Going through NASCAR withdrawal already? Here’s some intriguing numbers to devour

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NASCAR may have the upcoming weekend off for the Easter holiday, but that doesn’t mean its crack team of statisticians is on vacation like most of the drivers and teams.

Even without a race, they’re still pumping out numbers that fans love to devour. So for an appetizer prior to next week’s countdown to the April 26 race at Richmond International Raceway, here’s some food for thought and to munch on:

* THAT’S DOMINATION: In addition to being the first repeat winner of 2014 in the Sprint Cup Series, Kevin Harvick has led 462 total laps in those two wins this season. He led 224 laps in winning Saturday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, and led 238 laps in his first win earlier this season at Phoenix. All told through eight races, Harvick has led an impressive 515 laps in competition.

* FROM WORST TO FIRST – OR CLOSE TO IT: Let’s face it, Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had terrible days at Texas two weeks ago. Earnhardt made a huge mistake, bouncing into the rain-drenched infield grass going into Turn 1, and then shot across the track and hit the wall head-on, ending his day and leaving teammate Jimmie Johnson to finish 25th (Johnson picked up a lot of debris kicked up by Earnhardt’s car). Harvick, meanwhile, finished one spot ahead of Earnhardt in 42nd place because his engine expired early. Just five days later, both drivers improved an outstanding 41 places in the final race finish at Darlington: Harvick won and Earnhardt finished second.

* EARNHARDT SUCCESS CONTINUES: Even with the Texas debacle, Earnhardt continues to have the best season start of his Cup career. In addition to winning the season-opening Daytona 500, he has three other runner-up finishes (Phoenix, Las Vegas and Darlington) and a third (Martinsville), making for five top-three showings in his first eight starts.

* BUSCH NEARS IMPRESSIVE MILESTONE: Kyle Busch needs to lead 30 laps at next week’s race at Richmond to reach 10,000 total laps led in the Sprint Cup Series in his career. And the guy is still only 28 years old (he turns 29 on May 2)!

* THAT’S STOUT: More specifically at Richmond, the younger Busch brother has led 586 total laps in the last five spring races at the ¾-mile bullring. He’s led at least 32 laps in each of the last five spring races and won four of them.

* HE’S THE NO. 1 AND ONLY: Pop quiz – who is the only driver to have reached the final round in each of the seven knockout qualifying sessions this season? Joey Logano, that’s who. Logano continued his streak as the only driver to make every final qualifying round at Darlington, starting on the outside of the front row. And just in case you’re asking, “Wait a minute, there’s been eight races this season. Aren’t you missing one?” The answer is no. Remember, there was no knockout qualifying in the season opener at Daytona. Knockout qualifying did not begin until the second race of the season at Phoenix.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.

Mercedes F1 engine chief warns against underestimating Honda

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Mercedes Formula 1 engine chief Andy Cowell has warned against underestimating the threat of Honda despite its ongoing power unit struggles, tipping the Japanese manufacturer to bounce back in the near future.

Honda returned to F1 as a manufacturer in 2015, supplying V6 turbo power units to the McLaren team, but has struggled for either performance or reliability through that period.

The struggles have led McLaren – currently sat bottom of the constructors’ championship – to consider cutting ties for 2018 given how far adrift compared to the other three engine suppliers Honda has been.

Mercedes has been the benchmark for engine performance since the change in regulation for 2014, but Cowell feels that Honda could make up ground quickly, with the removal of the token system for 2017 helping performance to converge through the field.

“I think collectively we’ve helped with convergence in Formula 1 in the opening season, performance development through the year,” Cowell said.

“But then the opportunity to do a big change with Honda coming in, we all agreed that Honda could have that same opportunity to change everything in the first year and then the request came from manufacturers in addition to Honda saying ‘please can we take this crazy token table away because it’s bad for the sport?’

“It’s bad if somebody can’t train to get better and so we agreed, yeah, take the table away because it’s better for the sport because it means that you can innovate, you can introduce whatever you like.

“I think none of us should underestimate the technical prowess of Honda and of McLaren and I think my money is on that combination coming good and coming good pretty quickly. No pressure…”

Williams happy to ‘hold off’ on 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.

Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.

While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.

“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.

“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”

Nico Rosberg visits Stanford University, considering study options

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2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg is considering study options at Stanford University after visiting the college earlier this week as part of his tour around California.

Rosberg sensationally announced his retirement from F1 just five days after winning his maiden world title last November, wanting to spend more time with his young family.

The German has been enjoying his retirement, recently embarking on a tour of Silicon Valley and California that saw him hold meetings with electric car giant Tesla, among other companies.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday, Rosberg spoke warmly about a visit to Stanford, revealing that he is considering some study options in the near future at the historic institution.

Rosberg was previously offered a scholarship to study engineering at Imperial College London when he was younger, only to turn it down in order to embark on a racing career. He also reportedly holds the highest ever score on Williams’ engineering aptitude test.

Should Nico sign up to a course at Stanford, we imagine he’d take things one class at a time…