The AAA Texas 500 is scheduled to take the green flag at 3:18 p.m. ET, but before the Sprint Cup contingent gets started on Chase Race No. 8, here are some interesting tidbits on how Sprint Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway have played out since the track’s first event in 1997…
– If you’re part of the anti-Jimmie Johnson brigade, you won’t like this one. The third-place starting position has produced more wins at Texas than any other starting position in the field. You get one guess where Johnson’s starting this afternoon.
– Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, the two teams at the center of the championship battle, each have four wins at Texas. But Roush Fenway Racing holds the top spot at TMS with nine victories overall. RFR has two drivers starting in the Top 10 today with pole sitter Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in ninth.
– Only three of the 25 Cup races at Texas have been won from the pole. However, the most recent two of those have come in consecutive events. Johnson converted a pole into a win in the fall race in 2012, and Kyle Busch did the same this past April.
– 19 of the 25 Cup races at Texas have been won from a Top-10 starting position.
– Matt Kenseth holds the distinction of having won from the deepest starting position at Texas, going from 31st to the win in 2002. Kenseth will roll off sixth this afternoon.
– Four drivers – Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton and Mark Martin – have started all 25 Cup races at Texas.
– Prior to today, 34 Sprint Cup races have been run in the state of Texas. Eight were staged at the Texas World Speedway in College Station, while a sole race was held at Houston’s Meyer Speedway.
– The winner of TMS’ Chase race has gone on to win the championship twice: Johnson in 2007 and Tony Stewart in 2011.
2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.
Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.
The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.
“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.
“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.
“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”
Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.
Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.
Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.
“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.
The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.
Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.
Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.
Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.
Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.
“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.
Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.
“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.
“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”
Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.
NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.
Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.
Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.
In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.
Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.