Talladega Update: Greg Biffle leading the pack

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Greg Biffle led the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway after a round of green-flag pit stops took place just before the halfway point of the 188-lap race.

Front-row starter Paul Menard led the opening lap, but on Lap 6, Danica Patrick made her way to the point after starting seventh on the grid.

Patrick became the first female competitor to lead a lap at Talladega, and the crowd responded with a loud cheer that was reminiscent of the ones given to ‘Dega favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he leads the pack.

The field eventually broke into three-wide formation with Menard leading the high line, Jeff Gordon leading the middle lane, and Patrick leading the inside.

But on Lap 14, Brad Keselowski shot from the inside and threaded the needle between Menard and Patrick. However, his attempt to clear Patrick backfired and Keselowski was sent spinning through the Turn 1 apron and back up the track.

Trevor Bayne and Terry Labonte narrowly avoided slamming into Keselowski by taking the high line to get through. The caution came out, and after subsequent pit stops, Keselowski went back to the pits with reported water pressure issues before the green came back out at Lap 18. He would eventually return to action six laps down.

Shortly into the run, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano took control of the middle and inside lines, while Patrick dropped into the pack in a bid to cure emerging water pressure issues on her car. At Lap 36, Carl Edwards assumed the point and moved in front of Logano, while Hamlin continued to pull the high line.

Logano would eventually go back to the lead by the time of the second caution for debris at Lap 50, but he was beaten out of the pits by Kyle Busch during the yellow.

But after the green flag dropped again at Lap 55, he was shuffled back as Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle moved to the front. Johnson would eventually move back a few spots, while Biffle continued to hold the lead with Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch pushing him on the inside.

By the time the first green-flag stops began on Lap 91 with Menard leading a group of eight cars in for service, the top four – Biffle, Kenseth, Busch and Hamlin – had formed a single-file line.

All of them, along with around 8-10 more drivers, made their stops at Lap 96 with Biffle handing over the lead to Edwards briefly before he too came in one lap later.

Michael McDowell initially led after the cycle was over before Biffle came back to P1 at Lap 98.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”