Closing in on title, Matt Crafton fastest in first Truck practice at Homestead

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Matt Crafton isn’t going to rest on his laurels.

In the driver’s seat to win the Camping World Truck Series championship, Crafton went right to work towards achieving that goal in the first of two Truck practices Thursday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The defending NCWTS champ and looking to make it two titles in a row, Crafton was the fastest in the first practice with a top run of 166.728 mph around the 1.5-mile facility in South Florida.

Tyler Reddick, who has been especially hot of late, continued to do so, recording the second-fastest speed of 166.359 mph.

Ryan Blaney, the only driver with a chance to catch Crafton for the Truck championship, was third-fastest at 166.241 mph, followed by Johnny Sauter (165.792) and German Quiroga Jr. (165.527).

Blaney comes into Friday’s race 26 points behind Crafton.

Sixth through 10th were Ben Kennedy (165.441), Jeb Burton (165.396), John Wes Townley (164.725), Ross Chastain (164.199) and Timothy Peters (164.154).

Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson was 11th fastest (163.865), followed by Austin Hill (162.916), Tayler Malsam (162.911), Spencer Gallagher (162.264), Daniel Hemric (161.943), Bryan Silas (161.749), Mason Mingus (161.421), Tyler Young (161.160), Joey Coulter (160.604) and Matt Tifft (160.414).

A total of only 25 trucks took to the track for practice. The other five speeds recorded were Mason Mitchell (159.011), Justin Jennings (158.270), Ray Black Jr. (157.738), Kyle Martel (156.449) and Derek White (154.048).

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Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.