Ford teams cap great weekend with 1-2-3 sweep in Bristol

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One day after Chip Ganassi Racing took a Ford-powered Daytona Prototype to victory in the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, the Blue Oval’s troops in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series turned in a stellar result of their own at Bristol.

Ford teams nabbed four of the Top 5 finishing positions in tonight’s Food City 500, with Carl Edwards victorious, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in second, Aric Almirola in third, and Marcos Ambrose in fifth.

Additionally, Edwards and Stenhouse’s efforts marked a 1-2 finish for Roush Fenway Racing, a team that had been overshadowed by fellow Ford squad Team Penske in the opening three races of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship.

Throw in a Ford victory for driver Robert Hight and John Force Racing at the NHRA Gatornationals and it’s one heck of a triple play for the manufacturer, which lost its director emeritus, William Clay Ford, last weekend to pneumonia at the age of 88.

“Ford has deserved this kind of result for their effort,” said RFR team owner Jack Roush. “They’ve committed a lot of engineering resources to us. They give us a lot of support with cars and trucks and support vehicles and things, and we have not been able to do as much for them as we needed to in the last six months.

“I was glad we could get Carl into the Chase tonight. [I’m] looking forward to getting Ricky qualified for the last 10 races and Greg [Biffle], as well.”

As for Stenhouse and Almirola, they each were able to post their best career Sprint Cup finishes. Stenhouse’s previous top mark was a third last fall at Talladega, while Almirola’s had been a pair of fourths at Homestead in 2010 and Martinsville (fall) in 2012.

Still, Stenhouse apparently couldn’t help but wonder ‘What if?’ after the race. With three laps to go, a malfunction with one of the track’s caution lights forced NASCAR to throw the yellow and presumably set up a green-white-checkered finish.

Unfortunately for Stenhouse, the skies promptly opened up and the race ended under yellow and in the rain, with Edwards taking the checkered flag.

“I was thinking that I would use the bumper if the opportunity was there [laughing],” Stenhouse said on what he would’ve done with one last attack on Edwards.

“If you get the win, you’re in the Chase and you can let the rest take care of itself later. That’s what I was really thinking if we went back green.”

However, he then admitted that “we weren’t going to get to Carl no matter what, so really it was only going to help us have the opportunity to get that one more spot [second].”

As for Almirola, he had an opportunity to battle Edwards for the lead on a restart with 39 laps to go. But Edwards was simply too quick and pulled away while Almirola and Stenhouse had it out for runner-up.

“It’s frustrating because I had one shot to race Carl for the lead, and these races are so hard to win, obviously,” Almirola said. “And it was a great day for us – I’m not disappointed at all with third.

“But when you see it and you can taste it and it’s that close, you wonder what could have went different. If our car would have taken off a little bit better, things might have went different.”

Ambrose was able to overcome tire issues and falling a lap behind to turn in his fifth-place result, his best run since finishing ninth last fall at Kansas Speedway.

“We got a bad set of tires where they de-laminated and started to [show] cord really bad, so we lost a lap and then got it back,” he said. “I passed Kyle Busch to get the lucky dog and worked our way back up to the front.”

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.