Looking back at 2016, ahead to 2017 | NevadaAppeal.com

Looking back at 2016, ahead to 2017

Roger Diez

It has been more than a month since race engines have roared, but a new season is coming. Let’s take a look back at 2016 and also see what’s on the horizon for the New Year.

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Jimmie Johnson became NASCAR’s third seven-time top division champion with his win at Homestead in November. It was a year for NASCAR records, as Daniel Suarez became the first Hispanic champ in one of the top divisions, taking the Xfinity title. And, veteran Johnny Sauter scored his first championship, winning the Camping World Truck Series. A couple of up-and-coming drivers became champions in the K&N Pro Series. Justin Haley, 17, took the East title, while Todd Gilliland, a third-generation NASCAR driver, was the West champ. He’s the son of Cup driver David Gilliland and grandson of Winston West pilot Butch Gilliland.

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Nico Rosberg became only the second son of a Formula One champion to win his own title, nipping teammate and three-time champ Lewis Hamilton by only five points in the final standings. Rosberg promptly announced his retirement, setting up a game of musical chairs in the series. Valtteri Bottas will move from Williams to take Rosberg’s seat, opening the door for recently retired Felipe Massa to return to Williams for the 2017 season.

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The IndyCar series saw a first-time champion crowned, as Simon Pagenaud put together an impressive run to outpace Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves, who finished second and third, respectively. Rookie Alexander Rossi, using strategy and fuel mileage, put his likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy as an Indy 500 winner.

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In the NHRA Mello Yello series, Antron Brown won his second consecutive Top Fuel championship and his third title overall. Ron Capps ended his career-long drought, winning the Funny Car crown. Jason Line scored his third Pro Stock Championship, and Gerald Savoie nipped Harley-Davidson point leaders Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec in the final race to win the Pro Stock Motorcycle title.

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And in the IMSA Weathertec endurance racing series, the Action Express Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype wheeled by teammates Eric Curran and Dane Cameron won the championship in the final year of competition for this class.

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Racing engines will fire again in less than a week, as 2017 racing season gets under way on Jan. 6 with the test session for the Daytona Rolex 24 Hour endurance classic. The race itself is scheduled for January 28-29, and the 13-race season for the series ends at Atlanta on Oct. 6-7. Next to hit the track will be the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series, starting with the Pomona Winternationals February 9-12. The season will consist of 24 races, ending at California’s Auto Club Speedway November 9-12.

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The NASCAR season kicks off at Daytona on Feb. 18, with the Monster Energy Cup pole winners from 2016 contesting the Clash. The Daytona 500 begins the 36-race points season on Feb. 26, which will end with the championship round at Homestead on Nov. 12. The Chase format is expected to be unchanged for 2017.

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On March 26 the two major open-wheel series begin their seasons with Formula One in Australia and the IndyCar series at St. Petersburg. Formula One will race at venues throughout the world in 20 races, culminating in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 16. The IndyCar season will consist of 17 races, all in North America, with the season finale at Sonoma on Sept. 17. The 101st running of the Indy 500 is slated for May 28.

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Locally, Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon will open its season on Apr. 1, with the season finale on October 14. See its Facebook page for details. Fernley 95A Raceway’s 2017 schedule is due to be published sometime next week.