Federated Auto Parts 400 - Qualifying

Vickers, Bowyer top Saturday morning Sprint Cup practice speed charts, Danica Patrick 6th-fastest

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Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer were fastest in Saturday morning’s first of two Sprint Cup practice sessions for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Toyota-powered Vickers and Bowyer were the only drivers to eclipse 188 mph.

Vickers topped the speed charts with a very stout 188.950 mph effort, followed by Bowyer at 188.350 mph.

Brad Keselowski, who starts on the outside pole for Sunday’s race alongside pole sitter and Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano (who was 18th fastest), was third fastest at 187.976 mph, followed by Jimmie Johnson (187.656) and Jamie McMurray (186.656).

One of the biggest surprises was Danica Patrick, who was sixth-fastest at 187.630 mph. Patrick was the fastest of the four Stewart-Haas drivers, with Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick the next fastest in the SHR stable, in 15th at 186.213 mph.

Right behind Patrick with the seventh-fastest speed was rookie Kyle Larson at 187.559 mph.

Sprint Cup Series points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 12th fastest at 186.767 mph.

The final Happy Hour practice takes place at 2:30 to 3:30 pm ET this afternoon.

Here’s Saturday morning’s speed chart:

1. Brian Vickers, 188.950

2. Clint Bowyer, 188.350

3. Brad Keselowski, 187.976

4. Jimmie Johnson, 187.741

5. Jamie McMurray, 187.656

6. Danica Patrick, 187.630

7. Kyle Larson, 187.559

8. Kasey Kahne, 187.448

9. Kyle Busch, 186.981

10. Carl Edwards, 186.981

11. Ryan Newman, 186.858

12. Dale Earnahrdt Jr., 186.767

13. Martin Truex Jr., 186.767

14. Paul Menard, 186.625

15. Kevin Harvick, 186.213

16. Austin Dillon, 186.213

17. Aric Almirola, 186.162

18. Joey Logano, 185.963

19. Greg Biffle, 185.906

20. David Ragan, 185.771

21. Kurt Busch, 185.765

22. AJ Allmendinger, 185.714

23. Jeff Gordon, 185.440

24. Marcos Ambrose, 185.280

25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 185.147

26. Matt Kenseth, 185.128

27. Denny Hamlin, 185.071

28. Casey Mears, 184.748

29. Jeff Burton, 184.704

30. Michael McDowell, 184.584

31. Tony Stewart, 184.540

32. Cole Whitt, 184.231

33. David Gilliland, 184.156

34. Justin Allgaier, 184.024

35. Trevor Bayne, 183.730

36. Parker Kligerman, 183.299

37. Josh Wise, 183.243

38. Ryan Truex, 183.156

39. Alex Bowman, 182.840

40. Travis Kvapil, 182.667

41. Reed Sorenson, 182.377

42. Michael Annett, 182.322

43. Timmy Hill, 180.886

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Esteban Ocon secures Mercedes DTM seat for 2016

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Sunday 29 November 2015.
Esteban Ocon (FRA, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C8733
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2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.

Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.

The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.

“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.

“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.

“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.

“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”

Trident completes 2016 GP2 line-up with Armand

2015 GP2 Series Test 3.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 4 December 2015.
Philo Armand (INA, Status Grand Prix).
Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _L0U4261
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Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.

Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.

Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.

“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.

The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.

Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.

Marchionne calls for Alfa Romeo to consider F1 entry

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  The Alfa Romeo 4C on display at the Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood Alfa Romeo Ride and Drive luncheon at The Polsky Residence on February 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
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Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.

Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.

Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.

“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.

Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.

“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.

“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”

Grosjean unveils new helmet design for first F1 season with Haas

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Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.

Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.

Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.

In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.

Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.