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

IndyCar: Turn 5 gives drivers fits in Friday’s second practice at Barber Motorsports Park

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You’ve heard of the Fast Six in IndyCar, right?

Well, Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama was the Frustrating Five – Turn 5, that is.

It almost might be easier to list those drivers that were not bitten by the cantankerous turn on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park layout in Birmingham, Alabama.

Close to 10 drivers in the 23-driver field suffered issues in the turn, ranging from running off the grass and back on, to getting stuck and having to be towed out, to suffering damage.

But by the time the one-hour session was over, Josef Newgarden took a big step towards defending his win from last year’s race there, being fastest in Friday’s second of two practice sessions.

Newgarden covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in a speed of 122.786 mph at a best lap time of 1:07.4345 minutes.

Spencer Pigot was second (125.599 mph/1:07.5372), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (122.129 mph/1:07.7971), Will Power (122.107 mph/1:07.8092) and last week’s winner at Long Beach, Alexander Rossi (122.065 mph/1:07.8326).

Sixth through 10th-fastest were Scott Dixon (122.044 mph/1:07.8445), Ryan Hunter-Reay (121.975 mph/1:07.8829), Takuma Sato (121.652 mph/1:08.0628), Marco Andretti (121.579 mph/1:08.1040) and Graham Rahal (121.572 mph/1:08.1076).

Now, speaking of all the incidents, here’s a list.

INCIDENTS:

* Right after rookie Matheus Leist spun early in the session in Turn 5, fellow rookie Zach Veach spun with about 45 minutes left in the session in Turn 5. Graham Rahal had to take evasive action to miss Veach.

But that wasn’t all, as Sebastien Bourdais followed in almost the same spot with a spin of his own roughly a minute later, and then Gabby Chaves also had his problems in the same turn, going into the grass but avoiding the gravel.

* Simon Pagenaud joined his Penske Racing teammate Josef Newgarden in the Turn 5 gravel. Newgarden spun into the gravel in the first practice session.

* Rookie Rene Binder, who has struggled in his inaugural season, continued to have issues, running into the wall and causing damage to the front end, needing a tow truck to get him righted.

It appeared Binder snapped part of the front suspension in the incident.

* Turn 5 saw James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan run off-track late in the session, but they were able to continue.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The third and final practice of the weekend will take place Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET, to be televised live on CNBC (with an encore performance at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, the weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

Follow @JerryBonkowski