GoBowling.com 400 - Practice

Kyle Larson bags first career Sprint Cup pole at Pocono

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Kyle Larson has his first official Sprint Cup pole. Is his first Sprint Cup win not too far off?

Larson went to the top early in the final round of qualifying at Pocono Raceway with a lap of 183.438 mph in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

That run around the 2.5-mile oval was able to stand up against the best from Team Penske’s Joey Logano (183.408) and Brad Keselowski (182.700), earning Larson the pole for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400.

“I had some butterflies going into that last round,” Larson said to Fox Sports. “I knew we’d have a good shot at the pole after the second round and I was nervous. But I hit all three corners as good as I could, so I was excited about that.

“…Everybody at the shop is making the cars faster and faster every week, and we’re getting better and better. I really think a win’s coming soon and that would be great before the Chase starts.”

Larson’s hold on a post-season berth is far from secure. He sits 15th on the Chase Grid but is only four points ahead of fellow Cup rookie and winless driver Austin Dillon, who is in the 16th and final Grid position (four points above 17th-place Kasey Kahne).

That makes securing a win vital for Larson during this final six-race stretch of the regular season.

This is not the first time Larson’s led the field to a green flag this season. The NASCAR Drive for Diversity grad lucked into starting from P1 this past spring at Richmond when rain washed out qualifying; the grid was subsequently set on first practice speeds, and Larson’s lap in that session was the quickest.

Unlike Larson, Logano’s already locked himself into the Chase thanks to his two wins at Texas and the aforementioned spring race at Richmond.

But that didn’t keep “Sliced Bread” from having perhaps a slight hint of frustration after narrowly losing the pole to Larson today.

“It felt so good too – I would’ve put millions of dollars on that lap being the pole, it felt so good,” Logano told Fox about his flyer lap. “[Crew chief] Tod Gordon made great adjustments each run. We talked about it after the first session, being able to keep up with it, and [the car] kept going faster and faster.

“I felt like I nailed all three corners that time and the rest of ’em didn’t really nail all of ’em. I was like, ‘Yeah, this is perfect, I’ve got it this time.’ And then, I got beat. It sucks (laughs).”

Logano’s teammate, Keselowski, will start on Row 2 alongside Kurt Busch, who led the first Cup practice session earlier today.

Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick will start from Row 3, followed by Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray in Row 4. NASCAR’s most popular drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick, go off from Row 5.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – GOBOWLING.COM 400 AT POCONO
QUALIFYING RESULTS
1. 42-Kyle Larson, 183.438 mph
2. 22-Joey Logano
3. 2-Brad Keselowski
4. 41-Kurt Busch
5. 24-Jeff Gordon
6. 4-Kevin Harvick
7. 18-Kyle Busch
8. 1-Jamie McMurray
9. 88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
10. 10-Danica Patrick
11. 3-Austin Dillon
12. 5-Kasey Kahne
13. 11-Denny Hamlin
14. 15-Clint Bowyer
15. 55-Brian Vickers
16. 14-Tony Stewart
17. 48-Jimmie Johnson
18. 20-Matt Kenseth
19. 78-Martin Truex Jr.
20. 47-A.J. Allmendinger
21. 31-Ryan Newman
22. 51-Justin Allgaier
23. 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
24. 13-Casey Mears
25. 16 – Greg Biffle
26. 99 – Carl Edwards
27. 9 – Marcos Ambrose
28. 43 – Aric Almirola
29. 27 – Paul Menard
30. 38 – David Gilliland
31. 98 – Josh Wise
32. 40 – Landon Cassill
33. 26 – Cole Whitt
34. 32 – Travis Kvapil
35. 36 – Reed Sorenson
36. 23 – Alex Bowman
37. 83 – Ryan Truex
38. 7 – Michael Annett
39. 34 – David Ragan
40. 37 – Dave Blaney
41. 66 – Joe Nemechek
42. 33 – Alex Kennedy
43. 93 – Johnny Sauter

Takuma Sato formally confirmed with Andretti Autosport

HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 27: Takuma Sato of Japan, driver of the #14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara Honda sits in his car during practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix Of Houston at NRG Park on June 27, 2014 in Houston, Texas (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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Takuma Sato will join Andretti Autosport for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, and complete the team’s four-car full-season lineup.

The 39-year-old Japanese driver will begin his eighth season in IndyCar next year, in arguably his deepest opportunity yet driving the team’s No. 26 Honda.

“I am extremely excited that we were able to work out a deal with Michael and Andretti Autosport,” Sato said in a release. “With Honda an integral part of Andretti Autosport, it seemed like a great fit. The team has proven year after year that they are ultracompetitive on all types of circuits.

“Particularly the speed that team has shown in recent years at the Indy 500 were just incredible. I am also very impressed on how aggressively they have addressed their needs for 2017, and am really looking forward to working with my new environment and can’t wait to get started.”

Sato spent his first two seasons with the KVSH Racing team (then called KV Racing Technology), a year at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and the last four at A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

Sato delivered Foyt its first win in more than a decade when he won at Long Beach, 2013, and also has scored five poles in his career. While he’s yet to finish better than 13th in points, Sato has long been one of the more enjoyable drivers to watch in the series for his aggressive, “no attack, no chance” style.

Sato joins the returning trio of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi within the team.

Team principal Michael Andretti said Sato’s results over his IndyCar career to date really haven’t done his talent, ability or development work justice.

“We’re excited to have Takuma; we think he’ll surprise and turn some heads,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “I think he’ll be in a situation that should help him a lot.

“With three good teammates, I think he is personally excited. This will be his best chance to get results since being in IndyCar.

“To me I really believe he’s one of the fastest guys in the paddock. When it comes to qualifying… it’ll help us in that area. It’ll be good in that feedback. I’m real happy with having him on board. He’s such a great kid, he won’t upset the chemistry. It’s a positive all the way around.”

Andretti also noted how key it was to have all four full-time entries confirmed this early in the offseason. The Rossi car with Andretti-Herta Autosport was only finalized in late February last year.

“I don’t think it’s ever been done since I’ve owned the team,” Andretti admitted. “Where we have all four cars this early, it helps us in terms of putting it together. It’s not a last-minute thing. That makes it a better effort.”

Garrett Mothershead, who worked with the departed Carlos Munoz at Andretti last year, will be Sato’s race engineer. Munoz now replaces Sato at Foyt next season.

Andretti said he expects to see commercial partnerships for Rossi and Sato’s cars announced in mid-January.

Nico Rosberg’s F1 retirement came as no surprise to Lewis Hamilton

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Lewis Hamilton says he was not surprised by Mercedes teammate and Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg’s retirement announcement on Friday.

Hamilton lost out to Rosberg in the battle for the 2016 drivers’ championship, finishing five points shy of a fourth title in Abu Dhabi last weekend.

Rosberg announced on Friday ahead of the FIA prize giving in Vienna that he would be retiring from F1 with immediate effect, sending shockwaves through the sport.

However, Hamilton said that the news came as little surprise to him, given he has worked with Rosberg throughout his career and knows the German well.

“The sport will miss him but I wish him all the best,” Hamilton said at the press conference in Vienna, as quoted by F1i.

“I’m sure it was a surprise to many people. I’m probably one of the many people that it was not a surprise for but that’s because I’ve known him for a long, long time. But this is motor racing.

“This is the first time he’s won in 18 years, hence why it was not a surprise that he decided to stop. But also he’s got a family to focus on and probably wants to have more children. Formula 1 takes so much of your time.”

Rosberg’s decision brings an end to his fierce rivalry with Hamilton during their four years together as Mercedes teammates.

The two enjoyed a number of clashes both on- and off-track, but Hamilton said that he would miss not having Rosberg to go up against.

“We started karting when we were 13 and we would always talk about being champions,” Hamilton said.

“When I joined this team Nico was there which was something we spoke about when we were kids.

“It’s going to be very, very strange and for sure it will be sad to not have him in the team next year.”

Verstappen, Mercedes joke about vacant seat after Rosberg’s retirement

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer leads Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track  during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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In the wake of Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement announcement on Friday in Vienna, nearly every Formula 1 driver has been named as a possible replacement for the World Champion at Mercedes in 2017.

Fernando Alonso? Sebastian Vettel? Pascal Wehrlein? Esteban Ocon? Or how about Max Verstappen?

Ah, Verstappen. The young upstart who has turned the F1 world on its head since making his debut as a fresh-faced 17-year-old in 2015. Fast-forward to the present day, and he is the youngest ever grand prix winner (and still very fresh-faced).

While a move to Mercedes is, in reality, out of the question for 2017 given the nature of his Red Bull contract and status as one of F1’s hottest prospects, Verstappen was more than happy to engage in some banter on Twitter with the German manufacturer.

Verstappen notably had the chance to join Mercedes’ junior program back in 2014, but decided on a move to Red Bull instead after it promised him an F1 drive with Toro Rosso for 2015.

Stunned racing world reacts to Rosberg’s retirement on social media

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It is fair to say that nobody saw this coming.

Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from Formula 1 just six days after clinching his maiden world championship has already sent shockwaves through the racing world.

To see a professional athlete bow out in such fashion is rare, particularly when they’re nowhere near retirement age. Alas, it seems that one world title was enough for Nico.

Here’s a round-up of how the racing world has reacted to Rosberg’s retirement on Twitter.