Franchitti: No extra pressure to win fourth Indy 500

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This year’s Indianapolis 500 will be the first since 1987 that will have two drivers — Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske — try to become four-time winners of the world’s greatest race. But one of those competitors, Franchitti, insists that the chance to make history isn’t causing him or his Honda-powered team to sweat.

“There’s no more pressure than there is on anybody else in the field,” the defending “500” champion said on Friday, which saw him post the ninth-quickest time at 227.080 mph in the final practice session before tomorrow’s Pole Day activities (11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

“Doesn’t make you any faster. Doesn’t make the team work any harder. It’s simply, right now, about the mechanics trying to put ourselves in a position to challenge on Race Day — trying to make sure the Target car is fast [and] consistent. And then try and qualify well, ourselves — as I say, when we put ourselves in that position, go race and see how it all works out. Do the best job we can on that day.

“There’s no more pressure. It’s a great position to be in, trying to win that fourth one.”

Franchitti has already cemented himself as one of the greatest to ever run at the Brickyard, but as he tells it, the more often he competes in the “500,” the more it means to him. As one of just 67 winners in the race’s history, he recognizes the special tradition of the race and the enormity of being alongside the likes of A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser and Rick Mears as past Indy champions.

In summary, the experience never gets old for him.

“Each time you come back here you just — it gets deeper, deeper,” he said. “It’s such a great event. You think what a challenge it is to race here, to try to win. People take most of their life to try to compete in this race. It means so much to all involved. It’s a special place.

“It’s a great, great feeling to win it. It hurts like hell when you don’t.”

Watch this weekend’s Indianapolis 500 time trials online and on your mobile device.

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.