Brad Keselowski leads Sprint Cup “Happy Hour” at Kentucky

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Brad Keselowski was among a group of drivers that made moves toward the top of the speed charts in the latter stages of today’s Sprint Cup final practice at Kentucky Speedway.

Danica Patrick held P1 for a good portion of the session, but in the end, Brad Keselowski turned in the fastest time with a lap of 183.101 miles per hour in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford.

Four other drivers leap-frogged Patrick late: Defending Kentucky winner Matt Kenseth in second (182.309), Practice 1 leader Kyle Larson in third (182.088), Jeff Gordon in fourth (181.941), and Keselowski’s teammate, Joey Logano, in fifth (181.677).

Positions 6-10 were filled by Patrick (181.488), A.J. Allmendinger (181.129), Kevin Harvick (180.862), last night’s Camping World Truck Series winner Kyle Busch (180.826), and Denny Hamlin (180.693).

Other notables from the session included: Tony Stewart in 11th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 19th, Jimmie Johnson in 27th, and Sonoma winner Carl Edwards in 28th.

Qualifying is now up next for the Sprint Cup contingent at 5:40 p.m. ET.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT KENTUCKY – FINAL PRACTICE TIMES

Hamilton: McLaren could help create four-team F1 title fight in 2018

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Lewis Hamilton says the Mercedes Formula 1 team cannot afford to let up in its push to improve ahead of a fiercer fight at the front of the field in 2018 – potentially including former team McLaren.

Hamilton clinched his fourth F1 drivers’ title in Mexico at the end of October as Mercedes continued its perfect record of championships since the introduction of the new V6 turbo hybrid engines in 2014.

The team faced a stiffer challenge in 2017 thanks to a resurgent Ferrari, while Red Bull also posed a threat towards the end of the season, setting the stage for another close fight next year.

Hamilton is expecting both Ferrari and Red Bull to remain a force at the front of the pack, but also feels McLaren could join the fight after ditching Honda in favor of a Renault engine supply for 2018.

“When I’m training and preparing for a new season, I firmly believe that we can be contenders for the next championship. It may turn out to be not possible, but you have to have that mindset,” Hamilton said.

“If you go in with expectations of finishing fifth, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to gear yourself up to win.

“Next year, McLaren will have Renault engines, then we may see four teams fighting for the championship. I think Red Bull will be quicker and Ferrari for sure will be fast again.

“We can’t stand still – we have to keep moving forwards.”

Hamilton started his F1 career with McLaren back in 2007, winning his maiden world title in 2008 before leaving the team for Mercedes at the end of the 2012 season.