Richmond’s personal for Daniel Knost, Kurt Busch’s crew chief

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It sounds like Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Daniel Knost still feels that Richmond International Raceway owes him one.

Before taking on his current role atop Kurt Busch’s pit box for 2014, Knost was the lead race engineer for Ryan Newman (now at Richard Childress Racing) and last fall at RIR, it looked like Newman was set to win and make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But Clint Bowyer’s controversial spin with seven laps to go brought out the caution and sent all the leaders to pit road. Newman lost the lead in the final round of stops and while he claimed a third-place result, he lost out on a Chase bid via tie-breaker to Martin Truex Jr.

Newman was eventually elevated into the Chase after Truex was booted out as part of NASCAR’s penalties against Michael Waltrip Racing for attempting to manipulate the race’s finish.

But in the immediate aftermath, Knost and the rest of his team were forced to watch as the Chase contenders celebrated their post-season berths. The bad taste in his mouth hasn’t appeared to have gone away.

“Once we got into the position we needed to be in, we told Ryan, ‘Hey man, we think we can win.’ So he went out there and got it done and put us in front,” Knost recalled recently. “We played all the right cards at all the right times, but then we felt like it got taken away from us.

“It was really disappointing to know we were on the verge of completing this big, season-long goal that we had and done all the right things, but then have it get away from us the way it did. It was very disappointing emotionally to walk out of the track that night and see the celebration going on and know that you should be a part of that and you’re not.”

This time around, Knost returns to Richmond with the knowledge that his No. 41 team is effectively in the Chase thanks to Busch’s victory at Martinsville.

But a second victory would just about seal the deal as it has for SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, who earned his second win of 2014 two weekends ago at Darlington.

And to do such a thing with Busch on Saturday night at Richmond would probably be very sweet indeed for Knost considering what he and his crewmates went through last fall.

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.