Dale Jr. contends for win, finishes third at Pocono

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Stuck on the inside lane during the final restarts of Sunday’s Sprint Cup event at Pocono Raceway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. knew that he would have to play defense in order to come out with a solid finish.

Earnhardt had two chances on restarts with nine and then four laps to go to get past race winner and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, but was unable to make the low groove work for him and was forced to settle for third place after Greg Biffle got past.

“Being on the inside on the front row really ain’t the catbird seat,” said Earnhardt after his first Top-5 run since finishing second at Fontana in March. “The guys behind you can get good runs on you and put you three wide, and I was just really more in defense mode there. If I had a shot at Jimmie, by the time we got to [Turn] 1, that was a bonus.

“They could get around outside pretty good, Greg got in there and got around us. The outside was pretty nice in [Turns] 1 and 2 on restarts.”

Earnhardt felt that Johnson had the edge over everyone in Turn 3, which leads down the long frontstretch at Pocono and thus serves as the most critical of the turns at the “Tricky Triangle.”

“Jimmie beat us bad through Turn 3,” he said. “If he was stronger, that’s where I thought he was stronger than the field. We actually gained a little bit back through 1 and 2, but he was just flying through Turn 3 and down the front straightaway, and if you’re going to be good here, that’s where you’ve got to be good.”

Next up for Junior is Michigan International Speedway, where he won last June to snap a winless streak of 143 races.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”