Kyle Larson just seems to keep getting better and better with each new race on the Sprint Cup series. (Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson fastest in Friday’s first Sprint Cup practice session at Kansas; Almirola second, Bowyer third

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For those who believe rookie Kyle Larson is close to earning his first Sprint Cup victory, if it happens Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, you can point to Friday’s first practice session as laying the foundation for a potential win.

Larson was the fastest of the 44 drivers that took to the track on the 1.5-mile layout, and was also the only driver to exceed 189 mph, completing 61 laps with a best lap of 189.076 mph.

Aric Almirola was second-fastest (188.620 mph), followed by Emporia, Kan., native Clint Bowyer (188.528), who is still seeking his first career win at his “home track.” Bowyer will also be making his 300th career Sprint Cup start in Saturday’s race.

One of the biggest and most pleasant surprises was the performance of Dave Blaney. Even though he took just six practice laps, Blaney turned the fourth-fastest lap at 188.455 mph.

Blaney cut his on-track time short to also watch over son Ryan, who is attempting to qualify for his first-ever Cup race. Ryan Blaney was 17th-fastest, with a best one-lap speed of 187.104.

Kasey Kahne led all drivers with 63 laps and a top speed of 188.042 mph, good for fifth-fastest.

Sixth- through 10th-fastest were Greg Biffle (187.859 mph), Kevin Harvick (187.839), Joey Logano (187.813), Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon (187.800) and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (187.767).

All four HMS drivers were separated by just nine spots, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. 14th-fastest (187.435 mph).

The three-slowest drivers in the session were Reed Sorenson (183.007), Cole Whitt (182.630) and Timmy Hill (181.184).

The second practice session – one hour in length – begins at 2:30 pm ET. Check back with MotorSportsTalk for those results, as well as qualifying, which kicks off at 6:40 pm ET.

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Status targets 2016 GP2 title after GP3 exit

2015 GP2 Series Round 8.
Autodromo di Monza, Italy.
Sunday 6 September 2015.
Marlon Stockinger (PHL, Status Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C2088
© GP2 Series
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Status Grand Prix has set its sights on winning the 2016 GP2 Series championship following its decision to close down its GP3 team at the end of the current season.

Earlier this week, GP3 issued a statement confirming its team roster for the next three seasons that featured new entries from DAMS and Virtuosi Racing.

However, both Carlin and Status did not appear on the list, signalling that both had opted to leave GP3 at the end of 2015.

Status first entered GP3 back in 2010, but only set up a GP2 team in 2015 after taking over the old Caterham Racing operation.

This will now become the main focus for the Irish outfit, though, as explained by team boss Teddy Yip Jr. earlier this week.

“Status Grand Prix has not renewed entry into the GP3 Series from 2016 onwards in order to maximize focus on our GP2 campaign,” Yip said.

“Having finished second in the team championship in the inaugural GP3 Series, we have enjoyed six successful years in the category collecting nine race wins, 26 podium finishes and vying for numerous team and driver titles.

“We are very proud to have given opportunities and achieved success with drivers such as Robert Wickens, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and our current GP2 race winner, Richie Stanaway.

“We now look forward to finishing the 2015 GP2 and GP3 seasons on a high before mounting a robust GP2 title campaign in 2016.”

Both GP2 and GP3 return from a one-month break next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.

Hakkinen: Verstappen is already “a real pro”

during a media interview at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards on April 15, 2015 in Shanghai, China.
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Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen has heaped praise upon Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen, supporting his decision to ignore team orders during last month’s Singapore Grand Prix.

Verstappen only turned 18 on Wednesday, but has already made a big impression on the F1 world during his first 14 races with his aggressive driving style and mature approach to racing.

In Singapore, Verstappen was told by Toro Rosso to let faster teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. go past, but refused to give up his position and eventually beat the Spaniard to finish eighth.

Writing in his Hermes blog, Hakkinen backed Verstappen’s decision to stay ahead and praised the Dutchman for his performances so far this season.

“A driver must be alert and keep track of what is happening around him at all times,” Hakkinen wrote. “That’s what Verstappen is. He does not simply let anyone pass if it’s not for the world championship, but only a few championship points.

“Verstappen is 18 years old, but the guy’s already a real pro. Young people are developing incredibly fast nowadays, and by that I don’t mean just drivers.”

Despite having more than half a season of F1 racing under his belt, Verstappen only gained his road driver’s license on his 18th birthday, having previously been under the age limit to drive a regular car in public.