Rosberg delighted with second straight Bahrain pole

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Nico Rosberg was in a celebratory mood after claiming pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix today, repeating his success at last year’s race where he eventually finished in ninth due to overly aggressive tire wear.

The German driver edged out teammate Lewis Hamilton by just two-tenths of a second on Saturday night as both drivers saw their first runs in Q3 count. Both had prepared for a second run, but after a mistake by Hamilton meant that Rosberg was assured pole, and Mercedes opted to pit him and save a lap on his tires.

“It’s fantastic to be on pole again here in Bahrain,” Rosberg explained after qualifying. “I really enjoy the track and I won my GP2 Series title here so it has some pretty special memories for me. We’ve had a good weekend so far and I’ve been able improve my pace throughout the practice sessions so I was hoping for a strong qualifying.”

The team swept to a one-two finish in all three practice sessions in Bahrain, but Rosberg had played second fiddle to Hamilton each and every time. However, he finally got in front with a fine performance in qualifying, even if he did struggle to work with some elements of the new 2014 car.

“It’s so difficult to get everything completely right with all the new technology and set-up requirements on the car but I felt really comfortable this evening and was able to put some great laps together,” Rosberg admitted.

“I’m looking forward to the race as I had a good run on high fuel but we’re going to need to be careful with tire degradation.”

Given the fashion in which the team has dominated Formula 1 so far this year, it is hard to see any driver not in a Mercedes winning tomorrow’s race in Bahrain. However, the battle between Rosberg and Hamilton should be an interesting one as both chase their second win of the season under the lights.

You can watch the Bahrain Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 10:30am ET tomorrow.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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