Jeff Gordon

Jeff GordonAs far as Jeff Gordon knows, this really is his last time in a NASCAR Sprint Cup car.

The nine-time Martinsville winner returns to the site of his last win a year ago, where he held off a charge from Jamie McMurray on a late restart for his first win of 2015 and a shot at the championship at Homestead. Having driven the No. 88 Chevy for the recovering Dale Earnhardt Jr. for eight races, it's fitting that his final race would be here.

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"It's exciting to be back. I love this track," Gordon said. "Obviously amazing memories from this race last year, and I guess there was a part of me that wasn't sure if I wanted to come back, and take away from that, but at the same time I've always said if there's one track that I feel like I could get back in the car and feel comfortable and competitive it's this track."

Gordon and his Hendrick teammates are working toward one goal this weekend – helping Jimmie Johnson win his record-tying seventh championship.

"We want [Jimmie] to win the championship ... this is a great track for him," said Gordon. "So is Texas, so is Phoenix, so three great chances for them to get to Homestead, and we'll do everything we can to work with him, and also with our other teammates to try to come out of here with really good finishes. And then I'm super-focused on myself, on what I can do, so I'm going to be tapping into those guys at well, because I'd love to get these guys a great finish – you know, this is my last race."

Gordon smiled as he said "last," knowing that the door might not be entirely closed.

"Your guess is as good as mine," he said. "I can promise you I have no intentions of this happening, but here I am, so ... never say never, is all I know what to say. I really don't think that I'll be getting back in the Cup car again, but go ask Rick Hendrick. That really has more to do with him than anything else.

Dover2 NSCS Gordon EarnhardtJr 100116"I hope in the future that the drivers don't have a situation like what we have with Junior where they need somebody to fill in for him, but this little bit of experience has been kind of good for me, good for the organization, and we've had a little bit of fun with it as well. So if I had to do it, then certainly I would, but I don't anticipate it."

The unexpected eight-race comeback has been a good experience for Gordon, who realized that extending his fill-in time did more than just fill Earnhardt's seat.

"Indianapolis didn't end well for me last year, so I didn't hesitate [coming back] one bit," Gordon said, "but it was a tall challenge when I got there, it was tough, really, really tough, and things didn't go as well as any of us had hoped ... I didn't plan on going to Pocono and some of the other tracks but at the same time I realized just jumping back in it, I needed more laps, I needed more experience if I was going to give them better results ... I was kind of happy to do more, sad about the situation, but if they needed me, I wanted to do a little bit more to get comfortable with the team and the cars.

"And I wanted to drive the cars with less downforce this year and see what it was like. It does me a lot of good when I get back to the Fox booth to connect those dots. Each time I've been in the car I feel like I've gotten better and better."

The stats seem to agree with him. After finishing 13th in Indy and 27th at Pocono, he finished 14th (Watkins Glen), 11th (Charlotte), 14th (Darlington), 16th (Richmond) and 10th at Dover.

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Just when you thought that the Verizon IndyCar Series had run out of ways to surprise, 2016 came along. The championship was won by a guy who looked all at sea 12 months earlier, his closest rival didn't even participate in the first race, and the winner of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was a recent F1 refugee who apparently figured out how to make a car work without fuel.

Twenty-four drivers made at least three starts during the 2016 season, and each one is a story. Join RACER each day as we retrace their journeys.



Preseason hopes: "The definition of a good season is when everything clicks, and you don’t really have much to do because it’s just rolling. Last year, for us [on the No.22 team], there was a lot of that learning how to communicate to each other. [A new program] is not easy, not just as a driver but for the whole team, the crew … a lot of people were pulled from other places. Penske a big place and there is a lot of responsibility for everybody. So you need time to realize that you are in your position because you are good, and that we’re all going to do well together. It’s like a soccer team. I’ve seen such a difference in people over the winter. It’s incredible how much they’ve been working and the motivation they’ve carried on has been great. So I think we’re in good shape."

2016 Best result: 1st (Long Beach, Barber, IMS road course, Mid-Ohio, Sonoma)
2016 Championship position: 1st (659 points)

Most expected Pagenaud to be better in 2016 than he was in 2015. But did you imagine he'd be that much better?

MILLER: Yep. I picked him to the win the title both years, just because of what we'd witnessed at SPM and his previous bodies of work. And because he and engineer Ben Bretzman are such a good match. And because he's on the most experienced, well-oiled, successful team in open-wheel racing.

PRUETT: I knew it was coming, but would be lying if I said 2016 was the obvious time it would take place. I reckoned 2017 was the year where he’d win the first of two or three championships, but he did what we’ve come to expect: Following a crappy debut season with Penske, Simon applied his immense focus and critical thinking abilities to define and overcome any weaknesses.

Where did he make the biggest gains?

16C 9565 1 2MILLER: He finished as strong as he started. People seem to think that he was chopped liver in 2015 because he didn't win and only scored two podiums, but he qualified in the Fast Six everywhere, and was also quick on his supposed nemesis (the ovals at Indy, Texas and Pocono) where he led 124 laps and got the pole at Fontana. He had a few bad breaks in 2015 but also seemed to fade near the end, and that all changed this past season. He stayed strong throughout the championship race, as his five wins would indicate.

PRUETT: In his head. Simon’s tale of using meditation to unleash his inner animal – one he kept in a cage last year – was the key to finding the championship-winning form. He had all of the other parts – the chassis setup skills, strategy assessment, wonderful rapport with race engineer Ben Bretzman, and a freakish ability to avoid crashes and silly mistakes.

When you're leading the championship for so long, there can be a couple of potential traps: you can become too aggressive in trying to increase your advantage, or too conservative while trying to preserve your points lead. How well did Pagenaud manage his campaign?

MILLER: The litmus test came after Pocono. He'd crashed (his only mistake of the season), finished 18th and Will Power had chopped his lead to 20 points with three races to go. The smart money said he was going to fold up, but Pagenaud responded with the smartest drive of the year and finished fourth in the wild west show at Texas. Then he kicked everybody's ass in the season finale at Sonoma after winning the pole.

PRUETT: He finished second in the season opener at St. Pete, second at Detroit 2 – the official midpoint of the season, and earned pole, fastest lap and demolished the field to win the season finale at Sonoma.

From 16 races, Pagenaud stood on the podium 50 percent of the time and finished inside the top 10 at 75 percent of the events. His earned pole position in 44 percent of his starts, and minimized the number of bad days with only four finishes outside the top 10. Manage his campaign? It was more like a massacre.

Where is the most scope for improvement over the winter?

MILLER: Just win his first oval race in 2017, and then people will stop saying that's his liability.

PRUETT: Pagenaud’s final frontier is to start piling up oval wins. He’s been close, and it’s only a matter of time before Simon starts adding oval victories to his arsenal.

16C 9914 1


Mikhail Aleshin
Marco Andretti
Sebastien Bourdais

Ed Carpenter
Helio Castroneves
Gabby Chaves
Max Chilton
Conor Daly
Scott Dixon
RC Enerson
Luca Filippi
Jack Hawksworth
James Hinchcliffe
Ryan Hunter-Reay
Tony Kanaan
Charlie Kimball
Juan Pablo Montoya
Carlos Munoz
Josef Newgarden

power pagWill Power believes that rival teams face an uphill battle in trying to close the gap to Penske in the final season of manufacturer aero kits next year.

Penske's four drivers won 10 races out of 16 this year, with nine of those being shared between Power and eventual champion Simon Pagenaud. The team also secured a 1-2-3 in the drivers' championship thanks to a consistent year from Helio Castroneves.

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Although the lopsided results are uncommon by the relatively close standards of current-era IndyCar, Power said that he is more surprised that the team didn't do it two years in a row. In 2015, Juan Pablo Montoya led the championship for the entire season, only to lose to Ganassi's Scott Dixon in the final race.

"I felt that we should have had that [success] the year before, but it was just a bad luck year for us," Power told RACER. " As a team, I felt we should have won the [2015] championship, absolutely. And that showed this year. The team does such a good job in every respect now; it really does. It's a great position to be in as a driver. I think it will be really tough for any team to beat Penske next year, too. I really do."

Despite Power's optimism about the season ahead, he suspects that the move to a standard aero kit in 2018 will close the field back up, and bring some of the long-standing Honda teams out of the wilderness.

"When it goes back to the one-make bodykit, that's when you'll have a lot more players in the game – you'll have guys like [Ryan] Hunter-Reay back up there; guys like [Alexander] Rossi will start to come on strong," he said. "Schmidt, as well – both of their drivers [James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin] are well capable of winning races. And Graham – if you put Rahal into a Chevy, he would be seriously on the pace."

Josef Newgarden will move across from ECR to replace Montoya in the team's No.2 car next season; a move that will result in all of the top four-placed drivers in this year's championship driving for the same team in 2017.

Ricciardo, Red Bull, Austin

Daniel Ricciardo hopes Mercedes potentially running its Formula 1 engine conservatively could help Red Bull during the Mexican Grand Prix weekend.

Following Lewis Hamilton's engine failure while leading the Malaysian Grand Prix earlier this month, Mercedes ran its power units in a mode team boss Toto Wolff initially called not "as spicy" as before.

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After coming close to splitting the two Mercedes drivers at Austin last weekend, only to lose second place thanks to the timing of the virtual safety car, Ricciardo believes capitalizing on such conservatism might be his team's best hope.

"The last few races, they've been running a bit conservative, I don't know if that plays a role [here]," said Ricciardo. "If they have to be a bit conservative here, that's good news for us.

"I know we're better off this year than we were last year [with the turbo speed] but I don't know if that's going to mean a few concerns for Mercedes."

The Australian is one of many drivers eager to evaluate the changed grip levels available during Friday practice.

The track was newly-laid last year, and many expect the grip to have increased since, even with teams having relatively low downforce levels thanks to the low air density in high-altitude Mexico City.

"I'm curious to know what the grip's like," said Ricciardo. "Last year, it was a bit frustrating, the level of grip, and it was really hard to find a balance.

"You just had to make do with a pretty badly-balanced car, but this year we should be able to get a bit more out of it. If there is more grip, then it should allow us to run the downforce we want and use the Red Bull strengths."


Ricciardo, podium, Austin

Ricciardo and teammate Max Verstappen have the potential to be "spoilers" in the world championship fight, particularly should points leader Nico Rosberg finish behind one or both of them.

But the Australian insists that this is not a concern.

"I'm aware of it, but come Sunday it's completely not in my mind," said Ricciardo of being a championship battle spoiler.

"Whether me getting a good result changes the balance of their championship, it's still not my business or my doing.

"It's just me trying to do what I can in the car. I'll try and get as many points as I can."

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SNE15879I'd had a few. OK, more than a few. I took the largest bill I had out of my wallet and slapped Benjamin Franklin's face onto the top of the piano.

"What do you want to sing?"

"No idea," I replied.

It was at this point that I thought it would be a good idea to invite someone on stage to help me. Someone the tremendous crowd would actually be interested in. I'd seen the two championship protagonists enter the bar about an hour earlier; one celebrating his third world title, the other commiserating a second championship loss to his teammate. I picked up the microphone and gave them both a shoutout. And yet it wasn't the jubilant, triumphant man with a passion for music who ran down the stairs and bounded on stage. It was Nico Rosberg (BELOW).

We sang Bon Jovi. Badly.

Downtown Austin has set itself quite a reputation for producing memorable moments in its five-year F1 history. And most of them revolve around Pete's Duelling Piano Bar. A year before Nico and my duet, Geri Horner (Halliwell at the time) had jumped on stage for an unforgettable rendition of The Spice Girls' debut, Wannabe.

"Sunday night - you're going to be there right?" Nico asked me on his way to the Drivers' Briefing last Friday.

"I can't, I'm flying home!"

"But... wait... but... who am I going to sing with? You have to come!"

"Sorry chap, I've got three rare days with my daughter and she wins."

image001I landed back in London on Monday to see a video of Nico back up on the stage at Pete's, this time joined by Esteban Ocon. Huge grins. Huge crowd. Same Bon Jovi song. Sung just as badly. A fine tradition to maintain.

I allowed myself a warm smile. But at the same time my heart sank. Where is this guy when you want to show him to the world? Over the course of a race weekend, why can't Nico ever just be Nico?

It's the inherent paradox of Nico Rosberg and the entire 2016 season, that try as one might it's really rather hard to get overly excited about the German or the prospect of him taking the crown.

This is, let's not forget, a guy who has won nine races in 2016. Only Nigel Mansell, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher have equalled that tally. Only the latter three have exceeded it. Should Rosberg win all the remaining races of the season he'd slide into second in the all-time list for wins in a year.

There's few who would argue he doesn't deserve the crown. He's driven brilliantly. Sure Barcelona and Austria still stick in the craw as unnecessary blunders that could serve to take some of the shine off what otherwise could have been seen as a performance verging on the phenomenal, but when one looks at the raw statistics, he's done a very impressive job.

But does he excite? Is there any real reflection of love for the guy as a potential champion?

The feeling from within the paddock, even from his own national journalists and reporters is that no, Nico Rosberg as a champion or otherwise just isn't interesting enough. He doesn't have the following or popularity of a Schumacher or Vettel. He doesn't engage.

There's always been a belief in his adopted home nation that Rosberg is a "plastic German," someone who is perhaps more identifiable as a European than as a man of any distinct country. But it can't just be his worldliness that leads to this disconnect. Surely a rounded young man who speaks numerous languages and can converse fluently and engagingly in them all would connect with people around the world.

His problem, rather, seems to me to lie in his perceived sincerity. Or the total lack of it.

His victorious post-race radio calls with engineer Tony Ross became internet sensations this year for their lack of any perceptible emotion. It all sounded so forced, so unnatural. Even on that magnificent podium in Monza, towering over one of the largest throngs of Formula 1 fanatics in the world, Rosberg's attempts to rally the Italians, in their native tongue, into singing The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," the unofficial anthem of the Azzurri, Italy's national soccer team, fell flat.


For as well natured as the sentiment was from Rosberg's side, one couldn't watch without cringing. The emotion just came across as forced. Insincere. Plastic.

It's the same veneer that cloaks him in front of the cameras. I've long held the belief that Nico Rosberg is too intelligent for his own good, and regards interviews not as a time for openness and expression, but as a battle of wits. As the interviewer you have the control of the questions, and thus the situation. But Rosberg despises being on the back foot. His awkwardness with an interviewer, his clipped answers, attempts to make the person holding the microphone doubt themselves, is his chance to wrest control back into his own hands.

And yet only ever does it make him look and sound detached and arrogant.

Lewis Hamilton has been roundly lambasted for his approach in recent press conferences. And yet Rosberg's boredom with the questions he is asked comes not in the form of diverting his attentions to Snapchat, but instead with producing banal, curt answers, almost huffed out in frustrated tones.

 ONY9000It's just so difficult to get a read on the guy. Who he really is. What really makes him tick. Just to try and break through that veneer, crack through the plastic and get down to the real Rosberg. Perhaps that's the fault of we as interviewers. It could be argued we should ask better questions. But for a decade we have tried. We've approached from every angle. We've done all we can to get down to the man he is. And we've failed.

He's the complete opposite of a driver like Daniel Ricciardo, who is so honest and such an open book that his PR people can often be seen recoiling in horror as he sends himself down a path from which he can't retreat. He'll suddenly realise his mistake, look at the increasingly puce face of his PR guy, the rage shaking through the Dictaphone, laugh and remark, "I think I'm going to be in trouble for that."

Don't mistake this for a dig at Rosberg. It's absolutely not. It's just desperately frustrating to know that underneath the perfect front that he is trying to portray, there exists a really good man who is witty and emotional, a family man with a young child, a man who understands so much about the world and his place within it.

But his very conscious efforts to try and close off his private side whilst at the same time being all things to all people, from fans to the media, leaves one asking that same question that has dogged him since I first met him 11 years ago. Who is he? Who is he really?

The German could be crowned Formula 1 World Champion this weekend. And I'm dreading it. Because I'm so worried that the immensity of the occasion will be countered with another moment of seemingly forced emotion.

Could you imagine him collapsing to the ground under the weight of the enormity of what he's achieved? His lip quaking on the podium as tears stream down his face, unable to muster the strength to even lift his trophy?

Neither can I. And that's really quite sad. Because you can bet everything that it will mean the world to him.

Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps finally proving the doubters wrong, stepping out of the shadow of his father and beating a driver in Lewis Hamilton to whom he has played second fiddle since the age of 14, will break down the protective walls he has built up over a lifetime of expectations and pressure.

I hope so.

Because up on that stage, with a few beers in his belly and a song in his heart, the real Nico Rosberg is a genuinely great guy. I just wish the world got to see it more often.


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ORECA 07 testing

French constructor ORECA has unveiled its 2017 LMP2 contender after a successful first shakedown of the car.

The new ORECA 07, powered by the one-make Gibson V8 engine, undertook its first runs at Paul Ricard on Wednesday and Thursday with Nicolas Lapierre at the wheel.

The car is based on the monocoque of the organisation's existing 05 P2 car but, according to technical director David Floury, incorporates "radically different aero as well as significantly increased efficiency and downforce.".

ORECA has revealed that the car is significantly below the 930kg (2,000-pound) minimum weight for the new P2 class and therefore carries substantial ballast.

ORECA 07 testing

Floury described the shakedown as successful and said no problems had been encountered.

"It's phase one of the program, but an important and really positive one," he said. "The level of performance reached during these test days is exactly the one we hoped during simulation, so the car's potential is extremely interesting."

Former Toyota LMP1 factory driver Lapierre, who is leading the World Endurance Championship P2 points with the Signatech Alpine squad, claimed that the new car "represents a significant step forward from the ORECA 05."

"We've just kept running without any trouble and that was a really good working session," he added.

The ORECA is the third of the four constructors licensed to build cars to next year's new P2 rule book to reach the track after Dallara and Onroak Automotive with the latest Ligier.

Owners of ORECA 05s will be able to build up their cars into 07-spec around their existing monocoques.

ORECA 07 testing

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Max Verstappen plans to stop speaking his mind over team radio during Formula 1 races, because he feels the broadcasts make him sound "a bit arrogant."

Verstappen responded to a reminder from Red Bull to conserve tires during a chase of Nico Rosberg's Mercedes in the recent United States Grand Prix by saying: "I'm not here to finish fourth," which was broadcast on F1's live world TV feed.

Like F1 rivals Romain Grosjean and Fernando Alonso, Verstappen feels his messages are being targeted specifically for broadcasts, and that those transmissions are misrepresenting his true feelings.

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"All the time when I press my radio button it's broadcast, and sometimes it sounds a bit arrogant  especially 'I'm not here to finish fourth,'" Verstappen explained. "But that's just what comes up in my mind.

"I'm not there to finish fourth; I'm there to win, as a racer. On the radio it sounds like I'm arrogant and not listening to the team, but that's not my message to the team.

"It's better to say; "yes, no, OK", for now. Some [fans] do love it, some don't, so it's better I don't say anything so you have no discussions."

Verstappen's impatience behind Rosberg was criticized by Red Bull boss Helmut Marko after the race, but when asked whether he needs to find a better balance between aggression and patience in races, Verstappen said he was personally "more or less" happy with his current approach.

"It's been going pretty well," he added. "You can always improve, that's what I'm always trying to achieve, but especially this season I've been pretty consistent.

"You have those moments [of criticism] in your career. I've had it many times with my dad. I was just trying to get past. That's how I did it with Kimi  I arrived and I got past. With Nico it just didn't really work out."

Verstappen retired from the Austin race with gearbox failure, after mistakenly pitting before his team was ready to receive him. He said this was the result of driving on "autopilot" rather than any specific miscommunication with Red Bull.

"After driving for an hour already you get into a comfort zone  you are a bit on autopilot," Verstappen said. "I saw Daniel box the lap before, so I thought I would box the next lap for my last stint.

"That's where it went wrong. I was maybe thinking a bit too much for myself. It happened, but it won't happen again."


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PP Blog LeadLeft to right: The May 1992 premiere issue of RACER, the September 2016 issue and our 24/7 news site:

Welcome to the first of my monthly blog posts covering what is happening in the world of RACER and racing in general. I hope you enjoy it and find the information useful. Twenty-five years ago this week, our team was preparing to launch RACER Magazine, which debuted in April 1992. None of us could have imagined how much the racing world and media landscape would change. George H. Bush was in the White House and the CART PPG IndyCar World Series was the leading form of racing in North America with Michael Andretti recently crowned as champion. Dale Earnhardt was NASCAR Winston Cup Series champ for the fifth time and Richard Petty was preparing for his final season as a driver. In Formula 1, Ayrton Senna and McLaren Honda reigned supreme, but rookie sensation Michael Schumacher was seen as the future of the sport.

Modern society's embrace of the internet was still a few years away. Conventional wisdom of the day was that racing publications needed to be weekly or biweekly and news-centric to succeed. But RACER debuted as a beautiful feature magazine that was different in every way. RACER wasn't about what happened, but instead, why it happened and what might come next. Today, after 281 issues, RACER still sets the pace for the industry in North America.

During the past quarter century, we've seen the fall of CART, the rise of NASCAR, five iterations of IMSA, the birth of social media and the disruption of traditional mass media. Experts say that one form of media being aided in this unprecedented turbulence is niche media aimed at categories driven by passion. Small is now the new big. RACER is surely benefiting from this phenomenon across all of our media and social media platforms.

As many of our readers and customers are aware, the founders re-acquired RACER in March, 2012 after an 11-year period of ownership by Haymarket Publishing. Here is a recap of what has happened to RACER's audience reach since that time (Note: all RACER media and social media properties are brand-audited by the BPA):

Brand Reach Chart
* Magazine Circulation reported from Jul-Dec 2015 BPA Brand Audit Report. 2016 BPA reports not yet available. All other info is from Google Analytics and social media channels that fall under the RACER brand BPA audit.

In addition to celebrating RACER's 25th Anniversary in April 2017, we will also celebrate's 20th Anniversary in May. Here is an traffic ranking in the United States for sites in our competitive set. This includes media sites with a high volume of consistent racing content as well as leading series and sanctioning body sites: United States Traffic Rankings Top 30 sites with extensive racing content as-of 10/23/16

1) Rank 1685
2) Rank 5823
3) Rank 6376
4) Rank 6394
5) Rank 7695
6) Rank 12,750
7) Rank 13,365
8) Rank 16,788
9) Rank 16,862
10) Rank 18,130
11) Rank 30,002
12) Rank: 36,049
13) Rank 47,530
14) Rank 49,869
15) Rank 52,774
16) Rank 60,120
17) Rank 67,990
18) Rank 94,932
19) Rank 97,709
20) Rank 105,555
21) Rank 113,525
22) Rank 118,341
23) Rank 119:729
24) Rank 136,219
25) Rank 138,053
26) Rank 143,203
27) Rank 167,879
28) Rank 225,912
29) Rank 280,603
30) Rank 376,720

To be fair, some racing series sites have ended their seasons so their traffic has dropped as a result. However, has been consistently ranked in the top four of this competitive set all year long. The racing season doesn't end when the last checkered flag falls. Racing fans, participants and industry insiders continue to engage in the sport all year round.

If you would like to know more about us, here is a link to RACER's advertiser resource site with information about the audiences for RACER magazine, and SportsCar magazine:

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