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Category: Formula One

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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Formula One season opener in Bahrain canceled

Bah_240 Organizers of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix canceled the race Monday in response to the turmoil that has engulfed the small Middle Eastern island nation in recent weeks.

Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa informed Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone of the decision and posted the news to the country's Information Affairs Authority Twitter site. The race was scheduled to take place March 13 at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Formula One's governing body, the FIA, described the race as being postponed in a statement on its website. There's a chance the race could be rescheduled toward the end of the season when the Formula One teams return to the Middle East for the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi on Nov. 13.

If the race is not rescheduled, it would be a significant blow to Bahrain's economy.

Thousands of government demonstrators have taken to the streets in recent weeks and around 10 protesters were killed Thursday after clashing with security forces.

The Formula One season will begin at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 27.

-- Austin Knoblauch

Photo: Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix. Credit: Karim Sahim / Getty Images.

Formula One driver Robert Kubica undergoes surgery after rally race crash



Formula One driver Robert Kubica of the Lotus Renault GP team was in stable condition Monday after he suffered serious injuries in a rally race crash in northwest Italy.

Kubica, 26, underwent seven hours of surgery Sunday at the Santa Corona Hospital in Pietra Ligure to treat his right hand and forearm, which were badly injured when his car hit a guard rail at high speed.

Kubica2 The Polish driver was then placed in an induced coma but briefly awakened Monday morning, when he spoke to relatives and was able to move his fingers, "which is encouraging for the rest of his recovery process," his team said.

Kubica also had elbow and shoulder fractures, and "Robert may have to undergo surgery once again for this, but not for a few days," Lotus Renault said.

Kubica was racing a Skoda Fabia car in the Ronde di Andora Rally with co-driver Jakub Gerber when the accident occurred. Gerber was not hurt.

It seems likely Kubica will miss most or all of this year's Formula One season, which opens March 13 in Bahrain.

Kubica finished eighth in the championship standings last season. His one career F1 victory came in 2008, when he won the Canadian Grand Prix for the BMW Sauber team, becoming the first Polish driver to win a Formula One race.

Last week, Kubica had set the fastest time in the final day of Formula One preseason testing in Valencia, Spain.

--Jim Peltz

Photos: (Top) The wrecked rally racing car of Formula One driver Robert Kubica is towed in Andora, Italy, on Sunday. Credit: Roberto Ruscello / Associated Press. (Bottom) Kubica is carried on a stretcher at Santa Corona Hospital in Pietra Ligure after the crash. Silvio Fasano / Associated Press.



Formula One's title chase goes slippin' and slidin' in South Korea


Formula One drivers pilot the most sophisticated race cars in the world. But put them on a brand new track under a steady downpour and their job gets a whole lot trickier.

Just ask Mark Webber, the veteran Australian driver who started the inaugural Korean Grand Prix on Sunday with a 14-point lead in the championship standings and then found disaster on the rain-soaked track in southwestern South Korea.

Shortly after the race went green following a lengthy delay because of showers, Webber's Red Bull car spun on the wet surface, smacked the wall and then was struck by Nico Rosberg, abruptly ending both drivers' race.

"Today wasn't my day," a disheartened Webber said after he walked back to the garage.

Alonso Sebastian Vettel, Webber's teammate, then took the lead. But with only 10 laps left in the 55-lap race, the 23-year-old German saw his race go up in smoke when his engine blew.

That opened the door for Spain's Fernando Alonso to both win the race for Ferrari and take over the championship lead with only two races left in the season, in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

It was Alonso's fifth win of the year and "I think it is the first wet race that I have won, so I am even happier," he said.

Alonso, seeking his third world championship, now leads the standings by 11 points over Webber and by 21 points over former champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren-Mercedes, who finished second to Alonso in Sunday's race. Vettel is now 25 points back in fourth.

But Alonso said all four drivers remained in title contention. "Nothing has changed," he said. "Anything can happen in the next two races."

Behind the leaders, cars were sliding on and off the track's pavement throughout the race, which was completed with barely enough light as dusk fell.

But seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, long considered an exceptional driver in the rain, finished fourth to match his best result of the season. Schumacher otherwise has struggled to be competitive this year after coming out of retirement to join the Mercedes GP team.

--Jim Peltz

Photos: (Top) Mark Webber's Red Bull car is lifted from the track after crashing in Sunday's Formula One race at the Korean International Circuit in Yeongam, South Korea. Credit: Sung Dae-woo/Associated Press; (Bottom) Ferrari's Fernando Alonso on his way to winning the Korean Grand Prix. Credit: Greg Baker/Associated Press

Formula One to return to U.S. in Texas in 2012


Three years after Formula One left the U.S. market, the international auto-racing series plans to return to the United States in 2012 at a newly built circuit in Austin, Texas, Formula One announced Tuesday on its website.

"For the first time in the history of Formula One in the United States, a world-class facility will be purpose-built to host the event," Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone said in a statement. Details of the agreement and proposed track layout were not immediately available.

Formula One reached the deal for Austin to host the race from 2012 through 2021 with the promoter Full Throttle Productions LP, whose managing partner Tavo Hellmund said they had been working "for several years" to bring the race to Texas.

The United States Grand Prix was held on a 2.6-mile road course constructed within the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway for eight years. But the series and the track parted ways after the 2007 race, won by Lewis Hamilton of the McLaren Mercedes team, when they couldn't come to financial terms and other agreements to extend the contract.

At the time, Ecclestone was quoted as saying, "Let's see if we miss America." But many Formula One observers questioned how long the sport could stay out of the United States when the U.S. market is one of the main sources of sales for so many of the companies that support Formula One, including the auto manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz.

Formula One has a 19-race schedule this season, and the series' next race is Sunday in Istanbul, Turkey. Red Bull teammates Mark Webber, winner of the last two races in Monaco and Spain, and Sebastian Vettel are currently tied for the series championship.

--Jim Peltz

Photo: Red Bull driver Mark Webber of Australia leads the field on his way to winning the Monaco Grand Prix on May 16. Credit: Luca Bruno / Associated Press

Will F1's Michael Schumacher get in gear in Malaysia?


It's only the third race of the season, but Formula One is watching closely to see if Michael Schumacher starts flexing the muscle that made him an unprecedented seven-time champion.

After tantalizing the sport by emerging from retirement to join the Mercedes GP team, Schumacher, 41, finished sixth in the season opener in Bahrain (won by two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari) and 10th last weekend in a soggy race in Australia (won by reigning champion Jenson Button of McLaren).

Schumacher's day in Melbourne got off to a rocky start when a first-lap accident damaged his front wing, forcing him to the pits for repairs and dropping him to the back of the field.

The German driver's next chance comes Sunday at the Malaysian Grand Prix on the Sepang International Circuit outside Kuala Lumpur, where weather is again a major concern, owing to the almost daily dose of heavy rain in the area. Indeed, last year's race was shortened by a deluge at Sepang.

On Friday, Lewis Hamilton -- the 2008 champion and Button's teammate -- posted the fastest laps in both practice sessions. Schumacher was fourth- and fifth-fastest in both practices, respectively.

But Schumacher cautioned that he's keeping his expectations in check for the race, which is scheduled to start at 1 a.m. Pacific time Sunday.

"I felt we had good pace," he said. "However, we have to be realistic about our performance here and we might still be lacking a little compared to the front runners."

In U.S. motor racing, meanwhile, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the Izod IndyCar Series and drag racing's National Hot Rod Assn. Full Throttle Series all will be off on Easter Sunday.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher leaves the pits Friday during the first practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix near Kuala Lumpur. Credit: Srdjan Suki / European Pressphoto Agency

NASCAR's Denny Hamlin, IndyCar's Will Power winners on busy Monday of racing


For motor racing fans lucky enough to be off work, Monday was a day to keep a firm grip on the remote control.

Owing to a wave of bad weather in the South on Sunday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Martinsville, Va., and the Izod IndyCar Series event in St. Petersburg, Fla., were postponed until Monday, when they were broadcast live on television. So were the final rounds of drag racing at the inaugural NHRA Four-Wide Nationals near Charlotte, N.C.

Virginian Denny Hamlin won at the half-mile Martinsville Speedway in a wild two-lap overtime finish in the NASCAR Cup race. Seven-time Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon had led the field on the final restart but was shuffled out of the lead as Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano all bumped and banged into each other trying for the win.

Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, who won three of the first five Cup races this season, finished ninth.

In Florida, Australia’s Will Power of Team Penske made it two wins in the first two races this season with a victory from the pole position on the streets of St. Petersburg, which followed his win at the season opener in Sao Paulo, Brazil, two weeks ago.

Penkse, in fact, had three of the four top cars, with Ryan Briscoe finishing third and Helio Castroneves fourth. Justin Wilson of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing was second. Danica Patrick of the Andretti Autosport team finished seventh after starting 21st.

The IndyCar series arrives in Southern California on April 18 for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

At the unique four-wide drag races at zMAZ Dragway in Concord, N.C., 14-time champion John Force beat his daughter Ashey Force Hood and two other drivers to win the funny car event. And Cory McClenathan nipped Doug Kalitta by inches to win the top-fuel race.

And for those fans who needed one more fix Monday, Formula One’s Australian Grand Prix won by McLaren’s Jenson Button on Sunday was reaired on Speed TV.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Driver Will Power leads the field on his way to winning the Izod IndyCar Series race in St. Petersburg, Fla. Credit: Chris O'Meara / Associated Press

Sebastian Vettel wins pole for Bahrain Grand Prix; Michael Schumacher qualifies seventh


Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, picking up where he left off last season, won the pole position Saturday for the Bahrain Grand Prix that opens the Formula One season Sunday.

Vettel won four times last season, including the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. But the German driver said it still was "a big surprise to get pole. We didn’t know where we were with performance during the winter testing."

Felipe Massa, rebounding from a serious head injury that sidelined him for the second half of the season last year, qualified second for Ferrari at the Sakhir track on the Persian Gulf island.

Massa's new teammate and two-time champion Fernando Alonso qualified third and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren, the 2008 world champion, was fourth.

Michael Schumacher, the seven-time Formula One champion who came out of retirement this year to join the Mercedes GP team, qualified seventh.

"I am satisfied with seventh place today having been away from Formula One for such a long time," said Schumacher, who retired after the 2006 season. "By coincidence, it's the same grid position that I had when I started my career at Spa in 1991."

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Formula One's Sebastian Vettel celebrates Saturday after winning the pole for the Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir, Bahrain. Credit: Franck Robichon / European Pressphoto Agency

Mercedes, McLaren drivers lead practice for Formula One's Bahrain Grand Prix


Nico Rosberg of Mercedes GP and former champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren topped the speed charts Friday in the second practice ahead of Formula One's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday at the island country in the Persian Gulf.

With temperatures nearing 90 degrees at the Sakhir circuit, Rosberg turned the fastest lap, followed by Hamilton and then Rosberg teammate Michael Schumacher, the seven-time champion who is coming out of retirement. Hamilton teammate Jenson Button, Formula One's reigning champion, was fourth quickest.

In the first practice, Adrian Sutil of the Force India team was fastest, followed by two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.

The practices weren't seen as especially strong previews of Sunday's race, however, because teams use them largely as shakedown exercises to get accustomed to the track, run various loads of fuel and to tweak the cars for qualifying Saturday and for the race itself.

In addition, "the conditions today were totally different to winter testing" with the high temperatures, and some of the practice laps were merely to check for tire wear and otherwise adjust the cars for the heat, said driver Robert Kubica of Renault.

The result, Hamilton said, was that "the positions on today’s time sheets don’t really reflect [the] overall pace too much yet."

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Nico Rosberg of Mercedes GP during the second practice Friday for the Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir, Bahrain. Credit: Jens Buettner / EPA

Future looks grim for homegrown Formula One team [updated]

It appears America's Formula One effort is drawing its last breath.

After asking Formula One's governing body for permission to skip the first four races of the season, USF1 boss Ken Anderson told the BBC on Wednesday that the team has lodged a request to have its entry delayed until 2011. Anderson said the USF1 project would be over if the FIA did not approve its deferral request.

"If the FIA say no, we are done," Anderson told the BBC. "If they say yes, we can put it back in gear and go."

Since last year, USF1 has been the subject of rumors regarding the team's ability to compete in the 2010 Formula One championship. Anderson said the team has been running on "an insanely tight schedule," but emphasized recent sponsorship problems were the primary reason for the team's inability to make the grid this year.

"There were issues sponsor-wise in January that knocked us back a few weeks, and those meant we couldn't make it in 2010," Anderson said. "The doom-and-gloom people were just waiting for us to fail."

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American Formula One team reportedly seeks to delay arrival on circuit for one year

The newly formed American Formula One team, USF1, has sought permission from F1 authorities to delay its entry into the sport until next year, reported Monday. There was no immediate confirmation from either the team or Formula One.

USF1 in January had announced the first of its two drivers, Jose Maria Lopez of Argentina, but there had been signs that the team otherwise was struggling to be prepared for Formula One's season opener in Bahrain on March 14.

For example, there were recent reports that USF1 had requested Formula One's permission to miss the first four races on this year's 19-race F1 schedule. also said the team's request to wait another year for entry followed a breakdown in merger discussions between USF1 and another new team, the Spanish Campos Meta team.

-- Jim Peltz


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