No worries for Kurt Busch: Takes back-up car to top of speed charts in Saturday’s Sprint Cup practice in Texas

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Kurt Busch is NASCAR’s version of Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman. When Busch wrecked his primary race car in Friday’s practice at Texas Motor Speedway, the 2004 Sprint Cup champ had confidence in his back-up car and his team.

And just like Neuman (no, not Ryan Newman, Busch’s former teammate) infamously says, “What, me worry?”, Busch didn’t worry at all, waiting until the final minute before recording the fastest speed in Saturday’s final pre-qualifying practice.

Busch absolutely nailed it perfectly, saving the best for the last of his 18 practice laps, speeding around the 1.5-mile TMS layout at 194.630 mph. It’s obvious Busch is still riding a wave of momentum he gained in winning last Sunday at Martinsville, as he seeks back-to-back wins in Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 at TMS.

Busch, who has one previous win at TMS (fall 2009), knocked Ford driver Carl Edwards (194.616) off the top of the heap. Kevin Harvick was third-fastest (194.328), Greg Biffle was fourth (194.014) and Aric Almirola was fifth (193.979).

Austin Dillon is battling flu-like symptoms, prompting younger brother Ty to take a handful of laps just in case he’s needed to step in during Saturday’s qualifying or Sunday’s race.

In 28 initial laps, Austin Dillon had recorded a weak best-effort of just 186.220 mph. But after Ty went out to shake down the car, Austin found a second wind, climbed back in his No. 3 Richard Childress Chevrolet and pumped out a much more respectable effort of 192.623 mph, good for 23rd on the speed charts.

Unlike Friday’s practice session, when David Ragan tore up the front end and undercarriage of his Ford when he slid into the infield grass, and Kurt Busch’s wreck, there were no incidents in Saturday’s practice.

Tony Stewart’s team had to repair damage to the front end of his car caused when debris from Busch’s Friday wreck punctured the headlight bezel area. But Stewart was none the worst for wear in Saturday’s practice, clicking off the ninth-fastest lap of the field (193.840).

Also of note, current Sprint Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. was only 25th fastest (192.596). And like Friday, JJ Yeley failed to crack 180 mph, once again recording the session’s slowest speed at 179.045 mph.

A field of 47 cars took practice laps and are preparing for Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session, which will force four of those cars to fall short of the 43-car field for Sunday’s race.

Here’s the results from Saturday’s final pre-qualifying practice for the Sprint Cup Series:

1 Kurt Busch 194.630 mph

2 Carl Edwards 194.616

3 Kevin Harvick 194.328

4 Greg Biffle 194.014

5 Aric Almirola 193.979

6 Paul Menard 193.924

7 Jimmie Johnson 193.875

8 Trevor Bayne 193.854

9 Tony Stewart 193.840

10 Jamie McMurray 193.521

 

11 Matt Kenseth 193.500

12 Ryan Newman 193.396

13 Martin Truex Jr. 193.237

14 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 193.181

15 Jeff Gordon 193.126

16 Marcos Ambrose 193.050

17 Joey Logano 193.016

18 Alex Bowman 192.836

19 Michael McDowell 192.809

20 Kyle Larson 192.740

 

21 Brian Vickers 192.678

22 Danica Patrick 192.664

23 Austin Dillon 192.623

24 Casey Mears 192.616

25 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 192.596

26 Justin Allgaier 192.321

27 Brad Keselowski 192.280

28 Clint Bowyer 192.184

29 Denny Hamlin 192.157

30 Kyle Busch 191.925

 

31 Michael Annett 191.171

32 Kasey Kahne 191.164

33 AJ Allmendinger 190.975

34 Parker Kligerman 189.887

35 David Stremme 189.560

36 David Reutimann 189.500

37 Ryan Truex 189.474

38 Cole Whitt 189.367

39 Travis Kvapil 188.607

40 Josh Wise 188.357

 

41 Dave Blaney 188.107

42 Landon Cassill 187.787

43 Joe Nemechek 186.955

44 Reed Sorenson 185.790

45 David Gilliland 185.408

46 David Ragan 184.508

47 JJ Yeley 179.045

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Toro Rosso extends contract for technical director James Key

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Scuderia Toro Rosso technical director James Key will continue with the team for the foreseeable future, following a contract extension announced on Tuesday.

Key joined the team in 2012 and has seen the Faenza-based squad solidify its role in the upper midfield, with occasional surprise finishes that have pushed the team near the top three or four teams on the grid.

“I am delighted to continue with Toro Rosso and remain part of the Red Bull family,” he said. “This is a team which I have great respect for and have thoroughly enjoyed working with for the past 5 years; now I look forwards to continuing our project into the future.

“STR is unique, facing the challenges of being spread over two countries and fulfilling the roles of both a team in its own right and an important part of the Red Bull driver program: they are challenges that the team takes in its stride and, whilst doing so, continues to grow and improve year on year.

“Most importantly, the people I have had the pleasure to work with at STR are second to none: professional, ambitious and focussed, they have all worked incredibly hard to improve the team’s performance and will continue that hard work with the same dedication and optimism in the coming years too. I would like to thank Franz Tost and Red Bull for their continued support and confidence. We have more work to do, and I look forwards to taking the next steps with Toro Rosso towards our goals.”

Team principal Franz Tost added, Formula 1 is a team sport, but one in which an individual can still make a difference. So far, in his time with us, James has proved that he can indeed make that difference, leading the technical side of the operation.

“Not only has he been adept at producing chassis-aero packages that are well regarded throughout the paddock, he has also shown the management skills necessary to get the most out of all the various departments that work together both here in Faenza and in Bicester. I am therefore delighted that James will be with us for the foreseeable future to continue this fruitful process.”

Teams load up on supersoft tires for Italian GP

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There’s almost no variety in team Pirelli tire selections for the Italian Grand Prix, with nearly all teams going with two sets of softs and 10 sets of supersofts for next week’s race. All teams have selected just one set of mediums.

The only variance comes with Mercedes, Force India and Haas going with three sets of softs and nine supersofts. The rest are all the same choice, two softs and 10 supersofts.

Monza comes a week after Spa this week.

Pirelli’s tire breakdown is below.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee to serve as Gateway grand marshal

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The Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Gateway Motorsports Park for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline will feature quite an excellent grand marshal, in the form of three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

The full release from the track is below.

An Olympic champion has been selected to give the command to start engines for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline comes to Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois on August 26. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time, will serve as the grand marshal for the Verizon IndyCar Series event.

“I am humble,” said Joyner-Kersee, who is a native of East St. Louis, Illinois. “I do not take this honor for granted to be the INDYCAR race’s grand marshal at Gateway Motorsports Park. Very few people are asked to give the command and I am grateful to be one of the few. Thank you!”

Track-and-field star Joyner-Kersee has won three Olympic gold medals, as well as one silver and two bronze. She was the first American to win gold for the long jump and the first woman to earn more than 7,000 points in the seven-event heptathlon, making her the most decorated female athlete in Olympic track and field history.

As a teen, she won the National Junior Pentathlon championships for consecutive years and received widespread honors in high school in various sports, including track, basketball and volleyball. During her junior year, she set the Illinois high school long jump record for women, with a 6.68-meter jump. Joyner-Kersee attended the University of California, Los Angeles on a full scholarship and continued to gain fame on both the court and field. In 1981, at the age of 19, she began to focus on training for the Olympics, specifically for the heptathlon — an Olympic track-and-field competition comprised of seven separate events, including the 200-meter run, 800-meter run and 100-meter hurdles. She graduated from UCLA in 1985.

Joyner-Kersee won a silver medal in the heptathlon at the 1984 Summer Olympics, as well as gold and bronze medals in the long jump in 1988 and 1992, respectively, and is currently the heptathlon world record-holder.
Following her retirement from competition, she founded the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to instill youth in the a Greater East St. Louis area with the dream, drive and determination necessary to succeed in academics, athletics and leadership. “Winners In Life.”

Chuck Wallis, Vice President of the Bommarito Automotive Group, will serve as honorary starter and will wave the opening green flag.

Kimi Raikkonen confirmed at Ferrari for 2018 F1 season

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Scuderia Ferrari has confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen will remain with the team for the 2018 Formula 1 season after being given a new one-year contract.

Raikkonen, 37, has raced with Ferrari since 2014, and has been on a one-year rolling contract since the end of 2015.

The Finn has been a regular focus for the F1 driver market’s ‘silly season’ given his age and struggle for form compared to teammate Sebastian Vettel, who currently leads the drivers’ championship.

Raikkonen has scored 86 less points than Vettel through the opening 11 races of the 2017 season, but has nevertheless done enough to secure a new contract, confirmed by Ferrari on Tuesday.

“Ferrari announces that Scuderia Ferrari has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen,” a brief statement from Ferrari reads.

“The Finnish driver will therefore race for the Maranello team in the 2018 Formula One World Championship.”

Raikkonen is the first of the big-name free agents to have his plans for 2018 confirmed, with Vettel, ex-Ferrari racer Fernando Alonso and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas yet to announce a drive for next year.

Raikkonen first joined Ferrari in 2007, winning the F1 drivers’ championship in his first season, but left at the end of 2009 to take some time out from the sport.

A return in 2012 with Lotus saw Raikkonen display plenty of his old spark, taking two wins for the financially-hamstrung team before leaving at the end of 2013 over a pay row.

Raikkonen moved back to Ferrari for 2014 alongside Fernando Alonso, with Vettel arriving the following year.

Questions over Raikkonen’s motivation and ability have been rife for some time, but without any outstanding candidates for a seat available as things stand, the news is not overly surprising.

Nevertheless, it does defuse some of the silliness of ‘silly season’, with Vettel’s confirmation at Ferrari seemingly set to follow.