Nico Rosberg

Rosberg dominant in final practice for Australian GP

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Nico Rosberg has dominated the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, which starts later tonight at 2am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra.

The German driver posted a fastest time of 1:29.375, comfortably finishing over 1.3 seconds quicker than second-placed Jenson Button whilst Fernando Alonso rounded out the top three. Lewis Hamilton finished fourth, but the Briton failed to post a fast lap time on the option tire, suggesting that Mercedes is still the team to beat heading into the rest of the race weekend.

When the final practice session got underway, the big question was whether or not the teams would send their cars out and risk a failure ahead of qualifying. Both Marussia and Lotus broke their curfews to work on the car overnight, whilst Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson needed to complete some running or he may not have been permitted to start the race on Sunday.

With ten minutes of the session gone, Esteban Gutierrez reported a problem on his Sauber with his gearbox, forcing him to crawl back to the pits at low speed. Kevin Magnussen was the first driver to set a truly representative time of 1:33.130, but the Danish rookie did take a trip through the gravel at turn nine as he pushed his McLaren to the limit. He was soon toppled by fellow youngster Daniil Kvyat by around half a second. Marcus Ericsson, having failed to post a timed lap all weekend, finally got out on track for Caterham, although he did stay at the bottom of the timesheets.

At the front, normal service from Friday was resumed as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton went first and second for Mercedes with Felipe Massa a few tenths off in fourth place. However, Hamilton soon established his inter-team dominance to move six-tenths clear of Rosberg. At the halfway point in the session, seven of the top eight times had been set by Mercedes-powered cars, whilst Ferrari had not emerged from the pits, nor had defending world champion Sebastian Vettel.

When the German driver did come out on track, he immediately found some pace and moved up into fourth place with teammate Daniel Ricciardo slotting into P6. Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso also chose to bide their time and finally come out at the halfway point in the session, and both drivers moved up into the top ten with their lap-times.

With twenty minutes to go, Nico Hulkenberg made a huge improvement on his previous best to move within one-tenth of Hamilton at the top of the table, having switched to the soft option tire. Compatriot Nico Rosberg followed his example, and moved 1.5 seconds clear of teammate Lewis Hamilton. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso moved up into the top three on the soft tire, but couldn’t come close to Rosberg’s lap.

Once again, the session ended with a Lotus parked up at the side of the road as Pastor Maldonado’s car came to a halt at the penultimate corner, suggesting that the team’s problems are dire. Having hit problems earlier on, Sauber changed the gearbox in Gutierrez’s Sauber, resulting in a five place gird penalty, whilst Valtteri Bottas and Romain Grosjean failed to emerge from the pits.

Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix begins live at 2am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra.

NHRA at Reading: Brown still unbeaten; Beckman, McGaha, Hines also win

NHRA winners at Reading (from left): Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
(Photo courtesy NHRA)
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One of Top Fuel driver Antron Brown’s nicknames is “A.B.”

Thus far in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship, Brown has picked up another nickname: “U.B.”

As in unbeatable.

Brown roared to his third consecutive win in as many races in the Countdown in Sunday’s finals of the Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.

Brown remains undefeated in the Countdown, and has increased his playoff round record to a perfect 12-0, the best start of any driver in any class in Countdown history.

Brown (3.717 seconds at 328.46 mph) defeated Don Schumacher Racing teammate and defending Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher to capture his 54th career win (38th in Top Fuel).

Brown now leads Schumacher by 94 points as the NHRA moves on to the second half of the six-race Countdown.

What’s more, the 2012 Top Fuel champ has now won a career-high seven races this season – he has previously won six races in a season four different times – as well as earning his first-ever win at Maple Grove Raceway.

“You don’t go into the Countdown believing you’re going to win the first three races,” Brown said in a news release. “That’s what you hope to do. Charlotte (two races ago) was tough, but this race was also tough because you go into eliminations without any runs down the racetrack (due to rain on both Friday and Saturday).

“When we came out today, it was pretty much the first session of qualifying for us. Getting a good, clean run down the track helped us a lot and the track got about eight times better by the second lap.”

In Funny Car, Jack Beckman returned to Victory Lane for his career-best seventh win of the season and the 22nd of his career.

Beckman (3.910 seconds at 326.79 mph) got the jump at the starting line and that was the difference over runner-up Chad Head (3.903 at 326.16).

In addition to the win, Beckman reset the national elapsed time record for the third time this season while winning Sunday’s semifinal round battle over Ron Capps in 3.897 seconds.

Beckman leaves Reading just 16 points behind Del Worsham, who won the first two races of the Countdown.

“For us, it couldn’t have ended up any better,” Beckman said. “We went from six rounds out to less than one round. We’re not leading, but we’ve got a car that’s clearly able to win races and I think that the (points) lead is within sight again.”

Of note, Worsham, defending Funny Car champ Matt Hagan and 16-time champ John Force all lost in the first round – a rarity.

In Pro Stock, Chris McGaha (6.492 seconds at 213.64 mph) earned his third win of the season and also of his career, defeating four-time world champ Greg Anderson.

McGaha won with a new crew chief: Tommy Utt replaced Brian Self, who left the team to join Elite Motorsports earlier in the week.

“This week has been really something,” McGaha said. “Having a crew chief shuffle and what-have-you, it’s a pretty big feat to overcome.

“You leave the house hoping you can win and knowing you can win, but actually doing it is another deal.”

Points leader Erica Enders remains atop the standings with a 72-point edge over Anderson, while McGaha moves into third place with his win.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending series champ and four-time world champ Andrew Hines earned his second win of the Countdown and third of the season.

Hines (6.794 seconds at 197.25 mph) defeated Chip Ellis in Sunday’s final round to earn his 41st career win, tying him with Angelle Sampey for second on the PSM all-time wins list.

“That win light came on for the final and I was over the moon,” Hines said. “I know how fast Chip had been all weekend and all year. Luckily, we were able to dip into the 6.7’s with him and put up a nice, tight final round for the fans.”

Hines remains atop the PSM points, leading teammate Eddie Krawiec by 89 points.

The Countdown resumes in two weeks with the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Oct. 15-18, at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas.



TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Tony Schumacher; 3.  Larry Dixon; 4.  Brittany Force; 5.  Richie Crampton; 6. Dom Lagana; 7.  Shawn Langdon; 8.  J.R. Todd; 9.  Leah Pritchett; 10.  Dave Connolly; 11.  Smax Smith; 12.  Clay Millican; 13.  Doug Kalitta; 14.  Steve Torrence.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Jack Beckman; 2.  Chad Head; 3.  Ron Capps; 4.  John Bojec; 5.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 6.  Cruz Pedregon; 7.  Tim Wilkerson; 8.  John Hale; 9.  Tony Pedregon; 10.  Del Worsham; 11.  Paul Lee; 12. Matt Hagan; 13.  Alexis DeJoria; 14.  John Force; 15.  Courtney Force; 16.  Robert Hight.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Chris McGaha; 2.  Greg Anderson; 3.  Bo Butner; 4.  Larry Morgan; 5.  Erica Enders; 6.  V. Gaines; 7.  Jason Line; 8.  Jonathan Gray; 9.  Allen Johnson; 10.  Alan Prusiensky; 11.  John Gaydosh Jr; 12.  Val Smeland; 13.  Shane Gray; 14.  Kenny Delco; 15.  Vincent Nobile; 16.  Drew Skillman.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Andrew Hines; 2.  Chip Ellis; 3.  Eddie Krawiec; 4.  Matt Smith; 5.  Jerry Savoie; 6.  Karen Stoffer; 7.  Hector Arana Jr; 8.  Steve Johnson; 9.  Hector Arana; 10.  Angie Smith; 11.  Brian Pretzel; 12.  Jim Underdahl; 13.  Chaz Kennedy; 14.  Scotty Pollacheck.


TOP FUEL: Antron Brown, 3.717 seconds, 328.46 mph  def. Tony Schumacher, no time.

FUNNY CAR: Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.910, 326.79  def. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 3.903, 326.16.

PRO STOCK: Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.492, 213.64  def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.484, 214.59.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.794, 197.25  def. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.818, 196.39.



ROUND ONE — Larry Dixon, 3.882, 323.58 def. Steve Torrence, 9.538, 83.23; Antron Brown, 3.742, 321.50 def. Clay Millican, 8.482, 79.51; Dom Lagana, 5.150, 218.09 def. Doug Kalitta, 8.584, 112.37; Shawn Langdon, 4.248, 317.19 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.442, 277.94; Brittany Force, 3.707, 328.46 def. Dave Connolly, 4.443, 194.38; Tony Schumacher, 3.741, 320.51 def. J.R. Todd, 3.776, 324.20; Richie Crampton, 4.454, 268.12 def. Smax Smith, 6.426, 102.91;

QUARTERFINALS — Dixon, 3.712, 330.80 def. Langdon, 5.693, 118.41; Brown, 3.734, 323.27 def. Lagana, 3.785, 321.04; Force, 3.846, 253.47 was unopposed; Schumacher, 3.732, 325.85 def. Crampton, 3.771, 289.20;

SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.714, 325.45 def. Dixon, 3.719, 329.75; Schumacher, 3.730, 328.22 def. Force, 9.913, 71.10;

FINAL — Brown, 3.717, 328.46 def. Schumacher, no time.


ROUND ONE — Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 5.426, 135.50 def. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, DQ; Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.941, 324.44 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.799, 208.39; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.985, 319.45 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.601, 213.50; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.125, 321.04 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 5.636, 143.20; John Hale, Charger, 7.417, 89.98 def. Robert Hight, Camaro, DQ; Jack Beckman, Charger, 6.625, 254.90 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 7.468, 122.56; John Bojec, Toyota Solara, 5.095, 230.61 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 5.891, 273.22; Chad Head, Camry, 5.328, 220.26 def. John Force, Camaro, 7.689, 85.11;

QUARTERFINALS — Bojec, 4.348, 262.95 def. Wilkerson, DQ; Beckman, 3.925, 326.16 def. Johnson Jr., 4.110, 323.50; Capps, 3.969, 324.90 def. C. Pedregon, 7.267, 100.08; Head, 3.964, 321.42 def. Hale, broke;

SEMIFINALS — Head, 3.968, 316.30 def. Bojec, broke; Beckman, 3.897, 326.87 def. Capps, 4.123, 299.66;

FINAL — Beckman, 3.910, 326.79 def. Head, 3.903, 326.16.


ROUND ONE — Larry Morgan, Chevy Camaro, 6.480, 213.84 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 7.102, 142.18; Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.512, 212.73 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.524, 212.86; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.670, 199.46 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 9.493, 98.05; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.477, 213.91 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 10.320, 79.95; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.479, 214.31 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.800, 205.69; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.498, 213.84 def. Val Smeland, Chevy Cobalt, 6.868, 182.23; V. Gaines, Dart, 6.527, 212.23 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 11.143, 79.58; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.478, 213.77 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Avenger, 6.679, 207.40;

QUARTERFINALS — McGaha, 6.951, 160.38 def. J. Gray, foul; Morgan, 6.500, 213.64 def. Gaines, 6.900, 157.10; Butner, 6.503, 212.53 def. Enders, 6.582, 202.42; Anderson, 6.488, 213.98 def. Line, 6.967, 156.48;

SEMIFINALS — McGaha, 6.503, 213.70 def. Butner, 6.484, 213.74; Anderson, 6.475, 214.38 def.

Morgan, 6.502, 214.21;

FINAL — McGaha, 6.492, 213.64 def. Anderson, 6.484, 214.59.


ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.875, 194.24 def. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.954, 179.21; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.924, 194.74 def. Angie Smith, 6.984, 187.81; Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.787, 195.59 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.854, 194.77; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.821, 192.77 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 9.068, 94.57; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.822, 196.90 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 16.865, 38.00; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.827, 194.66 def. Brian Pretzel, Buell, 7.215, 184.32; Matt Smith, 6.836, 193.82 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.940, 120.42;

QUARTERFINALS — M. Smith, 6.858, 192.88 def. Savoie, 6.889, 195.11; Krawiec, 6.808, 195.34 was unopposed; Ellis, 7.932, 129.12 def. Arana Jr, foul; Hines, 6.809, 195.70 def. Stoffer, 7.047, 163.73;

SEMIFINALS — Hines, 6.830, 194.91 def. M. Smith, foul; Ellis, 6.775, 196.47 def. Krawiec, foul;

FINAL — Hines, 6.794, 197.25 def. Ellis, 6.818, 196.39.


TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown, 2,432; 2.  Tony Schumacher, 2,338; 3.  Brittany Force, 2,238; 4.  Larry Dixon, 2,234; 5.  Richie Crampton, 2,187; 6.  J.R. Todd, 2,181; 7.  Shawn Langdon, 2,177; 8.  Doug Kalitta, 2,173; 9.  Steve Torrence, 2,160; 10.  Dave Connolly, 2,158.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Del Worsham, 2,361; 2.  Jack Beckman, 2,345; 3.  Matt Hagan, 2,271; 4.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,263; 5.  Ron Capps, 2,256; 6.  John Force, 2,211; 7.  Cruz Pedregon, 2,169; 8.  Tim Wilkerson, 2,162; 9.  Alexis DeJoria, 2,154; 10.  Robert Hight, 2,140.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Erica Enders, 2,385; 2.  Greg Anderson, 2,313; 3.  Chris McGaha, 2,281; 4.  Larry Morgan, 2,240; 5.  Allen Johnson, 2,227; 6.  Drew Skillman, 2,212; 7.  Vincent Nobile, 2,187; 8.  Jason Line, 2,179; 9.  Shane Gray, 2,149; 10.  Jonathan Gray, 2,119.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Andrew Hines, 2,378; 2.  Eddie Krawiec, 2,289; 3.  Hector Arana Jr, 2,277; 4.  Jerry Savoie, 2,259; 5.  Matt Smith, 2,244; 6.  Chip Ellis, 2,223; 7.  Karen Stoffer, 2,199; 8.  Hector Arana, 2,167; 9.  Jim Underdahl, 2,126; 10.  Scotty Pollacheck, 2,076.

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Lorenzo looking to Honda, Ducati for help in MotoGP title race

ALCANIZ, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 27:  Jorge Lorenzo of Spain and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP celebrates the victory on the podium at the end of the MotoGP race during the MotoGP of Spain - Race at Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 27, 2015 in Alcaniz, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Jorge Lorenzo hopes that he can get some help from the Honda and Ducati riders in his championship battle with Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi in the final four races of the 2015 MotoGP season.

Lorenzo currently trails Rossi by 14 points at the top of the riders’ championship, and with just four races to go, barring an unlikely run of results, the title will go to a Yamaha rider for the first time since 2012.

The formbook offers little in the way of clues for the Lorenzo/Rossi battle, for although Lorenzo has won more races, Rossi has been more consistent, finishing off the podium just once this season.

Lorenzo had hoped to reel Rossi in last time out at Motorland Aragon, but the Italian rider managed to finish third, minimizing the damage of his teammate’s victory.

Nevertheless, Lorenzo was pleased to bounce back after two disappointing races at Silverstone and Misano, having lost ground on Rossi in the title race.

“I am very happy with this victory because it came after two races that were a bit disappointing and I expected to take more points, but due to a few factors and especially the weather, I failed to achieve the desired result,” Lorenzo said. “The victory in Motorland [Aragon] was crucial.”

Rossi was beaten to second place by Honda’s Dani Pedrosa after a titanic battle in the closing stages of the last race, and Lorenzo hopes that the Spaniard, among others, could aid his cause inadvertently again in the remaining four races.

“[Pedrosa] was very strong and it was useful to recover the points lost earlier and it has given me more chances to recover with four races left until the end,” Lorenzo said.

“But [Marc] Marquez or maybe the two Ducati riders could also stand in front of Valentino and take away some points. It is a real possibility, but very dangerous for us both.”

The next round of the MotoGP season takes place at Motegi, Japan next weekend.