Mark Martin leads “Happy Hour” at Fontana

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Mark Martin led a Toyota sweep of the top three positions during final practice for tomorrow’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, posting a top lap at 183.351 mph in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Camry. Martin, who ran 30 laps in “Happy Hour” and is slated to start ninth in the 200-lap race for the Sprint Cup Series, came out ahead of MWR teammate Clint Bowyer (182.945) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth (182.839).

Jimmie Johnson was the fastest Chevrolet driver in the session, going fourth-quickest (182.417). Current Cup standings leader Brad Keselowski was fifth-quickest (182.375) to lead the Ford contingent.

Bristol winner Kasey Kahne was P6 in the practice, with A.J. Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya rounding out the Top 10. Pole sitter Denny Hamlin was 11th-quickest.

While Kenseth brought Toyota their 50th Sprint Cup win at Las Vegas, he and the rest of the Toyota gang face some pressure this weekend at Fontana. Toyota’s American operations are based in Torrance, Calif., a hour or so west of Auto Club Speedway. In addition, Toyota Racing Development (which provides engines for MWR and JGR) makes Orange County home.

The manufacturer has won eight consecutive Nationwide Series events at ACS going into this weekend and also has a 2001 Champ Car win there thanks to Cristiano da Matta, but they’ve never won a Sprint Cup race at its “home” track.

Still, Bowyer is confident that a victory in SoCal is coming.

“I think this is a track that Toyota is going to win at soon,” Bowyer told NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello.  “Our speeds are fast with our Toyotas on these big race tracks.

“A Toyota won at the only mile-and-a-half we’ve had so far — that speed will carry over, I believe, on this race track. There’s several of us that run well here as teams and drivers and our equipment is certainly second to none, so we’ll be just fine.”

Red Bull Air Race: Yoshi Muroya joins Sato as Japanese champs at Indy

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool
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Takuma Sato isn’t the only major Japanese athlete to take home top honors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. Countryman Yoshihide Muroya joined him in that on Sunday after winning Red Bull Air Race at IMS, and the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in the process.

Fittingly, the 101st Indianapolis 500 champion was there on site to join him in the celebration.

Muroya flew with a track-record run in the final and erased the four-point deficit to points leader Martin Sonka. The record run came after a disappointing qualifying effort of 11th in the 14-pilot field in the Master Class.

A day after the win, Muroya joined Sato in heading to Sato’s new Verizon IndyCar Series team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s, Indianapolis-based shop.

A few social posts from Muroya’s victory and the subsequent celebration are below.

CHECKING OUT EACH OTHER’S RIDES

ASTLES BREAKS THOUGH AS WELL

Muroya wasn’t alone among big winners at the Speedway. In the Challenger Class, Melanie Astles of France became the first woman to win a major race at IMS, and is the first female winner in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

Nine women have competed in the Indianapolis 500 (Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge) and Mann is the first woman to have been on the pole position at IMS, having done so for the Freedom 100 in 2010 in Indy Lights.

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool