Kyle Larson to make Cup debut in Charlotte

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It was only a matter of time before Kyle Larson would make his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start.

Larson, who will replace Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in 2014, will drive the No. 51 Target Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing at Charlotte and Martinsville in a few weeks. Larson does not have the opportunity to race in the No. 42 this year as Montoya is committed to the team for the rest of the season.

Larson currently drives for Turner Scott Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and the move is a natural one given Harry Scott Jr. has taken over operations of James Finch’s team.

“There’s an opportunity here, and he’s a great driver, and he’s obviously the No. 1 pick as said by many other people besides myself,” Chip Ganassi said of Larson when he announced the prodigious 21-year-old as Montoya’s replacement. “Nobody deserves a shot more than he does.”

Justin Allgaier had been announced for Charlotte and Talladega originally, so this changes one of those two planned starts.

Larson is the latest driver in the revolving door of the No. 51, following Allgaier, AJ Allmendinger, Mike Bliss, Austin Dillon, Brendan Gaughan, Owen Kelly, Bobby Labonte, Regan Smith, Ryan Truex and Jacques Villeneuve.

Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.