NASCAR: Team Penske sweeps Nationwide front row at the Glen

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Last year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series winner at Watkins Glen will try to make it two in a row from the pole position later this afternoon.

On his first lap of three in the final round of qualifying, Brad Keselowski (pictured) posted a time of 71.018 seconds to earn the pole for today’s Zippo 200 (2:15 p.m. ET, check local listings).

It marks the former Sprint Cup champion’s seventh front-row start in Nationwide this year. Keselowski has already converted three of them into wins at Las Vegas, New Hampshire, and Iowa.

He’ll be joined on the front row by Team Penske teammate Joey Logano, whose best lap this morning was a mere .079 of a second off of Keselowski’s best.

In addition to Logano, Row 2 should also provide Keselowski with stiff competition. Kyle Busch (71.285 seconds) will start third while Marcos Ambrose (71.317) – who holds a three-race Nationwide win streak at the Glen – is fourth on the grid.

“I think any one of the Top 4 cars can win the race,” Keselowski told ESPN. “Marcos has won three in a row here in ’08, ’09, and ’10; Kyle runs really well here and he won the Cup race last year; and my teammate, Joey Logano, is really coming into his own as well.

“Any one of those three could be the guy to beat. It’s hard to pick just one. But we know we’re definitely not in for a walk in the park.”

Nationwide title contender Regan Smith may have earned himself an advantage over points leader Chase Elliott going into today’s race.

Smith was able to crack the Top 12 and then post a final round time that was good for fifth, while Elliott did not advance from the first round and will start from 15th. Elliott holds just a slim, two-point lead over Smith.

Also looking to make ground up on Elliott are Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler, who are tied for third in the standings at 12 points back. Dillon will go off from eighth, while Sadler starts from 14th.

Brendan Gaughan, winner of the Nationwide Series’ first road race of the year at Road America, will start ninth today.

It bears noting that 16 of the 20 Nationwide races run at Watkins Glen have been won from a Top-10 starting position; the last time a driver won from beyond the Top 10 was in 2008, when Ambrose won this race from 12th.

NASCAR Nationwide Series at Watkins Glen – Starting Lineup
1. 22-Brad Keselowski
2. 12-Joey Logano
3. 54-Kyle Busch
4. 09-Marcos Ambrose
5. 7-Regan Smith
6. 33-Paul Menard
7. 2-Brian Scott
8. 3-Ty Dillon
9. 62-Brendan Gaughan
10. 20-Matt Kenseth
11. 31-Dylan Kwasniewski
12. 60-Chris Buescher
13. 42-Kyle Larson
14. 11-Elliott Sadler
15. 9-Chase Elliott
16. 6-Trevor Bayne
17. 99-James Buescher
18. 87-Stanton Barrett
19. 19-Mike Bliss
20. 44-Carlos Contreras
21. 43-Dakoda Armstrong
22. 40-Matt Dibenedetto
23. 01-Landon Cassill
24. 28-J.J. Yeley
25. 55-Brennan Newberry
26. 51-Jeremy Clements
27. 75-Kenny Habul
28. 16-Ryan Reed
29. 14-Eric McClure
30. 4-Jeffrey Earnhardt
31. 93-Tomy Drissi
32. 39-Ryan Sieg
33. 17-Tanner Berryhill
34. 23-Kevin O’Connell
35. 46-Josh Wise
36. 70-Derrike Cope
37. 52-Joey Gase
38. 74-Roger Reuse
39. 10-Blake Koch

Sebastien Bourdais released from IU Methodist hospital; begins rehab

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INDIANAPOLIS – Sebastien Bourdais only posted just yesterday that he was “unable to go for a run” – his spirit and humor clearly not affected despite sustaining multiple pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in his crash during qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in the No. 18 GEICO Honda on Saturday.

On Thursday, his post revealed even better news: he’s been released from IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, and will be set to fly home soon to Florida for his rehabilitation.

Bourdais’ place in the race at Dale Coyne Racing will be taken by James Davison, but judging by this first round of leaving, the Frenchman is keen to begin the recovery process as quick as humanly possible.

Bottas remains confident he can close gap in F1 title race

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MONACO (AP) Valtteri Bottas has put his recent bad luck behind him and remains confident he can close the gap in the Formula One title race at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver’s fledgling Mercedes career has been a topsy-turvy one since he joined from Williams as a replacement for F1 champion Nico Rosberg.

He drove brilliantly to win his first career race at the Russian Grand Prix after securing his first ever pole position in Sochi last month. But two weeks ago he was undone by engine problems in practice for the Spanish GP and then failed to finish because of a turbo issue late in the race.

“It’s one to forget for sure. It’s been a bit up and down for me this year,” Bottas said Wednesday at the Monaco GP. “Bad result, good result.”

His other results so far are two third places and one sixth place, putting him 41 points behind four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel and 35 behind three-time champion Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes teammate.

“The gap to Sebastian, to Lewis, is bigger than I was hoping for this year. But things can change quickly,” Bottas said. “What gives me confidence is that there is still 75 percent of the season left. I feel my best races are ahead this year. I feel I’ve done a good job in some races, but I feel there is more to come to be at a consistently good level.”

Although Bottas has impressed with this speed, he has yet to show the hallmarks of a genuine title contender.

His magnanimous approach goes somewhat against that.

Bottas showed his team ethic by allowing Hamilton past him in Bahrain so that the British driver could chase after Vettel.

He did so again in Barcelona, holding up Vettel for a crucial few laps. That allowed Hamilton to gain some precious seconds on Vettel’s chasing Ferrari. Hamilton won a thrilling race, Vettel was second and Bottas got nothing – except praise for his efforts.

It is a difficult situation for Bottas, who is on a one-year contract and has the added pressure of the demanding Hamilton as a teammate. With 55 race wins to his name, Hamilton is clearly the No. 1 driver, even though the team has not officially said so.

Over the past three years, Hamilton was on an equal footing with Rosberg as they fought each other for the title. This led to tensions and fall outs.

The 27-year-old Bottas is not relishing the prospect of finding himself in a similar position. But it might become inevitable if he does manage to close the gap on Hamilton and turn the title race into a genuine three-way battle.

“I can’t even imagine how it can be after a few years with a teammate battling for the title always. There is respect both ways (with Hamilton), which is good,” Bottas said. “(We are) just enjoying working together and hopefully that will help us in this close fight with Ferrari. It is a team sport anyway, so we need to push forward together.”

It’s hardly the talk of a driver desperate to win the title.

F1 Paddock Pass: Monaco Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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From the streets of Monte Carlo, Monaco, comes the crown jewel of the Formula 1 season (all times for the weekend via NBC or NBCSN here) this weekend, the Monaco Grand Prix.

And here with the pre-race updates from the paddock are NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales, along with the race crew from the F1 on NBC team who are on site in Monaco.

This is an interesting weekend for Monaco, given the Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel battle for race wins and the championship so far in 2017. There’s also the question of whether someone can spring a surprise in Monaco, as has been done on several occasions over the years.

Here’s the show, below:

Brown wants to see F1 back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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McLaren executive director Zak Brown would like to see Formula 1 return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the future, saying it would “make sense” for the sport.

The United States Grand Prix was held on the old IMS road course between 2000 and 2007 before dropping off the calendar, with a low point being hit in 2005 when just six cars started the race over tire safety concerns.

IMS re-designed its road course in order to host MotoGP and, from 2014, an IndyCar road course race as a prelude to the Indianapolis 500.

F1 is known to be looking to expand its footprint in the United States following Liberty Media’s takeover of the series, with additional races to the current USGP at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas being sought after.

Southern California has also been a talking point; Long Beach’s future has been discussed in the press more so than has Indianapolis, as a consulting firm has been brought in to examine what would be the best case scenario for the city.

Brown has spent a significant amount time this last month in Indianapolis as part of two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso’s Indy 500 entry, and feels the sport would be wise to push for a return to the Brickyard in the near future.

“I am of the opinion that Formula 1 at IMS works. I think they’ve changed the configuration of the track a little bit,” Brown said during a teleconference on Wednesday.

“I think it makes sense for Formula 1 to be at the world’s greatest racetrack. I think the city of Indianapolis is well catered to take care of Formula 1, just like it did in the past, and the Super Bowl.

“I think the drivers like it. I think Indianapolis is easy to get to geographically. I realize it may not have the glamour of some of the other markets that are being spoken about, but it’s here, it’s ready to go.

“I think economically, given that Liberty is taking a different view on some of their future partnerships, I think there is an opportunity there. Personally I’d like to see it happen.”

J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President, told a group of reporters on site that no talks had been held with Liberty as of yet, and while the circuit would be open to negotiations, it would have to be financially viable.

“I have not had any talks directly with the folks with Liberty or with Formula 1. We’d certainly entertain a conversation,” Boles said.

“We’d have to figure out the economics. That’s why it wasn’t here after 2007; in order for it to come back here, the economics would have to make sense.

“At some level that conversation, Mark Miles [CEO of Hulman & Co., INDYCAR/IMS parent company] and Zak have a really good relationship, I think we’d ultimately lead it through Mark.

“When we redid the road course between 2013 and 2014, one of the things that was important to us was to make sure our road course remained FIA Grade 1, so if that there ever was a point in time where we had the opportunity to host an F1 race, we wouldn’t have to go through a complete renovation of our road course again.

“There’s two tracks in the U.S. that are that. COTA’s one, and we’re the other. So theoretically they could run here.”