Thursday, January 30, 2014

Brian France's Last Stand

The newly announced Chase-format confirmed two things: NASCAR is desperate and Brian France is down to last bullet.

With this being the fourth different iteration in eleven years, Brian France has nowhere else to turn after announcing the sixteen driver, win and you are in, three rounds of elimination with a "winner1"-take-all finale at Homestead. This is the most radical of the Chase formats because it is the most unusual format seen in the major motorsport world. A win in the first twenty-six races gets you in the Chase2

Where does Brian France turn when (not if) this doesn't work out. In the first ten years of the Chase the championship always came down to the final race and that wasn't good enough for him. NASCAR no longer wants to be a motorsports series. It is infatuated with being one of the big four team sports leagues in the United States and more specifically the National Football League. It is look for one finale to crown it's champion. The previous thirty-five races have no bearing on the champion. Whoever finish better out of the final four drivers at Homestead, on that one given day will be your champion.

France thinking each of the first twenty-six races will feature drivers going for it more and racing harder because every race will now be worth of a Chase spot is ludicrous. I echo Kyle Busch's sentiment when he said, "how?" I understand every race has a Chase spot on the line but after eight or nine different drivers win, why would say Jimmie Johnson challenge say Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. for a win if Johnson already has three wins and Stenhouse is going for his first?

NASCAR incentivized winning once out of twenty-six. As long as you win one of the first twenty-six, remain in the top thirty in points, qualify for every race and no more than sixteen drivers win a race and the points leader at the end of twenty-six races doesn't go winless, you are set. You don't need to win every weekend, you just need one and maybe a second to be safe.

And in case you are wondering, since NASCAR's schedule expanded to thirty-six races in 2001, only once has sixteen drivers won in the first twenty-six and that was 2003 when sixteen drivers won but Greg Biffle wouldn't have qualified after failing to make the Las Vegas race and three of the remaining fifteen winners would have been outside the top twenty at Richmond but still qualified for the Chase (Dale Jarrett, Ricky Craven and Joe Nemechek).

The next closest to sixteen winners in the first twenty-six would fourteen different drivers in 20013, 2002, 2007, 2011 and 2012. Twelve different drivers won in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2013 and eleven different drivers won in 2010. Only ten different drivers won in 2008. It's pretty much a guarantee you win one in the first twenty-six and you will be fine.

Winning a rain-delayed race just became that much more important. If there is a storm on the horizon, no team is going to pit because they could be in position to inherit the lead and let mother-nature clinch their Chase position for them. It is now worth the risk and those are the risks teams will be now willing to make.

Many have been coming up with the scenarios a driver could win the first thirty-five races and lose the championship but I think we all can agree that is the most extreme example of this format backfiring. But that is the most extreme example of this format backfiring, meaning there are plenty of other ways of this proving everything France said today as wrong.

As much as you can say the emphasis is on winning, the truth is you can still win the championship with one win or possibly no wins. You could qualify for the Chase with no wins, run consist through each round to advance and enter the final race at Homestead just needing to finish ahead of three other drivers. And if that happens, you can bet we will be discussing another change to the Chase format.

Then there is the possibility of a driver finishing thirty-ninth at Homestead and winning the champion but once again that is an extreme example. But it's still possible a driver finishes fifteenth and that is good enough to clinch the title. What an emphasis on winning!

France believes this is a much simpler format to understand. What was more simpler than whoever had the most points after thirty-six races? If it was the points system that fans didn't understand than make that simpler. Adopt a system more along Formula One. Points for only the top ten, no bonus points and larger gaps between first and second. One last point on simplicity, does France really think David Ragan's win, his only top-five, his only top-ten and twenty-fifth position in points is enough of a reason to convince someone why he is in the Chase while Brad Keselowski, nine positions ahead of him in points with six more top-fives and ten more top-tens is out?

The question is, if NASCAR is so committed to the Chase-format, why haven't they implemented it in the other two national touring divisions, the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series?

How contradictory can NASCAR be saying winning has to be the most important thing and meanwhile the defending Nationwide Series champion had no wins and the defending Truck Series champion had one win? Why hasn't NASCAR addressed the issues with those two series (i.e. Cup drivers being allowed to race an unlimited amount of race despite not being eligible for the championship)?

NASCAR is ignoring things that actually have to be changed for constantly back-peddling of previous mistakes. For those who think this is someone who doesn't want to change, believe me that isn't true (I want a title sponsor for the Indianapolis 500). Ten years ago, I was all for trying the Chase. I thought it would be great but as grew up (I was 9 years old when the Chase was introduced) and read more about motorsports history these additional changes were more and more in the wrong direction. Motorsports isn't about one race, it's about a full season of results from day one to final checkered flag. NASCAR has to get back to that.

1 Finish the best out of the four remaining drivers

2 As long as you are in the Top 30 in points and qualify for all 26 races unless you have a medical exemption (i.e. a doctor's note saying you are not fit to compete in an event.

3 Sixteen drivers won in the first 26 races in 2001 but since Kevin Harvick did not qualify for the Daytona 500, he would not make the Chase.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday Thoughts

We are nearly one month into 2014 and the motorsport season experiences it's first lull in the schedule. After a three-week binge where the Dakar Rally, 24 Hours of Dubai, Rallye Monte-Carlo, Chili Bowl and 24 Hours of Daytona tended to the withdrawal the winter months produces for race fans, like any good addict, you itch and twitch for more.

AMA Supercross is running their third round in Anaheim this weekend, but that isn't enough to feed the need. The Bathurst 12 Hours and Rally Sweden are next week, followed by Speedweeks from Daytona leading to the Daytona 500 and into a regular weekly cycle of racing until about Thanksgiving.

With this time off, I feel it is the right time to just look at different motorsports topics and comment on them.

Formula One testing is taking place at Jerez and most of the teams on the grid have unveiled their new chassis for 2014. Due to the regulations that require lower noses, some teams have gone with unique designs and let's just say some are much better than others..

Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari did good jobs with their designs. The Mercedes is gorgeous, living up to the Silver Arrows of the past. Unfortunately, Lewis Hamilton has already put it in the tires but I guess you rather do it day one than at Silverstone or Monza.

The Red Bull is a typical Red Bull car but Adrian Newey doesn't produce duds. This is just what we have come to expect and there are no complaints. It looks good and will probably be quick.

Ferrari's design is as close as the teams can get to the stepped, platypus noses that were common over the past two seasons. It could be worse. Much, much worse.

The other teams, let's just say they look a little phallic. Toro Rosso, Force India and Sauber all produced very revealing designs. Williams can call it an "anteater" all they want, that's not the first thing that comes to mind. For the lack of a better term, Toro Rosso just whipped it out there and isn't ashamed.

Sauber isn't as bad. Their livery is still a little dull but for a team that has been strapped for cash they do their best.

The Force India chassis actually looks pretty good until you get to the front where it looks as if they just used a strap-on sex toy for a nose. The Force India livery is fantastic. The orange and black scheme is sleek and appealing to the eye. Just don't look at the front of it.

McLaren did well. More on the phallic side but not to the point of near censorship that Toro Rosso, Sauber and Force India cause.

Lotus went even more unique with a manta ray design. It's much more toward the Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari end of the scale than the Toro Rosso end and the John Player Special livery is the icing on the cake that make up for any aesthetic faults.

Kamui Kobayashi sent out this tweet of the Caterham. Maybe I need an angle with better lighting because that picture isn't assuring. And with more light, yep, it's as bad as I thought.

Marussia is the last team standing. Let's hope their designs aren't anatomical.

As for testing itself, with this being the first public shakedown of the new turbocharged V6 engines, it will be revealing which engines are working better than others and who is on pins and needles as the Australian Grand Prix approaches.

Moving on, the 24 Hours of Daytona had incredible depth in the entry list. You had past race winners, sports car champions from around the world, IndyCar champions, Indianapolis 500 winners, Le Mans winners, drivers with experience in Formula One, a DTM champion, WTCC champion, Daytona 500 winner, a lot of up-and-coming talent as well as veterans who after all these years are still on the top of their game.

There was something lacking from the entry list though and it bothered me by a little. Sixty-seven cars split 27 between the two prototype classes and 40 between the two GT classes and only three full-time NASCAR drivers were involved, two drove for Ganassi. Some of you will laugh that off and come up with remarks about the talent of NASCAR drivers but for me, it was a little disappointing. Don't get me wrong, the entry list was top-notch top to bottom and there weren't many teams with open slots for a driver to get a stint in but for me, the 24 Hours of Daytona has always been a great event for bringing in drivers for one-off appearances.

A decade ago you had an all-star team of Andy Wallace, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on the verge of winning before it all came apart in the final minutes. For a few years it wasn't uncommon to see Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, the Labonte brothers, Casey Mears, Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya and even Kyle Petty make an appearance at the 24 Hours of Daytona. This year Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson and AJ Allmendinger were the only drivers with full-time Cup rides competing. And there was a brutal reminder why that was the case on Saturday.

Memo Gidley's accident (The good news is Gidley has undergone back surgery to stabilize a fracture).

How many times have we seen Johnson or Stewart listed as a third or fourth driver for a team the same way Gidley was? NASCAR team owners and sponsor invest millions into their drivers. Imagine if Johnson were in Gidley's shoes just shy of 5:00 p.m. on Saturday? What would be going through their mind? Their owner's mind? Their sponsor's?

I may have missed it but Memo Gidley's accident didn't get any air time on SportsCenter. Had it been Jimmie Johnson, SportsCenter may have been wall-to-wall NASCAR on Saturday night and Sunday morning considering the only NFL game was the Pro Bowl. A team can't afford that. The old adage "there is no such thing as bad publicity" is falsified if Gidley and Johnson had reversed roles last Saturday.

It is sad to see drivers limited to what they do. Motorsports are always going to be dangerous, the realm of death hangs over everyone every time they step into a car whether it be NASCAR at Texas, USAC at Terre Haute, Formula One at Yas Marina, IndyCar at Toronto, Moto GP at Silverstone or V8 Supercars at Bathurst.

If you've followed motorsports long enough you have heard many times drivers say I want to compete in "event X," whatever that might be. After a while it becomes tiresome when you hear a driver say that because the time comes when it put-up or shut-up and more times than none a driver should seize answering those questions because fans don't want to hear what you'd like to do, they want to see you do it. Every year for a decade saying, "oh, I'd love to race Le Mans" is much more frustrating than if you ran Le Mans once a decade. Back to another old adage, shit or get off the pot and many should pull up their pants and move on.

Apparently Kurt Busch is "70 percent" of the way on taking his metaphoric bowel movement, running in the Indianapolis 500. I'd love to see him do it but forgive me for not holding my breathe. I won't believe it until noon, May 25th when the green flag flies for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500. When he completed rookie orientation last year, I thought it made more sense than ever for him to attempt it. He was with Furniture Row Racing, who showed a trillion times more interest than any other NASCAR team of their driver running Indianapolis. Everything was last moment and didn't pan out but the door was open to him running an IndyCar race later in 2013. That didn't happen as the ovals schedule quickly dried up by the Fourth of July and once Busch qualified for the Chase, him running the season finale at Fontana was out of the question.

But apparently he is still driving toward competing at Indianapolis this year, despite moving to a new team, despite a potential clash of engine manufactures, despite going cold turkey into what would be his first IndyCar event. Gene Haas and Tony Stewart are behind him. The possibility of driving a Honda for Andretti Autosport doesn't appear to be a deterrent and the last obstacle in his way is any changes to the Chase format that have yet to be announced by NASCAR.

In Busch's eyes, the clock is ticking down on this opportunity as he is turning 36 years old. Let's not forget Emerson Fittipaldi was 37, Nigel Mansell was 39, Nelson Piquet and Rubens Barrichello were 40 and Jean Alesi was 47 when they made their Indianapolis debuts. Granted they all came from open-wheel backgrounds. My opinion is Indianapolis isn't something you can try just once. You can't just do it and check it off your list. With the abbreviated month of May where track time is limited and the whole qualifying procedure is still subject to further change, one misstep can ruin your month. See Bryan Clauson who was quick all month in 2012, was about to qualify in the first four rows and stuffed it into the wall. On day two he qualified 31st and in the race he spun on lap fourteen and retired with a mechanical failure after forty-six laps.

Do you really think Clauson is satisfied with that? Do you think Conor Daly is satisfied with his debut last May (crashed in practice, started 31st, finished 22nd two laps down)? How about AJ Allmendinger? Do you really think Allmendinger, after starting fifth, having a loose seatbelt force him to pit and still manage a seventh place finish, is satisfied knowing how close he was? If Busch does attempt Indianapolis this year and he is mid-pack all month, do you think he wants another shot to show improvement or do you think he would be turned off enough never to do it again? I would think the former.

Anyway, these have just been a few topics on my mind. I hope it warmer wherever you are and hope you are handling the motorsports withdrawal well. The good news is we are just weeks away from the season revving up and becoming a weekly habit once again.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Level 5 Penalty Rescinded, Awarded GTD Class Victory At Daytona

Over four hours after the checkered flag flew at Daytona International Speedway ending the 24 Hours of Daytona, the final results for the GTD class were still up in the air. Until now.

IMSA officials have decided to rescind the unavoidable contact penalty on driver Alessandro Pier Guidi and the #555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia, awarding the team GTD class victory over the #45 Flying Lizard Audi R8 LMS.

On the final lap of the 24 Hours of Daytona, Pier Guidi and driver of the #45 Audi Markus Winkelhock were side-by-side for the class lead entering the kink with the Ferrari on the inside. As the exited the kink, Winkelhock slide off course and handed the victory to the #555. Officials initially though the Italian driver had  made contact with the Audi and was given a stop and hold plus seventy-five second penalty, dropping the team from first to fourth in the class standings. However, replays clearly showed that contact never occurred.

Pier Guidi, Townsend Bell, Scott Tucker, Jeff Segal and Bill Sweedler are the winners in the GTD class with Winkelhock, Spencer Pumpelly, Tim Pappas and Nelson Canache being relegated to second position in class. The #58 Snow Racing Porsche 911 GT America of Madison Snow, Jan Heylen and Marco Siefried finish third after the removal of the penalty with the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Mika Salo, Mikhail Aleshin, Maurizio Mediani, Boris Rotenberg and Sergey Zlobin dropping down off the podium to fourth position.

The next round for the Tudor United SportsCar Championship will be the 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday March 15th.

Action Express Wins 24 Hours of Daytona

For the second time in five years, Action Express Racing has won the 24 Hours of Daytona. The #5 Corvette DP of João Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sébastien Bourdais took the win by 1.461 seconds over the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Max Angelelli, Wayne, Ricky and Jordan Taylor. Corvette DPs swept the podium and Action Express bookended it with the #9 of Brian and Burt Frisselle, Fabien Giroix and John Martin.

Mike Rockenfeller made it a sweep of the top four for the Corvette DP in the #90 Spirit of Daytona entry with his teammates Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante finishing two laps off the overall winners. The top LMP2 car the #6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Oreca-Nissan of Lucas Luhr, Klaus Graf and Alex Brundle in fifth position three laps down.

This is the second Daytona victory for Fittipaldi and Barbosa, they won in 2004 and 2010 respectively. This is Bourdais' first career Daytona victory. The Frenchman has finished second overall three times in his home race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Bourdais is the first Frenchman to win at Daytona since Emmanuel Collard won alongside Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli in 2005. This is GM's first overall win since 2005 as well when Pontiac was the winning engine manufacture and this is Chevrolet's first win as an engine manufacture since the Corvette C5-R won overall in 2001.

Patrick Pilet finished sixth overall and won the GTLM class in the #911 Porsche 911 RSR with teammates Richard Lietz and Nick Tandy. Joey Hand got the #55 BMW Z4 GTE within a second of the Porsche in the closing laps but ultimately came home in second, 2.838 seconds back after hitting lapped traffic. Bill Auberlen, Andy Priaulx and Maxime Martin rounded out the #55 driver line-up. The #91 Viper of Marc Goossens, Dominik Farnbacher and Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third in class.

This was Lietz's second career class victory at Daytona while first for both his teammates. Lietz won in 2012 while driving for Magnus Racing.

The #54 CORE Autosport Oreca won from pole position in the Prototype Challenge class with drivers Colin Braun, Jon Bennett, James Gue and Mark Wilkins. It was CORE Autosport's second win on the day as the team fields the factory Porsches in GTLM. A lap back of the #54 was 8Star Motorsports in second with drivers Tom Kimber-Smith, Enzo Potolicchio, Michael Marsal and Rob Huff. The #38 Performance Tech Oreca finished third in class with drivers Tomy Drissi, Raphael Matos, David Ostella, Gabriel Casagranda and Júlio Campos.

This is the first career Daytona class victory for all four CORE Autosport drivers.

GTD saw a controversial finish. On the final lap, the #555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari of Alesssandro Pier Guidi and the #45 Flying Lizard Audi R8 LMS of Markus Winkelhock were nose-to-tail as they entered the infield section. The two cars went side-by-side through the kink with Pier Guidi on the inside and Winkelhock on the outside. As they exited the corner, the #45 slide wide and off track, handing the Ferrari the lead and what appeared to be the win in class.

After taking the checkered flag, the #555 was penalized a stop and hold for seventy-five second penalty for unavoidable contact, dropping the car off the GTD podium. However, on replay it was clear no contact was made between the two cars.

Provisionally, the #45 Audi of Winkelhock, Spencer Pumpelly, Tim Pappas and Nelson Canache are the GTD winners, giving Audi back-to-back class victories at Daytona. The #58 Snow Racing Porsche of Madison Snow, Jan Heylen and Marco Siefried finished second with the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Mikhail Aleshin, Mika Salo, Maurizio Mediani, Boris Rotenberg and Sergey Zlobin rounding out the podium. The #555 Ferrari finished fourth after the penalty. 

Provisionally, this is Pumpelly's third career class win at Daytona having won in 2006 and 2011. This is the first Daytona class victory for the other three Flying Lizard drivers.

The next round for the Tudor United SportsCar Championship is the 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday March 15th.

Ninety Minutes To Go At Daytona

Three cars are separated by less than fifteen seconds for the overall lead while the battle in GTLM has significantly thinned out.

Sébastien Bourdais leads Jordan Taylor by 4.998 seconds with Bourdais' Action Express teammate John Martin just 8.811 seconds back of Taylor.

The Ford-Riley of Scott Dixon is fourth, one lap down but not out of it while Richard Westbrook and Klaus Graf are each two laps down.

Nick Tandy leads GTLM by a lap over Joey Hand after the #4 Corvette had to go to the garage to replace the gearbox. Marc Goossens is third in class, five laps back of Tandy with Dirk Werner seven laps back of Goossens. Tommy Milner is back on track in the #4, a lap back of Werner.

Colin Braun continues to lead in PC and he is a lap ahead of Tom Kimber-Smith. Raphael Matos is third in class, nine laps back. Frankie Montecalvo is fourth, two laps back of Matos for a spot on the PC podium.

The GTD battle sees the top four cars all on the same lap. The #555 Level 5 Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi leads the #58 Snow Racing Porsche driven by Jan Heylen by just under seven seconds. Spencer Pumpelly is third in class in the #45 Flying Lizard Audi, fifteen second back of the class leading Ferrari. Mika Salo is fourth in the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari.

Four Hours To Go in Daytona

The 24 Hours of Daytona has entered it's final four hours with all four classes still up for grabs.

Ricky Taylor leads a Corvette DP 1-2-3 ahead of the Action Express teammates Burt Frisselle and Christian Fittipaldi. All three are on the lead lap. One lap down is the #02 Ford-Riley of Tony Kanaan and Ganassi Racing with Lucas Luhr driving the #6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Oreca-Nissan in fifth. Michael Valiante is sixth, two laps down in the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP.

Richard Lietz leads the GTLM class in the #911 Porsche. The Austrian won the GT class in 2012 with Magnus Racing and is a three-time class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Oliver Gavin remains on the same lap as the Porsche as Corvette looks to win on it's return. Graham Rahal is third ahead of his teammate Andy Priaulx. The IndyCar driver is one lap off the leaders with the three time World Touring Car Champion two laps back.

The two Vipers are a lap apart, seven laps back of Lietz is the #93 of Kuno Wittmer with of the #91 of Ryan Hunter-Reay another lap down. Stefan Mücke is another seven laps back in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage V8.

Colin Braun continues to lead in PC. He is a lap ahead of the #7 Starworks Oreca of Alex Popw. Rob Hiff is third in the #25 8Star Motorsports entry another lap back. Julio Campos and Gunnar Jeannette round out the top five in class.

Bill Sweedler leads GTD in the #555 Level 5 Ferrari with the #58 Snow Racing Porsche of Marco Seefried in second. Markus Winkelhock is third driving the #45 Flying Lizard Audi. Mikhail Aleshin is fourth driving for #72 SMP Racing Ferrai with Cooper MacNeil rounding out the top five in the #22 Alex Job Porsche.

One notable retirement is the #912 Porsche of Patrick Long, Michael Christensen and Jörg Bergmeister due to an engine failure.

Update on drivers Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli. Gidley underwent surgery on his left arm and left leg. He also has an unstable fracture in his back that will require further surgery before he can be released. Malucellli is resting comfortably in hospital.

As of 10:00 a.m. ET, the leading Corvette DP of Wayne Taylor Racing has completed 573 laps.

Morning at Daytona

As with any endurance race, the night isn't always kind.

The #01 Ganassi Ford-Riley was forced to the garage to repair some right front damage and has fallen to thirty-four laps down. The #60 Michael Shank Ford-Riley had a gearbox problem and is still in the garage, now forty-seven laps down. The #70 Mazda SKYACTIV-D retired due to overheating.

In GTLM, the #4 Corvette retired due to overheating.

The #08 RSR Racing PC entry had accident in the bus stop end their day with Chris Cumming behind the wheel. Cumming is ok.

The good news from the night was Memo Gidley has overtone surgery on left arm and left leg and is undergoing further evaluation at Halifax Medical Center. Gidley had run into the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari of Matteo Malucelli just before 5:00 p.m. Saturday.

As they run with nearly seventeen hours completed, Jordan Taylor leads João Barbosa with Brian Frisselle third making it Corvette DP sweep of the top three. Scott Dixon is back in the #02 and is fourth with Mike Rockenfeller in fifth. They top five are all on the lead lap. Klaus Graf is sixth, one lap down.

Patrick Pilet is seventh overall and leads the GTLM class over his Porsche teammate Michael Christensen. Robin Liddell is third in the sole remaining Corvette, a lap back of the Porsches. Another lap back are the BMWs of John Edwards and Joey Hand. Six laps back of Pilet is Jonathan Bomarito in the #93 Viper with the #91 Viper of Marc Goossens seven laps back.

The PC pole-sitting #54 CORE Autosport entry was leading the class with Mark Wilkins behind the wheel before making a pit stop. Tom Kimber-Smith has taken the lead driving for 8Star Motorsports with Wilkins dropping to second after the stop.. Two laps back of them is Pieffe Kaffer in third driving the #7 Starworks entry.

Ferrari is 1-2 in GTD with the #555 Level 5 Motorsport of Jeff Segal leading the #63 Scuderia Corse of Jeff Westphal. Tim Pappas is third in the #45 Flying Lizard Audi with Madison Snow fourth in the #58 Snow Racing Porsche. The #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Maurizio Mediani round out the top five in GTD.

Midnight at Daytona

We have reached Sunday and there are still over fourteen hours to go.

An update on drivers Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli. Both are awake and communicating and are spending the night at Halifax Medical Center.

Action Express is 1-2 overall with João Barbosa leading Brian Frisselle. Behind the two Corvette DPs are two Ford-Rileys, one being Oswaldo Negri driving for Michael Shank Racing and Scott Dixon driving for Ganassi. Jordan Taylor rounds out the top five driving the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP.

Michael Valiante is sixth driving for Spirit of Daytona ahead of the #01 Ganassi Ford-Riley of Scott Pruett. Pruett is the final driver on the lead lap. Lucas Luhr is eighth, one lap down driving the the LMP2 Oreca-Nissan.

Nick Tandy is ninth overall and leads GTLM driving the #911 Porsche with the #3 Corvette of Antonio García in second. John Edwards has moved up to third with Patrick Long in fourth. Long was leading until he was given a drive-through penalty for ignoring a previous penalty. Long however did keep the #912 Porsche on the same lap as his teammate Tandy.

The #4 Corvette of Tommy Milner and the #55 RLLR BMW of Bill Auberlen are a lap back of the class leader.

Tom Kimber-Smith leads the PC class driving the #25 8Star Motorsport entry. #54 CORE Autosport is second in class with Mark Wilkins behind the wheel. Alex Popow has the #7 Starworks entry third ahead of Sean Rayhall and Julio Campos who is driving the #38 Performance Tech Oreca.

Ferrari has the top two positions in GTD with Jeff Segal leading the class in the #555 Level 5 Ferrari over the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrai of Alessandro Balzan. Christopher Haase is third in the #48 Paul Miller Audi. The Porsches of Madison Snow (#58 Snow Racing) Cooper MacNeil (#22 Alex Job Racing) and Christina Nielsen (#30 NGT Motorsport) round out the GTD top six.

Notable car to have issues include the #91 Viper which had to go to the garage for power steering issues. The #93 Viper had significant right front bodywork damage knock that car down the running order. The #93 is six laps back of the GTLM leader while the #91 is eleven laps back in class.

The #08 RSR Racing Oreca has been hit with multiple penalties and has had the engine cover off the car on a pit stop. They are eight laps off the class leader.

The #42 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan had been running in the top five when the alternator failed on them, dropping them sixteen laps back.

The #78 Starworks Dinan-Riley was having a great race before Sebastián Saavedra stopped on course. They are now twenty-six laps down.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Quarter of the Way Through Daytona

Six hours down from the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and here is how they run.

Three-time Daytona winner Memo Rojas leads over the defending DTM champion and 2010 Daytona winner Mike Rockenfeller leads driving the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP. Max Angelelli is third. He has taken over the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP from team owner Wayne Taylor. The two-time Daytona winner completed his final career stint. Sébastien Bourdias has replaced Chrisitan Fittipaldi in the #5 Action Express Corvette DP and is fourth. Past Daytona winner Justin Wilson is fifth driving the #60 Ford-Riley for Michael Shank Racing.

Kyle Larson has taken over for Tony Kanaan in the #02 Ganassi Ford-Riley and was caught speeding when exiting the pit lane. He has dropped behind the The #9 Action Express Corvette DP driven by John Martin and #78 Starworks Dinan-Riley of EJ Viso. The #6 Pickett Racing Oreca-Nissan of Alex Brundle a lap down just behind Larson.

Rob Bell and the #93 Viper leads GTLM and has cracked the top ten overall. Ryan Hunter-Reay is second in the #91 Viper. Ryan Briscoe has taken control of the #3 Corvette and is third in class. Jörg Bergmeister is fourth in the #912 Porsche with his teammate Richard Lietz in fifth.  

Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW is sixth and seventh in class with the #56 of Dirk Werner leading the #55 Maxime Martin. Pedrio Lamy is eighth in the #97 Aston Martin.

Colin Braun was leading the PC class in the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca before pit stops.. The class pole-sitting car spun on lap one with Jon Bennett behind the wheel. Issac Tutumlu was second in the #7 Starworks entry until a tire went down and caused a full-course caution.

Enzo Potolicchio (#25 8Star Motorsports) leads James Gue who has replaced Braun in the #54, Rusty Mitchell (#08 RSR Racing), Tutumlu and Doug Bielefeld( #87 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports) rounds out the top five.

The #48 Paul Miller Audi of René Rast leads GTD ahead of the #555 Level 5 Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi. Markus Winkelhock is third in the #45 Flying Lizard Audi with Alex Riberas (#23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Porsche) and Toni Vilander (#63 Scuderia Corse Ferrari) rounding out the top five. 

Red Flag At Daytona

The 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona was placed under red flag conditions at 5:07 p.m. ET after an accident at the kink involving drivers Memo Gidley (#99 Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP) and Matteo Malucelli (#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia).

Reportedly, the Ferrari of Malucelli had lost drive in the infield section when the #99 driven by Gidley collided with the Italian. Both drivers have been taken to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida. 

At the time of the red flag, Christian Fittipaldi was leading overall in the #5 Action Express Corvette DP ahead of the #02 Ganassi Ford-Riley of Tony Kanaan. Max Angelelli is third (#10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP) with Alex Popow (#78 Starworks Dinan-Riley) and Romain Rusinov (#42 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan).

Dominik Farnbacher is still leading in GTLM in the #91 SRT Viper ahead of the two Porsche of Patrick Pilet (#911) and Michael Christensen (#912). Kuno Wittmer is fourth in the #93 Viper. The Corvettes of Tommy Milner (#4) and Antonio García (#3) take the next two positions ahead of Graham Rahal in the #56 Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW Z4.

Chris Cumming leads in PC driving the #08 RSR Racing Oreca. Mike Guasch (#52 PR1/Mathiasen) is second with Martin Fuentes (#7 Starworks) third. James Kovacic (#87 BAR1 Motorsport) and Mirco Schultis (#8 Starworks) round out the top five. 

The #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Maurizio Mediani leads three Porsches in GTD: Madison Snow (#58 Snow Racing), Connor de Phillippi (#73 Park Place Motorsport) and #30 Henrique Cisneros (#30 NGT Motorsports. Scott Tucker is fifth driving the #555 Level 5 Ferrari.

First Hour and A Half Finished in Daytona

The first hour of the 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona saw a brief yellow flag period but for the most part, the race has been uneventful through one hour.

The #99 Bob Stallings Corvette DP of Alex Gurney led the first forty-five minutes of the race before making their first pit stop and handing the lead over to the #5 Action Express Corvette DP of João Barbosa. The #02 Ganassi Ford-Riley of Scott Dixon jumped the #99 in the pit sequence and now lead the Red Dragon.

The story of the Prototype class has been the #78 Starworks Dinan-Riley driven by Brandon Hartley. After starting 64th because of failing post-qualifying technical inspection, the New Zealander drove the car up to second overall before making his first pit stop.

The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP driven by Ricky Taylor is third ahead of the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP of Richard Westbrook. The #42 Morgan-Nissan of OAK Racing and Oliver Pla is fifth ahead of the #9 Action Express Corvette DP of Burt Frisselle. Scott Pruett (#01 Ganassi) Barbosa, Andy Meyrick (#0 DeltaWing) and Hartley (#78 Starworks) round out the top ten.

Starworks leads in PC with the #8 of Renger van der Zande ahead of Sean Rayhall (#87 BAR1), Alex Tagliani (#08 RSR Racing) and Gunnar Jeannette (#52 PR1/Mathiasen).

The Vipers have been 1-2 in GTLM with the #93 of Jonathan Bomartio and the #91 of Marc Goossens swapping the lead. The #91 leads the #911 Porsche of Nicky Tandy and the #93 is third ahead of world champion Gianmaria Bruni in the #62 Risi Compitizione Ferrari. The #4 Corvette of Tommy Milner is fourth ahead of the Patrick Long (#912 Porsche) and Jan Magnussen (#3 Corvette).

The GTD pole-sitter, Christopher Haase (#48 Paul Miller Audi) leads Mika Salo (#72 SMP Ferrari) and Lorenzo Case (#63 Scuderia Corse Ferrari). Frank Stippler (#32 GMG Audi) is fourth with Bill Sweedler (#555 Level 5 Ferrari) rounding out the top five in class.

The #46 Fall-Line Audi caused the only full-course yellow when Charlie Putman spun going into turn one. There race is done, ending Oliver Jarvis' chance for back-to-back Daytona wins in GTD.

Other notable cars to have problems, in Protoypes the #50 Highway to Help Dinan had issues early but are still running while the #2 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b had a spun in the chicane cause significant rear suspension damage. The #07 Mazda SKYACTIV-D has had it's share of mechanical issues.

The #09 RSR Racing PC car is currently in garage.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Spirit of Daytona Fastest In Final Practice

For the third session of the weekend, the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP driven by Richard Westbrook was fastest in practice for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona after setting a lap of 1:39.256 seconds. The pole sitting #99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP was second quick with Alex Gurney behind the wheel. Christian Fittipaldi made it a Corvette DP 1-2-3 driving the #5 Action Express Corvette DP.

Ganassi Ford-Rileys took the next two positions with Scott Dixon in the #02 leading the five-time Daytona winner Scott Pruett in the #01. John Martin put the #9 Action Express Corvette DP in sixth positions ahead of Jordan Taylor and the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP.

Daytona rookie Alex Brundle was eighth fastest behind the wheel of the #6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Oreca-Nissan, leading three consecutive LMP2 cars on the time sheet. David Brabham was ninth in the #1 HPD ARX-03b for Extreme Speed Motorsports and the #42 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan rounding out the top ten with Gustavo Yacamán driving.

Starworks Racing took the top two positions in the PC class with Sam Bird in the #8 leading Alex Popow in the #7. James Kovacic was third driving the #87 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca with Gunnar Jeannette in the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca and Duncan Ende in the #09 RSR Racing entry rounding out the top five.

Matteo Malucelli was fastest in the GTLM class driving the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia. Patrick Pilet was second in the #911 Porsche 911 RSR. Corvette took the next two positions with the #3 Jan Magnussen leading the #4 of Tommy Milner. Porsche rounded out the top five with Jörg Bergmeister in the #912.

Stefan Mücke was sixth in the Aston Martin Vantage V8 ahead of the two Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing BMW Z4 GTEs. The #56 of Dirk Müller led the #55 of Bill Auberlen in the session. Andrea Bertolini was ninth in the #57 Krohn Racing Ferrari with the Vipers rounding out the GTLM field. Marc Goossens and the #91 was fastest of the two Vipers ahead of the #93 driven by Rob Bell.

Level 5 Motorsports Ferraris took two of the top three positions in GTD with the #556 of Milo Valverde leading the way ahead of the #28 Dempsey/Konrad Porsche 911 GT America driven by Christian Englehart. Townsend Bell was third in the #555 Level 5 Ferrari. The #94 Turner Motorsport BMW of Markus Palttata was fourth with the #22 Alex Job Porsche of Leh Keen rounding out the top five.

The bigger news of the day out of GTD class was the #48 Paul Miller Racing Audi having it's pole winning time being reinstated. The #48 Audi R8 LMS had originally been penalized for a rear wing endplate violation.

The 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona will be shown live on Fox from 2:00 p.m. ET to 4:00 p.m. ET. Coverage will then move to Fox Sports 2 until 9:00 p.m. ET. At that time, the overnight coverage can be seen on Fox Sports 1 will pick up coverage on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. ET and cover through post race at 3:00 p.m.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Penalties After Daytona Qualifying

Two of the top three cars from GTD qualifying have had their time disallowed with a top three time from the Prototype class also being waved off.

The GTD pole winning #48 Paul Miller Racing Audi driven by Christopher Haase, Bryce Miller, René Rast and Matthew Bell and the third-fastest #46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi drive by Oliver Jarvis, James Walker, Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putnam have had their times disallowed. The #48 Audi was found to have a rear wing endplate violation while the #46 had a ride height violation.

In prototypes, the #78 Starworks Dinan-Riley driven by Alex Popow, Brandon Hartley, Scott Mayer, EJ Viso and Sebastián Saavedra has had their third fastest time waved off after a ride height violation and unapproved aerodynamic device on the car.

The prototypes starting line-up after the penalty:

1. #99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Corvette DP
2. #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP
3. #5 Action Express Corvette DP
4. #9 Action Express Corvette DP
5. #02 Ganassi Ford-Riley
6. #10 Wayne Taylor Corvette DP
7. #0 DeltaWing
8. #01 Ganassi Ford-Riley
9. #60 Michael Shank Ford-Riley
10. #6 Muscle Milk Pickett Oreca-Nissan
11. #31 Marsh Corvette DP
12. #50 Highway to Help Dinan-Riley
13. #2 Extreme Speed HPD ARX-03b
14. #1 Exreme Speed HPD ARX-03b
15. #42 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan
16. #70 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D
17. #07 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D
18. #78 Starworks Dinan-Riley.

After the two GTD penalties, their grid will be as follows:

1. #63 Scuderia Corse Ferrari
2. #65 Scuderia Corse Ferrari
3. #007 TRG Aston Martin
4. #555 Level 5 Ferrari
5. #33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper
6. #556 Level 5 Ferrari
7. #71 Park Place Porsche
8. #72 SMP Racing Ferrari
9. #009 TRG Aston Martin
10. #94 Turner BMW
11. #27 Dempsey Porsche
12. #18 Muehler Porsche
13. #22 Alex Job Porsche
14. #58 Snow Porsche
15. #30 NGT Porsche
16. #73 Park Place Porsche
17. #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Porsche
18. #45 Flying Lizard Audi
19. #81 GB Autosport Porsche
20. #35 Flying Lizard Audi
21. #32 GMG Audi
22. #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari
23. #28 Dempsey/Konrad Porsche
24. #64 Scuderia Corse Ferrari
25. #19 Muehlner Porsche
26. #49 Spirit of Race Ferrari
27. #48 Paul Miller Audi
28. #26 Fall-Line Audi

Action Express Ends Thursday On Top

Sébastien Bourdais set the fastest lap in Thursday night practice for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with a time of 1:38.964 seconds in the #5 Action Express Corvette DP. The #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP had a good day and Michael Valiante put the car second fastest. Max Angelelli was third fastest in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP with Brian Frisselle making it a Corvette DP sweep of the top four.

The #42 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan was fifth with Gustavo Yacamán setting the fastest lap ahead of the #2 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b driven by Simon Pagenaud. Marino Franchitti put the #02 Ganassi Ford-Riley in seventh position ahead of the #1 Extreme Speed Motorsports ARX-03b driven by David Brabham. Lucas Luhr was ninth in the #6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Oreca-Nissan with AJ Allmendinger rounding out the top in the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley.

Alexander Rossi turned the fastest lap in the DeltaWing, good enough for eleventh. Jamie McMurray was the fastest in the #01 Ganassi Ford-Riley with Brandon Hartley in the #78 Starworks Dinan-Riley and the pole sitting #99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP driven by Darren Law rounding out the top fourteen.

Sam Bird set the fastest time in the PC class driving the #8 Starworks entry. Mark Wilkins was second in the #54 CORE Autosport entry which won pole for Saturday. Raphael Matos was third fastest driving the #38 Performance Tech Oreca.

Viper continued their successful day with the #93 Viper driven by Rob Bell being fastest in GTLM just ahead of the #97 Aston Martin driven by Richie Stanaway. Defending GT world champion Gianmaria Bruni was third fastest driving the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari. Marc Goossens put the #91 Viper fourth. Nick Tandy was fifth fastest in the #911 Porsche.

The #3 Corvette got back out on track after having electrically issue keep them from qualifying. Antonio García was sixth fastest with Tommy Milner seventh in the #4 Corvette. Patrick Long was eighth in the #912 Porsche ahead of the #56 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing BMW driven by John Edwards.

Alessandro Pier Guidi was fastest in GTD driving the #555 Level 5 Ferrari as Ferrari took five of the top six positions in class. Paolo Ruberti was second in the #49 Spirit of Race Ferrari with the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari ending up third with Mikhail Aleshin setting the time. Dane Cameron put the #94 Turner Motorsport BMW fourth with the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari driven by Marco Cioci and #556 Level 5 Ferrari of Milo Valverde taking the next two positions.

Audis took the next three positions with #45 Flying Lizard of Spencer Pumpelly leading the way, ahead of factory Audi drivers Oliver Jarvis (#46 Fall-Line Motorsports) and Filipe Albuquerque (#35 Flying Lizard Motorsports).

Final practice will be a one hour session and take place tomorrow at 11:30 a.m.

Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Takes Daytona Pole

They may have to run a limited schedule due to funding but that didn't stop Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing from stealing pole position for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

Alex Gurney set the fastest time in Friday qualifying with a time of 1:38.270 seconds, over two tenths faster than Richard Westbrook and the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP. This is the second career 24 Hours of Daytona pole for Gurney and Jon Fogerty who won the pole in 2007.

Scott Mayer, the man who failed to pass Indianapolis 500 rookie orientation in 2003 and 2005, qualified the #78 Starworks Dinan-Riley in third position ahead of the #5 Action Express Corvette DP driven by Christian Fittipaldi, #9 Action Express Corvette DP driven by Burt Frisselle, #02 Ganassi Ford-Riley driven by the defending IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and last year's Grand-Am Daytona Prototype champion Ricky Taylor.

Katherine Legge qualified the the DeltaWing in eighth position, ahead of the defending Daytona winning #01 Ganassi Ford-Riley driven by Scott Pruett. Oswaldo Negri rounded out the top ten driving the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley. The #6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Oreca-Nissan driven by Lucas Luhr was the top LMP2 car in eleventh position.

Colin Braun won the Prototype Challenge pole position for the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca by 0.038 seconds over the #8 Starworks Motorsports entry of Renger van der Zande. They will start fourteenth and fifteenth overall.

Marc Goossens planted the SRT Viper flag as favorite on it's return to Daytona by taking the GTLM pole by 0.076 seconds over the #911 Porsche 911 RSR driven by Nicky Tandy. Jonathan Bomarito put the #93 SRT Viper third in class right ahead of the #4 Corvette driven by Oliver Gavin. Patrick Long rounded out the top five in the #912 Porsche.

Darren Turner qualified the #97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 in sixth position ahead of the #56 BMW Z4 of John Edwards and #55 BMW of Andy Priaulx. Peter Dumbreck qualified the #57 Krohn Racing Ferrari 458 Italia in ninth position. The #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari and #3 Corvette both did not set a time after both suffered electrical problems.

The #48 Audi R8 LMS of Paul Miller Racing won GTD pole after Christopher Haase took pole by 0.055 seconds over #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia of Toni Vilander. Defending 24 Hours of Daytona winner Oliver Jarvis put the #46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi in third position. The all-Brazilian #65 Ferrari qualified fourth with Daniel Serra behind the wheel while James Davison put the #007 TRG Aston Martin V12 Vantage rounded out the top five.

There will be one more practice session later tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Spirit of Daytona Leads Daytona First Practice

The first practice session for the Tudor United SportsCar Championship was led by the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP driven by Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiante and 2010 24 Hours of Daytona winner and 2013 DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller. The #90 led a Corvette DP 1-2, with the #5 Action Express Racing entry of Christian Fittipaldi, João Barbosa, Sébastien Bourdais and Burt Frisselle 0.302 seconds back.

The defending Daytona winning #01 Ganassi Racing Ford-Riley of Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Jamie McMurry and Sage Karam was third ahead of the #78 Starworks Dinan-Riley of Alex Popow, Scott Mayer, Brandon Hartley, E.J. Viso and Sebastián Saavedra. The #60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley of Oswaldo Negri, John Pew, Justin Wilson and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top five.

The Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP (Alex Gurney, Jon Fogerty, Memo Rojas and Darren Law) was sixth ahead of the #9 Corvette DP of Action Express Racing (Burt and Brian Frisselle, Fabien Giroix and John Martin). The #6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Oreca-Nissan of Lucas Luhr, Klaus Graf and Alex Brundle was the top LMP2 car in eighth ahead of the #02 Ganassi Ford-Riley (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Marino Franchitti and Kyle Larson). The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP rounded out the top ten (Wayne, Jordan and Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli).

Colin Braun led the Prototype Challenge driving the #54 CORE Autosport entry that will be shared with Mike Guasch, Jon Bennett and James Gue.

The #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen, Antonio García and Ryan Briscoe topped the GTLM class by 0.054 seconds over the #91 SRT Viper of Dominick Farnbacher, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay with the #97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Darren Turner, Stefan Mücke, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Richie Stanaway. The #93 Viper driven by Kuno Wittmer, Jonathan Bomarito and Robert Bell was fourth.

The #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia of Matteo Malucelli, Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni and Olivier Beretta was fifth ahead of the #911 Porsche 911 RSR of Richard Lietz, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet. The #57 Krohn Racing Ferrari (Tracy Krohn, Nic Jönnson, Andrea Bertolini and Peter Dumbreck) was seventh ahead of the #56 (Dirk Müller, John Edwards, Dirk Werner and Graham Rahal) and #55 (Andy Priaulx, Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand and Maxime Martin) Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing BMWs.

The #912 Porsche 911 RSR (Patrick Long, Michael Christensen and Jörg Bergmeister) was tenth fastest in GTLM. The #4 Corvette of Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Robin Liddell did not take part in the first session.

Audi started their title defense in GTD on a good note with the #46 Fall-Line Motorsports driven by Charlie Espenlaub, Charles Putman, James Walker and Oliver Jarvis. The surprise of the first session may have been the #81 GB Autosport Porsche 911 GT America of Damien Faulkner, Patrick Huisman and Bob Faieta in second ahead of the #007 TRG Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 of James Davison, Al Carter, Brandon Davis and David Block in third.

Second practice will take place at 1:15 p.m. ET with qualifying taking place later today from 3:45 p.m. ET to 5:05 p.m. ET. There will be a 90-minute night practice session at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Monday, January 20, 2014

So NASCAR Wants to Expand The Chase

Sometimes I wonder.

There is a fine line between being a sanctioning body and a business.

A sanctioning body sets the rules, organizes competitions and makes sure those competing are doing so within the rules.

A business, at the end of the day, has to make money.

Sometimes the two are one. NASCAR is a sanctioning body and a business. While setting rules, it wants to make every penny it possibly can. But at what point does business decisions put the integrity of the sanctioning body at risk?

Reports are NASCAR wants to expand the Chase to sixteen drivers and winning a race in the first twenty-six would pretty much guarantee a driver a spot in the Chase and guarantee the championship coming down to the final race.

I thought Bob Pockrass nailed it in his column. This feels like a change for change sake. It's feels as if NASCAR thinks it's time to do something different. NASCAR is trying too hard. They no longer want it to be natural. It has to be scripted. Scripting it is the only way they can guarantee what otherwise can't be guaranteed.

Does it make the season less meaningful? It feels that way but think about it this way:

1. NASCAR will still have some type of bonus for winning races prior to the Chase. So don't expect the drive who wins the Daytona 500 to really slouch off for the remaining twenty-five races. They will probably continue the three-bonus points for each win and they may even increase the bonus.

2. Winning a race won't guarantee just anyone a Chase position but it probably will if you run full-time. Don't worry, if Boris Said breaks through and wins at Sonoma or Watkins Glen, he won't qualify. If anything the rules will say all race winners within the top twenty-five or top thirty in points are locked it.

3. Is really going to change all that much?

Here is what we keep hearing: Sixteen driver Chase with race winners from the first twenty-six getting in and the remaining spots being filled by the next highest drivers in the points without a win. The lowest four drivers after races three, six and nine of the Chase will be eliminated with the finale being a four driver shootout for the title.

One again, expect some type of extra criteria for qualifying for the Chase than just winning on of the first twenty-six race. Probably a rule saying you have to be in the top twenty-five.

Last year, twelve drivers in the top twenty-five won a race in the first twenty-six races and would likely qualify for the Chase with the proposed system.

Matt Kenseth: 5 wins.
Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch: 4.
Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards: 2.
Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex, Jr., Tony Stewart and David Ragan: 1.

The Tony Stewart situation leads to controversy, maybe more than the one that happened at Richmond. Stewart was hurt and didn't return for the remainder of the season. Would he or anyone else in his position get a Chase position? If he qualifies by the criteria set (win a race and be in the top twenty-five) then he should get a spot.

Example being the 1970 Formula One season. Jochen Rindt lost his life in practice for the Italian Grand Prix and was leader of the world championship. He couldn't defend his position but still won the title because Jacky Ickx was unable to pass the Austrian in the standings.

Look at the recent Porsche Supercup season. Sean Edwards lost his life prior to the final race weekend and was leading the points over Nicki Thiim. Edwards wasn't removed from points lead because he wasn't able to defend his position. He remained the points leader and there was still the possibility Edwards would posthumously be awarded the title. Of course that wasn't the case as Thiim outscored the late-Edwards but Edwards still finished second in the standings.

If a driver or drivers weren't able to pass Stewart, should he lose a spot just because he is unable to compete? I don't think so. He earned the spot. Rindt wasn't erased for the record books when he lost his life and they didn't hand the title to Ickx because he was alive and competing. The same should be the case if a driver is in Stewart's situation. Would Stewart just be taking up a spot it the Chase? Yeah but he qualified and it's unfortunate he would've had the chance to compete.

Moving on. Take those twelve drivers listed above. Now do they get three points for each win or more? I think it will increase a little to give those with more wins more cushion to get through at least the "first round" of three races.

Using three points though as the bonus, the standings would've been:

Kenseth: 2015
Johnson and Kyle Busch: 2012
Harvick, Kahne and Edwards: 2006
Logano, Biffle, Newman, Truex, Stewart and Ragan: 2003.

The final four spots of the Chase would have been filled by the top four without a win. They were:

Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon.

The next question is what happens after races three and six of the Chase? Are the points total just increased for the "advancing" drivers? Do wins with in each "round" get more bonus points? I don't know. For this sake, let's just say they increase the points of all the drivers by 500 points just to guarantee they finish ahead of those previously eliminated.

Theoretically speaking, it would have looked like this after the "first round."

Kenseth: 2149
Johnson: 2141
Ky. Busch: 2137
Harvick: 2110
Gordon: 2110
Biffle: 2108
Newman: 2104
Bowyer: 2098
Ku. Busch: 2094
Truex: 2093
Earnhardt, Jr.: 2092
Edwards: 2084
Logano: 2083
Kahne: 2077
Ragan: 2056
Stewart: 2003

No real drastic changes. Of course Stewart is eliminated due to not competing because of injury. Ragan's best finish in those three races was a twenty-fifth and Logano and Kahne would've been eliminated. They finished eighth and twelfth respectively in the final 2013 standings. So each would have finished worse than they actually did.

Truex would still be alive. After all, the Richmond race probably doesn't go down the same way it did with team orders.

Everyone gets 500 points to guarantee a top twelve. After race six, here is how it would have looked:

Johnson: 2754
Kenseth: 2750
Ky. Busch: 2728
Harvick: 2728
Gordon: 2720
Earnhardt, Jr.: 2702
Biffle: 2701
Bowyer: 2697
Ku. Busch: 2693
Edwards: 2686
Newman: 2682
Truex: 2676

Truex's championship ends but he is guaranteed a top twelve. Newman finished eleventh in reality and would be eleventh when eliminated. Carl Edwards finished thirteenth in reality but here he is guaranteed at least a position better. Kurt Busch finished tenth in reality but would have a shot for at least ninth.

Another 500 point for the top eight. Down the to the "third round" and final eliminations:

Johnson: 2884
Kenseth: 2856
Harvick: 2850
Ky. Busch: 2827
Earnhardt, Jr.: 2821
Gordon: 2804
Biffle: 2801
Bowyer: 2797

The top four remains the same as reality. Biffle is guaranteed at least one position better than reality He finished ninth.

Ultimately, the top four doesn't change. But now comes the season finale. Reports say "winner-take-all." One problem. What if none of the four win? For example, Denny Hamlin won the season finale. He wouldn't have been champion. So really it would be "whoever-finishes-better-out-of-these-four-drivers-is-champion."

At Homestead, Kenseth finished second, Kyle Busch seventh, Johnson ninth and Harvick tenth. Kenseth would have been champion with Busch finishing second, Johnson third and Harvick fourth.

Changes wouldn't be that drastic. Sure Kenseth would be champion but the top four would have remained the same four drivers.

A lot of people would be saying how great it is that David Ragan gets a shot but is it? Other than his Talladega win, he had only other one top fifteen finish in the first twenty-six races. Does he really deserve a shot at the title because he won Talladega? Nothing against Ragan, he is a really talented driver and deserves a better ride than what he has but a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. It doesn't mean Ragan deserves a Chase spot. Does he really deserve the spot over Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray. Neither won a race in the first twenty-six but Keselowski had six top-fives and eleven top-tens and McMurray had two top-fives and six top tens. Don't get me wrong, looking at that stat line I'm not sure McMurray deserves a spot either.

Expanding the Chase is an improvement. NASCAR has bigger problems such as having no limit on drivers racing in the Nationwide Series who are ineligible for the championship.

NASCAR obsession with having the title come down to the final turn of the final lap of the final race of the season every year has grown tiresome and aren't realistic. No other series has this obsession, not even Formula One and they doubled the points for the final round of their championship. If anything, NASCAR should get rid of the Chase and simplify the points to only pay the top ten or fifteen positions of each race and let it unfold naturally. No eliminations after "race x", no extra bonus points for every win in the first twenty-six races, no wild cards, no more. Let's get back on track.

After ten years The Chase has worn out it's welcome. Every year the title has come down to the final race but that isn't enough for the powers that be. They are searching for perfection in the system but perfection is not possible. If only they realized that and can enjoy crowning the best driver from the drop of the green flag at Daytona in February to the checkered flag at Homestead in November.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Clauson Dethrones Swindells

For the first time in six years, the Chili Bowl's Golden Driller was handed to a new family but it wasn't without a fighting effort.

Bryan Clauson added the Chili Bowl to an impressive résumé that includes victories in the Hut Hundred, Belleville Nationals, Turkey Night Grand Prix and Night Before the 500, along with a start in the Indianapolis 500, a pole at Daytona International Speedway and seven USAC championships.

Clauson led fifty laps but had to hold off defending USAC National Midget Dirt champion and Oklahoman Christopher Bell and the four-time defending champion of the Chili Bowl Kevin Swindell to get the victory. Swindell had to start in the B-Main where he won in convincing fashion. He started fourteenth in the championship feature but worked his way through the field but fell just one position short of getting his five-consecutive Chili Bowl victory and tying his father Sammy as all-time leader in Chili Bowl wins. Bell finished third.

Alex Bright and Dave Darland rounded out the top five ahead of 2006 Chili Bowl winner Tim McCreadie and 2013 World of Outlaws champion Daryn Pittman. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma's Jonathan Beason finished eighth ahead of Chris Windom and Chad Boat who also advanced from the B-Main to the championship feature.

Rico Abreu won the first B-Main and had worked his way to the front with Kevin Swindell before a late spin took him out contention. He finished eleventh. 2005 Chili Bowl winner Tracy Hines finished twelfth ahead of Zach Daum and Sammy Swindell who lost a lap after making contact with Kyle Larson.

Notable retirements from the championship feature were Jerry Coons, Jr., Caleb Armstrong, Michael Pickens, Larson and 2008 Chili Bowl winner Damion Gardner.

A few notable names fell short of the main event. Darren Hagen finished seventh in his B-Main, one position shot of transferring. J. J. Yeley won a D-Main and finishing sixth in his C-Main but could only manage an eleventh in his B-Main. Two-time Chilie Bowl winner Cory Kruseman finished seventeenth in the same B-Main. Dillon Welch made it from the C-Main but finished last in his B-Main. Other drivers to fail and make it from the B-Main were Brad Kuhn, Brady Bacon, Parker Price-Miller, Chase Stockton and Shane Cockrum.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. won the E- and D-Main but fell a position short of advancing from the C-Main by finishing seventh. Jon Stanbrough and Joey Saldana both failed to advance from the C-Mains.

P.J. Jones night ended in the D-Main while two-time USAC Silver Crown champion Bobby East and Kyle O'Gara were knocked out in the E-Main while Dakoda Armstrong and Kasey Kahne both were eliminated in the F-Mains.

The 29th annual Chili Bowl is scheduled for January 13-17th, 2015.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ogier Wins Rallye Monte-Carlo

The 2013 World Rally champion Sébastien Ogier picked up right where he left over by winning the wet and snowy 2014 Rallye Monte-Carlo. The Frenchman won the first two stages on the day and after the cancellation of the fourteenth stage, finished second to teammate Jari-Matti Latvala in the final stage. It's Ogier's second time winning the Rallye Monte-Carlo but first time winning it as a World Rally Championship event. He won the famed race in 2009 when it was apart of the International Rally Championship.

Bryan Bouffier finished second, 1 minute and 18.9 seconds off his fellow countryman. Bouffier will not be competing in the next round, Rally Sweden as Estonian Ott Tänak and Pole Michał Sołowow are entered by M-Sport Ford. Kris Meeke scored his first career WRC podium with his third place finish. The Northern Irish driver held off his Citroën teammate Mads Østberg by just under two minutes.

Latvala finished fifth and picked up three stage victories over the three days. Elfyn Evans finished sixth in his first Rallye Monte-Carlo. The third Volkswagen of Andreas Mikkelsen finished seventh. Slovakian Jaroslav Melichárek, Italian Matteo Gamba and Ukrainian, WRC2 driver Yuriy Protasov rounded out the points.

Mikko Hirvonen was running sixth but a mechanical failure on the final stage cost the Finn a hard fought points position.

Ogier leads with 27 points after finishing second and picking up two points on the power stage. Bouffier is second with 18 points. Meeke is third with 16 points after finishing third on the power stage and earning one bonus point. Latvala won the three points from the power stage and in doing so has 13 points, one more than Østberg who rounds out the top five.

The next round of the 2014 WRC season is Rally Sweden and will take place in three weeks, February 5-8th. Last year, Ogier became only the second non-Nordic driver to win the famed snow-covered rally, joining Sébastien Loeb as the only two to do so. Latvala and Hirvonen each have two Rally Sweden victories. The last Swede to win the event was Kenneth Erikkson in 1997 and the last Swede to podium was Daniel Carlsson in a privateer entry in 2006.

Final Stage of the Dakar Rally

Today marked the thirteenth and final stage of the Dakar Rally and it saw two classes go to the wire.

Giniel de Villiers won the final stage in the car class by twenty-three seconds over Krzystof Holowczyc with Russian Vladimir Vasilyev rounding out the podium forty-one seconds back but the story was the driver who finished fourth.

Nani Roma finished fourth, a minute and forty-second behind de Villiers but six minutes and four seconds ahead of Stéphane Peterhansel, more than enough to over come the deficit the Spaniard face entering the final stage and give Roma his first in the car class and ten years after winning in the bike class. Roma joins Peterhansel as the only two participants to win in multiple disciplines.

The final standings will show Roma won by five minutes and thirty-eight seconds over Peterhansel, who won the most stages in the car class in 2014 at four, with Nasser Al-Attiyah finishing third, fifty-six minutes and fifty-two seconds back. de Villiers finished fourth with Argentine Orlando Terranova rounding out the top five.

The truck class saw just as much drama. It appeared Dutch driver Gérard de Rooy was going to overcome a seven minute and twenty-five second gap to Russian Andrey Karginov but that wasn't the case. Czech Aleš Loprais won by two minutes and twenty-five seconds over de Rooy with Eduard Nikolaev finishing two minutes and fifty-three seconds back in third. Karginov finished six minutes and thirty-nine seconds back in seventh.

Karginov held off de Rooy by three minutes and eleven seconds with Nikolaev finishing more than ninety-minutes back his fellow Russian driver. This is Karginov's first career Dakar Rally victory after leading the truck class with four wins in 2014.

Cyril Despres will not make it back-to-back years as Dakar champion but he ends the 2014 edition with his third stage victory. The Frenchman defeated Joan Barreda Bort by two minutes and thirty seconds with Olivier Pain giving France a second representative on the podium, three minutes and ten seconds back of Despres. Hélder Rodrigues finished fourth, forty-three seconds back of Pain with Spaniards Juan Pedrero and Jordi Viladoms taking the next two positions.

Marc Coma finished eighteenth on the day, eighteen minutes and twenty-three seconds back of Despres but the Spaniard had a large enough gap entering the final stage that he has won his fourth Dakar Rally. Coma won by one hour fifty-two minutes and twenty-seven seconds over Viladoms. Pain finished third two hours and three seconds back. Despres finished fourth, thirty-five seconds back of Pain. Rorigues finished fifth ahead of Pole Kuba Przygonski and Barreda Bort. Barreda Bort won the most stages in the bike class with four.

Coma's victory extended KTM's winning streak in the Dakar to thirteen consecutive races.

American Mike Johnson finished the final stage sixty-first, thirty-three minutes and fifty seconds back. Johnson finished the Dakar Rally in seventy-fourth, nearly forty and a half hours back of Coma.

In the quad class, Ignacio Casale won his first career Dakar Rally in style. Not only did he win on home soil but took his seventh stage victory in this year's race. The Chilean defeated Dutchman Sebastian Husseini by fifty-four seconds to take the stage. Rafał Sonik finished three minutes and seven seconds back in third.

Overall Casale won by one hour twenty-six minutes and forty-nine seconds over Sonik. Husseini finished third, over five hours and forty minutes back. This is the first Dakar victory for a Chilean and Yamaha's undefeated record in the Dakar quad class remains intact, having won all six runnings of the quad class.

And that does it for the 2014 Dakar Rally. Spain see two victors while the quad and truck class each see first time winners. Congratulations to all who were able to finish this year's race. It is truly an accomplishment in of itself.

Clauson, McCreadie, Darland Round Out Weekday Qualifiers

The final night of Chili Bowl qualifying featured a deep field of drivers fighting for the final three automatic qualifying positions tonight's championship feature.

Bryan Clauson has accomplished a lot at the age of twenty-four. He is still looking for his first Chili Bowl victory though but he put himself in prime position to win later tonight by winning Friday's A-Main. Clauson won his heat and qualifier last night but started second as 2006 Chili Bowl winner Tim McCreadie accomplished the same feat and started on pole for the A-Main. Clauson got by McCreadie and took the win while the New Yorker had to battle with Dave Darland and Daryn Pittman. Darland was able to hold off the 2013 World of Outlaws champion to get the final qualifying position.

Joining Pittman as drivers who will need to qualify Saturday is Chad Boat who had to transfer for the second B-Main and start twentieth in the A-Main. Boat advanced thirteen positions and finished seventh. 2013 USAC National Midget Pavement champion Darren Hagen finished tenth, Dillon Welch finished eleventh and two-time Chili Bowl winner Cory Kruseman finished thirteenth. Jon Stanbrough retired from the A-Main and finished twenty-first.

Kasey Kahne will have a long road to the championship feature. He finished fourth in his heat, fourth in his qualifier and started second in his B-Main. The Hendrick Motorsports driver retired from his B-Main and finished thirteenth.

The draw for the starting order of the twelve automatic qualifiers to the championship feature took place last night.

Caleb Armstrong drew pole with Oklahoman Christopher Bell joining him on row one. Clauson will start third next to the other Oklahoman Jonathan Beason. Zach Daum and Sammy Swindell make up row three. Former Chili Bowl champions Damion Garnder and McCreadie start on row four with Chris Windom and Dave Darland rounding out the top ten. The only foreign driver to automatically qualify, New Zealand's Michael Pickens will start eleventh with Alex Bright on the outside of row six.

The first B-Main sees Rico Abreu and Daryn Pittman on row one, Steve Buckwalter and Kyle Larson on row two and Shane Golobic and Alex Schutte on row three. Andrew Felker, Thomas Meseraull, Jerry Coons, Jr., Matt Mitchell, Andrew Deal, J.D. Black, Travis Berryhill and Darren Hagen round out the line up.

Kevin Swindell will start on pole for the second B-Main. Gary Taylor will join him on row one. Brad Loyet and Ryan Bernal start on row two with Danny Stratton and Shane Cottle on row three. Brad Kuhn and Chad Boat make up row four with 2005 Chili Bowl winner Tracy Hines and R.J. Johnson rounding out the top ten. Payton Pierce, Mike Spencer, Kevin Ramey and Brady Bacon round out the second B-Main starting grid.

Other notable drivers starting positions Saturday:
C-Main 1- Brandon Waelti starts on pole with Dillon Welch second and Cory Kruseman sixth.
C-Main 2- Dustin Morgan on pole, Shane Cockrum third, Chase Stockton fifth and Joey Saldana sixth.
D-Main 1- J. J. Yeley is on pole, P.J. Jones starts twelfth.
D-Main 2- Taylor Simas on pole, Jon Stanbrough starts eighth.
E-Main 1- Matt Westfall on pole, Sheldon Haudenschild starts sixth.
E-Main 2- Brad Noffsinger on pole, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. starts second, Bobby East fourth, Kyle O'Gara sixth and Hunter Schuerenberg eighth.
F-Main 1- Hannah Adair on pole, Dakoda Armstong stats sixth.
F-Main 2- Sean McClelland on pole.
G-Main 1- Danny Burke on pole, Nick Drake starts twelfth.
G-Main 2- Chris Guinn on pole, A.J, Fike starts eleventh, Kasey Kahne twelfth.

There are two mains all the way to the letter K and one L-Main scheduled for tonight.

Coverage of the Chili Bowl begins at 8:30 p.m. ET on MAVTV, channel 214 on Directv and channel 248 on Dish.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ogier Leads Rallye Monte-Carlo

Defending World Rally champion Sébastien Ogier won three of five stages on day two of Rallye Monte-Carlo and now finds himself leading overall.

Ogier leads leads fellow Frenchman, M-Sport Ford driver Bryan Bouffier by 51.1 seconds. Ogier won his three stages by a cumulative 45.9 seconds. Bouffier was leading entering the day and won stage eight by 0.2 seconds over Ogier. Citroën's Kris Meeke is third, 1 minute and 38.6 seconds back. The Northern Irish driver had two thirds and three fourths on the day. Meeke's Citroën teammate Mads Østberg is fourth, 2 minutes and 48.9 seconds back and finished second on stage nine to Ogier.

Jari-Matti Latvala won stage eleven by 3.9 seconds over his Volkswagen teammate Ogier and is fifth overall, 6 minutes and 4.4 seconds back. Elfyn Evans is sixth, 10.1 seconds back of Latvala and nearly thirty seconds ahead of his M-Sport teammate Mikko Hirvonen.

The noticeable retirement of the day was Robert Kubica who had an accident on stage nine. Kubica won the first two stages before dropping to third at the end of day one. He finished fourth and third on the first two stages of the day and was fourth overall, just over a minute back of his teammate Bouffier. Kubica had won the first round of the 2014 European Rally Championship, International Jänner Rallye in Austria earlier this month.

The final day of the 2014 Rallye Monte-Carlo will feature four stages with the first taking place at 8:48 a.m. ET.

Stage Twelve of the Dakar Rally

France took two victories on the penultimate stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally and there was a change in position atop the car class.

Stéphane Peterhansel not only took the stage victory but finds himself leading the car class entering the final stage. The 11-time Dakar winner won by three minutes and thirty-eight seconds over teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah with Nani Roma finishing five minutes and fifty-eight seconds back of Peterhansel in third.

Peterhansel will enter the final stage with a twenty-six second lead over Roma. Al-Attiyah is fifty-four minutes and seven seconds back in third. Giniel de Villiers finished fourth on the stage and is fourth overall nearly an hour and twenty-one minutes back. Orlando Terranova is fifth overall just over six minutes back.

One day after losing the truck class lead, Gérard de Rooy won stage twelve but still finds himself seven minutes and twenty-five seconds back of Andrey Karginov. De Rooy defeated Karginov by thirty-one seconds to take stage twelve. Eduard Nikolaev finished third on the stage, three minutes and eighteen seconds back of de Rooy. Nikolaev is third overall, over an hour and a half back of Karginov.

Cyril Despres won his second stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally by two minutes and seventeen minutes over overall leader Marc Coma. Olivier Pain finished third, five minutes and fifty-three seconds back. Hélder Rodrigues and Jordi Viladoms rounded out the top five. Joan Barreda Bort had a disastrous day, finishing sixty-third, two hours twenty-nine minutes and thirty-five seconds back.

Coma enters the final stage with nearly a two hour lead over Viladoms. Pain is just over ten minutes back of Viladoms in third. Despres is fourth just under four minutes back. Rodrigues is over six minutes back of Despres in fifth. Barreda Bort's terrible stage dropped him down to to seventh, over three hours back of Coma. Polish rider Kuba Przygonski moves up to sixth over twenty-seven minutes ahead of Barreda Bort.

Ignacio Casale won his second consecutive stage and sixth stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally. Casale defeated Sebastian Husseini by five minutes and five seconds with Sergey Karyakin seventeen minutes and thirteen seconds back in third. Rafał Sonik finished fourth, nineteen minutes and ten seconds back.

Following the withdrawal of Sergio Lafuente in stage eleven, Casale holds a one hour twenty-three minute and forty-two second lead over Sonik. Husseini moves up to third but he is over five and a half hours back of the Chilean. Should Casale hold on to take victory, he will become to first Chilean to win a class in the Dakar Rally.

Bell Qualifies, Swindell to B-Main Saturday

Another Oklahoman was victorious on a qualifying night while the current Prince of Tulsa had some work to do.

2013 USAC National Midget Dirt champion, Norman, Oklahoma's Christopher Bell won Thursday night's A-Main and has directly qualified for championship feature Saturday. Bell won his heat and finished second in his A-Main qualifier which gave him pole for the feature. He never looked back holding off 2008 Chili Bowl winner Damion Gardner who took second place and also qualified for Saturday's championship feature.

Kevin Swindell faced an up hill battle all night. Entered in the same heat as Bell, Swindell suffered a flat tire that led to his retirement from that race and forced him to Thursday night's C-Main where he started thirteenth. Swindell made his way through the field and won the C-Main. He started thirteenth again for the B-Main and once again made his way through the field and took victory. The four-time Chili Bowl winner had a little more work to do in the A-Main as he was starting seventeenth. He made his way to fourth but was not able to get by the New Zealander Michael Pickens for the final qualifying positions. Swindell will have to race his way into the championship feature from the B-Main on Saturday.

Another past Chili Bowl winner needing to qualify Saturday is Tracy Hines. Hines won both his heat and qualifier but finished eighth in the A-Main. Drivers who failed to make it past the B-Main on Thursday night include Indy Lights driver Kyle O'Gara, NASCAR Rookie of the Year Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Dakoda Armstrong and AJ Fike. Just like Swindell, Stenhouse, Jr. retired from his heat race and had to go to the second C-Main where he started third and won. In the B-Main, he could only manage a fifth place finish.

The final night of Chili Bowl qualifying features a star-studded list including two-time winner Cory Kruseman, 2006 winner Tim McCreadie, Dave Darland, Bryan Clauson, Kasey Kahne, Chad Boat, Daryn Pittman, Darren Hagen, Cody Swanson, Jon Stanbrough and Dillon Welch to name a few.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Stage Eleven of the Dakar Rally

A Spaniards and a Chilean extended their class leads in stage eleven while one class changed as we enter the final days of the Dakar. There was also a penalty that changed the result in the bike class.

It appeared Marc Coma was going to extend his lead by winning stage eleven by two minutes and fifty-one seconds over Cyril Despres but the Spaniard was assessed a fifteen minute penalty dropping him to tenth on the day.

Despres won the stage by two minutes and thirty-seven seconds over Olivier Pain. Jordi Viladoms finished third, twenty-five seconds back of Pain with Joan Barreda Bort and Hélder Rodrigues rounding out the top five.

With the penalty, Coma leads Barreda Bort by thirty-seven minutes and thirty-six minutes overall. Viladoms remains third, an hour and fifty-two minutes back of Coma. Pain is under fourteen minutes back of Viladoms in fourth. Rodrigues finished fifth on the day and is fifth overall with Despres now less than a minute behind the Portuguese rider in sixth place.

Mike Johnson finished sixty-fourth on stage eleven, three hours one minute and nineteen seconds back of Despres. Johnson is sixty-sixth overall, over thirty-eight hours behind Coma.

Orlando Terranova won by ten minutes and fifty-seven seconds over Nani Roma but Roma was able to extend his lead after losing a lot of ground to Stéphane Peterhansel since the rest day. Giniel de Villiers finished third, twelve minutes and thirty-eight seconds back with Peterhansel coming back in fourth, fourteen minutes and fourteen seconds back.

Roma's lead over Peterhansel is now five minutes and thirty-two seconds with two stages to go. Nasser Al-Attiyah is third, fifty-six minutes and one second back after finishing fifth place today. Terranova is fourth is seven minutes and thirty-eight seconds back of Al-Attiyah.

Ignacio Casale won his fifth stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally and his first Dakar victory seems inevitable. Fellow Chilean Victor Manuel Gallegos Lozic made it a Chile 1-2 in class as he finished five minutes and twelve seconds back of Casale. Qatari rider Mohammed Abu-Issa finished third sixteen minutes and nine seconds back. Rafeł Sonik finished fourth, nineteen minutes and twenty-seven seconds back with Sebastian Husseini a minute and forty-nine seconds back of Sonik in fifth.

Casale leads Sonik by one hour four minutes and thirty-two seconds. Husseini is nearly five hours back in third.

Andrey Karginov won his fourth stage and third of the last four and has taken the overall lead in the truck class. Karginov finished fourteen minutes and eighteen seconds ahead of Eduard Nikolaev and fifteen minutes and fifty-one seconds ahead of class leader entering the day Gérard de Rooy.

Karginov leads de Rooy by seven minutes and fifty-six seconds with two days to go. Nikolaev is over a hour and half back in third. Karginov is going for his first Dakar victory and would become the fourth different Russian to win the truck class in the history of the Dakar Rally.

Day One of Rallye Monte-Carlo

The first day of the 2014 World Rally Championship season is now in the books and it was an impressive day for Ford.

M-Sport Ford's Bryan Bouffier held on to the lead through the final three stages of the day and extended it by over twenty seconds to 38.8 seconds over the Citroën driver Kris Meeke. Robert Kubica made up ground after a bad stage three. Kubica is 39.5 seconds back of his M-Sport Ford teammate Bouffier.

Sébastien Ogier improved over the day's final three stages and is now fourth, 47.3 seconds back. Ogier won the final two stages on the day. Mads Østberg moved up to fifth 1 minute and 20.7 seconds back. Rookie Elfyn Evans dropped to sixth, 17.9 seconds back of Østberg. Jari-Matti Latvala has been making a recovery after being over three minutes back at the end of stage three. Latvala won stage four and finished second to his Volkswagen teammate Ogier on the final two stages. He finds himself in seventh position, 2 minutes and 20.8 seconds back of the overall leader.

Veteran Mikko Hirvonen has been upstaged by his younger M-Sport teammates on day one. Hirvonen finds himself in eighth position, 2 minutes and 46.9 seconds back of his teammate Bouffier. This is Hirvonen's first race back with Ford after two seasons driving for Citroën. Andreas Mikkelsen is ninth, over four minutes back of Bouffier and is the lowest of the entries eligible of scoring manufacturers' points.

This has not been the return weekend Hyundai was hoping for. Thierry Neuville had an accident in stage one end his rally. Dani Sordo finished second to Latvala on stage four and was third overall, 33.7 seconds back of Bouffier. On stage five, Sordo suffered a mechanical failure that has forced him to retire. This was Hyundai's first rally since the 2003 Rally Australia where Belgian Freddy Loix scored the Korean manufactures' final points with an eighth place finish.

Tomorrow features five stages beginning at 2:48 a.m. ET.

Chili Bowl Night Two and World Rally in Monaco

On the second night of Chili Bowl qualifying, Caleb Armstrong held off Sammy Swindell to win Wednesday night's A-Main as both qualify for Saturday night's championship feature. The third automatic qualifying position went to Chris Windom who held off a hard charging Rico Abreu.

Abreu had to transfer from one of the B-Main and started seventeenth in the A-Main. He went from seventeenth to fourth, falling just one position shy of the final qualifying position. Brad Loyet, Shane Golobic and Brad Kuhn took the next three positions with the second B-Main winner Jerry Coons, Jr. coming home in eighth. All these drivers will have to qualify on Saturday.

Other drivers with work to do on Saturday night will be Shane Cockrum, Parker-Price Miller, Jace VanderWeerd, J. J. Yeley, Colten Cottle, Chris Andrews, Alex Sewell and Johnny Herrera. Yeley had a good night winning his heat and finishing second in his qualifier but finished eighteenth in the A-Main.

Drivers set to take to the track on Thursday are Kevin Swindell, Damion Gardner, Dakota Armstrong, Tracy Hines, Christopher Bell, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Kyle O'Gara and AJ Fike,

World Rally Season Opener in Monaco
Rallye Monte-Carlo began well for World Rally rookie Robert Kubica. The former Formula One driver won his first two stages and held the overall lead before a difficult third stage drop him to fourth in the overall standings. Kubica led by 36.8 seconds over defending WRC champion Sébastien Ogier but finished 1 minute and 24.3 seconds back of stage three winner and M-Sport teammate Bryan Bouffier after not having a set of snow tires for the stage.

With his stage three victory, Bouffier leads after three stages by 13.6 second over Citroën factory driver Kris Meeke. Dani Sordo is third, 41.5 seconds back driving for Hyundai in their returning round to the WRC. With Kubica a second back of Sordo in fourth. Kubica's other M-Sport Ford teammate, rookie Welshman Elfyn Evans is sixth, 46.7 seconds back.

Sébastien Ogier is 1 minute and 19.4 seconds back in ninth position. Mikko Hirvonen is thirteenth, 2 minutes and 32.4 seconds back with Ogier's Volkswagen teammate Jari-Matti Latvala 3 minutes and 4.2 seconds back of Bouffier in eighteenth position. While Sordo is having a good day, the other Hyundai's have not seen as much luck. Thierry Neuville retired from the event after going off the road on the opening stage.

There are three stages remaining on day one with five on day two and four on the final day.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

24 Hours of Daytona Entry List Released

With just over a week until the first practice for the inaugural round of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, the entry list has been released for what will be a historic running of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

Sixty-seven cars are entered for the event with eighteen in the Prototype class, nine in Prototype Challenge, eleven in GT Le Mans and twenty-nine in GT Daytona.

The prototype class will be led by the defending Daytona winners from Ganassi Racing. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas being joined by NASCAR's Jamie McMurray and defending Indy Lights champion Sage Karam in the #01 Telcel/Target Ford Riley. The #02 Ganassi Ford will feature an all-star line up with IndyCar champions and Indianapolis 500 winners Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan being joined by sports car ace Marino Franchitti and the talent Kyle Larson.

Wayne Taylor Racing enters 2014 coming off a championship season and will see a changing in the guard. Max Angelelli has retired from full-time competition but will run Daytona alongside the new driver line-up for the #10 Corvette DP, brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor. Wayne Taylor comes of retirement to join his sons and Angelelli as the fourth driver in the #10.

Muscle Milk Pickett Racing are coming off being the final LMP1 champions in ALMS and the driving duo of Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf return for Daytona with Alex Brundle joining them behind the wheel of an Oreca-Nissan. Brundle finished second in the LMP2 standings in the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship with OAK Racing. Extreme Speed Motorsports features two cars with 1996 Daytona winner Scott Sharp, 2010 Daytona winner Ryan Dalziel and David Brabham teaming in the #1 HPD ARX-03b and Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, Simon Pagenaud and Anthony Lazzaro in the #2.

Michael Shank Racing finished third last year after winning in 2012. That winning driver line-up returns as Oswaldo Negri, Jr., John Pew, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson get back together looking to duplicate their success. Action Express Racing won in 2010 and they return with two cars. The only remaining driver from that 2010 team at Action Express is João Barbosa in the #5 Corvette DP. He will be joined by 2004 Daytona winner Christian Fittipaldi, IndyCar's Sébastien Bourdais and Burt Frisselle. Burt will also join his brother Brian, Fabien Giroix and John Martin in the #9 Corvette DP.

Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing returns looking to finally break through at Daytona. Alex Gurney and Jon Fogerty return and will be joined by Memo Gidley and 2009 Daytona winner Darren Law.

The DeltaWing will make it's Daytona debut with drivers Andy Meyrick, Katherine Legge, Alexander Rossi and Gabby Chaves. Mazda debuts it's Skyactiv Diesel LMP2 engine with two cars, the #70 driven by Sylvain Tremblay, Tom Long and IndyCar's James Hinchcliffe and the #07 driven by Joel Miller, Tristan Nunez and 2013 IndyCar rookie of the year Tristan Vautier.

The 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 champions OAK Racing are entered with Olivier Pla, Romain Rusinov, Gustavo Yacamán and Oliver Webb piloting the #42 Morgan-Nissan. Recently signed Porsche-factory driver Brendon Hartley will drive for Starworks Motorsport with Alex Popow and Scott Mayer.

Other past winners in the prototype field are Mike Rockenfeller (#90 Spirit of Daytona alongside Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante) and Max Papis (#31 Marsh Racing alongside Eric Curran, Boris Said and Bradley Smith).

The Prototype Challenge class may feature only nine cars but all nine have a legitimate shot of taking victory. Starworks Motorsport will run two LMPC cars with Popow, Kyle Marcelli, Isaac Tutumlu and Martin Fuentes in the #7 while the #8 will feature Renger van der Zande, Erix Lux, Sam Bird and Pierre Kaffer. 8Star Motorsports features Enzo Potolicchio, Tom Kimber-Smith and Michael Marsal.

The 2013 LMPC driver champion Mike Guasch will be joined by David Cheng, Gunnar Jeannette and Frankie Montecalvo at PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports. The 2013 LMPC team champion CORE Autosport return with Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, James Gue and Mark Wilkins as their driver line-up.

RSR Racing has two cars entered each with their own experienced driver line-up. The #08 will feature Chris Cumming and Rusty Mitchell alongside Indianapolis 500 starters Alex Tagliani and Conor Daly. The #09 will be led by veterans Bruno Junqueira, David Heinemeier Hansson, Duncan Ende and the young junior Formula driver Gustavo Menezes.

The GTLM class will be a six manufacture gauntlet. The factory Corvette team returns to Daytona. Jan Magnussen, Antonio García and Ryan Briscoe makeup the driver line up for the #3 while Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Robin Liddell in the #4. The factory outlet won overall in 2001.

BMW finished second to Corvette in the ALMS in 2013. The #54 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Z4 will feature Bill Auberlen, DTM drivers Joey Hand and Maxime Martin and former DTM driver and three-time WTCC champion Andy Priaulx. Dirk Müller finished second to Magnussen and García in the 2013 ALMS GT Drivers' standings and he will look to knock Corvette off the top at Daytona with John Edwards, Graham Rahal and former DTM driver Dirk Werner.

Another manufacture returning to Daytona is the SRT Viper. The overall winner at the turn of millennium, Viper has entered two cars for 2014. Dominick Farnbacher and Marc Goossens will be joined by IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay in the #91 while Jonathan Bomarito, Kuno Wittmer and Rob Bell will drive the #92.

One of the winning drivers from that Viper team in 2000 returns but will be driving a Ferrari. Olivier Beretta will be driving for Risi Competizione with former Formula One drivers Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni and fellow Italian Matteo Malucelli joining the Monegasque driver. Krohn Racing will be the other Ferrari in the GTLM class with Tracy Krohn and Niclas Jönsson being joined by Andrea Bertolini and Peter Dumbreck.

CORE Autosport will be running the Porsche factory team in GTLM with 24 Hours of Daytona and Le Mans GT class winner Richard Lietz leading Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy in the #911. Patrick Long, Jörg Bergmeister and Michael Christenson will make the #912 driving line-up. Aston Martin will bring their top drivers to Daytona as Stefan Mücke, Darren Turner, Pedro Lamy, Richie Stanaway and Paul Dalla Lana look to upset the class as a part-time entry.

The GTD class will be the largest at this running of the 24 Hours of Daytona. Twelve Porsche 911 GT Americas have been entered with Ferrari having the next highest entrants in the class with eight. The defending GT class winners Audi have five entries looking to defend their title. The 2013 winning driver line-up has been split up as Felipe Albuquerque and Dion von Moltke are joining Seth Neiman and Alessandro Latif in the #35 Flying Lizard R8 LMS. Oliver Jarvis will join Charlie Putman, Charles Espenlaub and James Walker at Fall-Line Motorsports. The fourth driver from the 2013 winning, Edoardo Mortara will not return to defend his title.

Other teams to look out for the in GTD class are the #22 Alex Job Racing Porsche of Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen, V8 Supercars' Shane van Gisbergen, Shane Lewis and LP Dumoulin, #27 Dempsey Racing Porsche of Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster, Andrew Davis and Marc Lieb, #33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R of Ben Keating, Jeroen and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen and 2005 overall Daytona winner Emmanuel Collard, the #63 Scuerdia Corse Ferrari of Alessandro Balzan, Toni Vilander, Jeff Westphal and Lorenzo Case, #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche of Connor de Philippi, Kévin Estre, Patrick Lindsey, Jason Hart and Mike Vess and the #94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 of Dane Cameron, Paul Dalla Lana, Augusto Farfus and Markus Palttala.

Practice for the 24 Hours of Daytona begins January 23rd at 9:30 a.m. ET. Qualifying will be later that day at 3:45 p.m. ET. January 24th will feature one final practice session before the race goes green on Saturday January 25th at 2:10 p.m. ET.