Four first-timers attempt to make field for Sprint Cup race at Sonoma

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Saturday’s qualifying for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway should be v-e-r-y interesting.

Not only are there the usual ringers like Boris Said running on the 1.99-mile road course, four young drivers will be hoping to make their Sprint Cup Series debut.

Of course, that’s going to be easier said than done, as they all have to go through qualifying — and a new-style qualifying at that, with so-called group qualifying instead of single-car qualification attempts.

The four NASCAR newbies are the pictured Alex Kennedy (No. 19), Victor Gonzalez Jr. (No. 36), Paulie Harraka (No. 52) and last-minute entry Justin Marks, who will be driving the No. 7 for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

The last time a NASCAR race had three or more drivers making their Sprint Cup debut was at Martinsville Speedway in October 2004, when Travis Kvapil, Chad Chaffin and Mario Gosselin all qualifying and taking the green flag on race day.

For the record, Kvapil was the highest finisher in that race, winding up 21st. Chaffin didn’t fare as well, finishing 39th, and Gosselin wound up 41st.

Kubica, di Resta complete Williams F1 tests in Hungary

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Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta have both completed one-day tests for Williams in a 2014-spec Formula 1 car as part of the team’s evaluation for its 2018 line-up.

Williams is known to be considering a number of drivers to partner Lance Stroll at the team next year, including existing racer Felipe Massa.

Massa is thought to be going up against Kubica and di Resta for the 2018 drive, with the latter duo taking part in a private test at the Hungaroring in Budapest this week to aid the team’s evaluation.

After missing out on a 2018 Renault drive due to lingering questions about his physical condition six years after his rally accident, Kubica tested for Williams at Silverstone last week before getting back behind the wheel of the 2014 FW36 car in Hungary on Tuesday.

Kubica’s test was called “productive” by Williams, with the Pole handing duties over to Mercedes DTM racer di Resta on Wednesday.

Di Resta raced in F1 with Force India between 2010 and 2013 before returning to DTM, but made a surprise return at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix with Williams when Massa was taken ill. Di Resta impressed on short notice, putting himself in contention for a full-time return to F1 in 2018.

Williams has one of the few remaining seats on offer in F1 for 2018, with Massa’s future known to be in question after a quiet campaign thus far.

The Brazilian had been due to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Williams to recall him after Valtteri Bottas’ late move up to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.

Massa has made clear he would like to keep racing in F1 next year, but only if the deal is right and if Williams is determined to keep him.

While Massa, Kubica and di Resta appear to be the three leading contenders for the seat, Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe made clear in Japan there was a “large range” of drivers under consideration.

“You’ve probably seen a number of names that are floating around that we’re looking at, but honestly, the range is almost unlimited,” Lowe said.

“We will consider all ideas. We’re not in a super hurry to do so, and we’ll just make sure we land the best line-up we can.”