Thursday, April 19, 2018
Sports

Gordon eyes turnaround at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. — Jeff Gordon's best chance to end his winless season and vault into the top 10 of NASCAR's Chase for the Championship now rests in front of him: Pocono Raceway.

Gordon, who won one of his two races a year ago here, has a record six wins at the triangle track in his career.

"I've always loved this track and continue to love it," said Gordon, stuck in 11th in the Sprint Cup points standings heading into Sunday's Party in the Poconos 400.

Winning at Pocono would be a much-needed boost as he would earn one of the two wild-card berths if he's among the top two winners in 11th to 20th place.

But he won't get a chance to start up front, as rain washed out Friday's qualifying, meaning the field will be set by points. That puts Jimmie Johnson on the pole up front with Carl Edwards for the 400-mile race.

Teams will try for practice runs this morning.

Rahal ready for Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas — That near-miss in Texas has certainly crossed Graham Rahal's mind in the past year. Probably much more than the IndyCar driver will ever admit.

Rahal is back at Texas Motor Speedway, where last June he was out in front and seemingly on his way to finally winning again when he drifted too high and brushed the wall coming out of the fourth turn with two laps left. He finished second.

"My focus always quickly turns to the next event," Rahal said. "You have to focus on what's coming up, not what's behind you, and so I've done that."

Rahal qualified 19th in the 24-car field for tonight's race, three spots ahead of defending champion Justin Wilson.

They will be chasing Penske driver Will Power, who is on the pole after a four-lap qualifying average of 219.298 mph. Marco Andretti qualified second with a run of 218.222 mph.

Miffed at penalties: Sebastian Saavedra said he was surprised "big time" by the $30,000 fine he got from IndyCar for his obscene gesture. Saavedra knew he would get a penalty for flashing both of his middle fingers at Marco Andretti after the two made contact last weekend in Detroit. But Saavedra was "very, very, very mad at the series" when he heard the amount of the fine. And Power was placed on probation for the rest of the season for throwing his gloves at Sebastien Bourdais following an accident last week also. Bourdais was placed on probation for comments made toward officials on pit road after the same accident. "Ask race control," Bourdais said. But Mario Andretti, the father of Marco, believes such penalties can discourage guys from being themselves. "It's a pet peeve of mine to have all of this policing," Mario Andretti said. "These guys are not kindergarten kids. I mean, they're professionals, and they have emotions. All sports are full of emotions and I can see if it's out of hand. This is not out of hand. It's just displaying personality."

Formula One: Ferrari's Fernando Alonso had the fastest lap in practice for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, finishing a 2.71-mile circuit in 1 minute, 14:818 seconds. "The most important thing was to evaluate some new parts we brought here, and the new tires that Pirelli brought as well," Alonso said. "Some of it we managed to do." Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, a three-time Montreal winner for McLaren, was second at 1:14.831. Lotus' Romain Grosjean was third, followed by Red Bull's Mark Webber and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg. Teams will have a practice session this morning before qualifying. The race is Sunday.

Nationwide: This weekend's race in Newton, Iowa, promises to be a rare treat for series regulars, who have perhaps their best shot to win. Joey Logano is the lone Sprint Cup driver scheduled to race tonight, with most Cup drivers at Pocono Raceway. Though Logano is coming off a win at Dover last weekend, it appears likely that a Nationwide driver could win for just the third time in 12 starts this season. "It's like the less Cup guys you have, the more challenging the races are," Justin Allgaier said.

NASCAR Next: Chase Elliott, the son of 1988 champion Bill Elliott, and Jeb Burton, whose father Ward won the 2002 Daytona 500, both made the list of young drivers selected for this season's program. NASCAR Next, formerly known as Next9, is designed to highlight drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 who might become stars.

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