Sprint Cup qualifying at Talladega rained out

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Steady rains at Talladega Superspeedway have scratched today’s Sprint Cup qualifying session for the Aaron’s 499. NASCAR made the call after every car had passed technical inspection prior to the session.

As a result, the teams will line up for tomorrow’s race according to speeds posted in the weekend’s first practice. That means Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. will make up the front row; Edwards led that practice with a lap at 199.675 miles per hour in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. He will not receive Pole Award honors, but will start P1 for the first time since the 2012 Daytona 500.

Row 2 will feature Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano, while Row 3 will be filled by Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth. Denny Hamlin, who is expected to hand over his car to Brian Vickers during the first caution period as he continues to heal from the compression fracture in his back, starts seventh, with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne completing the Top 10.

Elliott Sadler, driving a fourth Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, will be unable to make the field for the Cup race as a result of the cancellation.

The rains may also have an impact on whether or not today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event at ‘Dega will be run. Bob Pockrass of The Sporting News has reported that, according to NNS director Wayne Auton, the Aaron’s 312 would be moved to Sunday after the Cup race if a rainout occurs. In addition, Sunday’s forecast for Talladega carries at least a 60 percent chance of rain.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”