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Ryan Blaney will start last on Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway after his No. 21 Ford failed post-qualifying inspection.

Having posted the third-quickest time in qualifying, Blaney's car failed inspection when NASCAR official deemed that the package tray did not maintain its original shape. His qualifying time was disallowed, and Blaney will start 40th.

The package tray is located at the rear of a NASCAR vehicle. As described in the NASCAR Rule Book, it must fill the area between the rear quarter panels/C-posts, above the rear wheel wells, the rear window and the rear firewall between the rear wheel tubs.

Per the rule book, the package tray must remain flat and straight from front to back.

“The rules are pushed to the max in every area, and today the NASCAR officials found something they didn’t like about our car," said team co-owner Eddie Wood. "We’re not disputing their decision. We’ll own it and move on.
 
“We’ll work on our car in Saturday’s practice, line up in the back on Sunday and look forward to watching Ryan drive his way to the front.”

The Hollywood Casino 400 is the second elimination race in the playoffs and Blaney seventh in the playoff standings with only a nine-point advantage on the cutline. Furthermore, the No. 21 team will now have the last pit stall pick next weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

17DOV2nk01291Clint Bowyer says the spat between he and his No. 14 team, particularly with crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, feels like it was a month ago. But it was less than a week ago when he and Bugarewicz bickered back and forth over the radio at Talladega Superspeedway before Bowyer climbed from his car, the two exchanged more words and Bowyer stormed away.

Friday, the Kansas native said it was nothing more than his frustrations getting the best of him after being involved in an accident.

"It's just a frustrating race. It's extremely nerve-wracking," Bowyer said. "To be dead honest with you, when I'm at home there are only two tracks that I'm scared of. There's only two tracks that in the back of my mind where I think I could lose my life. Those are the only two [Daytona and Talladega].

"When things get out of control, you've got to remember that. We're still out there risking our lives. There's a lot at stake. [But] That's behind us."

He later added, "When you get down to the end of those things there's a point you can feel it as a fan, you can feel it in the car. There's a point in those races where you have to be in position, you have to be in the hunt. The one common denominator there is that I knew and felt strongly going into that race that a Ford was going to win.

17TAL2nk05922"In the back of my mind, there's a handful of tracks that we can competitively win at and beat these Toyotas right now and that was one of them. Just a lot of things going on and confusion was definitely one of them, that's for damn sure."

Bowyer finished 35th and dropped to 18th in points.

Nearing the conclusion of his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, Bowyer is still looking to break a winless streak dating back to the fall of 2012. There is an admitted hunger in Bowyer to get back in victory lane and he said that has been one of the frustrating things about the season as a whole. The needed consistency to contend at the front of the field each weekend hasn't been there. A solid run is usually followed by taking a step back.

When prodded about whether he would like a crew chief change next season to help turn things around, Bowyer didn't commit to a yes or no answer.

"I don't know. It's not time ... to start thinking about that," he said. "At the end of the day, it's about depth in our organization and building and organization. ... Who knows? There could be a lot of different things that happen in the off season for Stewart-Haas. You don't know that. I don't know that or anybody else. Time will tell and paint a lot clearer picture."

DJ5R2792Lewis Hamilton believes Red Bull showed the best race pace during Friday's practice sessions for the United States Grand Prix despite setting the fastest times himself.

With FP1 taking place in damp conditions before a much drier and warmer FP2, Hamilton topped both sessions and enjoyed an advantage of 0.4s over Max Verstappen on Friday afternoon. Despite his single-lap pace being impressive, Hamilton believes Red Bull looks like the team to beat at this stage of the weekend.

"It's difficult to say [where Ferrari is] because Sebastian [Vettel] hasn't really finished – he didn't really get much running I don't think, but the Red Bulls do look quick," Hamilton said. "I've really not thought about [Ferrari's strengths], but I think the Red Bulls at the moment are the ones who look quickest.

"We didn't really do a huge long run, to be honest. We had a problem, so that's why we had to stop halfway through. But the little bit that we did, it looked like we were relatively close to the Red Bulls."

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However, with Hamilton having set the fastest times in qualifying simulations and been on pole on 10 occasions so far this weekend, the championship leader highlights his Saturday performances as crucial to many of his are wins.

"I think they've definitely been key. When you go from race to race, there's always a calculated delta of pace you have to have to overtake the car in front. That shifts all over the place. Here, it's around eight-tenths of a second you need to be quicker than the car in front. That's quite low compared to the other circuits. Lots of other circuits you need to be 1.8 seconds faster than the car in front to be able to pass. It's quite often over the one-second mark.

"Positioning is everything, and naturally starting from first and getting to the first corner first, the chess game is completely different from there with a perfect first move. So qualifying's definitely been good, but it's the Fridays that have really made that Saturday possible – starting on the right foot, making the right setup changes and not getting lost on the Friday often bodes well for the Saturday."

17KAN2mt1006AMartin Truex Jr. continued his torrid pace through the NASCAR Playoffs with his second pole in six races.

Truex laid down the fastest lap Friday night at Kansas Speedway, going to the top of the leaderboard in the final round at 188.029 mph. Already locked into the next round, Truex will start on the front row in what is the second elimination race of the postseason. He also started on the pole in the elimination race at Dover.

The pole is Truex's third of the season and 15th of his career. Even better, the spring winner at Kansas will also have the first pit stall selection next weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Friday's qualifying session determined the selection for next week since qualifying at Martinsville is on the same day as the race.

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"It's pretty big. Biggest one at this point and time, that's what matters," Truex said. "We race one week at a time, try to do the best job we can, obviously. We knew this was a big one tonight with next week's pit selection, so just really proud of everybody.

"Great execution all day making the right adjustments, right calls throughout qualifying. Just had to step it up there. I'm shaking a little bit after that one, it was pretty wild."

With a victory Sunday, the driver of the No. 78 Toyota could set a new record. Truex would be the first driver to win four straight races at 1.5-mile tracks.

Starting alongside Truex will be Kevin Harvick, who clocked in at 187.682 mph. The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team will look for back-to-back Kansas wins Sunday afternoon.

Completing the top five were Ryan Blaney (187.617 mph), Matt Kenseth (187.604 mph) and Denny Hamlin (187.461 mph).

Rookies Daniel Suarez (186.909 mph) and Erik Jones (186.716 mph) qualified sixth and seventh, respectively. Kyle Busch (186.329 mph) qualified eighth with Jamie McMurray (185.637 mph) ninth and Clint Bowyer (185.599 mph) rounding out the top 10.

Playoff drivers starting outside the top 10 include Jimmie Johnson (13th), Kyle Larson (14th) and Chase Elliott (15th). The lowest qualifying playoff driver was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 25th. Stenhouse, along with Jamie McMurray, is a virtual must-win to advance.

"In practice, we were a little loose and we made some adjustments and made our Fastenal Ford a little better but then we were really fighting two things," said Stenhouse of his efforts. "[Turns] 3 and 4 I was a little too tight; 1 and 2 I was a little too loose and just didn't have enough grip in our car to get the job done of what we did earlier here this year when we qualified fourth.

"We'll go back to work tomorrow and we know a few things we need to do different to get us more like we were here in the spring."

UP NEXT: Second practice at 11 a.m. ET Saturday.

 ONZ6722Sebastian Vettel admits his lack of running in the second practice session for the United States Grand Prix was precautionary after noticing some unusual behavior from his Ferrari.

Having been second fastest to Lewis Hamilton in a damp FP1, Vettel ended the second session in third place, just behind Max Verstappen and half a second off the championship leader. That came despite a high-speed spin at Turn 19 that ended with a trip through the gravel, and Vettel says he then was concerned about the car's handling when he returned to the track.

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"It was a messy afternoon and not an easy session, but the car is quick so we don't need to worry," Vettel said. "Obviously the only lap I had was the one I set with the ultrasofts. Before I probably took too much risk earlier in the session and lost the rear into Turn 19 – it has been quite slippery there all day, it was my mistake.

"We lost a set of tires but in the end I felt something was not right with the car, so we came in a couple of times to check and then go out to double and triple check. We are looking into it to try to see something."

Ferrari has opted to change Vettel's chassis ahead of Saturday's running to rectify the issue, but the German says the time he delivered on his one flying lap on the ultrasoft tires highlights the raw pace in the car.

"The main thing was that Kimi [Raikkonen] did some running, so I think we got enough information. Obviously I didn't get too many laps, so I need to find the rhythm tomorrow but as I said, the car is quick so I am not too worried. We just need to make sure we get everything in order, then it should be a good day.

"When we are on track I think [Hamilton is within reach] but obviously we spent more time in the garage which wasn't the right thing. Sometimes it is like this, so I said to the guys we have a good car and the lap that I had was the only real lap that I had and it was not very good, so I am pretty sure we can step it up for tomorrow."

 W6I2226Championship leader Lewis Hamilton topped both Friday practice sessions for the United States Grand Prix with a strong performance in FP2 at Circuit of The Americas.

Having been quickest in a damp FP1 on Friday morning, Hamilton retained top spot in the second session with a time of 1m34.668s. With every driver using the ultrasoft tire – marked with pink sidewalls this weekend in support of the Susan G Komen breast cancer organization – Hamilton had an advantage of over 0.4s over Max Verstappen and was the only driver to dip under the 1m35s mark.

A new Red Bull contract for Verstappen was announced earlier on Friday – taking him through to 2020 – and he enjoyed a strong second session to lead the chase of Hamilton, posting a 1m35.065s to edge out Sebastian Vettel by a little over 0.1s. Vettel had a far from smooth session himself, spinning at Turn 19 and having to recover through the gravel before returning to the pits and ending his running after just 11 laps when he felt a problem with the front axle of his Ferrari.

Valtteri Bottas was within 0.1s of Vettel in fourth place, with Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen – fifth and sixth, respectively – also less than half a second off Verstappen to show how closely matched the chasing pack was behind Hamilton.

 J6I6771After missing most of FP1 with a hydraulic problem, Fernando Alonso finished seventh in FP2 but was 0.8s adrift of Raikkonen and over 1.6s off Hamilton's best lap time. It was an encouraging performance from the McLaren at a venue where the team has enjoyed two top-six finishes in the past two years.

Felipe Massa finished eighth quickest in an extremely tight midfield, pipping Force India pair Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon by 0.03s. From Alonso in seventh down to Nico Hulkenberg in 12th, six drivers were separated by less than a quarter of a second.

Hulkenberg lost out on some running as Renault addressed a power unit issue, and he ended FP2 just 0.005 adrift of new teammate Carlos Sainz, who impressed to finish as the quicker of the two in both sessions on Friday.

Daniil Kvyat enjoyed a solid return to action in the Toro Rosso, finishing 13th quickest, half a second clear of Kevin Magnussen and 1.2s faster than debutant teammate Brendon Hartley. Both Magnussen and Haas teammate Romain Grosjean had spins during the session, with Magnussen pre-empting Vettel with a spin at Turn 19 – in front of the Haas Hill general admission area – while Grosjean swapped ends at the Turn 11 hairpin early in the session.

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 X0W4559Daniel Ricciardo says he doesn't expect to have significant talks about his future until next season despite being nearing the end of his contract.

Red Bull announced that Max Verstappen has extended his contract with the team by one year on Friday morning, despite his previous deal being set to expire a the end of 2019. By contrast, Ricciardo is out of contract at the end of next season but says he was expecting to enter proper talks after this year.

"I don't know," Ricciardo replied when asked why he hasn't extended his deal yet. "To be honest, it's not that I've said no to anything. It's just still quite early, I think. People talked a little bit about contracts and the silly season for next year, but I thought that would still happen next year. It's still quite early.

"On the positive side, obviously it's not really got anything to do with me, but if I'm to try and extract some positives out of [Verstappen's] news it's that it gives us good confidence for next year. He and his management see a lot of positives in the team to continue like that.

"I'm 100 percent here next year, I can at least say that, and I think it gives both of us confidence that we'll keep progressing the way we are."

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With Helmut Marko saying Red Bull "wants to achieve the championship title as the youngest ever Formula 1 driver" with Verstappen, Ricciardo insists he doesn't feel there is more focus on his teammate.

"For sure, as far as media goes, he certainly gets a lot of attention and that," Ricciardo said. "Not that I'm trying to take that away – that's just how it works. He's broken records for his age and things like that, so rightly so. But yeah, take the media out of it, as far as inside the team, new parts on the car, things like this, there's always been equality.

"There's never been anything like that [favoritism]. As far as I'm concerned, it's a bit of media stuff but not anything internal. That's fine, I have no concerns with that."

After Verstappen's deal, Marko says the timing is because of a request from Verstappen but that focus would now switch to Ricciardo.

"Yes, both drivers, Max and Ricciardo, could have been free after '18," Marko said. "So we tried to secure at least one driver, because Max asked if we could make a deal to 2020. Ricciardo was putting himself on the market. So now we are talking with him."

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Roger Penske is sorry to see the upcoming split between Verizon and IndyCar following the 2018 season. The Captain, who introduced the telecommunications company to IndyCar in 2009, hailed the brand's involvement in marketing the series to a wider audience when it took over title sponsorship of the sport in 2014.

"We want to thank Verizon for the support they have provided the IndyCar Series and the leading role they have played as they helped us grow the sport as the title sponsor for the past five years," he said "Verizon has helped the series reach new fans through their world-class activation and technology, including the Verizon IndyCar Mobile App.

Penske also confirmed Verizon's sponsorship of his team will continue uninterrupted.

"While they will no longer be the series' title sponsor after 2018, it is exciting they will still be in the sport through their relationship with our organization."

Team Penske's Will Power won the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship while carrying the Verizon name and colors on his No. 12 Chevy. More recently, Penske drivers Simon Pagenaud (2016) and Josef Newgarden (2017) have won IndyCar titles with cars wearing additional Verizon branding.

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