Motorsports to undergo changes next year

Motorsports to undergo changes next year
Sebastian Vettel drives F2012 at Ferrari's Fiorano circuit in Italy on Nov. 29. The four-time Formula One champion will race for Ferrari in 2015. (Marco Vasini / Associated Press)

Motor racing will undergo several changes in 2015.

In NASCAR, Carl Edwards will move to a different team in hopes of winning his first Sprint Cup championship. He will drive for Joe Gibbs Racing, joining Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth after leaving Roush Fenway Racing.

Major driver changes also will be part of Formula One, with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel moving to Ferrari from Red Bull Racing. Two-time champion Fernando Alonso, whose departure from Ferrari made room for Vettel, returned to the McLaren-Honda team he raced with in 2007.

And the IndyCar series will learn whether its decision to end its season earlier — the series finished Aug. 30 this year instead of stretching into October — will affect its popularity when the sport returns in March. IndyCar will move its season finale to Sonoma Raceway from Auto Club Speedway.


Here's what else to expect around motor sports in the new year:

Will NASCAR tweak its Chase for the Cup playoff?

Possibly, but any changes are likely to be minor. NASCAR revamped the Chase this year to give it a knockout-style format and put greater emphasis on winning races to reach the Chase and then to win the title.

But Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth nearly won the championship without a victory in the 36-race season. Their Chase effort was based on consistency and earning points. That prompted some to suggest that the Chase should be tweaked to ensure that a non-winner is not the champion.

Will Danica Patrick finally show improvement?

Her 2014 showing leaves it an open question. After she finished 27th in the Chase point standings in her rookie year in NASCAR in 2013, it was expected she would get better with another year's experience and by revisiting tracks that once were new to her.

Yet, she did worse this year, finishing 28th and without a top-five finish in her No. 10 Chevrolet prepared by Stewart-Haas Racing. Patrick's struggles weren't for lack of good equipment. Teammate Kevin Harvick won the championship.

As this season neared its end, Stewart-Haas assigned Patrick a new interim crew chief, Daniel Knost, but it's not yet clear whether they'll remain paired in 2015.

Who could make a big splash in drag racing?

Alexis DeJoria. The 37-year-old funny car racer had a breakout year in 2014, earning her first NHRA Mello Yello Series victory at Phoenix and also winning at Las Vegas and at Indianapolis, where she won the U.S. Nationals.

DeJoria three times raced down the 1,000-foot drag strip in less than four seconds, the only female funny car racer in history to do so. Her latest sub-four-second pass came at the final event in Pomona in November, when she ran 3.998 seconds at 311.41 mph.

What's new in motor racing for 2015?

The arrival of Formula E, a series featuring electric-powered race cars competing on city courses around the world. The series makes its U.S. debut April 4 on the same street course in Long Beach that will be used two weeks later for IndyCar's Toyota Grand Prix.

The series is sanctioned by the FIA, the governing body of Formula One, and Formula E's cars are roughly similar in size and shape to those in Formula One and IndyCar. Grandstand seats and general admission will be free at the Long Beach race.