Food City 500 - Practice

Brad Keselowski earns 3rd straight front-row start

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After claiming his third consecutive front row start in the Sprint Cup Series, Las Vegas winner Brad Keselowski jokingly claimed there was “black magic” behind his early mastery of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying format.

It may sound as good an explanation as any to some in the Cup garage, as Keselowski narrowly missed knocking Denny Hamlin off the pole for Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway by three one-thousandths of a second.

The P2 performance goes along with his outside pole one week ago at Vegas and his pole position two weeks ago at Phoenix.

“I don’t think it’s complicated – if you’re fast, you’re fast,” Keselowski said to reporters at Bristol. “It shows through and I think Denny would say the same thing. He’s got a fast race car and when that’s the case, this qualifying format’s really easy.

“There’s no trickery to it. You just go out and put a lap down, and I think that’s been the case for us.”

His Team Penske compadre, Joey Logano, also continued his own solid work with the knockout format today. Logano will line up fourth on the outside of Row 2 and just behind Keselowski.

The Penske duo has emerged as Ford’s standard bearers early on in the 2014 season, and Keselowski chalked that up to multiple things such as an updated lower front nose piece on the Fusion.

“I think that was a pretty significant change for us – I think we can point to a half-dozen races where [the nose piece] had a severe negative effect on Ford performance,” he said. “So that’s probably the biggest one that stands out, just getting back to an even playing field with that front [nose piece]. But then again there’s more to it than that. There’s a lot of small things that add up.

“The Roush-Yates engine shop has made some gains this year, that’s something we’re proud of. And Team Penske has made some gains on the car side. I feel like we finished 2013 very strong and with those strong improvements, we’re even better for 2014.”

Keselowski also credited NASCAR for making changes to their qualifying format which allowed teams to use cool-down units on pit road instead of having drivers run potentially dangerous slow laps to cool engines.

“That rule change has just made qualifying even better,” he said. “It’s removed danger and replaced it with opportunity, which I think is a positive. I’m very happy with that rule as it stands right now.

“It doesn’t matter what I say. We qualified well and everyone’s gonna say, ‘Of course you’re happy with it!’ But I think that was for the betterment of the sport, certainly…Being able to go out there and make multiple runs is now a lot more plausible because of that scenario. That’s something that rewards the fans and the teams as well.”

Here are your Russian Grand Prix air times on NBCSN, Live Extra

Photo: NBC
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The Russian Grand Prix airs this weekend on NBCSN, marking the second time for Formula 1 to hit the streets of Sochi after its debut at the new track last year.

Here’s your TV times breakdown:


Formula One returns to Sochi for its second race in Russia in as many years, following the first running of the Russian Grand Prix in a century last year. Mercedes enjoyed success at last year’s Russian GP, as Lewis Hamilton led Mercedes to a 1-2 finish and the team clinched its first-ever constructors’ championship. Mercedes is on the brink of winning its second straight constructors’ championship, and needs to outscore Ferrari by just three points this weekend in Sochi to secure the title.

Hamilton dominated the most recent race on the F1 calendar, the Japanese Grand Prix on Sept. 27, as he led all 53 laps to claim his eighth win of the 2015 campaign. Hamilton leads teammate Nico Rosberg by 48 points with just five races remaining in the season.

Live coverage from the Sochi Autodrom begins Friday morning with Practice 1 at 3 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra, followed by Practice 2 at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN. Live Extra will stream Practice 3 on Saturday at 5 a.m. ET, prior to live qualifying at 8 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

Live Russian Grand Prix coverage begins Sunday at 6:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by F1 Extra at 9 a.m. ET. NBCSN will air an encore presentation of the Russian Grand Prix at noon ET on Sunday.

Lead F1 announcer Leigh Diffey will call the Russian Grand Prix, and will be joined by veteran analyst and former racecar driverDavid Hobbs, and analyst and former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team Steve Matchett. F1 insider Will Buxton will serve as the team’s on-site reporter from the Sochi Autodrom. Alex Jacques will call the GP2 race in Sochi airing Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

F1 Motorsports Coverage This Week on NBCSN & NBC Sports Live Extra (subject to change):

Date Program Time (ET) Network
Fri., October 9 F1 Russian Grand Prix – Practice 1 3 a.m. NBC Sports Live Extra
F1 Russian Grand Prix – Practice 2 7 a.m. NBCSN
/DRIVE on NBC Sports 8:30 a.m. NBCSN
Sat., October 10 F1 Russian Grand Prix – Practice 3 5 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Russia Grand Prix – Qualifying 8 a.m. NBCSN
Sun., October 11 F1 Russian Grand Prix 6:30 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Extra 9 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Russia Grand Prix (Encore) 12 p.m. NBCSN
GP2 – Russia* 10:30 p.m. NBCSN

Rosberg: F1 title race is not over yet

xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on September 27, 2015 in Suzuka, Japan.
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Nico Rosberg is refusing to back down in the fight for the 2015 Formula 1 drivers’ championship despite trailing Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by 48 points with five races remaining.

F1 arrives in Sochi this weekend for the Russian Grand Prix, and Rosberg knows that failing to score any points would leave Hamilton just one victory away from a third world title.

Rosberg has failed to put up the same kind of fight to his teammate this year as he did in 2014 when the championship was only decided at the final race in Abu Dhabi.

However, he is refusing to back down and write off his title hopes yet, despite not having won a race since June.

“Once I got back from Japan, I was able to focus on the positive elements from my weekend in Suzuka: pole position, the on-track pass on [Valtteri] Bottas and then having the speed to undercut [Sebastian] Vettel’s Ferrari at the second pit-stop,” Rosberg said, reflecting on his fightback to second place at Suzuka two weeks ago.

“I’m not backing down in my fight for the championship and gaining those positions back fair and square showed that. We have five races to go and, although the championship gap to Lewis is quite big, in my mind it’s definitely not over yet.

“The way the whole team has performed this year – from the factories to the garage – has been just incredible and I have the car I need to get back to the top step.”

Sochi was the site of Mercedes’ first constructors’ championship victory in 2014, and Rosberg is hoping to aid its bid to clinch a second title on Sunday.

“I really enjoyed our first trip to Russia last year and it was an awesome weekend for the team – one that I will always remember after seeing all the hard work they’ve put in during my time here,” Rosberg said.

“So, I’m aiming to put all those tools they’ve given me to good use and bring home a top result.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra this weekend.