Gibbs teams in position to contend at Bristol

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Joe Gibbs Racing’s trio of Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch haven’t been able to break into Victory Lane so far this season. But judging from their pace this weekend, it appears that they’ll be in position to get on the board in 2014 during tomorrow’s Food City 500.

Bristole Motor Speedway has been good for JGR, which has won six of the last 10 races there. Additionally, in each of the last three years at Bristol, a JGR driver has won: Busch in 2011 (spring race), Hamlin in 2012 (night race), and Kenseth last year (night race).

And it looks like they’ll threaten to stretch their current streak into a fourth consecutive year. Hamlin’s track record pole run and relatively solid showings in practice this weekend (third in Practice 1, sixth in Practice 2) makes him a contender.

But Kenseth, already a three-time winner at Bristol, has also been steady this weekend after winding up 30th in the first practice session. He bounced back from that to qualify third yesterday, and was P4 and P2 in this morning’s two practice sessions.

Then there’s Busch, who has claimed five Bristol wins in his career (a feat his older brother, Kurt, also shares). “Rowdy” was forced to go to a backup car after damaging his primary in the first practice, but has still maintained good pace and will roll off from within the Top 10.

Here’s a few others that could be worth watching over tomorrow’s 500-lapper in Thunder Valley:

Ryan Newman (starting ninth)
Not a bad start for the Brickyard 400 champion at Richard Childress Racing (back-to-back Top-10s at Phoenix and Las Vegas), and he’s been toward the top in all of the practices (including P1 in the second session).

Kurt Busch (starting 13th)
If any track can help the Outlaw get in gear after a disappointing beginning to 2014, it’s Bristol. He’s been P1, P3, and P5 in the practices. Don’t be surprised to see him leading the Stewart-Haas armada tomorrow.

Kevin Harvick (starting 27th)
Track position will not be his friend to start, but he appears to have a good pace on the No. 4 car (Top-10 in the second and third practices). Good races can go ugly in an instant at Bristol, so he’ll have to be doubly concerned as he tries to move through the field.

Martin Truex, Jr. (starting 29th)
Like Harvick, Truex had a poor qualifying session but has been reasonably quick in practice (P9, P8, and P6). It’s been a slow start in his new environment at Furniture Row (25th in points after three races), so he needs a good run.

Berlin Formula E race gets new layout at Tempelhof Airport

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Formula E has confirmed that June’s Berlin ePrix at Tempelhof Airport will use a revised layout to the one run in its first season.

Made famous for its role during the Berlin Airlift in the early Cold War years, Tempelhof Airport closed in 2008 and was turned into a public park, becoming the location for Formula E’s first visit to Germany in 2015.

The recent refugee crisis saw Tempelhof be turned into a temporary camp, forcing Formula E to move to the city center for season two.

Government officials in Berlin announced earlier this year that Formula E would not be able to return to the Alexanderplatz region for 2017, with the all-electric series opting to return to Tempelhof.

The series has now confirmed that it will race with a revised layout at the airport for the upcoming double-header in order to reflect the faster nature of the cars used in season three compared to the season one runners.

For us as a German team with German partners, and me as a German driver, it is great news that we will have two home races this season,” ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport’s Daniel Abt said.

“It’s no secret that I loved the track around Karl-Marx-Allee a lot. But now that I have seen the new Tempelhof layout, I can’t wait to get there. The fans will love the unique setting that brings everyone so close to the action and us drivers.

“The track is perfect for great racing and a lot of overtaking. I’m looking forward to meeting my home crowd. We will put on a great 48-hour Formula E party for the fans in Berlin.”

The Berlin ePrix takes place on June 10-11.

Lewis Hamilton: F1 needs Fernando Alonso competing in a quick car

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Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says the sport needs Fernando Alonso to be racing in a competitive car so that the Spaniard can show his quality and fight for race wins again.

Alonso won world titles in 2005 and 2006, but is yet to add a third to his collection despite being in contention for the drivers’ crown at the final race in 2007, 2010 and 2012.

Since joining McLaren in 2015, Alonso has been mired in F1’s midfield amid ongoing issues with the team’s Honda power unit, preventing him from even finishing on the podium in that period.

2017 looks poised to offer one of the closest title fights in recent years between Mercedes driver Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the latter winning the opening race of the year in Australia.

Speaking about the prospect of a close title fight with Vettel, Hamilton said he relished the idea, but wants to see Alonso battling at the front once again as well.

“I think the fans want to see that but even between all of us. We need [Fernando] to have a good car so he can get up there and fight with us as well, before his time’s up,” Hamilton said.

“We got a hint that it’s another couple of years at least, so that’s good. I feel we’re yet to see the best of Fernando. The sport needs that and he deserves to be able to show that.

“You want to be racing against the best. I think that’s what the fans want to see. That close racing and sheer competitiveness and see the ups and downs of the best doing their best.

“I’m definitely looking forward to racing with all these guys and I hope there’s lots of close racing.”

Alonso and Hamilton were last in contention for a championship together in 2012, when they raced for Ferrari and McLaren respectively, only for Vettel to clinch a third crown with Red Bull.

Honda teams to test at Sonoma Raceway on April 4

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Honda’s Verizon IndyCar Series teams are set visit Sonoma Raceway on April 4 for an all-day test session for the manufacturer.

Andretti Autosport (Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, and Takuma Sato), Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, and Max Chilton), Dale Coyne Racing (Sebastian Bourdais and Ed Jones), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin), and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal) are all scheduled to run. Of that group, Kanaan, Andretti, and Dixon are former winners at Sonoma Raceway.

The Sonoma test follows Honda’s March 24 test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, Team Penske also scheduled a team test at the 2.5-mile oval on the same day, forcing Honda to share the track with their rival manufacturer.

However, no such conflict appears to be in play on Saturday. The test will be open to the public as well with free admission into the facility. Testing will run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. local time.

Justin Timberlake to play this year’s U.S. Grand Prix at COTA

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Taylor Swift playing last year’s U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin was always going to be a hard act to match, or perhaps top.

Yet COTA has pulled it off with confirmation Wednesday that Justin Timberlake will be playing on the Saturday before this year’s race, on October 21.

Timberlake will play at the conclusion of track activity on Saturday for a full show. Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. CT, with more info via COTA’s website. Here’s the pertinent details:

  • The concert will take place at COTA’s Super Stage Festival Lawn, not Austin360 Amphitheater
  • Seating is general admission, first come first served
  • All holders of a Saturday ticket for USGP weekend, including the 3-day GA wristband, will have access to the show

Circuit of The Americas announced a crowd of more than 80,000 last year for T-Swift, for her first and only planned concert of the year.

Timberlake is on par from a stratospheric level as Swift is. And half the draw of the COTA weekend, it seems, is ensuring you can get concertgoers to the track as well.

This should make for a fun end-of-day on Saturday.