(Illustration courtesy of NathansFamous.com)

NASCAR races at Charlotte, Pocono and Sonoma to serve as qualifying events for renowned hot dog eating contest

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If you’re going to upcoming NASCAR races at Charlotte, Pocono or Sonoma, come hungry and bring your appetite.

The three races will serve as qualifying events for the big daddy of hot dog eating contests, the  July 4 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating contest at Nathan’s Famous on Brooklyn’s (N.Y.) Coney Island.

The first NASCAR-themed qualifier will be on May 24, the day before the Coca-Cola 600. But instead of taking place at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the event will be part of the Speed Street celebration in downtown Charlotte.

The second NASCAR-themed qualifying event will be at Pocono Raceway on June 7, and the third and final qualifier will be at Sonoma Raceway on the morning of June 22, just a few hours before the start of that day’s scheduled Toyota/SaveMart 350 Sprint Cup race.

“This will be a terrific, entertaining element to add to the NASCAR party this year,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager. “We are excited to bring this to our fans in Northern California and know it will be a great addition to our weekend.”

All told, there are 13 qualifying events for the overall eat-off on July 4. The male and female contestant who eats the most hot dogs at each qualifier will be headed to the Big Apple to be part of the final field for the big contest.

If you think you, your appetite and stomach all have what it takes, go to NathansFamous.com for more information and instructions on how to register.

But be forewarned: the reigning champ is Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., who holds the Nathan’s record of downing 69 hot dogs — yes, you read that right, 69! — and buns, as well, in 10 minutes in last year’s championship event. Chestnut has won the event each of the last seven years.

It’s not like we’re counting, but that translates into nearly seven hot dogs per minute, or one every eight-plus seconds.

Sonya Thomas of Alexandria, Va., won the female class last year, downing 36 3/4 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

Those interested in competing in a Nathan’s Famous qualifier should visitwww.nathansfamous.com to obtain information and register. All competitors must be over 18 years of age.

Official Listing of 2014 Nathan’s Famous Qualifiers:

April 26Las Vegas, NV (New York-New York Hotel & Casino)

May 3: Houston, TX (Memorial Mall)

May 17: St. Louis, MO (Busch Stadium)

May 24: Charlotte, NC (Speed Street celebration)

May 31: Bloomingdale, IL (Kmart)

June 1: St. Paul, MN (Dixie’s Stage, 695 Grand Avenue)

June 7: Long Pond, PA (Pocono Raceway)

June 7: Savannah, GA (River Street)

June 15: Queens, NY (Citifield Plaza)

June 21: Boston, MA (Government Center)

June 21: East Rutherford, NJ (State Fair Meadowlands)

June 22: Sonoma, CA (Sonoma Raceway)

June 29: Cleveland, OH (Crocker Park Shopping Center)

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Formula 1 gets colorful: Here are all 10 liveries for 2017

© Getty Images
© Getty Images
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Following Scuderia Toro Rosso’s launch of the new STR12 car on Sunday night, the Formula 1 grid is now set ahead of the start of pre-season testing in Barcelona on Monday.

All 10 teams have sported cars that are quite the deviation from their predecessors, as forced by the overhaul of the technical regulations for the new season.

While the changes are mainly in place to make the cars quicker on-track, they also look more visually appealing than the 2016 grid – even if the debate over the ‘shark fin’ is set to rage on.

F1 has also got more colorful, with a number of teams sporting big livery changes that will make cars easier to pick out when you tune in across NBC Sports this season.

Here is what the grid will look like for F1 in 2017.

Mercedes W08 EQ Power+

2017 Silver Arrows Collateral Day Photography - Steve Etherington
© Mercedes AMG Petronas

Red Bull RB13

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© Red Bull Racing

Ferrari SF70H

© Scuderia Ferrari
© Scuderia Ferrari

Force India VJM10

© Sahara Force India
© Sahara Force India

Williams FW40

© Wil
© Williams Martini Racing

McLaren-Honda MCL32

 (Photo by McLaren F1 via Getty Images)
© McLaren F1 via Getty Images

Toro Rosso STR12

© Scuderia T
© Scuderia Toro Rosso

Haas VF-17

© Haas F1 Team
© Haas F1 Team

Renault R.S.17

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Sauber C36

© Sauber
© Sauber

Toro Rosso reveals STR12 F1 car with striking new livery

© Scuderia T
© Scuderia Toro Rosso
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Scuderia Toro Rosso has completed a busy launch week for Formula 1 by unveiling its new STR12 car that will race in 2017.

As rumored, Toro Rosso presented a car with a drastically different livery to the one that has been present for much of its time in F1, varying from the dark blue and red colors the Red Bull sister team has been known for.

Now a metallic blue becomes the primary color for the car, with silver and red highlights being used for the Red Bull branding.

Drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat were on-hand to unveil the STR12, which sported a radical new look to fall in line with the new technical regulations in F1 for 2017.

Most noticeable on the car is the addition of a ‘shark fin’ to the engine cover, something that the majority of teams have ran with for their launches so far.

The team also released a launch video showing the STR12 enjoying its first on-track test.

Toro Rosso ended last year seventh in the constructors’ championship, but suffered a dip in form towards the end of the season after sticking with 2016-spec Ferrari power units.

For 2017, the team will once again link up with Renault and use current-year engines, giving it the chance to compete throughout the campaign.

Sainz was one of F1’s unsung heroes through 2017, leading Toro Rosso’s charge following Max Verstappen’s promotion into a Red Bull seat four races into the year.

After spending the middle part of the season regaining his confidence after moving in the opposite direction to Verstappen, Kvyat looked much stronger in the final flyaways, doing enough to secure a seat with Toro Rosso f0r 2017 in the process.

The STR12 has already completed a filming run at Misano in Italy, but will hit the track publicly for the first time on Monday with the start of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Marc Marquez dislocates shoulder during private Honda MotoGP test

PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 15:  Marc Marquez of Spain and the Repsol Honda Team rides during 2017 MotoGP pre-season testing at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on February 15, 2017 in Phillip Island, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
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Reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez suffered a dislocated shoulder during a private test earlier this week, the Repsol Honda team has confirmed.

Marquez, 24, was testing with Honda at the Jerez circuit in Spain when he suffered a crash on the second day of running.

The Spaniard sustained a dislocated shoulder, but Honda confirmed that it does not expect him to miss the next private test in Qatar prior to the start of the season.

“Medical checks show neither further damage nor any other injuries, and the rider from Cervera should be fit to finish preseason testing ahead of the first race of the season,” a statement reads.

“Today was a productive day, as we were able to do many laps and to work on our bike well. We did most of the work we had planned, which is good,” Marquez said of his test day.

“I crashed in the afternoon and dislocated my shoulder, but luckily it was nothing serious. Now I’ll have some rest back at home and get ready for the next test, in Qatar.”

The new MotoGP season gets underway on March 26 with the Qatar Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso confirms contact from Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s retirement

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 24:  Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren Honda walks in the Paddock  during previews for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 24, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Fernando Alonso has confirmed that he was contacted by Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from Formula 1 last December.

Just five days after winning his maiden F1 drivers’ championship in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg sent shockwaves through the driver market by announcing his immediate retirement from racing.

The majority of drivers racing in F1 were linked with the vacant Mercedes seat, including Alonso, who has not won a world title since 2006.

Alonso stressed at the time that he had no interest in leaving McLaren as he prepared to enter the third and final year of his contract with the British team.

Speaking earlier this week at the launch of McLaren’s new F1 car, the MCL32, Alonso confirmed that he was contacted by Mercedes, but that conversations never gained traction.

“Mercedes, after the surprise of Rosberg, had to check with everyone. It is understandable,” Alonso said.

“It was nothing really strange, nothing really deep to the conversations, but they did with everyone.

“They wanted to hear my situation, which was very clear. I had this year at McLaren and I was happy here.

“There was no point in talking anymore.”

Reflecting on Rosberg’s decision to retire, Alonso said that he would never be able to make a similar decision and would continue racing.

“In my case I cannot stop, [racing] is like a drug,” Alonso said.

“For Rosberg he was very brave to step away, I wish him the best.

“I will be 80 years old and I will be in a go-kart on a circuit racing and pushing the kids off the track in front of me.”