Jimmie Johnson: No weakness in title rival Matt Kenseth

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With three races remaining in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, championship co-leader Jimmie Johnson fully expects to see the man he shares the top of the standings with battling him all the way to the finish.

Matt Kenseth pulled into a tie with Johnson last weekend with a runner-up result at Martinsville Speedway (Kenseth holds the tiebreaker over Johnson with a 7-5 advantage in 2013 wins), and they’ll both be near each other at the start of Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway; Johnson is set to roll off third, Kenseth from sixth.

And at this late stage of NASCAR’s post-season stretch, Johnson doesn’t see a proverbial chink in the armor for Kenseth and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team.

“No – I mean at this point, with three races left, I can’t say that there really is [a weakness],” Johnson said on Friday after qualifying. “I’m not planning on it. I didn’t have a lot of faith built in Martinsville being a weak track for him because he ran so good there in the spring. It certainly wouldn’t hurt my feelings if he ran 15th all day [laughs] but I knew that wouldn’t be the case early on in the event and he had a strong race.

“So, I don’t think there’s a weakness for either team right now. We’re probably going to finish by each other. If somebody has a mistake, I think that will be the deciding factor. But other than that, I think we’re going to run right around each other for these next three races.”

Both Johnson and Kenseth tested last week at TMS, and with a lot of work taken care of then, Johnson focused more on qualifying runs during today’s single practice session.

That means tomorrow’s practice runs will be about fine-tuning the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for what should be a grueling battle on Sunday.

“The 20 [Kenseth] had a tire issue when we were here so we’ll try to validate a longer run and make sure there are no issues,” Johnson said of his plans for Saturday. “So, it’s very small things, to be honest. And just to get a temperature on the track and how its grip level is and what adjustment might work.

“There will be pretty fine adjustments tomorrow. We won’t be changing A-frames and springs and all that kind of stuff. It’ll be pretty minor. The engine shop would love us not to run.”

Formula One: Recapping the past week’s news

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While the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is still two months away from beginning its 2018 season, this past week did bring about news items that filled out the 2018 grid and shed some light on individual team and car launches as the season-opening Australian Grand Prix draws closer.

Below is a recap of F1 news from this past week:

Williams Signs Sirotkin for 2018 Drive, Names Kubica as Reserve Driver

The saga of the second seat at Williams Martini Racing was finally resolved early on in the week, with former Renault Sport F1 Team test driver Sergey Sirotkin officially confirmed as a teammate to the incumbent Lance Stroll in 2018.

The announcement concluded months of speculation that saw multiple drivers test for the team in an auditioning capacity. Most notably, Robert Kubica looked to be a main contender for the seat before Sirotkin emerged as the favorite.

However, Kubica, who has not raced in Formula 1 since a devastating rally accident in 2011 left him with brutal injuries to his right arm, was named as a reserve and development driver for the team.

This announcement also completes the 2018 Formula 1 driver lineup, with all 11 teams having their seats now filled. Among those who were left without F1 drives are Paul Di Resta, who drove for Williams at the Hungarian Grand Prix in relief of Felipe Massa and even tested with them during the Winter months, and Antonio Giovinazzi, who filled in for Pascal Wehrlein at the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix.

Former Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also without a race seat for 2018, but did sign on with Scuderia Ferrari as a development driver.

Mercedes, McLaren Reveal Dates for Their 2018 Car Launches

While most teams have not yet released dates for when their 2018 cars will be publicly launched, three notables have.

Mercedes AMG Petronas will introduce its 2018 challenger on February 22nd, the same day Ferrari is doing so, while McLaren will unveil its car one day later on the 23rd.

Testing will commence on February 26th at Circuit de Catalunya.

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