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The chances of having the Le Mans-winning Jackie Chan DC Racing team turn up for the Rolex 24 at Daytona appear to be on the rise.

Rumors of the Chan- and David Cheng-owned team's interest in the race have circulated recently, and based on a suggestion in this week's edition of the French Auto Hebdo magazine, a two-car entry, with one reserved for team regulars and a second car for Daytona-only stars, is in the works.

The team came close to scoring the overall victory at Le Mans after Porsche and Toyota faltered throughout the event. Although Porsche managed to secure a close win, the team's ORECA 07-Gibson WEC LMP2s took a fighting second and third behind the German's 919 Hybrid LMP1 machine.

Some of the Jackie Chan DC Racing drivers could be in different teams by the time Daytona arrives, but many of its familiar names could staff the first car.

According to Auto Hebdo, the second ORECA 07 could be formed with a proposed lineup of Williams Grand Prix Formula 1 driver Lance Stroll, who made his Daytona debut in 2016 in a Chip Ganassi Racing Ford Daytona Prototype, Mahindra Formula E driver Felix Rosenvqist, who competed at Daytona the same year as Stroll, albeit in a PC car, Andretti Formula E driver Robin Frijns, and Blancpain GT driver Daniel Juncadella.

If the Chan/Cheng team enters IMSA's opening WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event, it would become the second international effort to vie for Prototype honors in January. The UK-based United Autosports, owned by American Zak Brown, has already announced a two-car Ligier JS P217-Gibson program with two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso set to feature in its bid for victory.

17HMS 25869Danica Patrick can expect a warm welcome from some of IndyCar's brightest stars upon her return to the Indy 500.

Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden, 2016 Indy 500 polesitter James Hinchcliffe, and championship front-runner Graham Rahal are among those who hold genuine enthusiasm for her addition to the field of 33.

"I think it's great news," Newgarden told RACER. "It's exciting to see who's going to enter this race every year, and to have Danica come back, it's going to be fun to see her have her last race there in a place where she really started her professional career and has had a lot of success."

nelson gateway 0825 1268For the Team Penske driver, whose Chevy-powered entry will wear the No. 1 next year, having Patrick as a rival will be a new experience. With her departure for NASCAR coming at the end of the 2011 IndyCar season, Newgarden – the 2011 Indy Lights champion who graduated to the big series in 2012 – missed the Danica Patrick experience. The same will be true for many of the IndyCar regulars who joined the series after her exit.

"To have an opportunity to compete with her – my first time – I'm really happy about it," he added.

Hinchcliffe stepped into the seat Patrick vacated at Andretti Autosport in 2012. As a series veteran who leads the resurgent Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team, the Canadian believes she will have few issues adapting to a Dallara chassis and new 2018 bodywork that are significantly different than the package she used in her first IndyCar stint.

"There's a lot of things to consider," he said. "She's been out of open-wheel for a while, but her timing couldn't be better because nobody has drivien the 2018 car on a speedway in race spec, so she's going to have plenty of time to get up to speed.

lat abbott midohio08296"The kind of racing that we've seen from the DW12 is different from the [Dallara] IR03 (above: Hinchcliffe alongside Danica at Mid-Ohio in 2011). My initial thoughts are that it's going to be different again, so missing out the last couple of years, I don't think it's going to be a detriment to her. No reason to that think without a week of practice she can't be right up there with everybody else."

Rahal sees Patrick's approach to driving open-wheel cars as being a perfect complement to what she'll face at the Brickyard. He also thinks the sharp increase in driving talent throughout the field since her last Indy 500 is where the real fight will be found.

"She's always had a smooth driving style, and Indianapolis is a place that suits her very well," he said. "She's always been smooth and fast, [but] I do think today's world is a lot more competitive world than when she was there. To run at the top is a hard thing to do. It has gotten significantly harder than the early days when I was doing it.

"If you can finish in the top 15, you're doing a good job, so I think she's going to find that a little bit more of a challenge. I'm excited for her. I'm eager to see how she does. Selfishly, I'm happy for her, and happy that Indy will be her last [race]. Indy, at the core of it, is who she is. I'm excited to see her back home."

Although Patrick will bring plenty of attention to her Indy 500 farewell, Newgarden isn't willing to write her off as a marketing ploy or gimmick act to be disregarded.

"She's done a lot for the sport commercially, but she's also one of the best at Indy," he added. "That's her background, really. She came up through the karting ranks and open-wheel racing was her start, and she will 100 percent have an opportunity to kick everyone's butt if she has a good car underneath her. And I think that's how everyone's going to treat the challenge that she's bringing."

Asked if he would be open to IndyCar granting Patrick a special test day – akin to what it did for Fernando Alonso – ahead of Indy that drew millions of viewers via live streaming, Hinchcliffe loves most of the idea.

"If the refresher course is open to everyone else who would qualify, then I don't have a problem with it," he said. "We get so much practice during the week, it's hard to argue that it's any kind of advantage. Running around by yourself doesn't do anybody any good for the race.

"I'm for it; I don't believe anybody deserves special treatment: Fernando Alonso, Danica Patrick, or anybody else. I'd say pick a day, let everybody that needs one get one and live stream the s**t out of it and let's make it a big deal. Let's build some excitement for this race."

Chip Ganassi Racing is the leading candidate to field Patrick in a Honda-powered entry alongside 2008 Indy winner Scott Dixon and newcomer Ed Jones, who finished third at Indy in 2017 on his first try. Rahal would have enjoyed having Patrick back at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing where she made her Indy 500 debut to great fanfare in 2005.

"In all honesty, I'd hoped it was going to be with us," he said. "I thought that would be a very fitting end to her career, to come back with my old man, the guy who started her career and got her going, [with] the team that started it and got it going, I thought that would have been a pretty cool story. It's good timing for IndyCar. In her interview when she said she never thought it would happen, it says a lot about where IndyCar racing and the Indy 500 stands in her heart."

Provided Patrick signs on as the third CGR driver at Indy, Rahal believes she'll have top-tier equipment. During his time at CGR from 2011-'12 as a teammate to Dixon and Dario Franchitti in the Target-sponsored cars, it wasn't a confidence Rahal always held with his own equipment.

"Loaded question. I've been there, I've done it. In my time, I'm not sure the C and D players got what the A and B got," he continued. "Today, they do. Forget Scott Dixon. He's just better than everybody else. That, I think, is a fact. It looks like everybody gets a pretty competitive piece. Today, all those cars are equal."


 

IN1 2199Questions about Patrick's skills, intentions, and ability to pick up where she left off at the Indy 500 have flooded social media since her announcement on Friday. For the two who've have raced against her, the wanton negativity and criticism is just noise.

"If she runs well, people are going to be good about it. Whether it's a goofy Canadian or a veteran Japanese driver, people respect what you do at the Speedway," Hinchcliffe said. "She's always been a fierce competitor; that's never been a question. If she goes out there and performs well and still has that fire, then I think Indianapolis will welcome her back with open arms."

lat abbott font 0615 9357Through his marriage to NHRA ass-kicker Courtney Force, Rahal has been privy to the constant – and often disturbing – hatred thrown at high-profile women in the sport. It has altered his perspective on the topic in a fundamental way.

"Through the positives and negatives associated with DP over the years, I think we all need to step back and appreciate her for what she's done," he said. "I see it firsthand with my wife, too. Competing head to head with men is not an easy thing. [Men] are going to be harder on [women] than they are on others. That's what it is. There is no doubt, contrary to what some may want to believe – or do believe – that Danica Patrick has brought more eyes to racing, across the board.

"Racing, as a whole, found a new fan base when Danica hit the level that she did. Millions of social media followers, millions of media stories; the impact that she has had...it's hard to put a value on that."

And for those who think Patrick isn't respected by Indy's best, Rahal has a message.

"I think it's wrong. I respect her tremendously," he declared. "I respect her way more now that I've been married to Courtney and see the unbelievable stuff people will say. I respect her for standing up and living in that world. Even if your name is Dale Jr. it's not an easy place to be, for all the pressure and heat she goes through. If people believe that or say that, it's news to me."

17HMS1nk08995Goosebumps. Hundreds of them came across my arms despite the south Florida heat.

I didn't mind them. Very few times in life does one truly appreciate a special moment while it's happening. But standing on pit road at Homestead-Miami Speedway as Martin Truex Jr. roared off Turn 4 to his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, the cries of his spotter, Clayton Hughes, in my headset got to me.

"How about this, Martin Truex Jr.: You are the 2017 champion, baby! You are the champion, baby!"

Even writing it now and thinking back on the moment, it brings me the same joy. Sportswriters love a good story. Truex, though, has been a great story. Ending the season as the champion was his crowning moment and for the sport, as well as all those who cover it, it was the perfect storyline.

17HMSTDmt1620Truex was the favorite, both sentimental and statistical. The 37-year-old and all those around him succeeded despite what could have been numerous distractions: a FRR team member, Jim Watson, passing away the night before the Kansas race. Crew chief Cole Pearn's best friend dying. Truex's girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, continuing to battle ovarian cancer. Team owner Barney Visser suffering a heart attack during Phoenix weekend and undergoing bypass surgery.

On the track, the No. 78 Toyota had been, by far, the class of the field. In 36 races, Truex won eight times and put together an average finish of 9.6.

In the playoffs, Truex was untouchable. Four wins in 10 races. Just one finish worse than fifth – a crash at Talladega resulted in a 23rd. And to keep with the numbers game, Truex's average finish over the last 10 weeks was an astounding 4.3. Oh, he also led 2,253 laps this year.

Truex not only whopped his competition, but also didn't let them get back up.

Heading to Miami late last week it was only natural to wonder what would keep Truex from finishing the job. In NASCAR, the term 'lovable loser' is applied to many drivers and Truex has undoubtedly carried the label for much of his career. What would cause his latest heartbreak?

17HMSTDrl 07423And yet, during my time on pit road watching the monitors as closely as everyone else during the final laps, it became evident this was a different driver. A different man.

Truex was not fazed by the pressure of the weekend. Crumbling as one of the best in the business in Kyle Busch hounded him corner after corner for the final 15 laps was never a thought.

At the white flag, Truex said he knew it was over.

"Over," he deadpanned in the media center. But when Hughes started screaming, that's when Truex's walls came down.

"I just started crying," he said. "I couldn't even talk. I had no idea what to do. I literally held it together completely, 100 percent, I'm not BSing you. White flag was like, 'All right, I've got this, they're done, game over.' And I nailed the last lap exactly the way I nailed the lap before that and literally as soon as I see the checkered flag and Clayton started yelling, I was done.

"I couldn't think of anything. Complete junk. I don't know how to explain it. Waterworks. It's crazy."

With an elimination-style format that leaves just one race to decide a champion from four contenders, it's very easy for the season's best driver not to wind up hoisting the trophy. Truex was this season's best driver and, while it may not be politically correct to say, he deserved to win the championship.

Fittingly in mid-November, in the same state where the season started, in the same race the man who gave him a shot in the Xfinity Series (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) retired from the sport and on the same type of track (1.5 miles) at which Truex stomped the competition all year, Truex finished it off. And he did so by leading 78 laps.

Goosebumps.

 ONY5440Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has called on Formula 1 to have patience with new owners Liberty Media after the first public dissent from the teams over future power unit plans.

The joint proposal from the FIA and F1 regarding the future engine regulations after 2020 was met with a negative response by Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault. That was then followed by a drop in year-on-year revenue being announced as part of Liberty's financial results for the third quarter, although that was partly due to there being one less race in the same period.

With the teams receiving prize money based on the sport's revenue – dropping from $316 million to $273m for the quarter – Steiner (pictured at right with F1 chairman Chase Carey) was asked if he was worried about the pot going down for the first time, to which he joked: "No, I'm really happy about it! The less we get the happier I get!

"No, I wouldn't say I'm worried about it. It's a concern but if they can explain that there are investments made and in the end there is more coming in, then that's their job. They're promoters and they need to promote the sport so that we get more money. So if they can explain that one and how they will do it, then I'm fine.

"I think it's all in a phase where this is happening – and it's a big business Formula 1. You cannot from one day to the other change things. It will take 12-24 months to know if it was worth that investment or not, but at the moment they just need to convince us that it's worthwhile investing.

"We have no vote in what they invest – that is their discretion because they own the business. We just have to go with it and then in a year or two the verdict will be out if it worked or not, then if it didn't work we are unhappy."

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Asked about Niki Lauda's comments that he was concerned about the future direction of F1 under Liberty, Steiner added: "I'm not pessimistic about it, to be honest.

"As always we have concerns. I think it comes back to the fact that the easiest thing is always to do the same and if there is change then nobody wants change. I mean, in normal life if something changes you have difficulty to change to it.

"Niki was with Bernie [Ecclestone] for the last 60 years I guess, so for him change maybe is more difficult to accept than for other people. He needs to be convinced and that's the job of Liberty Media, to tell Niki and let him know what their plan is so he gets a good understanding of what it wants to do and maybe they can make him happy. But Niki will understand when it's explained more about how they want to do it."

Pearn Truex GettyABOVE: For crew chief Cole Pearn and Martin Truex Jr., the pressure of a championship was nothing compared to trials in real life. 

If anyone was worried that Martin Truex Jr. would be overcome by the pressure of racing for a championship, fear not. The Furniture Row Racing driver had things under control all weekend.

He was so calm, in fact, that Dale Earnhardt Jr. laughed about his friend's laid-back attitude. As Truex celebrated his crowning achievement Sunday night, farther down the track on pit road, Earnhardt revealed just 24 hours before the two had been talking about hunting.

"Saturday after practice he's texting me about what's on our deer [cameras]. I'm like, 'Martin, man, you're trying to win a championship,'" Earnhardt said. "That's just the guy he is."

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Totally relaxed, Truex admitted.

"I was bored more than anything, especially last night," Truex said. "When we got done with practice, done with our meetings, and it's 5 o'clock. OK, watch the Xfinity race. This is fun, awesome race, on the edge of your seat, excited about that championship race. But then afterward I was like, 'I'm bored, I want to race. What am I going to do all night?'

"Generally, when I'm at the track I'm pretty bored when I'm not in the car and we're not working or having meetings or doing something. So yeah, I like looking at my trail cameras and watching my deer walk around and stuff. A big one pops up and I'm like, 'Hey Dale, when are you going to Ohio?' He said, Friday. I was telling him what standing to go to and stuff, to pass the time."

Sunday was not the first time Truex had competed for the championship. As a part of the Championship 4 in 2015, the No. 78 team admittedly was just happy to be there. Anything past that was overachieving.

Returning this season as the emotional and statistical favorite, Truex knew many were going to keep a close eye on him – watching and waiting for it to come crumbling down.

Truex wasn't fazed.

Truex celebrates LAM

"Honestly when I got here this weekend, I did not feel any stress. I did not feel any pressure. I was ready to go race," Truex admitted. "Everybody wanted to say, 'Oh, what's Truex going to do, he has no championships.' 'What's the 78 going to do, are they going to buckle under pressure?'

"We've been here before. ... We had a lot of stuff this year that could have derailed us, a lot of challenges off the track. [Crew member] Jim Watson passing away at the racetrack at Kansas during the weekend, all the things Sherry has went through. The team is part of that. They love her. She's part of our team. [Crew chief Cole Pearn's] best friend dying and we win Watkins Glen. I think we thrive under pressure.

"And all those crappy days we went through, we had to look at each other and hug each other and say, 'I've got your back. You doing OK? What do you need? Do you need something?' All those days that we had each other's back like that, when the pressure of the championship – Ford Championship Weekend came along, it was like, let's go show them who we are, show them what we're all about – and we did it."

MarshallPruettArchives CART1987 Coyne8A special place is reserved for Dale Coyne among the eight Verizon IndyCar Series team owners.

The Illinois-bred businessman climbed the junior open-wheel ranks, all while competing on a miniscule budget, until he reached the CART IndyCar Series in 1984. A sprinkling of races, many spent behind the wheel of his inspired DC-1 chassis powered by a naturally-aspirated V8 engine, kept Coyne in the driving game through 1991.

MarshallPruettArchives 1986 MidOhio 0087

Where many of his fellow owners retired from the front of the grid, Coyne came from the back, and it's a place where his Dale Coyne Racing outfit usually remained.

After a few too many years of running an assortment of drivers who've been forgotten, a rededication to improving the team came in the late 2000s, and by 2009, its first win with Justin Wilson at Watkins Glen was delivered. Sebastien Bourdais earned DCR's fifth win in March at St. Petersburg, and more are expected in 2018.

As the only full-time IndyCar team owner who funds the program almost entirely out of his pocket, the enigmatic Coyne is a rarity in the sport. He also rates as one of the most misunderstood entrants in the series. Take a listen to his origin story and life in the sport below, and he just might become less of a mystery.

DJ5R0272Renault chief technical officer Bob Bell says a number of new additions to the team made during this year have led to a growing momentum at the Enstone, UK-based team.

Having returned to Formula 1 as a full constructor ahead of the 2016 season, Renault had to embark on a major recruitment exercise due to the lack of investment possible toward the end of the team's time as Lotus. This year's car was the first one designed under Renault ownership and has seen clear progress throughout the year, and with the team just four points off sixth place in the constructors' championship, Bell is encouraged by the improvements shown in all departments.

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"We have recruited more people who have the necessary understanding as well as an increase in the number of younger personnel, who are learning the trade," Bell said. "There is momentum building in all areas and that has led to the progressive improvement in performance. We want to carry that on into winter and through into next year.

"I get a great sense that the momentum in this team is building for the longer term and that's what we're interested in. Clinching sixth in the Constructors' is important as this team wants to show progress en route to being successful and winning championships. It's important to feel and build on this momentum."

 ONY8328Carlos Sainz was brought in as Jolyon Palmer's replacement alongside Nico Hulkenberg from the United States Grand Prix, and with the pair having been closely matched in their three races together so far at the end of this season, Bell is also optimistic about the impact the driver line-up will have in 2018.

"Both are highly adept at giving us a clear direction to follow for the fundamental development path with the R.S.17. They see the same problems from slightly different angles, which is insightful. Carlos has settled in very quickly and works with his engineers very well. He's been immediately on the pace. He's a great team player and works well with Nico; they are both very mature.

"It's key that they remain level-headed and keep progressing together. They are both clearly talented and very quick."

 O3I8556McLaren will continue to try and improve its car at this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in order to start 2018 in a stronger position, according to racing director Eric Boullier.

2017 has been a challenging year for McLaren both on and off the track, culminating in the team agreeing to split with Honda at the end of this season in favor of a power unit deal with Renault from next year. Ahead of that significant change, Boullier says the focus is on learning as much as possible with the current chassis in Abu Dhabi as it will still form the basis for a 2018 car that he hopes will prove much more competitive.

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"As we look ahead to the sun setting on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the 2017 season, I'm proud of the battles we've fought and the achievements we've made as team this year, despite the lack of results and their respective influence on the championship table," Boullier said. "Every member of our team has worked tirelessly to improve our package, race by race, and this weekend will be no exception, as we strive to make the most of every session before the close of the season for the winter shutdown.

"We use every single opportunity on track to evaluate and improve our package and learn valuable lessons for next year, and this weekend will be just as important as ever. With the relative stability in the regulations between 2017 and '18, it means a lot of the data we've gathered, especially over the last few races, will still stand us in good stead over the winter and help inform the all-important decisions we make on next year's package."

BoullierBoullier (above) insists McLaren will maintain full commitment alongside Honda in its final race as the team looks to end the three-year partnership on a high.

"I know I can speak for the whole team when I say that each and every one of us embarks on our final grand prix weekend as McLaren Honda in Abu Dhabi with both optimism and respect. Every single person has worked incredibly hard over the past three years and remained committed through the highs and lows we've experienced together until the very last race.

"All of us will go into the weekend with exactly the same aim – to work hard and do everything we can to finish the season positively."

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