief executive officer Zak Brown has high hopes for Sainz Jr.

“We’ve been assessing him for some time now and rate him very highly among the next generation of young talent,” Brown said.

There has been a flurry of recent activity in F1, with Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo leaving Red Bull to join Renault next year.

Ricciardo was widely expected to sign a new contract with Red Bull and his move to Renault – where he will drive alongside Nico Hulkenberg – effectively pushed Sainz Jr. out of the French team.

It also led to speculation Sainz Jr., who came through the ranks with Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s feeder team, could swap in for Ricciardo.

Instead, the vacant Red Bull seat could be taken by promising French driver Pierre Gasly, who has impressed for Toro Rosso this season.

Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

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Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister