Dale Jr. claims Sprint Cup pole for Dover

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With his championship hopes seemingly all but extinguished, Chase contender Dale Earnhardt Jr. is setting his sights on winning races and letting the chips fall where they may.

The son of the Intimidator bagged his second Sprint Cup pole of 2013 earlier today at Dover International Speedway with a track-record lap of 161.522 miles per hour around the concrete “Monster Mile.”

Earnhardt finished sixth last weekend at New Hampshire, but still lost ground to Chase leader and good friend Matt Kenseth and now sits 62 points off the pace with eight races remaining in the season. But he maintains that fretting over the points picture is not of concern to him.

“We are just going to show up and try to run hard and be smart,” Earnhardt said Friday after his pole run. “If we can unload great cars like this it makes that all easier.

“We are going to try to win some races before the year is out. I would be really disappointed if we don’t win a race this season, because I think we are a better team than we were last year. I felt we’ve came so close so many times so we would just like to get out there and get some trophies. The points will take care of themselves when you are doing that.”

Meanwhile, Kenseth is once again seemingly in strong position this weekend after qualifying second with a lap at 161.805 miles per hour. The 2003 Cup champion, who has had a blazing start to the Chase with back-to-back wins at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, seemingly blamed himself for missing out on pole position for Sunday.

“You feel like, especially with me driving the car, we don’t get that many chances at the pole so I hate that we missed it by that little bit,” said Kenseth, who finished 40th this past summer at Dover due to an engine failure. “I probably steered [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliff] wrong a little bit and warmed up a little and just got too free.”

Four other Chasers will be among the Top 10 of the AAA 400 grid. Row 2 features Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards, while Jimmie Johnson starts eighth and Kurt Busch will start ninth. Non-Chase contenders in this part of the grid are Aric Almirola and Brad Keselowski in Row 3, Jamie McMurray in seventh, and Martin Truex Jr. in 10th.

Other Chasers qualified as follows: Joey Logano in 11th, Kevin Harvick in 12th, Kyle Busch in 14th, Jeff Gordon in 16th, Greg Biffle in 19th, Kasey Kahne in 20th and Clint Bowyer in 23rd.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.