Jeff Gordon wins 200th pole for Hendrick; Harvick qualifies 5th, leads Champ. 4

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A fifth Sprint Cup championship may not be in the cards for Jeff Gordon this year, but he’s secured one more bit of history for his team.

Gordon captured the 200th Sprint Cup pole position in Hendrick Motorsports history tonight at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a final round lap of 180.747 mph. He and Kurt Busch will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday in the Ford Ecoboost 400.

Last week at Phoenix, Gordon was eliminated from the Chase following Ryan Newman’s last-lap shove of Kyle Larson for 11th place.

That move gave Newman the last spot in the Championship 4 by one point over Gordon, but the former Rainbow Warrior is now zeroing in on finishing the season strong.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been on the pole here, number one, and to get the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports is very cool,” Gordon told ESPN. “I think the way we’re looking at this weekend is we want to finish the season off the absolute best that we can. It’s been a tremendous season for us. This 24 team has been incredible this year.

“We’re disappointed we’re not in this thing for the championship, but that’s not gonna stop us from trying to go out and win the race.”

Meanwhile, the Championship 4 had mixed fortunes in qualifying. Kevin Harvick led the quartet by qualifying fifth, while former teammates Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano will start eighth and ninth respectively. But the winless Newman will have to rally from 21st.

Harvick said that driveability was now the main focus for him leading into Sunday’s title decider.

“This is going to be a race where you go through some changing conditions,” he said. “Today was really just about trying to get a solid starting spot and we were able to do that with our Budweiser team.”

As for Hamlin, he said that his long-run speed helped him be able to make it to the final round.

“To have an extra cycle on our tires and still be that close is very encouraging,” he said. “It’s been a great day so far…The car’s feeling really good, so we’ll see what we got.”

Logano was able to make a big improvement from his mid-pack showing in today’s afternoon practice, something that he was grateful for.

“It’s a good recovery from where we were in practice,” he said. “We’ve just got to try and keep speed in the car a little longer in qualifying but we have all off-season to figure that part out. We’ll try to figure out the race now.”

Newman said that a tight condition going into the corner hampered him, but that he wasn’t worried about his qualifying result.

“A buddy of mine once said, ‘It’s not where you start, it’s where you stop,'” he said. “We’ve got half of ’em beat to start. We’ll keep digging with the Caterpillar Chevrolet.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead-Miami – Ford Ecoboost 400
Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship Race
Qualifying Results

1. 24-Jeff Gordon
2. 41-Kurt Busch
3. 20-Matt Kenseth
4. 2-Brad Keselowski
5. 4-Kevin Harvick
6. 15-Clint Bowyer
7. 18-Kyle Busch
8. 11-Denny Hamlin
9. 22-Joey Logano
10. 78-Martin Truex Jr.
11. 88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12. 48-Jimmie Johnson
13. 55-Brian Vickers
14. 51-Justin Allgaier
15. 99-Carl Edwards
16. 27-Paul Menard
17. 9-Marcos Ambrose
18. 43-Aric Almirola
19. 1-Jamie McMurray
20. 16-Greg Biffle
21. 31-Ryan Newman
22. 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. 5-Kasey Kahne
24. 3-Austin Dillon
25. 47-A.J. Allmendinger
26. 21-Trevor Bayne
27. 42-Kyle Larson
28. 14-Tony Stewart
29. 13-Casey Mears
30. 33-Brian Scott
31. 34-David Ragan
32. 10-Danica Patrick
33. 40-Landon Cassill
34. 83-J.J. Yeley
35. 38-David Gilliland
36. 36-Reed Sorenson
37. 98-Josh Wise
38. 95-Michael McDowell
39. 7-Michael Annett
40. 32-Blake Koch
41. 23-Alex Bowman
42. 26-Cole Whitt
43. 66-Brett Moffitt

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.