Bowyer wins Sprint Showdown All-Star preliminary; Allmendinger, Wise also advance

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It may not be a points race win, but for Clint Bowyer, a win is a win after a year-long drought since his last regular season triumph in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Bowyer took the lead twice in Friday night’s Sprint Showdown, once from AJ Allmendinger on Lap 19 and again past Allmendinger and Austin Dillon on Lap 24 to take the overall lead after an intermission between the two 20-lap segments.

At that intermission, Bowyer opted to take four tires while some of the other cars ahead of him only took two. Once he got into the lead, he stretched his lead by more than two seconds to take the win and advance into Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race.

Allmendinger wasn’t challenged for second and will also advance.

Casey Mears finished third ahead of Richmond sparring partner Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola. Polesitter Austin Dillon finished eighth.

Meanwhile on the strength of the Dogecoin-supported effort, Josh Wise won the Fan Vote and from 18th, will advance in as well.

At the halfway mark, Bowyer led Allmendinger as well. Bowyer took the lead from Allmendinger with an inside move of Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 19. Polesitter Dillon fell to third with Paul Menard fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The rest of the top 10 was Mears, Ambrose, Kyle Larson, Danica Patrick and Almirola.

The “holy cow!” moment of the race occurred in the early laps when Stenhouse Jr. contacted  Ambrose in Turns 1 and 2. Ambrose slid his car through the turns, and while putting up a smoke show, managed to save the car without spinning or contacting anyone else. Ambrose made it back to seventh by the end of the first 20-lap segment.

At the intermission, most of the field pitted with Dillon emerging at the head of those coming in. He, Menard, Allmendinger and Patrick took two tires with everyone from there on back taking four.

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.”