Edwards captures Texas NASCAR pole

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Carl Edwards became the 10th different pole winner in the last 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races with the pole for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. Edwards seeks his fourth win at Texas and third of the season for Roush Fenway Racing.

Edwards was one of the last cars to run and despite getting loose briefly through Turns 1 and 2, Edwards corrected and powered through Turns 3 and 4 to set the pole. His lap was 196.114 mph and 27.535 seconds around the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.

“That’s Jimmy Fennig, all guys at the shop, and the engine department right there,” Edwards admitted to ESPN. “I’ve wanted to get the pole so bad. Turns 1 and 2 weren’t that good, I had a ton of grip but a huge wiggle in the sun. Everyone was getting beat in 3 and 4 and we stuck there. With Brad and I on the front row, that’s big for Ford.”

The aforementioned Brad is Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski, second on the day in one of his final races holding the title of defending champion. Keselowski said after his own run that “the 99 is the strongest bullet left,” and the statement proved prophetic when Edwards set his flier.

Jimmie Johnson starts third and Matt Kenseth sixth. The pair are tied for the points lead heading into the final three weeks. Paul Menard in fourth and Kyle Busch in fifth split the two championship rivals.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top 10.

Parker Kligerman clocked in 23rd for his first Cup start for Swan Racing. JJ Yeley had a spin in the session but didn’t hit anything; he’ll start shotgun on the 43-car field.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”