By the numbers: The 2013 Chasers at Talladega

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Hold your breath. Cross your fingers. Talladega has arrived.

The 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders will look to keep their cars and championship hopes intact in Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 500 – the sixth race in this year’s postseason – at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway.

Chaos is always just a heartbeat away at this track thanks to the pack racing created by the speed-robbing restrictor plates, and it makes for a race that is marked by both excitement and dread. It wouldn’t be surprising to see more than one Chaser’s title bid end in that patented Talladega mega-crash – “The Big One.”

But the wild card nature of Talladega also can lend itself to stunning upsets. Take Sprint Cup’s last visit to Talladega in May, which ended with Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan getting a push from teammate David Gilliland on the final lap to win in a green-white-checkered finish.

Of course, that G-W-C finale was set up by a Big One with six laps to go, triggered by contact involving J.J. Yeley and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. down the backstretch. Adding to the spectacle, Kurt Busch was hit by a wayward Yeley and flipped onto the roof of Ryan Newman.

As provided by NASCAR, here are statistics on how each Chase contender has done results-wise at ‘Dega in their careers. But don’t bother trying to use these numbers to predict who wins on Sunday, because, time and again, this track has proven how unpredictable it can be.

Matt Kenseth (LEADER, 2,225 points)
· One win, five Top-5s, nine Top-10s
· Average Finish: 17.6 in 27 races
· Series-best Average Running Position of 14.1

Jimmie Johnson (Second, -4 points)
· Two wins, six Top-5s, 10 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 17.1 in 23 races
· Average Running Position: 17.5, 11th-best

Kevin Harvick (Third, -29 points)
· One win, Top-5s, 10 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.4 in 25 races
· Average Running Position: 19.0, 21st-best

Jeff Gordon (Fourth, -36 points)
· Six wins, 15 Top-5s, 19 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.3 in 41 races
· Average Running Position: 18.4, 18th-best

Kyle Busch (Fifth, -37 points)
· One win, three Top-5s, four Top-10s
· Average Finish: 22.9 in 17 races
· Average Running Position: 19.1, 22nd-best

Greg Biffle (Sixth, -58 points)
· Two Top-5s, five Top-10s
· Average Finish: 19.9 in 21 races
· Average Running Position: 21.4, 28th-best

Kurt Busch (Seventh, -59 points)
· Six Top-5s, 13 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.7 in 25 races
· Average Running Position: 15.1, third-best

Clint Bowyer (Eighth, -63 points)
· Two wins, four Top-5s, seven Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.3 in 15 races
· Average Running Position: 21.2, 27th-best

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Ninth, -66 points)
· Five wins, nine Top-5s, 13 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 15.1 in 27 races
· Average Running Position: 15.1, second-best

Carl Edwards (10th, -67 points)
· Two Top-5s, five Top-10s
· Average Finish: 20.8 in 18 races
· Average Running Position: 24.0, 39th-best

Joey Logano (11th, -75 points)
· Two Top-5s, four Top-10s
· Average Finish: 20.0 in nine races
· Average Running Position: 17.8, 14th-best

Ryan Newman (12th, -78 points)
· Four Top-5s, eight Top-10s
· Average Finish: 22.2 in 23 races
· Average Running Position: 21.6, 30th-best

Kasey Kahne (13th, -81 points)
· Three Top-5s, four Top-10s
· Average Finish: 21.5 in 19 races
· Average Running Position: 21.1, 26th-best

Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
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Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.