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Vettel beats Verstappen to Singapore GP pole with Q3 stunner

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Sebastian Vettel produced one of the stand-out qualifying laps of his Formula 1 career to beat Max Verstappen to pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday night for Ferrari.

Verstappen had been vying to become F1’s youngest ever pole-sitter in his final qualifying session as a teenager, and looked poised to do so after topping both Q1 and Q2 for Red Bull.

However, Vettel was able to bounce back for Q3, taking provisional pole ahead of Verstappen with his first run before finding yet more time on his last flying lap.

Vettel’s final time of 1:39.491 marked the fastest ever lap around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, giving him his second pole of the year, as well acting as a big victory in the title fight with Lewis Hamilton.

Championship leader Hamilton had a difficult day in the office, ending up fifth overall ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas as both Mercedes drivers struggled to dial in their cars and match Red Bull or Ferrari.

Both Verstappen and Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo were left somewhat disappointed after finishing second and third, having dominated in practice, but nevertheless look in the fight for victory.

Just 24 hours after announcing their break-up for 2018, McLaren and Honda enjoyed a rare high moment under the lights in Singapore by qualifying eighth and ninth, albeit rather aptly behind Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. And naturally, the other driver in the McLaren, Honda, Toro Rosso and Renault news whirlwind, Carlos Sainz Jr. completed the top 10 for Toro Rosso.

Jolyon Palmer’s weekend of heartache continued in qualifying as he missed out on a place in Q3, finishing P11. Both Force India drivers struggled, with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon taking P12 and P14 respectively, split by Daniil Kvyat. Romain Grosjean wound up 15th for Haas.

Kevin Magnussen missed out on a place in Q2 by one-tenth of a second, finishing 16th overall ahead of Felipe Massa, who was limited to just one run after hitting the wall early and sustaining a puncture.

Massa’s Williams teammate Lance Stroll followed in P18, while the Sauber pair of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson propped up the timesheets, more than three seconds off the pace.

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

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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