Keselowski, Logano make Penske front row for Phoenix

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The Team Penske tandem of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will lead the Sprint Cup field to the green flag on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway after taking the top two spots in the second and final round of knock-out qualifying.

Keselowski posted a lap of 25.828 seconds in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, narrowly nipping Logano’s best lap of 25.850 seconds. Logano was fastest in Round One, which saw the 12 fastest drivers go into the ten-minute final round (those 12 competitors had their Round One times reset).

“I’m really proud of Team Penske – they put a lot of effort into being the best we can here after a long 2013 and I think we did a heck of a job,” Keselowski told Motor Racing Network afterwards.

“Both cars 1-2? That’s a heck of an effort and something I’m very proud of for both Joey and the 22 team and obviously my team here on the 2 car…That’s a good start, now we’ve got to make the most of it come Sunday.”

Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson will roll off from Row 2, followed by Daytona 500 champion and points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle in Row 3.

Rookie Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch are in Row 4, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch are in Row 5, and Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin are in Row 6.

The session featured one incident in Round One involving Justin Allgaier, who crashed in Turn 3.

“I had a good lap going there and unfortunately, I got down into [Turn] 3 and it started to get away,” the Sprint Cup rookie told Fox. “I tried to save it as much as I could but unfortunately here at Phoenix, there’s not a whole lot of room to get out of trouble. It was my mistake – I was trying to get too much from that lap there.”

Josh Wise, Landon Cassill, and Dave Blaney failed to make the race.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.