Jeff Gordon caps nice week with Top-5 finish

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Two Top-5 finishes to start the season and setting the Internet ablaze once more in between. This week was a pretty good one for Jeff Gordon.

The four-time Sprint Cup champion ran with the leaders throughout Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway before finishing fifth, a nice follow-up performance after a fourth-place result at the Daytona 500.

And of course, between those two solid outings, he and sponsor Pepsi released “Test Drive 2,” in which Gordon (disguised as an ex-con cab driver) took Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski hostage as part of a fake police chase.

The full-length video of the prank has already cruised past 12 million views on YouTube; for comparison’s sake, the original “Test Drive” prank that Gordon and Pepsi pulled off last year has over 41 million views.

“What a week it has been for this No. 24 team,” he said yesterday. “From that top-five in Daytona, the Pepsi Max ‘Test Drive 2’ and then here we are with another top-five here at Phoenix. Great way to start the season.”

While winner Kevin Harvick quickly gained notice for his charge to the front in the early laps, Gordon was also doing the same. Starting 17th, he moved into the Top 10 by Lap 17 of 312.

Late in the race, Gordon pitted under the green flag with 71 laps to go but was caught out a few laps later by a caution. A subsequent wave-around put him back on the lead lap but stuck in traffic within the Top 15.

But Gordon began to work his way back up and was in the Top 10 with 21 laps remaining. He would peel off three more spots before the final caution of the day and then made his way to P5 shortly after the last restart with nine laps to go.

“You know when Ryan Newman is in front of you on a restart, it’s going to get interesting,” Gordon said. “I didn’t know if it was going to get interesting because me and him were side-by-side or because he got side-by-side with somebody else. We were able to capitalize on it.”

Usain Bolt, Bill Clinton among headline guests for USGP at COTA

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The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.

As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.

Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.

Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.

Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.

Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.

One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.