Geico 400 - Practice

Jeff Gordon earns season-best finish at Texas, takes over Sprint Cup points lead; teammates don’t fare as well

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Jeff Gordon thought he had a pretty good chance to win Monday’s rain-postponed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Gordon continues to seek his first Sprint Cup win of the season, but he can’t be too disappointed after recording a season-best second-place finish to race winner Joey Logano.

“That was a great battle,” Gordon said. “At one point, I didn’t think we had a shot at all.

“We had a pretty good restart (on the final restart). Joey was right on me and I was pretty loose in (turns) one and two. I wish I would have gone a little bit higher in three and four, but he got that run off four.

“Then he got into the back of me, and I thought I was going to wreck. At that point, I was like, ”Second will be good.'”

But even better, Gordon leaves Fort Worth atop the Sprint Cup standings, jumping up three places in the rankings.

“I so badly wanted to get this Texas A&M Engineering, maroon and those Aggies a win today here in Texas,” Gordon said after the race. “That was an awesome race all day. I have to thank all the fans that came out and all those watching at home.”

In the last pit stop before a green-white-checker finish, Gordon’s crew chief Alan Gustafson decided to call for only two tires on the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, while Logano had four tires on his Penske Ford.

While it helped Gordon get back on the track in the No. 1 position, there just wasn’t enough time or laps left for him to hold off Logano, who charged to the front on the backstretch and held on for his fourth career Sprint Cup win.

“No, we didn’t,” Gordon said when asked if he didn’t have enough to hold off Logano. “We were real strong in the first half of the race and when the sun came out, some guys came to the front and we just kind of lost the handling and got real tight.

“Great call by Alan Gustafson. Everybody on this No. 24 team did an awesome job in the pits.”

Gordon had the best day of all HMS drivers, by far.

Kasey Kahne finished 11th, but the news wasn’t as good for six-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt wrecked on lap 13, just two laps under green flag conditions after the first ten were run under a yellow/green caution.

Earnhardt made a mistake and drove off the track with his left front wheel into the water-logged infield grass on the edge of turn one. The grass slam did severe damage to Earnhardt’s front end and splitter, but that wasn’t all.

Earnhardt lost control and the car abruptly went up the racetrack and slammed head-on into the outside retaining wall, catching fire at the same time.

Earnhardt eventually got his car to the bottom of the track and exited. He was uninjured and attempts to get his car back on the track failed, leaving him last in the 43-car field.

Johnson, meanwhile, was right behind Earnhardt when the incident happened and a chunk of the grass, as well as rubber from the left front tire of Earnhardt’s car slammed into Johnson’s windshield, requiring three pit stops to fully repair.

Johnson then had tire issues that caused another unscheduled pit stop, ultimately leaving him with a 25th-place finish, two laps behind the winning Logano.

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Magnussen set for Mercedes DTM test next week

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 15:  Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and McLaren Honda waves to the fans during the drivers' parade before the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 15, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Former McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen will try his hand at a DTM car next week in Spain at a test with Mercedes.

Magnussen raced for McLaren in 2014 before being dropped to make way for Fernando Alonso in 2015, and was released from his contract earlier this year after the team opted to retain Alonso and Jenson Button for next season.

The Dane is known to be evaluating his options in Formula 1 for next year, and has said that he would be open to another reserve role with a team.

Magnussen enjoyed a successful test with Porsche in Barcelona earlier this month, trying out the LMP1 919 Hybrid car that he called “the most advanced race car in the world”.

Magnussen had been tipped as a candidate to take Nico Hulkenberg’s place in the third Porsche entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, but it was confirmed on Saturday that the German marque would be scaling down to just two cars for 2016.

Now, Magnussen will test at DTM car with Mercedes at Jerez next week at the series’ annual rookie test.

“Yes, I’m going down there testing,” Magnussen told Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet.

“It’ll probably be on the third day [Thursday]. It will be a great experience and I appreciate the opportunity. I’m looking forward to trying another new race car for the first time.

“They are evaluating drivers and might need one for next season, but I’m not tied to anything for next year. For me it will be a great chance to try a racing car I’ve never driven before and then we’ll see what the future brings.”

Magnussen is set to be joined at the test by another ex-F1 driver, Giedo van der Garde, who will also be testing for Mercedes according to a report from Autosport.

Hamilton laughs off criticism about his lifestyle

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain waves after he captured the second position at the qualifying at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. The Emirates Formula One Grand Prix will take place on Sunday.  (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Lewis Hamilton has laughed off criticism from former boss Ron Dennis about his lifestyle and behavior, saying that his activities away from Formula 1 have had a positive impact on his on-track performances.

Hamilton was signed to McLaren by Ron Dennis at the age of 13 before making his F1 debut with the team nine years later in 2007.

He won his first drivers’ championship with McLaren the following year, but left for Mercedes after the 2012 season.

Since then, Hamilton has gone on to win two more world titles and establish himself as one of F1’s all-time greats, while McLaren has failed to claim a single race victory in the same period.

Earlier this week, Dennis said that Hamilton’s celebrity lifestyle and behaviour would not be tolerated if he still were at McLaren, and that he looks at the Briton with “mixed emotions”.

When asked about the comments on Saturday, Hamilton laughed them off.

“I don’t know why he is touching on that subject,” Hamilton said. “Maybe he has nothing else positive to talk about!

“Who I am today, regardless of whom I was working for, is my own creation. I do a lot of things outside the sport, and I think it has a positive impact on my career.”

Hamilton admitted earlier this month that excessive partying following his third world title success in the USA had left him feeling “run down”, and also attributed his busy schedule to a minor car accident in Monaco ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Grosjean takes grid penalty, Merhi to start from pit lane in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 28:  Romain Grosjean of France and Lotus drives during final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 28, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Romain Grosjean will start Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the back of the grid after receiving a penalty for changing the gearbox on his Lotus car.

Grosjean failed to set a time in the second stage of Saturday’s qualifying session after a gearbox issue forced him to park up at the side of the track.

The Frenchman was classified 15th, but will now drop to P20 for the start of the race after taking a new gearbox to resolve the issue.

As a result, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Marcus Ericsson and Will Stevens all move up one place, filling out positions 15-18 on the grid.

Grosjean will start 19th after the stewards found that Manor had changed the suspension setup on Roberto Merhi’s car after qualifying, breaking parc ferme rules. The Spaniard is now required to start from the pit lane.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7am ET on Sunday.

WATCH LIVE: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on NBCSN, Live Extra from 7am ET

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany steers his car during the first free practice at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. The Emirates Formula One Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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It all ends here – the 2015 Formula 1 season comes to a close under the floodlights of the Yas Marina Circuit today with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

2015 will by no means go down as a classic season – those experiencing the kind of dominance Lewis Hamilton enjoyed rarely do – but it has nevertheless been an entertaining, interesting and intriguing one that has laid plenty of foundations for the future.

Nico Rosberg is one man who is looking firmly ahead to 2016 already, having rediscovered the kind of form that made him a title contender at this point last year. With six poles in a row and two wins on the bounce, the German will be gunning to make it a hat-trick on Sunday.

However, with Hamilton starting alongside him on the front row and an engine that is a little more overworked than most, Rosberg knows he faces a stiff challenge to end the year on a high and gain more momentum ahead of the new campaign.

This fascinating dynamic sets us up for a thrilling duel between Rosberg and Hamilton once again in Abu Dhabi, one year on from their scrap for the championship.

You can watch the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Few eras are ending on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, but it will nevertheless mark an important point for most on the grid. Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Felipe Nasr will all finish their rookie years; Manor will have done what many doubted it could do by finishing a full season; quite whether drivers Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi will return with the team next year remains to be seen.

Alas, the end of the season is always a time for pressure to be released. After a busy year of jetting all over the world, the paddock will be afforded two months of respite before pre-season testing kicks into gear – a much-needed relief for many.

For those at home, make sure you enjoy the final race of the season and get your F1 fix in before the long winter kicks in.

You can watch the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.