Kyle Larson’s speed at Talladega NASCAR Cup race ’embarrassing’

Kyle Larson’s speed at Talladega NASCAR Cup race ’embarrassing’

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Kyle Larson says his pace in the NASCAR Cup series weekend at Talladega was “embarrassing at times”, calling on Chip Ganassi Racing to invest more in its restrictor-plate package.

Larson qualified a dismal 34th for the playoff race after he was penalised due to his team making unapproved adjustments to his car, at a time when he has yet to qualify for the next round of the playoffs.

He was a lowly 29th in final practice and fared little better in the race, before a timely caution in the second stage put him back on the lead lap.

Larson avoided late collisions to finish 11th, meaning he is 11th in the overall standings and 26 points away from progressing into the next stage of the playoffs. He will likely need victory at Kansas to progress.

“We just had a terrible race car and were really slow all weekend,” said Larson.

“So it’s pretty disappointing – embarrassing at times – especially in practice and qualifying.

“We were able to get an 11th, salvaged a decent day but we’re still in a position where we need to win next week.

“But 11th doesn’t matter, even second wouldn’t matter, we just need to have a good weekend in Kansas, it’s always been a good track for us.

“That’s promising, to go to a track where we’ve ran well at, led a lot of laps and challenged for wins. Hopefully we’ll have a good race and do something special.”

When asked about Ganassi’s traditional struggles on restrictor-plate races, Larson said: “You’d like to bury this [result] but at the same time, it’d be nice to invest some money into our superspeedway cars. Money and time.

“We focus so much on mile-and-a-half stuff, which is obviously important, but these plate races mean a lot, there’s a lot of points to be made at Daytona and Talladega.

“I feel like we never really tried to improve as an organisation really since I’ve been at CGR.”

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October 15, 2018 at 09:32AM

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Toro Rosso hands Sean Gelael FP1 outing at US Grand Prix

Toro Rosso hands Sean Gelael FP1 outing at US Grand Prix

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Sean Gelael will have his first Formula 1 practice outing of 2018 with Toro Rosso at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

Gelael has been affiliated with Toro Rosso since 2017 and participated in four practice sessions at grands prix through the latter stages of the campaign.

Gelael carried out four days of running across in-season testing at Barcelona and the Hungaroring this year and he will climb back into the STR13 on Friday at Austin.

“I am super happy and excited to get things rolling again,” said Gelael, currently 15th in his third full GP2/F2 season.

“I did FP1 in Austin last year so it’s a track that I know, even though it was a bit damp last year.

“The last time I was in the car was for the Budapest test, so I’m looking forward to working with the team again, hopefully they’re excited as well.”

Gelael is set to be one of three test/reserve drivers in action on Friday.

Force India tester Nicholas Latifi is to replace Esteban Ocon for the opening 90-minute session while McLaren’s Lando Norris is poised for another outing ahead of his 2019 debut.

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October 15, 2018 at 09:32AM

Russell had faith in 2019 F1 graduation despite ‘bizarre’ Ocon saga

Russell had faith in 2019 F1 graduation despite ‘bizarre’ Ocon saga

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Newly-confirmed 2019 Williams Formula 1 driver George Russell says he kept faith he could earn his grand prix debut next season amid fellow Mercedes protege Esteban Ocon’s “very bizarre situation”.

The Formula 2 title favourite will step up to F1 next year with Williams, joining the team Ocon said last month represented his last realistic chance of staying on the grid.

Ocon is poised to spend 2019 on the sidelines after being shuffled out of Racing Point Force India and also missing out on drives at Renault and McLaren.

Russell told Autosport that he trusted his own success would be rewarded with an F1 chance, even though Ocon lost multiple opportunities.

“I thought the whole Esteban situation wasn’t a normal situation,” said the 20-year-old.

“Usually if you perform, those opportunities will be there. I think it was out of his and Mercedes’ control what happened.

“Mercedes and Toto [Wolff, team boss] were absolutely clear that if I performed the opportunity would come. That impressed in my mind.

“It might sound a bit silly saying that off the back of Esteban’s predicament, but that was a very bizarre situation, a very unfortunate situation.”

Russell entered 2018 as the reigning GP3 champion and targeted the F2 title as a rookie to emulate the back-to-back success of Ferrari protege Charles Leclerc.

He has won more races (six) and scored more poles (four) than any other driver this year, and leads Alexander Albon by 37 points with 46 up for grabs in the Abu Dhabi finale next month.

Russell said that even though there were “ups and downs throughout the season with other drivers” in the F1 market it had “not played on my mind”.

He also believes defeating Lando Norris in F2, when his fellow Briton had landed a McLaren F1 drive for 2019, was an important factor.

“I saw it as a massive positive, when Lando got his opportunity with McLaren,” said Russell. “We’re both rookies, McLaren believe he is capable of taking a race seat for them [so] that must bode very well for myself.

“I wasn’t bitter or disappointed he had that opportunity before me because at that point I was unsure what the future held.

“But I saw that as a positive, that this made me look extremely good.” Russell still has a long wait before he can seal the F2 title but insists he will not be distracted by his Williams shot.

“Obviously a lot of people are saying [I have] one hand on the title and we’re almost there, which is potentially true, but at the end of the day anything can still happen,” he said.

“I can’t take for granted [and think] I’ve got this championship sewn up.

“It’s a step-by-step process really I need to focus on F2 and once that chequered flag falls I’ll be focused for 2019.”

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October 15, 2018 at 09:11AM

Kyle Busch clams NASCAR officials after ‘two missed calls’ in overtime

Kyle Busch clams NASCAR officials after ‘two missed calls’ in overtime

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Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kyle Busch has expressed his frustration at the NASCAR officials for “two missed calls” in overtime during the Cup series playoff race at Talladega.

Busch had led a race-high 103 of the 193-lap race after winning pole and leading a dominant SHR team that raced tactically to ensure its drivers maintained a high chance of moving into the next round of the playoffs.

The SHR veteran led until the final three laps when Alex Bowman crashed his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro into the outside wall, sending the race into overtime with an eventual five further laps being completed.

Busch opted to stay out rather than pit for fuel, as did all the SHR Fords bar Kevin Harvick, but Busch’s #4 team had calculated his fuel to last for four laps.

A multi-car crash involving Chase Elliott on the final lap also drew Busch’s ire, believing the race should have ended under white flag conditions.

Instead, Busch was one of several drivers to run out of fuel on the final tour, handing his team-mate Aric Almirola the win.

“Yeah I was trying to use all the information I could with my guys telling me about how the other team-mates were lifting, what their fuel mileage looked like,” said Busch.

“You don’t want to conserve too much and draw the gap of our cars back to the other guys.

“I was trying to do what I could to manage the fuel and there was two missed calls by NASCAR there at the end.

“Why [we had] an extra yellow flag [is] beyond me.

“The track was ready to go. And at the end you know, once we crossed the white flag, if there’s a wreck, an ambulance needs to be dispatched.

“I’ve been on the other side of that where I was racing coming back to win the race and they said, ‘well we had to dispatch an ambulance’.

“There was two cars dead in the water down there, Chase Elliott’s safety is of my concern, so is the #32 car [of Matt DiBenedetto].

“And so, it’s a human call. There’s rules that need to be stricter at the end of these races.”

NASCAR responded to Busch’s comments in a statement several hours later.

“We were closely monitoring each car involved, and were actively communicating with spotters and safety trucks in Turn 1,” it read.

“All cars were able to either roll off under their own power or signal they were clear.

“As always, we make every effort to end under green for our fans in the stands and at home, which we did.”

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October 15, 2018 at 08:56AM

WSBK champion Rea: I could do better than Cal Crutchlow in MotoGP

WSBK champion Rea: I could do better than Cal Crutchlow in MotoGP

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Four-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea says he can “do better” than Cal Crutchlow in MotoGP if offered the chance, but is not “jealous” of his fellow Briton.

Rea is now statistically the greatest WSBK rider of all-time after clinching his fourth-straight title at Magny-Cours, while tallying up his 132nd podium and his 69th race victory in Argentina last weekend.

Crutchlow and Rea raced against each other in Britain and briefly in WSBK (pictured below in 2010), with the former departing to MotoGP with Tech3 Yamaha in ’11 while Rea remained in Superbikes.

Rea believes his career path has been “better” than Crutchlow’s.

“It is the right path. I feel that my path is the better path also,” Rea told Autosport. “I’m a four-time world champion in Superbikes.

“In motorcycle terms, one of the most popular athletes in the UK. I’m really happy with my life in general.

“I really respect his [Crutchlow’s] achievements. He has done incredible. He is one of the fastest guys in MotoGP. He is one along with the top three or top four.

“Sometimes I look to him and I feel like I can do that. I can do better. I’m not jealous. I’m proud of him.

“I used to race and beat Cal – certainly more than he beat me. Now he is doing so well in MotoGP.

“I’m really proud, because I could race against him and now he is doing so good.”

In the last 10 years, only 2009 WSBK champion Ben Spies and Crutchlow made it onto factory machinery in MotoGP.

Rea made two starts in MotoGP with Honda in 2012, and was linked with a works ride for ’19, but said all other WSBK frontrunners “never got good teams” when they switched to the premier class.

He used the example of Eugene Laverty, who earned a MotoGP graduation in 2015 in a promising move, only to end up switching from what was expected to be a competitive Honda to a two-year old Ducati in ’16 with the same Aspar outfit.

“They went to MotoGP with factory bikes inside the satellite team,” Rea said of Spies and Crutchlow.

“They had the old bikes from every season. Tech3 is a good team. They received the bikes from Yamaha.

“All the other riders that are gone from Superbike after that never got good teams. Look at Laverty – the same level as Crutchlow.

“They were rivals in British championship then Cal went to Superbike. Eugene went to 250s [now Moto2].

“They were rivals again in World Supersport together. They were the rivals coming through. Cal wasn’t my rival.

“I was the rival of [Leon] Haslam and [Leon] Camier. Cal wasn’t there. He was not the front guy.

“Eugene went there on Aspar Honda, the cheap Honda that were supposed to be amazing.

“It was terrible and almost ended his career.

“From there he went to a two-year old Ducati. Unfortunately he never got the opportunity.

“Cal was the last guy to leave this paddock on a competitive machine.”

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October 15, 2018 at 08:35AM

Fernando Alonso: Toyota no faster than WEC opponents

Fernando Alonso: Toyota no faster than WEC opponents

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Fernando Alonso believes that Toyota is no faster than its World Endurance Championshp rivals, stressing that its advantage is mainly down to its “perfect” race execution.

Despite Equivalence of Technology changes being made both in the run up to last weekend’s Fuji round and during the event itself, Toyota continued its dominant form on its home venue with another convincing one-two finish.

As was the case in Silverstone, before both TS050 Hybrids were disqualified for technical infringements, the winning margin in Fuji over the third-placed car was four laps.

But Alonso, who this time finished second in the #8 car he shares with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, doesn’t think the final margin was a fair reflection of the relative pace between Toyota and lead privateer squads SMP Racing and Rebellion Racing.

The third-placed #1 Rebellion in total spent 1m36s longer in the pits than the winning #7 Toyota, the equivalent of slightly over one lap around Fuji in the dry.

“People are always talking about Toyota’s dominance, but SMP and Rebellion were doing the same times as us when they had a clear lap,” said Alonso.

“To have a car that’s been developed for four months doing the same times as a Toyota with 10 years of development is unfair, if we want to call it that, but they nailed it.

“Other times they lose three or four minutes more than us in the pitstops during the six hours, and then when they finish three or four laps behind, it looks as if the Toyotas are racing alone, but that’s the result of a race that’s perfectly executed.”

Toyota Team President Hisatake Murata offered a similar view to Alonso when asked for his view on the performance of the non-hybrid LMP1 cars at Fuji.

He said: “It is true that we are getting considerably closer when we look at this race to the LMP1 privateers, which weigh less and have more fuel available to them.”

“As with the previous race [Silverstone], we got the difference of four laps, but I think that it is [down to] team strength – tyres properly selected, pitwork done properly.

“[The privateers] are considerably closer in terms of one-lap speed, but endurance races are not decided by one lap.

“And because the regulations do not restrict our ability to keep our fighting strength steady for six hours, that difference is four laps.”

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October 15, 2018 at 08:06AM