Confidence grows for re-energized Jeff Gordon, No. 24 team

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Jeff Gordon wanted to prove that he and his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports squad were worthy of the 13th Chase for the Sprint Cup spot bestowed upon them by NASCAR after the race manipulation scandal last month at Richmond International Raceway.

So far, they’re doing just that. The four-time Sprint Cup champion and his group have turned in two Top-5s and three Top-10s in the first four Chase races and their lowest post-season finish so far has been a 15th-place showing at New Hampshire.

Inconsistency had plagued the 24 camp during the regular season, but there’s no doubt they’re riding a wave right now – and it’s showing in Gordon’s attitude, which has changed considerably as the summer has given way to fall.

“The reason that I’m like this now is because we never gave up,” Gordon said Thursday after claiming pole position for tonight’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “That is why I give this team a lot of credit they really stepped up. Our set-ups are just suiting my driving style and the things that I like to feel in the car.

“The cars are just giving me good feedback and it’s because they work so hard through the summer to make improvements. Watching what other teams are doing, learning from our teammates as well as just applying ourselves in the things that we are doing. Each week now, I’m just building that confidence because those cars are giving me that confidence.”

Gordon hasn’t been strong lately at Charlotte. He hasn’t won on the 1.5-mile oval since 2007, and has only garnered one Top-10 finish in his last six starts there.

But given his recent burst of momentum, he seems set to continue serving as a key player in the 2013 championship tonight – especially considering his start up front, which should help him in the all-important fight for track position.

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.