NASCAR has shown outstanding parity through first eight races of 2014

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NASCAR chairman Brian France’s unwavering stance to bring parity to the sport during his 10-year tenure is finally paying dividends.

While most of the sport is off this week for the Easter holiday and spring break, NASCAR’s PR staff sent out a media release Thursday that shows just how close the racing has gotten thus far in 2014.

Through this season’s first eight races:

* Although the Sprint Cup Series saw its first repeat winner at Darlington with Kevin Harvick’s win after different winners in the first seven races, the streak of eight different Coors Light Pole winners remains intact. That streak is tied for the series’ longest season-opening streak of different pole winners.

* All three manufacturers have won races thus far: Chevrolet leads with four wins, Ford has three and Toyota has one.

* There have been an average of 12 different leaders per race, compared to 8.6 at this point last year.

* There have been an average of 25.6 lead changes per race, compared to 17.4 in 2013.

* There have been 29,541 green flag passes, compared to 23,178 in 2013.

* There have been 346 green flag passes for the lead, compared to 181 in 2013.

* The average margin of victory in the first eight races has been just 0.588 seconds, the smallest since 2008.

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Hartley to make F1 debut from back of grid after penalty

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Brendon Hartley’s hopes of a points finish on his Formula 1 debut took a hit on Friday after the FIA confirmed the Toro Rosso driver will start the United States Grand Prix from the back of the grid due to an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso as a surprise replacement for Pierre Gasly in Austin, with the Frenchman tied up with Super Formula duties at Suzuka this weekend.

Hartley took to the track in an official grand prix session for the first time on Friday in Austin, marking his first run-out in an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 20120.

However, FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer confirmed in his pre-race report that changes had been made to the power unit on Hartley’s Toro Rosso car since the last race in Japan, triggering a grid penalty.

Toro Rosso elected to take a new internal combustion engine, MGU-H, energy store and control electronics on Hartley’s Renault power unit, totaling a 25-place grid drop that will be applied after qualifying. Confirmation of the penalty is set to follow later today.

The penalty comes as a setback for Hartley, but was necessary as Toro Rosso found itself short on engine elements to get to the end of the season.

Hartley is not the only driver to have a penalty confirmed, with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne also taking new engine elements, also confirmed in Bauer’s report.

A new ICE, turbocharger and MGU-H for Hulkenberg will see him drop 20 places on the grid, while an eighth ICE of the year for Vandoorne will trigger a five-place drop.