Joey Logano holds off Penske teammate Brad Keselowski for Bristol win (VIDEO)

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For a while, it looked like a 13th different Sprint Cup driver would lock in a Chase berth with a victory tonight at Bristol Motor Speedway.

But instead, Joey Logano entered the 3-Win Club in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Logano took the lead with 45 laps to go and saw off a last-lap challenge from Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski to win the Irwin Tools Night Race – becoming the fifth different driver to win three races this year (Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr.).

Following a restart with 63 laps left, Logano quickly moved into the Top 5 and then dispatched Carl Edwards for second place before setting his sights on the winless Matt Kenseth.

After an extended period of working the inside line, Logano finally made it stick with 45 to go when he slid up in front of Kenseth to claim the lead.

But Logano still had to out-hustle former Cup champion Keselowski, who went in deep on the inside of Logano in Turns 3 and 4 on the last lap.

It was an admirable last-ditch effort, but Logano held firm and motored by on the high line to take his first career win at NASCAR’s most infamous half mile.

“I wasn’t sure when I woke up this morning if we had a winning car or not,” Logano said to ESPN in Victory Lane. “[Crew chief] Tod Gordon is a good salesman – he pretty much sold me into thinking I had a winning car and made some small adjustments with it all night, and we got our third win of the year.

“…This is like one of the three biggest races of the year – the Bristol night race. And to have this in the record books with your name on it, it’s just really, really cool.”

For Logano, the win seemed to come down to knowing when and when not to use patience. Off of the restart with 63 to go, Logano rocketed from the sixth position to second in the span of just a few laps.

But when he finally got near Kenseth, he didn’t push the issue immediately, instead waiting for a perfect opportunity to strike.

“On the restart when we were sixth, I said ‘I’ve got to capitalize right now,'” said Logano. “So I went as hard as I could, raced the 20 [Kenseth] really hard…I was trying to keep up with him for a while. The 20 was really fast.”

After Logano finally assumed the lead, it appeared the race was pretty much done. But with just a few laps left, he sensed something amiss with his No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford.

“I don’t know if it was brakes or a hub failing in the rear, but it started vibrating really bad, getting really loose,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Ugh, hold on, a couple more laps, couple more laps!’

“Of course, there’s always added drama at the end that you don’t want…I was just able to make it there at the end.”

As for Kenseth, he eventually settled for third position ahead of fourth-place Jimmie Johnson and fifth-place Kurt Busch.

However, Kenseth continued to solidify his hold on a Chase Grid position, extending his cushion over 17th place to a sizable 83 points.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Bristol spring race winner Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, and Greg Biffle rounded out the Top 10.

McMurray, who pretty much needs a win to make the post-season, led a race-high 148 laps. But after pitting for four fresh tires under a caution with less than 70 laps to go, he took the restart in fifth and couldn’t recover the lost track position.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT BRISTOL – Irwin Tools Night Race
Unofficial Results
1. 22-Joey Logano, led 76 laps
2. 2-Brad Keselowski, led 46 laps
3. 20-Matt Kenseth, led 62 laps
4. 48-Jimmie Johnson
5. 41-Kurt Busch
6. 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
7. 99-Carl Edwards
8. 1-Jamie McMurray, led 148 laps
9. 27-Paul Menard
10. 16-Greg Biffle
11. 4-Kevin Harvick, led 75 laps
12. 42-Kyle Larson
13. 31-Ryan Newman
14. 47-AJ Allmendinger
ONE LAP DOWN
15. 14-Jeff Burton
16. 24-Jeff Gordon, led 17 laps
TWO LAPS DOWN
17. 15-Clint Bowyer
18. 95-Michael McDowell
THREE LAPS DOWN
19. 51-Justin Allgaier
20. 78-Martin Truex Jr.
21. 55-Brian Vickers
22. 40-Landon Cassill
FOUR LAPS DOWN
23. 34-David Ragan
24. 36-Reed Sorenson
FIVE LAPS DOWN
25. 38-David Gilliland
26. 13-Casey Mears
SEVEN LAPS DOWN
27. 10-Danica Patrick
28. 3-Austin Dillon
EIGHT LAPS DOWN
29. 98-Josh Wise
30. 26-Cole Whitt
NINE LAPS DOWN
31. 33-David Stremme

32. 23-Alex Bowman, Lap 489
33. 32-JJ Yeley, Lap 489
34. 9-Marcos Ambrose, Lap 480
35. 5-Kasey Kahne, Lap 477, led 40 laps
36. 18-Kyle Busch, Lap 442, Accident, led 8 laps
37. 83-Ryan Truex, Lap 338, Engine
38. 7-Michael Annett, Lap 243, Accident
39. 88-Dale Earnhardt Jr., Lap 176, Accident
40. 11-Denny Hamlin, led 28 laps, Lap 160 Accident
41. 43-Aric Almirola, Lap 123, Accident
42. 66-Brett Moffitt, Lap 78, Engine
43. 37-Dave Blaney, Lap 37, Overheating

Vettel: Front-row grid slot for Australia proof of Ferrari’s progress

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Sebastian Vettel believes that his charge to second place on the grid for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix acts as proof of the progress Ferrari’s Formula 1 operation has made over the winter.

Vettel arrived in Australia as one of the favorites to take pole following an impressive showing in pre-season testing, prompting three-time champion Lewis Hamilton to name Ferrari as the leading team.

Hamilton rallied in qualifying to take pole position for Mercedes, beating Vettel by two-tenths of a second, but the Ferrari driver managed to fend off Valtteri Bottas in the second Silver Arrow and clinch a front-row berth.

The result marked Ferrari’s best qualifying result since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Vettel’s and Ferrari’s last pole and victory in F1 – and the German was encouraged by the result.

“I think we have a good car. I think we are working well as a team,” Vettel said.

“Things are improving. Obviously it’s nice to see that things are working, the car is working. I had a mixed day yesterday, but the confidence in the car was there from testing and I think we showed that again today.”

Vettel conceded that he felt his final lap in qualifying could have been faster, but doubts it would have been enough to catch pole-sitter Hamilton.

“In the end I was not entirely happy with my lap. I was pretty happy with the end, maybe not so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much,” Vettel said.

“But I think Lewis did a very good lap. I would have loved to, but I don’t think pole was up for grabs. Tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. The car feels good, we’ve improved it so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday when we had practice.

“It’s been a big winter for us, lots of change we’ve gone through as a team in the last 12 months, and for the better. I think the team is getting stronger.

“Obviously everyone is pushing very hard and it’s not so easy to come here with a long journey to get to Australia, but I think people are fired up and we are motivated for tomorrow.

“I think it’s the first good opportunity.”

Hamilton buoyed by sixth Australia F1 pole, ready for tight race

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Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton was buoyed by his charge to pole position in Australian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday, but is braced for a tight race at the front of the pack.

Hamilton saw off a challenge from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and new Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to capture his sixth pole at Albert Park, and the 62nd of his F1 career.

Hamilton had doubts over Mercedes’ advantage over Ferrari heading into the new year, making his charge to pole all the more meaningful as he paid tribute to the team members after qualifying.

“It’s been a fantastic weekend so far. It’s quite amazing to come here for I think the 11th time, and it feels like it was only yesterday that I came here and had my first race here in 2007,” Hamilton said.

“I’m just incredibly proud of my team. This rule change has been huge and such a massive challenge for everyone. The guys have just worked so hard to make this car what it is today.”

Despite taking pole by almost three-tenths of a second in Q3, Hamilton is braced for a close fight on Sunday with Vettel and Bottas, the latter starting his first race for Mercedes from third on the grid.

“Valtteri did a fantastic job given it’s his first qualifying session with the team. He did a great job and it’s great for Mercedes,” Hamilton said.

“Looking forward to the race, it’s close between us all. As you can see, there’s going to be a tight race this year I think.

“I think tomorrow is about putting all the work that’s gone in over the winter, all the work that’s gone through testing and this whole weekend and really put it to work tomorrow.

“I’ll make sure I get a good night’s sleep and come back tomorrow stronger than ever.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton sees off Vettel challenge to take Australian GP pole

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Lewis Hamilton saw off challenges from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to pick up the first Formula 1 pole position of the year in Australian Grand Prix qualifying.

Hamilton topped the timesheets on Friday to give Mercedes hope of continuing its impressive qualifying form from 2016, when it took 20 poles from 21 races.

However, Ferrari looked poised to strike and take its first pole position since Singapore 2015 as Vettel led final practice, setting up a close battle in qualifying.

Hamilton took provisional pole with his first Q3 run, going three-tenths faster than Vettel, and was able to find a further three-tenths on his second run to make pole all but his.

Vettel refused to back down, producing a rapid final sector to gain plenty of time on Hamilton, but it was not enough to deny the Briton his 62nd F1 pole.

On his Mercedes debut, Bottas put in an impressive display to take third on the grid, finishing three-tenths off Hamilton’s time. Fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen ended the session fourth in the second Ferrari.

Max Verstappen led Red Bull’s charge in fifth, while Haas driver Romain Grosjean put in a stellar display to take sixth on the grid. Felipe Massa will start his comeback race from seventh ahead of the Toro Rosso pair of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat.

Local favorite Daniel Ricciardo’s difficult home race weekend continued as he crashed out at Turn 14, wrecking the rear of his Red Bull RB13. While Ricciardo was physically unharmed, the Australian’s ego was left bruised as he was resigned to starting the race from 10th on the grid.

Sporting is bright pink livery, Force India failed to light up the gloomy conditions in Melbourne as it suffered a double-elimination in Q2. Sergio Perez qualified 11th, while rookie teammate Esteban Ocon will make his first start in Australia from 14th on the grid. Nico Hulkenberg saw his 13-race streak of Q3 appearances ended as he could only qualify P12.

One of the biggest talking points from the early part of qualifying was Fernando Alonso’s titanic effort to put his McLaren-Honda 13th on the grid. Following a tough winter marred by reliability issues, Alonso dragged his car through to Q2 and did “all he could”, yet the issues faced by the team meant no Q3 berth was forthcoming.

Sauber enjoyed an impressive start to the year as Marcus Ericsson made it through to Q2, eventually qualifying 15th. Last-minute substitute Antonio Giovinazzi was poised to also get out of Q1 on debut, only for a mistake on his final lap to leave him 16th overall.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen failed to get in a late lap, leaving him 17th on the grid for his first race with the American team, while a fuel flow issue meant Stoffel Vandoorne could only qualify 18th for McLaren.

Lance Stroll’s baptism of fire in F1 continued as he finished 2.9 seconds off the pace in P19 for Williams, while Renault’s Jolyon Palmer was made to pay for his lack of track time, rounding out the grid in P20.

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Lance Stroll set for Australia grid penalty after gearbox change

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Formula 1 rookie Lance Stroll has been forced into a gearbox change ahead of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix following a crash in final practice at Albert Park.

Stroll lost the back-end of his Williams FW40 car coming out of Turn 10, hitting the wall and causing damage to the right-hand side and rear of his chassis in the process.

The crash brought out a red flag that ultimately caused FP3 to end early, with Stroll returning to the pit lane on the back of a marshal’s moped.

After bringing the car back to the pit lane, Williams confirmed that it would have to change Stroll’s gearbox ahead of qualifying, which will trigger a five-place grid penalty for the Canadian.

Stroll’s crash comes after a mixed pre-season program that saw him suffer three shunts in the opening week in Barcelona, raising concerns about his readiness for F1.

Stroll bounced back in the second week of running, racking up plenty of mileage in Williams’ 2017 car to back up his extensive private test program in the team’s 2014-spec F1 car last year.

At just 18 years old, Stroll is set to become the second-youngest F1 driver on Sunday, trailing only Red Bull’s Max Verstappen whose first start came at the age of 17 in 2015.