Johnson to pit crew: “Be fearless” at Pocono

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Jimmie Johnson’s chance to become the first five-time winner of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway went away on his final stop, which ran long and caused him to lose the lead – and eventually, the race – to Ryan Newman.

But Johnson refused to throw his Hendrick Motorsports pit crew under the bus. Instead, he gathered them all together after the race and told them not to hold back despite the costly error at Indy.

“I talked to the guys [last] Sunday night and just asked them to enjoy the pain, let it sit there, let it hurt, let it bother you,” Johnson said on Friday at Pocono Raceway, where he’ll start from the pole in tomorrow’s GoBowling.com 400. “But Monday morning, when they started hitting lugnuts and jacking the car and going through their routine that it was out of their mind.

“I asked them also to be fearless when they hopped off the wall this weekend and just do their jobs. The worst thing any of us can do that have to go out and perform is to carry something in the back of your mind mentally. That will do more damage than you can ever imagine. We had some great conversations Sunday evening.”

For Johnson and the No. 48 team, recording a second career sweep at Pocono would go a long way toward erasing bad memories from the Brickyard. The five-time Sprint Cup champion succeeded in the first half of the battle yesterday with a record run in qualifying that earned him his second pole of the year.

Considering that he won earlier this summer at Pocono, it would appear that things are looking up once more for Johnson, who holds a whopping 75-point lead in the championship. He knows that it’ll all go away when the Chase begins, but feels that additional wins now will further underline how much he and his team will be a threat this fall.

“There is nothing negative to come from the point’s lead and having a big one,” he said. “I think race wins send a really strong message too, especially late in the regular season. If we could win some races, that would be another very helpful thing for the No. 48 team.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.