Alfa Romeo’s Kubica fastest as F1 preseason testing resumes

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MONTMELO, Spain — Reserve Alfa Romeo driver Robert Kubica was fastest as Formula One preseason testing resumed Wednesday at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit.

Kubica had a time of 1 minute, 16.942 seconds in the morning session, becoming the first driver other than Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to go faster than 1:17.000 this year.

“It has been a positive morning in the car for me,” Kubica said. “Times don’t matter … what really counts is finishing the day having completed your testing program, and we did that.”

Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen had led one of the tests sessions last week.

Mercedes continued to show good reliability, with Hamilton’s 89 laps being the most among all 10 drivers who went to the track in the morning. The defending champion was fourth-fastest, while Bottas finished ninth after 90 laps in the afternoon.

“It’s been a good session and a good start to the second week of testing,” Hamilton said. “The car didn’t quite feel as good as the first week, but I’m sure that will change as the test progresses and the track conditions improve.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had the second-fastest time on Wednesday, four tenths of a second behind Kubica while using a slower tire compound. Sergio Perez was third with Racing Point, which also showed good pace last week.

Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri was second in the morning and ended fifth for the day, behind teammate Daniil Kvyat.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was 10th after running 84 laps in the morning. Teammate Charles Leclerc finished 13th after 80 laps in the afternoon. Vettel caused the first red flag of the day after running wide.

Kubica also spun out early in the morning session, while Verstappen was among those to spin in the afternoon. One of Verstappen’s spins forced the late session to be cut short.

“We won’t know how good we are until we get to Melbourne (for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix),” Verstappen said. “Testing isn’t about setting lap times but trying new and different things. I stopped on track just before the end of the session but we’re not concerned and overall it was a positive day.”

Red Bull’s day was affected by some suspension issues, while Renault and Williams also were held back by problems.

Romain Grosjean drove both sessions for Haas, racking up 107 laps, the most of any driver.

Mercedes was dominant on the first three days of testing last week, setting the fastest times and running the most laps – 494. Bottas led the time charts with a lap of 1:15.732 seconds.

Mercedes also attracted attention last week by introducing a novel steering system in which drivers pull the steering wheel back and forth to adjust the angle of the front wheels on straights.

Some teams on Wednesday tested the prototype Pirelli tire which was being developed specifically for the banked corners that drivers will encounter at the Zandvoort track that will host the return of the Dutch GP in May.

The season begins with the Australian GP on March 15. It is the last before new regulations are put into place in 2021 to try to provide a more level playing field.

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 GP and the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

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

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

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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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)