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Connor Zilisch, Formula E, Nascar Tire degradation
Features

Wednesday Wrap-Ups: Everything you need to know from this weekend’s motor racing

Spring has sprung when a racecar has won. All racing is back, and we couldn’t be happier. This past weekend, we saw racing from Formula E, NASCAR, and the 72nd running of the 12 hours of Sebring. There was a lot to digest, from heat and tires to crashes and rookies making moves. We’ll break down a few key talking points so you can sound like an expert if anyone asks your thoughts.

IMSA – Twelve Hours of Sebring

Image credit: IMSA

Florida’s Sebring International Raceway is one of the oldest continuously operating race circuits in the States. It’s a wiley course that will test patience in the sweltering heat, with devious bumps, unforgiving turns, and cruelty to tires and engines.

After leading the majority of the race, Pipo Derani crashed out halfway through, and it was wild to watch in real-time, to say the least. He and the Whelen Cadillac Racing team qualified 1st in the Grand Touring Prototype class but finished 10th because of this incident. Pipo walked away rattled but no worse for wear. The fact that he was okay is a testament to how these cars are designed now, as well as the safety measures IMSA has in place to protect drivers and fans alike.

Colton Herta was one of many IndyCar drivers who stepped away on an off-weekend to participate. He and the Wayne Taylor Racing/Andretti Autosport team finished 1st. He and teammates Louis Deletraz and Jordan Taylor (Wayne Taylor’s youngest son) were at the front of the Grand Touring Prototype class for most of the race in their Acura ARX-06.

Speaking of Indy drivers… Romain Grosjean finished 7th, also in the Grand Touring Prototype class with Lamborghini. This is a bit special as he took the helm of the SC63 prototype racer, making this its first WeatherTech Championship start at Sebring. He also had to drive several laps with his door ajar. Was this good or bad in the ungodly Florida heat? You’ll have to ask the Phoenix yourself.

We especially love the win of Trackhouse‘s developmental driver, Conor Zilisch. Winning in the Le Mans Prototype class, this is the 17-year-old’s second IMSA podium this season. He also placed 1st at the 24 Hours of Daytona in February. The future certainly seems bright for him and the Era Motorsport team. Zilisch was presented with sparkling wine for the celebration, not champagne.

Win the Weekend is a great IMSA series if you’re looking to learn more.

Formula E – São Paulo E-Prix Round 4

Image credit: Formula E

This was probably one of the best races of the year so far. I know it’s early, but the way I screamed for the last 30 seconds was incredible. While I am a Porsche girlie for Formula E, I do like to keep an eye out for McLaren drivers in all series of racing. With record temperatures in Brazil at the São Paulo E-Prix, drivers were asked to manage not only their batteries (thanks to several caution flags and safety car appearances) but also the actual heat of the whole car.

My beloved Portuguese veteran, Antonio Felix Da Costa, and his teammate Pascal Wehrlein ran front for most of the race. At one point, just a three-second split separated the top ten drivers. It was tight, with Attack Mode activations hitting around the same for most of the top pack. It certainly kept this E-Prix interesting.

With battery power trickling down and laps flying by, Jake Dennis in the Andretti car was hitting critical temperatures trying to defend his position. Sam Bird enters the chat.

I loved everything about this win for Sam. After being fired from Jaguar after three seasons with them, he looks mighty good in Papaya. At barely 1% of his battery remaining, Sam completed one of the most amazing overtakes in Formula E history with seconds on the clock to do so. He proceeded to pray to the EV gods, flying by Mitch Evans in the Jaguar car. If he flipped the bird (wink) on his way to victory, no one would have judged him. I certainly didn’t.

Still hoping for a De Vries-alution; he finished 18th. Justice for Nyck.

Feel free to peep my Formula-E explainer here, if you need a little insight.

NASCAR – Food City 500 Bristol Motor Speedway

Image credit: Brittney Wilbur/NASCAR

The horrifying confusion and surprise about tire degradation need to be studied. Y’all, I grew up remembering dirt tracks. Okay, I know it was dirt not that long ago, but I think after this weekend, we’re headed back to red clay somewhere. This new era of NASCAR tests every discipline of racing, except dirt, in a real way. I beg you, NASCAR, to bring more dirt tracks back! Maybe Bristol was never meant to be concrete. The track was a nightmare in qualifying, and not a single team could figure out what it was going to be like on the big day.

Thus, on Sunday afternoon, it was just all over the place. Goodyear and NASCAR had a crisis regarding when to release more tires to the teams and how fast each was shredding. Ty Gibbs took stages one and two, with Denny Hamlin winning the overall. Insert eye-roll emoji.

And because I’m a messy bitch who loves drama, Ross Chastain lives rent-free in Ryan Blaney’s head. After another run-in at Bristol, Melon Man is getting cozy in that man’s mind. Viva la Trackhouse. #Dale

Upcoming for this Weekend

Formula 1 is back in Australia. Catch the race on Sunday at midnight for East Coasters on ESPN or F1TV. F2 and F3 will be a part of the Australian GP.

IndyCar will return to the South Palm circuit for the Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge. Catch the race on Peacock or NBC Sports—at 12:30 pm EST.

NASCAR hits one of my favorite tracks at COTA in Austin. Tune into Fox at 3:30 pm EST for what’s sure to be another amazing race. Legendary driver Kamui Kobayashi will be jumping in the #58 Mobil 1 for 23X1, just for this race. And Trackhouse bestie SVG will be in the #16 WeatherTech car for Kaulig Racing.

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Features

Spend January with these racing docuseries and get ready for every new season

As we patiently wait for all the new seasons of racing to start, there are plenty of amazing car nerd documentaries and racing docuseries to get you revved up. Call it the Drive to Survive effect, but more and more areas of racing are following this model. Now, that is in no way a bad thing. Putting these series in front of more people is a good thing. I’m selfish, so I applaud this because I’d love to talk about Formula E without getting met with a blank look. If you’ve ever been curious about any of these types of racing, January is a great time to jump.

Brawn: The Impossible Formula 1 Story

Yes, I have to start here, and I’m not sorry. Aside from being an amazing docuseries about a time in F1 that isn’t likely to happen again, it features my one true love, Jenson Button. Sorry, World Champion Jenson Button. Not to sound like Stefan from SNL, but this docuseries has everything: a cheating scandal, financial ruin, infighting, betrayals, defeats, and triumphs. This was such an amazing series, especially to see a snapshot of this very significant time in F1 from the perspectives of so many of our favorite former drivers. It’s also wild to see young Christian Horner and young James Vowels.

Keanu Reeves is excellent, perfectly creating drama, tension, and humor in the interviews. Jenson is as charming as you would expect. With his return to racing at full capacity this year, I hope this creates more Button fans. This series is well worth watching; each episode leaves you wanting more.

Michael Fassbender: Road to Le Mans

I spent a lot of last years talking about Le Mans; I mean, it was the centennial of the race, so it was only fitting. I got to speak with Parick Long, a long-time Porsche driver at Le Mans, and got some real insider knowledge. We talked specifically about the influx of actors turned drivers as he trained and raced with Patrick Dempsey. We touched on Micheal Fassbender, who was participating for the second time with Proton and driving a Porsche 911. This is a great look into the craziness that goes into getting the mind, body, soul, and car ready for the legendary 24-hour race. Fassbender, in no way, is just another pretty face or arrogant actor thinking they can just hop in and command a car of this caliber. LeMans requires so much more than grit and money. It takes tenacity, heart, and a little luck. This documentary perfectly encapsulates that. If you know nothing about Le Mans, this is an excellent place to start. Mark your calendars for June 15th and pop on MotorTrend, where you can watch the entire race. There is nothing in the world like it; it is truly unique.

Formula E Unplugged Season 3

In less than two weeks Formula E starts its 10th season in Mexico City. Aside from being a decade old now, this is the biggest calendar season they have ever had, with 17 races scheduled. If you aren’t familiar with Formula E, it is the top level of electric single-seater racing. It’s just as fast, fun, and aggressive as Formula 1. If you’ve never been to a race, I highly recommend you catch on this season. I recommend London; it’s indoors and unlike anything you’ll ever experience. But I digress. There is more than enough time to catch up on seasons one and two of Unplugged on Paramount +. Season 3’s first episode just dropped on YouTube. New episodes will launch every Monday and Wednesday until February 5th. You will get an in-depth look at the previous season and understand the personalities and intensity of this series. Keep an eye on our site this season. I’ll be happy to walk you all through this celebratory year. If you want a little more on Formula E and the science behind EV racing, check out Racing Green. It’s a book I recommend a lot.

PS. Justice for Nyck de Vries, if you know, you know.

500 Days to Indy

This six-episode series is about the preparations for the Indy 500 and is the most ideal introduction to IndyCar. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, I have loved seeing the trickle of interest from F1 into the other series, specifically IndyCar. It is a more palatable type of driving/system for Formula 1 fans to digest. Because everyone wants a DTS hit, IndyCar came together with the CW for this production. Without any prior knowledge, you can jump into this and get a feel for how special this race is, but also how significant it is to motorsports history. It’s one of the most famous races in the world. Also, Fast Friday is one of my absolute favorite ‘holidays’ in motorsports. Don’t worry, you’ll know what I’m talking about soon. IndyCar’s new season kicks off in St. Petersburg on March 10th.

(Full disclosure: I love every single one of the McLaren drivers in this series. )

Drive to Survive: Season 6

Honestly, the DTS hate has to stop. Is it as spectacular now as in the earlier seasons? No. Netflix picking and choosing what to show, how to show it, and how to edit is their prerogative. All reality TV knows you have to create villains and storylines to keep audiences engaged. The DTS producers are no different. You do have a special advantage if you watched the previous seasons of knowing the truths and real drama. But hey, for someone who has no idea about F1, it’s not a bad thing to me if people learn about Fernando Alonso or Guenther Steiner through this show. This should be an interesting season, I’m hoping to see more behind the scenes of Vegas, because my god. Season Six will air in its entirety on February 23rd, with the first race of the season following on March 2nd.

Keep an eye out for…

NASCAR Full Speed

Not to be outdone, NASCAR has tossed their hats into the DTS ring. I will say Netflix is getting better with each of these shows, in how they cover sports and live events. Will lightning strike twice for them? Perhaps. Rather than focus on a whole season, this show will solely focus on the Cup Series playoffs and Championship race from this past year. (Again, of which I had feelings.) This series is expected to be five episodes at 45 minutes each. They teased an early 2024 release, and it will drop on January 30th, just a few weeks before the 66th running of the Daytona 500 takes place. This kicks off the new season officially.

Logan Sargeant: The Step Up

Williams Racing has teased this as something longer, but if not, this is a nice look inside the experiences of a rookie. I am glad James Vowels is giving Logan another shot to prove himself in F1. Yes, he is the first American to score points in the series this century, but there is definitely something special about him. You don’t get to Formula 1 without being talented and having a heck of a lot of potential. Really hoping for a better season for him and Williams in 2024.

The Lionheart

Image credit: Tribeca Film Festival

All my fingers are crossed that this documentary on Dan Wheldon gets major distribution/released this year. It made the festival circuit rounds to very positive reviews. Dan was an absolute legend of IndyCar. Over a decade after his passing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his story certainly has a place in Indy history. Dan was an absolute force, loved both on and off the track. This is his story as it is now his two sons, Sebastian and Oliver, who are racers as well. It is a tribute, and it is part of coping after a life-changing loss. HBO is said to still have the rights, so I’m praying it gets a Max release this year.

Honorable Mention: Win The Weekend

This came out last year, but it is perfect for those who are IMSA curious. It’s eight episodes and is a great way to spend a weekend. Get a first-hand look at the dashes of Acura, BMW, Cadillac, and Porsche. Last season, IMSA also introduced an electrified hybrid GT Prototype, pushing the tech of the sport forward in a fast-paced way only they could cook up. The 2024 IMSA starts January 19th with the 24 hours of Daytona.

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FeaturesHot Takes

NASCAR should learn from Liberty Media and F1: why their Ryan Blaney championship roll out was so sad

Say what you want about Liberty Media’s handling of the Formula 1 races in the US, but they kind of get it. I was at the Miami Grand Prix, and it was cringe as hell at times. Overall, though, incredibly fun. Something Liberty does very well is connecting with the right audience, even if there are missteps. Formula 1 is blessed with so many drivers with charismatic personalities that shine for the press.

Watching Danny Ricciardo command the late-night and podcast circuits with ease and charm for the Vegas Grand Prix is a dream for the Red Bull social and marketing teams. So how did NASCAR fumble the bag so spectacularly with the NYC media tour of their newest champion, Ryan Blaney? They literally had a playbook in front of them. They had exactly how F1 captured the hearts of America through a carefree Australian dripping in allure.

NASCAR crowns a new champion!

NASCAR couldn’t have asked for a better champion to emerge as their season winner a week ago in Phoenix. Ryan Blaney is funny, young, personable, and pedigreed. He is a likable nerd who is a fan favorite and beloved in the garage. He is the ideal bridge between all fans. NASCAR is very much suffering from an identity crisis and has been for years. This year, it felt like the tide was changing.

The success of the inaugural Chicago race, having Formula 1 legends like Jenson Button and Kimi Räikkönen make track appearances, and mixing old traditions with new ideas, all had to have interests peaked. Full disclosure: I am a Trackhouse girlie. But watching owners like Pitbull come in and fully support drivers such as Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez, and, come the next season, Shane van Gisbergen breathes life into this entire series. It gives you hope that this product can’t just be good but great.

Trackhouse Racing
Image credit: Instagram, th_project91

Growing up loving NASCAR, there was only ever a brief moment when it felt so vibrant. The country, as a whole, knew who Jeff Gordan and Dale Earnhardt were. Motorsports was cool and lucrative. Perhaps the untimely and tragic passing of Earnhardt halted the sport’s growth. Perhaps. Then, Dale Earnhardt Jr. seemed poised to be the face of the brand and bring a younger audience in. The addition of an easy-on-the-eyes newcomer named Kasey Kane ticked female viewership up as well. But again, NASCAR just couldn’t fully capitalize long term.

Now, in 2023, after a rather good season (please hold your feelings about the playoff structure), with a very marketable champion, the stars aligned for NASCAR, and they couldn’t get it together. They fumbled on Ryan Blaney’s New York City Championship unveiling.

Here’s how.

1) Sending him to the Empire State Building.

Fine. Totally untestable, it is one of the most recognizable NYC landmarks. But for the love of whatever deity you believe, why was he in a blazer and dress pants? The man was still rocking his full playoff beard. And I get it to some degree. His girlfriend looked lovely as well. But if your sport is trying to target a new demographic, why not lean into what you are? I ask you, why was he not in his fire suit? The photo opportunity of him in his iconic yellow and black hoisting the trophy would be worth it alone. It’s just good business to be displaying your team name and sponsors to a wider audience because we always have to be making money. Also, it just looks dope. Do you know how many 20-something-year-old guys I saw dressed as Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton, Jr. on Halloween this year? That movie is almost 20 years old. That is your audience. This is who you should be appealing to.

Image credit Instagram, NASCAR

2) Every sports champion pays homage and makes the talk show/podcast rounds now.

Danny Ric goes on Jimmy Kimmel and slays. Hell, even Christian Horner was a fantastic guest for Dax Shepard. He’s effervescent, lively, and dashing. Everyone falls in love or more in love. Ryan Blaney goes on (checks notes) Kelly and Mark. You know who watches Kelly and Mark? My mom, who ironically does know who Ryan Blaney is by way of his father. Why on earth would you put this man in front of an audience you are not aiming to convince to watch your sport? Ryan should’ve been in the Barstool office. He is absolutely the kind of guy who could vibe with Caleb and make a great viral video. Put this man in front of an engaged viewership that is under 50. He’s not a nobody. There was no reason you couldn’t get him in front of the right crowd. He drives for Team Penske, the family who literally owns almost all media news outlets. Do better.

Image credit: Instagram, livekellyandmark

3) No fun fan engagement.

Sure, they sent him to Times Square to stand there with the trophy and look at the Nasdaq building. Spectacular. Riveting. Insert sad face emoji. They so easily could have had the car and trophy downtown at the Seaport for photos and a meet and greet. Small things like this expand who could be interested in your sport. Formula 1 does popups and public events for their teams and drivers each race that are fun, fluffy, and inviting. It’s such a low lift. It’s the end of the season. Where is that car going after? What’s the risk? None.

Image credit: Instagram, NASCAR

It’s so disheartening to watch a sport I’ve loved for so long continually miss every opportunity to improve it and bring in new fans. I hope some of the F1 shine trickles down to NASCAR as it does for IndyCar. But if they continue with tactics like this, I have little to no hope. Regardless, I’ll be there next season in a Melon Man shirt, cheering on Mr. Worldwide’s team. At least he knows how to draw a crowd.

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