Tony Stewart

Who has the speed to tame Texas?

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As Tony Stewart seeks to become the third Stewart-Haas Racing driver to effectively put himself into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, it bears noting that he’s good at converting pole positions into strong results.

Stewart, who will lead the field to the green for tomorrow’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, has collected two wins from the pole (Martinsville 2000, Coke Zero 400 at Daytona 2005) in his Cup career. But he has also earned eight Top-5s (five of them being runner-ups) and nine Top-10s from poles as well.

Additionally, at Texas, he’s led a total of 722 laps in his career and is high up among active drivers on a number of other TMS-specific statistics, as noted in our stat post from earlier this week.

Stewart was steady in this weekend’s two practice sessions, but there are others that look like they have the pace to do well tomorrow.

JIMMIE JOHNSON – Starting 16th
You can look at the time sheets (tops in first practice, seventh in final practice) or you can just take his word for it that he’ll be a threat tomorrow. While curious as to why he was unable to advance to the final round of qualifying today, he did say: “We have a very fast race car, in race trim especially. Our car is blazing fast.”

GREG BIFFLE – Starting fourth
Texas has been one of Biffle’s – and his Roush Fenway Racing team’s – best tracks in years past. At second behind Johnson in Practice 1 and fourth in final practice, he appears to have a good shot at joining teammate Carl Edwards in the post-season with a win.

PAUL MENARD – Starting 13th
The Richard Childress Racing driver appears to be in line for another sneaky good day on a 1.5-miler. He finished third last month at Las Vegas, and was Top 10 in both practice sessions this weekend. Don’t be surprised if he makes his way into the lead pack.

KURT BUSCH – Starting 11th
Clearly, the speed’s there for the Outlaw after he topped final practice in a backup car. It was also there for him in qualifying, where he put himself in good position to follow his Martinsville triumph with another nice finish.

Mansell: Button, Alonso must keep faith in McLaren

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 03:  Former F1 World Champion Nigel Mansell of Great Britain talks to the media during previews ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit on July 3, 2014 in Northampton, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
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Former Formula 1 and CART champion Nigel Mansell has urged Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso to keep faith in McLaren-Honda while the team goes through the “growing pains” of a new partnership.

Button and Alonso have both won world titles in the past, but neither have been able to even dream of a similar success in 2015 as the new Honda power unit has limited the team to just 17 points in total from the first 14 races.

Both drivers are set to remain with the team for 2016, but speculation about their future has been rife as a result of Honda’s struggles which even prompted Alonso to publicly vent his frustration over the radio in last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Mansell urged both drivers to keep faith in the McLaren-Honda project, believing that it could yet make big strides forward ahead of the 2016 season.

“Jenson deserves an opportunity to see if they can compete and win next year,” Mansell said. “I think this winter Honda can make a breakthrough and McLaren will be working so, so hard.

“They are a fantastic team. They’ve won so much in the past and, to use [McLaren Group CEO] Ron Dennis’s words, they will win again in the future. I have no doubt about that.”

Mansell himself walked away from McLaren after just two races in 1995, its first season with Mercedes engines. After winning the CART title in 1993, Mansell enjoyed four races with Williams in F1 the following year before joining McLaren for the 1995 season.

After missing the first two races of the year due to the car being too narrow, Mansell took part in the San Marino and Spanish Grands Prix before walking away from McLaren due to the car’s lack of pace.

The Briton hinted at his own regrets when discussing the matter, and wished McLaren the very best in its bid to get back to the front of the field.

“Between Alonso and Jenson they will be a formidable team, given the car and the engine to do the job,” Mansell said. “When you go through the growing pains, and I’ve been there a few times myself, stay the course because they could have the best team and best engine.

“They’ll have some really serious regrets if Honda get it right after they’ve gone somewhere else. Hopefully within 12 months they’ll be singing the praises of the team and Honda. I sincerely hope they’ll be winning races in a year’s time.”

WRC: Latvala claims third win of 2015 in France

AJACCIO, FRANCE - OCTOBER 04:  Jari Matti Latvala of Finland and Mikka Anttila of Finland celebrate their victory during Day Three of the WRC France on October 4, 2015 in Ajaccio, France.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)
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Jari-Matti Latvala fought back to claim his third win of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship season, beating Elfyn Evans after the Briton threatened to claim an unlikely victory in France.

For the first time since 2008, the Rally de France took place on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, but was hit by heavy rain and flooding that caused two of the stages to be cancelled.

Championship winner Sebastien Ogier and former Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica shared the early lead of the rally, but both dropped back due to technical problems.

Evans emerged as the leader after stage three on Friday, enjoying an advantage of 22 seconds over Latvala. However, the Volkswagen driver managed to reel the Briton in and take the lead after stage six before keeping his rivals at bay over the remainder of the rally.

Despite only finishing third on the final power stage, Latvala claimed his third win of the season ahead of Evans by 43 seconds.

“We’ve not had to push to the maximum at any point, but it was a faultless drive in difficult conditions,” Latvala said. “After winning last year, I have now done it again in Corsica and it’s important for me to show I can be competitive on all surfaces.”

Evans managed to hold on to second place by 3.2 seconds to record his career-best finish, while Andreas Mikkelsen rounded out the podium in third place.

Although neither Ogier nor Kubica could finish in the points, both salvaged something from the weekend by coming first and second respectively in the power stage.

The WRC returns in three weeks’ time for Rally de Catalunya in Spain, which is the penultimate round of the 2015 season.