NASCAR stars discuss impact of F1 growth on young American racers, series competition

NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
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NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick’s son, Keelan, is a rising go-kart star who dreams of reaching the major leagues to race his favorite star – reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen.

With Formula One recently announcing the addition of a third U.S. race next year, the global series’ spike in domestic popularity could mean more head-to-head competition with NASCAR, IndyCar and IMSA for race fans.

But Kevin Harvick (pictured above with Keelan) is much more worried about the F1 surge’s long-term ramifications on the pipeline of young American talent to the country’s major racing series.

“I live at the go-kart track and none of those kids want to race Indy cars; they all want to race F1 cars,” Harvick said Saturday at Richmond Raceway. “They all want to drive the Ferrari or the Red Bull. This is something that I’ve talked with (NASCAR chairman and CEO) Jim France and with people in our garage is how do we make sure that all those kids whose dreams don’t come true, how do we create them to be gentlemen racers and put them in sports car racing and attract the great ones over to NASCAR.

“A lot of those kids from the go-kart side of the world, there’s a lot of really good talented kids there and they wind up going down that open-wheel path and wind up in Europe. You have a lot of the people that can’t make it that far and we lose a lot of those gentlemen races that would really make our sports car stuff more solid because there’s a lot of people that spend a lot of money that get disenchanted with racing.

“In go-karts, the dream is not to race (in NASCAR), it’s not to race in IndyCar.”

Harvick said he has tried to steer rising prospects Brent Crews and Connor Zilisch (who both are under management with Kevin Harvick Inc.) away from potential European opportunities and toward stock cars.

Harvick is trying to do the same with Keelan, who races in various national karting series (often under the tutelage of his father, the 2014 Cup Series champion and 58-time winner in NASCAR’s premier series).

But his son, who turns 10 in July, is an avid F1 viewer who watches every race and chatters constantly with his peers about racing in Europe and rising through the ranks in the footsteps of Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc — even though “there are thousands of them across the world and there’s only 20 cars (in F1),” Kevin Harvick said. “The dream of it actually happening is slim to none.

“It’s just that everything that they do it tells them that that’s where they need to be. That’s what they see, There’s really nobody that tells them that their dream will most likely never will be reality, it’s, ‘OK and come over and race our F3 car.’ ”

Harvick, though, is realistic about the chances of Keelan Harvick finding his way to an F1 driver academy like Verstappen and Leclerc.

“He’s got no chance of going F1 racing,” Kevin Harvick said. “We try to make him think he’s got a chance to go F1 racing so he will try to overachieve in go-kart racing. It’s reverse psychology up until the point he realizes.”

F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia
Max Verstappen (right) and Charles Leclerc have won the first two races of the 2022 season in Formula One, which has caught the eye of young American racers (Eric Alonso/Getty Images).

The Harvicks might be attending an F1 race for the first time in the near future, and they’ll have many options. The inaugural Miami Grand Prix will be held next month, joining the Circuit of the Americas race in Austin, Texas, that has been on the F1 schedule since 2012.

Las Vegas and F1 announced last Wednesday that Sin City will become a third U.S. stop next year.

The new races directly are correlated to the success of the “Drive to Survive” show that recently launched its fourth season on Netflix (Harvick said he’s watched every episode). But it also has prompted questions about whether F1 is oversaturating the American market (which had no races from 1992-99 and 2008-11).

Chase Elliott is an avowed fan of F1 and “Drive to Survive” who spent a 2017 NASCAR off weekend attending the Spa race in Belgium with Ryan Blaney.

The 2020 series champion won’t be attending the Las Vegas race (which likely will happen after the NASCAR season concludes) but is planning to watch on TV with curiosity about whether F1 continues to grow after selling out Austin in consecutive years.

“I’m a big believer in less is more,” Elliott said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why (F1 is) successful. It’s a whole different ballgame worldwide. Coming to a certain area one time a year, I think it gets people really excited for that because they can’t see it again until the next calendar year. So I’m curious to see how that works out for them (with three U.S. races).

FORMULA ONE FANS: Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin ponder F1’s rise in U.S. popularity

“I’m super intrigued by it. Respect all those drivers and teams a lot. I think they’re really good at what they do. I’ve enjoyed being a fan. I think you have to respect each discipline because it takes a different approach to be successful in each of them. I think a guy who is at the top of his game in each category of motorsports is very good at whatever he does, but it’s just a different approach than what I think we do here.

“It’s still very entertaining. I think they have a good product. Obviously, they’ve gained a lot of traction here in the States over the last few years, which is cool. Maybe over time the folks that have grown to respect that type of motorsport racing will navigate our way and respect what we do because there’s a lot of really talented teams and drivers here, too, that deserve recognition as well.”

Blaney, who is considering attending the Vegas race next year, doesn’t view F1 as a threat to NASCAR but as a professional example for worldwide racing expansion.

“I love F1,” the Team Penske driver said after qualifying on the pole position at Richmond. “I think if you ask anybody in motorsports, you’re just fans of other forms of motorsport. You’re fascinated by what’s different and what’s the same. How they operate compared to us.

“I got the chance to go to an F1 race in Spa a few years ago and it was really, really cool just to see their world. There are a lot of similarities of how it operates, but a lot of different things, so I think it’s great. It’s cool that they’re coming to two brand new tracks in the U.S. from Miami and then Vegas, so I think it’s great and it’s definitely not a competition. It’s not going to hurt our sport any. I think it helps motorsports all around,”

While he sees no competition for NASCAR, Harvick wonders about what it could mean for IndyCar, which bears more in common with F1 being a traditionally single-seater, open-cockpit series.

In an Autoweek story last week, 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi said F1’s U.S. expansion was “something that (IndyCar) need to be aware of and concerned about to a certain degree.”

Harvick said he tried to broach the subject with IndyCar officials.

“IndyCar in general I think there’s a huge competition there as far as those guys go,” Harvick said. “I raised the same awareness to them, and they just blew me off. Never even had a conversation about it.”

Though the NTT IndyCar Series schedule has yet to be confirmed for next year, the 2022 schedule will end Sept. 11 at Laguna Seca, making it unlikely it’ll conflict with the F1 races in Austin (which usually is held in the fall) and Las Vegas (scheduled for November 2023).

Dustin Long contributed reporting on this story from Richmond Raceway

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III