Kurt Busch tops again in second Cup practice at Pocono

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After leading yesterday’s first Sprint Cup practice and then qualifying fourth for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400, Stewart Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch was quickest in this morning’s second Cup practice at Pocono Raceway with a lap of 178.859 miles per hour.

It’s been an uneven first season at SHR for Busch, who put himself into the Chase picture with a win at Martinsville but has been in the lower reaches of the Top 30 in the standings ever since.

But the Outlaw believes that things are picking up in the 41 garage.

“We’ve got a fast Chevy and that’s what it’s all about, putting yourself in position,” Busch told ESPN. “And [crew chief] Daniel [Knost] and all the guys back at the shop have been working hard. This year, we’ve been hot and even ice cold, so Daniel and the guys at the shop keep plugging away to find new things that will help my balance with the car.

“…It’s just a matter of each week learning and growing as a team, and we haven’t quite matured at the level we hoped we would. But here we are – we’re coming back around these tracks a second time and I’m feeling good about it.”

Following him was Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman, who qualified a disappointing 21st but was second-fastest in Practice 2 with a lap of 178.430 mph. Newman currently sits 13th on the Chase Grid (+47 points over 16th place), but is still searching for his own regular season win that can get him over the top.

“[We had a] really disappointing day yesterday to be 21st…[But] we felt like we were really good in race trim yesterday and proved it again today,” Newman told ESPN. “I guess that’s all we’ve got left this weekend is race trim. We’ll see if we can have a good car tomorrow.”

Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were quick once again in Practice 2, placing third and fourth respectively (Keselowski with a 178.398; Logano with a 178.232). Another SHR driver, Kevin Harvick, was fifth (178.211). Sunday’s polesitter, Kyle Larson, was 18th (177.434) on the time sheets.

Sprint Cup final practice will run later this morning at 11:30 a.m. ET.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT POCONO – SECOND PRACTICE TIMES

Porsche ready for final LMP1 outing in Bahrain

Photo: Porsche
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At the conclusion of this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, Porsche’s four-year run in the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship will come to a close. The pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids will roll off from first and third after Friday’s qualifying, and will look to add one more win to their final tally.

Despite its short stint, Porsche more than made its mark on the class and the championship, immediately jumping to the fore and challenging young hotshots Toyota, race winners in 2012 and 2013 and LMP1 champions in 2014, and long-time stalwarts Audi, which introduced its first LMP1 entry in 1999 and quickly became the predominant force in the LMP category.

The 2014 season saw Porsche score four poles and a race win before embarking on a remarkable three-year stretch from 2015 to 2017, in which they scored three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and three straight WEC driver and manufacturer championships (they wrapped the 2017 titles at the previous race in Shanghai.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of the LMP1 effort, detailed that the early days of the program were a little rocky, given the complex hybrid technology they were working with, but that they were able to find their stride relatively quickly.

“Back then (in 2014), we developed from zero a highly complex hybrid racecar on a Formula One level. The early days were extremely demanding, especially as we had to set up the infrastructure, including new buildings, at the same time, plus assembling a team of 260 excellent people. The timing was really tight and the 2014 Le Mans race came way too early for us. But since then, we have managed maximum success. I’m incredibly proud of this team and I hope that we can conclude the era of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a good race in Bahrain.”

Team principal Andreas Seidl added that having the championships wrapped up will make the final weekend more enjoyable, as they won’t have the pressure of racing with the championships in mind.

“I feel a big relief that the pressure of defending the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championship titles is resolved before our last race. The emotions of the farewell under the stress of the title battle would have been extremely hard for the team,” Seidl revealed.

Further, he added that Toyota’s TS050, which debuted last year, made their task all the more challenging as they worked to developed the Porsche 919 Hybrid –  the same basic car that they launched in 2014.

“In Toyota this year, we are facing a competitor who developed an all-new car for 2016. We, instead, kept developing our existing car. That we still won Le Mans as well as both championship titles is thanks to outstanding driver performances, many detailed improvements and the operational strength of our team,” Seidl asserted. “Now we have to get ourselves together and focus on this last race. We want to leave the stage not only as world champions but also with a performance that is satisfying for all of us. Six hours of reliability and faultless work are big challenges of men and machine. Safety has the highest priority. Only after the checkered flag can we allow our reflective feelings to break through.”

In terms of approaching Porsche’s LMP1 swan song, some drivers are taking different approaches. For example, Nick Tandy, driver of the No.1 entry with Neel Jani and André Lotterer, isn’t putting much thought into the farewell and is focusing entirely on the race.

“I prefer not to think about the farewell yet,” Tandy quipped. “The Bahrain race is very interesting anyway because we are racing from day into night. It is normally very hot for the car, the drivers and especially the tires. It is a challenging race to finish the season at. I haven’t been there since 2015 but I was on the podium back then when I came second in the LMP2 class. So this year’s target is to make it onto the LMP1 podium.”

Conversely, newly crowned champion Brendon Hartley, driver of the No. 2 entry with fellow champions Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard, freely expressed his emotions about the end of the Porsche LMP1 program.

“Going to Bahrain will be emotional for all of us. Especially as we arrive as World Champions with less pressure now,” asserted Hartley, who has also endured a busy stretch since the Petit Le Mans on October 7 that has seen him racing every weekend across the WEC, Formula 1, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “I have so many incredible memories and experiences with the 919 Hybrid, teammates and all the boys and girls from the Porsche LMP Team. We shared something very special together. After developing the Porsche 919 for more than four years, it’s an absolute dream to drive so we will all be enjoying every last lap with this awesome machine. On one side there will be a lot of sadness, but on the other hand we will be giving everything to give this project the ultimate send off it deserves.”

Porsche’s LMP1 effort won races in each of its four seasons, totaling 17 victories between it’s entries.

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