F1 rivals Hamilton and Rosberg in the mood for showdown

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Formula One rivals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg can’t even shake hands.

The Mercedes pair showed their competitive spirit Thursday by ignoring a request from photographers to “stand up and shake hands” before their pre-race news conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Instead, both sank their hands into their pockets before sitting down to answer questions.

With Hamilton’s title on the line – and Rosberg’s first beckoning – neither wants to give any ground heading into Sunday’s race.

Rosberg has a 12-point lead and is favored to clinch the title, needing only a third-place finish if Hamilton wins.

“That’s not going to make me go faster, to have such thoughts about something that might or might not happen,” said Rosberg, runner-up to Hamilton for the past two seasons. “This is the third time the championship has gone to the wire. So I’m more relaxed.”

Asked how he will approach the decider, Rosberg wasn’t shy.

“I’m going to go for the race and win and do what it takes to get that,” he said, adding “within the limits of what’s acceptable.”

Mutual respect between the drivers remains, however, stemming from their days as teenagers racing karts against each other.

“The thing we still have from back then is the base respect and that will never go. That has helped us through the years,” Rosberg said. “It’s generally (a) neutral (relationship now), but of course it’s a difficult environment.”

However, three years of challenging each other for the title against has largely eroded the carefree relationship they used to have.

“We had a lot in common. We both liked pizza and eating boxes of Kellog’s Frosties (cereal),” Hamilton said Thursday. “Stepping away from being our competitive selves, I’m proud of how he’s driven, particularly this year. Generally, it’s been a pleasure to have him as a teammate.

Even if Hamilton wins his 10th race of the season on Sunday, it may not be enough to bring a fourth F1 title that would draw him level with French great Alain Prost and German driver Sebastian Vettel.

“(When I was) 43 points behind, I thought it was impossible,” Hamilton said. “Somehow I turned it round. (Then) I was 33 points behind and have almost turned it around.”

Hamilton’s season has been hit by mechanical issues and engine failure – unthinkable during pre-season testing when both Mercedes were hugely reliable.

That still seems to grate with him.

“When I look back on the season if there’s anything to be negative about would be cars failing in certain places,” Hamilton said. “(With the same engine) as the car that wouldn’t stop during testing.”

Prior to the start of the season, Mercedes swapped several mechanics around from each side of the garage. Some of Rosberg’s went to work with Hamilton and vice-versa, in a bid to end the divide that had been growing over the previous two seasons.

The issue of the mechanics swap was put to Rosberg at Thursday’s news conference, but before he could answer, Hamilton interjected: “What was the explanation given to you?”

Hamilton then pledged to reveal more in the future.

“You’ll have to buy my book … down the line … in 10 years’ time when I tell you exactly what happened,” the British driver said. “It will be an interesting read.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)