It has been a chaotic season for Denny Hamlin, who missed four races earlier this season with a back injury sustained at Auto Club Speedway and has only collected one Top-10 finish in the last 18 events.
But this weekend’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 powered by Kroger at Martinsville Speedway may present a great opportunity for the beleaguered Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
With four victories there in his Sprint Cup career – the most recent of which came in the fall of 2010 – as well as nine Top-5 and 12 Top-10 finishes, Hamlin is coming to one of his best tracks.
A fifth Martinsville win for Hamlin would make history on several fronts. It would mark the first time that a driver outside the Chase for the Sprint Cup has won a post-season event at the track, and it would also mark the first time that non-Chase competitors have won on three consecutive post-season weekends (Brad Keselowski, two races ago at Charlotte; Jamie McMurray on Sunday at Talladega).
But more importantly, a Hamlin triumph would rob Chase leader Jimmie Johnson of at least some precious points he needs to stay ahead of Hamlin’s teammate, Matt Kenseth, who sits four points behind going into a track that hasn’t been an especially good one for him (no wins, three Top-5s in 27 starts).
As noted by Micah Roberts of The Sporting News, Kenseth may have to focus on keeping his deficit to Johnson manageable if Johnson is his usual Martinsville self (eight career wins, average finish of 5.3) – and Hamlin could lend him a hand if he’s given a No. 11 JGR Toyota that can contend.
It may be asking too much of Hamlin and the No. 11 team, who have likely been racing with one eye toward 2014 for some time now. But based on their past body of work at Martinsville, a surprise from them this weekend is by no means a far-fetched prospect.
Kevin Magnussen has won Formula 1’s official Driver of the Day poll for the Russian Grand Prix.
Magnussen started 17th in Sochi after a difficult qualifying session, but made the most of the trouble at the first corner for many of the cars ahead to work his way into the top 10.
The Dane’s pace was impressive during the second half of the race to ensure he finished the race seventh, marking Renault’s first points as an F1 constructor since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The result was also Magnussen’s first top 10 finish in F1 since the penultimate race of the 2014 season when he raced for McLaren.
On Monday, the official F1 Twitter account confirmed that Magnussen had won the vote through its website.
The Russian Grand Prix proved to be a busy race for the FIA stewards as a number of incidents resulted in three drivers receiving penalty points on their super licences.
Daniil Kvyat, Esteban Gutierrez and Carlos Sainz Jr. were all sanctioned by the stewards for actions during the race.
Kvyat’s antics on the first lap defined a number of drivers’ races as he hit Sebastian Vettel twice in a matter of seconds, the second hit punting the Ferrari racer into the wall and out of contention.
Kvyat said after the race that it was easy to attack him, but the rest of the paddock was less than impressed, leaving many expecting an apology from the Russian.
After being handed a 10-second stop/go penalty during the race, Kvyat was also given three points on his FIA super licence, taking his tally up to five for the 12-month period.
Gutierrez was also penalized for an incident on the first lap after he took out Nico Hulkenberg and sparked a multi-car melee at Turn 2. He too received a time penalty during the race, but was handed two penalty points afterwards by the stewards.
Finally, Sainz was found to have forced Jolyon Palmer off track between Turns 2 and 3 during the race. He had 10 seconds added to his race time and also received two penalty points.
Nico Rosberg saw his Formula 1 championship lead swell to 43 points on Sunday after winning the Russian Grand Prix, marking his seventh straight victory.
The German has not lost since the Mexican Grand Prix back in November, and will head to the start of the European season in Spain later this month full of confidence.
It proved to be a race full of intriguing storylines as Lewis Hamilton fought back from 10th on the grid to finish second, Romain Grosjean took Haas back into the points and everyone got angry with Daniil Kvyat for causing mayhem at Turn 2.
Following the race on Sunday, NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton brings you all of the latest news, interviews and insight in Paddock Pass.
Red Bull’s ‘aeroscreen’ Formula 1 cockpit safety solution is set to make further appearances in practice for the Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix after breaking cover in Russia last weekend.
Following the debut of the Mercedes-designed ‘Halo’ in pre-season testing earlier this year, Red Bull’s aeroscreen device made its first public appearance during Friday practice in Sochi.
FIA race director Charlie Whiting confirmed that it would be tested during practice in Spain and Monaco, with a deadline of July 1 set for any possible usage in the 2017 season.
“Red Bull are going to run it again in free practice in Spain and Monaco,” Whiting said.
“This time we hope they will have sourced, and they are optimistic they can, some anti-glare coating for the inside.
“We understand it can be quite difficult where you have tall buildings, trees, low sun, and those sorts of effects that you will probably get in Monaco and Monza, where there are natural features.
“And there will also be a coating for the outside that will repel rain and prevent things sticking to it.
“The deadline that we mentioned last week was July 1. It would be unreasonable if we didn’t have a clear path by that time.
“Their chassis design is normally fixed by this time. It’s only a small part of the chassis and it’s not going to affect things like fuel volume and those big things, but it’s still part of a complex design.”
Much like the Halo, the aeroscreen has split opinion up and down the paddock. While some have praised the extra protection offered and sleek look, defending world champion Lewis Hamilton compared it to a riot shield.