Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Letter from XSL Speed Reporter

Dear Readers:

I am very sorry for the limited activity on this website. I have been planning what would be the next step for the website. Currently, redesigning the now of the site as well as the focus for content is being considered. I promise there will be future updates.

Thank you very much for visiting. I like forward to entertaining and informing you in 2012.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lotus Renault GP Signs 2007 F1 Champ Kimi Raikkonen

Photo Credit: Lotus Renault GP

Ahead of the final grand prix for the 2011 Formula 1 tour, talk filled that paddock area on the possible return of the 2007 Formula 1 Driver Champion to the series. Sitting out of Formula 1 for two seasons, Kimi Raikkonen was the subject of the most interesting rumours in the premier auto racing series. Just two days after the Brazilian Grand Prix closed out the 2011 Formula 1 season, the speculation of the Finland native Raikkonen concludes with the announcement that the 18-time grand prix winner will pilot a Lotus Renault GP race car in 2012.

A two-year deal to drive for the team that will be officially known as Lotus Renault GP on the 2012 Formula 1 starting grid, Kimi Raikkonen commented “I’m delighted to be coming back to Formula 1 after a two-year break, and I’m grateful to Lotus Renault GP for offering me this opportunity." Before this announcement, the strongest speculation had Raikkonen teaming with Williams F1. Through the 2010 off-season, Mercedes GP and the now-defunct Toyota Formula 1 team were also been linked to Kimi Raikkonen.

Debuting in Formula 1 in 2001, Kimi Raikkonen's entrance into the series was one of some controversy when the young Finnish driver was granted a Super License despite limited car racing experience. Driving for Sauber, Kimi Raikkonen scored a point in his first event and would go on to run successfully for McLaren and later Ferrari. It was Raikkonen's first year with Ferrari in 2007 that he won the World Driver's Championship by merely one point over the young rookie Lewis Hamilton. Raikkonen won 6 races in 2007 but would win just 3 grand prix in the following two seasons. As the Ferrari Formula 1 team had lost its competitive edge and with the arrival of Fernando Alonso to the team for 2010, Kimi Raikkonen left the Formula 1 world championship altogether.

Raikkonen racing activities for the past two years focused around running the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Winning a non-WRC event (the Rallye Vosgien 2010), a fifth-place finish at the Rally of Turkey was Raikkonen's best result. Raikkonen displays no regret for following his race passions away from grand prix racing saying "My time in the World Rally Championship has been a useful stage in my career as a driver, but I can’t deny the fact that my hunger for F1 has recently become overwhelming."

This past year also saw Raikkonen making a driving appearance in NASCAR during the May Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Driving a Kyle Busch Motorsport Toyota Tundra, Raikkonen showed some impressive rough talent for oval track racing finishing 15th in the truck race. While more races were planned, funding was believed that have limited Raikkonen to this single NASCAR experience at Charlotte.

Kimi Raikkonen's positioning inside the Lotus Renault GP team is set to demonstrate a stronger and more assured 2012 driver line-up. Entering this past Formula 1 season, the Lotus Renault GP team was thought to have had a stable line-up with sophomore pilot Vitaly Petrov driving alongside the seasoned grand prix winning wheel handling of Robert Kubica. Due a severe rally car crash early in February of 2011, Kubica was sidelined for the entire Formula 1 season leaving the newly-aligned force of Lotus and Renault to search for another veteran. Calling in Nick Heidfeld, the replacement driver for Robert Kubica finished in the points 6 times in 9 races including a 3rd place at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Despite some good runs, Heidfeld and the Lotus Renault GP time didn't finish the 2011 season together.

Hired as a test driver before Robert Kubica's injury, Brazil's Bruno Senna would take over the second Lotus Renault GP ride teaming with Petrov. Senna finished 9th in the Italian Grand Prix serving as the only points he would record in 2011. This recent acquisition of a past Formula 1 world champion to the Lotus Renault GP team will come as a change to their less experienced driver line-up the team ended the 2011 season with at the Brazilian Grand Prix Sunday.

Speaking for the Lotus Renault GP team, Chairman of equality owner Genii Capital Gerard Lopez spoke about 2007 Formula 1 champ Kimi Raikkonen's appearance with the team in 2012 as an important building block. “All year long, we kept saying that our team was at the start of a brand new cycle. Backstage we’ve been working hard to build the foundations of a successful structure and to ensure that we would soon be able to fight at the highest level." said Lopez.

Signing Kimi Raikkonen, it is speculated that Vitaly Petrov will retain his ride alongside the Finnish driver but nothing has been confirmed by Lotus Renault GP. As the 2012 Formula 1 season nears, the build-up for what the Finnish driver can do after a two-year absence should keep many fans eager leading up to the Australian Grand Prix.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Webber Grabs Brazilian GP Finale as Vettel Stumbles

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

Started on March 27th in Australia, the 2011 Formula 1 season's 19-race schedule comes to an end as the 24-car grid assembled to run the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos circuit. With the drivers title and manufacturer title locked up races earlier, the last grand prix event of the season served an importance as a single race to reinforce or to demonstrate where they place against firm Formula 1 competition. The Red Bull Racing team and the recently crowned two-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel had spent an entire proving themselves as a near unbeatable benchmark for the premier open wheel series. In Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying, Vettel and his recognized #1 Red Bull-Renault took pole ahead of teammate Mark Webber.
Though forecast strongly insisted that rain would become a factor for the Brazilian Grand Prix race, all 71 laps proceeded on a dry 4.309-kilometer race track. Taking some complexity out of this event as drivers ready to start running at Interlagos, the all-too-common occurrence of Sebastian Vettel's record 15th pole of the 2011 Formula 1 season resulted in the German driver's Red Bull-Renault losing the field on the start.
Behind Vettel early was teammate Mark Webber and the McLaren-Mercedes runners. The main adversary for Red Bull Racing this season, neither McLaren race car of Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button could keep up to the blue and yellow race machines for this Brazilian Grand Prix. In typical fashion, the Ferrari team cars of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ran close to the McLaren-Mercedes. Providing some front-running action at Interlagos, Alonso was able to pass then-fourth place Jenson Button for position on the 11th lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Appearing as if it could be another textbook event for the Red Bull-Renault of Sebastian Vettel, the late-race mechanical gremlin came back to bite the lead car. Experiencing shifting problems, the Renault engine could be put in a dangerous position of granading. Leading, Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull Racing team decided to reduce short-shift his way through the rest of the event reducing his race pace. As Vettel fought the battle against a gearbox issue, his Australian teammate Mark Webber rose to the occasion for Red Bull Racing. Similar to the dominating style of the 2011 Formula 1 champion, Webber stormed like lightning around the Interlagos circuit setting one fastest lap after another. Finally on lap 13, the #2 Red Bull-Renault powered by his team car enjoying a rare feat in what had been a 2011 season spent in Vettel's shadow. Mark Webber's mission for returning to the championship-contending performance level of 2010 was clearly on display for the Brazilian crowd.

Gearbox problems were a plaque that captured more than Vettel. Indiscriminately, transmission issues slowed one McLaren F1 driver and a pilot from Lotus Renault GP. Middle way through the Brazilian Grand Prix, winner of the previous Formula 1 race at Abu Dhabi Lewis Hamilton suffered a race-ending mechanical failure in the transmission. Despite the total of three gearbox problems in the event, only Lewis Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes would fail in finishing the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Lotus Renault GP, it was the hometown runner Bruno Senna who was reportedly dealing with minor gearbox hiccups.

While Senna finished the grand prix with the wounded Lotus Renault GP race car, the Brazilian driver's day would be impacted early when he tangled with Mercedes GP driver Michael Schumacher. In defense of 9th position, Bruno Senna made contact with Schumacher's resulting in the Mercedes GP car getting a punctured Pirelli tire. Senna received a drive-through penalty by Formula 1 race stewards for the move. Both Bruno Senna and Michael Schumacher continued the event but would not challenge for points in this final race of 2011. As their teammates collected non-point outings, the Mercedes GP and Lotus Renault GP team vehicles would leave with top-10 results. Nico Rosberg brought his Mercedes GP car home 7th while Vitaly Petrov climbed from 15th to 10th helping Lotus Renault GP secure 5th in the manufacturer points over Force India.

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

Force India team in this final 2011 grand prix in Brazil, the team left accomplishing a feat identical to the major Red Bull Racing and Ferrari teams. Resulting in both team cars collecting points at the end of 71 laps, Adrian Sutil led the Force India squad in 6th place while Paul di Resta followed in a respectable 8th position. Kamui Kobayashi brought the Sauber team 2 final series points with a 9th place result aiding the team's effort to maintain 7th place in the Formula 1 constructor standings for 2011.

Untouched, Mark Webber sailed to the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix win resulting in the Australian's first and only victory for the Formula 1 season. Webber preserves an honour of winning a grand prix in three consecutive Formula 1 race seasons after what was 7 years of perseverance with teams like Minardi, Jaguar and Williams F1. The Brazilian Grand Prix also becomes a significant milestone for Mark Webber as the first locale the Red Bull Racing driver scored multiple wins on the circuit (Webber won the 2009 race at Brazil).
Showing his championship-caliber determination, Sebastian Vettel brought his Red Bull-Renault across the line 16.9 seconds behind teammate Mark Webber. After relinquishing the lead, Vettel's event dealing with the gearbox issue resulted in a brief overshooting of a corner but was otherwise a successful drive keeping the McLaren-Mercedes of Jenson Button almost 11 seconds behind.

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

Winning their 12th of 19 Formula 1 races in 2011, Red Bull Racing ties McLaren in 1984 and the 1996 Williams F1 team for victories in a single season. Despite some dents in the team's armour at mid-season, Red Bull Racing maintains itself as the consistent team to beat heading into 2012.

As cars crossed the start/finish line for the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix, the possible completion of Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello racing career is one of the news items dominating speculation for 2012. Finishing his home grand prix in 14th place for Williams F1, the vacated ride (that will be propelled by Renault power next season) is one of many questions that will dominate the next few months ahead of the March 2012's Australian Grand Prix.
Until that day, Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel, in particularly, drink the champagne of 2011 victories again the strongest force in Formula 1. 

2011 Formula 1
Brazilian Grand Prix
Race Results
  1. 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing
  2. 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing
  3. 4 Jenson Button McLaren
  4. 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
  5. 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
  6. 14 Adrian Sutil Force India
  7. 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
  8. 13 15 Paul di Resta Force India
  9. 16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber
  10. 10 Vitaly Petrov Lotus Renault GP
  11. 19 Jaime Alguersuari Scuderia Toro Rosso
  12. 18 Sebastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso
  13. 17 Sergio Perez Sauber
  14. 11 Rubens Barrichello Williams F1
  15. 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
  16. 21 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus
  17. 9 Bruno Senna Lotus Renault GP
  18. 20 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus
  19. 25 Jérôme D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin Racing
  20. 22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT F1
  21. 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT F1
  22. 3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren
  23. 12 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1
  24. 24 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Racing

Sunday, November 27, 2011

F1 Finale in Brazil Nets Record 15th Pole for Vettel

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

The finale Grand Prix in the 19-race Formula 1 championship season of 2011, the Autódromo José Carlos Pace or Interlagos race track hosts a late November event which will decide what teams and drivers head into the off-season with confidence for 2012. At one time an early event on the Formula 1 schedule, the Brazilian Grand Prix was bumped to one of the concluding races on the grand prix circuit in 2004. Presented in a country passionate about auto racing, the races on the Interlagos track have a history for producing a memorable outcomes.

Won by four different drivers since 2007, the Brazilian Grand Prix's defending winner Sebastian Vettel will start from pole position. Time trial magic becoming patented by Vettel, the German driver flew to a record-setting 15th Formula 1 pole for the season at the 4.309 kilometer Autódromo José Carlos Pace track. Taking the lead in the Q2 session, Vettel piloted his Red Bull-Renault to a stunning Q3 lap of 1 minute, 11.918 seconds. Sebastian Vettel became the only driver in the Formula 1 qualifying session at Brazil to run under the 72-second range.

The 15th pole for Sebastian Vettel in his championship-winning 2011 driver title run beats the 1992 mark of 14 poles set by Nigel Mansell. While a nonetheless impressive feat, Vettel was aided by a 2011 Formula 1 season 4 races longer than the 1992 year's run by Mansell driving for Williams F1. Most impressive is the fact the 15 pole positions for Sebastian Vettel combines with the 3 races Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber scored the top starting spot. Losing in qualifying on just one occasion at the Korean Grand Prix, the Red Bull-Renault dominated 2011 Formula 1 time trials 18 of 19 races.

Beating some forecasts calling for rain, the final Formula 1 qualifying session for 2011 saw the 24-car field unleashed under dry conditions. Vettel's triumph in Q3 resulted in a time 0.179 of a second faster than teammate Mark Webber making it the 6th occasion that the Red Bull Racing team will dominate the front row.

While the first row is covered by Red Bull-Renaults, the second row for the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix will feature the main rivals to Sebastian Vettel's otherwise conquering performance this season. McLaren-Mercedes cars in 3rd and 4th feature Jenson Button ahead of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton. The second place team in the manufacturer championship for 2011, rumours have surrounded the McLaren team's future engine supplier with mentions that Honda might want to return to Formula 1 powering the 8-time championship constructor.

The Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg's Mercedes GP car are deposited into the third row of the Interlagos Formula 1 event. Rosberg's teammate Michael Schumacher qualified 10th for the grand prix breaking into the final Q3 session did not record a time trial run.

Pleasing the hometown Brazilian crowd, two popular national sports names will start in the top-10 for the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix race. Ferrari driver Felipe Massa returns to the Interlagos circuit where he popularly won twice in 2006 and 2008. In fact, the 2008 victory at the home track was the last race the Brazilian enjoyed at the top of a Formula 1 podium. Making his second Formula 1 start at Interlagos is Bruno Senna, nephew of two-time track winner and grand prix legend Ayrton Senna. Bruno Senna will start 9th for the Lotus Renault GP team in Sunday's race. Making has 18th Brazilian Grand Prix start, Rubens Barrichello emerged to a 12th place starting position becoming the third and final hometown hero at the final Formula 1 race of the season.

For Sunday's Formula 1 race, weather is expected to throw teams for a curve ball for race setup. Weather predictions have up to a 100 percent chance of rain and thundestorms hovering above the Interlagos circuit during race time. Race organizations such as Mercedes GP have expressed the need to keep their options open as weather conditions will become a challenging variable to teams and race drivers.

With 71 laps around the 4.309-kilometer Interlagos track, the 2011 Formula 1 will close out starting at 2PM local time or 11am Eastern time.

2011 Formula 1
Brazilian Grand Prix
Starting Lineup

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing
2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing
4 Jenson Button McLaren
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
14 Adrian Sutil Force India
9 Bruno Senna Lotus Renault GP
7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
13 15 Paul di Resta Force India
11 Rubens Barrichello Williams F1
19 Jaime Alguersuari Scuderia Toro Rosso
18 Sebastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso
10 Vitaly Petrov Lotus Renault GP
16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber
17 Sergio Perez Sauber
12 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1
21 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus
20 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus
23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT F1
22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT F1
25 Jérôme D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin Racing
24 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Racing

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Championship-Minded Edwards Wins Homestead Cup Pole

Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade Autostock

The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season started at Florida's Daytona International Speedway where a surprise winner Trevor Bayne took a Wood Brothers Ford to Daytona 500 victory circle. Returning to the state where the top stock car racing tour kicked off what was an overall unpredictable year, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title will be won by the first driver other than Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson for the first time since 2005.

The winner of that 2005 Cup championship, Tony Stewart, readies for the 2011 series finale at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway just 3 points behind the Chase points leader. Indiana state's Stewart target for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Ford 400 is the #99 car driven by a Columbus, Missouri native. A driver equally as skilled inside the car as he is charismatic outside of a race vehicle, Carl Edwards used plain consistency in 9 of the 10 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup races to take the point lead going into the Ford 400 on Sunday. Despite not winning an event so far in this 2011 NASCAR Chase, Edwards and the #99 Ford Fusion fielded by Roush Fenway Racing are in position to gain owner Jack Roush his third Cup Series championship. 

With no track activity on Friday due to rain drenching the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, practice and qualifying for the Ford 400 took place Saturday. Immediately, Carl Edwards and the #99 team rocketed to the top of the time sheets in the two practice sessions. Parlaying the speed in practice, Edward's #99 Ford took pole in qualifying Saturday afternoon lapping the 1.5-mile Florida oval in 30.775 seconds. Equating to a 175.467 mile per hour average speed, Carl Edwards commented following his pole run success content with the importance of Sunday's Ford 400 race. "It is great to be on the pole. It is just one lap and tomorrow we have 267 laps and we have some serious competition out there. We are just going to go put this Ford Fusion up there and get a good pit stall and race hard all day Sunday.” said Edwards ahead of the 400-mile event.

On a mission Sunday, Carl Edwards starts from the front row while Chase contender Tony Stewart will launch from a 15th position in the #14 Chevrolet. With the fight for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship the tightest during Ford Championship Weekend at the race track, Tony Stewart only needs to improve a few spots over Carl Edwards to steal his third driver's title. Historically at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Edwards and Stewart each hold a pair of victories in the 400-mile event.

Collecting a little over one-tenth of a second slower than Edwards to start on the front row of the Ford 400 is Martin Truex Jr in the #56 Toyota. Recent Pheonix race winner Kasey Kahne is positioned 3rd in what will by his final event in the #4 Toyota for Team Red Bull. Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski claims the 4th and 5th spots in qualifying for Penske Racing. Part of the 12 drivers eligible in the 2011 Chase, both Kurt Busch and Keselowski enter with opportunities to gain positions to finish out the season. Drivers rounding out the top-10 for the start of the Ford 400 are in order of Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

Fastest in the first practice, the Hendrick Motorsports-backed #88 Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr will start 11th after qualifying for Sunday's race. In 11 race starts, Earnhardt Jr has yet to record a top-10 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway track in Sprint Cup Series competition. Other notable starters for the Ford 400 includes Regan Smith in 16th place driving the #78 Furniture Row car, the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch in 19th position, one-time 2011 Chase contender Kevin Harvick in 21st and 2003 Homestead-Miami race winner Bobby Labonte will start 35th. Also, Mark Martin will be racing his final race for Hendrick Motorsports in the #5 Chevy starting from the 25th position. Martin had announced weeks ago going to Michael Watrip Racing in 2012.

Concluding the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the Ford 400 starts Sunday at 3pm Eastern time.

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Ford 400
Homestead-Miami Speedway
Starting Line-up

  1. 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
  2. 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
  3. 4 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
  4. 22 Kurt Busch Shell Pennzoil Dodge
  5. 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
  6. 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
  7. 24 Jeff Gordon Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet
  8. 16 Greg Biffle 3M/Novec Ford
  9. 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
  10. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota
  11. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet
  12. 43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
  13. 6 David Ragan UPS My Choice Ford
  14. 39 Ryan Newman U.S. ARMY Chevrolet
  15. 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
  16. 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet
  17. 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
  18. 9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford
  19. 18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
  20. 21 Trevor Bayne Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford
  21. 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
  22. 51 Landon Cassill Security Benefit/ThnkATchr Today Chevrolet
  23. 27 Paul Menard Duracell/Menards Chevrolet
  24. 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
  25. 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
  26. 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet
  27. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
  28. 0 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
  29. 84 Cole Whitt Kangaroo Express Toyota
  30. 55 J J Yeley Ingersoll Rand Ford
  31. 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
  32. 20 Joey Logano The Home Depot Toyota
  33. 66 Michael McDowell HP Racing LLC Toyota
  34. 35 Dave Blaney Golden Corral Chevrolet
  35. 47 Bobby Labonte Reese Towpower Toyota
  36. 30 David Stremme Inception Racing Chevrolet
  37. 87 Joe Nemechek AM/FM Energy Pellet & Wood Stoves Toyota
  38. 34 David Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford
  39. 13 Casey Mears Hard Rock Vodka Toyota
  40. 38 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
  41. 32 T J Bell Ford
  42. 36 Geoffrey Bodine Luke & Associates Chevrolet
  43. 71 Mike Bliss School Media Ford

Corvette to Raid Grand Am Daytona Prototype Class in 2012

Photo Credit: General Motors

When the Chevrolet Corvette was first introduced in 1953, the personal sports car struggled through the first few years of existence barely convincing American (let alone the world) the two-seat fiberglass vehicle would be worthy of the 'sport' moniker. It was a young engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov that led the champion for V-8 power unleashing the Corvette's performance potential.

In 1955, the first production years of the eight cylinder powerplant, Duntov led an exhibition to Daytona Beach, Florida demonstrating the Chevrolet Corvette for a two-way mile speed run. Sailing to a 135-mile per hour run on the soft sand of the Daytona in 1955, Duntov himself piloted a specially-outfitted Corvette at an average speed of 150.582 miles per hour a year later. Breaking the 150-mile per hour benchmark Zora Arkus-Duntov wanted to achieve with the Chevrolet Corvette, the motorsport legend of the American sports car was born in Daytona Beach. For the upcoming 2012 Rolex 24 of Daytona race, Corvette will create another chapter in sports car competition history in the origin of their performance foundation.
Photo Credit: General Motors

Bringing the sports character of Corvette to the Grand Am Road Racing Series' top Daytona Prototype class, the wraps were taken off a stylish blue race car on November 15th. Long-time Corvette Racing supplier Pratt and Miller as well as General Motors were involved in bringing the Chevrolet Corvette's persona to the Grand-Am Rolex Series next season.

Conforming with the Daytona Prototype class' cost-saving construction structure, the Corvette Daytona Prototype is shaped with a front-end shaped to the current stock sports car. The 2012 Daytona Prototype car may also hint at the production car styling planned for the seventh-generation Corvette (the C7) due for the 2014 or 2015 model year. A familiar Corvette styling feature despite the fact it was involved on only the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette, the split-rear window is incorporated on the Daytona Prototype car shielding the mid-engine chassis configuration. The Corvette's large side louvers also makes an appearance on the Daytona Prototype car incorporated in the functional aerodynamics of the bodywork.
Photo Credit: General Motors

Conducting a track test at the Daytona International Speedway's 3.56-mile road course just a day after its introduction to the public, the Corvette Daytona Prototype racer is already positioned to present a sizable force for the 2012 edition of the 24-hour event. Three of the early race entrants includes the #10 Suntrust Racing, #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and the #90 Spirit of Daytona Racing teams that were Chevrolet-powered participants of the concluded 2011 campaign. Along with winning over current Chevrolet teams in the Grand Am Rolex Series, the Corvette body and Chevy engines will also be presented in the Action Express Racing #5 and #9 teams. The 2010 Rolex 24 of Daytona champion Action Express Racing organization had campaigned with Porsche power based off the Cayenne's V-8 engine. Spirit of Daytona Racing owner and manager Troy Flis was an instant supporter of the factory-supported Corvette Daytona Prototype program. “Everyone will immediately recognize it as a Corvette which is different than the original DPs and that is a huge advantage for Chevrolet” said Flis. 

Photo Credit: General Motors

The Daytona International Speedway was the launch pad for the GT class Chevrolet Corvette C5R in 1999 narrowly missing out on a class win. Refining under racing conditions, the Corvette C5R would two years later take overall victory in the 24-hour sports car event. The #2 Corvette Racing car piloted by brand heroes Chris Kneifel, Franck Freon, Johnny O'Connell and Ron Fellows celebrated victory ahead of other major sports car wins including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Competing in the American Le Mans Series, the Corvette Racing C6R sports cars will remain a GT mainstay.  

Contain to be a big draw to the 2012 Grand Am Rolex Series, the Corvette Daytona Prototype will face tough competition on the top-class of the sports car circuit. The Daytona event is slated to be the Chevrolet Corvette's first appearance in the prototype class since the IMSA GTP car fielded by NASCAR's Rick Hendrick in the mid-1980s.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dillon Wins Truck Title Despite Valiant Run By Race Winner Sauter

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

(November 18, 2011)

HOMESTEAD, Fla.—Austin Dillon withstood a strong challenge from race winner Johnny Sauter to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in Friday night’s Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NASCAR called the event with 15 laps left with Sauter in the lead and Dillon in 10th place, giving Dillon, 21, the youngest champion in series history, a six-point edge over Sauter in the final series standings.
Dillon is the first driver in series history to win the rookie of the year title in his first full season and the series championship the following year.

"I remember my first championship with Dale Earnhardt," said team owner Richard Childress, Dillon’s grandfather. "I had the same feeling tonight watching my grandson."
"You can’t go out of the truck series any better than this," said Dillon, who will graduate to the Nationwide Series with RCR next year.

Denny Hamlin finished second in the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports truck, followed by Kevin Harvick, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Joey Coulter, who won the 2011 rookie of the year title. Coulter is a teammate of Dillon’s at Richard Childress Racing.

Early in the race, patience was a virtue for Dillon, who steered clear of potential complications and found a comfortable place to run at or near the back of the top 10.

As the race progressed, so did Dillon, who had worked his way into the second position behind Sauter before Ross Chastain’s spin on Lap 96 caused the fourth caution of the evening. The subsequent restart, however, brought more stress than Dillon ever could have expected.

Dillon fell back to 15th, fearing that he might have a problem with the right front fender on the No. 3 Chevrolet. Shortly thereafter, Sauter clinched most laps led, putting Dillon in danger of losing the championship if he lost more positions by the end of the race.

But Dillon drove back to the 10th position before rain halted the race on Lap 119 of 134 with Sauter in the lead.

"The fender got bent in—I don’t know how it happened," Dillon said. "I didn’t hit anybody on the track, but I think it happened on pit road. We got real tight once I got back there (in traffic). I think it was more on the conservative side when I was three-wide. We were three-wide in the middle, and to force a spot right there was not worth it."
Sauter, who won his second race of the season and the fourth of his career, wasn’t aware of how far behind Dillon had fallen on the restart.

"I had no clue," said Sauter, who won more than one event in a season in a top NASCAR touring series for the first time in his career. "Not one time tonight did they tell me where the 3 truck was. It didn’t really matter where he was running. We knew what we had to do, and that was lead the most laps and win the race.

"It’s a huge accomplishment, coming out here and doing what we needed to do. Six points is a bummer. You can think back on the season—dominating Kentucky, broke an axle, 20 to go, leading the race; ORP (Indianapolis), leading the race, flat tire; the lane violation at Texas, 22 points; six points at Pocono. You can go down the list—but everybody can. That’s just racing."
Notes: Greg Biffle and Travis Kvapil won rookie of the year honors and truck series championships, but not in consecutive years. Biffle accomplished the feat in 1998 (rookie) and 2000. Kvapil was rookie of the year in 2001 and champion in 2003. … Harvick had clinched the owners’ championship with his No. 2 truck before the series arrived at Homestead.


2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Homestead-Miami Speedway
Ford 200
Race Results

  1. 13 Johnny Sauter SafeAuto/Curb Records Chevrolet
  2. 18 Denny Hamlin Dollar General/DirecTV Toyota
  3. 2 Kevin Harvick Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet
  4. 8 Nelson Piquet Jr. Piquet Realty Chevrolet
  5. 22 Joey Coulter RCR Graphics Center Chevrolet
  6. 21 Ty Dillon Charter Chevrolet
  7. 24 Elliott Sadler AM/FM Energy Chevrolet
  8. 17 Timothy Peters Tire Kingdom/Service Central Toyota
  9. 23 Jason White Chevrolet
  10. 3 Austin Dillon Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet
  11. 81 David Starr Zachry Toyota
  12. 31 James Buescher Exide Chevrolet
  13. 33 Ron Hornaday Jr. OneMain Financial Chevrolet
  14. 29 Parker Kligerman Cooper Standard Dodge
  15. 15 Dusty Davis Red Top Auto Auction Toyota
  16. 5 Todd Bodine International Trucks/Monaco RVs Toyota
  17. 4 Ricky Carmichael Monster Energy Chevrolet
  18. 6 Justin Lofton Chevrolet
  19. 88 Matt Crafton Menards/Tarkett Chevrolet
  20. 62 Brendan Gaughan Tire Kingdom/Service Central Toyota
  21. 9 Max Papis GEICO Toyota
  22. 60 Cole Whitt Fuel Doctor/Red Bull Chevrolet
  23. 32 Blake Feese Red Hot Insurance Chevrolet
  24. 39 Ryan Sieg RSS Racing Chevrolet
  25. 98 Dakoda Armstrong Ferrellgas/ Chevrolet
  26. 51 German Quiroga telcel Toyota
  27. 93 Ross Chastain National Watermelon Chevrolet
  28. 9 Bryan Silas Rockingham Speedway Ford
  29. 57 Norm Benning G.L. Hubbard & Sons Inc. Chevrolet
  30. 68 Clay Greenfield Anave Weight Loss Dodge
  31. 66 Max Gresham Motorsports Park Chevrolet
  32. 7 Miguel Paludo Duroline Toyota
  33. 74 Mike Harmon KOMA Unwind Chevrolet
  34. 38 Dennis Setzer RSS Racing Chevrolet
  35. 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Ford
  36. 7 Johnny Chapman Toyota

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hamilton Takes Abu Dhabi Grand Prix After Red Bull Team Falters

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

The penultimate round of the 2011 Formula 1 season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was staged Sunday by a qualifying that saw Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel pull some magic to take pole away from the fast in practice McLarens. Capturing a 14th pole in the single season (equaling the 1992 mark set by Nigel Mansell driving the radically-advanced Williams-Honda), Vettel was on course to equal another benchmark of 13 wins in a season if he could take victory at Yas Marina and the next round at Interlagos in Brazil. The first two Abu Dhabi Grand Prix events has been a playground for Sebastian Vettel as he took victory in both races. With many factors in favour of Vettel's victory for 2011 at Yas Marina ahead of the grand prix, auto racing rarely cooperates with history.
Winning 11 races during the 2011 season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would not be another top podium run for Sebastian Vettel. On the start of the race, a right-rear tire puncture with Vettel's Red Bull-Renault dramatically affected the proclaimed 2011 Formula 1 champion. Spinning in the second corner of the first lap, Sebastian Vettel limped his car to pit road where it was officially retired. A monumental event within the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel's early exit from the race marked a rare moment in modern Formula 1. Not only was this Vettel's first race of 2011 where he failed to score a point but the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the first time since the 2010 Korean Grand Prix that the two-time driver's champion's Red Bull-Renault did not finish. 

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

With Sebastian Vettel removed from the event, the second-place starting McLaren-Mercedes car of Lewis Hamilton inherited the race lead. While Hamilton's McLaren soared to the front, teammate Jenson Button immediately fell victim to a challenging Ferrari piloted by Fernando Alonso. Alonso took second place on the race track ahead of the first lap completion. Button fought an issue with his KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) hindering the Englishman's performance through the remaining 54 laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Behind Button through the event, the remaining Red Bull-Renault wheeled by Mark Webber campaigned the team colours in 4th place. Resorting to a three-stop strategy, Webber held off running the medium compound Pirelli tires until the last laps of the race. Running third at the time, Webber's lap 54 pit stop dropped the Red Bull Racing car out of the podium position. This grand prix was the first Formula 1 race of the season to be lacking representation by the Red Bull Racing team.

With exception of a few laps during pit stops, Lewis Hamilton flew around the 5.554-kilometer Yas Marina Circuit to a comfortable 8.4-second victory over Fernando Alonso. Leaving the Ferrari driver Alonso lonely on the podium, Jenson Button soldiered to a third place finish. As Mark Webber crossed the line for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 4th, the Red Bull Racing car was followed by the Ferrari of Felipe Massa along with the two Mercedes GP vehicles seeing Nico Rosberg ahead of Michael Schumacher.

An honourable mention in the finishing results of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix goes to the Williams F1 machines of Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado. Starting on the 12th and final row of the race due to an oil leak on Barrichello's car and a grid penalty on Maldonado's vehicle, both drivers made massive improvements to just miss the points-paying top-10. Brazilian Rubens Barrichello surged 11 positions to 12th while Pastor Maldonado climbed 9 spots to 14th in the final running order.

Capping the 2011 edition of Formula 1, the Brazilian Grand Prix is set for November 27th.

2011 Formula 1
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Race Results

  1. 3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren
  2. 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
  3. 4 Jenson Button McLaren
  4. 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing
  5. 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
  6. 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
  7. 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
  8. 14 Adrian Sutil Force India
  9. 13 15 Paul di Resta Force India
  10. 16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber
  11. 17 Sergio Perez Sauber
  12. 11 Rubens Barrichello Williams F1
  13. 10 Vitaly Petrov Lotus Renault GP
  14. 12 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1
  15. 19 Jaime Alguersuari Scuderia Toro Rosso
  16. 9 Bruno Senna Lotus Renault GP
  17. 21 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus
  18. 20 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus
  19. 24 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Racing
  20. 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT F1
  21. 22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT F1
  22. 18 Sebastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso
  23. 25 Jérôme D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin Racing
  24. 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing


Sam Hornish Jr Wins First NASCAR Nationwide Race at Phoenix

Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt

Becoming the first major NASCAR touring series in inaugurate the new pavement for the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway, the NASCAR Nationwide Series suited up for the Wypall 200 Saturday afternoon unaware if the race track will develop the critical second groove.

With the #88 Chevrolet in the series, JR Motorsports Aric Almirola took pole for the Wypall 200 who proceeded from the afternoon start to lead the race's first 66 laps. As the green fell for the Phoenix International Raceway 200-lap race, the yellow flag flew quickly. On lap 1, one-time 2011 Nationwide Series championship contender Reed Sorenson driving the #82 Dodge slammed into the rear of Brian Scott's #11 Toyota into turn 3. Scott's car was launched forward into the out wall of the turn while Sorenson spun. Brian Scott was unhurt in the accident that would collect additional vehicles. Behind the two cars of the main incident, a second wrecked occurred relating to the #7 Chevolet of Danica Patrick checking up. Patrick's car was sent sideways and backed into the wall crippling her chances of a good race run. The race vehicles of Tim Andrews, Johnny Chapman, Matt Frahm and Jeff Green were also caught in the multi-car accident eventually retiring from the Wypall 200. Danica Patrick would keep running to finish 21st in the event 4 laps down to the leader.

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/ Getty Images 

Pit stops proved pivotal to the outcome of the Wypall 200 NASCAR Nationwide race at Phoenix as the tire stop by the JR Motorsports crew would rob Aric Almirola of the first lead. On the right rear corner of the #88 Chevrolet, lug nuts missed on the wheel resulted with considerable track position lost in the event.

Sprint Cup Series regular Carl Edwards' moonlighting run in Saturday's Nationwide Series race also suffered a pit road related slowdown. Stopping to the attention of his pit crew, the race setup of the #60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang caused the front end to dive. When the front end suspension did not rebound quickly, the work by the front tire changer was complicated as the tire was difficult to remove from the front fender well. While the #60 Ford recovered with a strong charge at the end, Edwards lost several positions which could be proven valuable late in the Phoenix race.

In a race that involved only three drivers leading, NASCAR Nationwide Series regular and overall driver title leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr led following Almirola's pit road gaffe in the #6 Ford. The Roush Fenway Racing pilot led for a race-high 73 laps before losing spot to Sam Hornish Jr's Penske Racing Dodge in what was the final lead change of the Wypall 200 race on the 140th lap.

Besides competing for victory in the second-to-last NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Elliott Sadler were head-to-head for the racing division's championship. Roush Fenway Racing driver Stenhouse entered Phoenix with a 17-point gap over Kevin Harvick Incorporated Chevrolet pilot Elliott Sadler. On lap 191 of the Wypall 200, a championship-determining action took place when the #2 Chevrolet of Elliott Sadler. Heading down the backstretch prior to the turn, Sadler roared by the Jason Leffler and Aric Almirola on the newly-paved backstretch apron. The #2 Chevrolet was bumped from behind by the Jason Leffler into turn 3. Spinning out Sadler, Leffler swept up the #88 car of Almirola into the outer wall. Morgan Shepherd and Jeremy Clements were also significantly damaged in the wreck that ended Elliott Sadler's title hopes in the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series. Finishing 5th in the race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr is comfortably going to be crowned the 2011 Nationwide Series champion by finishing 38th or better.

With Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski in tow, Sam Hornish Jr driving the #12 Dodge drove the final 19 laps to win the Wypall 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Having made his first NASCAR event 5 years ago with the Nationwide Series (than-Busch Series) event at the Phoenix International Raceway, the former INDYCAR star Hornish Jr becomes a NASCAR race winner. Sam Hornish Jr also won two events in the IRL INDYCAR Series in 2001 and 2005 seasons.

Sprint Cup series regulars Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano crossed the start/finish line 2nd through 4th for the Wypall 200. Rounding out the top-10 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway is Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Truex, Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett.

The final race on the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule runs next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway During Ford Championship Weekend.

2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series
Wypall 200
Phoenix International Raceway
Race Results

12 Sam Hornish Jr. Alliance Truck Parts Dodge
22 Brad Keselowski Discount Tire Dodge
60 Carl Edwards World Financial Group Ford
18 Joey Logano GameStop / Call of Duty MW3 Toyota
6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford Drive one. Ford
16 Trevor Bayne Ford
33 Clint Bowyer Rheem Heating Cooling & Water Heating Chevrolet
20 Ryan Truex Martin Truex Jr. Foundation Toyota
31 Justin Allgaier Brandt Chevrolet
62 Michael Annett Oakley / Pilot Travel Centers / Flying J Toyota
70 David Stremme ForeTravel Motorcoach Chevrolet
87 Joe Nemechek AM/FM Energy Pellet & Wood Stoves Toyota
32 Ron Hornaday Dollar General Chevrolet
81 Blake Koch Dodge
34 Ricky Carmichael Monster Energy / QT QuikTrip Chevrolet
1 Mike Wallace I Hate Steven Singer! Chevrolet
9 Kenny Wallace TOYOTA Toyota
15 Timmy Hill / Lilly Trucking Ford
14 Eric McClure Hefty Black Out / Reynolds Chevrolet
52 Kevin Lepage Tilted Kilt Sports Bar Chevrolet
7 Danica Patrick Chevrolet
23 Robert Richardson Jr. North Texas Pipe Chevrolet
40 TJ Duke Merrill Lynch Chevrolet
51 Jeremy Clements Phoenix Automotive Cores Chevrolet
88 Aric Almirola Suave MEN / Fry's Food Stores Chevrolet
38 Jason Leffler Great Clips Chevrolet
2 Elliott Sadler OneMain Financial Chevrolet
89 Morgan Shepherd Victory in Jesus Racing Chevrolet
66 Steve Wallace 5-hour Energy Toyota
30 James Buescher Exide Chevrolet
19 Mike Bliss Millennium Salon / Spa Software & Elemnt Pymnt
28 Derrike Cope Chevrolet
80 D J Kennington NPP/Clark/Whitemud Dodge
44 Jeff Green Tri Star Motorsports Chevrolet
82 Reed Sorenson Foametix / Bullet Liner Dodge
49 Mark Green Acredale Vending Chevrolet
47 Scott Speed Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet
46 Chase Miller Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet
71 Matt Carter Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet
41 Johnny Chapman Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet
11 Brian Scott Shore Lodge Toyota
4 Tim Andrews Go Green Racing Ford
39 Matt Frahm TSP Powder Coating Ford

Vettel Sails Through Yas Marina for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Pole

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

Despite the McLaren-Mercedes cars Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button dominating of all three practice sessions, the Red Bull Racing front man Sebastian Vettel came to form in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying.

Preserving his Red Bull-Renault through the Q1 and Q2 time trial sessions, Vettel was no higher than third place. Lewis Hamilton led the Formula 1 contenders in the first two qualifying rounds becoming the first driver to break past the 1 minute, 40 second barrier in Q1. Similar to his successful pole run for the Japanese Grand Prix, Vettel apparently allowed the McLaren team to get comfortable with the lead before launching a grid-topping run in the Q3 session. Lapping the 5.554-kilometer Yas Marina Circuit in 1 minute, 38.481 seconds, Sebastian Vettel was roughly 14/100th of a second ahead of Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes. In post-race, Vettel commented on his qualifying performance saying “I’m pretty pleased. Yesterday I wasn’t very happy with my own performance and with the car and I didn’t feel that comfortable. Today was much better straightaway when we went out this afternoon, but this evening when the sun went down, I had a much better feeling and the car was more together."

With Hamilton placed in second place starting alongside Vettel on the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix front row, Jenson Button was 0.009 seconds slower than his teammate to claim the inside of the second row beside Mark Webber. The third row for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is commanded by the Ferrari team led by Fernando Alonso who held more than 4/10ths of a second over Felipe Massa. Continuing a team domination of grid rows, the Mercedes GP team cars will launch from the fourth row while Force India Formula 1 machines are positioned in the fifth.

While the five teams made up the top-10 starting positions of Sunday's race on the Yas Marina Circuit, other teams deeper in the field fought hard with little to show for qualifying work. The Williams Formula 1 team had a heartbreaking, dismal time trial period for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. After having engine problems relating in the first Friday practice session, Rubens Barrichello was unable to plug in a timed lap due to an oil leak from his car. Barrichello will start 23rd but has actually gained a grid position on teammate Pastor Maldonado. While Maldonado made his way to 16th in the qualifying session, the Williams driver was penalized by the Formula 1 stewards for exceeding the season limit of 8 engines. With his 9th Cosworth powerplant, Pastor Maldonado will start last for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Running at 5pm local time at the Yas Marina Circuit, the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and second to last event on this season's Formula 1 tour will start at 8am Eastern time.

2011 Formula 1
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Starting Grid

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren
4 Jenson Button McLaren
2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
14 Adrian Sutil Force India
13 15 Paul di Resta Force India
17 Sergio Perez Sauber
10 Vitaly Petrov Lotus Renault GP
18 Sebastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso
9 Bruno Senna Lotus Renault GP
19 Jaime Alguersuari Scuderia Toro Rosso
16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber
21 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus
20 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus
24 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Racing
22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT F1
25 Jérôme D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin Racing
23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT F1
11 Rubens Barrichello Williams F1
12 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kenseth Leads Ford Front Row for Sunday's Phoenix Cup Race

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Still possessing a mathematical chance at the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, Matt Kenseth emerged from Saturday's qualifying with the Kobalt Tools 500 pole position. Kenseth steered his #17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford around the newly-paved Phoenix International Raceway with a lead time of a 26.26 seconds averaging 137.10 miles per hour. A tad slower than teammate Carl Edward's spring qualifying benchmark, Matt Kenseth's time is the quickest run achieved during a late fall event at the one-mile Phoenix oval. 

Allowing Ford's blue oval to shine with supremacy from the start of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race, AJ Allmendinger lapped the race track at 26.38 seconds. Ford Fusions swept the top three positions with the second Richard Petty Motorsports #9 car of Marcos Ambrose registering a time just 3/100ths of a second slower than Allmendinger.

While Ford teams claims some important victories at Phoenix International Raceway (including the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race by Alan Kulwicki in 1988 and Carl Edward's victory in last season's fall event), Chevrolet have won 13 of the 15 Phoenix Sprint Cup runnings. At the start of Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500, the top Chevrolet will be in 4th spot; the Hendrick Motorsports #5 machine driven by Mark Martin. Martin's fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammates are positioned in mid-field positions with Jimmie Johnson in 16th, Dale Earnhardt Jr starting 22nd and Jeff Gordon qualified in 23rd. Of the 12 race won by Chevrolet since 2003, 7 times it was a Hendrick Motorsports car stationed in victory lane.

Wrapping up the top-10 qualifiers for the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway is Martin Truex Jr (the highest starting Toyota), Jamie McMurray, David Reutimann, title-contending Tony Stewart, Chase points leader Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne. With Edwards and Stewart entering the Phoenix separated by just 3 points in the 2011 Chase points, one slight miscue by either driver could result in a drastic event as only the series finale Homestead-Miami Speedway round left after this race.

Interesting notes heading into the resurfaced Phoenix International Raceway is neither Toyota or Dodge have recorded a Cup victory at the one-mile Arizona track. Also, the Phoenix race Sunday will be the first career Sprint Cup start with Camping World Truck Series rookie Cole Whitt driving a third Toyota Camry for Team Red Bull.

Scheduled for 312 laps, the 500-kilometer NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix is set for a 3pm Eastern time start.


2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Kobalt Tools 500
Phoenix International Raceway
Starting Lineup

  1. 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
  2. 43 A J Allmendinger WIX Filters Ford
  3. 9 Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Ford
  4. 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
  5. 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
  6. 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet
  7. 0 David Reutimann TUMS Toyota
  8. 14 Tony Stewart Mobil 1 / Office Depot Chevrolet
  9. 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
  10. 4 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
  11. 27 Paul Menard Peak / Menards Chevrolet
  12. 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
  13. 6 David Ragan UPS My Choice Ford
  14. 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Global Mining Chevrolet
  15. 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
  16. 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's / Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
  17. 22 Kurt Busch Shell Pennzoil Dodge
  18. 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
  19. 84 Cole Whitt Red Bull Racing Toyota
  20. 7 Robby Gordon SPEED Energy / MAPEI Dodge
  21. 51 Landon Cassill Phoenix Construction Chevrolet
  22. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Retro Diet Mt. Dew / National Guard Chevrolet
  23. 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet
  24. 46 Scott Speed Green Stuff Absorbent Ford
  25. 20 Joey Logano The Home Depot Toyota
  26. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
  27. 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
  28. 33 Clint Bowyer USO / Cheerios / Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
  29. 16 Greg Biffle 3M / Meguiar's Ford
  30. 39 Ryan Newman U.S. Army Veterans Day Chevrolet
  31. 47 Bobby Labonte Wounded Warrior / Clorox / Kleenex Toyota
  32. 87 Joe Nemechek AM FM Energy Pellet & Wood Stoves Toyota
  33. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Freight Toyota
  34. 18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
  35. 66 Michael McDowell HP Racing Toyota
  36. 37 Mike Skinner MaxQ Motorsports Ford
  37. 55 Travis Kvapil Aloft Hotels Ford
  38. 13 Casey Mears GEICO Toyota
  39. 32 Mike Bliss Veterans United Home Loans Ford
  40. 36 Geoffrey Bodine Luke & Associates Inc. Chevrolet
  41. 38 J J Yeley Vampt Ford
  42. 34 David Gilliland Aloft Hotels Ford
  43. 35 Dave Blaney Golden Corral Chevrolet

McLaren Tops Friday Practice for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

With 17 rounds completed for the 2011 Formula 1 circuit, the World Drivers title and constructor championship is sealed. The dominance of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing insured an early celebration that changes the focus through the final races of the grand prix season. The third annual Abu Dhabi Grand Prix sees this year's 24-car Formula 1 circus assembling to turn the Yas Marina Circuit into a pivotal motorsport battleground with just two races remaining in the 2011 season. Entering Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Vettel has the distinction as the only driver who has won the relatively new race on the Formula 1 circuit. Sebastian Vettel won the 2009 and 2010 events on the Yas Marina Circuit.

2011 Formula 1 driver champion Vettel is seeking a third-straight race victory after clinching the driver's title at the Japanese Grand Prix. Attempting to secure a 12th win in 2011, Vettel has the ability to tie racing hero and current Mercedes GP driver Michael Schumacher's Formula 1 record for victories in one season. Sebastian Vettel needs to win both grand prixs closing out the Formula 1 schedule.

Though German driver Vettel locked up the 2011 World Driver's Championship, a fierce contest remains between Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber for the runner-up position in the driver's standings. Separated by just 19-points, all three Formula 1 stars will be looking for maximum points at the Abu Dhabi and Brazilian Grand Prix rounds. Besides the story lines for the top drivers and teams Red Bull Racing, McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari, every contender in the matured 2011 Formula 1 season's field will want to put on a points-paying show closing out the season in hopes for 2012.

A modern 5.554-kilometer, 21-turn race track, the Yas Marina Circuit holding Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix hosted two Formula 1 prep sessions Friday for teams and drivers. Under a baking sun, Formula 1 cars lapped the track as air temperatures soared into the upper 20 degree Celsius range. In Practice one, McLaren-Mercedes driver Jenson Button nailed a 1 minute, 20.263 second lap time to top the session. The Red Bull-Renault of Mark Webber was runner-up in track session while Lewis Hamilton's McLaren clocked just under 2/100ths of a second slower. Sebastian Vettel and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso rounded out the top-five ranking in the first track session.

Overall, the time differential among the 23 Formula 1 cars taking time in the initial session at Yas Marina Circuit was 8.288 seconds with Canadian Robert Wickens at the bottom of the time chart. Honoured with being the third driver for Marussia Virgin Racing, the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 champion recorded 23 laps behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car.

Williams F1 driver Rubens Barrichello did not register a lap in the first practice having been sidelined through the session by an issue triggering of the automatic kill switch in the Cosworth engine. Barrichello and the #11 Williams-Cosworth would return for the second practice Friday topping teammate Pastor Maldonado's fast lap.

While the first practice session for the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix indicated the world audience could be looking forward to another McLaren/Red Bull Racing rivalry throughout the weekend, some misfortune for the Red Bull Racing team gave the McLaren-Mercedes bunch some begging rights heading into Saturday. In the second afternoon practice, it was Lewis Hamilton who led over Button recording a 1 minute, 39.586 second time. The McLaren cars were followed on the time track sheet by the Ferrari teammates Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa who posted near identical top times less than 4/10th of a second slower than Hamilton.

In the two Friday practices, it was Mark Webber outrunning his two-time World Championship teammate Vettel, In the first warm-up session on the Yas Marina circuit, Webber was the second-fastest Formula 1 car overall behind Jenson Button by a 0.126 seconds gap. In 4th, Sebastian Vettel was almost half a second slower than the top time of the opening practice. Admitting a rare mistake in the second practice session, Vettel lost control in the Yas Marina Circuit's turn 1 confessing he was too far on the track's curb. The second Friday practice saw the Red Bull Racing cars collecting 5th and 6th on the final time results.

Mercedes GP Michael Schumacher was 7th quickest in the afternoon distantly ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg 20th of the 24th Formula 1 drivers. Rosberg did complete an afternoon practice high 41 laps behind his race car as Mercedes GP is confident they have acquired some valuable race data for Sunday. Using Mercedes race engines, the Force India cars of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta were ahead of the Ferrari-powered Sauber vehicles.

There will be first final practice session for the Formula 1 cars at Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday ahead of qualifying for the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix taking place at 5pm local time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stewart Roping in Chase Leader Edwards with Texas Cup Win

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

With only 3 races to go in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the all-important Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup his come down to 4 main competitors. Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick have all made the most of the 10-race Chase system. Winning 4 of the 7 completed events combined, Tony Stewart has won 3 of those pivotal events. In fact, of the four Chase contenders, Stewart (a driver who made it into the 2011 Chase by a slim 28-point margin after Richmond) rides into Texas Motor Speedway with momentum of winning the last event at the short track of Martinsville Speedway. A fast tri-oval circuit, Texas Motor Speedway providing an important stage for the 8th of 10 races in the 2011 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.

From the green flag of the 500-mile event for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, Roush Fenway Racing united in the AAA Texas 500 determined to optimize their prime qualifying performances to the advantage of their Chase contending drivers. Non-Chase driver Greg Biffle took the race's pole Friday and proceeded to lead the first 23 laps in the #16 Ford before turning over the top position to the Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth driving the #17 car. Kenseth was out in front of the AAA Texas 500 for 87 of the race's first 118 laps as an eaerly denominator. Though the #17 Ford Fusion remained steadily in the top-5 for almost all of the race's 334 laps, the early 1/3 segment of the event at Texas Motor Speedway was the only time he spent in the lead position. Matt Kenseth finished 4th in the final results of the event. Helping in efforts of preserving his Chase lead, Carl Edwards quickly registered a point for leading a lap in his #99 Ford for a total 14 rounds during the AAA Texas 500.

The initial one-third distance of the 500-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway went caution-free creating a deep quagmire for teams who did not immediately synchronized to a sufficient race pace. After 113 circuits around the 1.5-mile oval, a debris caution finally slowed giving some of the struggling cars a chance to regroup. A three-car team with a winning past at Texas Motor Speedway, Joe Gibbs Racing were unable to place a single entrant in the top-20 up to his point. Much of the focus leading around the AAA Texas 500 was the Joe Gibbs Racing team's #18 Toyota begin driven by substitute driver Michael McDowell. Due to the conduct of regular driver Kyle Busch in Friday's Camping World Truck Series race at Texas, NASCAR were convinced to immediately park the then-7th place in points Busch for Nationwide and this Sprint Cup race. The absence of the team's frequent front runner would have certainly distracted the whole Joe Gibbs Racing organization which are placed a lap down when the yellow flag fell. Denny Hamlin recovered to the lead lap on this caution being rewarded the Free Pass around leader Carl Edwards. A tough day for the team founded by an NFL great coach, Joe Gibbs Racing's #20 Home Depot Toyota piloted by Joey Logano would retire after running 258 laps on the day with an engine failure. Michael McDowell (called on to replace Kyle Busch on Saturday) started near the rear of the field to finish 33rd place 3 laps down to the leader.

While the Roush Fenway Racing bunch arrived at Texas Motor Speedway with a very robust mile and a half program paying dividends in the Chase, the Martinsville Speedway winning #14 Chevrolet emerged against the Fords. Tony Stewart and crew chief Darian Grubb hit the set-up that would place the #14 car out front for much of the afternoon. Leading 173 laps total, Stewart began to cruise in or around the first place position.
Jimmie Johnson saw his hopes of an unprecedented 6th straight NASCAR Sprint Cup fizzle during the AAA Texas 500 finishing 14th in the event. Able to lead for lap 159 at Texas Motor Speedway through a pit stop cycle, Johnson spun his #48 Chevrolet in turn 4 bringing out a caution on lap 241. Without making contact with any walls, Jimmie Johnson's car slid into the frontstretch infield suffering minimal damage. While still in the championship hunt mathematically heading into the next race at Phoenix, the NASCAR Sprint Cup trophy for the 2011 season is unlikely to be hoisted by Johnson's hands.

With a relatively low 5 cautions through the AAA Texas 500 race, the final caution at lap 271 to 274 gave a few teams a notion of stretching their ethanol-blended gasoline. Little to lose, Richard Childress Racing's #31 Chevrolet driven by Jeff Burton attempted steal the event with a late race fuel economy dash. Five laps short of the race's full distance, Burton's Chevy sputtered to a quiet crawl out of fuel relinquishing the lead to Tony Stewart. Sailing across the Texas Motor Speedway, Stewart scored his 4th win in the 10-race Chase for 2011.

Crossing the line a little over a second after Stewart, Carl Edwards continues to mount a strong defense as he attempts to reel in his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Coming in 2nd place, Edwards still holds a 3-point advantage over the two-time NASCAR Cup series champion Tony Stewart.

Rounding out the top-5 for the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway is Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. Also closing out the event with strong runs is Jeff Gordon who climbed from 23rd to 6th, 7th place for Dale Earnhardt Jr and Marcos Ambrose who ran in the top-10 almost all day Sunday to finish 11th.

With two races remaining in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, the tour will race at the newly-reconfigured Phoenix International Raceway.

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup
AAA Texas 500
Texas Motor Speedway
Race Results

  1. 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
  2. 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
  3. 4 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
  4. 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
  5. 16 Greg Biffle Scotch Blue Ford
  6. 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
  7. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard by Tradition/AMP Chevrolet
  8. 56 Martin Truex, Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
  9. 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
  10. 43 AJ Allmendinger Immortals/Best Buy Ford
  11. 9 Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Ford
  12. 6 David Ragan UPS My Choice Ford
  13. 29 Kevin Harvick Rheem Chevrolet
  14. 48 Jimmie Johnson mylowes Chevrolet
  15. 27 Paul Menard Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet
  16. 39 Ryan Newman Quicken Loans/Carrier Classic Chevrolet
  17. 21 Trevor Bayne Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford
  18. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
  19. 5 Mark Martin CARQUEST/ Chevrolet
  20. 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Office Toyota
  21. 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
  22. 0 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
  23. 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet
  24. 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
  25. 13 Casey Mears GEICO Toyota
  26. 51 Landon Cassill Security Benefit/Thank A Teacher Chevrolet
  27. 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
  28. 47 Bobby Labonte Wounded Warrior Project Toyota
  29. 71 Andy Lally TRG Motorsports Ford
  30. 22 Kurt Busch AAA Dodge
  31. 38 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
  32. 34 David Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford
  33. 18 Michael McDowell M&M's Toyota
  34. 32 Mike Bliss Street King Ford
  35. 35 Dave Blaney Big Red Chevrolet
  36. 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Arctic Cat Chevrolet
  37. 20 Joey Logano The Home Depot Toyota
  38. 36 Geoffrey Bodine Luke & Associates, Inc. Chevrolet
  39. 46 Scott Speed Green Stuff Absorbent Ford
  40. 66 Josh Wise HP Racing LLC Toyota
  41. 37 Mike Skinner MaxQ Motorsports Ford
  42. 87 Joe Nemechek AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota
  43. 55 JJ Yeley Ingersoll Rand Ford


Saturday, November 5, 2011

NASCAR Levies Suspension for Texas Race Against Kyle Busch

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR

Known as a driver that embodies the must-win attitude found in all legendary racers, Kyle Busch at the age of 26 years has swiftly fell to 104 race victories in the top-three faucets of NASCAR. A focused, determined individual with the talent to justify his presence as an all-out race threat in NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck races, Busch would never accept anything less than victory on the track. A driven winner, this enthusiasm of Kyle Busch has caused him to appear aggressive and downright disrespectful to other competitors. Earning reputation for combativeness in racing, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and even his brother Kurt met the consequences of crossing Kyle Busch's intense self-motivation.

For this weekend's NASCAR triple-header show at Texas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch again prepared to race in all three major NASCAR divisions starting with the Camping World Trucks Winstar World Casino 350k event Friday night. Qualifying 4th in his Kyle Busch Motorsports #18 Toyota Tundra, the driver/owner was a certified favourite for race victory at the end of the night. On lap 13, Busch battled for 2nd place with the #33 KHI (Kevin Harvick Incorporated) Chevrolet of Ron Hornaday Jr side-by-side into turn one. Passing a lapped truck, Hornaday slightly bobbled his race truck rubbing into Kyle Busch's race vehicle on the outside. Both trucks ran wide up the race track through turn two with the #33 Chevrolet Silverado brushing the wall. NASCAR threw the caution on the Texas Motor Speedway track but the #18 Toyota was instantly racing for the #33 truck of Ron Hornaday Jr. Crushing into the rear of the KHI truck, Busch intentionally turned the #33 into the turn 4 wall hard damaging his own truck in the process. Stunning spectators as well as other race teams alike, NASCAR responded promptly to the deliberate and dangerous actions of Kyle Busch. Indifferent to the penalties occurring in the NHL for dangerous head shots, NASCAR deemed the Friday night retaliation of Kyle Busch against Ron Hornaday Jr an action worthy for benching one of the stock car racing series' most popular bad boys.

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/ Getty Images for NASCAR

Having originally parked the #18 Toyota Tundra for the rest of the Camping World Truck Series event, Kyle Busch would return to the Texas Motor Speedway to learn he would be forbidden to compete in the remaining races at the 1.5-mile oval including most significantly the NASCAR Sprint Cup event on Sunday. Seventh place in Chase points for 2011, Kyle Busch will be a NASCAR Sprint Cup spectator for the first time since 2004 having to watch his #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota round the Texas Motor Speedway in the hands of Michael McDowell.  

Ruling on Busch's reckless contact with the #33 Chevrolet, the driver's past skirmishes likely added some weight to NASCAR's rare decision to suspend a driver. In May, Kyle Busch was involved with spinning Kevin Harvick at Darlington. On the pit lane during post-race, Busch forced himself past the #29 Richard Childress Racing car almost colliding with a Richard Childress Racing crew member. A second incident initiated by Kyle Busch in 2011 took place a month later in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 Camping World Truck Series at Kansas Speedway. Dissatisfied with a pass by Joey Coulter in the #22 Chevrolet, Busch bumped the competitor's truck hard on the cool down lap. Ironically, the owner of the car Busch confronted was Richard Childress who physically encountered the driver afterwards in the garage area. In the Texas truck race, Busch's wrath was dealt to a truck owned by Kevin Harvick (a pilot of Richard Childress' Sprint Cup car).

A rare occurrence to see a driver parked for an event as a penalty, only two times prior has a driver been suspended from a Cup series event for an incident in another NASCAR event. In the first time following a 2002 Martinsville truck race, Kevin Harvick (under probation for a post-race incident at Bristol Motor Speedway) was unseated from his #29 Chevrolet for the Sunday Cup event. The other time NASCAR levied a race suspension involved Robby Gordon. Wrecking Marcos Ambrose in the late laps of the inaugural Montreal Nationwide event, that incident and Gordon's conduct immediately afterwards led NASCAR to park versatile driver from the July race at Pocono Raceway.

Both Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota Racing expressed understanding on NASCAR's decision making neutral statements after the penalty was leveled against Kyle Busch. While Kyle Busch remained elusive for much of the day following NASCAR's penalty, the driver at-fault issued an open letter Saturday evening on his website.

To all,

I’ve had a lot of time today to sit and reflect, and try to put my thoughts into words as best I can.

I want to sincerely apologize for my actions during Friday night’s Truck Series race at Texas.

I apologize to my fans, all my sponsors, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports.

After talking with my team, it’s great to have their support and encouragement to assure me that there are better days ahead. Even though this took place while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, I am sorry for how difficult this has been for everyone associated with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series teams.

I’d also like to apologize to Ron Hornaday Jr., and everyone associated with the No. 33 team in the Truck Series.

I understand why I was taken out of the car for the rest of the weekend. NASCAR officials had to act, and I accept their punishment and take full responsibility for my actions.

As a racecar driver, the hardest thing to do is to sit on the sidelines listening to cars on the track when you know you should be out there competing. For this, I have no one to blame but myself.

Through a lot of support from the people around me, I feel like I’ve made a lot of strides this year, but this was certainly a step backward. Moving forward, I will do everything I possibly can to represent everyone involved in a positive manner. However, I know my long-term actions will have more of a bearing than anything I say right now.


Kyle Busch

NASCAR has not ruled out further actions on Kyle Busch but the chances of further race suspension is unlikely after Texas. While some will argue NASCAR is making an example out of Kyle Busch for his race actions, the driver would probably admit he made an example of himself to earn this hard ruling.