Kentucky Sprint Cup race to be first with fewer than 43 cars in more than a decade

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Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway will likely mark the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race without a full 43-car field in more than a decade.

Unless NASCAR officials would allow a late entry, which appears unlikely at this point, only 42 cars/drivers — according to NASCAR statisticians — will take the green flag in Saturday night’s event on the 1.5-mile tri-oval in Sparta, Kentucky, roughly 35 miles from downtown Cincinnati.

“The current 43-car field in the Sprint Cup Series has evolved over the years, yet it’s not necessarily a magic number,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said, according to SportingNews.com. “There are a variety of contributing factors that determine the size of the field, including the ebb and flow of the race teams. A field with less than the maximum is still very much a highly competitive field, and that’s what we’ll have this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.”

The last time there was a field less than the traditional 43 cars was the rescheduled Sprint Cup season finale on Nov. 23, 2001, at New Hampshire International Speedway (now known as New Hampshire Motor Speedway).

The race was originally scheduled for Sept. 16, 2001, but was postponed due to the 9/11 tragedy.

Robby Gordon won that event, his first career Sprint Cup victory, and the first of three in Gordon’s overall Cup career.

Ironically enough, Gordon was sponsored in that race by Lowe’s, which would move to Jimmie Johnson’s team in 2002 – and the rest is NASCAR history.

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F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.