Keselowski

KeselowskiBrad Keselowski said there was more than one reason why he decided to shut down his Camping World Truck Series team at the end of this season.

Keselowski, who has fielded trucks in the series since 2008, addressed the media for the first time since Thursday's announcement, joking that had he won the lottery the decision might not have been made. But he does not blame the inability to make money as the only factor.

"The biggest thing is I want to be positioned to have the best opportunities possible when I get done being a racecar driver and one of those opportunities is to be a team owner," Keselowski said.

"For that to have any chance of being successful, it's going to be critical for me to have all of my ducks in a row specific to having other income-generating businesses. This is the only way I could get the opportunity to do that, so feel like it's the right decision."

It was not an overnight decision. Keselowski revealed he spent a few months planning and thinking it through before pulling the plug.

"Making sure that everything was right and the I's were dotted and the T's were crossed," he said.

Going forward, Keselowski is confident he can help about 75 percent of his BKR group find new opportunities. But he admitted he feels bad for the other 25 percent he probably won't be able to help land somewhere.

"There are a lot of relationships," Keselowski said about the hardest part of the decision. "Being a business owner it's more about the people than anything else. You care about them and they give you their all and you want to give them your all.

"In some ways, you feel like you're letting them down when you're not able to keep it going, so that's never any fun."

As for the team's assets, Keselowski said he will keep some of them for future opportunities, on which he didn't elaborate. Other parts and pieces he will liquidate. Keselowski is also going to keep his Statesville, North Carolina race shop.

As for how viable the Truck Series is and what he sees for it going forward, Keselowski took a positive approach.

"The Truck Series has been around a long time. It's going to be around a lot longer than me, so I'm not so self-centered to think that series is based solely on my team and participation," he said. "It'll be around. It'll be all right.

"I don't know where the future is going to take me in my life. I know that I'm trying to be positioned to have as many opportunities as possible to kind of control what that might be and this is a necessary step business-wise to have those opportunities. It's not really the most pleasurable one to undertake. In fact, it really kind of stinks, but it was the right move long-term and I'm hopeful that it works out for the best."

acura holderThe first test of Acura's new ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international in the U.S. will take place next week at Road Atlanta. Team Penske is expected to press Juan Pablo Montoya into service with the ORECA 07-based No. 86 DPi as his co-driver, Dane Cameron, is obligated to completing the season with Action Express Racing before moving into his new seat.

"Our goal right now is we'll start testing next week with this car," Roger Penske told RACER. "They had a shakedown with it over in Europe a couple weeks ago, so what we have to do is take it now, we'll look to get reliability and get drivability and also see where we are from a competitive stance."

Penske also confirmed the team will enter Petit Le Mans – IMSA's season finale at the same circuit – in October with a stock WEC LMP2-spec ORECA 07 powered by a Gibson V8 engine to get his Acura staff up and running in competition before the ARX-05's debut at Daytona in January.

"We will be in a position to run a car at Atlanta in a Petit Le Mans race – not this car, but probably another ORECA-type car – to get our team guys ready to get back in this type of business," he continued. Testing with the ARX-05s will continue in and around IMSA's championship closer.

"But we would expect to do 12-hour tests with [the Acuras] before we go to Daytona," he added. "So there's a big focus, but we'll be there with two cars for sure."

"Now my goal is to be there to be able to run for a win, but there's plenty of competition, and I'm sure nobody's asleep, and we're going to be up probably many nights to try and get competitive."

Although Team Penske will enter Petit Le Mans as a one-off, the Captain says he and team president Tim Cindric won't be going into the 10-hour race with polite intentions.

"We're going to be there to try to win," he confirmed. "This is part of the program, it's part of the test program. We're using it kind of going to school with this type of car. Just the pit work, [a] lot of our tools and things that we'll use for next year we've gotta get them out, get the rust off those and see where we are. But look, it's evolution as we did with the Porsche program, and Tim and I feel very strong about getting a big race under our belt before we get to Daytona."

kenseth kinrade latMatt Kenseth said Friday he still does not have anything lined up for the 2018 season.

"No plans right now," Kenseth said at Bristol Motor Speedway when asked about driving in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next year. "Just raise kids, hang out with my family."

The 2003 Cup champion will not return to Joe Gibbs Racing next season as Erik Jones takes over the No. 20 Toyota. That news was announced last month after Kenseth revealed at Kentucky Speedway he didn't have a job after this season. Since then, Kenseth has been at the center of a few rumors in the garage.

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

So, has he been talking to other teams and looking around?

"I'll let you know when I know something," said Kenseth. "But to be honest with you, I'm not worried about it even really one percent anymore, to be honest with it. Not concerned about it."

What about being approached by other owners?

"When I have something to tell you, I'll let you know," Kenseth reiterated. "I just don't have anything for next year to talk about at the moment."

Projecting a calmness about it all, Kenseth said his focus is on contending for this year's championship. Kenseth, who is still looking for his first win of the season, continues to hold down the final spot on the playoff grid with three races left in the regular season. 

"I'm really [more] concerned about 2017, and that's the truth," Kenseth said. "We've got 13 races left, three to try and get into the playoffs. We're not in there yet. Kind of got ran over at the end of the race last week by the 24 (Chase Elliott) trying to race him and the 1 (Jamie McMurray), at least for points, try to get a cushion if we don't get a win.

"But, hopefully, we get a win and get in the playoffs and try to race for a championship. That's our goal every year and really that's what I'm concentrating on at this time."

 31I9752Romain Grosjean says Haas has been delivering exactly what he expected from the team when he opted to join at the start of its time in Formula 1.

Haas entered F1 at the start of last season, with Grosjean having been confirmed as its first race driver toward the end of 2015. Having scored points in its first season, Haas is showing greater consistency this year and has already matched its 2016 points tally as it fights for fifth place in the constructors' championship.

"A very good feeling," Grosjean said when summing up the first half of the season. "We've achieved quite a lot compared to last year. Same amount of points, without the failure in Melbourne we would have six or eight more points, so we are in a good place.

"The team is growing up – we've shown that in year two where everyone was expecting us to dive down, we have actually stepped up our game. So I am very pleased with that, [it matches] as far as I was hoping and what we are getting since I signed back in 2015."

Asked if Haas was delivering above expectations, Grosjean replied: "We are on target, on expectation.

"We wanted to fight in the midfield; we sometimes we are ahead, sometimes we are a bit behind. I think generally there are a lot more things we can improve and there is lot more room for improvement in the team, which is great to know because we are not fully at 100 percent potential."

While Grosjean (pictured at right, below, with chief race engineer Ayao Komatsu) has a sixth place to his name this season, Haas has also failed to score on four occasions and the Frenchman admits there is no obvious pattern in terms of which tracks suit its car.

 ONY2754"It's a tricky one. I think we are ahead when we get the tires to work. It's just most of our time spent on this, when we get them to work and we are in the window then the car feels really good and we are fast. Whenever we are not, it's a more difficult time."

Team owner Gene Haas has already indicated that Haas will retain the current driver line-up of Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 2018.

 W6I2593A deal to keep Sergio Perez at Force India for 2018 is "not far off," according to the team's chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer.

Perez has been at Force India since the start of the 2014 season, having joined the team from McLaren. The Mexican has impressed over the past four seasons and is currently seventh in the drivers' championship, just 11 points behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen. With Perez also bringing substantial backing to the team, Force India is keen to keep hold of the 27-year-old and Szafnauer is confident of agreeing a new contract.

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

"We haven't quite signed Sergio yet but we're not far off," Szafnauer said. "I think we can get it done by Spa. The high likelihood is that we're going to stick with our two drivers but I can't say that 100% because not both of them are signed."

With Pascal Wehrlein's future at Sauber uncertain due to the recent Ferrari power unit deal – expected to result in Charles Leclerc driving for the Swiss team in 2018 – Szafnauer was asked about the possibility of running the German, to which he replied: "There's always got to be a plan B.

"So, if for some reason we don't sign Checo – but I believe we will – then you've got to look around, including Wehrlein. He's not so bad!"

However, Szafnauer reiterated his belief that Force India will retain stability throughout the team in 2018 and is hopeful that will lead to increased competitiveness.

"I think the drivers will get better because they'll learn more, I think the engine will get better because Mercedes upgrade every year. The pink [livery from sponsors BWT] - I don't know how much more pink it can be because it's pretty pink! But we're working hard on getting the car to go quicker.

"There's some things we can do in the short term which we will do and I hope that relative to the top three we'll be closer next year."

Force India currently sits fourth in the constructors' championship on 101 points, but is 83 points behind third-placed Red Bull.

2017 08 17 MarshallPruett 2017Reunion 2017 08 18 024aMazda factory racer Joel Miller turns his first laps in the 1991 IMSA GTO RX-7 at Monterey and quickly settles into a scorching pace.

{youtube}gsSYpwmVWFU{/youtube}

M90600

With Formula 1's summer break entering its final days, thoughts begin to switch back to the world championship, the state of play when we entered our enforced recess, and the potential that lies in the second half of the season.

The first 11 races of 2017 have delivered in part. Ever since that first weekend in Australia, it looked clear that the season would grant us a fight that had been spoiling for the better part of a decade. Vettel versus Hamilton was the scrap everyone wanted to see, and with Mercedes and Ferrari genuinely and finally close in terms of outright pace, it was the fight that everyone not only expected but demanded of these new faster and more physical cars.

But while we've had moments of on-track excitement between the two, from Barcelona to Baku, we've not as yet been granted the multi-lap ding-dong between the drivers who have defined their generation. There's been no Dijon' 79, which of course is what so many believe should be the standard expectation of the sport despite the fact that we still, 38 years later, haven't quite got it figured out that those few laps of brilliance are the rare highlights which we laud and celebrate, rather than the norm.

Of course, the new cars haven't helped. Yes, they're faster, and yes, they're scintillating to watch on track in singular form as a driver attempts to hang onto the bull on a quali flyer, but they were not created for overtaking. DRS has proven itself nigh-on useless in helping this issue, because cars are finding it almost impossible to get within that pivotal one second. And so even in a scenario when we have the top four cars essentially nose to tail, as we had in Hungary (albeit with team orders imposed), the quality of racing we had hoped for simply hasn't shown up. Sadly, if you look back over the past 12 months of this column, this should come as no great surprise. But it is what it is.

 R3I7930

What has proven to be a very nice surprise this season, however, has been the steady ascent of Valtteri Bottas, and as we enter this second half of 2017 it is in Mercedes' new charge that I hold the most hope for bringing an unexpected twist to the narrative we believed had been set in Australia. While the attention of the world has been on Vettel vs Hamilton, Bottas has been doing what Bottas does best. Calmly, quietly, methodically, he's been finding his footing and getting settled in, ready to stage an attack that nobody is expecting.

It struck me first in Silverstone. Valtteri had won in Austria: his second win of the season, and a race that came off the back of a frankly ridiculous drive in Baku, where he came home second after falling a lap down at the start. For the first time, his shoulders were back, his chest puffed out and he had a wry grin that he failed to contain in interviews. He was positively bouncing around the paddock.

I bumped into a former colleague from my GP2 days, who has been with what is now termed F2 and the GP3 series since their inception.

"Valtteri's back, isn't he?" he grinned.

"I really think he is," I replied.

"These guys don't know what's coming, do they?"

"Nope. Not one bit."

It was something I put to Valtteri after the British Grand Prix, which yielded another fine podium for the Finn. I told him I'd seen him like this before, that it reminded me of the Valtteri I'd first really got to know in GP3. He was back in his happy place, wasn't he?

He smiled. Again. And his answer told me everything I needed to know. He downplayed it, sure. But the answer was categorical. Yes. Yes, he was.

It's fascinating, but his year thus far in Formula 1 has many similarities with that 2011 season in GP3. Moving into the champion team, he had much to prove and little time to do it. GP3 was a one-year affair. Any longer, and you were toast. But the first half of his year was nothing at all special.


 Y2Z1033

After the first half of the season he sat tenth in the standings, having scored points in just half the races held. He'd not DNF'd in any, but his form had been patchy. Yet it was precisely at that mid-season point that everything changed. He turned up at the Nurburgring and took his first podium on the Saturday in horrible weather, cementing his bounce into form with a win from sixth on the grid on Sunday. Next time out at the Hungaroring, he took his first pole of the season and turned it into his second win of the year. He blasted from eighth on the grid to second in Race 2. He won in Spa (above). He won in Monza.

He won the title by seven points from James Calado, overcoming a nine-point deficit to his British teammate at the season's mid-point and a 17 point gap to Alexander Sims, the overall leader, after eight of 16 races.

The point is that up until the mid-point of his last championship-winning season, none of his rivals had any real idea of what Valtteri Bottas was capable of producing in that car. He'd looked OK, but not mega. Which is why I believe his Formula 1 rivals would be wise to treat him as every bit the same competition for the world championship as a Vettel or a Hamilton. Because when Bottas gets into his stride, he's bloody hard to beat.

Nico Rosberg has said recently that he believes the Finn has the perfect mentality to win the title, and to be potentially the perfect driver. Quite how much of that he's been able to garner from his ice cream shop in Ibiza remains unclear, as his few short visits to the Mercedes garage in 2017 likely would have given him little insight into Bottas' development within the team. If it's second-hand information he's picked up from engineers and team bosses, then it shows in what high regard the Finn is held within the walls of Mercedes AMG Petronas. But one would be wise to apply some caution to these words, spoken as they were, we can be in little doubt, as an attempt to unsettle Lewis Hamilton – a cause celebre for the reigning champ.

Yet Rosberg wouldn't be the first to express this opinion, nor to believe that Valtteri Bottas is a serious proposition in 2017.

 R3I1637

He's had low points, of course. His spin in China was foolish, but something he learnt from swiftly. Bahrain and his inability to keep pace with Hamilton, something which has haunted him more than once in race trim this season, threatened to thwart his upwards momentum. That he bounced back immediately to win in Russia showed much of his inner strength.

He's had misfortune too, in particular the engine failure in Spain which cost him an almost certain podium.

After Monaco, the last race on which he failed to reach the rostrum, Bottas had a 54-point deficit to championship leader Sebastian Vettel. Today that gap stands at 33 points, although at its lowest, post Silverstone, it was just 23. Factor in that engine failure in Spain (it's probable he would have finished second, but let's say he would have finished at minimum third behind Hamilton and Vettel) and we're looking at an 18 point gap, four in arrears of Hamilton. After just over half a season, some misfortune and a couple of bum races, to say he's keeping pace with his teammate would be an understatement.

And all this from a man thrust into the empty seat of a world champion, racing for the first time with a world champion team. New faces to know, new processes to learn, a new car to understand, bigger pressures to absorb, and the most fearsome challenge on the opposite side of the garage he's ever faced. One could forgive a driver for getting swamped by the enormity of it all.

And yet here he is. That wry grin impossible to hide. Back in his happy place. Confident. Assured. And ready.

Make no mistake. Valtteri Bottas isn't coming into the second half of 2017 to play back-up to Lewis Hamilton. When everyone asked the question of whether the Brit's act of handing back the podium spot to his teammate in Hungary might affect his title fight, almost everyone meant in relation to Vettel. Yet it may just be that, with the majority of circuits after the break looking to favour Mercedes, those three points have a deeper meaning in a battle far closer to home than anyone gave credence at the time.

There's a saying in racing. Under every Finn, there's a shark. This one just figured out how to swim. And he can smell blood.

 31I5005

danica BrettMDanica Patrick lives by the philosophy that thoughts become things. As such, Patrick has shifted that approach to her on-track performance.

"You know what I did, I talked about having bad luck too much. So, all I did was have bad luck," Patrick cracked earlier this week at Stewart-Haas Racing. "So, I'm not going to talk about it. I'm so glad I'm having good luck."

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

Luck. A word the No. 10 team has used a lot this year. It's easy to do so when three of Patrick's seven DNFs were not of her own doing. Instead, early in the season Patrick seemed to find herself in the right place at the wrong time with one of her peers collecting her in an accident.

For example, in the Bristol spring race David Ragan caught Patrick's right-side door while stuck in the middle of a three-wide battle, sending her nose-first into the wall. A mechanical issue for Joey Logano at Kansas jerked his car to the left, hooking the right rear of Patrick and starting a vicious crash in Turn 1 that injured Aric Amirola. Running low on a late restart in June at Michigan, the spinning Camry of Daniel Suarez came across the track and collided with Patrick.

The restrictor-plate tracks of Daytona (two races) and Talladega also saw Patrick involved in crashes. And the lone DNF that wasn't because of an accident occurred at Las Vegas when the engine in Patrick's Ford soured.

The summer has been far kinder. In the last eight races, Patrick has an average finish of 17.5 with five top-20 finishes. She was in the top 15 at Kentucky, New Hampshire, Indianapolis and Pocono.

"I think we have finally found ourselves having clean races and staying out of trouble and getting lucky on top of not having bad luck; we've had some good luck, too," Patrick said. "Indy comes to mind of just surviving that and being in the right place at the right time here and there.

"Yes, I still have to turn the wheel and avoid accidents, but you never know at what point in time there's nothing you can do anymore. So, we've been on the better side of that."

danica pocono thacker

Crew chief Billy Scott told RACER that SHR's lag to start the year came in part from the organization's switch to Ford. Six months into the year, Scott says no one at SHR is where they want to be. However, it has been nice for the 10 team to be trending upward.

The same also goes for the relationship between Scott and Patrick. Since taking the reins of the No. 10 team last year, Scott says he's learned just how passionate Patrick is about her job.

"She expects to run well and does what it takes to do so," Scott said. "She puts in the work and has the determination. She never gives up."

Not including her part-time schedule in 2012, Patrick previously worked with Tony Gibson (for 69 races) and Daniel Knost (for 39 races). Scott believes the constant changes in team personnel, cars and now new a manufacturer haven't helped Patrick develop a usable notebook.

So, if nothing else, Scott likes the consistency – both on and off the track – he and his driver have developed in a short amount of time.

"[The chemistry] is always getting better but it's at a pretty good place," Scott said. "We've been to all these tracks enough times now that you get to develop some notes. You get to know what the trends are, not just her driving style, but our car builds and how they all tie together. That's helpful and it just comes with time."

When asked what the strengths of the team are, Scott took a page out of his driver's book, pointing to attitude and being able to stay focused or recover quickly.

"I think one thing we always do, and even last weekend [at Michigan] was an example, while we didn't really have a great finish (22nd), I don't ever give up, Billy doesn't, the team doesn't, we just generally stay positive," Patrick said. "I think that staying positive is what then allowed us to go out there in qualifying and get something from [the race] that was respectable instead of it be a spiral of a weekend.

"I think we have a really good ability to stay positive among any trouble or drama that happens."

This weekend, Patrick brings the power of positivity to Bristol. Although she won't say she enjoys going to the bullring, Patrick does enjoy getting to perform the bump-and-run. In the spring, Patrick was running 25th before her accident. She has one top-10 finish in 10 Bristol starts.

Subscribe to Racer

More

Video: The 2017 Great Teams Issue

 
The 2017 Great Teams Issue of RACER is on sale now. Click here for more information.

FROM THE RACER CHANNEL

RACER Magazine 25th Anniversary Video

33 years of SportsCar magazine history.

See more than 50 On Board videos.

Honda Racing / HPD Videos

The RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 team had the weekend it had been waiting for in Utah, taking the new NSX supercar to Victory Lane for the first time in PWC competition.

Race Car For Sale

WILLIAMS FW04/2

2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Special