It may be an off-weekend for Sprint Cup, but there’s still plenty to keep fans from going into withdrawal

Leave a comment

While the big boys of NASCAR are enjoying their last off-weekend of the Sprint Cup season, it’s likely many fans are going through withdrawal this weekend, as well.

Sure, there’s the Nationwide Series race Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway. There’s even two Cup regulars that will be competing: Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson.

And for the first time in family history, three generations of Gillilands – father Butch, son David and grandson Todd – will drive against each other Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway in suburban Los Angeles.

Butch will be racing for the first time in over a decade, while Todd has been nothing short of outstanding in his first season of racing Late Models – as a 13-year-old, no less.

There’s also Sunday’s Whelen Euro Series race across the pond in Germany.

But if you’re really, in desperate need of a NASCAR fix, while we can’t give you drivers, we do give you next best thing: stats!

And thanks to the kind statisticians at NASCAR, we have a handful of numbers about the first 19 races of the season that should satiate your appetite until next Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.

Thus far in the 2014 Sprint Cup season:

* There have been 11 different race winners.

* There have been 12 different Coors Light Pole winners; 13 track qualifying records have been broken.

* An average of 11.1 leaders per race through 19 races, compared to 8.8 at this point last year.

* An average of 24.1 lead changes per race, compared to 16.6 at this point last year last year.

* Average margin of victory is .717 seconds, the lowest through 19 races since the inception of electronic timing and scoring in 1993.

* Through race No. 19, there have been 76,570 green flag passes, the most at this point of the season since the inception of passing stats in 2005.

* In addition, there have been 771 green flag passes for the lead, the second highest figure through 19 races since 2005.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.