Kim Jong Un Rings In New Year By Telling World He Has Nuclear “Button” Installed On Desk

In his sixth annual New Years address, Kim Jong Un stated that the United States can't wage war against his country in any form because he had "the entire mainland of the U.S." within reach of his intercontinental ballistic missiles and that he has a "nuclear button" always on the desk in his office. The young tyrant emphasized that "this is not a threat but a reality."

Hopefully he is speaking metaphorically about the "nuclear button" on his desk as executive command and control architecture for nuclear weapons release is often referred to as "the button" but in reality it is usually more complex than that. Then again, Kim Jong Un has been frighteningly accurate with his statements regarding North Korea's nuclear program. Just last year, during his fifth New Years address, Kim stated that he was entering the "final stages" of preparations for a test launch of a ICBM. At the time many discounted this claim as bluster, but they would later find out that it was all too true.

The mental image of North Korea's already comic book-like super villain leader having a big red button on his desk that would bring about a massive war, and even a nuclear exchange, on a whim is bordering on Dr. Evil territory. But who knows, the ultra paranoid leadership in Pyongyang knows full well that their command and control systems would come under near instant electronic and cyber attack—and eventually kinetic attack—the second hostilities are detected, so simplifying and turbocharging the command release procedure for the country's nuclear stockpile could very well be a primary goal of the regime. At the very least it would lend credibility to the country's nuclear deterrent, albeit in a terribly frightening way. At the same time it could mean recalling the country's nuclear forces once an order is given could be near impossible.

Kim's New Years message also deviated from the usual bellicose rhetoric into a bit less combative messaging, stating that his nuclear nation "loves peace" and that as long as there isn't any aggression against him and his people he "doesn't intend to use nuclear powers." At the same time, the address gave no signs that Kim's regime has any intentions of giving up its nuclear arsenal or missile programs.

The speech comes on the same day that former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen gave a dire warning about the collision course the U.S. and North Korea are presently on. With Pyongyang unwilling to denuclearize and no real pathway being offered by the Trump Administration to enter into direct negotiations, the chances that there could be a peaceful deescalation through diplomacy seem increasingly slim.

It also comes as allegations stack up against China and Russia that they are cheating on U.N. sanctions against North Korea by executing ship-to-ship transfers of contraband fuel reserves to the rogue nation. These developments are troubling to say the least and undermine the power the U.N. has when it comes to having its own members enforce its resolutions. Ships are now being seized and the whole affair seems to be inching toward a naval blockade of the country, a tactic we pointed out last September as a possible option to put extreme pressure on the North Korean regime.

With North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs leaping far ahead of almost all estimates last year, and as a threat of an atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific looming, not to mention tensions between the Kim regime and the Trump administration at an all time high, there is even more uncertainty surrounding the high-stakes standoff going in to 2018 than there was going into 2017.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

BMW Supplies DHL with i3 Battery Packs for Electric Delivery Trucks

BMW's i division has been the automaker's key to electrified success ever since it matured from the test bed that is the Mini brand. Now, the German automaker has decided to lend its technology to a delivery courier which plans to electrify its own local fleets: DHL.

Freight handler DHL is actually the parent company of an automaker, Streetscooter. In 2014, DHL acquired the then-four-year-old electric car startup in an effort to go green and began developing electric vehicles suited more towards the parent company's needs. As part of its program, Streetscooter will outsource various parts of the manufacturing process, including that of its batteries, sourcing them from BMW rather than developing the technology itself. This isn't necessarily a new process, as DHL has historically purchased vehicles from a wide variety of manufacturers other than the one it owns.

What is more interesting regarding this news is the fact that there is already another hand in the pot regarding the development of a new electric delivery van. Earlier this year, Ford announced that it was teaming up with DHL to build an electric delivery truck based off of the Ford Transit platform. It seems that now, the BMW group will be supplying the battery modules that actually provide and store power for the vehicle.

"The choice of BMW i battery modules for the Streetscooter is further proof that robustness, innovation and sustainability in future-oriented drives are by no means mutually exclusive," said Dr. Alexander Kotouc, BMW's i division's Head of Product Management, in a press release. "The successful transfer of state-of-the-art automotive technology, even in the challenging field of postal and parcel delivery, testifies to the farsightedness and universality of the BMW i concept."

There isn't word of how many packs will be used in a single unit, though it's hard to imagine that DHL would only choose to use one. The i3, for example, weighing under 3,300 pounds, achieves 114 miles of range out of a single 33 kWh battery pack. It is a fair assumption that the van being build will consist of a larger dimensional footprint than the i3 in order to support transporting local freight for deliveries, and as a result, will weigh substantially more. This could potentially indicate a modular battery design being utilized by the new Streetscooter van, allowing it to be a sustainable "all-day" freight vehicle with a single charge.

It's an interesting choice to see DHL choosing BMW as its supplier of battery packs rather than a company such as Tesla, which has been pumping out batteries for quite some time in its Gigafactory. It is possible that the modular design that BMW uses with the i3 better fits the platform, are more cost efficient, or DHL simply sees a reason to use them above other manufacturers. Regardless, this is a win for a manufacturer that is boldly stepping foot into the EV game.

BMW Supplies DHL with i3 Battery Packs for Electric Delivery Trucks

BMW's i-division has been the automaker's key to electrified success ever since it matured from the test bed that is the Mini brand. Now, the German automaker has decided to lend its technology to a delivery courier which plans to electrify its own local fleets, DHL.

Something you might not know about DHL is that the freight handler is actually the parent company of an automaker, Streetscooter. In 2014, DHL acquired the then-four-year-old electric car startup in an effort to go green and began developing electric vehicles suited more towards the parent company's needs. As part of its program, Streetscooter will outsource various parts of the manufacturing process, including that of its batteries, sourcing them from BMW rather than developing the technology itself. This isn't necessarily a new process, as DHL has historically purchased vehicles from a wide variety of manufacturers other than the one it owns.

What is more interesting regarding this news is the fact that there is already another hand in the pot regarding the development of a new electric delivery van. Earlier this year, Ford announced that it was teaming up with DHL to build an electric delivery truck based off of the Ford Transit platform. It seems that now, the BMW group will be supplying the battery modules that actually provide and store power for the vehicle.

"The choice of BMW i battery modules for the Streetscooter is further proof that robustness, innovation and sustainability in future-oriented drives are by no means mutually exclusive," said Dr. Alexander Kotouc, BMW's i-division's Head of Product Management, in a press release. "The successful transfer of state-of-the-art automotive technology, even in the challenging field of postal and parcel delivery, testifies to the farsightedness and universality of the BMW i concept."

There isn't word of how many packs will be used in a single unit, though it's hard to imagine that DHL would only choose to use one. The i3, for example, weighing under 3,300 pounds, achieves 114 miles of range out of a single 33 kWh battery pack. It is a fair assumption that the van being build will consist of a larger dimensional footprint than the i3 in order to support transporting local freight for deliveries, and as a result, will weigh substantially more. This could potentially indicate a modular battery design being utilized by the new Streetscooter van, allowing it to be a sustainable "all-day" freight vehicle with a single charge.

It's an interesting choice to see DHL choosing BMW as its supplier of battery packs rather than a company such as Tesla, which has been pumping out batteries for quite some time in its Gigafactory. It is possible that the modular design that BMW uses with the i3 better fits the platform, are more cost efficient, or DHL simply sees a reason to use them above other manufacturers. Regardless, this is a win for a manufacturer that is boldly stepping foot into the EV game with a running start.

Watch This Man Drive off a Pier to Avoid the Fuzz

Car chases seldom result in an escape. Despite what The Fast and the Furious movie franchise will have you believe, few have successfully outrun the police in such dramatic fashion. Eluding the coppers is never a good idea since doing so puts other motorists in danger. A driver in Oregon thought he was in the clear when he decided to drive his pickup truck head first into the Columbia River, but as KGW News reports, he didn't make it far.

The 27-year-old man, who was apprehended shortly after his failed attempt to flee, was treated for hyperthermia then charged with burglary, reckless driving, and offensive littering. He reportedly reached speeds of up to 45 miles per hour before plunging off the dock and hitting the freezing waters. It took more than six hours to pull the vehicle out of the river after it was submerged according to local media.

While the short-lived pursuit never reached triple digits speeds, it certainly ended in an unexpected way. Unless you are 007, driving into the water will not end well. Next time you decide to take a dive, be sure to have an amphibious vehicle.

This serves as a proper end to 2017, a year filled with plenty of idiot criminals.

These 9 Technologies Could Save The Internal Combustion Engine

Governments across the globe and segments of the automotive industry alike are tolling the bell for internal combustion engines. Norway, France, the United Kingdom, India, and the Netherlands all plan to ban the sale of internal combustion vehicles as soon as 2025. China and Germany seek to enact a similar ban, though neither has a time frame in mind, and the state of California is evaluating the idea. Should battery-powered cars live up to the promises made by Tesla's Elon Musk in November, when he revealed the potentially game-changing electric semi truck and revived Roadster, the timeline on which these countries hope to bar the sale of new internal combustion vehicles could indeed be realistic.

Key industry players, such as General Motors, Continental, and Honda, believe electricity to be the propulsion method of the (near) future, whereas others like Lamborghini and Mazda, think that internal combustion will remain viable for some time. The former does not yet see electric vehicle technology—or its supporting infrastructure—as superior to that of the established internal combustion market, and the latter promises to keep a naturally-aspirated V-12 engine as the centerpiece of its flagship model.

As conservative as Lamborghini has become, it admits that electrification could partner its V-12 engines in forthcoming models, and despite resisting the integration of forced induction, the new Urus crossover will be the first Lamborghini to leave the factory with turbochargers. With the improvements made to batteries over the last few decades, and the improved power density and fuel efficiency available from forced induction engines, it is hard to argue the bull-badged brand's submission to the forward march of transportation technology.

I stand with Mazda and Lamborghini in the belief that the market for internal combustion will not evaporate once convenient, mass-produced electric vehicles are present in all market segments. Like other forms of outmoded transportation, such as horses, trains, and civilian aviation, enthusiasts for the old-timey will remain. Members of the automotive community, such as Jay Leno, already bother with keeping quaint, obsolete automobiles on the road. Be it steam, turbine, or airplane-powered, there will always be interest in antiquities because of the unique experiences they offer.

Provided electricity is the future of cars, I expect the self-driving car market to select it as the primary form of propulsion over internal combustion, which could survive as the first choice for niche markets, like small-production sports cars. Odds are, however, the days of naturally-aspirated, high-displacement engines without electric assist are nearing an end. That old adage about replacement for displacement was disproven decades ago when mass-produced cars started to see forced induction engines fitted as standard.

With the downward trend of engine sizes since the western world realized oil was not an endless resource and the limited size of future markets for petroleum-burning vehicles, we can expect engine displacement to shrink further to decrease both fuel consumption and the cost of designing and producing new engines. This comes at the price of reduced torque, meaning chassis weight has to come down too. The genius behind the McLaren F1, Gordon Murray, has a solution to this problem—iStream.

iStream is a manufacturing system devised to slash the cost and time to produce carbon fiber chassis, like those used in motorsport and modern supercars. Carbon fiber's minimal weight and high rigidity make it the ideal material for many applications, but the necessity of an expensive industrial autoclave restricts it to small-scale production. It is estimated that iStream permits an approximate weight savings of close to 20 percent, which would allow a car like the Mazda MX-5 to undercut a one-ton curb weight, were it built with this process. The apparent lower setup investment and smaller environmental impact are but icing on the cake.

Combustion-powered cars of the future still need some form of low-end torque that reduced weight cannot entirely compensate for, and the answer to that problem is found in performance-focused hybridization techniques already employed on modern hypercars. The McLaren P1 already uses an electric boost to fill the gaps in the power band with a surge of electric torque sourced from a battery charged via the magic that is regenerative braking.

Look to Continental for an idea on how existing regenerative systems can be improved. Back in August, the company released its regenerative braking concept, built on the principles of current systems, but utilizing novel design and materials to improve efficiency, performance, durability, and ease of service. It boils the rotating assembly down to but a handful of simplified parts, permitting some to be made from lightweight aluminum, rather than steel or cast iron, reducing weight by an average of 4.4 pounds per corner. While that may sound marginal, reducing unsprung weight has a far greater effect on efficiency and performance than sprung weight does. The increased reliance on thrifty regenerative braking rather than wasteful friction braking would decrease part wear, and further increase efficiency.

The electric boost would not serve as the sole purpose for the juice harvested by regenerative braking systems, though—it could be used to recharge the car's main battery in the future, some of which could jump up from the modern standard of 12 volts to the neighborhood of 48 volts, like the one Mercedes is trialling on the 2018 S-Class sedan. This is enough juice to run most of an engine's accessories, such as the air conditioning and fluid pumps, without the use of an efficiency-sapping belt or chain, and it irons out some of the issues with idling and start-stop.

It also serves up enough current to provide a boost for the engine via an electric supercharger, one which cooperates with a turbocharger in a forced induction system known as twincharging. Twincharging was long neglected by car companies, due to its complexity, and the advent of almost lag-free twin-scroll and variable geometry turbochargers. Mercedes is not the only company looking to bring such systems to the mass market; Mazda and General Motors are each evaluating their own twincharging designs, albeit with differing designs.

Mazda's concept, revealed in a patent filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, uses an electric supercharger like that of Mercedes' engine, but in addition, it uses a pair of turbochargers, rather than Mercedes' single unit. Instant, efficient boost would be available from the supercharger, but it could be deactivated the moment the first (or both) of the turbochargers reach operating speed.

General Motors' twincharging design patent reveals that the American brand, instead of pursuing an electric supercharger, has stuck with a mechanical, belt-driven design. Rather than a static belt ratio, GM's supercharger is shown to be driven by a continuously variable transmission (CVT) mechanism, with an electronic controller to vary supercharger speed by adjusting CVT pulley ratios. GM's patent, however, extends to other parts of the engine's induction system, such as the intake valve.

Current camshafts use an avocado-shaped lobe to actuate valves in the cylinder head, though a disadvantage of this system is that valves spend much of their time partially open, reducing efficiency. GM offers two redesigns to correct this, which open the intake valve to its fullest sooner and close it faster. One squares off the cam lobe while another adds a second lobe as part of the follower and is activated by oil pressure. This increases the efficiency of the intake stroke, allowing for more air to rush into the cylinder, and thus, increasing power density.

Hyundai, too, wants in on the fun and is promising that a system under development, titled "continuously variable valve duration," will be one of the stepping stones on the path toward motorsport-quality engines for road cars. No information on how this system is intended to work has yet come forward, though.

Though older news, Koenigsegg's Freevalve system, a prototype pneumatic valve system, gives similar attention to the issue of valve control. GM adds but another way to handle the problem with its mechanical system.

There are further gains to be made once the air is in the cylinder, and fuel is injected. Infiniti is pioneering an engine with a variable compression ratio, which would allow the engine to switch between low boost and a high compression ratio for efficient cruising to high boost at a low compression ratio for quick acceleration. Systems for adjusting engine control on the fly depending upon load requirements already exist, such as cylinder deactivation, but variable compression takes the idea a step further, by widening the gap between economy and performance operation.

On the subject of compression, Mazda has more to add. Its Skyactiv-X engine, coming in the 2020 Mazda 3, is set to be the first commercial gasoline engine to utilize compression ignition. This type of ignition is the principle behind diesel engines and is what allows them to produce so much torque with great efficiency. As we know well by now, diesel engines suffer from worse emissions than gasoline engines do, so the promise of the gains available from a gasoline compression ignition engine has long been attractive. Mazda's Skyactiv-X still utilizes a spark plug, but only for better control of the ignition itself, allowing for compression ignition to occur under load conditions where it would otherwise be impossible with a gasoline engine.

Technologies like all of those described above will be requisite for automakers who seek to get the most out of internal combustion before its sale is curtailed over the next few decades. Hyundai thinks 50 percent thermal efficiency is achievable from mass-producible road car engines, a figure scarcely matched by Mercedes' Formula 1 program in a controlled environment after the investment of a decade and a half billion dollars, and a complex device known as an MGU-H that converts excess heat to electric current.

It is a fool's game to estimate what all of these technologies would accomplish if combined, but daydreaming about the car that would result is captivating. A featherweight iStream chassis, in which is mounted a downsized, rev-happy engine, equipped with advanced hybridization, lag-free forced induction, complete intake valve control, variable compression, compression ignition, and a 48 volt accessory system should be enough to make almost every driver who enjoys winding out an engine to the redline ready for the future.

Whether or not the roads of tomorrow are dominated by self-driving electric boxes won't matter, because as long as internal combustion has a future a fraction as bright as we, its proponents, think it can be, its place in the market could remain for those of us who would rather row gears.

A Look Back At The 2017 NASCAR Season

The NASCAR season is one of the longest in sports. Starting with Daytona Speedweeks in mid-February, the NASCAR season kicks off with a flurry of events including Daytona Media Day, which culminates with the Daytona 500 or as we NASCAR fans affectionately call it, “Daytona Day.” The NASCAR calendar doesn’t officially end until late November and for many, including the drivers, the season is not completely over until Champion’s Week in early December. The 36-race season is considered more than a grind. From February to December, fans can count on there being more losers than winners and months of drama-filled entertainment.

As I prepare for 2018 Daytona Day, I have thought long and hard about some of the most memorable moments from the past NASCAR season. In honor of those interesting, compelling, and amusing occasions, in no particular order, below are 43 moments that made me and other NASCAR fans say “Wow”—sometimes in awe, other times in absolute shock and disbelief.

1. An Unlikely Busch Wins the Daytona 500

This was a great moment for Kurt Busch, but an even more awesome moment for car owner Tony Stewart who said farewell as a driver the year prior.

2. The Wall Street Journal Article Heard Around NASCAR

The WSJ claims that “NASCAR, once a cultural icon, hits the skids.” The publication went on to state that NASCAR’s decline in popularity is due to ‘economics and demographics,’ and echoed some hard facts about the current state of NASCAR to the dismay of many.

3. 5 Minutes in the Garage

The new rule can be summed up in one word, “DONE!” If a car cannot be fixed on pit road in less than five minutes, the team has to take the car back to the garage. If a car goes back to the garage, the team is likely done for the day, but there is one exception—mechanical or electrical failures that aren't the result of an accident or contact can be corrected and will be exempt from the 5-minute rule.

4. Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3

When NASCAR announced the “race enhancements” for 2017, there was a lot of confusion. NASCAR then introduced segment racing. The length of each stage is determined by the length of the track. Races are now divided into three stages with Stage 1 and Stage 2 rewarding drivers with points who are in the top 10 at the end of each stage. Points are awarded to all drivers that cross the finish line when the checkered flag drops. The winner of Stage 3 is the race winner and has a guaranteed spot in the playoffs.

5. Daniel Is In. Cousin Carl Is Out.

Carl Edwards unexpectedly called it quits, making way for Daniel Suarez to get behind the wheel of the Joe Gibbs No. 19 Toyota Camry for his first season as a full-time Monster Energy Cup driver.

6. Kyle Busch Tried to Punch Joey Logano

This wasn’t a surprising moment, but it did make for must-see TV, especially when Joey Logano’s crew showed Kyle Busch that their driver was not to be messed with. Upset after what Kyle Busch described as being “dumped,” he confronted Logano after the race and emerged bloody after the ensuing brawl.

7. How about that Kyle Larson

NASCAR Nation can’t quite deem Kyle Larson the “Second Place Kid.” Yes, he had several runner-up finishes this season in Cup Series, but he did win. In fact, he won a lot—four times, actually. He also had 15 top 5s, 20 top 10s, and sat on the pole three times this season. Impressive.

8. “Everything is Great” T-Shirts

Leave it to Rowdy to turn a bloody fight with his archenemy into a $30,000+ profit. After Kyle Busch punched Joey Logano, he answered every reporters’ questions a few days later by saying, “Everything is great.” He took his new slogan, pressed it on some t-shirts, sold them for $22 a piece (22 being the number on Logano’s car), and raised money for the Kyle Busch Foundation.

9. Jr. Retires

There's not much you can say about this. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s announcement of his retirement rocked NASCAR Nation. We won’t see him behind the wheel next year but he will be in NBC’s booth offering his analysis of future NASCAR races.

10. He Won Two Races

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won not one, but two races this season. Most would say winning Talladega was luck, but when he won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, it made fans recognize that Stenhouse Jr. may be a force to compete with on restrictor plate tracks.

11. A Fiery Crash

Aric Almirola suffered a fractured vertebra and was airlifted to a hospital after a fiery crash involving Danica Patrick and Joey Logano at Kansas Speedway. Almirola missed a few races while recuperating from his injuries, but was cleared to return to competition at New Hampshire Motor Speedway eight weeks later.

12. No More Overtime

Dale Earnhardt Jr. voiced his opinion about getting rid of the new overtime rule. “I kind of helped come up with that idea, so this is going to be kind of strange, but I think they should get rid of the overtime line at all the racetracks except for Daytona and Talladega,” said Dale Jr.

13. A Failed ‘Pass in the Grass’

The infamous 'Pass in the Grass' involving Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott turned 30 this year and rookie driver Erik Jones attempted to achieve the same feat while trying to pass Chase Elliott at this year’s Monster Energy All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jones failed and, as a result, his car was torn up but NASCAR fans enjoyed the great debate that followed on Twitter over the hashtag #TeamValance, thanks to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

14. Ryan Blaney’s First Cup Win

Wood Brothers Racing finally made its way back into Victory Lane thanks to Ryan Blaney who captured his first Monster Energy Cup win at Pocono in his 68th start. It was the first victory for the Wood Brothers since 2011.

15. Danica “Had a Moment”

A fan looking for an autograph didn’t get the attention he believed he deserved from Danica Patrick. The fan decided to hail Patrick with “boos” and in return, she gave him a few choice words.

16. Kyle Busch vs. Goodyear

Whether he is right or wrong, Kyle Busch has no problems letting you know how he feels. "Obviously, Goodyear tires aren't very good at holding air," Kyle Busch said after crashing in the season opener at Daytona, leading to a fair amount of uproar afterwards.

17. An “Encumbered Victory”

What’s “encumbered?” Joey Logano learned the meaning of the word after NASCAR snatched his victory away. Logano’s team was penalized after NASCAR found an issue with the rear suspension of the No. 22 car. His crew chief was fined $50,000 and 25 driver and owner points were deducted. Logano did not make the playoffs.

18. The “Roval” at Charlotte

Charlotte Motor Speedway revealed the design for its new “roval” course. The 2.4-mile track will have 13 turns and combined elements of a road course as well as the traditional oval track.

19. Kevin Harvick blames Dale Earnhardt Jr.

No one will ever know why Kevin Harvick thought it was okay to call out Dale Jr. for 'stunting' NASCAR's growth on his SiriusXM radio show Happy Hours.

20. Don’t Drop Your Sandwich

You never know what bizarre thing you will witness at a NASCAR race. Case-in-point, Kevin Harvick’s spotter accidentally dropped his sandwich off the spotters’ stand from 13 stories in the air during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s one thing for mayo to drip from your sandwich, but to drop the entire thing—he should know better.

21. Kasey Kahne won a race

In what turned out to be his final season at Hendrick Motorsports, Kasey Kahne finally won a race. His win at Indianapolis broke a 102-race winless drought. Next year, Kahne will be behind the wheel of the No. 95 for Leavine Family Racing.

22. Matt Kenseth Was Forced Out

After Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Erik Jones would be in the driver’s seat of the No. 20 next year, the writing on the wall became clear—Matt Kenseth didn’t have a ride. Sadly, there isn’t a suitable, competitive car available for Kenseth heading into next season, so he is out.

23. Notable Drivers Were Missing

Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, and Carl Edwards did not race in 2017. Stewart and Gordon retired. Edwards is thought to have retired, although he simply stated that he’s “stepping away” from NASCAR, and Biffle, who didn’t have a ride this season and no announcement for 2018, will more than likely officially retire soon.

24. Watch Out For The Ambulance

NASCAR created an “inexcusable” blunder following a caution at Richmond Raceway. Drivers came down pit road to find a parked ambulance blocking the entrance, creating a pile-up of cars scrambling to avoid a multi-car collision. As a result, Matt Kenseth, the No. 20 Toyota driver, rear-ended Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford. Yes, that happened, and Kenseth almost missed the playoffs because of it.

25. Smithfield Said What?

Smithfield Foods, sponsors of Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Ford driven by Aric Almirola since 2012, decided to take their money elsewhere. It originally appeared as if the brand didn’t want to get behind Bubba Wallace, Almirola’s temporary replacement driver while he was recovering from injuries sustained from an accident, but it quickly emerged that there was a war of words between team owner Richard Petty and the company.

26. Just STFU

It is safe to assume Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski will never get along. Keselowski tweeted, We are all in for a rude awakening. Haven't seen NASCAR let a manufacturer get this far ahead since the '70s.” Kyle Busch responded to Keselowski’s tweet with four letters—STFU. As Kyle Busch once said, “Sometimes you just don't like a guy.”

27. Matt Kenseth Wins

Matt Kenseth drove the No. 20 Toyota into the winner’s circle at the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway in what will likely be his final Monster Energy Series season. Ironically, it was his car sponsor, Circle K’s, first year as a primary car sponsor in NASCAR.

28. The National Anthem Protest

Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty and the Richard Childress Racing team owner shared with the world how they really felt about anyone who decided to protest the national anthem. Let’s just say it involved being thrown out the country and a ride on a Greyhound bus.

29. Dale Jr. Disagrees

In response to all the national anthem protest talks, Dale Earnhardt Jr. shared his beliefs in what has become his most powerful tweet since joining Twitter.

30. Who Will Drive The No. 88?

Hendrick Motorsports finally put all speculation to rest when they announced that Alex Bowman would replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next season. Most of NASCAR Nation believed that William Bryon would take the wheel, but it’s Bowman who will get a shot at wheeling the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro to Victory Lane now that Dale Jr. has retired. To shake things up a bit, Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott will now drive his dad’s famed No. 9, William Byron will jump in the seat of the No. 24 previously driven by Jeff Gordon and now being vacated by Chase, and the No. 5 left vacant by Kasey Kahne’s departure will be withdrawn from competition. Veteran driver Jimmie Johnson will still drive the No. 48.

31. The Blue Tent

Everyone wanted to know why NASCAR officials were transporting tires confiscated during the race to what most believed to be a mysterious blue tent instead of the usually on-site Goodyear makeshift facility.

32. Chase and Denny Have Words

With less than 4 laps left in the race at Martinsville, Chase Elliott was in the lead for what most likely could have been his first Cup win before Denny Hamlin made contact with him and crashed him out. After the race, Elliott returned the favor and drove Hamlin into the wall. The two got out their cars and had some words. No one threw a punch, but to most fans, what Hamlin did was worth a punch or two.

33. Fan Goes Crazy

When Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott had their “dust-up” at Martinsville Speedway in October, which ultimately denied Elliott his first Cup Series victory, fans were very upset. Elliott was obviously irritated but handled the situation with Grace; the fans...not so much. One fan actually confronted Hamlin on pit road and shouted at him, expressing just what he thought about the situation. No one ever said that NASCAR fans weren’t passionate.

34. The No. 3 Returns to Victory Lane

Austin Dillon returned the iconic No. 3 back to the winner’s circle after taking the checkered flag at the Coca-Cola 600, one of most grueling races of the NASCAR season on the greatest day of racing.

35. He Won 3

All Mr.7x NASCAR Series Cup Champion Jimmie Jonson does is win. Johnson won three races this season and currently has 83 Cup wins, ranking 6th on the all-time race winners list. Heading into the 2017 season, some people weren’t sure if the veteran driver had anything left. He didn’t capture the title, but he proved he can still win.

36. Brad Keselowski vs. Toyota

All season long, "Bad Brad" Keselowski had something to say about Toyota. “I don’t think anyone ever had a shot this year the second that thing [Toyota] got put on the racetrack and approved,” said Keselowski, among other things.

37. Brian France Speaks

NASCAR’s boss, CEO and Chairman Brian France, discussed the state of NASCAR in October on SiriusXM Radio. When asked about fans who are concerned about the financial future of the sport he said, “I would say look at history. There are always cycles. … Every sport has different cycles where it’s better than it was or less than it should be, whatever it is, that will work out.” He also added, “I wouldn’t worry about that for one minute if I were a fan because it just works itself out.”

38. It’s A Girl

In any other world, having a baby probably wouldn’t be considered as front-page news, but when the most popular driver in NASCAR announces that he and his wife are expecting, NASCAR media covered the story like it was the Super Bowl. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his wife, Amy, released that they would soon have a child of their own after Junior's final competitive season in the sport.

39. Aric Almirola replaces Danica Patrick in the No. 10

Stewart-Haas Racing did not renew its agreement with Danica Patrick but decided instead that Aric Almirola would be a better fit behind the wheel. And of course, Almirola brought his own sponsor, Smithfield Foods to back him up.

40. Chase Elliott did not win a race

The pressure is on—or maybe it’s not. Chase Elliott went another year without winning his first NASCAR Cup Series race. He ran well during his 2017 campaign, but he just couldn’t cross the finish line first. The 2016 Rookie of the Year and soon to be Most Popular Driver of the Year did make the playoffs for the second year in a row.

41. Danica Patrick Calls It Quits

Bye Felicia—well, Danica. Danica Patrick is done as a full-time NASCAR Cup driver, at least for now. She was faced with not having a ride or sponsor for 2018, so she had no other choice but to call it quits. Patrick claims that she will run the Daytona 500 and Indy 500, but we will see what happens from there on.

42. Call Him The Stage King And The Champ

Martin Truex Jr. dominated the 2017 season. He conquered NASCAR’s newly introduced segment racing by winning more stages than any other driver and he went on to capture the championship. Truex Jr. won eight races including the season finale at Homestead-Miami.

43. Bubba’s Chance

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. finally gets a chance to prove why he deserves a full-time ride in the Monster Energy Cup Series. Wallace will drive the legendary No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2018. When Wallace drove the No. 43 while temporarily filling in for the injured Aric Almirola in June at Pocono Raceway, he became the first African-American to compete in NASCAR’s Cup Series since 2006. As “the black driver” behind the wheel of a Cup car, Wallace is sure to aid NASCAR with their push towards diversity as well as boost viewership by introducing the sport to an entirely new demographic.

Need for Speed Film Camera Car Going Up for Auction

We at The Drive are fans of interesting vehicles going up for auction, especially movie cars. Being in a movie can increase a car's value much like a car being previously owned by a celebrity, but what about a car that filmed a motion picture? Examples like the Mustang star car from the 2014 film Need for Speed sold for $300,000 for charity, so it's only reasonable that the chase vehicles should get some love, too. For the upcoming Barrett Jackson Scottsdale 2018 event, a heavily modified Mustang camera car will be going up for auction with no reserve.

The Mustang was used to film the movie Need for Speed as well. It is a 2013 Mustang GT (VIN 1ZVBP8CF0D5199818) and only has 7,780 miles. The car features the Mustang GT's normal 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. According to the Barrett Jackson auction listing (Lot# 1572), the Mustang camera car was modified by Saleen for the purpose of the movie. It is equipped with 14-inch Saleen slotted brake rotors and calipers among other modifications. The listing neglects to mention the Saleen supercharger that was added to the car which, in some trims, can bump the Mustang's power up to 625-horsepower.

The car has been significantly modified to be a better camera car. It has a custom-built roll cage and a modified rear/trunk area to accept the camera crew as well as custom front and rear bumpers including mounts for gyroscopic cameras. The front passenger airbag was removed to allow room for additional electronic camera needs.

The car is being sold as "camera equipment" according to the bill, so your results may vary on getting it registered for the road. You can see the car being built and used as a camera rig in the following video.

I am sure some YouTuber is dying out there to take this to H2Oi 2018 to dodge the potential "hanging out the car filming" tickets.

Volkswagen Soon Slated to Build Its Six Millionth Car of 2017

Volkswagen's fate waivered after being majorly penalized by the United States federal government this past year. Findings of diesel emission cheats drove the company's social status into the dirt, and with brand executives being locked up seemingly every other week, it would appear as if the German automaker would struggle to come out ahead. However, just two years after investigations began, VW has reported its largest manufacturing numbers yet.

According to a statement from Thomas Ulbrich, Volkswagen’s head of production and logistics, the marque is expected to end 2017 by surpassing six million vehicles built. This is more than ever before in the company's history, proving well for the auto giant amidst continuous woes caused by the Dieselgate scandal.

“More than six million vehicles produced in 12 months—there is one thing that this shows above all: our plants and employees are continually improving their production competence," Ulbrich said. "We have top teams in production which successfully master growing demand from customers."

VW's most popular models, the Jetta, Golf, and Passat, helped it to break this milestone over the last calendar year. 108,575 Jettas were sold in the United States alone in 2017 as well as 64,449 Golfs, complimenting a respective 57,707 Passats moved.

Introductions of new models including the Atlas, Arteon, and T-Roc helped bolster production numbers both domestically and internationally for the corporation. Anticipated expansion tells that these figures could continue to rise, especially given the influx of SUV/crossover purchases in America and beyond.

According to company officials, Volkswagen has built over 150 million cars in its 72-year tenure. It currently manufacturers models in 50 factories across 14 countries, putting it on par with Toyota as a consistent winner of world's largest automaker.

Hero Soldier Died Saving Multiple Lives After Running In And Out Of Horrific Building Fire

As we are about to turn the page to a new year, we look back on 2017 to see what we leave behind, and I think many Americans would say good riddance to a year that saw an ever more divided America, sequential natural disasters, and major threats growing abroad. But amongst the black hole of negative news we trudge through on a daily basis, there are amazingly brilliant flashes of bright light—little stories that remind us how incredibly giving mankind can be and what incredible bravery hides deep inside average everyday people.

In an age where people flock to theaters multiple times a year to watch never ending fist fights without consequences among super heroes wearing bright costumes and capes, it's odd that more attention and fanfare isn't given to real life superheroes who do amazingly courageous acts without the help of supernatural abilities or a trust fund worth billion dollars that can be blown on high-end military gear. If people were to just look harder, they would realize that reality is more incredible than fiction, and it doesn't require "the force" to change the course of human lives in incredibly positive ways.

On Thursday night one of these incredible acts of heroism took place among the setting of the worst building fire New York has experienced in 25 years. The century-old Bronx apartment building was set ablaze by a three year old who was playing with the stove in an apartment on the first floor. The staircase in the five story, 29 unit complex acted like chimney and the fire spread rapidly through the building along with acrid and thick black smoke. By the time it was all over 12 people, including four children, were declared dead as a result of the ensuing inferno and seven firefighters and seven civilians were also injured, some severely.

The fire spread rapidly. It was documented that some of the smoke alarms weren't operative on the first floor of the building weeks before the fire ignited.

But now it is coming to light that those casualty figures would have been far worse if it weren't for 28 year old Emmanuel Mensah. The newly minted U.S. Army soldier that had just completed basic training was home for Christmas and would likely be on his way to an assignment overseas in the near future. Emmanuel was staying in a friend's apartment located in the building at the time the fire was sparked and witnesses saw him rush back into the burning structure, bringing out trapped inhabitants each cycle. He made at least two of these trips before disappearing inside and not returning as the fire's intensity overtook much of the structure.

After the blaze finally dissipated and firefighters could make it further inside, the body of Emmanuel Mensah was found in apartment 15. His friends apartment was number 11. Emmanuel died of smoke inhalation.

Mensah's father, who lives next door to the doomed apartment building, stated the following to the New York Post:

“I understand when the fire was [going} he was trying to rescue... He had two or three people out... He just came for the holidays... He helped his roommate’s wife and children, they were trying to come out to the stairs and he stopped them... He told them to come out the window... Then he went in and tried to rescue people out.”

Emmanuel loved America deeply, although it was not his native country. He moved to the United States from Ghana half a decade ago. Soon after arriving in the U.S. he told his father he wanted to be a soldier in the Army, and even though his family tried to change his mind, his dream of serving his country never wavered. One can only imagine how incredible of a soldier Emmanuel, who had a knack for sharpshooting, would have become if he had not sacrificed his life for others. On a battlefield such a selfless act could have resulted in him being awarded an illustrious medal, and even a Medal of Honor.

In the end this story is a reminder that the real superheroes aren't found in Marvel movies, they walk among us, and thankfully, many of those heroes have chosen to put on a uniform for a career. Above all else, with all the selfishness, greed, violence, lies, and hate we see on a daily basis, it is so amazing to know that there are still people out there that can rise far above all of it when it really matters.

Private Emmanuel Mensah is a better man than I would ever hope to be, and he gives us all hope as we step into 2018.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

Supersonic Travel is Coming Back With a Boom

As noted in The Drive earlier this month, Lockheed Martin is now working with Aerion Corporation to develop a 12-passenger business jet that could fly at Mach 1.4—nearly twice the speed of most commercial airliners. The plane, dubbed the AS2, is expected to begin deliveries in 2025 at a reported cost of $120 million. Aerion announced that, with the right atmospheric conditions, it'll be able to fly at speeds approaching Mach 1.2 without a sonic boom reaching the ground.

The jet is in the vanguard of a rebirth in civilian supersonic travel with promises of speed up to Mach 2.2.

Mach is a measure of the speed of sound in air and it generally decreases with altitude. At sea level, the sound barrier (Mach 1) equates to 761 mph, but at 50,000 feet of elevation, it's 660 mph. Though military planes have broken the sound barrier since the late 1940s, civilian supersonic travel took a couple of decades to catch up. It was achieved from 1976 to 2003 by the Concorde, which topped out at Mach 2.04, and by the Soviet Union's similar-looking Tupolev TU-144, which flew from 1977 to 1983 and could reach Mach 2.15.

Earlier supersonic passenger planes failed because of cost and sound levels. They used more fuel and were much more expensive to operate than sub-sonic planes their size. Plus, the sonic boom they created breaking the sound barrier made them abrasively loud to operate over land, leading a ban on commercial flights hitting supersonic speeds over the continental U.S.

There are currently several business jets that can approach Mach 1, including Gulfstream's flagship G650ER, which hits Mach .925, and Cessna's Citation X+, the fastest business jet currently in production with a top speed of Mach .935. Most commercial airliners top out below Mach .9, including Boeing's 747-8, the largest commercial aircraft built in the U.S.

The return of viable supersonic flight is great news for business travelers. It'd make the journey from New York to London or Paris into a viable day trip, for example, and would facilitate business between Asia and North America by knocking more than a dozen hours off round-trip travel times.

If claimed speeds are accurate, the AS2 is actually the slowest of the three supersonic civilian planes currently under development.

Boom Airline

The first of these likely to hit the market is from a start-up in Colorado. Denver-based Boom Technology aims to have a 55-seat commercial jet capable of hitting Mach 2.2 on the market in 2023. The $200 million jet has already garnered interest from airlines looking to boost their high-end offerings. Virgin Group signed an agreement to partner with Boom back in 2016, and Japan Airlines recently invested $10 million with the firm. Boom says its jet can travel between New York to London in 3 hours and 15 minutes—less than half the time a regular commercial airliner takes—and tickets will cost $2,500 each way. The company also claims its jet will be at least 30 times quieter than the Concorde when crossing the sound barrier, which might eventually see it approved for supersonic flight over the continental U.S.

Spike S-512 Quiet Supersonic Jet

Another company, Boston-based Spike Aerospace, is developing a business jet capable of holding up to 18 passengers at speeds up to Mach 1.6. The company states its S-512 Quiet Supersonic Jet will cost $100 million and offer patent-pending technology to make it quiet and non-disruptive to those on the ground.

Aerion, Boom, and Spike are new-ish companies, and it remains to be seen if all three of their planes come to market on time. But chances seem likely that in the not-too-distant future business people and the well-heeled will once again be able to slip the surly bonds of Earth with haste.