Denny Hamlin goes to rear; Martin paces final practice

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Denny Hamlin will have to start from the back of the field in Sunday’s Sprint Cup event at Phoenix International Raceway.

Hamlin, who is the defending champion of the Phoenix spring race, and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team elected to change the engine on his Toyota Camry. He had qualified eighth for tomorrow’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k.

SPEED Channel’s Bob Dillner tweeted word from Toyota Racing Development that Hamlin had felt a vibration during today’s first practice session and that it had returned after efforts to fix the problem.

Hamlin’s issues continues what has been a problematic couple of weeks for Toyota motors.

TRD engines for Hamlin’s two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, suffered terminal issues during last Sunday’s Daytona 500. Also, Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Michael Waltrip and Martin Truex Jr. were forced to nurse their cars home at Daytona due to problems with their own TRD powerplants.

Following the engine change, Hamlin posted the 15th-fastest lap of Sprint Cup final practice, which was paced by polesitter Mark Martin. Martin, who also led this morning’s first practice session, posted a hot lap of 134.248 miles per hour in his No. 55 MWR Camry and appears to have the fastest ride this weekend at PIR.

Three of the top 5 times in final practice were posted by Toyota drivers: Martin at the top, then Kyle Busch with the second-fastest lap (133.904 mph), and Clint Bowyer with the fifth-fastest lap (133.526 mph). Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards were third and fourth-quickest, respectively.

Formula One: Recapping the past week’s news

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While the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is still two months away from beginning its 2018 season, this past week did bring about news items that filled out the 2018 grid and shed some light on individual team and car launches as the season-opening Australian Grand Prix draws closer.

Below is a recap of F1 news from this past week:

Williams Signs Sirotkin for 2018 Drive, Names Kubica as Reserve Driver

The saga of the second seat at Williams Martini Racing was finally resolved early on in the week, with former Renault Sport F1 Team test driver Sergey Sirotkin officially confirmed as a teammate to the incumbent Lance Stroll in 2018.

The announcement concluded months of speculation that saw multiple drivers test for the team in an auditioning capacity. Most notably, Robert Kubica looked to be a main contender for the seat before Sirotkin emerged as the favorite.

However, Kubica, who has not raced in Formula 1 since a devastating rally accident in 2011 left him with brutal injuries to his right arm, was named as a reserve and development driver for the team.

This announcement also completes the 2018 Formula 1 driver lineup, with all 11 teams having their seats now filled. Among those who were left without F1 drives are Paul Di Resta, who drove for Williams at the Hungarian Grand Prix in relief of Felipe Massa and even tested with them during the Winter months, and Antonio Giovinazzi, who filled in for Pascal Wehrlein at the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix.

Former Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also without a race seat for 2018, but did sign on with Scuderia Ferrari as a development driver.

Mercedes, McLaren Reveal Dates for Their 2018 Car Launches

While most teams have not yet released dates for when their 2018 cars will be publicly launched, three notables have.

Mercedes AMG Petronas will introduce its 2018 challenger on February 22nd, the same day Ferrari is doing so, while McLaren will unveil its car one day later on the 23rd.

Testing will commence on February 26th at Circuit de Catalunya.

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