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Team Penske sweeps top 10 in two series; Will Power third at Sonoma

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Sunday was a good day to be named Roger Penske.

Team Penske scored its 500th win as an organization.

They placed five of six IndyCar and Cup drivers in inside the top five – with one other narrowly missing in eighth.

Penske finished the IndyCar season with three drivers in the top six in points. In the Cup series, Brad Keselowski became the first driver to lock into Round 2 of the playoffs.

Yeah, “the Captain” had a command performance.

A little after the start of the Grand Prix of Sonoma, Keselowski won the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to give Penske his 500th organizational win – one week after he won the first ever Brickyard 400 for Penske.

Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney finished fourth and fifth at Las Vegas respectively.

One state over in California, Will Power led the IndyCar contingent by finishing third in the Grand Prix of Sonoma.

“I think if we would have started farther up front, we would have had a chance to win,” Power said after the race. “It was a good year though. Roger got his 500th win today. We won the Indy 500. We won the 200th IndyCar race for Team Penske. We won the Brickyard 400. Just couldn’t get the championship here. But overall, it was a good year for Team Penske.”

Winning the 500 is not only enough to make a season successful, it can make a career for both drivers and owners. Power’s 2018 victory marked the 17th time that Penske won that race.

It didn’t end there, however. Power’s Indy 500 win was part of a sweep Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. He also won the Grand Prix of Indianapolis two weeks early. Power added a third win for Penske in 2018 at Gateway.

Power entered Sonoma with a mathematical opportunity to win the championship, but that faded midway through the race and he finished third in the points behind Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi.

Right behind Power, Simon Pagenaud finished fourth in the race and sixth in the standings.

“It was a good day: definitely competitive, we definitely unlocked a lot of secrets,” Pagenaud said. “I think we cracked the code this weekend on the car and what I needed so we were much more competitive that we’ve been on the road course and it felt good. It felt fun.”

And while Pagenaud did not add to Penske’s win total in 2018, he came close with runner-up finishes on the oval of Texas in June and the street course in Toronto in July.

“I found my smile back, so that is a good thing,” Pagenaud told NBCSN after the race. “I’m really excited for next year; I’m already thinking for next year. … I think it’s in these kind of situations you learn the most and you come back stronger.”

Josef Newgarden was the only Penske driver who failed to finish in the top five Sunday. He crossed under the checkers eighth and finished fifth in the standings.

If not for one bobble in the pits, Newgarden might have given Penske a perfect sweep of the top five.

“It really all started with the first pit stop,” Newgarden said. “We just had a mistake in trying to get out and I stalled it. It kind of ruined the whole day from that point there on. It was tough to recover after that. I think we had a lot of potential today and we could have contended for the win, but it was too hard to come back.

“It was a great season and a lot of great moments for the whole team and myself.”

In his quest for 500 wins this year, Newgarden gave Penske three. These came at Phoenix and Barber Motorsports Park early in the season and at Elkhart Lake just past the midpoint.

“We’ll double down for next year,” the 2017 champion Newgarden said after the race. “We’ll try to take that number one plate back.”

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F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.