My Observations And Questions After Finally Seeing F-35Bs Operate From HMS Queen Elizabeth

What a crazy week it has been for the F-35 program and the F-35B in particular. In the space of just a few days, the type racked up its first U.S. combat mission, its first operations aboard the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, and its first total loss crash and pilot ejection. It was definitely a mixed bag, but as I noted to readers on Friday, the F-35 program can only be incredibly proud of its safety record. Sure there have been plenty of close calls, but going through nearly 12 years of tortured developmental and operational flying (18 if you count the Joint Strike Fighter X-plane fly-off, but you really shouldn't) without an in-flight crash like the one of Friday really is quite amazing.

F-35s hitting the Queen Elizabeth's deck for the first time is a huge milestone for the Royal Navy and the UK Ministry of Defense as a whole. After entirely forfeiting its fixed-wing aircraft carrier capacity eight years ago with the retirement of the Harrier and the aging Invincible class carriers that took them to sea, getting that capability back, and in an expanded form, is quite exciting. In fact, I have never seen UK defense enthusiasts this amped up—almost to a comical degree, to be honest—about anything in the past. But when you consider they saw a staple Royal Navy capability suddenly strangled to its death nearly a decade ago, Friday's milestone couldn't have come soon enough.

Apparently, there has been some controversy about how this big event was handled by the Royal Navy's public affairs team. Regardless, some great images have come out of the F-35B's inaugural operations from Queen Elizabeth's deck and I have some observations I would like to share and questions I would like to ask about a few of them.

This is a great shot of the ship underway while an F-35B makes its approach. In the future, the aircraft will execute rolling landings on her deck, which you can read all about in this past piece of mine. I do wonder what that big tower is for? We know the F-35B is very sensitive to lightning (ironic I know) and the USMC has to set up special lightning towers around their aircraft when parked in the open in storm-prone locales, but I have never seen something like this on an American amphibious assault ship before. Maybe there is another reason for the tower. Let us know in the comments below if you have an answer.

This image shows the stadium-like observation area inside the control tower area on HMS Queen Elizabeth. It's a very cool setup, but I do wonder as to exactly what standards the ship was designed and built? Those huge panes of glass are great for visibility, but can they sustain any significant battle or accident damage? Compared to what we see on any other carrier around the globe, this almost looks like a commercial setup. Maybe some sort of new glass technology was used, but still, it seems a bit sketchy for a warship, especially for one with minimal defenses.

The ship's flight operations area looks huge in this shot. That is a ton of space for a STOVL fighter, more than on any ship before—that is aside from when USMC AV-8 Harriers operated from U.S. Navy supercarriers on a couple occasions in the past. It will be interesting to see what tempo of flight operations they can squeeze out of these big ships in comparison to U.S. Navy LHDs and LHAs. It's also a reminder of how these ships could have been CATOBAR equipped and how licensed-built new ones could potentially be in the future if the U.S. Navy ever actually moves to procure a smaller, conventionally powered carrier design. As it sits now, these ships cost a fraction of the price of Ford class supercarrier.

If anyone says the F-35B isn't fascinating to watch land vertically, they are crazy.

Here's a great shot showing the F-35B and the navigational and flight control islands and their various sensors and communications systems, with the Artisan 3D radar above the rear island and the S1850M Long-Range Radar mounted atop the bridge. Note the electro-optical/infrared sensor system above the corner of the bridge as well. This likely operates in a similar role as the Mk20 system found installed atop American destroyer and cruiser bridges.

In this picture, you can see one of the ship's three 'big board' digital flight information displays. They give deck crew up to the minute information on aircraft status, a feature not found on American carriers. A stoplights system is also used to inform deck crews the status of the deck during air operations.

I'm not totally clear on the Royal Navy's shirt colors for deck crew. There may be some slight deviation from the U.S. Navy's color organization which you can read all about in this past piece of mine.

A nice detail view of the F-35B's nose here. Note all the electro-optical gear on the jet's pointy end. You are seeing the EOTS below the nose, a DAS aperture above the nose, a flight camera system in the dash that is used for debriefing, and the pilot's notoriously complex helmet mounted display has its own electro-optical/night vision sensors as well.

This is a great shot, obviously, it shows a very happy test pilot, but it also highlights the reality of stealth airframes. Here you can see how some of the aircraft seams around the cockpit area and the canopy have been masked with radar absorbent tape and gap fillers. The process is maintenance intensive, although Lockheed claims they have made major inroads over the F-22's design when it comes to making maintaining the F-35's skin a less arduous affair, with most of the low-observable coatings being 'baked in' to the aircraft's skin itself. You can also see evidence of the F-35's canopy delamination issue. It looks like some fairly crude repairs have been done to keep canopy in service. It's also worth noting that these are test jets, not ones that would be used in combat, so in some cases, their radar absorbent coatings may have been allowed to erode further than those found on their front-line counterparts.

This is another nice detail shot with the canopy open. Once again, notice the crude tape around the canopy's frame. Also, note the patinaed panel in front of the refueling probe door.

This head-on shot gives a good view of the jet's unique lines.

Now for some ski-jump shots! It's awesome to see an actual ship's ramp in use after years of land-based testing. Video of the F-35 using it is pretty freaky, the aircraft looks to be moving way too slow to fly, but it has the benefit of two pillars of thrust from its F135 engine and its attached lift-fan.

Once again, the ship has a huge operating area. With the USMC's help, the Royal Navy will hopefully be able to load that deck up with a few dozen F-35Bs in the coming decade. The ship also appears to be sitting quite high in the water, which makes sense as she has no air wing aboard.

Leaping off the ski-jump.

A spectacular formation shot of the two F-35Bs used in the trials as they wheel around at low level towards the ship. These aircraft belong to U.S. Navy Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-23 'Salty Dogs' based out of NAS Patuxent River. These aircraft are 'orange wired' for testing duties and their pilots have led-up the F-35B's shipboard integration program. The Royal Navy's F-35Bs are scattered about in other locations, including in the UK, but it won't be all that long now until they too get a shot at the carrier's deck, too.

This sight will hopefully become all too common in the coming decade, with American and UK F-35Bs operating from the Royal Navy's two new carriers.

F-35Bs finally in the pattern above HMS Queen Elizabeth!

The Queen Elizabeth's unique deck layout offers a ton of room for moving about and for launching, recovering, and storing aircraft.

Here is some official video from the historic day:

It will be great to watch the Royal Navy's fixed-wing carrier aviation capability be reborn in the coming years, but even though this event may be full of high-fives and excitement, the Royal Navy's new carriers remain controversial fixtures within the Ministry of Defense's portfolio. Just how much capability is the Royal Navy, and the MoD as a whole, going to have to sacrifice to keep these ships serviceable, especially considering the fleet is already facing operational shortfalls. But we will leave the debate over these issues for another day. In the meantime, the Royal Navy can bask a bit in the glory of their new ship and its stealth fighters.

As for that F-35B crash at MCAS Beaufort, there has been no grounding order from the Marine corps, so F-35B operations continue as normal, although we still have no idea of what could have been the cause.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

NASCAR: Ryan Blaney Pulls Off Thrilling Last Lap Pass for Inaugural Cup Series Roval Win

Ryan Blaney passed the spinning Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. on the last lap of Sunday's Bank of America Roval 400 for his second-career NASCAR Cup Series win and his first of 2018.

"You hate to see two of the best cars wreck," Blaney said. "You just try to capitalize on the circumstances given to you. We were in the right spot at the right time. We put ourselves in a good spot. I'm just happy to not only win but advance. Can't think of a better group of guys to be with, and just looking forward to the next round."

Ryan Blaney wins the Bank of America Roval 400 on Sept. 30, 2018.

Blaney’s win cemented his advancement to the second round of the playoffs, beginning Oct. 7 at Dover International Speedway in Delaware.

Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney were stage winners.

Larson took the lead from pole-sitter Kurt Busch on Lap 7 and ran up front for the remaining laps of the first 25-lap stage. Then, he maintained his lead by staying out during the caution between the first two stages.

Larson, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. made their initial pit stops on Laps 36 and 37, planning to run the complete race distance with only two pit stops. After others cycled through pit stops over the course of the remaining laps of the second stage, Blaney claimed his stage win at Lap 50.

More drivers pitted during the caution after the second stage concluded, cycling Larson back up to the lead and Busch was second. Truex was mired farther back after he and Brad Keselowski spun on Lap 49 and were charged with stop-and-go penalties for missing a chicane.

Aside from two cautions, one each at the end of each of the first two stages, the yellow flag waved only once in the first 50 laps for a single-car incident on Lap 14. The attrition rate got higher in the second half of the race, with the yellow flag waving five more times through the remainder of the event.

Larson gave up the race lead to pit during a Lap 69 caution. Busch and Truex Jr. also were among those who pitted. Keselowski stayed out and inherited the lead, while Larson raced back up to P2. Larson, though, didn’t close on Brad Keselowski, instead going into fuel conservation mode and trailing Keselowski by about 12 seconds with 15 laps remaining.

Keselowski, who started the race from the rear in a backup car, was the leader for a restart on Lap 103 of the 109-lap race, but he missed Turn 1 and hit a tire barrier. Several other frontrunners, including Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch, were collected.

“I guess it just comes down to us all being on old tires and not really knowing what to expect or how much grip these tires would actually have,” Busch lamented. “Just not having anything better to do than drive it off into a 90-degree corner and into a wall. That’s about all that happened; we all over-drove the corner, and that’s all there is to it.”

Larson was able to limp to a 25th-place finish. Keselowski and Busch were credited with 31st and 32nd, respectively.

Truex Jr. and Johnson got through that wreck to restart on the front row with three laps remaining. At the checkered flag, Johnson was eighth and Truex 14th.

Martin Truex Jr. [78] and Jimmie Johnson [48] run first and second late in the Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sept. 30, 2018.

Larson, Johnson, and Aric Almirola were tied in the points standings after the race. Larson and Almirola advanced to round two of the playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker, both having finished higher in two of the first-round playoff races. Johnson, though, is out of the playoffs, despite being the only driver among the three to finish in the top-10 of Sunday’s race.

“I wish I wouldn’t have been so focused on a race win, and I could have transferred and kept my championship hopes alive, but we had such a good car and just one of those split-second decisions to race for the win instead of for the points, and it bit me,” Johnson said.

Ryan Blaney celebrates in victory lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway after winning the Bank of America Roval 400 on Sept. 30, 2018




BANK OF AMERICA ROVAL 400 RESULTS:

1. Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Ford
2. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet
3. Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Ford
4. Alex Bowman, No. 4 Chevrolet
5. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Ford
6. Chase Elliott, No. 9 Chevrolet
7. A.J. Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet
8. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet
9. Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Ford
10. Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford
11. Ryan Newman, No. 32 Chevrolet
12. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota
13. Matt DiBenedetto, No. 32 Ford
14. Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Toyota
15. Regan Smith, No. 95 Chevrolet
16. David Ragan, No. 38 Ford
17. Chris Buescher, No. 37 Chevrolet
18. Michael McDowell, No. 34 Ford
19. Aric Almirola, No. 10 Ford
20. Cole Whitt, No. 72 Chevrolet
21. Daniel Suarez, No. 19 Toyota
22. Ty Dillon, No. 13 Chevrolet
23. Daniel Hemric, No. 8 Chevrolet
24. Ross Chastain, No. 7 Chevrolet
25. Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet
26. Jeffrey Earnhardt, No. 96 Toyota
27. Justin Marks, No. 15 Chevrolet
28. J.J. Yeley, No. 23 Toyota
29. Landon Cassill, No. 00 Chevrolet
30. Erik Jones, No. 20 Toyota
31. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford
32. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota
33. Paul Menard, No. 21 Ford
34. William Byron, No. 24 Chevrolet
35. Trevor Bayne, No. 6 Ford
36. Darrell Wallace Jr., No. 43 Chevrolet
37. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Ford
38. Timmy Hill,
39. Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet
40. Stanton Barrett, No. 51 Ford

UP NEXT: The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will begin its second round of the 2018 playoffs on Oct. 7 at Dover International Speedway in Delaware. Kyle Busch is the defending winner of the fall race at Dover, while another playoff driver, Kevin Harvick, is the most recent winner there, winning at DIS in May.

Kristoffersson Triumphs, Clinches FIA World RX Title at COTA

Johan Kristoffersson, the 29-year-old Swede and defending World Rallycross champion, slid his Volkswagen Polo R to the winner's circle at Circuit of the Americas on Sunday. In doing so, he clinched his second consecutive title and defeated his Team PSRX stablemate Petter Solberg heading into the German round of competition on Oct. 13-14.

Kristoffersson topped the timesheets in Q4 with a best showing of 2:24.714, earning him 50 qualifying points and putting him in prime position for the first semi-final race of the event. There, he claimed the runner-up spot behind Solberg and advanced to the final where he'd also race against the likes of Andreas Bakkerud, Sebastien Loeb, Timmy Hansen, and Mattias Ekstrom, the latter having won the second semi-final battle.

In the conclusive round of the afternoon, both PSRX Volkswagens toppled the EKS Audis and Team Total Peugeots. Kristoffersson and Solberg were joined by Ekstrom on the podium while Bakkerud, Hansen, and Loeb rounded out the top-six. This propelled the Swedish PSRX outfit even further as it held a 69 point lead over EKS going into the event.

Kristoffersson's performance awarded him with bragging rights and season-long hardware yet again while Solberg also managed an impressive outing to keep him in the conversation along with Bakkerud, Ekstrom, and Loeb. Meanwhile, it's also the Kristoffersson's sixth W of the season and second consecutive after winning in Latvia earlier this month.

Just two race weekends remain in the 2018 World RX season as the series is less than two months away from the finale in South Africa. With Kristoffersson having already decided the title fight in his favor, it'll be a free for all with the rest of the field seeking success in Germany where Ekstrom is the reigning victor.

Five Reasons Why Cadillac Is Leaving New York City for Detroit

Cadillac is packing up and leaving the Empire State in favor of its hometown, Detroit. The news comes just months after the luxury brand reaffirmed its commitment to remain in New York City—a decision that was announced despite the ousting of then CEO Johan de Nysschen. So why has the carmaker reversed course and headed to the Motor City? Let's explore the rationale behind the move.

Johan de Nysschen Has Left the building

One of the first things Johan de Nysschen did when he became CEO in 2014 was separate the physical presence of Cadillac from parent company General Motors. By doing so, he wanted to redefine Cadillac's corporate image and New York seemed like the appropriate place to do so. With plenty of luxury lifestyle brands such as Michael Kors already based out of the city, Cadillac would fit right in. It would also give the company the opportunity to hire top talent to rejuvenate itself. But with Johan de Nysschen no longer at the helm, there was more reason than not to regroup in Detroit.

Office Space

Renting space in NYC is undoubtedly expensive. A commercial listing shows that property prices at 330 Hudson, where Cadillac's existing headquarters stands, hover around $72 per square foot per year. The company leased 34,000 square feet of space, according to Automotive News, for ten years. Sticking to simple math and assuming that price was locked in upon Cadillac's initial lease signing, that equates to nearly $9.8 million over the past four years. By vacating sooner than expected, Cadillac will break its lease six years early but is committed to helping the building owner find a new tenant in its place.

Cadillac Never Truly Left

The move, which is set to begin in six months time, will affect more than 100 employees, all of whom will be offered relocation to Warren, Michigan. Strategically, having its headquarters in Detroit again makes sense. Even after moving to the East Coast, Cadillac continued to rely on Michigan-based employees when it came to vehicle design, features, and pricing.

New Yorkers Don't Buy Cars Like Everyone Else

NYCEDC car ownership data shows that only 45 percent of households own a car in the Big Apple's five boroughs. Ownership is lowest in Manhattan, where only 22 percent of households own a car. The city relies on its public transportation system made up of buses, subway, taxis, trains, and ride-sharing services. Based on all of this, it never made sense for Cadillac to be in Manhattan—its the sole manufacturer headquartered on the island.

Rejoining the Team

General Motors cites wanting leadership "to be closer to GM’s vehicle design and engineering hub in suburban Detroit, especially as GM prepares to roll out several new Cadillac models in coming years." It also won't have to worry about fitting in thanks to GM's existing campus. Meanwhile, Cadillac's brand-experience space will remain open even after it exits the building.

So, what does the future hold for the American automaker? Plans to introduce four new vehicles over the next two years, the most recent of which being the 2019 XT4 subcompact crossover. A new compact sedan is supposedly in the cards as well. Expect lots of moving trucks at 330 Hudson Street over the next few months because Caddy is coming home.

2019 Nissan Altima Begins Production, Will Start at $23,750

Production on the newly redesigned 2019 Nissan Altima has begun, the company announced Thursday. Like its predecessor, it'll be built in Canton, Mississippi and Smyrna, Tennessee. Nissan has also revealed that its new midsize sedan will start at $23,750 when it hits dealerships Oct. 3.

Serving as direct competition to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the Altima is the only car out of the three to offer all-wheel drive. When The Drive's own Kyle Cheromcha drove it earlier in the week, it proved to be a solid step up from the previous model that ultimately comes up short as an enthusiast's machine.

While $23,750 gets you in the midsize-Nissan door, you'll have to pony up some more cash if you'd like anything more than the base, 188-horsepower, 2.5-liter engine and front-wheel drive. The Altima S with all-wheel drive will set you back $25,100 while an SR model with the new, 248-horse, 2.0-liter turbo goes for $29,150. Curiously, the more powerful engine can only be had with front-wheel drive. Sitting on top of the Altima family tree is the limited-run, $35,750 Edition One if, for some reason, limited edition Altimas are your thing.

In the fifteen years it's been in operation, Nissan's Canton plant has put together 4 million vehicles including Altimas, Muranos, Frontiers, and Titans. It currently employs more than 6,400 people.

"The thriving automotive industry in Mississippi started with Nissan over 15 years ago, and we celebrate with the entire Nissan team on today's launch," said Mississippi governor Phil Bryant. "The all-new Altima embodies the success of Mississippi in leading the world in bringing cutting-edge technologies to market through advanced manufacturing."

Lewis Hamilton Wins Russian Grand Prix Using Team Orders, Extends Championship Lead

Lewis Hamilton took a controversial Russian Grand Prix win via the use of team orders issued by Mercedes management.

Despite repaved grid slots that favored the Mercedes front row, it was Scuderia Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel that got the best getaway of the frontrunners, the German challenging Hamilton down the straight as the two chased Valtteri Bottas into the first corner. Using Bottas' slipstream, Hamilton pulled back ahead, and the three filed into order through a long Turn 2. By the end of the first lap—without a safety car for the first time in years—Bottas whipped up a 1.3-second gap, and 19th-start Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen was already up to 13th, barging past his midfield competition.

After trading places with Force India's Esteban Ocon on the first lap, turning a P7 start into a P6 position, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc caught Haas' Kevin Magnussen at the start of the second lap, handling the aggressive Dane with a balls-to-the-wall flat-out overtake around the outside of Turn 2. On the following lap, Verstappen shut down Marcus Ericsson to get into the points, finishing the lap ninth ahead of Romain Grosjean.

Both Toro Rosso-Hondas retired on Lap 6, each driver suffering a spin. Pierre Gasly's retirement was confirmed later to be brake-related, though Brendon Hartley's reason for retirement went unmentioned. As Gasly and Hartley extricated themselves from their STR13s, Verstappen too overtook Magnussen, who reported a toasty cockpit over team radio. Verstappen reeled in Leclerc by the end of Lap 8bto reach a top-five finishing position, but his teammate Daniel Ricciardo lagged behind, only arriving in the points a lap later.

Bottas kicked off the frontrunners' pit battle, stopping for soft tires after 12 laps, Vettel responding for the same tires on the following lap, and then Hamilton after 14 laps. Hamilton exited the pits less than a car's length behind Vettel, succumbing to the Ferrari into turn one at the start of Lap 15. He would attempt a pass on Vettel a lap afterward, but erratic moves later decided by stewards not to be a double defense forced him to either hit the wall or abort. The Brit reported his thoughts on the move via radio, but completed his pass two corners later.

Kimi Räikkönen stopped after 18 laps for soft tires, and came out a distant fifth in the chasm between Vettel and Ricciardo, now running sixth. This yielded the race lead to Verstappen, who would control the race's pace for another 25 laps. During Verstappen's stint in the lead, Mercedes ordered Bottas to give his position to Hamilton, the pit wall stating it would explain after the race. Hamilton approached Verstappen's lead on Lap 42, making a swipe into the first corner, but ultimately dropping far back as the lap continued. Verstappen stopped after Lap 43 for ultrasofts.

Despite tires that were expected to be at least 2.5 seconds per lap faster, both Verstappen and Ricciardo (also on ultrasofts) struggled to find pace and failed to close the gap to Räikkönen. Mercedes sealed the race's result with a lap to go, confirming to Bottas via radio that positions would not swap back. The Silver Arrows would finish an unceremonious one-two, Vettel completing the podium. Verstappen won the most votes for Driver of the Day for his spectacular early-race performance.

Chase Briscoe Wins First NASCAR Xfinity Series Race on Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval

??Chase Briscoe scored his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory and simultaneously became the first winner on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval course with his performance in the Drive for the Cure 200. He did so in dominating fashion, leading 33 of the 55 laps that made up the race.

"It's huge to me,” Briscoe said. “Everybody had to adapt to it and figure it out, and I don't know that I'm necessarily the best at it, but I felt like I just tried not to hit anything, and this thing hardly has a scratch on it."

Chase Briscoe celebrates his first-career NASCAR Xfinity Series win in the Drive for the Cure 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval on Sept. 29, 2018.

Daniel Hemric challenged Briscoe early in the 25-lap third stage of the race, but Hemric was dealt a stop-and-go penalty for missing a chicane in the final 15 laps of the race. He wound up 10th at the finish.

Hemric and Christopher Bell were winners in the two 15-lap stages that made up the first 30 laps of the race.

Hemric took the race lead with two laps remaining in the opening stage after an Austin Cindric spin. Cindric started on the pole and had led the race up to that point. He and Briscoe were the only two drivers to post double digits in the laps-led column.

Cindric was third at the checkered flag, making him the highest finisher among playoff drivers.

Austin Cindric wins the pole for the Drive for the Cure 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval on Sept. 29, 2018.

Hemric stayed out between the first two stages to hold on to his lead, but when the race restarted, Briscoe commandeered the position. Briscoe and Hemric gave up the top-two spots in the running order to pit in the closing laps of the second stage, putting Bell up front for the stage win.

While others pitted during the caution after the second stage, Briscoe and Hemric cycled back up to the top-two.

Following an unusually high number of wrecks during practice sessions and qualifying for both the Xfinity and Cup Series, NASCAR modified a tire barrier on the Roval’s backstretch. The result was an incident-free final practice session for the Cup Series, followed by an Xfinity Series race with relatively low attrition.

The yellow flag waved only three times, aside from the two cautions at the end of the first two stages. One of those other yellow flags was for a stalled car and another for debris. The only other caution came on Lap 34 for a multi-car crash that started with contact between Ryan Truex and Ty Majeski and included a Michael Annett spin as well as several other cars being collected.

Cars on track during the Drive for the Cure 200 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval on Sept. 29, 2018.

“It went green a lot more than what I expected,” Bell said.

Regular season champion Justin Allgaier was involved in an incident with Ryan Sieg in the final two laps of the second stage, but the race continued to run under green. Allgaier was 15th at the finish, as a result.

Other playoff drivers outside the top-10 at the checkered flag included Ryan Reed in 11th, Ross Chastain in 12th, Elliott Sadler 14th, Truex 16th, and Brandon Jones in 22nd.

DRIVE FOR THE CURE 200 RESULTS:

1. Chase Briscoe, No. 98 Ford
2. Justin Marks, No. 42 Chevrolet
3. Austin Cindric, No. 22 Ford
4. Ryan Preece, No. 18 Toyota
5. Christopher Bell, No. 20 Toyota
6. Matt Tifft, No. 2 Chevrolet
7. Cole Custer, No. 00 Ford
8. Kaz Grala, No. 61 Ford
9. Tyler Reddick, No. 9 Chevrolet
10. Daniel Hemric, No. 21 Chevrolet
11. Ryan Reed, No. 16 Ford
12. Ross Chastain, No. 4 Chevrolet
13. Alex Labbe, No. 36 Chevrolet
14. Elliott Sadler, No. 1 Chevrolet
15. Justin Allgaier, No. 7 Chevrolet
16. Ryan Truex, No. 11 Chevrolet
17. Brendan Gaughan, No. 3 Chevrolet
18. Jeremy Clements, No. 51 Chevrolet
19. Spencer Gallagher, No. 23 Chevrolet
20. Michael Annett, No. 5 Chevrolet
21. Lawson Aschenbach, No. 01 Chevrolet
22. Brandon Jones, No. 19 Toyota
23. Joey Gase, No. 35 Chevrolet
24. Josh Bilicki, No. 45 Toyota
25. Garrett Smithley, No. 0 Chevrolet
26. Ray Black Jr., No. 74 Chevrolet
27. David Starr, No. 52 Chevrolet
28. Chad Finchum, No. 40 Dodge
29. Spencer Boyd, No. 76 Chevrolet
30. Dylan Murcott, No. 8 Chevrolet
31. Vinnie Miller, No. 78 Chevrolet
32. Timmy Hill, No. 66 Toyota
33. Katherine Legge, No. 15 Chevrolet
34. Ty Majeski, No. 60 Ford
35. Bayley Currey, No. 55 Toyota
36. Ryan Sieg, No. 39 Chevrolet
37. Andy Lally, No. 90 Chevrolet
38. Landon Cassill, No. 13 Dodge
39. Jeff Green, No. 93 Chevrolet
40. J.J. Yeley, No. 38 Chevrolet

UP NEXT: The NASCAR Xfinity Series travels to Delaware for an Oct. 6 race at Dover International Speedway. It will be the initial elimination race of the series’ first 2018?playoff round. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular Ryan Blaney is the defending winner of the fall Xfinity Series race at Dover, but Justin Allgaier won the most recent race there in May. Christopher Bell heads into the contest as the points leader. Austin Cindric, Ryan Truex, Ryan Reed, and Brandon Jones, meanwhile, are in the danger zone in provisional elimination spots.

Five Reasons Why Cadillac Is Leaving New York City for Detroit

Cadillac is packing up and leaving The Empire State in favor of its hometown, Detroit. The news comes just months after the luxury brand reaffirmed its commitment to remain in New York City—a decision that was announced despite the ousting of then CEO Johan de Nysschen. So why has the carmaker reversed course and headed to the Motor City? Let's explore the rationale behind the move.

Johan de Nysschen Has Left the building

One of the first things Johan de Nysschen did when he became CEO in 2014 was separate the physical presence of Cadillac from parent company General Motors. By doing so, he wanted to redefine Cadillac's corporate image and New York seemed like the appropriate place to do so. With plenty of luxury lifestyle brands such as Michael Kors already based out of the city, Cadillac would fit right in. It would also give the company the opportunity to hire top talent to rejuvenate itself. But with Johan de Nysschen no longer at the helm, there was more reason than not to regroup in Detroit.

Office Space

Renting space in NYC is undoubtedly expensive. A commercial listing shows that property prices at 330 Hudson, where Cadillac's existing headquarters stands, hover around $72 per square foot per year. The company leased 34,000 square feet of space, according to Automotive News, for ten years. Sticking to simple math and assuming that price was locked in upon Cadillac's initial lease signing, that equates to nearly $9.8 million over the past four years. By vacating sooner than expected, Cadillac will break its lease six years early but is committed to helping the building owner find a new tenant in its place.

Cadillac Never Truly Left

The move, which is set to begin in six months time, will affect more than 100 employees, all of whom will be offered relocation to Warren, Michigan. Strategically, having its headquarters in Detroit again makes sense. Even after moving to the East Coast, Cadillac continued to rely on Michigan-based employees when it came to vehicle design, features, and pricing.

New Yorkers Don't Buy Cars Like Everyone Else

NYCEDC car ownership data shows that only 45 percent of households own a car in the Big Apple's five boroughs. Ownership is lowest in Manhattan, where only 22 percent of households own a car. The city relies on its public transportation system made up of buses, subway, taxis, trains, and ride-sharing services. Based on all of this, it never made sense for Cadillac to be in Manhattan—its the sole manufacturer headquartered on the island.

Rejoining the Team

General Motors cites wanting leadership "to be closer to GM’s vehicle design and engineering hub in suburban Detroit, especially as GM prepares to roll out several new Cadillac models in coming years." It also won't have to worry about fitting in thanks to GM's existing campus. Meanwhile, Cadillac's brand-experience space will remain open even after it exits the building.

So, what does the future hold for the American automaker? Plans to introduce four new vehicles over the next two years, the most recent of which being the 2019 XT4 subcompact crossover. A new compact sedan is supposedly in the cards as well. Expect lots of moving trucks at 330 Hudson Street over the next few months because Caddy is coming home.

Exclusive: Russian MiG-31 Foxhound Carrying Huge Mystery Missile Emerges Near Moscow

Russia's recent adaptation of their Iskander tactical ballistic missile into an air-launched weapon made major headlines and was among the least technologically reaching of Putin's new cadre of superweapons that are supposedly in development. The carrier aircraft for that weapon, named 'Kinzhal,' is MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor. The MiG-31, which evolved out of the MiG-25 Foxbat, has the ability to carry heavy loads to high altitudes and at very speeds approaching mach three. This makes it an ideal launch platform not just for ballistic missiles meant to strike targets on the surface of the earth, but also for small suborbital or even orbital payloads, and especially direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons. On September 14th, 2018 what appears to be just such a launch system was photographed at Zhukovsky Airport outside of Moscow by aviation photographer ShipSash.

Zhukovsky is a major testing base for Russian aerial weaponry, something very loosely akin to Edwards Air Force Base here in the United States, although Zhukovsky now has a small commercial terminal as well. At the heart of the airport is a huge runway measuring nearly 18,000-foot long runway, the second largest publically accessible runway in the world. That long runway is there because the storied Gromov Flight Institute is also based at the airfield.

Zhukovsky Airport also hosts the biennial MAKS international air show.

The institute operates a wide variety of aircraft for testing purposes, from Tu-154 transports to MiG-29s. One of these aircraft is a unique variant of the MiG-31, the same as is seen carrying this large missile aloft in the photo at the top of this article with the '81 Blue' bort number painted on its side. This particular aircraft started to appear in photos about a year ago. Initially, it seemed like a regular MiG-31BM, which is the designation assigned to the MiG-31s which have been progressively upgraded and modernized by the Russian air force. The MiG-31BM is easily distinguished by the periscope fairing on the cockpit canopy, as well as a large blade aerial on the bottom port side of the fuselage, close to the nose gear. It also features low profile missile pylons on the wings, which are meant to carry R-73 and R-77 missiles, replacing the wing mounted R-40 missile that older MiG-31 versions used to carry.

However, 81 Blue soon became a mystery since it had certain external features not present on standard MiG-31BMs. It lacked missile pylons completely and didn’t feature the large blade aerial. It did, however, have the periscope fairing, which suggests it went through a modernization similar to standard MiG-31BMs. It also featured two chin mounted blade shaped pitot tubes under the nose. Although there are some speculations, the purpose of the aircraft remained unknown.

MiG-31BM

After president Putin unveiling the new Kh-47B Kinzhal ballistic missile carried by the MiG-31 last March, a new version of the MiG-31 used to fire the Kinzhal, first dubbed MiG-31K by the media and later MiG-31BP by the Russian Ministry of Defense, was identified. It had all the same external features as the previously seen 81 Blue except the two chin mounted pitot tubes. This suggested that 81 Blue was still involved with a different program but one similar to Kinzhal.

In addition, all the MiG-31BPs are based at Akhtoobinsk, which is a remote flight test airbase in southern Russia, while 81 Blue is based at Zhukovsky, near Moscow. Throughout 2018, as more pictures of the MiG-31BP surfaced, it became clear that all of them were in the same external configuration and all of them featured air-to-air refueling probes.

About 500 MiG-31s were produced until the early 1990s, of which 349 were the basic version. Later, the MiG-31DZ introduced air-to-air refueling capability. The last and most capable version before production stopped in the early 1990s was the MiG-31B. It also featured a refueling probe. When the MiG-31BM modernization program first started, the Russian air force first upgraded its MiG-31Bs. Once they were all upgraded, older versions of the MiG-31 without air-to-air refueling started going through the modernization program. Oddly, the air-to-air refueling capable MiG-31DZs seemed to be skipped over. However, once the MiG-31BP came to light, all of them had refueling probes. Clearly, the MiG-31DZs had been routed towards the Kinzhal firing MiG-31BP program.

MiG-31BP carry a Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile.

The photos of 81 Blue show it has a refueling probe, meaning it probably was upgraded from a MiG-31DZ and has a similar purpose as the MiG-31BP. In addition, a second aircraft similar to 81 Blue but carrying an ID '06 Red' was also spotted at Zhukovsky around the same time. It had all the same external features as 81 Blue, but lacked the periscope fairing. However, this might be a trivial detail.

A photo of 06 Red shows a round convex antenna on the top side of the left intake with an AS-77 antenna of the PPA-S/V-04 space and long-range navigation system. The directional A-737 antenna used by the GLONASS system, characteristic of upgraded MiG-31BMs, is retained. The convex antenna is also present on 81 Blue. So there may be two examples of this unique Foxhound variant intended for the same project.

According to unofficial information, the Mikoyan OKB has been working on two versions of the MiG-31 known internally as 'article 06' and 'article 08.' Article 08 was supposedly the carrier of the already known Kinzhal missile, with article 06 being a new version of the interceptor, with a completely different purpose—like potentially carrying an anti-satellite weapon or space launch system. It would feature a new inertial navigation system, radar, electronic warfare suite, and the suspension points under the fuselage have been reworked with the expectation of the weight of the new rocket.

This would not be the first time the MiG-31 has been used in an anti-satellite project. More than 30 years ago, in January 1987, the MiG-31D (“article 07”), which was the carrier of the 79M6 anti-satellite missile, made its first flight. The aircraft and missiles were elements of the anti-satellite weapon 30P6 'Kontakt' system. The rocket was developed by KB Vympel. The project was largely a response to the United States' own direct ascent air-launched anti-satellite missile system, the ASM-135, that used a modified F-15 called the Celestial Eagle as a launch platform. The weapon was successfully tested in 1985.

Two MiG-31D prototypes were made, however in 1991, work on the MiG-31D and its improved version the MiG-31DM with a 95M6 rocket (upgraded version 79M6) was stopped. After the collapse of the USSR, both prototypes of the MiG-31D remained at the Sary-Shagan test site in Kazakhstan—the same place where they were tested.

Bottom: The MiG-31D with its large winglets. Top: The aircraft and its anti-satellite missile. Note the resemblance of the missile to the one photographed just days ago.

The MiG-31D differed from the base Foxhound, first of all, in the fact that it removed all the old weapons, parts of its avionics equipment, and eliminated the fuselage mounting points for the R-33 missiles. Vertical “winglets” were installed on the wingtips to increase stability when the anti-satellite rocket was suspended. Its radar was removed and a metal fairing replaced its radome. The whole idea was to fly as high and fast as possible to get the heavy anti-satellite missile in position to fire.

This is the MiG-31 ASAT concept. Notice the missile looks nearly identical to the profile of the one being flown today.

In 1997, MAPO MiG, leveraging their experience working on the MiG-31D, began the development of the MiG-31S. This aircraft was designed to launch rockets carrying small satellites into space. The rocket, named RN-S ("carrier rocket launched from aircraft"), with a capacity of up to 440lbs was planned to be launched from the aircraft flying at an altitude of about 51,000 at a speed of 1,865mph (Mach 2.8). The rocket was developed by the Vimpel design bureau.

The first launch was scheduled for 1999-2000 but it never happened. In 2001 RSK MiG tried to re-launch the design of the MiG-31S aircraft as a civil project for launching small satellites with a mass of 220lbs or less. This project didn't evolve into an operational state either and there were other similar initiatives involving the MiG-31 that failed as well.

With all this in mind, the idea that Russia would be recycling old Soviet-era concepts to rapidly gain the ability to deploy small payloads into orbit via an air-launched rocket, or even more likely, take down enemy satellites in orbit—or possibly both—is glaringly logical.

The U.S. military and private industry have examined similar micro-satellite launch concepts, usually leveraging the F-15C Eagle as a launch platform. Today, multiple companies are working on using aircraft as first-stages for orbital access systems used to put a wide variety of payloads into various orbits, the heaviest-lifting being Stratolaunch with its Roc launcher aircraft.

Anti-satellite weaponry is a different story, as the U.S. seems to have moved its focus from direct-ascent kinetic kill concepts to less invasive ones that do not risk turning large stretches of low-earth orbit into a cloud of super-destructive debris, among many other advantages as well. These concepts include putting satellites into orbit that can jam, blind, disable, or even kill enemy satellites. You can read all about them here. By all indications, Russia is also working on similar concepts and likely has experimental capabilities along these lines already orbit.

These satellites are part of Russia's larger and layered anti-satellite strategy that includes the development of an airborne laser intended to disable or destroy satellites (another recycled program from the Cold War era) and its emerging missile defense system also is thought to have distinct anti-satellite capabilities. China is moving along a similar path as Russia in developing an array of anti-satellite technologies.

Having a tactical asset like the MiG-31 that is able to take down satellites by surprise from pretty much any location that Russia has access to doesn't just seem possible, it seems probable. It would make up a critically important tier of Russia's layered anti-satellite weapons 'complex.' And since Russia has already spent decades developing similar air-launched systems, that research can be leveraged to rapidly get such a capability into an operational form.

The missile seen in the photograph is significantly larger than Kinzhal and appears to feature a set of folding fins at its rear. It is likely a two-stage system, or at least features a powered kill vehicle for anti-satellite duties.

It's also possible that this is another air-launched ballistic missile like Kinzhal, but that seems doubtful as Kinzhal is still very new itself and adding a bit more range to an already forward deployable system would have questionable value. Also, the profile of this weapon looks more like a space-launch asset than anything else.

There is also the possibility that this system is an anti-ship ballistic missile, which have major tactical and strategic merits. China is developing an air-launched version of its own DF-21D as part of its grand anti-access strategy aimed at keeping the U.S. Navy's carrier strike groups at bay. But Kinzhal is already supposed to either have that capability or it is slated to acquire it sometime in the future. Developing a completely separate weapon for that role alone seems wasteful when an existing system can be adapted for it.

The latest video showing a Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile test:

Another possibility is that this system is used to deploy an air-launched hypersonic boost-glide vehicle. But that speculation comes from an established interest in such a capability, not from any evidence in the photo, aside from maybe the thickness of the nose cone area.

We can't stress enough, that above all else, being able to swat-down force multiplying American satellites in low-earth orbit with the inherent flexibility and surprise of an aerial launch platform would be very valuable to Russian forces, regardless of the consequences to the future habitability of low-earth orbit. On the other hand, being able to rapidly and unpredictably put up small satellites, especially to replace ones that are lost in battle, is also become increasingly important due to the growing proliferation of anti-satellite weaponry. It's even possible that one system could be adapted for both roles. This could be just such a system.

We will report back to you as soon as we find out more about this mysterious missile and the Foxhound that carries it.

Tyler's note: This is the first time that talented photographer and aerospace journalist Ivan Voukadinov worked directly with me in developing and writing a story, but he has assisted me in the background on some very high-profile articles that I have posted here and on my previous two sites in the in past. He is unbelievably knowledgeable about Russian aviation subjects. Hopefully, we will see more of him here in the future, but before then here's a little more about Ivan:

"I live in Chicago but I'm originally from Bulgaria. I've been doing aviation journalism and photography for about a decade now. I'm interested in all aviation but I tend to focus more on Russian and Eastern Bloc aviation topics, both current and historical."

Also, I want to give a huge thanks to ShipSash for sharing his photo with us. You can see more of his awesome shots here.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

Elon Musk Settles With SEC, Will Resign as Tesla Board Chairman and Pay $20 Million Fine

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has accepted a no-guilt settlement with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission to avoid a court battle over a complaint filed last week which alleges securities fraud. As a result, Musk will resign his position as Tesla's board chairman and pay a fine of $20 million.

Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, Musk must resign as "Chair of the Board of Directors of Tesla" within 45 days of the agreement. This resignation will remain mandatory for a minimum of three years, which the SEC may extend should it see fit. After that term, he is free to seek re-election to the board.

Musk's $20 million settlement must be paid by him within 14 days of the judgment being accepted. Tesla itself must also pay an additional $20 million fine for failing to censor Musk's tweet.

Interestingly, a clause is entered into the agreement that states Musk must follow any communication procedures implemented by Tesla, specifically related to posts on Twitter. This may lead to an intriguing development where, should the board require it, Musk must seek approval before posting Tesla-related information on Twitter.

Last Thursday, Musk reportedly redacted his acceptance of the settlement at the last minute, forcing the SEC's hand to file suit against the CEO over his tweet stating that he had secured funding to take Tesla private at $420 per share. Under the no-guilt agreement, Musk does not admit to fault, but must also not publicly issue a statement denying fault under the premise of factual basis.

“The total package of remedies and relief announced today are specifically designed to address the misconduct at issue by strengthening Tesla’s corporate governance and oversight to protect investors,” Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, said in a statement to the Washington Post.

Tesla and the SEC did not respond to The Drive's request for comment on this matter.