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Category: F1

Formula One race planned for Texas is back on track


A Formula One race planned for Austin, Texas, that last month appeared in jeopardy is back on schedule to be held next Nov. 18, race organizers said Wednesday.

Officials with the planned $300-million Circuit of the Americas complex in Austin said construction "will resume immediately" after Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone "received his check today," reportedly a $25-million sanctioning fee to F1 required to bring the international racing series to Austin.

Construction had ceased last month when it appeared a deal between Circuit of the Americas and Formula One had fallen through.

But the Austin American-Statesman reported that Ecclestone had confirmed that the U.S. Grand Prix would be held next November. "Yes, there will be a race there," he said. The Austin date also is included in Formula One's 20-race schedule for 2012.

If the Austin race is held, it would mark Formula One's return to the U.S. market after a five-year absence. And New Jersey officials announced in October that they also plan to hold an F1 race in June 2013 on streets along the Hudson River across from Manhattan.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: The Brazilian Grand Prix Formula One race in Sao Paulo on Nov. 27. Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images 

Former champ Kimi Raikkonen returns to Formula One

Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One champion known as the "Iceman" for his cool, steely demeanor, said Tuesday he has signed a two-year deal to return to the series
The Iceman cometh back.

Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One champion known as the "Iceman" for his cool, steely demeanor, said Tuesday he has signed a two-year deal to return to the series with the Lotus Renault GP team, starting next season.

Raikkonen, 32, won his championship with Ferrari, but the Finn left Formula One after the 2009 season to mainly drive in the World Rally Championship series.

"I can't deny the fact that my hunger for F1 has recently become overwhelming," Raikkonen said in a statement.

The Lotus Renault team had three drivers this season: Russian Vitaly Petrov initially was partnered with Nick Heidfeld before Brazilian Bruno Senna replaced Heidfeld in August.

With Raikkonen's return, it's unclear whether Petrov or Senna will return to the team in 2012. Petrov's manager told Reuters that a team meeting to discuss the matter was scheduled for Wednesday.

With Raikkonen back in the field, there will be six world champions on the starting grid in 2012, including Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, who has won the title the last two years; Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes; Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and Mercedes GP's Michael Schumacher, the seven-time champion who himself came out of retirement two years ago.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Kimi Raikkonen celebrates after winning the Belgian Grand Prix on Aug. 30, 2009. Credit: Mark Thompson / Getty Images

Plan for Formula One racing in Austin, Texas, appears in jeopardy

Plans for a new Formula One race next year on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, appear to be in trouble Tuesday.

Construction had started on a $300-million complex called Circuit of the Americas to hold the United States Grand Prix on Nov. 18, 2012.

BernieIt would have marked the international racing series' return to the U.S. market after a five-year absence. There also were plans for the track to host a MotoGP motorcycle race.

But the group building the track said Tuesday that it suspended construction because a contract assuring that the race would be held there had not been signed. A statement issued by the group did not say who or what was causing the problem.

"We have spent tremendous resources preparing for the Formula One and MotoGP championship races, but the failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern," Bobby Epstein, a founding partner of the venue, said in a statement.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that the problem was a contract dispute between the race's promoter, which has the F1 contract, and the group building Circuit of the Americas.

At Formula One's race last weekend in Abu Dhabi, F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone likewise reportedly said "there are two parties, one is building a track, the other has the contract and they've forgotten to talk to each other."

After the Austin race was proposed, New Jersey officials last month announced plans for their own Formula One race on streets along the Hudson River, with Manhattan as a backdrop, in June 2013.

That worries state officials in Texas. The state had committed to spending up to $25 million over 10 years to cover F1's annual $25-million sanctioning fee to help draw the race to Austin, according to published reports.

But Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said Tuesday that the state now would not pay any funds before the first Austin race.

"The recent announcement of an annual Formula One race in New Jersey is a concern, as additional races have the potential to reduce the number of attendees to a Texas race," she said.

— Jim Peltz

Photo: Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone last month at the Buddh International Circuit in India. Credit: Franck Robichon / EPA    

New Jersey officials confirm Formula One race planned for 2013


Gov. Chris Christie and other New Jersey officials and promoters Tuesday confirmed plans for a Formula One street race along the Hudson River in June 2013.

The Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial would be a 3.2-mile course in Weehawken and West New York on the west side of the river across from Manhattan, with elevation changes up to 150 feet.

"I’ve been wanting to do this for years,” Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone told "You’ll be able to see the Manhattan skyline on TV."

It would be the second new Formula One race in the United States, which has been without F1 racing since the widely followed international racing series left the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the 2007 U.S. Grand Prix.

Formula One already plans to add a race next year at Circuit of the Americas, a track in Austin, Texas, being specifically built for an F1 race.

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Second U.S. Formula One race reportedly on tap in New Jersey

Formula One hasn't competed on U.S. soil in four years, but now the international racing series reportedly is set to unveil a second American stop starting in 2013.

A news conference is scheduled Tuesday to announce that Formula One plans a street race in June 2013 in the Weehawken and West New York areas of New Jersey along the west side of the Hudson River, with the Manhattan skyline serving as a backdrop, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.

Formula One's return to the United States already was planned for next November in Austin, Texas, where a course called Circuit of the Americas is being built specifically for the series.

The last U.S. Grand Prix was held in 2007 on a 2.6-mile road course built within the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which hosted the race for eight years. But the series and track then parted ways when they couldn't come to financial terms and other agreements to extend their contract.

But there always has been pressure on Formula One to return to the United States, because the U.S. is a major sales market for many companies that provide racing equipment or F1 sponsorships, such as Mercedes Benz and Vodafone.


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--Jim Peltz

Photo: Clouds pass over the skyline of midtown Manhattan in New York. Credit: Gary Hershorn / Reuters

Formula One's Jenson Button re-signs with McLaren

McLaren Mercedes quashed any speculation that former Formula One champion Jenson Button might drive elsewhere next year by announcing Wednesday that it re-signed Button to a new multiyear contract. Terms were not disclosed.

Button2 "I've made no secret of my ambition to continue winning races and world championships, and I fully believe this is the place where I can achieve those aims," Button, 31, said in a statement.

The Englishman stunned the Formula One world in 2009 when, driving for the Brawn GP team, he outdueled the powerful McLaren and Ferrari teams to win the world championship.

The next year Button himself moved to McLaren Mercedes, where he joined 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton.

This year Button has won two races (in Canada and Hungary) and is second in the title standings behind Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel as the series prepares for the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

But Vettel has all but clinched his second consecutive championship with a commanding 124-point lead over Button even though there are five races left on the F1 schedule. Vettel has won nine of the 14 races so far this season.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Formula One drivers Jenson Button, left, and Lewis Hamilton of the McLaren Mercedes team Sept. 22 ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix. Credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

NASCAR's Chase leads weekend's motor racing

A bit of controversy hangs over the start of NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup, the 10-race championship playoff that opens Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

Jimmie Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, with four wins apiece in the Sprint Cup Series so far this season, lead the 12 drivers in the Chase with 2,012 points each. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon follows with 2,009.

Harvick won last week’s race in Richmond, Va., after his Richard Childress Racing teammate Paul Menard spun out late in the race to bring out a caution flag. Harvick then beat Gordon off pit road and held off Gordon for the victory.

Gordon later said the timing of Menard’s spinout was “a little fishy,” and NASCAR President Mike Helton said the sanctioning body would look into it.

But team owner Richard Childress said in a statement Friday “there were no team orders” given to Menard to spin to help Harvick's cause and that Menard “wouldn’t have spun out on purpose even if he had been asked.”

Jimmie Johnson, aiming for a record sixth consecutive title, also is back in the Chase along with 2004 champion Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch’s older brother.

Johnson and Kurt Busch have had a running feud in recent weeks, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- another Chase contender and teammate of Johnson's at Hendrick Motorsports-- was asked Friday if he was curious about how the Johnson-Busch spat might play out this weekend.

“It bores the [expletive] out of me, to be honest,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve got my own damn problems to worry about.”

The Izod IndyCar Series, meanwhile, is racing Sunday for the final time at the Twin Ring Motegi track in Japan, where Danica Patrick won her only IndyCar event in 2008. Patrick is moving to NASCAR stock-car racing next year.

With three races left in the season, the IndyCar championship is coming down to a battle between current point leader Dario Franchitti, who is shooting for his third consecutive championship and fourth overall, and Team Penske’s Will Power, who is only five points behind Franchitti and seeking his first title.

In drag racing, the six-race title playoff in the National Hot Rod Assn.’s Full Throttle Series opens this weekend with the O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals in Charlotte, N.C.

Del Worsham currently leads the NHRA’s top-fuel class by 30 points over Antron Brown, and Mike Neff leads the funny car division by 30 points over Jack Beckman. The series finale is Nov. 10-13 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.

And on Saturday night, late-model stock cars make their last appearance of the season as part of a multi-race lineup at the half-mile Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. Brandon Davis of Huntington Beach currently leads the point standings in that series.

The Formula One series is off this weekend ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix on Sept. 25.

--Jim Peltz

Photo: NASCAR drivers Jimmie Johnson, left, and Jeff Gordon take in the sights of Chicago ahead of Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway that opens NASCAR's Chase title playoff. Credit: David Banks/Getty Images


Could Silverstone loosen Sebastian Vettel's grip on F1?

Vettel Sebastian Vettel of the Red Bull team has dominated Formula One so far this year, winning six of the series' eight races, and thus the 24-year-old German has a commanding lead in the world championship standings.

But as F1 prepares for its next race, Sunday's British Grand Prix on the Silverstone circuit, there's talk that McLaren Mercedes, Ferrari and other teams might have a better shot at chasing down Vettel.

The key reason: F1's decision to change the rules midseason and ban an arcane but important part of the race cars' technology called the "off-throttle blown diffuser."

Translation: Although engine exhaust in a typical car goes out the rear tailpipe, on an F1 car the exhaust gases exit in front of the rear wheels and then are channeled through a rear "diffuser" in the back of the car. All of that gives the F1 cars more downforce, making them faster through the corners.

But some F1 teams took things further so that hot airflow through the exhaust and diffuser continued even when the driver took his foot off the throttle.

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NASCAR from Daytona to Irwindale on tap for July 4 weekend

Most major motor-racing series are idle over the July 4 weekend, but NASCAR's top series returns to its most famous track, Daytona International Speedway, on Saturday night while one of its minor-league series does the same at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.

Bayne NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Carl Edwards leads the field for the Coke Zero 400 at the high-banked, 2.5-mile Daytona super-speedway.

Drivers again are expected to pair up in two-car drafts as they did in the season-opening Daytona 500 in February, when Trevor Bayne, who had just turned 20, won the race in a huge upset.

Bakersfield native Kevin Harvick, who won the July race at Daytona a year ago, is in second place in the Cup standings, 25 points behind Edwards, and reigning champion Jimmie Johnson is 33 points behind in third.

NASCAR's second-level Nationwide Series also is racing at Daytona on Friday night, where Danica Patrick will again take a weekend off from her IndyCar schedule to drive in a Nationwide event.

Patrick already has driven in more than a dozen NASCAR races and there is widespread speculation that Patrick will leave IndyCar next season to race stock cars full-time.

Also on Saturday night, the half-mile Irwindale track near the intersection of the 605 and 210 freeways will host NASCAR K&N Pro Series West drivers in the Southern California Toyota Dealers 200.

Greg Pursley of Newhall leads the K&N Pro Series West title standings after winning four of the series' first six races this season.

The Izod IndyCar Series, the NHRA Full Throttle drag-racing series and Formula One are all off this weekend.

When they resume July 10, IndyCar will race on the streets of Toronto, the NHRA will be in Joliet, Ill., and Formula One will be at the Silverstone circuit for the British Grand Prix.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Trevor Bayne, front, leads Carl Edwards, David Gilliland and Bobby Labonte to win the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20. Credit: Glenn Smith/Associated Press 

Motor racing on tap from Alabama to Malaysia


While the Formula One series holds its second race of the season Sunday in Malaysia, the Izod IndyCar Series is racing in Alabama and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has a Saturday night race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Formula One and IndyCar opened their seasons with both of their reigning champions claiming victory. Sebastian Vettel won F1's Australian Grand Prix, and Dario Franchitti won IndyCar's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida.

Now, Vettel and his Red Bull team will try to make it two in a row at F1's Malaysian Grand Prix on the Sepang International Circuit outside of Kuala Lumpur. But thunderstorms are predicted for Sunday's race, which could upset expectations for Vettel, McLaren Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and other favorites.

Fans also will be keeping a close eye on Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who finished third in Australia to become the first Russian to earn an F1 podium (top-three) finish.

"We are realistic and know that the Red Bulls, the McLarens and the Ferraris are the benchmark," Petrov said this week. "And to take a podium again you have to outperform at least four of their drivers, which is a pretty huge task."

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Former F1 champ Kimi Raikkonen coming to NASCAR truck series


The Iceman cometh, to NASCAR that is.

Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One champion known as "the Iceman" for his laconic demeanor, signed to drive a limited number of races this year in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series.

The Finn will race for a team owned by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch, and it should make for an interesting pairing, given that Busch is one of stock-car racing's most outspoken competitors whose own nicknames include "Rowdy" and "Wild Thing."

Busch's team said Saturday that Raikkonen would debut in the truck race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., on May 20. The rest of his truck schedule will be released at a later date, the team said.

"We are honored" to have Raikkonen, 31, join the team, Busch said in a statement. "I look forward to assisting in Kimi's transition to NASCAR as both an owner and teammate."

Raikkonen said in the same release that he was "really excited to have the opportunity to start my venture into NASCAR with Kyle Busch Motorsports."

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