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Sebastien Bourdais To Return For Final Three Races

After spending the past 14 weeks on the sidelines, Sebastien Bourdais will be back behind the wheel of his familiar No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing entry for the final three races this season, beginning with Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Bourdais started off the season with a victory in the season opener at St. Petersburg, followed by a pair of top-eight finishes in the next four races before his accident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

During qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, he made substantial contact with the wall, suffering multiple fractures to the pelvis and a broken right hip. He underwent successful surgery for his pelvic injuries on the evening of the crash, before going through physical therapy.

“You have no idea how excited I am to be getting back in the car this weekend and for the remainder of the season,” Bourdais said. “It’s been a long 14 weeks, and I’ve worked very hard to get to this point. Following the crash, I had one goal in mind, and that was to be back for Sonoma, and here I am getting back in the car with three races to go. It’s a bit unbelievable, but I can’t wait to try out that new surface at Gateway this weekend!”

While team owner Dale Coyne says it is great to have Bourdais back, he expressed gratitude towards rookie Esteban Gutierrez for his job as a substitute for the past seven events.

“It wasn’t easy for him coming in and having never driven an Indy car, but he did a fantastic job especially on the ovals,” Coyne said. “For someone that had never driven on an oval track before Iowa in July, he impressed a lot of people including myself. Hopefully, we get to work with him again in the future.”

After James Davison ran the Indianapolis 500 for the organization, Gutierrez took over for the next seven events, with a best-finish of 13th at Iowa Speedway. 
 
“It’s been a very interesting (past) few months for me getting to race in the Verizon IndyCar Series on the street circuits, road courses and especially ovals,”  Gutierrez said. “I want to thank the team and Dale Coyne for giving me this opportunity to gain this experience in view of a full-time program in the Verizon IndyCar Series next year. My goal was to learn as much as possible in order to be ready for 2018 where a new car will be introduced. This experience with the team will pay dividends next season.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

Gutierrez Experiences “Very Difficult Weekend” in Toronto

TORONTO, Ontario — With Esteban Gutierrez having street course experience in Formula 1, it was believed he could score his first career Verizon IndyCar Series top-10 at the Honda Indy Toronto. Unfortunately, the weekend did not play out as smoothly as hoped.

The Dale Coyne Racing driver struggled through the practices, going into a couple of the run-off areas as he tried to negotiate the tight corners of Ontario’s capital city. In qualifying, it only got worse as he made significant contact with the wall through the last section of the course, resulting in massive damage to his No. 18 Honda.

The crew made repairs, and Gutierrez was medically cleared to drive on Sunday morning, starting from the tail of the 21-car field. He would perform better throughout the 85-lap event, not going off course at all as he climbed the leader board, crossing the finish line in 14th.

Despite a rough start to the weekend, Gutierrez came away with a positive outlook, pleased with how his lap times got better throughout the race.

“We fell back a little bit with the crash in qualifying, but looking at the pace, looking at how the race went on, we can take some positives from that,” he said. “I want to thank the team because it was a big job to build up the car. I appreciate all their effort and all their work. Today the car was really good, and everything was working well. To put together a car from scratch and to put it on the track and to have everything running well, it’s quite challenging so thank you to them.”

While he has yet to place in the top-10, he has shown improvement each week as he continues to sub for the injured Sebastien Bourdais, highlighted by his 13th-place finish last weekend at Iowa Speedway in his first race on an oval. Bourdais was at the track this weekend, offering tips of advice for his teammate.

Bourdais spoke highly of Guiterrez on Thursday, saying he has done well for being thrown into the deep end of the pool.

“It’s tough when you’re a rookie in the series with the depth of this field and everything,” Bourdais told POPULAR SPEED. “I think he’s done well, because first of all, he hasn’t made any mistakes, and making steady progress. You can’t expect to throw a guy like that in the middle of the season with no oval experience, no experience in the car, and new tracks – partially, that first weekend in Detroit. People were starting to judge him and everything. Well, you people forget the density of the field and the fact that it’s one of the hardest tracks of the whole season. It was very unfair to him.

“But in the meantime, I think he’s enjoying the experience and learning and taking his time. I think he’s here to stay. He seems to be enjoying the series, the format, and the car, and the racing. So he did well at Iowa for the first race at an oval, and hopefully, he can keep making progress like that and do well.”

If Bourdais returns before the completion of the season, Dale Coyne Racing has already stated they will field three cars, so both Gutierrez and Bourdais can compete, along with their teammate Ed Jones.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News Open Wheel

Sebastien Bourdais Aiming for September Return

TORONTO, Ontario — Sebastien Bourdais admits that he is not a good spectator as it will be tough watching the Honda Indy Toronto from the sidelines, but he still made the trip north of the border to support his Dale Coyne Racing teammates.

“Craig (Hampton) wanted me to come, and I obviously wanted to see the guys and everything that I haven’t seen for awhile,” Bourdais told POPULAR SPEED. “I think the timing was good, and he’s right. It’s one of the places where little pointers can make a big difference for the drivers, and they’re both new to this track with this car.”

Bourdais started off the season with a victory in the season opener at St. Petersburg, followed by a pair of top-eight finishes in the next four races before his accident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

During qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, he made substantial contact with the wall, suffering multiple fractures to the pelvis and a broken right hip. He underwent successful surgery for his pelvic injuries on the evening of the crash, before going through physical therapy.

Now two months removed from the accident, he says he is feeling great.

“It’s been a lot of a long process, but we knew that going in, and the good thing is things are headed in the right direction,” he said. “There’s no setbacks or surprises. It’s just a game of patience, and as I said, thankfully the bones are healing well. There’s no reason now to worry about it. It’s just going to follow its course, and let us do our thing soon.”

While Bourdais was initially focused on returning for the season finale at Sonoma Raceway, there is now a possibility that he will run the final two races on the schedule – Watkin’s Glen, along with Sonoma.

“They were looking at August 15 for me to get back into the car to see how it is feeling in testing,” he said. “Now, I think it’s more open, depending on how the schedule is going around and the rotation of the car with road courses and ovals. It could be as early as Mid-Ohio, but that’s going to be pending to IndyCar and whether they let us do it, and the team, and insurance, and everything around. There’s a lot of questions, which we’re not quite sure, so now unless that test goes not well or I’m uncomfortable, I should be able to make it back for the last two.”

While Bourdais has been on the sidelines, Esteban Gutierrez has been driving the No. 19 entry in his place for the past four races, with a career-best finish of 13th at Iowa Speedway last weekend. Before racing in IndyCar, he drove for Haas F1 last season after spending a year with Scuderia Ferrari as a test driver.

“It’s like throwing someone into the deep end of the pool,” Bourdais said of Gutierrez. “It’s tough when you’re a rookie in the series with the depth of this field and everything. I think he’s done well, because first of all, he hasn’t made any mistakes, and making steady progress. You can’t expect to throw a guy like that in the middle of the season with no oval experience, no experience in the car, and new tracks – partially, that first weekend in Detroit. People were starting to judge him and everything. Well, you people forget the density of the field and the fact that it’s one of the hardest tracks of the whole season. It was very unfair to him.

“But in the meantime, I think he’s enjoying the experience and learning and taking his time. I think he’s here to stay. He seems to be enjoying the series, the format, and the car, and the racing. So he did well at Iowa for the first race at an oval, and hopefully, he can keep making progress like that and do well.”

Although helping his teammates isn’t the ideal situation Bourdais would like to be in, he is thankful for how well things are going.

“It could’ve been a lot worse, and I could not be walking right now,” he said. “As I said from the beginning, it was my mistake, and I’m paying for it, so just got to suck it up and deal with it.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News Open Wheel

Gutierrez To Finish Out Season with Dale Coyne Racing

After racing on the streets of Detroit, Esteban Gutierrez has been named the driver of the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing entry for the rest of the season, replacing the injured Sebastien Bourdais.

During qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, Bourdais made heavy contact with the wall, suffering multiple fractures to the pelvis and a broken right hip. He underwent successful surgery for his pelvic injuries on Saturday evening, and is currently healing with hopes of returning for the season finale at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’m very happy to finally announce my racing program for the rest of the season,” expressed Gutierrez. “To represent Mexico in the Verizon IndyCar Series has a huge significance to all the fans that have been following the series through history and I’m very grateful to fill in this position.

“IndyCar has highly competitive teams and drivers and the challenge for me will be great, but I will use all my experience from Formula 1 with Sauber, HAAS F1 Team and Ferrari in order to adapt quickly to the car and the tracks. I look forward to continue working with Dale Coyne Racing and Honda, I put my trust in them to achieve great results together. I cannot wait to jump in my Unifin #18 car at Road America this weekend!”

In his debut at Detroit, he posted a 14th-place finish in the second event on Sunday. 

“We’re very pleased that Esteban can join us for the remainder of the season,” said Team Owner Dale Coyne. “Esteban did a very good job in Detroit despite having a lot to learn in a short amount of time. He fit in very well with the team and I look forward to our next races with him, starting with Road America this week.”

Prior to racing in IndyCar, he drove for Haas F1 last season after spending a year with Scuderia Ferrari as a test driver. He got the opportunity after placing third in the GP2 Championship in 2012 with seven podiums. 

He has previous experience at Road America, racing there in 2007 in the Formula BMW USA Series.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Gutierrez Confirms Haas Departure

Haas racer Esteban Gutierrez has confirmed on social media that the last two Formula One races of the 2016 season are his last with Haas F1.

Gutierrez said a couple weeks ago he had a two-week deadline for a decision over the future of his career, with the deadline now passing.

The Mexican driver announced the news via posting pictures of, himself, a Spanish statement, and an English statement to his fans.

https://twitter.com/EstebanGtz/status/796888899876425728

“Dear friends, I want to share with you that I will no longer be with Haas F1 Team for next season,” Gutierrez’s statement read. “I want to thank all the team and staff, specially Gene Haas for this opportunity to work with them. I wish them all the best. There are two races left, which I intend to enjoy to the fullest and as always, I’ll give my best.

“Special thanks to all my fans and supporters, you will always have a place in my heart. I hope to shortly share my plans for the future. Warm regards!”

This 2016 season has been Gutierrez’s first in the sport since leaving Sauber at the end of the 2014 season after spending a year as a Ferrari reserve in 2015. He raced for the Swiss team for two years, earning his only points finish in F1 at the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix, finishing seventh.

The Mexican driver has partnered Romain Grosjean for the season, however, has been out-raced and out-qualified by him over the course of 19 races.

Grosjean currently has five points finishes, with a best result of fifth in Bahrain, and a total of 27 points in 13th place in the Drivers’ Championship. He lies seven places ahead of Gutierrez, who is the highest of the drivers in the standings with no points after claiming five 11th place finishes.

The Frenchman has outperformed him by 11-8 in qualifying after 19 rounds, with Grosjean having the team’s best starting position of seventh at the Japanese Grand Prix. Gutierrez did, however, claim the team’s first Q3 appearance in Italy and followed this up in Japan, being in the final session one more time than his teammate.

With just six seats left on the F1 grid at Haas, Manor, and Sauber, Gutierrez may have trouble keeping a place on the grid in the series. He has already confirmed he has something expected for 2017.

Meanwhile, an announcement over him leaving could mean a formal announcement by the Haas F1 Team over their 2017 line-up is close.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Haas Using New Brake Manufacturer in Brazil Practice

Following recent brake problems, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner confirmed the team would use a new brake manufacturer in one of the first two Brazilian Grand Prix practice sessions.

The team has struggled with brake problems in recent races, with Esteban Gutierrez having cooling problems before finishing 19th in the Mexican Grand Prix the latest of their issues.

Haas are using Brembo brakes in the 2016 season, but Steiner said another unnamed manufacturer’s supply is set to be put on the car at some point on the Friday of the race weekend as they continue to look for a solution to their problems.

“We will conduct a test in either FP1 or FP2 with a different brake manufacturer. It is a test to see how the other material reacts and how the drivers like it or don’t like it,” he said. “We will try to find out as much as possible in the short time we have available.”

Steiner also confirmed Romain Grosjean would be the latest driver on the grid to test the Halo head protection device during the first session.

The system has been put on many cars up and down the grid as more laps with the device are set on a variety of tracks. Haas are willing to assist the FIA with getting data on its use.

“Yes, we are planning to run it with Romain in FP1 in Brazil. We’ll get his feedback and provide it to the FIA,” he said. “There needs to be more testing done and we’re happy to contribute. Even though the Halo won’t be introduced next year it’s a step toward finding a device that provides protection but also allows drivers to get in and out of the car quickly.”

Grosjean is partnered with GP3 title favorite Charles Leclerc in free practice one, the Monegasque racer’s first session since the German Grand Prix and fourth of the 2016 season. Regular racer Gutierrez will return to the car for the second session and the rest of the weekend.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Mexico Brings Worst Qualifying Effort of Season for Haas

If the pressure isn’t enough on Haas continuing to race in North America and at Esteban Gutierrez’s home race, the team were subjected to a Hallowe’en weekend horror show in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Romain Grosjean qualified in 21st place, his worst qualifying since being 19th in Australia, while Gutierrez could only find 17th. Gutierrez’s lap time is a 1:21.409, while Grosjean’s is a 1:21.916. Pascal Wehrlein’s 1:21.363 is the time that neither driver could beat.

The two drivers initially got struggles with the grip on their tires at the start of the session, electing to set their first times on a second lap and take an extra out lap to bring the tires to optimum condition.

The second go at lapping faster resulted in failure for Gutierrez after spinning on his final lap in front of his teammate, a moment which seemed to affect Grosjean’s lap as he put himself wide to get past the Mexican.

It is the second time both Haas have not made it out of Q1 after Australia, and the first time in the regular three qualifying sessions, with no distractions of the old knockout system to blame. Therefore, it is probably fair for to describe it as their worst performance of the season.

Grosjean is the last of the drivers to have set a lap time on the timesheets because of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer suffering a cracked chassis and not starting the session. If he had also set a time, the French driver could potentially have been 22nd and last of all drivers considering Renault made Q2 with Kevin Magnussen.

He is particularly disappointed about the session, as he says that it was his worst Saturday performance of 2016 so far.

“I really don’t know what’s happening,” Grosjean said.

“The car was good in FP1 and it was alright on the first run this morning in FP3, but after that it’s just gone nowhere. We really need to try to analyze what’s going on as something is clearly not right. Last on the grid is unacceptable for us.”

Grosjean highlighted problems with his feeling with the VF-16 that are hampering him this weekend, but he is not willing to give up just yet.

“Top speed has been fine, but there’s no grip and no balance. You can manage poor grip and drive around it if you’ve got a balanced car, but combined, there’s just nothing you can do. One corner will be oversteer, the next understeer.

“It’s weird the way it’s behaved here. It’s been a rough weekend for everyone, but hopefully we can come back.”

Haas are averaging as the seventh fastest team in qualifying throughout the season, but some results are taking a recent sudden turn for the worst.

Grosjean qualified in 17th in Austin just one weekend after both Haas cars got into Q3 for the first time in Japan, posting times good enough for eighth and tenth at the Suzuka Circuit.

The only positive after qualifying for Grosjean is that every time he has gone out in qualifying in Q1, in Australia and the United States, he’s found a points finish in the race.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Grosjean And Haas Give Something For Home Fans To Cheer

A home event for any sportsman or sportswoman in any sport is an emotional thing.

It can be an amazing thing to cherish during a season or something to suffer through and want to forget.

Red Bull claimed a podium with Max Verstappen in Austria at their home track, while Nico Rosberg finished only fourth in Germany and Lewis Hamilton retired from the race in Malaysia in two of their home races for Mercedes.

This weekend, for the first time, Haas had the opportunity to show off what Romain Grosjean said in Australia was the ‘American Dream’ at the Circuit of the Americas.

Their weekend started off poorly. The VF-16 car was shedding pieces of carbon fiber onto the track during practice sessions, and partly because of a disrupted schedule, Romain Grosjean did not make it past the first part of qualifying.

However, the other time Grosjean failed to get past Q1 in qualifying, in Australia, he finished in the points, which is what he did at COTA.

He moved up from 17th on the grid to finish 10th and claim the final point on offer, his and the team’s first point scored since the Austrian Grand Prix at the start of July. Notably, this was the longest period they have gone without points in their F1 career so far.

Despite knowing he was able to be fortunate after the retirements of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean was delighted with his point.

“It didn’t go too badly today,” Grosjean said. “We were lucky that a few cars retired in front of us but, in the end, we needed to finish the race.

“It’s great to score a point in front of our home crowd. I’m very pleased with that and for the guys, as well. It’s been a long time since we scored. It’s obviously a great thing to be able to score points at the end of the season.”

Team Principal Guenther Steiner praised Grosjean and the team for a good plan well executed.

“Romain in the points is fantastic, especially from where we started and how we were struggling at the beginning of the weekend,” Steiner said. “Romain couldn’t race any better with the car we had, so congrats to him. The strategy, which the guys worked on overnight, was just right and it certainly paid off. The team worked hard and really pulled together.

The only negative thing around their race is Esteban Gutierrez had to retire for the fourth time in 2016, this time because of brake issues. Steiner is vowing to get to the bottom of what is becoming a common problem for the team.

“Very unfortunate race for Esteban. He was doing a good job when he experienced a brake disc failure again. We’ll be investigating what happened and see how we can move forward and sort these problems out, as they are not acceptable.”

Despite some disappointments in recent times, the team can be comfortable knowing it will likely finish ahead of three teams in the Constructors’ Championship.

Haas now have 29 points, 21 more than ninth-placed Renault and 28 more than tenth-placed Manor. They have been outscored by Toro Rosso in this race by seven points and now place 26 points behind the team with just three races to go.

Beating Renault is quite an achievement despite the French team’s struggles as they are a manufacturer with much more of a budget and resources than Haas, have an extensive history in the sport, and are expected for much bigger things in coming years.

Sauber, in 11th with no points all season, are also in struggles in 2016, but they do have good staff and experience involved. By finishing ahead of them, Haas is set to beat a team that has been the sport for since 1993.

However, the next race will also be a major one for one side of the Haas garage as Gutierrez races in his home country for the first time in Formula One having not been involved in the first Mexican Grand Prix since 1991 last year.

There would not be a better time for him to score his first points for his current team with just three races left in the 2016 season.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Haas F1 Looks to Return to Top-10 in Home Event

When Gene Haas announced he was going Formula One racing, nobody knew what to expect. Now 17 races into the season, the picture has become quite clear.

They’ve proven they can run with the best as Romain Grosjean has posted four top-10s. But they’ve also had their fair share of struggles as Esteban Guiterrez has yet to score a top-10 this season, and Grosjean has complained about the team’s struggles on other weekends.

The organization now heads into their home event of the season in Austin, Texas, hoping to score a good finish in front of their fans.

“As an American team, having an F1 race on American soil is incredibly important,” Gene Haas said. “We come to COTA having scored some points and proving that we can hold our own with the established teams of Formula One. We’re looking forward to our first home race.”

“I think (this weekend)’s going to be great,” Grosjean added. “I’m very much looking forward to it. America is a huge country, and I’m really hoping we can get a lot of fans. Yes, there’ll be an extra pride to be driving for an American team on the circuit, and hopefully getting a good result on Sunday.”

A good performance would mark a substantial turnaround for them as well, as they haven’t posted a top-10 in the last 10 races.

“It’s important to represent America around the world, but now that we get back home and go to Austin for the US Grand Prix, it’s something very special because we are on American soil,” Guiterrez said. “That gives a special touch to our weekend. More motivation and great energy from the people to achieve a fantastic result.”

Team Principal Guenther Steiner is hopeful for success, knowing they can do well if everybody does their job due to having speed in the cars.

“We want to show well and do a good job, and what we mainly want to do is attract more of the public to not only watch Haas F1 Team but to come out and watch F1 in general,” he added. “I hope a lot of people are following us. We will see on Sunday.”

For Grosjean, the finish would be a little more special than others as this weekend’s event marks his 100th start in Formula One.

“When I started in Formula One I thought it’ll just be one race after the other, then here we are at 100 Grands Prix, 10 podium finishes, a few points and lots of good memories, and some a little more difficult,” he said. “The good thing is, I don’t know when I’m going to stop, but I think I’ve still got plenty of room in front of me to keep going and to keep trying to win. Definitely, 100 Grands Prix is quite something in my lifetime.”

Grosjean knows the challenges he faces this weekend, though; he knows it’s not easy to overtake at COTA. However, he notes it’s a great facility to attend to, based on how enjoyable last year’s event was.

“It’s a great venue and one of the best new tracks we’ve had in quite a while,” he said. “The track was great, the city is nice, and it was a very nice experience. There are a lot of bars and concerts going on in the city, and people came from all over the country to see the race. It was amazing.”

Guiterrez also looks forward to the event, knowing how many Mexicans attend the event due to how close Texas is to the Mexico border.

“It’s not far away from my hometown, and that made it a very nice combination because America makes very great events and the atmosphere was very special,” he said. “I could not have asked for a better experience. Now that we have a full United States Grand Prix and then a full Mexican Grand Prix, the experiences are more intense.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.