Kyle Larson fastest in final Sprint Cup practice at Michigan; Carl Edwards’ woes continue

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Kyle Larson was the fastest of the 43-driver field in Saturday afternoon’s final NASCAR Sprint Cup practice for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Larson’s fastest Happy Hour lap was 198.424 mph (at 36.286 seconds).

“I feel like we made really big gains in our Target Chevy throughout the weekend,” Larson told FoxSports1. “Yesterday in practice, I didn’t think we were good at all, and the guys did a good job to turn that thing around.

“Now I feel like we can maneuver around the track pretty well and we have some speed. … Hopefully, we should be good tomorrow.”

Jeff Gordon was second-fastest (198.265 mph), followed by pole-sitter Kevin Harvick (198.238), Jimmie Johnson (198.183) and Brian Vickers (197.797).

Sixth- through 10th-fastest were Kasey Kahne (197.509), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (197.374), Kurt Busch (197.368), Kyle Busch (197.336) and Clint Bowyer (197.120).

Of note, there was no Ford drivers among the fastest 10 in the final practice session. Brad Keselowski was the fastest Ford driver with the 14th-best speed.

Austin Dillon was 11th-fastest (197.077), followed by Paul Menard (196.990), Jamie McMurray (196.931), Brad Keselowski (196.823), Ryan Newman (196.743), Justin Allgaier (196.641), Brett Moffitt (196.501), Marcos Ambrose (196.399), AJ Allmendinger (196.362) and Danica Patrick (196.239).

Carl Edwards weekend struggles continued in the final practice, managing to be only 33rd-fastest at 194.663 mph.

“I wouldn’t call that struggling a little bit, we’re in a little bit of trouble,” Edwards said. “The good thing is we’re better than we were and my guys never give up.

“But man, this is tough. We’re off quite a bit and we’re trying to figure out what it is. … This is such a fun racetrack, it means a lot in Ford’s and Roush’s backyard to do well here, so hopefully we can figure it out.”

Late in the session, David Stremme suffered some type of motor issue that produced smoke from his exhaust and sent him directly to the garage for repairs.

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F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.