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Feelin’ free: Frustrations end for Chase-bound Kahne, IndyCar champ Power

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When I sit down to crank out these posts for MotorSportsTalk, I usually have my headphones plugged in to listen to music.

As I figure it goes with some of you, music is one of my favorite hobbies outside the laptop. I don’t pluck a guitar and I haven’t sang in a choral ensemble since college. But I still enjoy discovering new sounds when I can.

However, I also enjoy the classics. One of my favorites in that category is Cream’s “I Feel Free,” that delightful ’60s smash-up of pop, blues, and psychedelia.

And I can’t help but think that the song fits with the final outcomes from this weekend’s major events – last night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta and Saturday’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship finale at Fontana.

Because Atlanta winner Kasey Kahne and first-time IndyCar champion Will Power have to be feeling free of their own respective burdens.

Often in the shadow of Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kahne is sometimes a forgotten man even though he’s always been a capable driver.

But prior to last night, Kahne’s 2014 season had been a poor one with only two Top-5 finishes to his credit and very little consistency. Most of us probably figured that him failing to hold off Gordon late for the win at Indianapolis would be his highlight (or rather, lowlight) of the campaign.

Instead, Kahne changed the script. Stuck in mid-pack during the middle stages of the race, he made a late push into the Top-5 before a caution with two laps to go sent the race to green-white-checkered.

Then, after jumping to third before another caution came out, Kahne blew past the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates of Denny Hamlin and then Matt Kenseth on the second G-W-C attempt to nail down the victory and get in the Chase at last.

Forgotten no more, Kahne has not only ensured that all four Hendrick pilots will be in the hunt for a championship. He’s also pretty much regained his relevancy.

Meanwhile, one day before and about three thousand miles to the West, Power was facing another chance to claim an IndyCar title – and another chance to blow it following near-misses in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Up 50 points over Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves in a double-points race, Power had to start from the back of the field after a rough qualifying session.

But he played it smart for the first half of the race, gradually making his way up the leader board instead of charging like an angry bull.

With around 60 laps to go, Power finally made his presence known at the front of the field by dueling wheel-to-wheel with eventual race winner Tony Kanaan for the lead before settling in the Top 5 with Castroneves.

Then came the last pit stops of the season and the critical moment of the race: Castroneves being called for an entry violation after momentarily sliding up off the apron and onto the track before coming down again into the pits.

It was all about Power bringing it home from there. Considering his cruel championship history, nothing was a given. But the Aussie dropped back and finished ninth, enough to finally put the ghosts to rest.

And it was very telling that when Power emerged from his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet, his face did not wear a look of unfiltered, unbridled joy – but one of sheer relief that was still erasing the last residues of doubt and worry.

No matter. It was all over. The crown was his at last.

For Power, he can savor his moment for the next six or seven months. For Kahne, there’s still more work to be done.

But right now, both of them are on top of the world.

They feel fine.

They feel fabulous.

They feel free.

Late yellow in Hungary Q3 leaves Ricciardo ‘pretty angry’

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 23:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing in the post qualifying press conference during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 23, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Daniel Ricciardo felt “pretty angry” after his final lap in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix was ruined by a yellow flag.

Ricciardo spent the entirety of qualifying running towards the top of the timesheets as wet conditions prompted drivers to think on their feet with tire choice and the risks they took.

The track was dry enough for slicks by Q3, where Ricciardo sat third after his first run despite running wide at the final corner and nearly spinning.

The Australian geared up for a final run just before the checkered flag fell, only for a yellow flag shown following a spin for Fernando Alonso to force him to back off.

Ricciardo was left to settle for third on the grid, but thinks he could have been in the mix on the front row had he been able to finish his lap.

“I don’t know. We got hurt by the yellow as well,” Ricciardo said.

“I was pretty angry on that last lap because I was up a bit and I think it would have put me closer to pole.

“It would have been interesting without the yellow. I’m a little disappointed because it’s a ‘what could have been’.

“But at the same time I think the session went really well. I think in all conditions we were competitive.”

Qualifying ran for twice its usual length due to a mix of rain and red flags, with parts of the track remaining damp in Q3.

“It was crazy, you had to adapt quickly, when to go on to slicks in Q2,” Ricciardo said.

“Even just the little things like getting out of pit lane in Q2 on slick tires when it was so wet, sideways coming into Trun 1. It was fun. It was challenging.

“On the last corner in Q3, there was still a wet patch just next to the curb, it sort of sucked me in as I opened DRS as well.

“I was in for a little bit of a ride, but in the end, survived.”

The Hungarian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 7am ET on Sunday.

Hamilton ‘not too disappointed’ despite having last Hungary Q3 run ruined

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, of Britain, steers his car during the qualifying session for Sunday's Formula One Hungary Grand Prix, at the Hungaroring racetrack, in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, July 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
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Lewis Hamilton says he is “not too disappointed” with second place on the grid for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix despite having his final Q3 run ruined by a yellow flag.

Hamilton sat on provisional pole after his first flying lap in Q3, making the most of his slick tires after narrowly escaping elimination in Q2 on a drying circuit.

The Briton found a further four-tenths of a second in the first sector of his final lap, only to back off under yellow flags shown following a spin for Fernando Alonso at Turn 5.

The majority of drivers on their final hot lap were affected, but Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg managed to find more time in the final sector to snatch pole position away.

Despite being denied a sixth pole position in Hungary, Hamilton wasn’t too downbeat after qualifying, saying he did all he could.

“I don’t know how much Nico was up but I had the fastest first sector, I was four-tenths up,” Hamilton said.

“I felt good on that lap. A bit unfortunate with Fernando, but these things happen so I’m not really too disappointed.

“It was a tricky session. I did the best I could do.

“We still have a long race ahead of us tomorrow so I’ll give it everything I’ve got from there.”

The focus after qualifying is already on whether Rosberg did enough to slow under the yellow flags, although the stewards are yet to show any indication of investigating his lap.

The Hungarian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 7am ET on Sunday.

WATCH: Lucas Oil Pro Motocross from Washougal

Photo credit: ProMotocross.com/Matt Rice
Photo credit: ProMotocross.com/Matt Rice
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Here are details and times for this weekend’s Lucas Oil Pro Motocross action from Spring Creek this weekend. Notes via an NBC Sports Group Press Box press release are below.

All streams are at motostream.nbcsports.com via NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App.

LUCAS OIL PRO MOTOCROSS CHAMPIONSHIP – WASHOUGAL NATIONAL – SATURDAY AT 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN

NBCSN presents Round 9 of the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship this weekend with the Washuougal National in Washougal, Wash., on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Ken Roczen continues to dominate the 450 Class standings this season, coming off his sixth sweep of the 2016 campaign in Millville, Minn., last weekend. The 2014 450 Class champion holds a 55-point lead over Eli Tomac with four rounds remaining. Jeremy Martin won in the 250 Class last weekend, but trails Cooper Webb by 44 points with four rounds to go.

Veteran play-by-play voice Jason Weigandt, analyst and two-time AMA Pro Motocross Champion Grant Langston, and pit reporter Georgia Lindsay will call this weekend’s action.

Date  Program Time (ET) Network
Sat., July 23 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Washougal – Practice 1 p.m. Streaming
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Washougal – Moto 1s 4 p.m. MAVTV
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Washougal – Moto 2s 6:30 p.m. NBCSN

 

Nico Rosberg snatches pole position in Hungarian GP qualifying epic

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, of Germany, steers his car during the qualifying session for Sunday's Formula One Hungary Grand Prix, at the Hungaroring racetrack, in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, July 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
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Nico Rosberg snatched pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix away in dramatic fashion at the end of a mammoth qualifying session at the Hungaroring, edging out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

The start of qualifying was delayed after heavy rain hit the area following final practice, drenching the track.

The safety car was sent out at regular intervals to monitor conditions before the track was deemed dry enough after a 20-minute wait, although just five minutes of running was possible before more rain resulted in another red flag.

Once the track had dried and the sun was out, running was able to resume, only for on-track incidents to result in a further three red flags in Q1 alone.

Q2 and Q3 proved to be less eventful affairs, the crescendo being a battle between Hamilton and Rosberg once again. Hamilton drew first blood in Q3, going three-tenths of a second faster than Rosberg with his first lap, only for the German to close to within a tenth before pitting for a fresh set to super-soft tires.

Hamilton was forced to back off on his final qualifying lap after a spin for Fernando Alonso, but Rosberg dodged the yellow flags, giving him the chance to improve through the final sector.

Rosberg picked up the mantle emphatically, going 0.143 seconds faster than Hamilton to take a shock pole position, his second in Hungary.

Hamilton was left lamenting more bad luck in second place, having gone four-tenths faster than Rosberg in the first sector before his lap was ruined.

Red Bull locked out the second row, Daniel Ricciardo leading from Max Verstappen, while Sebastian Vettel finished down in fifth as the sole Ferrari to make it through to the top 10.

Carlos Sainz Jr. matched his best qualifying of the season in P6 ahead of the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, both of whom benefitted from the wet conditions to make it through to Q3. Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top 10, both having been caught out by the yellow flag.

Haas’ hopes of making Q3 for the first time in F1 were dashed in a crazy 60-second period at the end of Q2 as drivers switched to slick tires. Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez both sat well inside the top 10 after their final laps, only for a flurry of improvements to leave them P11 and P15 on the grid.

Daniil Kvyat, Sergio Perez and Felipe Nasr also lost out, finishing 12th, 13th and 16th respectively, but Kimi Raikkonen was arguably the biggest loser. As the first man to take the checkered flag, Raikkonen sat P1. Less than a minute later, he was P14.

Renault’s hopes of building on its top-10 finish in FP3 were dashed as a late red flag in Q1 denied Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen the chance to make it through to Q2. Palmer finished 17th, two places ahead of Magnussen as the French team’s tough start to the year continued.

Felipe Massa and Marcus Ericsson were both casualties of the conditions in Q1, crashing out in separate incidents. Ericsson caused the second red flag after sliding off-track, while Massa made the switch to intermediate tires too early, resulting in a crash at Turn 4 that ended his qualifying. Massa and Ericsson will start 18th and 20th respectively.

Manor was unable to capitalize on the wet conditions in Q1 as Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto locked out the back row of the grid. Haryanto was responsible for the fourth and final red flag in Q1, his crash bringing the session to an early end.

The Hungarian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 7am ET on Sunday.