Auto Racing (80)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Jimmie Johnson went two years without a title and suddenly became an afterthought at the Daytona 500.
All the attention went to Danica Patrick and a handful of other drivers.
Not that it mattered Sunday, because look who pulled into Victory Lane.
Five-time is back. Not that he ever went away.
Johnson won his second Daytona 500 on Sunday, a year after he completed just one lap in the race and three months after falling short in his bid for a sixth Sprint Cup title. That so-called drought had made him something of a no-name during Speedweeks.
"In my mind, I didn't feel like I was under the radar," he said. "I felt like we were working hard to put the best product on the track. I guess I was quiet in the overall spectrum of things from the media side. I think people in the garage, people knew we were sitting on a lot of speed and had a very good race car."
But in winning the biggest race of the year, the No. 48 team wasn't sending a message to the competitors.
"I don't think we went anywhere; anybody in the garage area, they're wise to all that," Johnson said.
Johnson's win came on the same day that Patrick, who became the first woman in history to start a Sprint Cup race from the pole, again made history as the first woman to lead laps in the Daytona 500.
She ran inside the top 10 almost the entire race, kept pace with the field and never panicked on the track.
Her only mistakes were on pit road, where she got beat on the race back to the track, and on the final lap, when she was running third but got snookered by the veterans and faded to eighth. That's going to stick with Patrick for some time.
"I would imagine pretty much anyone would be kicking themselves about what they coulda, shoulda have done to give themselves an opportunity to win," she said. "I think that's what I was feeling today, was uncertainty as to how I was going to accomplish that."
There were several multicar crashes, but no one was hurt and none of them approached the magnitude of the wreck that injured more than two dozen fans in the grandstand at the end of the second-tier Nationwide Series race on the same track a day earlier. Daytona International Speedway workers were up until 2 a.m repairing the fence that was damaged in the accident, and track officials offered Sunday morning to move any fans who felt uneasy sitting close to the track.
Several drivers said the accident and concern for the fans stuck with them overnight and into Sunday morning, and Johnson was quick to send his thoughts from Victory Lane.
"I just want to give a big shout-out to all the fans, and I also want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everybody that was injured in the grandstands," Johnson said.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose father was killed in this race 12 years ago, was involved in Saturday's accident but refocused and finished second to Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
"Me personally, I was just really waiting to get the news on how everybody was, how all the fans were overnight, just hoping that things were going to improve," Earnhardt said, adding that he "wasn't really ready to proceed until you had some confirmation that things were looking more positive."
The race itself, the debut for NASCAR's new Gen-6 car, was quite similar to all the other Cup races during Speedweeks in that the cars seemed to line up in a single-file parade along the top groove of the track. It made the 55th running of the Daytona 500 relatively uneventful.
When the race was on the line, Johnson took off.
The driver known as "Five-time" raced past defending NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski on the final restart and pulled out to a sizeable lead that nobody challenged over the final six laps.
Johnson and Keselowski went down to the wire last season in their race for the Sprint Cup title, with Johnson faltering in the final two races as Keselowski won his first Cup championship.
Although it was a bit of an upset that stuck with Johnson into the offseason, it gave him no extra motivation when he found himself racing with Keselowski late Sunday for the Daytona 500.
"As far as racing with Brad out there, you really lose sight of who is in what car," Johnson said. "It's just somebody between you and the trophy. It could have been anybody."
Once Johnson cleared Keselowski on the last restart he had a breakaway lead with Greg Biffle and Patrick behind him. But as the field closed in on the checkered flag, Earnhardt finally made his move, just too late and too far behind to get close enough to the lead.
Earnhardt wound up second for the third time in the last four years. But with all the crashes the Hendrick cars have endured in restrictor-plate races - teammate Kasey Kahne was in the first accident Sunday - team owner Rick Hendrick was just fine with the finish.
"We have a hard time finishing these races. Boy, to run 1-2, man, what a day," Hendrick said. Jeff Gordon, who was a contender early, faded late to 20th.
And Johnson considered himself lucky to be the one holding the trophy at the end.
"Man, it's like playing the lottery; everybody's got a ticket," he said. "I've struck out a lot at these tracks, left with torn-up race cars. Today we had a clean day."
Mark Martin was third in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Keselowski, who overcame two accidents earlier in the race, wound up fourth in Penske Racing's new Ford. Ryan Newman was fifth in a Chevy for Stewart-Haas Racing and was followed by Roush-Fenway Racing's Greg Biffle, who was second on the last lap but was shuffled back with Patrick to finish sixth.
Regan Smith was seventh for Phoenix Racing, while Patrick, Michael McDowell and JJ Yeley rounded out the top 10.
Patrick was clearly disappointed with her finish. When the race was on the line, she was schooled by Earnhardt, who made his last move and blocked any chance she had.
Still, Patrick became the first woman in history to lead laps in the 500 when she passed Michael Waltrip on a restart on Lap 90. She stayed on the point for two laps, then was shuffled back to third. She ended up leading five laps, another groundbreaking moment for Patrick, who as a rookie in 2005 became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and now is the 13th driver to lead laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500.
"Dale did a nice job and showed what happens when you plan it out, you drop back and get that momentum. You are able to go to the front," Patrick said. "I think he taught me something. I'm sure I'll watch the race and there will be other scenarios I see that can teach me, too."
Earnhardt was impressed, nonetheless.
"She's going to make a lot of history all year long. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch her progress," he said. "Every time I've seen her in a pretty hectic situation, she always really remained calm. She's got a great level head. She's a racer. She knows what's coming. She's smart about her decisions. She knew what to do today as far as track position and not taking risks. I enjoy racing with her."
Johnson, one of three heavyweight drivers who took their young daughters to meet Patrick - "the girl in the bright green car" - after she won the pole in qualifications, tipped his cap, too.
"I didn't think about it being Danica in the car," Johnson said. "It was just another car on the track that was fast. That's a credit to her and the job she's doing."
The field was weakened by an early nine-car accident that knocked out race favorite Kevin Harvick and sentimental favorite Tony Stewart.
Harvick had won two support races coming into the 500 to cement himself as the driver to beat, but the accident sent him home with a 42nd place finish.
Stewart, meanwhile, dropped to 0-for-15 in one of the few races the three-time NASCAR champion has never won.
"If I didn't tell you I was heartbroken and disappointed, I'd be lying to you," Stewart said.
That accident also took former winner Jamie McMurray, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, and Kasey Kahne out of contention.
The next accident - involving nine cars - came 105 laps later and brought a thankful end to Speedweeks for Carl Edwards. He was caught in his fifth accident since testing last month, and this wreck collected six other Ford drivers.
The field suddenly had six Toyota drivers at the front as Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing drivers took control of the race. But JGR's day blew up - literally - when the team was running 1-2-3 with Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch setting the pace.
Kenseth, who led a race-high 86 laps, went to pit road first with an engine problem, and Busch was right behind him with a blown engine. Busch was already in street clothes watching as Hamlin led the field.
"It's a little devastating when you are running 1-2-3 like that," Busch said.
Hamlin's shot disappeared when he found himself in the wrong lane on the final restart. He tried to hook up with Keselowski to get them back to Johnson, but blamed former teammate Joey Logano for ruining the momentum of the bottom lane.
Hamlin offered a backhanded apology to Keselowski on Twitter, posting that he couldn't get close enough because "your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside line 1 move at a time."
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Move over, Danica.
NASCAR will unveil nine original commercials featuring more than two dozen drivers during the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
The spots will be broadcast in English and Spanish as the race is shown live on FOX and FOX Deportes.
The advertising campaign centers on NASCAR drivers who bring to life the unpredictability and drama of stock-car racing on and off the track. NASCAR calls the spots the "most comprehensive and integrated campaign" the sanctioning body has ever launched.
There was no immediate word on how many ads will include Daytona 500 pole-sitter Danica Patrick, the former IndyCar star who gained fame for sexy photos and GoDaddy.com Super Bowl commercials.
"The campaign was created to excite existing fans while engaging with new audiences, and is representative of where NASCAR is headed as a sport" said Kim Brink, NASCAR's vice president of marketing. "In developing the spots, we wanted to celebrate the heart of what makes our sport unique, challenge existing perceptions, inspire the entire industry and do it all as authentically and confidently as possible."
Why reaching the pinnacle of open wheel racing requires more than just raw talent
If you ask any amateur hockey player what the most important attribute is to make it to the NHL, they would say talent. If you ask any amateur football player what the most important attribute is to reach the NFL, its talent. If you ask any amateur race car driver what the most important attribute is to reach Formula 1, it isn’t about talent at all; instead, the attribute focuses on money. Sadly, this is more than just a theory.
It’s an unfortunate but true statement that becoming a professional race car driver requires much more than just skill and talent behind the wheel. If you don’t have the financial backing, then you’re more than likely going to be racing Formula 1 or NASCAR on the video game circuit.
Very rare instances have occurred where a driver has received the required funds from an outside source (not related to him/her) to compete on the professional level. For example, Canadian DTM driver Robert Wickens became a role model for younger drivers who currently compete in the karting circuit. Wickens managed to continually acquire sponsorships through hard work and dedication moving up the ranks of the open wheel world. Ultimately, he landed himself a gig at Mercedes-Benz as a Junior Team driver under the wing of the man himself, Michael Schumacher.
Wickens’ exceptional talent and dedication to his sport helped him push his dream forward, but he’s still trying to clear the final hurdle in making it as a Formula 1 driver.
These young race car drivers like Wickens have had exceptional careers thus far and deserve a chance on the Formula 1 stage, but in most cases they will have to pay their way up the ranks. Formula 1 rookie seats are mostly offered to the drivers who are willing to help contribute to the annual budget by bringing in their own personal sponsors and money. No longer are we seeing Formula 1 teams pulling drivers from the lower ranks and paying them, as these teams need as much funding as they can to survive. Sadly, more and more teams have started to take this approach which ultimately weakens the Formula 1 grid.
Why is it that the teams need funding? This question can have many different conclusions and is a very complicated one to answer. Research and development, driver and team salaries, cost of transportation, cost of hospitality all has an effect on the teams’ budgets. Formula 1 teams rarely publish their budgets and they can be a guarded secret amongst the big teams such as Ferrari and McLaren. Publications have speculated that Ferrari has spent well into the hundreds of millions for an annual budget while Caterham and Marussia have to make good with limited wind tunnel access and hindered engineering work on new components.
In all of my years being involved in motorsports, I’ve observed one thing that stands out from the rest. To move up, you have to kiss quite a lot of ass! If you’re not part of a wealthy family then you have some serious ground to worship. Despite what you want to believe, you won’t make it to Formula 1 just on skill alone. My good friend and ex-race car driver once perfectly said this to me:
“Do you want to race in Formula 1?”
“Do you have a million dollars set aside to get started?”
“Well there you go.”
This stuck with me. Why it stuck with me is baffling but it stuck all right. It made an impression, because it opened up my eyes to the truth that in order to move up you gotta move down…to the ground so you can polish whoever’s millionaire shoe and request that he/she pays for your next race or that upcoming test with the top team in Indy Lights or GP2. It’s this kind of shmoozing that is unfortunately necessary, but is also contributing to the decay of the sport. The wealthy families move up the ranks with little to no outside help, while average racing families struggle to find sponsorship year-after-year in order to succeed. The biggest problem facing these young drivers today is the economy, as it’s becoming more difficult to find someone or a group of people willing to hand over the necessary funds.
There’s a common saying that goes around the racetrack. If you want to become a millionaire racing cars, start with a billion!
Soon we will find out whether Robert Wickens can find enough sponsorship and make the right connections to fulfill his life-long dream. Let’s hope he doesn’t become another talent that didn’t shmooze the right people to get into the exclusive Formula 1 club. Either way, we should still be proud of our Guelph born Robert Wickens and all that he has accomplished up to this point.
How do you really reach the pinnacle of motorsport racing? What is the best way for the average driver to climb the ladder? The truth is, is that it’s all part of knowing the right people and going into their inner-circle to convince them to invest in you and your racing career. You have to prove to them that you’re truly something unique and special and worthy of representing them in the racing world. I wish more than anything that I could say that it really was all about talent, that it was all about racing teams sending scouts to pick the young drivers and nurture them into the next Alain Prost, but in the real world it’s only and always about the money.
MILTON KEYNES, UK – The launch today of Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s 2013 car, the RB9, not only marked the unveiling of the car with which the team will defend its Formula One Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles, but it also ushered in a new era for the team. The car features a striking new livery that reflects the strengthened relationship between Red Bull Racing and premium automotive brand Infiniti.
Triple World Formula One Champion Sebastian Vettel and nine-time grand prix- winner Mark Webber were on hand at the team’s UK base at Milton Keynes to give the world’s media its first glimpse of the new car and livery, which integrates Infiniti’s purple-hued branding with the team’s existing racing colors.
The unveiling was an opportunity for Infiniti to reveal that not only has it agreed a four-year deal to become the team’s title partner, as announced in November 2012, but also that it will become the exclusive Vehicle Performance Partner of the team.
Commenting on the enhanced relationship, Johan de Nysschen, President of Infiniti Motor Company said: “Our new, increased partnership as Infiniti Red Bull Racing is a key milestone for Infiniti and a clear indication of our commitment to building the brand globally,” he said. “While the first 24 months delivered outstanding results for both parties, our deeper involvement, which now sees us truly integrated as one team, will bring significant benefits to our people, processes and technology. We go into the 2013 season and beyond with a shared objective to deliver world-leading performance on the track and the road.”
Infiniti already has engineering personnel working at the team’s Milton Keynes HQ, highlighting the deepening technical synergy between the team and the car manufacturer. The marque aims to integrate further team members into the Vehicle Performance department in Milton Keynes.
Infiniti believes that rotating technical staff through the F1 environment will bring benefits in development processes and performance expertise. An early indicator of the value of the technical collaboration between the organizations was last year’s development of the Infiniti FX Vettel Edition from concept to production in just six months. More recently, Infiniti Red Bull Racing drivers Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Buemi had a hands-on role test driving and developing the new Infiniti Q50.
Commenting on the strengthened relationship, Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner said: “Our stronger link with Infiniti from 2013 is part of the natural evolution of our team and demonstrates its growth. We are still a young racing outfit and this title partnership is a very welcome aspect of our development. I firmly believe it will prove to be of enormous benefit on both sides over the coming years.”
INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier is stepping up to the IndyCar Series with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
The signing announced Tuesday makes Sam Schmidt's organization a two-car IndyCar Series team. Vautier will team with Simon Pagenaud, last year's IndyCar rookie of the year.
The two French drivers worked together in December during a test at Sebring.
Vautier won his debut race in Indy Lights last season en route to the championship, and did the same in the Star Mazda Series in 2011.
Pagenaud scored four podiums and finished fifth in the final standings last season when SPM was a single car team. Team owner Schmidt believes the organization will be stronger with two cars, and Pagenaud has said he believes he can contend for the IndyCar championship in 2013.
DAYTONA BEACH, FL -- Juan Pablo Montoya turned down pit road, stopped at his stall and picked up his boss and teammates.
Chip Ganassi and Charlie Kimball squeezed into the cockpit. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas jumped on the hood.
Montoya gave them all a lift -- much like he did during the closing laps.
Destination: Victory Lane and the record book.
Chip Ganassi Racing won its fifth Rolex 24 at Daytona on Sunday, a victory that gave Pruett his fifth celebratory watch and tied Hurley Haywood's record for wins in the twice-around-the-clock endurance race at Daytona International Speedway.
"To have Scott tie Hurley's record is something special," Ganassi said. "I used to race against Scott Pruett, and he amazed me then with his tenacity, and we saw it again here. I never met a guy that was so team oriented. And for he and Juan to get back together and have a victory I think mended a lot of things there.
"Hurley asked me if I could just make sure that Scott retired now, and I said no. I said what I will do, though, is maybe ask Hurley to come out of retirement if he wants to join (Pruett). So there's a carrot out there for Hurley."
Humbled a year ago when both its cars failed to make the podium, the Ganassi organization returned to the Rolex 24 at Daytona determined to perform.
An eyebrow-raising lineup change that involved Montoya showed just how serious the team was about winning, and it delivered with its fifth win in 10 appearances in the prestigious sports car race and put Pruett in the record books.
"Having gotten to know Hurley real well over the years by racing with him and just as a friend, and to have him there at the end was pretty special," Pruett said.
The winning team of three-time defending Grand-Am drivers Pruett and Rojas, along with Montoya and IndyCar driver Kimball, making his Rolex debut, beat the Max Angelelli-led VelocityWW team by almost 22 seconds.
It was Montoya who closed out the win, driving the final stint and waging a strong battle in the final hour with defending champion AJ Allmendinger. Ganassi's No. 01 BMW Riley had a clear horsepower advantage, and once Montoya got past Allmendinger, the win was his for the taking.
But the Ganassi team figured it was four laps short on fuel, and Montoya needed to build a lead of at least 40 seconds to hold off Angelelli and Allmendinger when he was forced to stop for gas. The Colombian did it by turning laps close to qualifying pace, and breezed to his third Rolex victory.
"It was a lot of pressure; I thought we have a decent lead, we're just going to go out there and ride for two and a half hours," Montoya said. "And then you realize there's a caution and another caution and another caution, and with the way the rules are and the speed the car had, it's like you didn't want to get into a ... contest with anybody. You had to be smart about when you passed them.
"We were kind of concerned about the (Shank) car, what they were going to do with fuel because they told me they could make it until the end and that we were going to have to push, and we pushed like crazy and opened up a hell of a gap. It was fun."
Montoya's other two wins were with Pruett on the No. 01 car in 2007 and 2008, but he spent the last three years driving for the No. 02 Ganassi "star car" and came away empty-handed each time. When the Ganassi cars were left off the Rolex podium last season for the first time since 2005, team management went to work on the cars and setting up a lineup that gave them two chances to win.
Montoya admitted he thought the switch was "a weird move," but owner Chip Ganassi and team manager Mike Hull insisted it wasn't a demotion for the driver who has been stuck in a lengthy slump in his full-time NASCAR job.
Ganassi said the Montoya move was Hull's call, but he also questioned it when the decision was made.
"I read that as you did, and I asked him about it, and he said it was to balance the thing out," Ganassi said. "We needed to balance it out. We also had Charlie Kimball in that car, and we wanted to give those guys every opportunity to win, as well, and we thought the 02 car was obviously very strong, and so we thought we had two good shots at it here."
The No. 02 car, driven by Indy 500 winners Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray and sports car ace Joey Hand, was strong until McMurray hit the wall exiting pit road following an early morning driver change. The damage to the steering may have contributed to the mechanical failure that knocked the car out of the race with four hours remaining.
"It's hard. This is different than crashing in a regular event," McMurray said. "When it's just you, it's not the same as having three other teammates and the amount of people we've had down here for testing. It is very embarrassing, very humbling, very heartbreaking to be the guy that does that. You don't want to be that guy."
In all, Ganassi's two cars combined to lead an overwhelming majority of the 709 laps. The No. 01 team led 421 laps in a race that had 24 drivers combine for a record 77 lead changes.
But the attention was on Montoya, who is clearly under pressure to perform this year, the final year of his contract with Ganassi.
"I think you always race for your job. It's normal," Montoya shrugged.
He stepped up Saturday and Sunday as the No. 01 team had to balance out Kimball's inexperience. It was the first time racing in a car with a roof on it for Kimball, who has diabetes and uses his fight with the disease as his platform.
"Having these guys as teammates takes a heck of a lot off my shoulders because I knew that I could settle in, and as long as I was smart and didn't make too many big mistakes and kept us in the race, they'd put us in a position to win at the end," said Kimball, who had one turn in the car for two late-night stints.
The Chevrolet team of Angelelli, defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jordan Taylor finished second for team owner Wayne Taylor -- redemption after an engine failure 22 minutes in last year's event ended the team's day. But Angelelli was bothered by engine restrictions to their Chevy that gave the Ganassi BMW's a clear power advantage.
"We have something restricted, OK? Just like driving with handcuffs; you can't do it, can't drive," he said. "Montoya and the 01 car is another league, is an A class. We are B class."
Defending race winner Michael Shank Racing twice came back from seven laps down to finish third in a Ford. It was a disappointing finish for team owner Shank, but a moral victory considering the hole the team clawed out of to make it to the podium.
Allmendinger, racing at Daytona for the first time since NASCAR suspended him for failing a random drug test hours before the July race here, teamed with fellow NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson and Grand-Am regulars John Pew and Ozz Negri for the finish.
Ambrose was added to last year's winning lineup after Negri broke his leg a month ago during offseason training, but Negri was able to return to the car this weekend for limited driving duties a mere six days after his cast was removed.
"We were saying that on the way over, John and I, how if you'd have told us after the first hour we could have a chance of finishing third, we would have been over the moon," Wilson said. "As we were on the podium, we were thinking, well, there's nothing quite like being first, but we just have to be grateful for the chance we had."
Audi Sport Customer Racing won the GT class in an Audi R8 with drivers Filipe Albuquergue, Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Mortara and Dion von Moltke.
Toronto, ON – This weekend sees Canadian IndyCar front-runner and ‘2012 Fan Favorite’ James Hinchcliffe compete in his second ‘Rolex 24 at Daytona’, Saturday 26th – Sunday 27th January, at the Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida.
The 25-year-old from Oakville, who finished 8th in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series racing the #27 GoDaddy.com Andretti Autosport Chevrolet, returns to sports car action sharing the #70 SpeedSource GT entry with Marino Franchitti, Jonathan Bombarito, Sylvain Tremblay and Tom Long.
‘Hinch’ – who kicks off the 2013 IndyCar season in St Petersburg, Florida on Sunday 24th March, took time out to preview this weekend’s event – the centrepiece of the Grand-Am Road Racing Series:
Q: Having debuted in the ‘Rolex 24 at Daytona’ last year, and taking sixth in class – what are you hoping to take from the event the second time around?
James Hinchcliffe (JH): “A Rolex! But seriously, just being part of this race with a company like Mazda and a team like SpeedSource is such a great opportunity. We had a great run last year and we just want to build on that. Being part of a new program like the SKYACTIV engine is an added bonus. I love what Mazda is doing with this car."
Q: What was the biggest thing that surprised you from the whole experience of the race and why do you think it holds such an appeal for such a wide variety of drivers – not least from the IndyCar Series?
JH: “The biggest shock last year was the team telling the drivers that once our stint is finished, leave. Get out of the pits, forget about the race. Just detach and rest. I thought I'd be in the pits watching most of the race, but getting away and staying fresh is such an important part of getting the most out of yourself.
“I think this race holds such an appeal because of the history behind it, the challenge of it and luckily for all of us, it happens early in the year that most drivers have an open schedule and are dying to get back in a car!"
Q: Is it safe to say that the competitive fires still burn brightly even though this is a one-off for many of the participants?
JH: “Absolutely! Maybe a little more because its the first proper competitive event in a few months for most of us! Everyone is itching to get racing and, again, the history behind this race means that every driver wants to add their name to the list of winners."
Q: In IndyCar it’s only you that gets the privilege of driving the #27 Go Daddy Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport – how easy is it to adapt to the ‘sharing’ element of sports car racing?
JH: “It's a lot of fun working with team-mates in the same car. It really unites the team because you need four people to all be fast and comfortable with the same car, same setup. It's very unique but I love that aspect of it. Having said that, I love then getting into my Indy car and knowing she's all mine."
Q: Describe each of your Daytona team-mates using only three words!
JH: “Marino Franchitti – versatile, consistent, perfectionist. Jonathan Bomarito – fast, passionate, smart. Sylvain Tremblay – leader, experienced, dedicated.”
Q: Does the 2012 IndyCar season feel like a long time ago already or is that just us? Does participating in an event like the Daytona race really give you a kick start for the 2013 season? Not that we’re saying one’s needed!
JH: “Fontana feels like a life time ago. I think that since that race was a bad one for us, it makes the off-season even longer. It was a bittersweet day because we were celebrating for Ryan but disappointed with what happened to us. For sure getting back racing in the 24 really makes it feel like the season is coming and now it's down to business.”
Q: As it’s getting towards that time of year - do you have the inside scoop on the Go Daddy Super Bowl commercial set to air next month? Can we assume for some reason (better be a good one) you declined to be in it with Danica Patrick and Bar Refaeli?
JH: “Inside scoop? I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."
MARANELLO, Italy - Ferrari dropped its plans to appeal a pass F1 champion Sebastian Vettel made at the Brazilian Grand Prix after receiving clarification from Formula One's governing body on Friday.
Ferrari was considering an appeal after video from Sunday's race appeared to show that Vettel passed Jean-Eric Vergne while a yellow caution light was on.
"The request for a clarification from the FIA came about through the need to shed light on the circumstances of the move, which came out on the Internet only a few days after the race," Ferrari said in a statement. "The letter to the FIA was in no way intended to undermine the legality of the race result.
"We received tens of thousands of queries relating to this matter from all over the world and it was incumbent on us to take the matter further, asking the federation to look into an incident that could have cast a shadow over the championship in the eyes of all Formula 1 enthusiasts, not just Ferrari fans. Ferrari duly takes note of the reply sent by the FIA this morning and therefore considers the matter now closed."
If a rules breach had been proven, Vettel would have been hit with a 20-second penalty, moving him from sixth place to eighth in the race and giving Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso the F1 title by one point.
Alonso finished second in the race at Interlagos, but Vettel's sixth place was enough to give him his third straight F1 title by three points. The 25-year-old German became F1's youngest three-time champion.
Vettel appeared to be in big trouble when he was bumped shortly after the start of the race and spun. He dropped to last place before he could turn his car around and begin to chase the leaders. He steadily worked his way up the field despite a slightly damaged car and no radio communication.
It was during Vettel's climb back through the field that the alleged illegal overtake of Vergne occurred.
When there is a yellow caution flag or light, it signals danger on the track and drivers must slow down and not overtake. If a driver does overtake, he is penalized with a drive-thru or a 20-second penalty in the final results if the infraction is discovered after the race is over.
SAO PAULO (AP)-- Sebastian Vettel found himself spinning around on the track just after the start, watching helplessly as other cars whizzed past him. His Formula One title hopes seemed to be drifting away with them.
It was only the start of Vettel's problems Sunday in what he called the toughest race of his career. But he overcame all of them and came away with the only prize that mattered - his third straight championship title.
Vettel shook off a first-lap crash and other difficulties to finish sixth at the Brazilian Grand Prix, good enough to protect his lead over challenger Fernando Alonso and become F1's youngest three-time champion at age 25.
"Everything that could go wrong went wrong," he said.
Jenson Button of McLaren won the race at Interlagos, with Alonso second and Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa third. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, F1's most successful driver, finished seventh in his final race after 19 seasons.
But they were all overshadowed by Vettel, who had to overcome a poor start, the early crash, a damaged car, a broken radio, a botched pit stop and pouring rain.
"Just look at the stuff that went wrong. It was for sure the toughest race," Vettel said. "We kept believing. It was never game over."
Vettel appeared in big trouble after he was bumped shortly after the start and spun. He dropped to last place before he could turn his car around and begin a difficult pursuit. But he steadily worked his way up the field despite a slightly damaged car and no radio communication.
"You are the man, you are a triple world champion," a team official told Vettel on the radio after he crossed the line, without being able to listen to the driver's response.
Vettel is the first driver with three titles in a row since Schumacher won five straight from 2000-04. The only other driver to win at least three consecutive championships was Juan Manuel Fangio from 1954-57.
"It's difficult to find the right words," Vettel said. "It's unbelievable. I'm still full of adrenaline. It was an incredible race."
Schumacher was the first to congratulate Vettel, having just bid his own farewell to the sport. Minutes before the race, he lapped the track with a flag with the words "Thank You." He used the radio to thank the mechanics and engineers he has worked with as well as his fans watching on TV.
The 43-year-old German is retiring for the second time after struggling in his return with Mercedes. He had ended his career after the 2006 season and managed only one podium finish after retuning in 2010, at the European GP in July.
Schumacher is leaving F1 with numbers unmatched by any other driver. He retires with the most wins (91), pole positions (68), fastest laps (77) and most podium finishes (155).
Vettel needed to finish fourth or better to clinch the title regardless of Alonso's result. The Spaniard would have a chance to overtake the German only by finishing on the podium. He looked to have the advantage after a superb start and a chaotic first lap, but in the end couldn't erase Vettel's 13-point lead in the standings.
Lewis Hamilton was leading in his final race with McLaren when Nico Hulkenberg crashed into him while trying to pass on a slippery track with 17 laps to go. Hamilton received a standing ovation from his McLaren team when returning to the garage.
"Mixed emotions, but I'm happy," he said.
While the race was filled with drama and potentially title-deciding swings, it had an anticlimactic finish behind the safety car after Paul Di Resta crashed just before the final lap. That meant Vettel could simply cruise safely toward the title.
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Sebastian Vettel showed why he doesn't have to start at the front of the grid to compete for podium finishes - an ability that kept him on track for a third straight championship title.
Vettel's lead in the standings looked to be in danger at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday when he was forced to start in the pit lane behind the rest of the field due to fuel irregularities in qualifying. But the two-time defending champion bumped and zigzagged his way up the grid to finish third, just one place behind main rival Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen won the crash-filled race.
Vettel leads Alonso by 10 points with two races remaining, and could potentially clinch the title at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 18.
After the setback in qualifying, Red Bull seemed to be focusing on Mark Webber, who was second and looked to be in a good position to win the race. But the Australian dropped to fifth after a bad start, then collided with Pastor Maldonado before crashing out on the 39th lap after colliding with Lotus' Romain Grosjean.
It was left to Vettel, who collided with Bruno Senna and Ferrari's Felipe Massa on his way up the order. Even after pitting and dropping from 13th to 21st, the German kept pushing until he passed McLaren's Jenson Button to retain his lead in the drivers' championship.
"Yes, it's hard enough to find your way once through the field but we did it twice today," Vettel said. "Quite difficult with some guys, little easier with other guys. But the most important thing was that the pace was there and we were in a very strong position.
"It was a big chance to lose out a lot today, but we didn't lose anything, so I'm very happy. The guys are pushing 100 per cent. I feel very happy they're all behind me and I try to do my best for them. I think we have two more races ahead of us; we're in the best possible position, so I think we're looking forward to the next race - a new grand prix, a new challenge."
Team Principal Christian Horner praised Vettel for bouncing back after being penalized Saturday for his car stopping at the end of qualifying. Race stewards ruled he had insufficient fuel to be tested as required by the FIA.
"After the problems of yesterday, it was a remarkable comeback from Sebastian to finish on the podium," Horner said. "He drove an unbelievable race today and his final move on Jenson was quite exceptional. To go from pit lane to podium was something we could only dream of before the race."
The big loser appeared to be Ferrari, which was unable to take full advantage of Vettel's problems - picking up only three points in the title chase.
"It's true that with Sebastian last, there was an opportunity to reduce the gap more significantly," Alonso said. "But it's equally true that our performance and our grid position could have seen us lose points in this grand prix. ... Let's hope we can put in a good result in an important country like the United States. Tonight I go to sleep thinking the glass is half full, rather than half empty.