STP 400 pole sitter and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth may well be the man to beat on Sunday at Kansas Speedway after pacing final practice for the event with a lap of 188.712 miles per hour. Kenseth set a new track record on Friday, besting Carl Edwards late for P1 with a lap at 191.864 mph around the 1.5-mile oval.
Richard Petty Motorsports’ Aric Almirola (starting sixth) was second-fastest in “Happy Hour” at 188.554 mph, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (starting 19th) in third (188.541), Kurt Busch of Furniture Row Racing (starting 13th) in fourth (188.508), and Kasey Kahne of Hendrick Motorsports (starting 27th) in fifth (188.495).
Meanwhile, the Penske Racing duo of Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano continued to hunt for speed one week after their teams were nailed with suspensions and fines after having parts confiscated from their cars at Texas Motor Speedway. Both men qualified outside the Top 20 (Logano in 22nd, Keselowski in 33rd) and in “Happy Hour,” Keselowski and Logano could only muster the 26th and 32nd-fastest laps respectively.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.