NNS: Kyle Busch wins; Dillon up eight points on Hornish with one race left

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Kyle Busch earned his 12th NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the year today at Phoenix International Raceway, while Austin Dillon’s lead in the NNS driver’s championship is now at eight points over Sam Hornish Jr. going into next weekend’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Dillon finished third after losing the runner-up spot to Justin Allgaier on the final lap, while Hornish held off Sprint Cup title contender Matt Kenseth for fifth after battling an ill-handling car for much of the afternoon.

After the race, Dillon had a talk with Allgaier about their racing over the final laps but later demurred about the subject.

“They’re gonna race hard, it’s just in the nature of race car drivers,” Dillon said to ESPN. “I can’t get too upset. It’s just we’re running for a championship…I’m happy with our guys. They made a great call during the race and we kept up the track position all day.

“We had a great car, just not good enough to run with Kyle. It was a good day other than that.”

Meanwhile, Hornish was pleased to be within striking distance to Dillon with one race remaining.

“We had the opportunity to go down to [Homestead] and test, so I feel like we’ve got that on our side,” Hornish said. “I like Homestead, it’s been really good to me in the past. We’re gonna go out there and do it to the best of our ability.”

“Eight points is a [bigger deficit] than what we want, but it is manageable and we can go there and race hard. We lead a lap, lead the most laps, and we’re gonna have a shot a it.”

Busch’s win from the pole position also enabled the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing team to pull within four points of the No. 22 Penske Racing team in the NNS owner’s championship.

On Lap 143, contact between Brian Scott and Brad Keselowski (in the No. 22) sent the latter spinning into the Turn 3 wall. Keselowski recovered to finish 19th, keeping the owner’s title battle tight heading into South Florida.

“I hate it that he had trouble when both of us are racing well and racing potentially for a win together,” Busch said of Keselowski’s incident in Victory Lane. “But all in all, that’s just what this sport is all about – last week, we had bad luck and it wasn’t any of our doing. We just stayed out and got too loose on the long run, wore the right-rear out and spun into the fence. But the guys turned the car around, tried to salvage it as best we can and the 22 did that as well today.

“You go into next week, you push hard, you do the best you can, try to come out of there with as many points as you can, and see where it all tallies up in the end.”

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

Photo: Getty Images
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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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