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Auto Racing

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Formula One has taken a step closer to expanding the grid after the governing body launched its application process for prospective new teams. The FIA says there is interest from “a number of potential candidates” but didn't name any. Candidates will be asked about their environmental credentials and how they would make a “positive societal impact” by joining F1. One interested team is Andretti Global. It has backing from General Motors' Cadillac brand.

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IndyCar driver Conor Daly says he would take an offer to enter the Daytona 500 later this month even in a last-minute effort. Helio Castroneves said last week that he had ruled out attempting to qualify for the Feb. 19 NASCAR opener because there wasn't enough time to properly prepare. That opened an opportunity for Daly to talk to Floyd Mayweather's race team about the Daytona 500. Daly made his Cup Series debut driving for Mayweather's team last October on the hybrid road course/oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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IndyCar begins preseason testing this week without its reigning champion from the ladder system. Linus Lundqvist won five races last season in Indy Lights to win the title and the $500,000 bonus that's meant to be spent on a promotion to IndyCar. But the 23-year-old Swedish driver was unable to stretch the money into a meaningful seat and the open rides instead went to four other rookies. Two of the rookies hired ahead of Lundqvist finished lower than him in the Lights standings, and two have not even raced in the series before.

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NASCAR has banned the “Hail Melon” move Ross Chastain used last year at Martinsville to earn a spot in the championship race. Chastain last October mashed the gas and deliberately smashed into the wall so that the energy would speed his car past his rivals. NASCAR said Tuesday the move would draw a penalty in 2023 under a previous rule about compromising safety. It was part of a series of competition tweaks for 2023 that includes the removal of an automatic four-race suspension to a crew chief if a tire comes off a car.

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Ben Kennedy is the great-grandson of NASCAR's founder. The 31-year-old graduate of the University of Florida wants to earn his way to the top of NASCAR and has learned the sport from the bottom to the top. He is the architect of aggressive schedule changes and the unique Clash at the Coliseum. The race returns Los Angeles for a second year this weekend. NASCAR also will celebrate its 75th anniversary with its first ever street course race in downtown Chicago.

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Acura dominated the debut of hybrid engines in North American sports car racing with a 1-2 finish Sunday at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Helio Castroneves and the automaker won the prestigious endurance race for a third consecutive year. Castroneves won the Rolex in 2021 in an Acura with Wayne Taylor Racing and won with Meyer Shank Racing the last two seasons. He was overcome with emotion after Tom Blomqvist closed out the victory by holding off Filipe Albuquerque in an Acura for Taylor/Andretti on a restart. Despite being the reigning champions, MSR and Acura were a bit of an unknown ahead of Daytona. The twice-round-the-clock endurance race this year marked the launch of a new hybrid era of racing.

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NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports have selected Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller and Jenson Button will drive the special Garage 56 car that will race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Johnson has lobbied for the seat and Rockenfeller has done all the testing on the project. Former Formula One champion Jenson Button was a surprise pick as most expected Jeff Gordon to complete the lineup. The trio will drive NASCAR's Next Gen car in the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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IMSA is bringing North American sports car racing into the hybrid era starting with Saturday's Rolex 24 at Daytona. The twice-round-the-clock endurance race will be the first to use new hybrid engines in the top class. It makes IMSA the first North American racing series to use hybrid technology. The change lured new manufacturers to the class as automakers craved the pairing of a motorsports program that is in step with its road car program. Most automakers are shifting toward electric technology. But with the change comes concerns on durability for new cars with new engines in the longest and most prestigious race of the year.

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