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Gasly crowned GP2 Series champion in Abu Dhabi finale

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Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly has been crowned the 2016 GP2 Series champion at the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi despite only finishing ninth at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Gasly moved back into the lead of the drivers’ championship by taking pole and the feature race victory on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, leapfrogging Prema Racing teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.

Gasly entered the final race of the year holding a 12-point advantage over Giovinazzi, but started only eighth on the grid by virtue of the reverse order from Saturday’s results. Giovinazzi lined up fourth on the grid, needing a podium finish to stand any chance of winning the title.

Giovinazzi’s hopes were dashed off the line when he bogged down, dropping to fifth and failing to make up any ground through the opening stages. Gasly also failed to make up any positions, sitting eighth in the early stages.

From there, neither driver was able to mount the kind of charge that is perhaps expectant of would-be champions, but for Gasly, it mattered little. He managed to close up on Giovinazzi as the Italian toiled for position, going wheel-to-wheel with Norman Nato and slipping back to sixth.

A late charge from outgoing GP2 racer Mitch Evans relegated Gasly to ninth by the checkered flag, but with Giovinazzi only finishing sixth, the Red Bull junior had done enough to clinch his maiden GP2 title.

“It’s unbelievable, it’s been such a long season with hard moments. We kept fighting to the end,” Gasly said after the race.

“The car has been fantastic all year, the team did a great job. To get it at the last race is just unbelievable.”

The race itself was won by Alex Lynn in his final GP2 start, with the Briton poised to move into the FIA World Endurance Championship for 2016. Lynn was joined on the podium by GP2 veteran Johnny Cecotto Jr., while Sergey Sirotkin finished third to also secure P3 in the drivers’ standings.

Gasly’s future remains unclear after being passed over for a Formula 1 seat with Toro Rosso for 2017, with reports suggesting that he could be poised to spend next year racing in the Japanese Super Formula series.

Kyle Busch happy with first stint: ‘Put me in the car, there’s excitement!’

AP Photo/Terry Renna
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Rolex 24 at Daytona debut of the “KB Show” was cut short by a strategy maneuver but still delivered drama and a positive result.

Kyle Busch got the No. 14 RCF GT3 Lexus back on the lead lap and back in contention for a GTD victory at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was good,” Kyle Busch said with a broad smile after a 42-minute stint. “Just, uh, shit, put me in the car, and there’s excitement around! Drove all my way back to the lead lap and everything.

“Overall, we’ve had a good experience and hell I only got one stint in, so I’m ready for more. Sign me up, coach!”

The two-time Cup champion was expected to drive for at least 90 minutes, but the first full-course caution of the race (with 19 hours and 16 minutes remaining) caused AIM Vasser Sullivan to change up its drive plan. Busch was called to the pits in favor of Parker Chase.

“With all the strategy and the way the wave-bys work here, it’s quite different than what we’re accustomed to (in NASCAR),” said Busch, who likely will drive longer now later in the race. “That wasn’t bad. To get ourselves back on the lead lap and back to a position where we can start scrapping again hopefully is what we needed.

“So I got one stint in, but I’m trying to save myself and (teammate) Jack (Hawksworth) for a little later.”

Busch climbed into the car shortly after 6 p.m. as the last of the No. 14’s four drivers. He complained a few times on his radio about traffic, which he said was his biggest challenge.

“There were a couple of instances we ran down a smaller car, and (it was) just mirror driving in front of us,” he said. “That was pretty bad. We lost probably 2 seconds on that. Overall, I guess that’s road racing.

The yellow flag was exactly what Busch’s team needed after being forced to start from the rear of the field when it missed qualifying because of an engine change. Hawksworth, who started the race, said the car was “quick in the wrong places and slow in the right places” after struggling with handling and speed in the first stint.

“I don’t feel we’re out of it,” Hawksworth said. “It’s a very long race. Still early days. We need to work on having speed for the end of the race. The position right now doesn’t really make any difference. We’ll need to find some performance at the end of the race to fight for the win.”