NASCAR: Kurt Busch starting 5th, looking for more Sonoma success

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Only two drivers have collected three consecutive Top-5 finishes at Sonoma Raceway: Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch.

But while Bowyer will have to start 25th in tomorrow’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 on the Northern California road course, Busch had a much better qualifying session on Saturday and will roll off fifth.

In his last three runs at Sonoma, Busch has won (2011) and finished third (2012) and fourth (2013) – all with three different teams. His run on Saturday will put him in good position for another solid result.

“It was a good lap,” he said. “We prepared well for this race with a couple of test sessions and executed a good practice run yesterday. The lap time we ran put us P1 in the first practice. We knew we needed to gain a little more and today, we got beat by a couple of guys that laid down really good laps.

“For us, it was a better than average lap. That gets us fifth and the way the team has bolted together this qualifying set-up, I think that gives us a good pattern for what we have to put under it for a race set-up.”

Busch led a strong qualifying effort for Stewart Haas Racing, which also got Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick into the final round. When the dust settled, Harvick qualified sixth and Patrick 11th.

“Road course qualifying kind of stresses me out because there are so many opportunities to make a mistake,” said Harvick. “Our first goal was to get through the first round with a solid lap and we were able to do that. Second round was good for us too, always want to do better, but we can see the front so that is a good thing on a road course.”

Said Patrick about her day: “We only made one qualifying run yesterday, but it felt good in the opening round today. It just got tight in the second session and we ended up 11th. We would have liked it to be better, but we’ll take it. We’ve got a lot of folks from [sponsor] GoDaddy here tomorrow, so I’m happy we are starting up front.”

For a full recap of today’s qualifying, click here.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).