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Motorsport Minutes w/ Matty G | Lap 5

By: Matthew Ganibi

“In order to finish first, you first have to finish.” – Sir Sterling Moss, former Formula 1 Driver

Howzit, Hawaiʻi?!

With football in our rear-view mirror, this past weekend’s focus turns to the Great American Race: the Daytona 500. NASCAR’s 40-best drivers duked it out for the coveted Harley J. Earl Trophy and required a dozen extra laps to crown a winner. In addition to that, we are less than a week away from Formula 1 pre-season testing in Bahrain and two weeks away from IndyCar’s St. Petersburg Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which means that we have 2023 season previews to dive into. Without further ado, let’s take a lap around this week’s action in the world of motorsports! 

Ricky! Ricky! Ricky! – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins the 2023 Daytona 500!

Daytona Beach, FL is the world center of racing and this past week played host to the 65th running of the Great American Race. Following Martin Truex Jr’s Clash at the LA Coliseum victory, the chase for the Bill France Cup went green as 30 to 1 betting underdog Ricky Stenhouse Jr. cemented his name into the NASCAR’s history books climbing the trackside catch fence and raising the coveted Harley J. Earl Trophy in Victory Lane. Per Fox Sports’ broadcaster Mike Joy, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. became the second straight driver to capture the Daytona 500 crown at 30 to 1 betting odds. Penske’s Austin Cindric was the first to accomplish this when he won last year’s Daytona 500. Stenhouse – a native of Mississippi, rallied his #47 Kroger/Cottonelle Chevrolet Camara for JTG Daugherty Racing all the way up from a 31st place start and saved his best for last leading the final 9 laps in what turned out to be a 12-lap overtime race due to multiple crashes. Ricky’s #47 Chevrolet was declared the winner as he was just inches ahead of defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano at the time the race-ending caution was called following a 9-car wreck during lap 212. 

The top-five finishing order was rounded up by: 2nd) Penske’s Joey Logano (#22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Mustang), 3rd) Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell (#20 Dewalt Tools Toyota Camry), 4th) RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher (#17 Fastenal Ford Mustang) and Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman (#48 Ally Bank Chevrolet Camaro) in 5th. Bowman’s Hendrick teammate and 2nd place starter Kyle Larson (#5 Hendrick Cars Chevrolet Camaro) led the race’s first lap and was in contention going in to the second turn of the final lap until he fell out of contention and crashed after a sudden move to the middle lane ultimately resulted in an 18th place finish. RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski (#6 NEXLIZET Ford Mustang) won the first of three stages for the Great American Race and ultimately lead up until conceding the lead on Lap 109. Keselowski, who is scheduled to run a King’s Hawaiian Bread paint scheme later this season, was classified as 22nd following a late race accident. Stage 2 winner and Florida-native Ross Chastain (#1 Advent Health Chevrolet Camaro) came home in 9th place while other notable finishers included: Kevin Harvick coming home 12th in his final Daytona 500 (#4 Busch Beer Ford Mustang) and Clash at the Coliseum winner Martin Truex Jr crossing the line in 15th (#19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry). 2022 Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric was unable to finish after a Lap 203 crash and was classified right behind Keselowski in 23rd place. 

The build up to the Great American Race known as Daytona Speedweeks Presented by Advent Health commenced on February 15th – the 25th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Sr’s legendary win following his 20th attempt at winning the Great American race. Prior to that, the 7-time Cup Series champion claimed 70 race victories prior to winning that elusive Harley J. Earl Trophy. Qualifying on February 15th saw Hendrick Motorsport teammates Alex Bowman of Arizona (#48 Ally Bank) and California’s Kyle Larson (#5 Hendrick Cars) qualify 1st and 2nd respectively, marking the 10th straight Daytona 500 that Chevrolet-powered cars claimed pole position at Daytona. 3rd and 4th starting positions were clinched by Ford-powered stock cars driven by Penske Racing’s Joey Logano (#22 Shell Pennzoil) and Florida native Aric Almirola (#10 Smithfield Foods / Bacon Mobile) for Stewart-Haas Racing. 

Some noteworthy storylines leading up to NASCAR’s biggest race included: Penske Racing’s Austin Cindric – last year’s Daytona 500 winner started the race in 6th position, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick (2007 Daytona 500 winner) lined up in 13th for his final Daytona 500 while 3-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing) started 18th in a special paint scheme commemorating FedEx’s 50th Anniversary. In addition, 7-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson marked his return to NASCAR by lining up in 29th in his #84 Carvana Chevrolet along with IndyCar driver Conor Daly starting 34th in his #50 Bitnile Chevrolet while supercross, motocross, and rally racing legend Travis Pastrana (#67 Black Riffle Coffee Toyota Camry) qualified for his first ever Daytona 500 starting in 40thposition. All three cars are part-time entries for the following teams: Legacy Motor Club (Jimmie Johnson), The Money Team – owned by legendary boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Conor Daly) and 23XI Racing – co-owned by legendary basketball player Michael Jordan and 3-time Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin (Travis Pastrana). Pastrana finished the best out of the three part-time entries coming home in 11th while Daly came home 29th and Johnson was classified in 31st following a race-ending crash. 

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season continues with a trip out West to California’s Auto Club Speedway for the Pala Casino 400 (green flag set to drop: 10:30 AM Hawaiʻi time). Some of the regular season races to keep an eye on include: EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix (3/26 11:30 HI Time on Fox, Circuit of the Americas), Food City Dirt Race (4/9 1:00 PM HI Time on Fox, Bristol Motor Speedway), NASCAR’s first ever race on the streets of Chicago (7/2 11:30 AM HI Time on Fox) and the regular season finale: the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona (8/26 1:00 PM HI Time on NBC). The NASCAR playoffs will go green in September with the Cook Out Southern 500 (9/3 Noon HI Time on USA, Darlington Raceway). NASCAR will wave the checkered flag on their 75th season (November 5th) with the Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway (10:00 AM HI Time on NBC) to decide which driver will raise the Bill France Cup.

You can follow the remaining part of the 2023 NASCAR schedule via the link below: https://www.nascar.com/nascar-cup-series/2023/schedule/

F1’s Final Five unveil their 2023 liveries!

Aston Martin, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Alpine rounded out Formula 1’s 3-week livery unveiling schedule. Every team, except for Mercedes, opted for colors from last season (Aston Martin: Racing Green, McLaren: Papaya Orange, Ferrari: Scarlet Red, and Alpine: Blue & Pink). The Brackley-based Mercedes (commonly referred to as “the Silver Arrows”) won the livery color contest going back to black, which was made popular during their Constructor’s Cup winning seasons of 2020 and 2021. The livery reveal of the week goes to the Scuderia Ferrari Valentine’s Day unveiling. Despite an expected red livery for F1’s most historic team, the team with its recognizable Prancing Horse logo gave their faithful, passionate fans roses on Valentine’s Day. The Ferrari faithful were treated to a live SF-23 test run on the team’s Fiorano test track located in Ferrari’s headquarters in Maranello. 

Netflix’s award-winning must-see docuseries Formula 1: Drive to Survive released a 2-minute trailer on February 16thalong with a list of names for each of the ten episodes, all set to release on Aloha Friday (February 24th) – a day after F1 pre-season testing goes green at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir. With testing right around the corner, let’s dive into the first of this 2-part 2023 Formula 1 preview. 

2023 Formula One Preview, Part 1:

2022 was the year of the bull, Red Bull to be exact. Dutch/Belgian driver Max Verstappen of Oracle Red Bull Racing annihilated the Formula 1 grid last season claiming victory in 15 of 22 races enroute to securing back-to-back driver’s championships. Some of Verstappen’s notable 2022 victories in the number 1 Honda-powered car included: his home wins in the Netherlands (Zandvoort) and Belgium (Spa), his title-clinching victory in Japan (Suzuka), and the season finale in the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi). Max’s teammate Sergio “Checo” Perez of Mexico captured a pair of victories to add an exclamation point to Red Bull’s 2022 dominance along with a 3rd place podium finish at his home race (Mexico City). Red Bull will enter 2023 as pre-season favorites with Verstappen and Perez returning for a third straight season poised to defend their team’s 2022 constructor’s championship title – a title previously held for eight consecutive seasons by heated rival Mercedes-AMG Petronas. 

Italian-based Scuderia Ferrari & British-based Mercedes-AMG Petronas are expected give Red Bull a run for their money this coming season after finishing 2022’s Constructor’s Championship chase in 2nd and 3rd, respectively. 2022 initially started in favor of the Prancing Horse as Ferrari galloped out of the gate with a 1-2 season-opening finish (Monaco’s Charles Leclerc 1st followed by Spain’s Carlos Sainz Jr. in 2nd) in Bahrain. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc traded wins with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen up to race number 3 when Leclerc claimed victory in Australia (Melbourne). Following a win in Italy (Imola), the hard charging Red Bull duo of Verstappen & Perez pulled away as the Scuderia fell behind crippled by lack of engine reliability and in-race strategy execution. Overall, the top-3 podium places were dominated by the Big 3 of Formula 1 (Red Bull, Ferrari & Mercedes) with the exception of McLaren’s British driver Lando Norris – who snuck in a 3rd place podium at the Italian Grand Prix (Imola). 2022 also welcomed a pair of first-timers to the winner’s circle: Carlos Sainz Jr. (British Grand Prix in Silverstone) and Great Britain’s George Russell (Brazilian Grand Prix in São Paulo).

I expect the race for the 2023 driver’s and constructor’s championships to come down to the usual suspects: Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes. As much as I would like to see Lewis Hamilton win his 8th driver’s title, I don’t see anyone beating Red Bull for the constructor’s cup and standing in the way of Max Verstappen’s 3-peat. Plus, the UH men’s volleyball team has won a National Title during both of Verstappen’s title years, which leads me to believe that Max would complete the 3-peat if UH captured its third straight trophy. Therefore, my 2023 prediction is: Max Verstappen (driver’s champion) and Red Bull (constructor’s champion). Rounding out the Constructor’s Championship Top 3 will be Ferrari in second and 3rd place Mercedes by a nose hair. 

My pick for the best of the rest will be French sportscar manufacturer: Alpine in 4th. Pardon my French, but I have a good feeling that the French team will be able to maintain their claim as the 4th best team with the help of their French drivers: Esteban Ocon Pierre Gasly – who are coming in to their 3rd and 1st respective seasons with Alpine. Rounding out my 10-team Constructor’s Cup finishing order include: Alfa Romeo (5th), McLaren (6th), MoneyGram-Haas (7th), Alpha Tauri (8th), Aston Martin (9th), and Williams (10th). Alfa Romeo is the only team part of the best of the rest batch that retained their 2022 driver lineup: Finland’s Valtteri Bottas and China’s Zhou Guanyu. They are poised to improve upon Alfa’s 6th place finish last season. McLaren will likely lean on fifth-year British driver Lando Norris to carry the weight of the Mercedes-powered Papaya Orange racing outfit as the Woking-based team welcome rookie, 2021 Formula 2 Champion Oscar Piastri (Australia). Other teams welcoming a new driver to their lineup include: MoneyGram-Haas (Nico Hülkenberg, Germany), Alpha Tauri (Nyck DeVries, Netherlands), Aston Martin (Fernando Alonso, Spain), and Williams (Logan Sargeant, USA).

Stay tuned for the second part of my Formula One preview covering: the basics of Formula One, Bahrain pre-season testing recap, schedule preview and a profile on Williams’ American driver: Logan Sargeant. 

2023 IndyCar Preview, Part 1:

IndyCar is set to go green on March 5th with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (7:00 AM HI Time on NBC). With that said, let’s dive into the first part of our 2-part preview warming you up for the 2023 season. Per the series’ website – the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is a premier North American open-wheel series featuring a 17-race schedule mixed with left-turn only tracks (superspeedways & short ovals) along with tricky road and street courses to test each driver’s all-around racing ability. IndyCar’s schedule is highlighted by their marquee Memorial Day race: the Indianapolis 500 – a 200-lap marathon around the famous 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a start-finish line famously lined up with bricks, giving the track its “Brickyard” nickname. The IndyCar grid is made up of drivers representing multiple countries from around the world (USA, Brazil, Mexico, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand and Australia just to name a few).

Australia’s Will Power, driver of the number 12 Verizon Chevrolet for Penske Racing, returns as the defending IndyCar Series champion. Will’s 3rd place finish during the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca was enough to power past his American teammate Josef Newgarden by 14 points. Newgarden returns to race the number 2 Hitachi Chevrolet for Team Penske and will look to improve upon a 2022 season that included 5 wins. He is one of 9 American drivers part of the IndyCar grid highlighted by: Alexander Rossi (Arrow McLaren Chevrolet), Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport Honda) and Sting Ray Robb (Dale Coyne Racing Honda). After finishing 9th in the 2022 points standings and claiming victory at the Gallagher Grand Prix at the “Brickyard” road course, former Formula 1 driver Alexander Rossi is looking to for improved fortunes with his new team (Arrow McLaren Chevrolet) following 6 seasons spent with Andretti. California’s Colton Herta returns eager to improve on a single-win season, which came at the 2022 GMR Grand Prix (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course). Herta was rumored to be in contention for a Formula 1 season in 2022 and will look to prove his Formula 1 worthiness with a statement 2023 campaign. Sting Ray Robb – an all-time racing name reminiscent of the Corvette Stingray, will be IndyCar’s only American rookie. 

On the international side, British driver Katherine Legge will be the only woman scheduled to compete in IndyCar this season as she will be race in the Indy 500 for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. The Memorial Day marquee race will also mark the final race for 2014 Indy 500 winner Tony Kannan of Brazil, who will wave the checkered flag on his storied 21-year career, which also includes 17 wins and an IndyCar Series Championship in 2004. 3-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner & 4-time Indy 500 winner Hélio Castroneves (Brazil, Meyer Shank Racing Honda), 2022 Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson (Sweden, Chip Ganassi Honda), former Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean (France, Andretti Autosport Honda), and 6-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon (New Zealand, Chip Ganassi Honda) are other noteworthy international drivers on the IndyCar grid. 2-time 2022 winners Scott McLaughlin (New Zealand, Team Penske Chevrolet) and Pato O’Ward (Mexico, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet) will also catch some attention this coming season with hope of improving on last year’s results. IndyCar will also host a trio of former European Formula 2 racers this season with drivers such as: Callum Ilott (Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet), Christian Lundgaard (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda) and Marcus Armstrong (New Zealand, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda).

Will the Aussie Power charge to another championship or will there be a spoiler to his IndyCar title defense? Buckle up and stay tuned for part two of my 2023 preview, which will provide a look at the series’ schedule, this season’s championship contenders and provide predictions.

Want to learn more about IndyCar? Firestone – the official tire supplier of IndyCar offers a detailed page outlining the basics of IndyCar. Here is the link to it: https://www.firestonetire.com/firestone-racing/indycar-experience/

MotoGP will go green on March 10th with a pair of pre-season test sessions on both the 10th and 16th. Both tests will take place at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão, Portugal, which will also play host to the season-opening Grande Prémio de Portugal on the weekend of March 26th. Stay tuned for my 2-part 2023 preview, which will include: the basics of MotoGP & the 2023 racing lineup (Feb 26th) and a look at the complete schedule, predictions, and which riders to keep an eye out for (March 3rd).

That’s a wrap on lap 4 of Motorsports Minutes! Mahalo a million for taking the time to read my articles and allowing me to share my passion for racing with you.

Have a great week, Hawaiʻi! Mahalo to Chanel and the ESPN Honolulu ʻOhana – you truly are the people’s radio station. Until next week, keep it full throttle! Chee Hoo!