NASCAR: Ambrose quickest in 2nd Nationwide practice

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Preparing to go after his fourth consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series win at Watkins Glen International, Marcos Ambrose topped the second Nationwide practice this afternoon with a lap of 71.595 seconds.

Ambrose, the man that many believe can win in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race and earn a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, claimed Nationwide wins at the Glen in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

He’s making his first Nationwide start altogether since finishing seventh last year at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Behind Ambrose in Practice 2 was Brad Keselowski, who led Practice 1. Keselowski, who was last year’s Nationwide winner at the Glen, posted a lap of 71.986 seconds that was good for second on the time sheets.

Fellow Sprint Cup regulars Joey Logano (71.991) and Kyle Busch (72.132) were third and fifth respectively in the session, with Nationwide full-timer Brendan Gaughan going P4 between them (72.116).

During the session, rookie pilot Ryan Reed lost control of his No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford over the curbing at Turn 6 and slid hard into the tire barriers near Turn 7.

The impact sent him spinning multiple times before he came to a stop on the track. A caution was immediately thrown, and practice eventually resumed with about 15 minutes to go.

Reed’s team has rolled out the backup car for tomorrow’s Nationwide qualifying (9:40 a.m. ET) and race (2:15 p.m. ET).

Paul Menard, Dylan Kwasniewski, Chris Buescher, Regan Smith, and Matt Kenseth ended up in Positions 6-10. Nationwide Series points leader Chase Elliott was 13th.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.