Jimmie Johnson

No surprise: Five-time Fontana winner Jimmie Johnson fastest in Friday Sprint Cup practice

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Jimmie Johnson was fastest in Friday afternoon’s solo pre-qualifying practice session for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Surprised? We aren’t.

Johnson has won a track record five times at what he considers his home track, having grown up about 115 miles southwest of Fontana in El Cajon, a San Diego suburb.

Johnson led the way with a top speed of 188.664 mph. In fact, it was a Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut near the top of the speed charts, with teammates Jeff Gordon second-fastest (188.511) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth-fastest (187.740).

The other member of the HMS clan, Kasey Kahne, had struggles and was only 19th-fastest at 184.667 mph.

Rounding out the top 10 were third-fastest Clint Bowyer (187.774), Sprint Cup points leader Brad Keselowski fifth (187.003), sixth-ranked Kevin Harvick (186.645), seventh-fastest Matt Kenseth (186.446), eight-ranked Kurt Busch (185.926), Brian Vickers (185.744) was ninth-fastest and rounding things out was Tony Stewart (185.219).

Danica Patrick was 16th-fastest (184.919).

Sprint Cup rookie Parker Kligerman continued to struggle this season, managing to be only 40th-fastest (178.749).

But having the most trouble was Landon Cassill, who wrecked about midway through the session, coming out of turn 3 and slamming the turn 4 wall.

It was the second straight week that Cassill has wrecked his No. 40 Hillman Racing Chevrolet, having done so last Saturday at Bristol.

Both were hard wrecks, and it appears Cassill will have to go to a backup car for Sunday’s race, just like he had to do at Bristol.

“It’s tough on us as a team,” Cassill said. “That’s two weeks in a row we’ve wrecked a car in practice. Last week, the rear end housing broke and (today) something in the right front broke going into turn three.

“I saw something fly out of the cowl, a piece of metal the size of a socket, and we hit the wall. We’ve had a lot of highs and lows this first part of the season and we’re real fortunate to be in the position we’re in, but we’re having to earn it right now.”

Here’s how the field looked in the solo pre-qualifying practice:

1 Jimmie Johnson 188.664 mph

2 Jeff Gordon 188.511

3 Clint Bowyer 187.774

4 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 187.740

5 Brad Keselowski 187.003

6 Kevin Harvick 186.645

7 Matt Kenseth 186.446

8 Kurt Busch 185.926

9 Brian Vickers 185.744

10 Tony Stewart 185.219

11 Denny Hamlin 185.214

12 Greg Biffle 185.142

13 Kyle Busch 185.066

14 Marcos Ambrose 185.047

15 Aric Almirola 185.009

16 Danica Patrick 184.919

17 Austin Dillon 184.838

18 Martin Truex Jr. 184.824

19 Kasey Kahne 184.667

20 Carl Edwards 184.644

21 Ryan Newman 184.544

22 Joey Logano 184.398

23 Kyle Larson 184.219

24 Jamie McMurray 184.200

25 Casey Mears 184.148

26 AJ Allmendinger 184.049

27 David Gilliland 183.468

28 Brian Scott 182.992

29 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 182.922

30 David Reutimann 182.811

31 Matt Crafton (for Paul Menard) 182.403

32 Michael Annett 182.260

33 Cole Whitt 181.703

34 Justin Allgaier 181.557

35 David Ragan 181.356

36 Alex Bowman 180.591

37 Ryan Truex 180.014

38 Travis Kvapil 179.574

39 Josh Wise 179.064

40 Parker Kligerman 178.749

41 Reed Sorenson 177.993

42 Joe Nemechek 177.607

43 Landon Cassill 177.550

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Vettel rides solo en route to ROC Nations Cup win for Team Germany

ROC Nations Cup finalists Team USA NASCAR, Kurt Busch (USA) and Kyle Busch (USA) with ROC Nations Cup winner Team Germany Sebastian Vettel (GER) during the ROC Nations Cup on Sunday 22 January 2017 at Marlins Park, Miami, Florida, USA
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Four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel led Team Germany to its seventh Nations Cup victory at the Race of Champions on Sunday in Miami, picking up his first major honor of the 2017 racing season.

Vettel saw his individual Race of Champions title defence end in the group stage on Saturday as IndyCar star Juan Pablo Montoya took a shock victory on debut.

Vettel had never previously appeared at the Race of Champions without winning one of the two titles on offer, having claimed six straight Nations Cup wins alongside Michael Schumacher between 2007 and 2012.

Following a frightening crash in Saturday’s event, Sauber F1 racer Pascal Wehrlein was forced to withdraw from the event, leaving Vettel to represent Team Germany alone on Sunday.

However, the Ferrari driver made the most of the opportunity, winning all eight of his match-ups en route to an unlikely victory.

Vettel topped Group B after beating Tom Kristensen, Petter Solberg, Jenson Button and David Coulthard, sending Team Nordic and Team GB – the latter out to defend its teams’ title – home in the group stage.

Vettel faced off against Team Colombia in the semi-finals, facing Saturday winner Montoya and coming out on top. The German completed a 2-0 victory after easing past Gabby Chaves in the second heat.

The nature of the draw guaranteed either Team USA or Team Canada would reach the final, with three American teams featuring in Group A. Team USA IndyCar and Team USA NASCAR both made it through, the former courtesy of a last-ditch victory for Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi.

Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay faced off against NASCAR brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch, with the match tied at 1-1 ahead of the decider. Kurt Busch appeared to jump the start, moving into a lead that remained to the checkered flag, securing Team USA NASCAR a place in the final in a controversial manner.

Vettel managed to see off Kurt Busch in the first heat of the final, but a loss in revs gave Kyle Busch an advantage off the line in the second match-up. However, Vettel was able to claw it back and cross the line ahead, wrapping up a 2-0 victory and Germany’s seventh Nations Cup win.

“I had a better day than yesterday,” Vettel said. “It’s a bit of a shame that Pascal is missing, but I did my best.

“In the last round against Kyle I was really nervous. The car nearly stalled. But then I came back so really, really happy.”

Nico Rosberg: More to life than driving around in circles

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates finishing second on the podium and winning the World Drivers Championship during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg says there is more to life than “driving around in circles” after retiring from Formula 1 at the end of last season.

Rosberg clinched his maiden F1 drivers’ title in Abu Dhabi at the end of November before sensationally announcing his immediate retirement from racing five days later.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this week, Rosberg opened up on his decision to call it quits.

“To do sport at the highest level, it is really 110 per cent focus that is required and there is no room for any compromise whatsoever,” Rosberg said.

“Everything else is secondary and far behind, and that’s even family. I have a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter now. Friends and any other fun or exciting projects – everything is way, way behind.

“So, there’s a time for everything and I find that life has more to offer than driving around in circles and it just felt like the right moment. I want to go for new challenges.

“Of course, there is the side now of having more time for family, more time for friends and being in control of my own life as well.

“For the last 21 years of racing, even starting as a 10-year-old, the whole season is planned by other people, telling you where you need to be and especially in F1 – it’s really, really intense. And now all of a sudden I have this complete freedom.”

Rosberg said that he plans to spend some time focusing on charity work, particularly helping children.

“One of the avenues that I want to go down is to give something back, find something that really touches my heart,” Rosberg said.

“Now I have the time, I’m going to go exploring different avenues. I’m going to go to Germany and visit children who are quite ill, especially of the age of children who are really happy to see me.

“I would really like to go and see them at the age where I can give them a great time.”

Pascal Wehrlein withdraws from ROC Nations Cup on medical grounds

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Manor Racing walks in the Pitlane during qualifying for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Sauber Formula 1 racer Pascal Wehrlein will take no part in Sunday’s Race of Champions Nations Cup in Miami after being withdrawn on medical grounds.

Wehrlein sustained a frightening crash during Saturday’s ‘Champion of Champions’ event, rolling his KTM X-Bow with a passenger inside after crossing the line during a heat against Felipe Massa.

Both Wehrlein and the passenger escaped unhurt, but the Race of Champions organizers confirmed on Sunday that the German would not be racing on Sunday as a precaution.

“I’m very sorry to withdraw from today’s ROC Nations Cup. I’d really like to race again and I feel fine, but the doctors have advised me to rest so of course I will take their advice,” Wehrlein said.

“It’s no more than mild discomfort but my real priority for the coming year is my Formula 1 season. So while I’m sad to be missing out on all the action, I send my best wishes to my team-mate Sebastian Vettel and the rest of the competitors here in Miami and I wish them another exciting day’s racing.”

Event officials are yet to confirm who – if anyone – will replace Wehrlein in Team Germany’s line-up.

The Race of Champions Nations Cup takes place later today at the Marlins Park in Miami.

Juan Pablo Montoya victorious on opening day of Race of Champions in Miami

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Juan Pablo Montoya of Columbia, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet prepares to practice on Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya added another trophy to his cabinet on Saturday by claiming a shock victory in the Race of Champions.

The event at the Marlins Park in Miami pitted some of motorsport’s biggest names up against each other in a multi-discipline challenge, with the Race of Champions’ traditional crossover circuit style being used.

Ahead of the battle for national honors on Sunday, the 17 drivers on the entry list in Miami faced off for the individual title.

Defending champion and four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel suffered a shock exit in the group stage after defeats to Helio Castroneves and Travis Pastrana. The German won only one tie against 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, who in turn had qualified following a shoot-out against GRC’s Scott Speed.

In the bottom half of the draw, IndyCar stars James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan were eliminated in the group stages, while veteran British F1 racers David Coulthard and Jenson Button made it through. The pair were joined by nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen and NASCAR’s Kyle Busch; the latter’s brother, Kurt, was knocked out at the first hurdle.

Pastrana and Castroneves both fell in the quarter-finals, losing to Felipe Massa and Montoya respectively. Massa advanced through the draw despite a frightening incident in the group stage involving fellow F1 driver Pascal Wehrlein, who flipped his car after crossing the finish line.

Kristensen edged out Button 2-1 in their best-of-three bout to reach the semi-finals, setting up a tie against Coulthard after he eased past Kyle Busch 2-0.

Massa and Montoya’s semi-final went down to a tie-breaker, with the former receiving a time penalty to hitting the wall and gaining an advantage. As a result, Montoya progressed into the final, winning the tie 2-1. Losing 2015 finalist Kristensen followed Montoya through, beating Coulthard 2-0.

Montoya won the first heat of the final in the rallycross car, edging Kristensen out by less than a car length before jumping into a KTM X-Bow for the second match-up. Despite almost jumping the start, Montoya managed to wrestle his car through the two laps before edging out Kristensen by just 0.08 seconds, securing a shock rookie victory in the process.

“Honestly I had a blast,” Montoya said. “It’s pretty amazing. I told my wife, I’ve got to make it through the first round. It just worked out.”

Montoya will race in the ROC Nations Cup on Sunday, teaming up with recent IndyCar racer Gabby Chaves for Team Colombia.