NASCAR: Rough day in Michigan for Roush Fenway Racing

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At the track where they’ve had more success at than any other on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, Roush Fenway Racing’s 2014 struggles continued.

Michigan International Speedway has been the site of 13 Cup wins from the Roush camp. But in yesterday’s Quicken Loans 400, their best result was a 20th from Greg Biffle (MIS’ defending June race winner), followed by Carl Edwards in 23rd and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 27th.

The dismal day marked the first time since the June 2000 event that no Roush driver finished in the Top-10 at MIS.

“That was a big struggle,” said Edwards, the lone Roush racer with a win this season. “It was pretty tough, but we worked hard and didn’t quit.

“Fortunately, we have a win to get us in the Chase, but we’ve just got to get better as a group. That’s the way it is.”

Biffle suffered for much of the race with a lack of grip, while Edwards dealt with a loose condition. Stenhouse had to soldier on after sustaining right-rear fender damage in an early incident.

“This is the story of our season,” Stenhouse said. “I felt like our Ecopower Ford was going to be good but I got into the wall avoiding the accident and damaged the fender which ruined our day.”

Meanwhile, Roush’s main partner in the Ford camp, Team Penske, continued their solid performance. Brad Keselowski finished third at home, Joey Logano was ninth, and IndyCar’s Juan Pablo Montoya was 18th in his NASCAR return.

Keselowski was sympathetic to Roush Fenway’s troubles, but tried not to go too far into them in his post-race comments – insisting that it was unfair for him to judge them since he knew “just enough to sound like a fool.”

“Their stuff is — I know they would probably tell you they’re not where they want to be, but I would always assume that they have something over there that we don’t,” he said.

Keselowski added: “I think the 99 team [Edwards] has been one of the strongest on pit road, and that’s where we’ve probably been — that’s probably our weak spot as a team.

“There’s probably something to learn there, so there’s always something when you share information, and I know it’s really important to Ford, and I’m sure we’ll continue to do so, whether they’re contending for wins or not.”

Vettel edges Hamilton to lead opening Abu Dhabi GP practice

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Sebastian Vettel made a flying start to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend by leading the opening Formula 1 practice session at the Yas Marina Circuit for Ferrari on Friday afternoon.

A three-time winner in Abu Dhabi, Vettel enters the final race weekend of the season eager to score back-to-back victories for the first time in four years, having hit the top step of the podium last time out in Brazil.

Vettel sent out an early warning shot to Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by beating the recently-crowned drivers’ champion by one-tenth of a second in FP1, turning in a fastest time of 1:39.006.

Hamilton was left to settle for second place ahead of Max Verstappen, who finished a mere 0.148 seconds slower than Vettel for Red Bull.

Kimi Raikkonen took fourth after finishing half a second down on his teammate at the top of the timesheets, with Valtteri Bottas ending the session fifth in the second Mercedes.

Sergio Perez ended FP1 as the leading midfield driver in sixth for Force India ahead of the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, while Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10.

The final FP1 session of the year saw the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection appear on a number of cars ahead of its introduction for the 2018 season, with Bottas and Haas’ Antonio Giovinazzi among the drivers trialing it.

Giovinazzi was one of two junior drivers to feature in the session, with Force India running Mercedes youngster George Russell in place of Esteban Ocon. Russell ended the session 11th overall, while Giovinazzi took P18.