Look for a lot more Speed Saturday at Daytona – Scott Speed, that is

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We’ve heard of road course ringers in NASCAR, but restrictor plate track ringers?

Scott Speed, he of painted toenails fame, will be back behind the wheel of the No. 95 Leavine Family Ford in Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

It will be Speed’s ninth Sprint Cup race this season … but there’s a big caveat. He’s failed to finish six of his first eight starts due to a variety of mechanical issues including brakes (twice), transmission (twice), electrical problems and a broken rear gear.

But in the two races he did finish – at two of the toughest places to race at, namely Daytona and Talladega – he finished 23rd and a surprising ninth, respectively.

“Even at Daytona we led laps,” Speed said in a team press release previewing this Saturday’s race.

Leavine Family Racing is in its third year of existence and continues building towards its goal of becoming a full-time Sprint Cup team. While it hasn’t raced since Charlotte on May 26, it’s longest break planned for the season (five races), crew chief Wally Rogers is anxious to get back on top of the pit box.

“This car finished ninth the last time it was on the track, so there’s not a lot that has to be done with it,” Rogers said. “This car is fast and it drives really well. More than anything else we’ve gone over our strategy.”

In his career, Speed has completed 877 of 886 laps (99 percent) across five races at Daytona, including leading 14 laps. He finished 10th in the summer 2010 race there and was 19th in the season-opening Daytona 500 earlier that same year.

After Saturday night’s race, the team’s next race will be the Crown Royal Presents the Samuel Deeds 400 (aka the Brickyard 400) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 28.

F1 2017 driver review: Carlos Sainz Jr.

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Carlos Sainz Jr.

Teams: Scuderia Toro Rosso (1-16), Renault (17-20)
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Singapore)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 54
Championship Position: 9th

Carlos Sainz Jr. has always been compared to Max Verstappen given their relative rise and stint together at Toro Rosso, but the Spaniard began to forge his own impressive path through 2017, securing himself a works drive with Renault in the process.

Alongside the struggling Daniil Kvyat for much of the season, Sainz led Toro Rosso’s charge, scoring 48 of its 53 points with a string of impressive drives. His headline moment came in Singapore when he matched Verstappen’s best result in Toro Rosso colors by finishing fourth, capitalizing on the start-line crash and the wet weather with a strong display.

Sainz’s displays led to a call from Renault, who announced just two days before his star display in Singapore he would be joining up for 2018 on loan from Red Bull. However, the deal was accelerated after a deal was brokered to secure Jolyon Palmer’s departure, allowing Sainz to join up from the United States GP onwards.

Sainz made an immediate impression, completing a perfect race en route to seventh on debut for Renault to secure six points that would prove crucial in the final constructors’ championship standings as the French team beat Toro Rosso to P6 in the standings at the last race of the year.

Red Bull retains an option on Sainz’s future beyond 2018, making him a candidate for a seat with its senior team should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave. Failing that, Renault could offer Sainz the platform he needs to continue his rapid rise in F1 and establish himself at the front of the pack for many years to come.

Season High: Finishing fourth in Singapore after dodging the start-line drama.

Season Low: Crashing out in his final Toro Rosso appearance on the first lap at Suzuka.