High five: Kyle Busch scores fifth NNS win of year

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Kyle Busch had ’em covered once again in the NASCAR Nationwide Series last night at Darlington Raceway, winning the VFW/SportClips Help a Hero 200 from the pole and claiming his fifth triumph in eight NNS starts this season.

Busch’s decision to opt for a four-tire stop under caution on Lap 121 proved to be a critical one. Re-starting fourth at Lap 125 behind Joey Logano and Austin Dillon (both of whom had stayed out on older rubber), as well as Elliott Sadler (who took two tires on his last stop), Busch surged past with the fresh Goodyears and took the lead for good from Logano on Lap 130. He would pull away to the win over Sadler by over nine-tenths of a second.

Sadler spun out while running second on Lap 50, but managed to avoid the wall and fought his way back to the runner-up position at the checkers. Brian Vickers, Logano, and Matt Kenseth finished third, fourth, and fifth respectively, and with their 1-2-3-5 finish, Joe Gibbs Racing became the first organization to ever put four cars in the Top 5 of an NNS event.

The series’ top two title contenders, Regan Smith and Sam Hornish Jr., battled to a stalemate in South Carolina as Smith finished seventh and Hornish finished eighth. Smith currently holds a 28-point edge over the former IndyCar champion.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.