Jeff Gordon earns first win of 2014, barely beats Kevin Harvick to finish line at Kansas

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Scratch Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon off the list of winless drivers in 2014.

Gordon became the first three-time winner at Kansas Speedway, capturing Saturday night’s 5-Hour Energy 400 Benefitting Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

“This is so sweet,” Gordon said. “What a huge weight lifted off this team’s shoulder. We’ve been leading the points, but we needed to get to victory lane and they proved they were capable of doing that. Great, great job by them (his team). … We’ve been building up to this all season long.”

Gordon, who previously won the first two Sprint Cup races at the 1.5-mile track in 2001 and 2002 becomes the ninth different winner in this season’s first 11 races. It was his first win since at Martinsville last fall.

Gordon won his 89th career Sprint Cup race, holding off a late charge from runner-up Kevin Harvick. Gordon beat Harvick to the finish line by less than two car lengths.

“I knew he had a fast race car,” Gordon said. “We’ve been bringing fast race cars every single weekend. It’s just given me so much confidence in the race cars and the race team.

“Kevin was tough. He was so strong. I did not know if I could hold him off at the end. … He was just coming. Luckily, I got the checkered flag.”

Harvick led the most laps, nearly half of the 267-lap race, with 119 laps in front of the pack. Gordon, meanwhile, led just nine, including taking over the lead for good eight laps from the finish.

“We slipped there with about 10 or 11 laps left to go and lost all the ground I made up, but I made it all back up again,” Harvick said. “It was a weird night, but I’m proud of everybody on this team.”

Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne, earned his best and first top-five finish of the season, winding up third, followed by outside polesitter Joey Logano in fouth and another HMS teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., in fifth.

“We were really close,” Kahne said. “I had a really good car, it was fun to race up front. I passed cars and raced hard all night long. … And Jeff Gordon won, so it was a great night for Hendrick Motorsports.”

In fact, HMS drivers finished in three of the top five and all four were in the top nine.

Sixth through 10th were Carl Edwards, Danica Patrick earned the best finish of her Sprint Cup career by finishing seventh, followed by Aric Almirola, HMS driver and defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson in ninth and Matt Kenseth in 10th.

Kyle Larson was the highest-finishing rookie, ending up in 12th place.

The start of the race was delayed slightly to let a passing storm cell pass by the racetrack. And while local radar showed additional storms in the area, the rest of the race was not affected.

There were eight caution periods that slowed traffic for 47 laps, with one brutal wreck primarily involving David Gilliland, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Allgaier on Lap 187.

Allgaier’s car was tapped in the rear, sending him directly into the path of Gilliland’s car, which hit the outside retaining wall almost head-on.

Gilliland’s car was destroyed, with the front end crumpled almost to the bottom of the windshield, and the rear part of the car all but obliterated. Virtually all that was left with some semblance of recognizability was the driver compartment.

Gilliland was helped from the car and walked with assistance to the waiting ambulance, while Allmendinger and Allgaier appeared to be uninjured.

On Lap 60, David Ragan, Ryan Truex, Michael Annett and Landon Cassill were involved in a wreck, leaving all of them with significant damage.

Kurt Busch struggled, with a pair of solo spins in the race. While his Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet suffered minimal damage, it appeared he battled handling problems much of the race, resulting in his 29th place finish.

Also of note, making the first Sprint Cup start of his career, Ryan Blaney – son of veteran racer Dave Blaney – finished 27th.

Here’s the final finishing order in Saturday’s 5-Hour Energy 400:

1 Jeff Gordon

2 Kevin Harvick

3 Kasey Kahne

4 Joey Logano

5 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

6 Carl Edwards

7 Danica Patrick

8 Aric Almirola

9 Jimmie Johnson

10 Matt Kenseth

 

11 Ryan Newman

12 Kyle Larson

13 Brad Keselowski

14 Brian Vickers

15 Kyle Busch

16 Greg Biffle

17 Paul Menard

18 Denny Hamlin

19 Austin Dillon

20 Tony Stewart

 

21 Martin Truex Jr.

22 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

23 Clint Bowyer

24 Marcos Ambrose

25 Michael Annett

26 Casey Mears

27 Ryan Blaney

28 Cole Whitt

29 Kurt Busch

30 AJ Allmendinger

 

31 Joe Nemechek

32 Reed Sorenson

33 Josh Wise

34 Travis Kvapil

35 Alex Bowman

36 Justin Allgaier

37 David Gilliland

38 David Ragan

39 Jamie McMurray

40 Timmy Hill

 

41 J.J. Yeley

42 Landon Cassill

43 Ryan Truex

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F1’s 2017 can match 2013’s mark of no back-to-backs this week

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One of the interesting nuggets about this 2017 Formula 1 season, as the year has ebbed and flowed between Mercedes and Ferrari on top with the occasional Red Bull surprise, is that a single driver has not recorded back-to-back victories through the first 10 races.

Sebastian Vettel kicked proceedings off at Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton then winning his first race of the year in Shanghai in the rain at the Chinese Grand Prix.

From there, it’s gone Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo, Bottas and Hamilton heading into this week’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

When looking back in the archives, you only need to look four years ago to 2013 to find the last time a season started with 10 races and no drivers having won back-to-backs Grands Prix – a streak which ran 11 races.

Kimi Raikkonen won at Melbourne to start the year, with Vettel then winning his first race of 2013 in controversial fashion in the infamous “Multi 21” Red Bull team orders fiasco with Mark Webber in Sepang at Melaysia.

Fernando Alonso then won for Ferrari, followed by Vettel, Alonso (that being his most recent Grand Prix win, Spain of 2013), Nico Rosberg, Vettel, Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton and Vettel. Hamilton’s win at Hungary in 2013 was his first win for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team after switching from McLaren.

But from here, Vettel won the Belgian Grand Prix, Round 11 of that season, for what was his fifth victory of the season… and promptly ran the table from there. After there were no back-to-back winners in 10 races, Vettel won the last nine consecutively. His radio call after winning at Circuit of The Americas – “cherish these times” because you don’t know how long they’ll last – was particularly prescient as he never won again for Red Bull after 2013, then departed for Ferrari in 2015.

A year earlier, the 2012 season set an incredible mark with the first 14 races occurring before a driver recorded back-to-back victories, and again, it was Vettel who was first to win two in a row when he did at Singapore and Japan that season. Prior to that, the campaign opened with seven winners in as many races (Jenson Button, Alonso, Rosberg, Vettel, Pastor Maldonado, Webber, Hamilton) with a handful of those then winning further races from there.

As it sits now, Vettel hasn’t won since Monaco and the Hungaroring in Budapest – a similar low horsepower, high downforce type of track – represents his best chance to win his fourth Grand Prix of the season.

Hamilton, meanwhile, is already a four-time winner this year and a five-time winner in Hungary in his career.

A Vettel win would keep the streak of no back-to-back winners alive, with 11 races without a driver going back-to-back. A Hamilton win would end it at 10 and make him the first driver to put together a streak this year.

Either way, it’s been a refreshing change of pace because here have been the runs drivers have gone on since that 11-for-11 start without back-to-backs in the last five years (three race in a row or more win streaks; there have been several more two in a row streaks):

  • 2013: Vettel wins last nine races in a row (Rounds 11-19)
  • 2014: Hamilton wins four straight (Rounds 2-5), then wins five straight (Rounds 13-17)
  • 2015: Hamilton wins three straight (Rounds 14-16), Rosberg wins three straight (Rounds 17-19)
  • 2016: Rosberg wins four straight (Rounds 1-4), Hamilton wins four straight (Round 9-12), Rosberg wins three straight (Rounds 13-15), Hamilton wins four straight (Rounds 18-21)

Hungarian Grand Prix on NBCSN concludes busy July for F1

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The third Grand Prix for the month of July and fourth in the last six weeks for Formula 1 after races in Baku, Spielberg and Silverstone takes place this week with the Hungarian Grand Prix from Budapest.

After a couple races on CNBC, the channel is simple this weekend: it’s NBCSN for all sessions on TV with free practice two (Friday) and qualifying (Saturday) both live at 8 a.m. ET, with a full one-hour countdown for the race from 7 a.m. ET on Sunday before lights out at 8.

As per usual the NBC Sports App will live stream free practices one and three, with all sessions streamed during the weekend.

The British Grand Prix two weeks ago brings this year’s F1 season to an interesting point. With Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton’s win, it brings him to within just one point of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for the championship lead. Vettel is at 177 with Hamilton now at 176.

And Hungary’s been a place where both drivers have succeeded. Hamilton won here last year while Vettel won in 2015. Overall Hamilton has a record five Hungarian Grand Prix victories (2007, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2016) and will look to match his Canada total with a sixth this weekend. Vettel’s 2015 win is his only triumph at the circuit.

Other Hungarian Grand Prix winners in the field are Daniel Ricciardo (2014), Kimi Raikkonen (2005) and Fernando Alonso (2003).

Beyond the top two, Valtteri Bottas will look to upend proceedings and continue his own title battle for Mercedes. He sits third in points with 154, in a spot of his own well clear of fourth on back and just under a full race distance behind the leaders.

Here’s the schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, July 28, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, July 28, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 2 (Replay): Saturday, July 29, 6:30 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, July 29, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, July 29, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, July 30, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, July 30, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, July 30, 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, July 30, 9:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Formula 2: Sunday, July 30, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Belgian Grand Prix, on August 27, after F1’s traditional summer break.

Robert Hight extends Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons

Photo: Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery
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MORRISON, Colo. (AP) Robert Hight beat Tommy Johnson Jr. on Sunday in the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway to extend his Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons.

Hight topped Johnson with a 3.995-second pass at 317.57 mph in a Chevrolet Camaro SS for his 38th career victory.

“We definitely struggled through the first few rounds and we were lucky to get those round wins, but I have a great team who figured things out and helped get me to the winner’s circle,” Hight said. “It’s definitely a long-time coming and we hadn’t had much luck, but today we had some luck and we hope this continues throughout the Western Swing.”

Antron Brown won in Top Fuel, Drew Skillman in Pro Stock, and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Brown edged teammate and No. 1 qualifier Leah Pritchett with a 3.792 at 319.82. He has three victories this season to push his career total to 64.

Skillman raced to his second straight victory and the fifth of his career, beating points leader Bo Butner with a 6.916 run at 198.15 in a Camaro.

Krawiec topped Matt Smith with a 7.145 at 188.28. The Harley-Davidson rider has two victories this season and 38 overall.

Sauber confirms Matsushita for Hungary test as well

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Honda junior driver Nobuhiro Matsushita will have a run with Sauber F1 Team on the second day of the Hungarian Grand Prix post-race week test, in the team’s C36 chassis.

Sauber’s engine selection for 2018 is up in the air. While the team announced a switch from year old Ferraris to Hondas, this was done under prior team principal Monisha Kaltenborn and rumors have persisted the deal may be off, or wasn’t fully done in the first place.

That Matsushita is running at this test for his first day in an F1 car – Gustav Malja will run on day one – could indicate the Honda switch isn’t yet a dead topic.

“When I was four years old, I was fascinated by Michael Schumacher, watching him racing in Formula 1. Since then my dream was to become a Formula 1 driver,” he said. “I am very excited about my first Formula 1 test and I am really looking forward to driving the Sauber C36-Ferrari at the Hungaroring – it is a great opportunity for me. I hope it will be a productive day for the team as well as for myself, so that I can learn as much as possible. I would like to thank the Sauber F1 Team for making this happen.”

New team boss Frederic Vasseur, formerly of Renault, gave his take on the test.

“I am pleased that Nobuharu has this great opportunity. He deserves the experience of his first test in a Formula 1 car. Ever since his debut in Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix, I have been following his progress closely, and have watched him advance his performance from year to year. With this Formula 1 test, he comes one step closer to his dream of becoming an F1 driver one day.”