NASCAR points observations through six races

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Six of 26 races are in the books for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, and we’ve got six different winners after Kurt Busch won Sunday in Martinsville. Here’s where things stand in the points.

WIN AND YOU’RE IN

It’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and now Kurt Busch who have free reign to try whatever they want with the pressure off the rest of the season. This despite Harvick currently ranking 25th in points and Kurt Busch 20th, although he’s moved up substantially the last two weeks thanks to consecutive top-five finishes.

SO CLOSE TO BREAKING THROUGH IT’S NOT EVEN FUNNY

Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have been the three dominant drivers in the last three races, and have a combined zero wins between them thanks to myriad things (contact and tires) conspiring against them. Kenseth ranks second, Gordon fourth and Johnson fifth. They are so close to becoming the next winner that inevitably one of the three will do so soon.

CONSISTENT-ISH

Joey Logano and Paul Menard each have three top-10s and rank eighth and 11th in points; this list of drivers have two top-10s: Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose, Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson. Austin Dillon has only one but with only one finish worse than 16th in six races, he ranks ninth, and leads all rookies. Positions 15-26 are separated by only 18 total points after Martinsville and change with regularity.

SOMEONE PLEASE SAVE TRUEX, KLIGERMAN

Martin Truex Jr. and Parker Kligerman have to be asking what on earth they’ve done to piss off the racing gods. Truex has banked 105 points only in six races, with 14th at Las Vegas his only top-20 finish. Kligerman, of Swan Racing, has just 36 points off six races, thanks to what could be the worst statistical start to a season in Cup history. His finishes? 29th, 42nd, 40th, 34th, 42nd, 41st. And no, he’s not looking to start-and-park. This is just down to his poor luck.

POINTS: Through 6 of 26 regular-season races.

ARCHIVES: Race 5, Race 4, Race 3

F1: Red Bull Racing confirms switch to Honda engines next season

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Honda will become Red Bull’s engine supplier from next season after the Formula One team confirmed its anticipated split with Renault on Tuesday.

The Japanese manufacturer will supply engines for 2019 and 2020, and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner hailed the deal as “an exciting new phase” in the bid to return to the top of F1.

“After careful consideration and evaluation, we are certain this partnership with Honda is the right direction for the team,” Horner said in a team statement. “We have been impressed by Honda’s commitment to F1, by the rapid steps they have made in recent times with our (feeder) team Toro Rosso.”

It is a boost for Honda, which was unceremoniously dumped by McLaren at the end of last year.

Honda has started this season brightly as engine provider for Toro Rosso, and this may have been a key factor in Red Bull finally ditching Renault.

“Honda’s alignment with both Red Bull Formula One teams provides enormous potential,” Horner said. “Honda will have access to a wealth of data from both outfits, with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing leading the way, and the opportunities for faster, more effective and more competitive development are doubled.”

The deal brings to an end Red Bull’s 12-year partnership with Renault.

Although relations became increasingly strained between the two parties in recent years, it was once a dream partnership as Red Bull and Renault won four straight drivers’ and constructors’ championships with Sebastian Vettel behind the wheel from 2010-13.

During that glory era, Vettel and teammate Mark Webber won 47 grand prix. Since 2013, results have somewhat dried up and there have been only 10 race wins.

“We have sometimes had our differences but Renault has always worked tirelessly and to the best of its ability to provide us with a competitive power unit,” Horner said.

He was not always quite so complimentary about Renault. He has regularly and publicly criticized Renault’s reliability in recent years – although it has been hard to judge sometimes.

Red Bull showed good speed toward the end of last season when Max Verstappen won two races, and teammate Daniel Ricciardo won this season’s Chinese GP with a brilliant drive. The difference in speed between Red Bull and Mercedes appears less than before, although Ferrari remains noticeably quicker.

Verstappen’s form has picked up after a poor start to 2018, marred by crashes, and he has taken third place in two of the past three races.

Meanwhile, McLaren’s partnership with Renault has not been as successful as they anticipated after dropping Honda following three fruitless seasons together.

Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso has failed to finish the past two races and has yet to place higher than fifth. Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg has a best finish of fourth place.