Sainz: Fifth on the grid in Spain feels like pole position

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MONTMELO – Carlos Sainz Jr. has admitted that he did not expect to qualify as high as fifth for the Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday, saying the result feels like a pole position.

Sainz made his Formula 1 debut at the beginning of the season in Australia, and arrived in Barcelona for his home grand prix as the leading Spanish driver in the championship.

Unlike most of the teams, Toro Rosso has not brought many upgrades to the race in Spain, but this did little to hinder Sainz in qualifying as he secured his first ever top-five grid slot.

“Well, you never expect a P5, to be honest,” Sainz said. “It is never in your plans, especially in your home grand prix and after a tough FP2 and FP3, where I was not very comfortable with the car.

“We were having a lot of small issues that all put together made me be quite out of pace and comfort. Finally we put it all together for qualifying and in Q1, run one, I already felt a completely different car.

“A well balanced car and we were there, ready to fight. Half a tenth here, half a tenth there, we were improving and in finally for Q3 I managed to put a very decent lap together.

“I am feeling, to be honest, like pole position. The same feeling.”

Sainz has made an impressive start to life in F1, qualifying inside the top ten on two occasions and matching teammate Max Verstappen for pace across the first four races.

“It feels great, exactly what I was planning and imagining before the season,” Sainz said. “It was my time now to show everyone that Red Bull was right and after these first five races.

“I finally start to feel more comfortable in Formula 1. It is still one quarter of a championship and a long way to go, but it has been a positive start.”

The Spanish Grand Prix is life on NBCSN from 7:30am ET on Sunday.

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.