NASCAR qualifying is nothing compared to Mint 400 off-road race; just ask Robby Gordon

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NASCAR drivers who still don’t like the new qualifying system should count their blessings after hearing what happened to former NASCAR driver Robby Gordon.

Gordon had to sit through one of the longest qualifying sessions he’s ever experienced in his off-road racing career, waiting for nearly 90 Trophy trucks and off-road buggies before he had a chance to hit the track and  lay down his qualifying run Thursday in preparation for Saturday’s Mint 400 outside Las Vegas.

Believing in the old saying that “good things come to those who wait,” Gordon was one of the last qualifiers on the grid and ultimately wound up with an outstanding run that placed him third in Saturday’s starting lineup.

Gordon and his No. 77 SPEED Energy/Toyo Tires/Traxxas truck overcame difficult desert track conditions – not to mention countless ruts left by those who went out in front of him – to cover the 3.4-mile track layout in 3 minutes, 12.943 seconds.

Gordon was less than three seconds off the qualifying runs of pole sitter Dale Dondel (3:10.295) and second-quickest Bryce Menzies (3:10.850).

Based upon the race’s rules, Dondel has the front row all to himself, while Menzies and Gordon will be side-by-side in Row 2. The Mint 400 consists of four 100-mile laps, with drivers not only racing each other, but also racing against the clock.

The race begins later Saturday at 4 pm EDT and will likely take longer than six hours to complete.

Taking the checkered flag in just over six hours, five minutes, Gordon won the 2012 edition of the Mint 400 (did not compete in last year’s race), while Menzies won last year’s event.

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Alonso enjoys maiden Toyota LMP1 test, ends as second-fastest rookie

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Fernando Alonso took his first step towards a possible entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018 by testing an LMP1 car for the first time with Toyota in Bahrain on Sunday.

Two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso has made no secret of his desire to race at Le Mans, having signed a deal to race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January as preparation for a possible entry at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Toyota confirmed after Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship finale in Bahrain that Alonso would be testing its TS050 Hybrid LMP1 car in the traditional rookie test on Sunday.

Alonso was given the car for the bulk of the five-hour test day following an initial shakedown by Sebastien Buemi, completing 113 laps in total – more than any other driver – and posting a best lap time of 1:43.013.

“It was a great day,” Alonso said. “Testing an LMP1 car is always a nice thing for any racing driver because these cars are amazing to drive. They are very consistent throughout a stint which is a positive thing.

“I have wanted to test a car like this for a long time now and today I could achieve that, so I am happy.”

However, Alonso did not finish as the fastest rookie, with that honor instead going to Pietro Fittipaldi, who was the final driver to drive the Porsche 919 Hybrid ahead of the closure of the German marque’s LMP1 program.

Alonso is now set to head back to Europe before a test in United Autosports’ LMP2 car on Tuesday as part of his Daytona preparation, before then returning to the Middle East for the F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi next weekend.