Tony Stewart looking for elusive Darlington Sprint Cup win

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After 15 years in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, there isn’t much that Tony Stewart has yet to accomplish.

But the three-time Cup champion has never been able to defeat Darlington Raceway. It’s one of two active Cup tracks where he’s never won – the other being Kentucky Speedway, which has only been hosting Cup races since 2011.

Now, Stewart does have a Nationwide Series win in 2008 at Darlington to his credit, and it’s not like he hasn’t come close to a Darlington victory in his Cup career – he’s earned four Top-5s and 11 Top-10s.

But as a guy that certainly values history – his undying love for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his ownership of the fabled Eldora Speedway can attest to that – Stewart definitely wants a Cup trophy from one of NASCAR’s most hallowed and challenging tracks.

“As much as we know about the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I think people underestimate how much we know about Darlington and the history of that track, and how hard it is to win races there,” he said in a release.

“I guess that’s why a Sprint Cup win at Darlington is something that’s really important to me.”

Stewart appears to have found his stride as he returns to form after his season-ending leg injury last summer, with two Top-5s and three Top-10s in his last four races.

Last weekend at Texas, Stewart earned his first pole since the 2012 season and converted it into a 10th place result. But he remains one of several big names who have yet to visit Victory Lane in a year that’s started with seven different winners in as many races.

Qualifying could be the key for Stewart to finally capture a Cup checkered flag at Darlington. An eye-popping 95 of the 110 Sprint Cup races that have been run on the South Carolina oval have been won from a Top-10 starting position.

Stewart’s average Cup starting position at Darlington? 17.2.

F1 2017 driver review: Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen

Team: Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 2
Podiums (excluding wins): 2
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 168
Laps Led: 133
Championship Position: 6th

Max Verstappen rise as a once-in-a-generation talent continued through the 2017 Formula 1 season, even if reliability issues meant we were made to wait for his best form to arrive.

Verstappen stole the show in a wet-dry Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th to seventh in the opening lap before ultimately finishing third for Red Bull, yet he would not grace the podium again until the Malaysian Grand Prix at the start of October.

A combination of power unit problems and on-track clashes saw Verstappen retire from seven of the 12 races in the intermittent period, with incidents in Spain and Austria being avoidable.

Perhaps most embarrassing of all was his stoppage due to a power unit failure in front of a grandstand swathed in orange at the Belgian Grand Prix, a race tens of thousands of Dutch fans had attended to cheer Verstappen on.

But when Verstappen got things right, it was – as he frequently quoted – simply, simply lovely. There was plenty left in the tank, as proven by his sheer domination of the races in Malaysia and Mexico as he took the second and third wins of his career.

Perhaps even more impressive was Verstappen’s victory over Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the qualifying head-to-head battle this year, an area the Australian has traditionally been strong in. Verstappen outqualifed his teammate 13-7 – it wasn’t even close…

All in all, Verstappen once again proved that on his day, he is one of the finest talents to grace F1 in recent years. With the right car underneath him next year, a title fight is certainly possible and will be the target – but there is always room for improvement.

And that is the scary part: Verstappen is only going to get better and better.

Season High: Dominating in Malaysia after an early pass on Lewis Hamilton.

Season Low: Crashing out on Lap 1 in Austria.