NASCAR AMERICA: Monday round-up (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Even though Denny Hamlin was forced to miss a race earlier this season, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has managed to effectively make the Chase by virtue of his win yesterday at Talladega Superspeedway.

As Marty Snider and Jeff Burton explained in today’s episode of NASCAR AMERICA, it’s a nice accomplishment for Hamlin when you consider the things that he’s had to go through over the last few seasons, such as his near-miss for the 2010 Sprint Cup title and his back injury last year that sidelined him for several races.

Hamlin is now the latest addition to this year’s Chase Grid, which currently has Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick atop it with two wins apiece.

Kurt Busch is also part of that Grid thanks to his Martinsville win, but all race winners must also be within the Top 30 in championship points. And with four DNFs in the first 10 races, Busch is in the danger zone at 27th in the standings.

NASCAR AMERICA will be back tomorrow at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices. You can also check out more clips from the show on its archive page.

F1 2017 driver review: Esteban Ocon

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Esteban Ocon

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 31
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P5 (Spain, Mexico)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 87
Championship Position: 8th

A shining star in Mercedes’ junior programme, Esteban Ocon vaulted fellow youngster Pascal Wehrlein in the pecking order to secure a seat at Force India for 2017 – and boy, did he live up to the hype.

Ocon arrived at Force India with half a season of racing under his belt after his outings with Manor late in 2016, but wasted little time in settling in, scoring points on debut in Australia after winning a thrilling three-way fight with Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman spent much of the year close to teammate Sergio Perez – even if things did get a little too close in Canada, Baku and, finally, Spa, prompting the team to introduce team orders – and impressed the entire paddock with his displays.

While no podium was forthcoming, Ocon was often leading the midfield fight, enjoying three straight finishes ahead of Perez from Japan to Mexico. Given how well Perez is rated on-track in the paddock, to have convincingly beaten him in such fashion did a lot for Ocon’s reputation.

The term ‘Oconsistency’ also came into F1’s dictionary as he set a new record for consecutive finishes from his first race, with his retirement in Brazil ending the streak at 27 grands prix. It was also his first retirement in a single-seater race since the 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

The highlight moment arguably came at Monza, though, when Ocon stuck his Force India third on the grid through torrential rain in qualifying. While he would drop to P6 at the checkered flag, the display nevertheless cemented his place as one of F1’s rising stars.

Mercedes rates Ocon very highly, and with Valtteri Bottas’ future beyond 2018 already being questioned by the paddock, a good season could see the youngster move on up to the top table of F1 for 2019. His progression in the next 12 months will be fascinating to keep track of.

Season High: Lining up P3 on the grid at Monza after a rainy qualifying.

Season Low: Clashing with Perez in Baku, costing Force India a possible podium.