Quicken Loans 400

Ford celebrates milestone 1,000th victory in NASCAR

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64 years after earning its first victory in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the Ford Motor Company has 1,000 wins in America’s most popular form of motorsport after Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle triumphed in today’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

“I am just super excited for Ford,” said Biffle, who has earned 53 wins for Ford in his NASCAR national series career. “…I think I contributed over 50 of those, which is a small number compared to 1,000, but still [I’m] sure excited to [win] No. 1,000.”

The Blue Oval’s milestone includes 900 Ford-branded victories across the Cup Series, the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series, as well as 100 victories combined from its Lincoln and Mercury brands. The very first NASCAR-sanctioned Cup race was won by Lincoln driver Jim Roper on June 19, 1949 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

One year later, the Ford brand notched its first win at Dayton, Ohio, with “Shirtless” Jimmy Florian at the controls of a flathead Ford that, according to a friend of his, once belonged to the Detroit chief of police. Florian became the first of 124 different drivers that have won at least one race for Ford in NASCAR’s top three categories.

Biffle’s car owner, Jack Roush, leads the Ford camp with 313 victories in 25 years of NASCAR competition – 131 in Sprint Cup, 132 in Nationwide, and 50 in the Trucks. He compared today’s victory with the one his team earned on another special day for Ford, when a young Kurt Busch took the checkered flag at Michigan during the company’s 100th anniversary back in 2003.

“Those are two great milestones that I’ve been honored to be a part of,” said Roush. “As far as the 1,000 wins that Ford has had here in NASCAR, it’s over 50 years, and we’ve been involved just over half of that time, and there have been a lot of great teams and a lot of great drivers that have been part of that, and we’re just glad and honored to be a part of that history.”

A history that, in addition to 1,000 race wins, has also seen 20 manufacturer’s championships and 13 driver’s titles. Indeed, Ford’s NASCAR legacy is one that they can take immense pride in.

“Ford has been an important part of our sport since their first win,” said NASCAR president Mike Helton in a statement. “We congratulate the entire Ford Motor Company and the race teams, past and present, that have contributed in this very significant milestone of their 1,000th win.”

Some more Ford statistics for you:

  • Wins by series: 715 victories in Sprint Cup (615 – Ford, 96 – Mercury, 4 – Lincoln), 200 in Nationwide, 85 in Trucks.
  • All-time winningest driver: Mark Martin, 89 wins – 35 in Cup, 47 in Nationwide, 7 in Trucks.
  • Eight Sprint Cup driver’s titles from Ned Jarrett, David Pearson (2), Bill Elliott, Alan Kulwicki, Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch.
  • Four Nationwide driver’s titles from Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2).
  • One Truck driver’s title from Greg Biffle.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Simon Pagenaud’s first season at Team Penske.

Simon Pagenaud, No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2014: 5th Place, 2 Wins, 1 Pole, 3 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 59 Laps Led, 8.6 Avg. Start, 8.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 11th Place, Best Finish 3rd, 1 Pole, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 132 Laps Led, 5.2 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish

The 2015 season was always going to be a weird one for Simon Pagenaud, in his first season with Team Penske, adapting and adjusting to being with what’s widely regarded as one of the best if not the best teams in the sport. From a career standpoint he needed to move on from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, where he overachieved for three seasons. And given what became of the Honda aero kit this year, having a Chevrolet at his disposal was always going to be a benefit.

In actuality, Pagenaud didn’t have a bad year, but it was one where the burden of expectation probably hurt his overall stats more than the reality of the situation.

Let’s face facts – he’d finished in the top five in points each of his first three seasons back in IndyCar the last two years, won four races and been in championship contention before. Take all that, apply it to Team Penske and you’d assume wins and title contention would follow, but it didn’t. Still, it was a new team, a fourth team, and that took time to gel.

His qualifying was dynamic, which went against his career form and was markedly improved. His average leapt from 8.6 to 5.2 this year, which was third best in the field. The problem? It trailed two of his three teammates, Will Power and Helio Castroneves, and was only one spot clear of Juan Pablo Montoya.

And then – and there is no easy way to put this – there were his finishes. In 12 of 16 races this season, Pagenaud finished worse than he started. For a driver renowned for making the most of his circumstances on race day, often times things went south when all the marbles, all the points were on the line. Some you could put down to strategy or particularly in the later part of the year, sampling different setups to aid his title-contending teammates.

There were highlights, in particular his speed at the three 500-mile races. Pagenaud was probably the quickest of the four Penske entries at Indianapolis, scored the pole in Fontana and also starred in Pocono, but he didn’t have results to back it up in any of the three. Contact at Indy halted what was certainly winning potential. He also scored a pair of thirds at Detroit race one and Mid-Ohio, although those were cases where he was lucky rather than good.

It was hard to view Pagenaud’s season positively on the whole because you know his potential and ability hasn’t gone missing. But finishing 11th in points when your three teammates end second, third and fifth is definitely a tough pill to swallow, and an early motivator to make the fast Frenchman a top comeback driver in 2016.

Nicky Hayden announces World Superbikes move

ALCANIZ, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 25:  Nicky Hayden of USA and Aspar Team MotoGP rounds the bend during the MotoGP of Spain - Free Practice at Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 25, 2015 in Alcaniz, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden will leave the series at the end of the season ahead of a move into the World Superbike Championship in 2016, it has been announced.

Hayden has raced in MotoGP since 2003 and is currently the only American rider racing in the series, but has struggled to match the form of his early years, scoring just 13 points in 2015.

It had been rumored that Hayden would be walking away from MotoGP at the end of the season for some time, but this has now been confirmed in a statement from WorldSBK.

Hayden will join Honda’s factory team in the rival series, racing alongside Michael van der Mark. The 34-year-old will bid to become the first rider to win both MotoGP and WorldSBK titles.

“Well, my next stop is Superbike with Honda! I’m very excited, obviously, to stick with Honda; it’s where I’ve had the most success in my career,” Hayden said.

“World Superbikes is a championship that I followed closely as a kid when a lot of American riders were fighting at the front. It just seems like the right time and the right team to go with.

“I know I’ve got a lot to learn and it’s going to be a big challenge, but also I’m very motivated to start and learn what I can.

“I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has supported me through my MotoGP career. We had a good run but now it’s time to move on and try something different.”

Hayden’s departure acts as another blow to MotoGP’s profile in the United States, which has seen a downturn in recent years.

The exit of Ben Spies from Yamaha in 2013 was followed by the loss of the race at Laguna Seca the same year, while last month, it was confirmed that Indianapolis would not be returning to the calendar in 2016, leaving just one US round on the schedule.