Bank of America 500 - Practice

Kahne leads most laps en route to runner-up finish

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Kasey Kahne led a race-high 138 laps tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway but was unable to hold off eventual winner Brad Keselowski in the closing laps and had to settle for a second-place result.

However, the finish serves as the best by far for Kahne and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Kahne opened the post-season with a 12th place finish at Chicagoland, but stumbled with a 37th place finish at New Hampshire after crashing early on, and then put up finishes of 13th and 15th at Dover and Kansas.

You had to figure Kahne was due for a good result and that Charlotte would be a pick-me-up of sorts considering his strong history at the 1.5-mile oval (four wins, nine Top-5s). After tonight’s race, Kahne said he wasn’t sure why CMS seems to bring out the best in his abilities.

“I wish I knew how to get my car to drive like it does here at other places,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the tire or the track itself, what it is. But we just always run pretty good here. It’s a confidence, [it] kind of always gives us confidence when we leave here, so it’s nice.”

Kahne first took the lead at the Lap 28 restart, but lost it shortly afterwards to teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. However, he got it back at Lap 44 and would keep it until his first green flag stop 30 laps later.

Once he returned to the front, he proceeded to lead his 1,000th career lap at Charlotte and would continue to run at the head of the field. Jimmie Johnson took the lead from him off a restart at Lap 178, but Kahne remained in striking distance as the race headed for its final conclusion.

Kahne had been told to start saving fuel around 100 laps to go, but the debris caution with 28 laps to go solved that problem for him. Running second at the time, Kahne took two tires and proceeded to take the lead. However, while he was able to clear Jeff Gordon on the final restart of the night, his car didn’t seem to react well later on.

“I thought I did pretty good, but as soon as I got to Turn 1, my left side was a little bit ‑ I could feel they weren’t working quite as well,” Kahne said. “They were just rough, kind of bouncing a little bit, so I knew I was in trouble at that point.”

With 11 laps remaining, Keselowski and Kahne had a dice for the lead and the win. Initially, Kahne turned back Keselowski’s attempt but with nine to go, the 2012 Cup champion was able to clear him off Turn 2.

“It was just about racing hard,” Kahne said. “He drove it into Turn 3 way far to clear me, and I got back under him, so it was a great battle. I had a good time racing with him. We came out on the wrong side of it.”

Formula E: Team Aguri confirms da Costa for second season

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Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed for a second season with Team Aguri for the 2015-2016 FIA Formula E Championship, which begins later this month in Beijing.

He won once this past year at Buenos Aires and finished eighth in the points despite missing both the season opener and season finale due to clashes with his DTM schedule.

Said the 24-year-old Portuguese driver, “I am really happy to continue with Team Aguri and Formula E for season two. This championship is earning its respect in the world of motorsport and I am honoured to be involved. Regarding the season, I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Team Aguri team principal Mark Preston added, “It is a great pleasure to have Antonio continuing with the team for season two of Formula E. Antonio brought us our maiden win in Buenos Aires and helped to develop the team from scratch, he will continue to build on that success for season two and beyond.”

The team that bares the name of ex-Formula 1 driver and team owner Aguri Suzuki has not yet confirmed its second driver, which is the last outstanding seat to be filled on the Formula E grid.

Amlin, which had partnered with Aguri last year, is now present with the Andretti Formula E team and its drivers, Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro.

Hulkenberg leads shorter than normal FP1 in Russia

Nico Hulkenberg
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Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg posted a 1:44.355 lap of the of the Sochi Autodrom to lead a fairly abnormal, and shorter than usual, first free practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg posted the time to conclude the usual 90-minute session, to pip Nico Rosberg at 1:44.407 on his final lap. The usual 90-minute session was shortened due to a track delay for cleanup of diesel fuel on course.

Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five.

While the clock started on time for the full 90-minute session, track activity was halted for the opening 30 minutes to clean up diesel spillage on the track at Turn 8.

It left teams and drivers with just a 60-minute first free practice to tackle the Sochi Autodrom, but did not push the session later or affect the timetable for the rest of the day. However, with a damp if not entirely wet track, it made things difficult in FP1.

The delay also meant that teams weren’t able to use an extra set of Pirellis handed out at the start of FP1. Supersofts can be used for the first time in FP2.

During the delay, it did offer a chance for sarcasm, and Manor seized the opportunity following a comment from McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso noting that even with Mercedes engines next year, Manor wouldn’t move ahead of them.

NBC’s Will Buxton explained the track surface dilemma drivers would face in this session.

With just under one hour to go in the session, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was the first to head out on course, leading several others. Ericsson made the first laps of the weekend at the track where he made his final start for Caterham a year ago.

Both Williams drivers went on course on Pirelli’s wet weather tires for their installation laps. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg tried the intermediates, and Alonso was first on course in slicks.

No official times were registered until there were less than 40 minutes remaining in the session, with Alonso registering a 2:00.736 time, while putting down a bevy of sparks. He quickly lowered the mark to 1:56.327, and 1:53.854 after that. Ericsson was next in at a 1:58.926, although dropped into the 1:54 range not long after.

Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button clocked in at 1:50.920 with just under 20 minutes remaining and for the first time this year, we could say we had a McLaren Honda 1-2 on track, albeit under abnormal circumstances.

The trsck got busy in the final 15 minutes, with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen posting a 1:50.870 to lead before Alonso clocked in a 1:49.240.

A 1:47.959 from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, then a 1:45.987 from Hulkenberg followed in the final 10 minutes as times firmly began to drop. Vettel got down to a 1:45.491 shortly thereafter, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton came up two tenths shy of the mark at a 1:45.691.

Ericsson reported a power cut near the end of the session down at Sauber but otherwise there were no issues through the field, other than a handful of spins, including one from Hamilton on his final flier at the second-to-last corner.

FP2 begins from 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.