NASCAR: Belgium’s Kumpen takes Whelen Euro Series title at Le Mans

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This past weekend at Le Mans’ Bugatti Circuit, Anthony Kumpen of Belgium secured the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series title by one point over two-time and defending series champion Ander Vilarino of Spain.

Vilarino started the Le Mans Finals doubleheader on Saturday with an 11-point lead over Kumpen. That day’s race appeared to be won by Eddie Cheever III, but the son of the former Indy 500 champion was penalized 30 seconds for gaining positions while not respecting track limits – handing the victory over to Kumpen, who had finished second on track.

With Kumpen now first and Vilarino placing third, the Spaniard’s championship lead was cut to one point going into Sunday’s final battle.

Sunday started under the safety car due to wet track conditions, and pole sitter Vilarino picked up bonus points for leading the opening lap.

But when the green came out, Cheever raced to the lead and never looked back en route to victory and a measure of redemption for what occurred the day before.

While Cheever was cruising, Vilarino and Kumpen were left to duke it out for the title. But on the fifth lap, Vilarino not only lost second to Kumpen but, most critically, third as well to Frederic Gabillon of France.

The latter position swap proved to be the difference, as Kumpen’s second place finish gave him the slim edge he needed to dethrone fourth-place finisher Vilarino.

“It’s fantastic to win the championship in our first year with a new project,” said Kumpen. “I looked at NASCAR for all my life and now that NASCAR is in Europe, to be the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Champion is a dream come true.”

Kumpen, who drives the No. 24 car in the Euro Series, also got a shout-out on Twitter from another No. 24 – four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon:

Kumpen will now join the rest of the NASCAR touring series champions in being honored during a December ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina.

F1: Lewis Hamilton qualifies No. 1 for U.S. Grand Prix, on verge of winning 5th title

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Lewis Hamilton took a big step toward earning his fifth Formula One championship on Saturday, qualifying No. 1 for Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Hamilton and his Mercedes have won five of the previous six U.S. Grand Prix’s held at COTA, including the last four races there.

The Great Britain native comes into Sunday’s race leading the F1 point standings and is seeking to tie Juan Manuel Fangio for second-most F1 career championships. Michael Schumacher has the most with seven crowns.

Sebastian Vettel is Hamilton’s sole remaining challenger for the title, trailing Hamilton by 67 points with four races to go, including Sunday’s race.

Vettel must win Sunday’s race or finish within seven points of Hamilton to prevent the latter from winning the title and pushing a possible clinching scenario to next week in Mexico.

Vettel qualified second Saturday, but due to a red-flag three-position grid penalty sustained during Friday’s morning practice, will start fifth on Sunday’s grid.

As a result of Vettel’s penalty, Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen will start alongside Hamilton on the front row for Sunday’s race.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Vallteri Bottas, will start third, while Daniel Ricciardo will start fourth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez.

Here’s how qualifying played out:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:34.130 1:33.480 1:32.237 20
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:34.569 1:33.079 1:32.298 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:34.703 1:32.884 1:32.307 15
4 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:34.518 1:33.702 1:32.616 17
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:34.755 1:34.185 1:33.494 14
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:34.876 1:34.522 1:34.145 18
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:34.932 1:34.564 1:34.215 18
8 8 RomainGrosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:34.892 1:34.419 1:34.250 17
9 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 1:35.069 1:34.255 1:34.420 17
10 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:35.193 1:34.525 1:34.594 17
11 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:34.891 1:34.566 12
12 20 KevinMagnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:34.972 1:34.732 12
13 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:34.850 DNS 13
14 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:35.206 DNS 13
15 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:34.766 4
16 14 FernandoAlonso MCLAREN RENAULT 1:35.294 6
17 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:35.362 6
18 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:35.480 8
19 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:35.536 8
20 2 StoffelVandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 1:35.735 6

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