Ty Dillon earns first Nationwide pole, will pace today’s Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas

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Ty Dillon will pace the field in this afternoon’s 2014 Boyd Gaming 300 Nationwide Series race, having earned his first career NNS pole Saturday morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Dillon was the only driver over 182 mph, covering the 1.5-mile progressively-banked track with a top speed of 182.278 mph, a LVMS NNS track record.

“I hope the fans really enjoy this new qualifying system, because it’s exciting for us,” Dillon said. “Everything’s been going real good, our car’s been real fast, just real excited for our future and to get this race going.”

Brad Keselowski was second-fastest at 181.702 mph, followed by Sprint Cup Series points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. at third-fastest with a speed of 181.147 mph.

Here’s how the field stacks up:

Row 1

Ty Dillon, 182.278 mph

Brad Keselowski, 181.702

Row 2

Dale Earnhardt Jr., 181.147

Kyle Larson, 180.880

Row 3

Brian Scott, 180.699

Matt Kenseth, 180.451

Row 4

Kyle Busch, 180.403

Dylan Kwasniewski, 180.168

Row 5

Chase Elliott, 180.000

Regan Smith, 179.444

Row 6

Matt Crafton, 178.838

Chris Buescher, 178.684

Row 7

Elliott Sadler, 179.069

James Buescher, 179.004

Row 8

Ryan Reed, 178.849

Brendan Gaughan, 178.826

Row 9

Trevor Bayne, 178.336

Blake Koch, 178.288

Row 10

David Ragan, 177.602

Mike Bliss, 177.328

Row 11

Dakoda Armstrong, 177.247

Ryan Sieg, 175.907

Row 12

Josh Wise, 175.661

Landon Cassill, 175.268

Row 13

JJ Yeley, 175.143

Jamie Dick, 174.582

Row 14

Tanner Berryhill, 174.289

Mike Wallace, 174.059

Row 15

Jeremy Clements, 173.963

Eric McClure, 173.477

Row 16

Jeffrey Earnhardt, 173.455

Jeff Green, 173.371

Row 17

Kevin Lepage, 172.513

Tommy Joe Martins, 172.304

Row 18

Derrike Cope, 170.821

Joe Gase, 170.756

Row 19

Daryl Harr, 170.127

Ryan Ellis, 169.630

Row 20

Robert Richardson, 167.473

Matt DiBenedetto, 171.467

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F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.