Vickers, Bowyer top Saturday morning Sprint Cup practice speed charts, Danica Patrick 6th-fastest

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Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer were fastest in Saturday morning’s first of two Sprint Cup practice sessions for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Toyota-powered Vickers and Bowyer were the only drivers to eclipse 188 mph.

Vickers topped the speed charts with a very stout 188.950 mph effort, followed by Bowyer at 188.350 mph.

Brad Keselowski, who starts on the outside pole for Sunday’s race alongside pole sitter and Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano (who was 18th fastest), was third fastest at 187.976 mph, followed by Jimmie Johnson (187.656) and Jamie McMurray (186.656).

One of the biggest surprises was Danica Patrick, who was sixth-fastest at 187.630 mph. Patrick was the fastest of the four Stewart-Haas drivers, with Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick the next fastest in the SHR stable, in 15th at 186.213 mph.

Right behind Patrick with the seventh-fastest speed was rookie Kyle Larson at 187.559 mph.

Sprint Cup Series points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 12th fastest at 186.767 mph.

The final Happy Hour practice takes place at 2:30 to 3:30 pm ET this afternoon.

Here’s Saturday morning’s speed chart:

1. Brian Vickers, 188.950

2. Clint Bowyer, 188.350

3. Brad Keselowski, 187.976

4. Jimmie Johnson, 187.741

5. Jamie McMurray, 187.656

6. Danica Patrick, 187.630

7. Kyle Larson, 187.559

8. Kasey Kahne, 187.448

9. Kyle Busch, 186.981

10. Carl Edwards, 186.981

11. Ryan Newman, 186.858

12. Dale Earnahrdt Jr., 186.767

13. Martin Truex Jr., 186.767

14. Paul Menard, 186.625

15. Kevin Harvick, 186.213

16. Austin Dillon, 186.213

17. Aric Almirola, 186.162

18. Joey Logano, 185.963

19. Greg Biffle, 185.906

20. David Ragan, 185.771

21. Kurt Busch, 185.765

22. AJ Allmendinger, 185.714

23. Jeff Gordon, 185.440

24. Marcos Ambrose, 185.280

25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 185.147

26. Matt Kenseth, 185.128

27. Denny Hamlin, 185.071

28. Casey Mears, 184.748

29. Jeff Burton, 184.704

30. Michael McDowell, 184.584

31. Tony Stewart, 184.540

32. Cole Whitt, 184.231

33. David Gilliland, 184.156

34. Justin Allgaier, 184.024

35. Trevor Bayne, 183.730

36. Parker Kligerman, 183.299

37. Josh Wise, 183.243

38. Ryan Truex, 183.156

39. Alex Bowman, 182.840

40. Travis Kvapil, 182.667

41. Reed Sorenson, 182.377

42. Michael Annett, 182.322

43. Timmy Hill, 180.886

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Daniel Ricciardo to decide soon about moving from Red Bull to another F1 team

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LE CASTELLET, France (AP) Daniel Ricciardo says over the next six weeks he wants to decide between staying at Red Bull or joining another Formula One team for next year.

Ricciardo said on Thursday at the French Grand Prix, “It would be nice to go on the summer break knowing what I am doing.”

F1 is working its way toward its three-week break in August with speculation mounting that Mercedes, Ferrari, and McLaren are interested in luring Ricciardo away from Red Bull for 2019.

“I will be honest, everyone is talking about Mercedes and Ferrari as potential places for me to go, and I am aware that there will be interest from other teams,” he said.

The Australian driver has won seven races in his four-plus seasons with Red Bull. He is fourth in the standings behind leader Sebastian Vettel heading into the race at the Paul Ricard Circuit near Marseille.

Ricciardo’s stock has risen in recent months after his victories in Shanghai and Monaco. His Monaco win was particularly impressive because Ricciardo had to deploy some masterful defensive driving to protect his lead after losing an estimated 25 percent of his engine power.

Ricciardo said he had not directly spoken to rivals Ferrari and Mercedes, but he hedged when asked if his manager had.

“People talk, have coffees, I will leave that one open-ended,” he said with a laugh.

Ricciardo called the decision on whether to go or stay with Red Bull the biggest choice of his career following his decision to leave his native Australia and continue his racing career in Europe over a decade ago.

“For sure the priority is to get a car to win the world title because I really believe I can,” he said. “I am slightly careful because it is easy to think the grass is greener and maybe it is, but I also have it pretty good where I am.

“People do like a change but just to make change for the sake of making a change is not enough for me. I need to find some substance behind it to jump ship.”

Red Bull announced recently it would be ending its 12-year partnership with engine-maker Renault and switching to Honda motors for next year.

Ricciardo was hesitant to endorse or criticize the change, saying he was going to “try to keep putting the pieces together if it is a good move.”

But with the question of the engine manufacturer out of the way, Ricciardo said Red Bull would likely be looking to resolve its drivers’ lineup for next year.

“I haven’t been pushed yet, but I would say that there will be some movement in the next week,” he said. “Whether that is something that gets put down on paper (or not), for sure the discussions will start to ramp up in the next few days.”