Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts

Brad Keselowski’s the king at Kentucky Speedway (VIDEO)

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For the second time in as many nights at Kentucky Speedway, Brad Keselowski was the dominant driver. But in tonight’s Sprint Cup race, he was able to follow through.

A late speeding penalty may have kept Keselowski from winning last night’s Nationwide Series race. But he would not be denied in the Quaker State 400, leading 199 of 267 laps and capturing his second Sprint Cup win of the season.

Keselowski and Team Penske teammate Joey Logano had led every lap of the night prior to the two of them pitting under a Lap 214 caution. He took the subsequent restart at Lap 220 in sixth place, but charged to the front and re-took the point for good when he passed Kyle Busch with 19 laps to go.

“It was kind of one of those races where you know you just have a really fast car…and you’re just waiting for something to go wrong,” Keselowski told TNT. “And it did there on that last yellow. It just caught us out of sequence and we restarted sixth.

“We got a decent restart but I didn’t think I was gonna catch Kyle. But the car was that great. [Crew chief] Paul Wolfe and these guys are doing an awesome job. It’s just an incredible feeling to have a car this fast. I hope we can keep on this.

“I really want another championship and I think this team – we’re getting closer to that position if we keep running like this.”

For a moment, it looked like luck would go against Keselowski when that caution at Lap 214 occurred for an incident involving Aric Almirola.

Busch, along with Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr., were all pitting when that caution occurred and moved up to first, second and third respectively when Keselowski, Logano and the rest of the leaders pitted.

But knowing how good Keselowski was all night, Busch ran as hard as he could in a bid to stretch a gap to Keselowski that would prove insurmountable. It wasn’t.

“Obviously, with clean air, you’ve got to take advantage of it as much as you can,” said the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. “So, I tried to hustle as much as I could early to get a big lead and once I got to traffic, I knew I’d back up a little bit.

“But that was the loosest I was the whole race, the loosest I was at the end, especially in traffic, too. I was just trying to hang on to it as best I could and not wreck. I about did probably 10 times on that last run.”

Busch still managed to earn the runner-up ahead of Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman, who secured his first Top-5 result of the year with a third-place finish.

Matt Kenseth complimented teammate Busch’s second with a fourth-place finish that had him overcome a right-front tire failure under green at Lap 120. Earnhardt also had a great run and pulled out a fifth-place result after starting 29th.

As for Logano, who was for so long tonight the only driver that could really hang with Keselowski, he ran into trouble around 25 laps to go when his engine reportedly went down a cylinder.

Logano finally fell from the reaches of the Top 2, but was able to nurse home his sick motor and come away with an ninth-place finish – perhaps not what he ultimately wanted, but much better than the alternative.

Jeff Gordon sought a win tonight at Kentucky to become the first driver ever to win at every active NASCAR Sprint Cup track. Instead, he finished a still respectable sixth ahead of Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Logano and Jimmie Johnson in Positions 7-10.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT KENTUCKY – Quaker State 400
Unofficial Results
1. Brad Keselowski, led 199 laps
2. Kyle Busch, led 31 laps
3. Ryan Newman
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6. Jeff Gordon
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Kasey Kahne
9. Joey Logano, led 37 laps
10. Jimmie Johnson
11. Tony Stewart
12. Kurt Busch
13. Marcos Ambrose
14. Greg Biffle
15. Paul Menard
16. Austin Dillon
17. Carl Edwards
18. Michael Annett
19. Martin Truex Jr.
20. Casey Mears
21. Danica Patrick
ONE LAP DOWN
22. AJ Allmendinger
23. Clint Bowyer
24. Justin Allgaier
25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
26. Brian Vickers
TWO LAPS DOWN
27. Reed Sorenson
THREE LAPS DOWN
28. Cole Whitt
FOUR LAPS DOWN
29. Josh Wise
30. David Gilliland
FIVE LAPS DOWN
31. David Ragan
32. Landon Cassill
SIX LAPS DOWN
33. Ryan Truex
EIGHT LAPS DOWN
34. Travis Kvapil

35. David Stremme, Lap 257, Running
36. Alex Bowman, Lap 255, Running
37. Jamie McMurray, Lap 250, Running
38. Joe Nemechek, Lap 239, Running
39. Aric Almirola, Lap 175, Accident
40. Kyle Larson, Lap 75, Accident
41. Mike Bliss, Lap 30, Transmission
42. Denny Hamlin, Lap 27, Accident

Nobuharu Matsushita to remain in GP2 with ART Grand Prix

2015 GP2 Series Round 11.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 27 November 2015.
Nobuharu Matsushita (JPN, ART Grand Prix).
Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _MG_4660
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Nobuharu Matsushita will remain in the GP2 Series for the 2016 season after agreeing a new deal with defending champions ART Grand Prix.

Matsushita made his GP2 debut in 2015 with ART, racing alongside Stoffel Vandoorne who ultimately won the drivers’ title in record-breaking fashion.

Matsushita finished ninth in the final drivers’ standings with one race win to his name, and is now gunning to battle for the championship in his second year with ART.

“I would like to thank Honda and ART Grand Prix for giving me this opportunity to continue racing in GP2 Series,” Matsushita said.

“ART Grand Prix won the championships last year, and I am so honored to be part of such an amazing team again. As a member of HFDP, Honda Formula Dream Project, aiming to be the top-world-class driver, I will give my best to win the drivers and the team championship in my second GP2 season.”

Matsushita will race alongside Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin at ART in 2016, with the Russian driver moving from Rapax for his sophomore year in the series.

“I am truly delighted to start our third year of partnership together with Honda with this reinforcement of our collaboration,” ART team boss Sebastien Philippe said.

“Nobuharu will partner Sergey Sirotkin in the GP2 Series. He had an incredible year in 2015 when he did not know Europe or the championship, the team and the car, but nevertheless he secured one win, several podiums and made massive improvements all year long.

“As a driver and on a personal level, we have no doubt at all that he has all the assets needed to fight for the title in 2016.”

NHRA: Lots of change heading into this weekend’s season-opening Winternationals

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Last season, the National Hot Rod Association adopted a “#BaptismByNitro” theme to attract new fans and attention to the sport.

But as it kicks off the new season with this weekend’s Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California,  if the NHRA were to come up with a new theme song for 2016, it’d likely be the old Scorpions ballad “Winds Of Change.”

Change – and positive change at that – seems to be all around in the wind for the NHRA, including:

* Peter Clifford begins his first full season as NHRA president (he replaced the retired Tom Compton last June). Clifford has made a number of dynamic hires in an effort to improve the sanctioning body’s reach and attractiveness to fans.

* The NHRA has embarked upon one of its most ambitious marketing and communications initiatives ever to increase fan attention and attendance at events, including the hiring of veteran motorsports reporter Terry Blount late last season as new vice president of communications.

* Another significant hire is Emmy award-winning Ken Adelson as vice president of broadcasting and digital content to supercharge the NHRA’s TV and digital sides.

* Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1 has become the official TV partner of the sport, with plans to televise live the majority of the 24 races this season, including expected three-hour presentations of final eliminations on Sundays. In addition, former Funny Car champ Tony Pedregon embarks upon a new career as a NHRA TV analyst.

* New rules in Pro Stock, including the long-awaited implementation of electronic fuel injection and the removal of long-standing monster hood scoops, should inject life into a class that had grown somewhat stagnant to fans in recent years.

* After becoming the first back-to-back female champion in any NHRA pro categories, Pro Stock queen Erica Enders goes for three straight titles this season.

* Fan favorite and five-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlan returns to the sport on a full-time basis after racing part-time last season.

* After enduring what he called his “worst season in 25 years” in 2015, 16-time Funny Car champion John Force is bound and determined to earn title No. 17 in 2016. The ageless Force (66 years old) told MotorSportsTalk that he feels as invigorated as he’s ever been and looks forward to significantly improve from last season’s disappointing seventh-place finish.

* In addition, Force will have long-time crew chief Austin Coil “helping out” in an unofficial capacity for Force’s Funny Car, as well as those of son-in-law and John Force Racing team president Robert Hight and Force’s youngest daughter, Courtney.

* John Force Racing also scored another coup in the offseason by hiring 11-time Top Fuel champion team owner/crew chief Alan Johnson as a consultant to oversee the Top Fuel efforts of driver Brittany Force. Judging by some of the runs Force had during last weekend’s preseason testing for nitro cars at Phoenix, not only does she seem likely to earn her first career win, she also is an early possible contender for the championship.

* Defending pro class champions are Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car), Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

And those changes are just for starters. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic that the NHRA is poised for increased growth and notoriety in 2016.

While the sanctioning body still has not capitulated to what many fans want – the return of full quarter-mile drag strip racing for Top Fuel and Funny Car competition (the standard remains 1,000 feet for 2016) – the changes that have already occurred for this season definitely hold a lot of promise.

Yes, the winds of change are swirling within the NHRA.

And if Clifford and the rest of the sanctioning body officials have their way and many of the changes prove successful, by season’s end the NHRA may be signing another Scorpions song that deals with wind: “Rock Me Like a Hurricane.”

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Helmut Marko: Modern-day F1 drivers are overpaid

xxxx during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 19, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria.
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Red Bull Racing team advisor Helmut Marko believes that modern-day Formula 1 drivers are overpaid due to the reduced risk and easier driving conditions they experience.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel are two of the highest-paid drivers on the grid in 2016, earning upwards of $30 million per year from their teams.

However, Marko believes that drivers in F1 are overpaid as there is now a reduced risk of suffering a fatal accident, and that with the cars being easier to drive, their worth has decreased.

“Basically, the drivers of today are definitely overpaid for two reasons,” Marko told Sport Bild in Germany.

“Firstly, there is only a small risk that serious accidents can result in injury or even be fatal.

“Secondly, young top talent like [Max] Verstappen or [Pascal] Wehrlein can take the modern car and straight away easily do 100 laps without tiring.

“Previously you had even a Vettel have to take breaks because he was not used to the high centrifugal forces. This means that the cars are easier to drive. The drivers must do less.”

Wolff: Wehrlein, Ocon deserve Formula 1 roles

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 23:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Mercedes GP drives during Formula One testing at the Red Bull Ring on June 23, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images)
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Mercedes AMG Petronas team boss Toto Wolff believes that junior talents Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon have both earned their roles in Formula 1 for the 2016 season “on merit”.

Wehrlein will make his grand prix debut in 2016 with Manor Racing after winning the DTM title for Mercedes last year, becoming the youngest champion in the history of the series.

Ocon has been loaned to Renault Sport F1 Racing for its comeback season, and will work as the team’s reserve driver following his GP3 title success last year.

Wolff feels that both drivers deserve their chance in F1 this year, and also said that Mercedes will look to expand its junior program across the course of the season.

“We’re delighted that Pascal and Esteban will tackle a fresh set of challenges in 2016,” Wolff said. “Our aim is to build their experience in the best possible environment and, following positive discussions with our counterparts at Manor and Renault, it became clear that their respective Formula 1 programmes presented ideal opportunities to achieve that.

“It is very pleasing to see young drivers earning their spot in Formula 1 on merit and to see that talent is being rewarded by the system. Pascal and Esteban have proven themselves to be amongst the top young drivers out there – and both come into 2016 as champions of their respective series.

“But they still have plenty to learn and they will be staying humble, with their feet on the ground. This is an important year for them and we will be following their progress with great interest, while also looking to expand our junior program.

“Mercedes-Benz has a strong tradition of developing young racing talent and our eyes are very much open to other promising prospects for the future.”