Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth in 2012 Contenders Live (NASCAR photo)

NASCAR’s 12 Chasers to answer fan questions in Contenders Live Chicago event

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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series enters the final three race weekends before the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, starting this weekend at Bristol. As the field is narrowed down to the 12 drivers that will qualify over these three weeks, the drama intensifies.

Fortunately before the Chase starts, NASCAR fans will have a chance to interact with all 12 drivers – plus NASCAR President Mike Helton – in a lighter setting: the second annual NASCAR Contenders Live Sponsored by Toyota and Sprint event to be held September 12. It will be at Navy Pier in Chicago from 1:30 to 3 p.m. CT, just a few days before the 2013 Chase begins at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet. Further information is available at www.nascar.com/ContendersLive.

Matt Kenseth is among those who will be participating for a second year running. He’s not officially locked into the 2013 Chase, but with four wins thus far this season, he’ll make it in either via the top 10 or as one of the two Wild Cards in his first season driving the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“The Chase has been going on for nine years now, and now it starts at Chicago, but for me it’s always fun and always great to be in the Midwest,” Kenseth told MotorSportsTalk in a Tuesday interview. “For me, it’s the closest track to where I grew up (Cambridge, Wis.) It’s fun to have the chance to see the fans and interact with them for a little bit, and get going for the weekend.”

Miss Sprint Cup, Kim Coon, will be on hand for a second year in a row in the crowd, relaying fan questions to drivers and Helton.

“You have the drivers here that are so accessible, and you have the president that’s here, answering questions and bantering; it’s very unique,” she said in an interview. “NASCAR fans are so passionate about their sport. I’ll go to a NASCAR race and see people who have traveled from across the country or around the world. My last race was in Watkins Glen, and people had traveled from Australia, Germany and Japan to come to this race. It’s not something you see in any other sport with regularity.”

FURTHER DETAILS:

  • NASCAR Contenders Live sponsored by Toyota and Sprint will be making its return to Chicago at the historic Navy Pier on September 12.
  • This year’s event will feature the top 12 drivers on stage to discuss the most competitive time of the season, The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
  • The event provides drivers with a great opportunity to interact with our passionate fans and answer their questions. Miss Sprint Cup and Mike Helton will also be in attendance.
  • Fans can visit www.NASCAR.COM/ContendersLive to purchase tickets for $10 dollars and enter the Contenders Live sweepstakes for a chance to win an all-new 2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Limited and more great prizes.

Petrucci set for MotoGP return at Le Mans

PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 18: Danilo Petrucci of Italy and Octo Pramac Racing rounds the bend during the 2016 MotoGP Test Day at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on February 18, 2016 in Phillip Island, Australia.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Danilo Petrucci will make his comeback from injury at this weekend’s MotoGP race in Le Mans after missing the first four races of the season.

Petrucci underwent surgery on his right hand due to a recurring problem that meant he could not race in Qatar, Argentina, Austin or Spain for the Pramac team.

The Italian’s place was taken by Michele Pirro for the last three races, but Petrucci is now fit again and will race at the Circuit de la Sarthe this weekend.

“I trained a lot in the last few weeks. This time I did things more calmly, waiting for my body to give me permission to train,” Petrucci said.

“I’m happy to be back and I feel good. Of course we must see the reaction to the first impact with the track as the intense workout made at home certainly cannot be compared to a race weekend. But I’m very confident.

“I want to thank all the people who helped me, my trainer Marco Baglioni, Tommaso, Filippo, and my brother Francesco who have trained with me, pushing me every day.

“I also want to thank the Medical Team of Terni who provided me with all the tools for physiotherapy and Dr. Tarallo, from the team of prof. Catani, who operated me.

“Then a big thank to all my fans for their support. I can’t wait to be at Le Mans and I hope I can soon give to all of them so much satisfaction.”

The French Grand Prix takes place on Sunday May 8.

Magnussen named Driver of the Day for Russian GP

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS16 Renault RE16 turbo on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Kevin Magnussen has won Formula 1’s official Driver of the Day poll for the Russian Grand Prix.

Magnussen started 17th in Sochi after a difficult qualifying session, but made the most of the trouble at the first corner for many of the cars ahead to work his way into the top 10.

The Dane’s pace was impressive during the second half of the race to ensure he finished the race seventh, marking Renault’s first points as an F1 constructor since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The result was also Magnussen’s first top 10 finish in F1 since the penultimate race of the 2014 season when he raced for McLaren.

On Monday, the official F1 Twitter account confirmed that Magnussen had won the vote through its website.

Kvyat, Gutierrez, Sainz handed penalty points after Russian GP

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01: Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico driving the (21) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo and Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM09 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo collide at the start during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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The Russian Grand Prix proved to be a busy race for the FIA stewards as a number of incidents resulted in three drivers receiving penalty points on their super licences.

Daniil Kvyat, Esteban Gutierrez and Carlos Sainz Jr. were all sanctioned by the stewards for actions during the race.

Kvyat’s antics on the first lap defined a number of drivers’ races as he hit Sebastian Vettel twice in a matter of seconds, the second hit punting the Ferrari racer into the wall and out of contention.

Kvyat said after the race that it was easy to attack him, but the rest of the paddock was less than impressed, leaving many expecting an apology from the Russian.

After being handed a 10-second stop/go penalty during the race, Kvyat was also given three points on his FIA super licence, taking his tally up to five for the 12-month period.

Gutierrez was also penalized for an incident on the first lap after he took out Nico Hulkenberg and sparked a multi-car melee at Turn 2. He too received a time penalty during the race, but was handed two penalty points afterwards by the stewards.

Finally, Sainz was found to have forced Jolyon Palmer off track between Turns 2 and 3 during the race. He had 10 seconds added to his race time and also received two penalty points.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates his win on the podium next to Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari  during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg saw his Formula 1 championship lead swell to 43 points on Sunday after winning the Russian Grand Prix, marking his seventh straight victory.

The German has not lost since the Mexican Grand Prix back in November, and will head to the start of the European season in Spain later this month full of confidence.

It proved to be a race full of intriguing storylines as Lewis Hamilton fought back from 10th on the grid to finish second, Romain Grosjean took Haas back into the points and everyone got angry with Daniil Kvyat for causing mayhem at Turn 2.

Following the race on Sunday, NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton brings you all of the latest news, interviews and insight in Paddock Pass.