Marcos Ambrose fastest in second Cup practice at Kansas

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On another cold and windy morning at Kansas Speedway, Marcos Ambrose topped the time sheets in the first of two Sprint Cup practice sessions today on the 1.5-mile oval.

Ambrose clocked in at 191.652 miles per hour in his No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. He was followed by the Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Jamie McMurray (191.584) and rookie Kyle Larson (191.096), who have both been among the better non-Chase drivers so far this postseason.

Speaking of the Chase, only two of the remaining 12 drivers in title contention were among the Top 10 in this particular practice: Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards was fourth-quickest (191.076) and Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman was eighth-quickest (190.235).

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (fifth), A.J. Allmendinger (sixth), Greg Biffle (seventh), Austin Dillon (ninth), and Aric Almirola (10th) were also represented in the Top 10.

As for the other Chasers, they went like this: Kyle Busch in 11th, Joey Logano in 12th, pole sitter Kevin Harvick in 13th, Kasey Kahne in 14th, Jeff Gordon in 16th, Jimmie Johnson in 17th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 21st, Brad Keselowski in 26th, Matt Kenseth in 27th, and Denny Hamlin in 28th.

McMurray turned in the most laps out of anyone in the session with 41 laps, followed by Kurt Busch with 36, Casey Mears with 35, and both Larson and Justin Allgaier with 34.

Final practice for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 will take place later today at 2 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kansas – Saturday Morning Practice Times

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.