Dale Jr. claims Sprint Cup pole for Dover

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With his championship hopes seemingly all but extinguished, Chase contender Dale Earnhardt Jr. is setting his sights on winning races and letting the chips fall where they may.

The son of the Intimidator bagged his second Sprint Cup pole of 2013 earlier today at Dover International Speedway with a track-record lap of 161.522 miles per hour around the concrete “Monster Mile.”

Earnhardt finished sixth last weekend at New Hampshire, but still lost ground to Chase leader and good friend Matt Kenseth and now sits 62 points off the pace with eight races remaining in the season. But he maintains that fretting over the points picture is not of concern to him.

“We are just going to show up and try to run hard and be smart,” Earnhardt said Friday after his pole run. “If we can unload great cars like this it makes that all easier.

“We are going to try to win some races before the year is out. I would be really disappointed if we don’t win a race this season, because I think we are a better team than we were last year. I felt we’ve came so close so many times so we would just like to get out there and get some trophies. The points will take care of themselves when you are doing that.”

Meanwhile, Kenseth is once again seemingly in strong position this weekend after qualifying second with a lap at 161.805 miles per hour. The 2003 Cup champion, who has had a blazing start to the Chase with back-to-back wins at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, seemingly blamed himself for missing out on pole position for Sunday.

“You feel like, especially with me driving the car, we don’t get that many chances at the pole so I hate that we missed it by that little bit,” said Kenseth, who finished 40th this past summer at Dover due to an engine failure. “I probably steered [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliff] wrong a little bit and warmed up a little and just got too free.”

Four other Chasers will be among the Top 10 of the AAA 400 grid. Row 2 features Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards, while Jimmie Johnson starts eighth and Kurt Busch will start ninth. Non-Chase contenders in this part of the grid are Aric Almirola and Brad Keselowski in Row 3, Jamie McMurray in seventh, and Martin Truex Jr. in 10th.

Other Chasers qualified as follows: Joey Logano in 11th, Kevin Harvick in 12th, Kyle Busch in 14th, Jeff Gordon in 16th, Greg Biffle in 19th, Kasey Kahne in 20th and Clint Bowyer in 23rd.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.