Hamilton dominates Italian GP qualifying en route to 7th pole of 2016

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Lewis Hamilton stormed to his seventh pole position of the 2016 Formula 1 season after dominating qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Saturday afternoon.

Hamilton topped all three sessions ahead of Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg to end the German’s streak of pole positions, taking his first since the British Grand Prix in July.

Both Hamilton and Rosberg made it through Q2 on the soft tire, allowing them to start on the harder compound on Sunday. However, Hamilton is likely to request a change of one of his tires after causing a flat-spot on his quickest set, having also attempted to go quicker on a second run.

Hamilton took provisional pole with his first lap on super-softs in Q3, going almost three-tenths of a second faster than Rosberg.

Rosberg improved with his second run as the checkered flag came out, but was still two-tenths off Hamilton’s effort. Despite already having pole in the bag, the Briton found yet more time on his last lap to extend his advantage to half a second.

Ferrari locked out the second row for its home race as Sebastian Vettel edged out teammate Kimi Raikkonen for third place.

Valtteri Bottas impressed for Williams, running to fifth ahead of the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Force India saw both its drivers reach the top 10, with Sergio Perez qualifying eighth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg.

Haas chalked up another major breakthrough during its debut F1 season by getting into Q3 for the first time thanks to Esteban Gutierrez. A stellar lap from the Mexican saw him finish P7 in Q2 before eventually qualifying 10th.

After announcing his retirement from F1 earlier in the weekend, Felipe Massa was unfortunate not to reach Q3, finishing 0.016 seconds shy in P11 for Williams. Romain Grosjean was 12th in the second Haas car, but will drop five places on the grid after a gearbox change on Saturday morning.

The weakness of the Honda engine around the high-speed Monza circuit left Fernando Alonso struggling for pace in qualifying. The Spaniard was unable to make it through to Q3, finishing 13th for McLaren.

Manor enjoyed another impressive charge in qualifying courtesy of Pascal Wehrlein, who reached Q2 for the second race in a row. The German impressed during the second session to qualify 14th ahead of Jenson Button and Carlos Sainz Jr. – two major scalps for the backmarker team.

Daniil Kvyat’s rotten run of form continued as he was eliminated in Q1 once again, finishing less than a tenth shy of Alonso’s time. The Russian was left fuming with P17, sending an expletive-filled message back to his Toro Rosso pit wall after the session.

Sauber and Renault endured fairly routine qualifying sessions, their drivers filling out places 18 to 21. Felipe Nasr was the quickest of the quartet ahead of teammate Marcus Ericsson, with Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen following in P20 and P21.

Esteban Ocon’s second F1 qualifying session came to an early end after an issue on his Manor forced him to stop at the first chicane. After failing to set a time, the Frenchman will start from the back of the grid on Sunday.

The Italian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
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LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

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France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”