NASCAR: Allmendinger leads final Cup practice at Watkins Glen

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It’s only one day of practice, but pre-race favorite A.J. Allmendinger appears to be shaping up to contend in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International.

Gunning for a win that can get him into the Chase, Allmendinger posted a lap of 68.538 seconds in the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet to top final Cup practice.

He was followed by another Watkins Glen favorite (perhaps a heavier one) in Marcos Ambrose, who was second in the session with a lap of 68.541 seconds.

Kyle Busch also continued to show good pace, running third with a lap of 68.553 seconds. Pocono winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fourth (68.767) and Ambrose’s Richard Petty Motorsports teammate, Aric Almirola, rounded out the Top 5 (68.788).

Clint Bowyer was sixth, Joey Logano seventh, Jimmie Johnson eighth, Jamie McMurray ninth, and Greg Biffle 10th. Practice 1 leader Kevin Harvick was 28th in this session and ran the most laps with 32.

Final practice ended a few minutes early due to Danica Patrick going off-course at Turn 5 and into the nearby tire barriers. Patrick’s backup No. 10 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet was quickly taken off the transporter and will be pressed into service for the remainder of the weekend. You can read more about her rough Friday here.

Also having problems in final practice were the Chip Ganassi Racing duo of McMurray and rookie Kyle Larson.

A possible power steering line failure caused McMurray to smoke badly and slow on track early on. Later, Larson reportedly suffered similar issues on his own car; he was only 27th-fastest in the final practice.

The Sprint Cup drivers will qualify tomorrow morning at 11:40 a.m. ET. As with all road courses, the Glen will feature the two-round version of NASCAR’s knock-out qualifying system.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen – Practice 2 Times

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.