NASCAR: For third straight race, all Hendrick drivers score Top-10s

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No doubt that Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway belonged to Team Penske. Between winner Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, a Penske car led 236 of 267 laps in the Quaker State 400.

But while Penske dominated, the Hendrick Motorsports camp still had a good night in the Bluegrass State.

For the third consecutive Sprint Cup race, all four of their men came away with Top-10 finishes led by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fifth.

Jeff Gordon, the current Sprint Cup points leader, finished sixth, followed by Kasey Kahne in eighth and defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson in 10th.

Gordon was seeking to become the first driver ever to win on every active Sprint Cup track by taking the checkered flag Saturday night. But an air gun malfunction during a pit stop at Lap 127 caused him to fall from the Top 10 all the way to 23rd, severely damaging his hopes.

The four-time Cup champ was able to rally back inside the Top 10 late, but admitted to TNT afterwards that he thought their overall pace was going to be better.

“We did have the issues and got behind,” he said. “It seemed the car was pretty decent there at the end but not enough to really move up through there. It was pretty tough to pass and I thought we made the most of what happened to us today.”

Gordon also took back his comments on Friday about what he saw as Penske’s inability to carry over their stout qualifying pace to Race Day.

“I said they hadn’t been backing up their speed from qualifying, but they seemed to find it this weekend,” he said. “Wow, they were fast.”

Kahne also had to regroup during the race after trouble. On Lap 153, Kahne sustained some damage to his car in an incident that also involved Alex Bowman, Jamie McMurray, and Aric Almirola.

A slow late-race stop sent him further back, but Kahne was able to climb into the Top 10 by the checkered flag.

“I had to fight,” Kahne said. “We had some damage when the 1 [McMurray) stopped when another car was spinning.  I couldn’t get stopped I hit him, the 43 (Almirola) hit him, just too many cars in one spot on the road.

“We had a bad pit stop at the end that put us 18th and got back to eighth, so I was really happy with the speed of our Great Clips Chevy – just too many errors if you want to run up front.”

As for Johnson, he said that his poor 25th-place starting position had an impact on his race.

“I would work my way to the front and get in the top 10, top five and then come down pit road and because of our poor qualifying position we just didn’t have a good pit stall,” he said.

“I was between the 10 (Danica Patrick) and the 18 (Kyle Busch) and they were both fast all night long. I would lose five or six spots on pit road each time.

“…I think we were a competitive car and we could have been up there and maybe had a look at those guys in some clean air. But we just messed up on Friday and got behind the eight ball.”

‘Still quite early’ for Ricciardo to think about Red Bull F1 future

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Daniel Ricciardo feels it is “still quite early” to make a decision about his Red Bull Formula 1 future despite seeing teammate Max Verstappen announce on Friday he would be staying with the team until 2020.

Verstappen, 20, put pen to paper on an enhanced F1 contract with Red Bull, with his previous deal due to expire at the end of next season in parallel to Ricciardo’s own agreement.

Ricciardo was asked following practice on Friday why he is yet to strike a new deal for himself with Red Bull, and explained he is in no rush to make a final decision when he has over a year to run on his current contract.

“It’s not that I’ve said no to anything. It’s just still quite early I think,” Ricciardo explained.

“People talked a little bit about contracts and the silly season for next year, but I thought that would still happen next year. It’s still quite early.

“If I’m to try and extract some positives out of his news it’s that it gives us good confidence for next year. He and his management see a lot of positives in the team to continue like that.

“I’m 100 per cent here next year, I can at least say that, and I think it gives both of us confidence that we’ll keep progressing the way we are.”

Red Bull said upon announcing Verstappen’s new deal that it wants to “build a team around him”, with the 20-year-old standing out as a once-in-a-generation talent.

The focus surrounding Verstappen has not left Ricciardo feeling as though he is in the shade or in any way playing second-fiddle to the Dutchman, stressing he has no internal concerns at Red Bull.

“For sure, as far as media goes, he certainly gets a lot of attention. He’s broken records for his age and things like that, so rightly so,” Ricciardo said.

“Take the media out of it, as far as inside the team, new parts on the car, things like this, there’s always been parity and equality.”

Verstappen is only the third driver to commit to a deal beyond the end of next season, following Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari and Fernando Alonso at McLaren on multi-year contracts.

All 10 F1 teams have at least one free seat for 2019, making Ricciardo a possible candidate for seats with either Mercedes or Ferrari were he to consider a move away from Red Bull.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky Sports, Red Bull F1 advisor Helmut Marko said he felt Ricciardo was “putting himself on the market” by waiting to make a decision on his future, but that talks would take place when possible.