Almirola, Johnson top Friday practices at Talladega

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One day after his crew chief, Todd Parrott, was suspended indefinitely for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy, Richard Petty Motorsports’ Aric Almirola flexed his No. 43 Ford Fusion’s muscle during Friday practice at Talladega Superspeedway.

Almirola (pictured) topped the first of two sessions with a blistering lap of 202.000 miles per hour around the massive 2.66-mile oval, which will play host to Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 500.

The RPM pilot was one of 11 drivers to bust the 200-mph barrier during the opening practice, which mostly involved drafting with other cars. His lap was just a touch quicker than Jeff Burton’s lap of 201.987 mph  in the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

The slowest of those drivers within the 200+ mph bracket was Jimmie Johnson, who then followed up by leading the day’s second session (which leaned more toward single-car runs rather than drafting work).

Johnson topped out at 195.936 mph in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and was followed by Front Row Motorsports’ Josh Wise (195.892 mph) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (195.333 mph).

Chase leader Matt Kenseth only logged eight laps in the second practice session, posting a lap good enough for 17th on the time sheets (191.252 mph). In Practice 1, Kenseth was 12th-fastest (199.492 mph).

Tomorrow afternoon, the Sprint Cup contingent will qualify for Sunday’s main event at 12:10 p.m. ET.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”