Jimmie Johnson fastest in first Cup practice at New Hampshire

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Hendrick Motorsports’ recent test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway appears to be paying off so far.

Defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was quickest in this morning’s first practice session at the Magic Mile. Johnson, who currently holds the top spot on the Chase Grid by virtue of his three wins, posted a lap of 135.313 mph to lead the 90-minute session.

Additionally, Johnson’s Hendrick teammate, Jeff Gordon, was third-quickest (135.164) in practice behind Johnson and Cup rookie Kyle Larson (135.212).

Larson’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing, Jamie McMurray, and Kevin Harvick posted identical speeds of 135.131 mph to complete the Top 5.

In comments this morning, Johnson noted that Hendrick chose to test at New Hampshire earlier this summer because the team considered it to be their weakest Chase track.

NHMS will also host the second race of NASCAR’s 10-race playoff in September.

“It really was Chase-focused,” Johnson said of the decision. “I think there are multiple factors a team looks at in picking the tracks you go to [for testing]. If you [lock into the Chase] early, that helps your strategy and you can look more toward the end of the year.

“But something teams also look at is where we are the weakest as an organization.Where do the four crew chiefs and drivers get the most frustrated? For Chase-related race tracks, this is one of them for us.

“That’s why the decision was made as a group. All four drivers and crew chiefs agreed, ‘Yeah, let’s go do Loudon. We need to work there.'”

Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, defending race winner Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch made up Positions 6-10 in practice.

Qualifying for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 is set for 4:40 p.m. ET and that will be followed by two more Cup practices tomorrow (9-9:50 a.m. ET, 11:30 a.m.-12:25 p.m. ET).

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT NEW HAMPSHIRE -FRIDAY PRACTICE TIMES

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.