6-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson talks Sochi Olympics

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Six-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is set to begin another title defense this Sunday at the Daytona 500.

But in the lead-up to the big race, he’s also been watching as much of the Sochi Olympics as he can when not inside his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

As a regular viewer, Johnson says he’s been captivated by what he calls “the speed stuff” in this year’s Winter Games.

“The downhill, snowboarding, bobsled, the guys on the skeleton – and the girls too – they’re crazy and they’re fun to watch,” Johnson told NASCAR on NBC reporter Marty Snider.

He also noted the similarities between what bobsledders like Steven Holcomb and Elana Meyers do and what he and his own peers do at Daytona.

MORE: Humphries/Moyse defend Olympic women’s bobsled title

“That’s probably the most similar discipline [to NASCAR],” Johnson said. “It’s propelled by them so they need to get off the start fine, but controlling the sled down the – I don’t know what they call it, the road, the track, whatever it is – it’s pretty nuts.

“They have the big banked turns like we do in NASCAR and they can touch the wall a little bit more than we can and redirect themselves, but it just looks like such a cool rush and there’s so many great stories that come from it.”

You can hear more of Johnson’s thoughts on the Olympics and on Sunday’s “Great American Race” in the video above.

And don’t forget to watch the debut episode of NASCAR AMERICA – this Monday at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

F1 2017 driver review: Esteban Ocon

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Esteban Ocon

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 31
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P5 (Spain, Mexico)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 87
Championship Position: 8th

A shining star in Mercedes’ junior programme, Esteban Ocon vaulted fellow youngster Pascal Wehrlein in the pecking order to secure a seat at Force India for 2017 – and boy, did he live up to the hype.

Ocon arrived at Force India with half a season of racing under his belt after his outings with Manor late in 2016, but wasted little time in settling in, scoring points on debut in Australia after winning a thrilling three-way fight with Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman spent much of the year close to teammate Sergio Perez – even if things did get a little too close in Canada, Baku and, finally, Spa, prompting the team to introduce team orders – and impressed the entire paddock with his displays.

While no podium was forthcoming, Ocon was often leading the midfield fight, enjoying three straight finishes ahead of Perez from Japan to Mexico. Given how well Perez is rated on-track in the paddock, to have convincingly beaten him in such fashion did a lot for Ocon’s reputation.

The term ‘Oconsistency’ also came into F1’s dictionary as he set a new record for consecutive finishes from his first race, with his retirement in Brazil ending the streak at 27 grands prix. It was also his first retirement in a single-seater race since the 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

The highlight moment arguably came at Monza, though, when Ocon stuck his Force India third on the grid through torrential rain in qualifying. While he would drop to P6 at the checkered flag, the display nevertheless cemented his place as one of F1’s rising stars.

Mercedes rates Ocon very highly, and with Valtteri Bottas’ future beyond 2018 already being questioned by the paddock, a good season could see the youngster move on up to the top table of F1 for 2019. His progression in the next 12 months will be fascinating to keep track of.

Season High: Lining up P3 on the grid at Monza after a rainy qualifying.

Season Low: Clashing with Perez in Baku, costing Force India a possible podium.