Photo: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

Brian France: NASCAR not looking at limiting Cup drivers racing in lower series

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NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers coming in and dominating Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series events always seems to rile up a fair portion of the sport’s fan base.

But NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France has indicated that there’s no movement coming from the sanctioning body to limit participation from Cup drivers in the lower two national series.

“That’s always a question, when a Cup driver gets in and has a lot of success – Mark Martin did that for a long time in the Nationwide – and there’s always that balance,” France said to reporters today at Daytona International Speedway.

“But where we usually come out on that is that the younger drivers gain valuable experience even if somebody gets on a run and tends to win more events than is normal. So we try to balance that out, but we lean on the side of the greater experience for the younger drivers to get a chance to compete against, and also for our fans to want to watch the elite drivers not just on Sundays.

“We tend to let the events unfold the way they unfold.”

Cup star Kyle Busch, who also competes semi-regularly in Nationwide and the Truck Series, holds the Nationwide Series’ all-time wins mark with 66 – his most recent coming in May at Dover.

During today’s conference, a reporter at DIS noted that fan animosity over Cup drivers racing in the lower series tends to spike when the polarizing Busch is at the front in those events.

However, France insisted that the idea of a cap was not “an individual issue.”

“It’s true that if a Cup driver dominates in a lower division, it’s understandable why people will shake their head, and we understand that,” France said. “As I said, we balance that against the idea that fans like to see the younger drivers with the veterans, and the younger drivers, most of them, almost all of them, like to figure out where they’re at on the skill curve.

“So that’s good for them to compete against, and it’s unique to motorsports.  That’s how it’s always been.  But we have to balance all this, and we’ll do the best we can as we go along.”

Last night’s Nationwide race at Daytona was won by Cup regular Kasey Kahne. Six of the 16 Nationwide races this year have been won by non-Cup drivers (Regan Smith, Daytona 1; Chase Elliott, Texas and Darlington; Elliott Sadler, Talladega; Sam Hornish Jr., Iowa; Brendan Gaughan, Road America).

Sainz uninjured, but to remain in hospital overnight

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Carlos Sainz Jr. will remain in hospital overnight following a terrifying crash during practice for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning.

Sainz slammed into the wall at turn 13 after losing control of his car, pitching in underneath the TecPro barrier at the end of the run-off area.

Medical crews spent 20 minutes extricating Sainz from his car due to the barriers’ placement before he was taken away to hospital for a check-up.

Sainz tweeted a picture to his followers confirming that he was okay, and Toro Rosso has now released a second statement confirming that the Spaniard was fully conscious throughout the crash and is uninjured.

“After arriving at the Sochi Hospital 4, Carlos Sainz, who never lost consciousness, underwent a medical examination, including a full body scan,” the statement reads. “The scan showed that the driver has no injuries.

“However, he will be staying in the hospital overnight as a precautionary measure, which is the normal procedure in these circumstances.

“We will release further information when it is available.”

Sainz tweeted that he was hoping to convince the doctors to release him from hospital early enough so that he could take part in tomorrow’s race, but any steps taken will be with his well-being in mind.

Rosberg charges to Russian GP pole in Sochi

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Nico Rosberg will start tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix from pole position after topping the timesheets in Saturday’s qualifying session at the Sochi Autodrom.

Rosberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:37.113 to edge out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by three-tenths of a second to score pole position in Russia.

Following on from its dominant display in Japan two weeks ago, Mercedes showed few signs of easing up at the front of the field as it stormed to another front-row lock-out.

Having traded fastest lap times throughout the earlier stages of qualifying, Hamilton and Rosberg renewed their battle in Q3 at Sochi, but it was Rosberg who finished on top.

Rosberg drew early blood in Q3 by going three-tenths faster than his teammate on his first run, and when Hamilton locked up late on and opted to pit, pole was safely with the German driver.

Valtteri Bottas finished as the best of the rest in third place, beating the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen who finished fifth and sixth respectively as all of the drivers struggled to improve on their second runs.

Nico Hulkenberg and Force India teammate Sergio Perez will start sixth and seventh, while Romain Grosjean qualified eighth. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten in P9 and P10 respectively.

Home favorite Daniil Kvyat was unable to delight the local fans as he would have liked to in qualifying, dropping out in Q2 by finishing 11th ahead of Felipe Nasr. Pastor Maldonado was also eliminated, finishing 14th, but it was Felipe Massa who was the biggest casualty of the second session, ending up 15th for Williams.

McLaren experienced something of a mixed qualifying session on Saturday as Fernando Alonso was knocked out at the end of Q1. Teammate Jenson Button managed to improve late on to dump the Spaniard out and leave him 16th overall, while the Briton went on to finish 13th in Q2.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson also dropped out at the first hurdle alongside the two Manor drivers, while Carlos Sainz Jr. took no part in the session following his practice crash. The Spaniard still hopes to take part in tomorrow’s race, but will remain in hospital overnight.