Hotlanta brings out the heat in first of two final Sprint Cup practices

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HAMPTON, Ga. – When you’re hot, you’re hot.

That’s a good way of describing how Saturday’s first of two Sprint Cup practice sessions wound up at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Last week’s winner at Bristol Motor Speedway, Joey Logano, was fastest in the practice in preparation for Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500.

Logano was the only driver to exceed 189 mph, turning a best lap of 189.351 mph.

Kevin Harvick, who earned his sixth pole position of the year in Friday’s qualifying session, was second-fastest at 188.328 mph.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third-fastest (187.843), followed by Denny Hamlin (187.405), Carl Edwards (187.215), Greg Biffle (186.679), Kasey Kahne (186.297), Jeff Gordon (186.153), Ryan Newman (186.034) and Jamie McMurray (185.915).

Jimmie Johnson was 11th-fastest (185.828 mph), followed by Marcos Ambrose (185.828), Kurt Busch (185.710), Martin Truex Jr. (185.517) and Tony Stewart was 15th-fastest (185.561).

Other highlights:

— Danica Patrick was right behind her boss with the 16th-fastest speed (185.170 mph).

— Rookies Austin Dillon (185.127) and Kyle Larson (185.078) were 17th- and 18th-fastest, respectively.

— Kyle Busch’s struggles continued, as he was more than 5 mph off of Logano’s pace, coming in 22nd-fastest at 184.321 mph.

— Also struggling were two drivers who are trying to make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup: Clint Bowyer was 23rd-fastest (183.625 mph) and Brian Vickers was 25th-fastest (183.206).

— Two other big surprises were the struggles of Brad Keselowski (26th-fastest at 183.115 mph) and Matt Kenseth (29th fastest at 182.500).

Of course, things will be significantly different during Sunday’s race. Saturday’s practice was at the hottest part of the afternoon (before rain showers came through at the end of the session), while Sunday’s race will be held in the evening (green flag is 7:30 pm ET). There will also be one more practice session, the Happy Hour session, that begins at 6 pm ET.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Formula One: Recapping the past week’s news

Photo: Getty Images
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While the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is still two months away from beginning its 2018 season, this past week did bring about news items that filled out the 2018 grid and shed some light on individual team and car launches as the season-opening Australian Grand Prix draws closer.

Below is a recap of F1 news from this past week:

Williams Signs Sirotkin for 2018 Drive, Names Kubica as Reserve Driver

The saga of the second seat at Williams Martini Racing was finally resolved early on in the week, with former Renault Sport F1 Team test driver Sergey Sirotkin officially confirmed as a teammate to the incumbent Lance Stroll in 2018.

The announcement concluded months of speculation that saw multiple drivers test for the team in an auditioning capacity. Most notably, Robert Kubica looked to be a main contender for the seat before Sirotkin emerged as the favorite.

However, Kubica, who has not raced in Formula 1 since a devastating rally accident in 2011 left him with brutal injuries to his right arm, was named as a reserve and development driver for the team.

This announcement also completes the 2018 Formula 1 driver lineup, with all 11 teams having their seats now filled. Among those who were left without F1 drives are Paul Di Resta, who drove for Williams at the Hungarian Grand Prix in relief of Felipe Massa and even tested with them during the Winter months, and Antonio Giovinazzi, who filled in for Pascal Wehrlein at the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix.

Former Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also without a race seat for 2018, but did sign on with Scuderia Ferrari as a development driver.

Mercedes, McLaren Reveal Dates for Their 2018 Car Launches

While most teams have not yet released dates for when their 2018 cars will be publicly launched, three notables have.

Mercedes AMG Petronas will introduce its 2018 challenger on February 22nd, the same day Ferrari is doing so, while McLaren will unveil its car one day later on the 23rd.

Testing will commence on February 26th at Circuit de Catalunya.

Follow@KyleMLavigne