NASCAR AMERICA: Introducing the NASCAR Next Class of 2014-15, Kansas predictions

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Thursday’s NASCAR AMERICA was jam-packed with news, including introducing the 2014-15 NASCAR Next class of up-and-coming drivers on the horizon who could be in the Sprint Cup Series before you know it.

And it’s also prediction time for Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Let’s kick it off here:

Leigh Diffey and Jeff Burton introduce some of the 2014-15 NASCAR Next class, discuss what it means to be in this group and why it’s important for NASCAR to develop these kids.

Leigh and Jeff Burton also lay down their predictions for this Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway, the first time the 1.5-mile track has hosted a Cup event under the lights. Jeff gives his  three favorites this week — and one is not a surprise: six-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie  Johnson, who is still seeking his first victory of 2014.

Hartley says debut F1 point would be ‘a dream’ from last on grid

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Brendon Hartley says scoring a point on his Formula 1 debut would be “a dream” after being resigned to last place on the grid for the United States Grand Prix following an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso to replace Pierre Gasly for the USGP when the Frenchman was ruled out due to clashing commitments in Super Formula.

Despite having not driven an F1 car since 2012, Hartley came within one-tenth of a second of making it through to Q2 on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas, ultimately qualifying 18th.

“Obviously I’d love to be quicker but we knew we were starting at the back, so we put a lot of focus on long runs, getting the peak performance out of this Pirelli tire I didn’t get today,” Hartley told NBCSN after the race.

“In FP3 I had a good feeling. There’s a lot of quirky things to manage with these tires. Honestly I should be happy with how the weekend’s gone so far.”

The New Zealander will start last due to a 25-place grid penalty for changes made to his power unit ahead of practice on Friday, and is daring to dream of making the top 10 in his first race out of a sports car for more than five years.

“I don’t do the 24 hours completely alone!” Hartley joked. “It’s quick. It’s physical to drive. I’ll be happy to be done after an hour and a half.

“A point would be a dream starting from the back. If I can move forward and put a race together, I’ll be happy.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.