Max Verstappen outpaces Lewis Hamilton to take pole position for F1 opener in Bahrain

Verstappen Bahrain pole
Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SAKHIR, Bahrain — Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took a superb pole position Saturday for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and will start the race immediately ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen earned his fourth career pole to deny Hamilton his 99th, edging out the world champion by 0.39 seconds on his final attempt.

“The whole weekend has been pretty good so far,” Verstappen said. “We knew what our weaknesses were last year and it looks like we’ve addressed them.”

Verstappen praised Honda for improving reliability.

“Honda have worked really hard to improve their engine,” he said. “Their turnaround has been really good and their understanding of the engine is impressive. They are just flat out all the time and want to win.”

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was 0.59 behind Verstappen in third, and Charles Leclerc qualified in an encouraging fourth for Ferrari. In another encouraging sign for Honda, Pierre Gasly was fifth for AlphaTauri, which also uses their engine.

Verstappen clinched the season-ending Abu Dhabi last December from pole and now goes for the 11th win of his career. Hamilton seeks a record-extending 96th win.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge, a bit of an uphill slog,” Hamilton said. “Congratulations to Max. I gave everything I had.”

Verstappen led the first part of qualifying, known as Q1, ahead of AlphaTauri’s 20-year-old Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda. Both cars use Honda engines and the Japanese manufacturer is in its final season before leaving F1.

Sebastian Vettel, who endured a torrid season last year with Ferrari, started the new one badly. He was among the five drivers eliminated from Q1 and starts 18th for Aston Martin.

Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick Schumacher, starts from 19th at the track where his father won the inaugural race in 2004, the year he clinched his seventh F1 title. Hamilton is looking to win a record eighth title.

Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz Jr. and Leclerc topped Q2 ahead of Hamilton, an encouraging sign for the famed Italian manufacturer given last season’s difficulties.

Earlier in the day, Verstappen, who led both practices Friday, clocked the fastest time in the final practice when, in hot conditions, he was 0.74 seconds quicker than Hamilton. Vettel came back to the garage with about 20 minutes left in the session, telling his team some debris had hit his race helmet.

Qualifying took place in the evening under cooler conditions as the sun set on the Sakhir desert track.

Verstappen is continuing his form from preseason testing and last year’s season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, which he won.

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)