Kurt Busch picks up first front-row start of season

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After making nine front-row starts throughout the 2013 season with Furniture Row Racing, Kurt Busch will find himself in familiar territory when it’s time to go racing Sunday at Pocono.

The Outlaw earned his first front-row start of 2014 (and his first such start with Stewart-Haas Racing) this afternoon in qualifying, narrowly missing the Pocono 400 pole by two one-thousandths of a second.

Busch said his team was focusing on getting the front end of his No. 41 SHR Chevrolet to settle into the track better, and was happy to see the new approach pay off.

“It’s great to cash in, be in position, and advance through knockout qualifying,” he said. “It’s something we’ve done this year but we haven’t positioned ourselves for a pole run in that final grouping of 12.

“[Racing] those final 12, you’ve got to be spot-on. After I made my [Round 3] lap, I felt like I left a little change on the track in Turn 1 – a little pocket change. So, to come this close to the pole, it shows our car’s got some speed in it and hopefully, that will translate to race day.”

Outside of his victory earlier this year at Martinsville, Busch has struggled mightily in 2014. Since winning on NASCAR’s oldest track, he’s had four DNFs and a top finish of 18th (Dover) in the last seven races.

But Busch is looking forward to using the multiple benefits of starting up front toward pulling him and his team out of their tailspin.

“It’s good for all day long on starting position, your race sequence, and our pit box [selection],” he said. “Daniel [Knost, crew chief] will get a nice pit box selection and that will help us with ease and congestion on pit road. And as the race progresses, we just have to make the right changes to the car.

“I’m glad we were able to apply something new to the car and see a good result right away. It’s not a big victory or a small victory. It’s just nice to confirm a change on the car and see it go in the right direction.”

Speaking further about his rookie crew chief, Busch said that it’s been great to see how Knost, a former engineer, has been able to grow into his role.

However, he hopes that he can get Knost to delegate more responsibilities to his crew mates as the summer progresses.

“Poor Daniel, he likes to do everything himself,” Busch said. “And in this game, there’s so much work that has to be done with templates, with car set-up, shocks, springs, sway bars – he has to rely on the talent of the guys around him that he’s positioned himself with that.

“That’s our next step – being able to allow the crew members to know that we’re going to grab another gear here during these summer months and advance as a team together. [We haven’t had] the results that we’ve wanted so far, so we all know we can work better and harder to make this 41 car faster.”

“Kurt Busch: 36,” which chronicles Busch’s historic bid to win the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, debuts this Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC. An hour-long “director’s cut” will air on NBCSN the following night at 11:30 p.m. ET.

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.