Auto Club 400

Kyle Busch holds off Kyle Larson in Fontana G-W-C finish

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For the second consecutive day, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson dueled for victory at Auto Club Speedway. But this time, it was Busch who emerged with the win in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway after a green-white-checkered finish.

Lining up sixth for the final restart but armed with four fresh tires, Busch quickly charged to third by the white flag and then got past Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch for the lead.

But Larson, who had lined up ninth on the restart, followed Busch past the two Stewart-Haas Racing teammates as well and tried to reel in “Rowdy” in the final two corners.

It was not to be however, as Busch held on to claim his first Cup win of the season and effectively earned his place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup later this fall. He also became the fifth different winner in as many races so far in 2014.

“What do you expect when you have a green-white-checkered finish and everybody’s gotta come down pit road and get four tires on,” Busch told Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “That right there, that’s a ‘Days of Thunder’ thing right there – ‘What do you mean? There’s two laps to go! Everybody’s gonna pit, Cole.’ Unbelievable day.”

The lead-up to the G-W-C finish started with seven laps to go. Jimmie Johnson had held off a charge from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon and appeared set for his sixth career win at Fontana.

But he then suffered a left-front tire failure on his car, and his misfortune was the start of multiple tire failures in the final laps that impacted Brad Keselowski (left rear), Marcos Ambrose (left rear), and finally, Clint Bowyer, whose tire issue caused him to spin out and trigger the caution with two laps left.

Gordon subsequently brought the leaders to the pits for fresh tires, but Kurt Busch was able to win the race off pit road with a two-tire stop. He lined up second behind Landon Cassill, who stayed out on old tires to inherit the lead.

Busch, Paul Menard and Tony Stewart were second, third and fourth for the restart, all of them having taken two tires. But fifth and sixth place in line – Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch – took four tires. Larson lined up in ninth.

Cassill quickly fell into the pack and Busch and Stewart were able to keep the top two spots at the start of the final lap – only for the two Kyles to take control and battle for the win themselves.

“I don’t know where everybody went but I ended up in second there and was right on [Busch] down the backstretch,” Larson said. “It went through my mind – ‘I might sweep the weekend here!'”

Nonetheless, it’s been a great two days for the 21-year-old phenom, who won yesterday’s Nationwide Series race by defeating both Busch and Kevin Harvick.

Kurt Busch wound up third at the stripe, followed by Kenseth in fourth, and Stewart in fifth. Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Carl Edwards rounded out the Top 10 finishers.

As for Johnson, he finished 24th after leading a race-high 104 laps.

“We did an awesome job as a race team,” Johnson said. “We did everything we could to win the race today. Unfortunately, something out of our control let us down.

“But I had that feeling, I thought I was going to win at my home track once again, and it’s just a bummer it didn’t work out.”

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Auto Club 400 – Unofficial Results

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Tony Kanaan woos IMS after positng fastest Carb Day lap

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Tony Kanaan of Brazil, driver of the #10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Dallara, practices during Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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“I think this track will pick the winner,” Tony Kanaan told reporters Friday after Carb Day practice was completed for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

“So I’m trying to massage the track a little bit, talk to her nicely, and then see if she will pick me on Sunday.”

Kanaan certainly impressed the 2.5-mile ‘lady’ in practice, by posting a fastest lap of 226.280 mph that would seem to have her shunning all other suitors. Carlos Munoz set the second-fastest speed, but he was nearly a quarter of a second per lap slower with a speed of 224.772 mph.

Speeds were largely dependent on tows in the final tune-up for Sunday’s race.

All 33 drivers who qualified for the 100th running of the Indy 500 tried their dead-level best to impress the track. They raced side-by-side through the corners and filled the course with cars. For most of the session, a majority of the drivers were on course at the same time, and that surprised many.

“You should have asked me, I would have told you different,” Kanaan said.

“This is the closest we get to the race, two days, and after being here for almost a month, the engineers come up with different plans every day,” Kanaan added. “The more time you give them, the more they come up with stuff. And we had almost five days without being on track, so they go back to the shop and do simulations. So we had to test.”

Race conditions will be markedly different than what everyone faced in qualification and that is another reason so many cars were on track. It is also one reason Kanaan was so pleased with his time.

If a full field had not practiced, no one would truly know what they would face on Sunday. “Everybody is eager to feel how the car behaves in traffic. So it was a race out there today.”

Kanaan was pleased with the response he got from Indy.

“I’m happy with my car,” Kanaan said. “Obviously I have to pass 17 people before I get really happy with my car. But, you know, after the struggle in qualifying, we really focused on the race.”

Kanaan will start 18th, alongside Juan Pablo Montoya and close behind some other top-ranked drivers.

“One thing that eases my mind a little bit being back there, there are a lot of good guys back there with me,” Kanaan added. “You know, if you look around Montoya, Charlie Kimball, Scott Dixon, they’re very experienced guys back there, which sometimes it’s not the case.”

“So I really don’t have a plan. My plan is to start the race. If there is a gap, I’m going to go for it.”

Indy occasionally rewards spontaneity, so Kanaan’s fastest speed in final practice may be a strong indication of his odds of winning his second Indy 500. His first victory came in 2013.

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When Townsend Bell and Mario Andretti made pizza (VIDEO)

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Before the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil kicks off on Sunday, Townsend Bell and Mario Andretti tossed around a couple pizzas.

Bell, the NBCSN IndyCar analyst who starts fourth in the No. 29 California Pizza Kitchen/Robert Graham Honda, has easily his best shot to win the Indy 500 in his 10th attempt.

He’s part of the five-car Andretti Autosport armada along with Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi.

Stoneman edges Jones in closest finish ever at IMS in Freedom 100 (VIDEO)

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INDIANAPOLIS – No words other than “wow” to summarize the immediate aftermath of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires’ Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

At a race that had two incredible photo finishes in 2013 and 2014, another one occurred Friday with Dean Stoneman edging Ed Jones by just 0.0024 of a second.

“As you can see on the screen now it was bloody close,” Stoneman said from Victory Lane after driving the No. 27 Stellrecht Dallara IL-15 Mazda for Andretti Autosport.

It’s the closest finish in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history with Stoneman having led the field to the green on the last lap, but lost the lead at Turn 1 when Jones around the outside, before Stoneman got past him through Turn 3 and stayed ahead.

The Andretti Autosport driver then edged the Carlin driver at the line, fist in the air for his second win at IMS in three weeks, after also winning on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

“It’s great. I was in a hospital bed five years ago dreaming to be racing here and winning now,” Stoneman added.

“First [win] ever here for this race,” said Michael Andretti, car owner. “We’re so excited. We’ve been trying so many years to win this and Dean finally brought it to us.”

“It’s so frustrating to lose the race like that,” said second-place finisher Jones. “We were back and forth throughout the race and all the time I was waiting behind Dean for those last few laps. He held up everyone really slowly on that restart and caught quite a few incidents.”

“I got the lead in turn one and I thought I had the good run and I was pulling away but he had the draft down the back straight and I made the decision to stay on the inside,” Jones added, “He got the momentum on the outside and he just beat me to the line. It was so close and the team did a fantastic job of giving me the car to win the race.”

“That minor mistake just cost me everything.”

Previous closest finishes were 0.0026 of 2013 when Peter Dempsey won, and 0.005 of a second when Gabby Chaves won.

In third place, Dalton Kellett scored a career-best result in the No. 28 K-LINE car for Andretti Autosport, with Shelby Blackstock and Scott Hargrove completing the top five finishers.

F1 still Maldonado’s ‘Plan A’ as he chases race comeback

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 18:  Pastor Maldonado of Venezuela and Lotus drives during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 18, 2015 in Singapore.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Pastor Maldonado remains hopeful of returning to a Formula 1 race seat in the future, but is open to other series if his “Plan A” fails to come to fruition.

Maldonado lost his drive with Renault over the winter when his backing from Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA fell through.

Since then, the one-time grand prix winner has completed some private testing for tire supplier Pirelli, but is keen to make a racing return next season if possible.

“We will try again and try to be back in a good team, to give me the chance to be competitive,” Maldonado told Reuters in Monaco.

“Plan A is Formula 1. Then of course if it doesn’t come, we need to look around.”

Despite the financial and social problems facing Venezuela right now, Maldonado hopes that PDVSA can find the funding to resume his F1 career.

“PDVSA is a big company, supporting a lot of sport programmes in Venezuela,” Maldonado said.

“They still seem to maintain all the programmes. Hopefully it will be no problem to have them back.

“I am the only Venezuelan who is racing at this level. I have been supported since many, many years. The relationships are very good. Hopefully we can be together for more years.

“Of course the oil price is still a bit low, and when the oil is down, the country is down. For sure it’s painful at the moment.”