Quicken Loans 400 - Practice

Jimmie Johnson finally captures 1st Sprint Cup win at Michigan


It’s not like Michigan International Speedway had been a house of horrors for Jimmie Johnson.

Prior to today’s Quicken Loans 400 at MIS, Johnson had earned four Top-5 and nine Top-10 finishes there, plus 586 laps led.

But he had never been able to break through for a win in the Irish Hills.

That problem has now been corrected.

Fuel strategy played a role in the late stages, but after pitting from the lead with 36 laps to go, the race stayed green and enabled Johnson to cycle back to P1 with nine laps left.

From there, the defending Sprint Cup champion managed to hold off Kevin Harvick for his third win in the last four points races and Hendrick Motorsports’ fifth consecutive points race win.

With Michigan now crossed off his list of tracks he’s yet to win at (a list that now only has Chicagoland, Homestead-Miami, Watkins Glen and Kentucky), Johnson also assumes the top seed on the provisional Chase Grid.

“We have figured out every way to lose this race, and today, we were able to get it done,” Johnson said to TNT in Victory Lane.

Johnson also made sure to recognize today’s Father’s Day holiday.

“For so many years, my Dad was here and I wanted to win this race with him here – I know he’s up in Upper Michigan with my two brothers racing off-road trucks – so Dad, we did it finally,” he said.

“And as a father – what an awesome day. It just tickles me deep. I’m so proud to be here.”

Also relieved over the outcome was Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, who has seen lots of heartache at MIS alongside his driver.

“It seems like we’ve had that opportunity [to win] here in the past, and with less than five laps to go, we’ve had issues of some form or fashion,” he said.

“…We’ve had to work the pit strategy correctly today. There were a lot of opportunities out there to do some leap-frogging. It was pretty awesome and a lot of fun.”

Harvick came home second after leading a race-high 63 laps, while Michigan’s own Brad Keselowski picked up a third-place finish at his home track.

Also pulling off strong days were Paul Menard in fourth and Kasey Kahne, who rallied from an early incident with Kyle Larson to finish fifth. Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Larson, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer completed the Top 10.

Unofficial Results
1. Jimmie Johnson, led 39 laps
2. Kevin Harvick, led 63 laps
3. Brad Keselowski, led 4 laps
4. Paul Menard
5. Kasey Kahne, led 1 lap
6. Jeff Gordon, led 36 laps
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., led 1 lap
8. Kyle Larson, led 2 laps
9. Joey Logano, led 29 laps
10. Clint Bowyer
11. Tony Stewart, led 1 lap
12. Jamie McMurray, led 4 laps
13. Kurt Busch, led 16 laps
14. Matt Kenseth, led 2 laps
15. Ryan Newman
16. Justin Allgaier
17. Danica Patrick
18. Juan Pablo Montoya
19. Trevor Bayne
20. Greg Biffle
21. Michael Annett
22. A.J. Allmendinger
23. Carl Edwards
24. Casey Mears
25. Marcos Ambrose
26. David Gilliland
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
28. Cole Whitt
29. Denny Hamlin
30. Austin Dillon
31. Aric Almirola
32. Reed Sorenson
33. Josh Wise
34. Brett Moffitt
35. Landon Cassill
36. J.J. Yeley
37. Martin Truex Jr.
38. David Ragan
39. David Ragan

40. Alex Bowman, Lap 169, Accident
41. Kyle Busch, Lap 169, Running
42. Brian Vickers, Lap 110, Running
43. Travis Kvapil, Lap 23, Accident

Hamilton fastest, Mercedes gaps field in opening USGP practice

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 21: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during practice for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 21, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lewis Hamilton made an impressive start to the United States Grand Prix weekend in Austin, Texas by topping the first Formula 1 practice session on Friday morning at the Circuit of The Americas.

Hamilton arrived in Austin trailing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by 33 points at the top of the drivers’ championship, having not won a race since the end of July.

The Briton is a three-time victor at COTA, as well as claiming the last F1 win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway back in 2007, making the United States a happy hunting ground for the defending champion.

Hamilton and Rosberg came out of the blocks early in FP1, immediately pulling clear of the field with laps on the super-soft tire.

Hamilton enjoyed an early edge over his teammate, only for Rosberg to go fastest upon switching to the soft compound Pirellis and going for a lighter fuel run.

Rosberg’s spell at the top of the timesheets did not last long, though, as Hamilton bounced back with a lap of 1:37.428 that was good enough to give him P1 come the end of the session.

Rosberg finished three-tenths of a second further back, but it was the gap to third that was most indicative of Mercedes’ strength at COTA: 1.5 seconds separated Rosberg in P2 and Max Verstappen in P3.

Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth for Ferrari, trailing Red Bull’s Verstappen by just 0.028 seconds, while Nico Hulkenberg led Force India’s charge in fifth.

Valtteri Bottas was sixth-fastest for Williams ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull, with Sebastian Vettel following in P8 for Ferrari. Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. rounded out the top 10 for Toro Rosso.

It proved to be an eventful session for Vettel, who narrowly missed hitting Jolyon Palmer early in the session before almost losing a wing mirror, only to grab it with his left hand so he could return it to the pits.

Renault’s Palmer was one of two drivers to have an off-track moment, spinning out at Turn 18. Toro Rosso’s Kvyat made a similar error later in the session, finding the limits of adhesion through the long right-hander.

Haas’ first outing on American soil ended under a cloud as both Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez stopped at the end of the pit lane with a couple of minutes remaining. They were ultimately classified P14 and P15.

Second practice in Austin is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET on Friday.

Kvyat stresses ‘respect’, ‘loyalty’ to Red Bull as 2017 talks continue

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 08: Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Scuderia Toro Rosso sits in his car in the garage during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 8, 2016 in Suzuka.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Daniil Kvyat has stressed his “respect” and “loyalty” towards Red Bull’s Formula 1 programs as talks regarding his plans for the 2017 season continue.

Kvyat was demoted from Red Bull’s senior team to its junior outfit, Toro Rosso, following the Russian Grand Prix in May.

The Russian driver struggled to get to grips with life further down the grid, scoring just two points in the run to the summer break, but bucked the trend by qualifying seventh in Singapore before finishing ninth.

Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost has long expressed a desire to keep Kvyat with the team for 2017, but Red Bull chiefs Helmut Marko and Dietrich Mateschitz will make the final call and may elect to promote GP2 driver Pierre Gasly into a seat.

Kvyat has been linked with moves elsewhere on the F1 grid, but said on Thursday in Austin ahead of the United States Grand Prix that his focus lay with remaining in the Red Bull setup.

“My aim is to be in F1 next year, but it’s too early to comment. We will have discussions behind closed doors,” Kvyat said.

“I have a lot of respect for and loyalty to Red Bull. Sooner or later I would like to have more details.

“Red Bull has managed me through my junior career and it is still number one on my list. I am looking for a drive where I can show what I can do.

“Toro Rosso is a fantastic team, we are one family and I feel very comfortable here.”

WATCH LIVE: USGP FP1 at 11 a.m., FP2 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 20:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks into the paddock with his dog, Coco, during previews ahead of the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 20, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

AUSTIN, Texas – Free practice kicks off today for the United States Grand Prix from Circuit of The Americas in Austin, and you can see both sessions LIVE on NBCSN and streamed via NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App (for participating providers).

First practice runs from 11 a.m. ET to 12:30 p.m. ET, leading into the premiere of Off the Grid: Austria at 12:30 p.m.

Then second practice runs from 3 to 4:30 p.m. ET.

Austin is on CT, so local times are 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 2 to 3:30 p.m., respectively.

Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett are in the commentary booth with Will Buxton patrolling the pits and paddock for today’s coverage.

Again, that’s 11 a.m. ET and 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN for LIVE coverage of free practice from Austin.

Full times and details for the weekend are linked here.

Hulkenberg: Renault move ‘the right step in my career’

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 20: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Force India walks in the Paddock during previews ahead of the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 20, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nico Hulkenberg believes that his move to Renault for the 2017 Formula 1 season is the “right step” for his career after deciding to leave Force India.

Hulkenberg had been set to remain with Force India next season, but Renault announced last week that it had signed the German driver for 2017 after agreeing a deal to release him from his contract.

Speaking in Thursday’s FIA press conference ahead of the United States Grand Prix, 2015 Le Mans winner Hulkenberg said he is looking forward to taking on a new challenge.

“I believe that it’s the right step in my career at this point,” Hulkenberg said.

“I feel I have come a long way with Force India – it’s my fifth year with them. We’ve had some good success together. But I felt that it’s time for a new challenge.

“Since I’m in F1 I’ve always wanted to race for a manufacturer team and this is a really good opportunity. The timing was pretty good too. So I think it was a good decision I think from my side.”

Renault has struggled during its first season back in F1 as a constructor after six years away, scoring just eight points to sit third-from-bottom of the teams’ standings.

However, Hulkenberg is confident that, given time, Renault’s might as a manufacturer can help him score his first podium finish in F1 and his first victory.

“I think them being a manufacturer, they are under some expectations to eventually be successful and be at the front and compete for wins and that’s obviously what I’m looking for,” Hulkenberg said.

“We know at the moment there is still a long journey ahead of them, to climb back to the top because it’s been a difficult year and where they’ve come from.

“When they bought Lotus last year was not the easiest situation.so it will take time to rebuild the team and to get back to the top but obviously what I see there is a good future, definitely a big challenge, a massive challenge.

“But I’m very much up for that – and why not build a new success story with them?”