Kyle Busch’s bid for a fifth consecutive spring race win at Richmond International Raceway was put into danger twice in the late stages of last night’s Toyota Owners 400. He escaped the first calamity, but couldn’t get out of a second one.
Busch had been quiet for the first half of the race, but appeared set to contend once again at Richmond when he took the point from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth at Lap 253. He was solidly in the Top 5 when Travis Kvapil drew his second caution of the night at Lap 309 with a blown motor (he had also brought out the yellow at Lap 294 for hitting the wall).
But shortly after Busch pitted, NASCAR initially hit him with a penalty, stating that he had not made it inside the commitment line entering pit road. Busch was set to go back to the tail end of the longest line. However, upon further review, NASCAR rescinded the penalty after replays showed that he had indeed put two tires on the line.
That allowed him to restart sixth, but instead of advancing, Busch fell back multiple spots on the green flag run before being collected in an incident involving Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson on Lap 326. Stewart had gotten loose and tagged Johnson, who then slid back down the track and left Busch with nowhere to go except into his car.
Repairs could only do so much for Busch, who came home 24th and saw his Richmond spring streak end.
“We got behind several guys with no tires on one of the restarts and everyone was fighting for the bottom, and I just got freight-trained and shuffled back,” said Busch. “Then Tony and Jimmie wrecked in front of me, and I tried to get to the bottom and I had nowhere to go. We had a really good race car, and once we got out front there, things were looking good.
“Just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that was it for our night.”
Mercedes Formula 1 engine chief Andy Cowell has warned against underestimating the threat of Honda despite its ongoing power unit struggles, tipping the Japanese manufacturer to bounce back in the near future.
Honda returned to F1 as a manufacturer in 2015, supplying V6 turbo power units to the McLaren team, but has struggled for either performance or reliability through that period.
The struggles have led McLaren – currently sat bottom of the constructors’ championship – to consider cutting ties for 2018 given how far adrift compared to the other three engine suppliers Honda has been.
Mercedes has been the benchmark for engine performance since the change in regulation for 2014, but Cowell feels that Honda could make up ground quickly, with the removal of the token system for 2017 helping performance to converge through the field.
“I think collectively we’ve helped with convergence in Formula 1 in the opening season, performance development through the year,” Cowell said.
“But then the opportunity to do a big change with Honda coming in, we all agreed that Honda could have that same opportunity to change everything in the first year and then the request came from manufacturers in addition to Honda saying ‘please can we take this crazy token table away because it’s bad for the sport?’
“It’s bad if somebody can’t train to get better and so we agreed, yeah, take the table away because it’s better for the sport because it means that you can innovate, you can introduce whatever you like.
“I think none of us should underestimate the technical prowess of Honda and of McLaren and I think my money is on that combination coming good and coming good pretty quickly. No pressure…”
Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.
Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.
Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.
While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.
“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.
“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.
“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”
Rosberg was previously offered a scholarship to study engineering at Imperial College London when he was younger, only to turn it down in order to embark on a racing career. He also reportedly holds the highest ever score on Williams’ engineering aptitude test.
Should Nico sign up to a course at Stanford, we imagine he’d take things one class at a time…