Ryan Blaney takes last-lap duel, wins NASCAR Trucks at CTMP (VIDEO)

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A thrilling, last-lap battle between Ryan Blaney and German Quiroga in today’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park ended with Blaney taking the checkered flag by a mere .050 of a second.

Quiroga had stalked Blaney for the lead since the final restart with 8 laps to go, and on the last run around the 2.45-mile road course, Quiroga drafted Blaney down the back straightaway and went side-by-side with him into the right-hand Turn 8.

Going into the left-hand Turn 9, Quiroga then took the lead on the inside. But as they drove into the final right-hand Turn 10, Blaney crossed over to the inside of Quiroga and then beat him in a drag race to the finish line.

The dramatic conclusion evoked memories of Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon’s race for the win last year at CTMP. But while that ended with Elliott dumping Dillon at Turn 10 (and Max Papis getting slapped by another driver’s girlfriend), Blaney and Quiroga stayed clean all the way.

“I noticed since that last restart that he’d get huge tows down the back stretch and just get a huge draft,” Blaney told Fox Sports about racing Quiroga. “I had to protect as best I could. He was able to get to my left side, and I didn’t think he could stay out there. But I got really, really loose underneath him there in that corner. The old-school short track racing cross-over move, I guess, worked on him.

“…It’s nice to go out there and race clean with a guy, and put on a great finish for the fans.”

As for Quiroga, he narrowly missed out on his first Truck Series victory. He said that he had fun battling Blaney, but his disappointment over the final outcome was evident.

“They gave me a winning truck, and we came second,” Quiroga said. “It hurts. We’ve come so close, so many times. But we have to keep on trying.”

“The last pass, I really drove it hard in the brake zone and I tried to pass him without wrecking, that’s for sure. We came close. We can’t come any closer on a road course.”

Erik Jones finished third for Kyle Busch Motorsports, followed by Gray Gaulding in fourth and Canadian driver Andrew Ranger in fifth.

The first 45 laps in the 64-lap event ran without a yellow until John Hunter Nemechek slowed to a stop on track. An extended caution ensued, with the restart coming back out at Lap 52.

Blaney was able to hold the lead while behind him, polesitter Alex Tagliani charged from seventh to fifth and then fourth after spinning out Cole Custer at Turn 5.

But one lap later, Tagliani himself lost control by himself in that same Turn 5-6 “Moss Corner” complex. The drivers behind him scattered, and when he was unable to re-fire the No. 19 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford, the caution came out again.

Tagliani wound up finishing 16th.

“We had a stuck throttle all day, and fortunately, the guys put a little bar for the return throttle and I was able to manage and lift it on my own,” he said. “But when you’re driving, it’s one thing. And when you race other people – I got caught going into Turn 5A and the throttle got hanging. I got in at like, 4000 rpm, and by the time I realized to pull it myself, I touched [Custer] and I’m sorry about that.

“Then [one lap later], I got it to first gear and the engine was revving too high, and I just lost the rear [end].”

Johnny Sauter finished eighth and leaves Canada with his Truck Series points lead intact. He holds a seven-point edge over teammate and defending series champion Matt Crafton, who finished sixth in today’s race.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at CTMP – Final Results

Newgarden, Chevy top Phoenix practice

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Friday’s two-hour practice for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix started out slowly, with only a handful of drivers turning laps in the opening 30 minutes. However, the second hour, and the final 30 minutes in particular, turned into a frenzy, with drivers making several runs and completing qualifying sims.

Josef Newgarden topped the speed charts with an average speed of 192.108 mph, the only lap above the 192 mark of the session.

JR Hildebrand enjoyed a strong run on his return after suffering a broken hand at Long Beach to run second in practice. Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power completed the top five, making it a Chevrolet sweep of the top five spots.

Heavy winds wreaked havoc on the session, with sand blowing onto the track surface throughout practice. Conditions became severe enough that practice was halted a couple minutes prior to its scheduled conclusion.

Of note: driver Ed Carpenter, in his first race outing of 2017, suffered a shortened practice due to mechanical issues and the crew reportedly was working on swapping out the fuel cell on his No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

Times and qualifying order are below. Qualifying begins at 11:00 p.m. ET (8:00 local time).

 

 

Honda defends decision to redesign F1 power unit for 2017

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Honda Formula 1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa has defended the decision to redesign its power unit layout for 2017 despite suffering a number of reliability and performance issues at the start of the season.

Entering its third year since returning to F1 as an engine supplier, Honda looked to make gains by revising the layout of its power unit to mirror that of pace-setter Mercedes.

The decision appeared to backfire, though, with a lack of both performance and reliability leaving customer team McLaren frustrated and without a single point after three races.

Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference in Russia, Hasegawa was asked if the decision to revise the power unit layout was a mistake, and defending the move despite admitting to the ongoing problems.

“I don’t think we made a complete mistake from last year’s performance. We knew that we have to change everything, not only the package but also the combustion, so we tried to modify all areas,” Hasegawa explained.

“Some areas we succeeded, to reduce the weight and lower the center of gravity, but yeah, definitely we couldn’t get enough power from the combustion. So, yeah, it is just an excuse, but we still need time.

“But we don’t think we made a huge mistake, the direction was right. We are very much disappointed with our current situation.

“But because the base concept is correct, we believe we can make good progress in the middle of the season.”

McLaren’s hopes of scoring its first points of the year in Russia took a hit on Friday when Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to take new elements for his power unit, triggering a 15-place grid drop for the race.

More brake issues strike Haas in Russia F1 practice despite supplier change

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The Haas Formula 1 team endured another difficult day of practice ahead of the Russian Grand Prix as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen suffered more brake issues despite changing supplier.

Haas confirmed on Thursday that it would be switching from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes, having suffered problems throughout its 14-month stint in F1.

Despite enjoying a positive test in Bahrain with Carbon Industrie parts last week, both Grosjean and Magnussen struggled with their brakes in FP1 and FP2 at the Sochi Autodrom on Friday.

Grosjean finished FP2 14th-fastest, with Magnussen breaking into the top 10, charging to ninth place in the VF-17 car.

“We’ve got very little grip. We’re really struggling with the balance,” Grosjean said. “We had some issues, as well, with the brakes over the long runs. We need to look at what we can do better with them.

“Generally, it’s just been a very difficult Friday. The car didn’t perform well – very low grip on low fuel and high fuel.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “We had a lot to do and I think we did a lot. We still haven’t got all the results yet, as we need to go through data.

“I would say the issues with the brakes were mainly because they’re new to us. We need to find out how they work. Going through the data, we will decide tomorrow what we’re doing and how we continue.

“All in all, we had pretty fruitful sessions. We did a lot of laps and we learned a lot. Now we need to get the best out of what we learned for tomorrow to go into qualifying.”

Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix, Friday edition (VIDEO)

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While the drivers may be the stars of Formula 1, their on-track escapades would not be possible without the titanic effort from those behind the scenes at their respective teams, making it key for us to hear from the people who make racing possible from time to time.

Following on from the special Friday edition of NBC Sports’ original digital series ‘Paddock Pass’ in Bahrain, Will Buxton is back with all of the interviews from the team bosses in today’s FIA press conference in Russia.

In part one, we hear from Otmar Szafnauer, COO at Force India, who gives his verdict on the team’s showing in 2017 so far and new driver Esteban Ocon’s start to the season. We also catch up with Renault technical boss Nick Chester and Pirelli’s new F1 chief, Mario Isola.

In part two, Ferrari’s engine boss Luigi Fabroni offers his thoughts on the Italian marque’s strong start to the 2017 season following Sebastian Vettel’s wins in Australia and Bahrain. At the other end of the success spectrum, McLaren’s Matt Morris and Honda’s Yusuke Hasegawa discuss the ongoing rebuilding project at woking.