With the Sprint Cup season finale set to go green in less than an hour at Homestead-Miami Speedway, here are a few statistical bits and pieces to remember as the Ford Ecoboost 400 goes on this afternoon:
– Since the inception of NASCAR’s points-based position system in 1975, only four drivers have made up a points deficit in the season finale: Richard Petty in 1979 (made up two points on Darrell Waltrip), Alan Kulwicki in 1992 (made up 30 points on Davey Allison), Jimmie Johnson in 2010 (made up 15 points on Denny Hamlin) and Tony Stewart in 2011 (made up three points on Carl Edwards). However, Stewart’s the only driver to do this under the current one-point-per-position structure.
– Five of the 14 Sprint Cup races at Homestead have been won from the front row, and nine of the 14 have been won from a Top-10 starting spot.
– Carl Edwards has the top average finish among Cup drivers at Homestead with a superb 6.0. Only two other drivers – Kevin Harvick (7.9) and Martin Truex, Jr. (9.8) – have an average finish at Homestead within the Top-10.
– Defending race champion Jeff Gordon leads the series with seven Top-5 finishes at Homestead; Edwards and Harvick follow him with five Top-5s apiece.
– Chase contenders have won seven of the nine previous Chase races at Homestead. Only one non-Chase contender has triumphed in that group of races: Greg Biffle, who won in 2004 and 2006.
– Jimmie Johnson needs to finish 23rd or better to win his sixth Sprint Cup. Johnson has competed 122 times on 1.5/1.54-mile tracks in his Sprint Cup career, and has finished worse than 23rd on those tracks a total of 21 times; of those 21 finishes of 23rd or worse, four have come at Homestead.
– Matt Kenseth trails Johnson by 28 points going into today’s race. He has out-pointed Johnson by that same margin in just two races this season: The August night race at Bristol and the Richmond fall race in September.
– Kevin Harvick is third in the championship at 34 points behind Johnson. Since Harvick does not have a tie-breaker over Johnson, he needs to out-point him by 35 points today. He’s only down that once this year: August at Michigan.
Winter storm Doris hit the U.K. on Thursday but filming of Paddock Pass pressed on regardless, as the latest installment of the NBC Sports Group original digital series captured yet another video – this time the launch of the Mercedes F1 W08 EQ Power+, the latest challenger for the Mercedes AMG Petronas.
Mercedes’ launch differed from the first three this week, Sauber, Renault and Force India, in that it was both a filming day and launch at the Silverstone Circuit for drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Both drivers had time in the car.
NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton catches up with the key stakeholders in this edition of Paddock Pass.
Previous Paddock Pass editions from this week are below:
Scuderia Ferrari has taken the wraps off its 2017 chassis as the launch week continues for this year’s Formula 1 cars.
Despite the loss of technical director James Allison to Mercedes and after going through an underwhelming, winless 2016 season – at least by Ferrari standards – the team looks for a bounce back this year to coincide with the new regulations.
The renamed SF70H, which follows on last year’s SF16-H, was revealed online in a quick video without any buildup or dialogue from any of the key team stakeholders.
Noticeable on this car is the shark fin element, again with a winglet on the top of it. The team’s reveal of the chassis reveals the differences for this project, code named the 668 internally:
There are several differences between the 668 project and Ferraris from the recent past: the lengthened nose and the arrow-shaped wing are a consequence of the regulations, as is the obvious fin on the engine cover and the more complex aero appendages ahead of the air intakes on the sidepods, whose unusual shape was designed in harmony with the front crash structure. Visible at the front is a duct that has an aerodynamic role, while behind the driver, the roll-hoop, which incorporates the engine air intake has been completely redesigned. Also updated is the suspension layout, which still retains a push rod design at the front with pull rods at the rear. The hubs and wheel nuts have been redesigned to facilitate the work of the mechanics when changing wheels during the pit stops. Finally, also as a function of the expected increase in performance this year, the power-steering and braking systems have been upsized.
A couple screen caps from the launch video are below:
The launch is the first of two today, with McLaren’s reveal of the MCL32 coming in a couple hours.
It seems to be the winter of all-stars from other racing disciplines testing in IndyCar.
Today Ricky Taylor joined the list of those stars from the closed-top sports car or touring car world on the winter IndyCar test list, with a one-off guest test for Team Penske in defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud’s No. 1 PPG Chevrolet.
The older of two Taylor brothers, who completed a star turn at this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona en route to delivering the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R an overall win with brother Jordan, Max Angelelli and Jeff Gordon, made his maiden laps at the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course.
Chevrolet and General Motors extended the test offer to Ricky Taylor for this opportunity. Fittingly for Pagenaud, it’s the second time in not even a year he’s given up his seat to another member of either the GM or Penske family; Brad Keselowski made a similar out-of-nowhere one-off test at Road America last year.
“Every driver dreams to be an Indy car driver,” Taylor said, via IndyCar.com. It can’t hurt to be involved with (Team Penske); there are no negatives to that. To get to know all the guys and get to drive the car and get an actual feel for it in a low-pressure environment is a great opportunity for me. Even if it doesn’t lead to anything, it’s a big learning opportunity.”
With Ricky Taylor completing this test and with Robert Wickens and Pipo Derani set to test next week at Sebring’s short course, there’s been a sudden series of additional interest in the final few runs before the IndyCar season opens on March 12.
And with Ricky Taylor in Homestead today, it was left to Jordan Taylor and the Konica Minolta team’s new third driver, Englishman Alex Lynn, to run solo today as part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship February test at Sebring’s full course. Lynn will make his U.S. race debut in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, to be held March 18. Ricky Taylor will be back at Sebring for the second day of the IMSA test, held Friday.
2016 GP3 Series runner-up Alexander Albon has announced that he will move into GP2 for 2017 with ART Grand Prix, completing the team’s line-up.
Albon, 20, finished second behind Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc in GP3 last year with ART, racking up four race wins through his rookie campaign.
The Thai youngster will now continue with ART in GP2, partnering McLaren youngster Nobuharu Matsushita through 2017.
“I am really excited to be working with ART Grand Prix for a second year. I learnt a huge amount last year and we have become one big close family,” Albon said.
“Moving up to the GP2 series is an important step in anyone’s career and I am extremely fortunate to be with a top team who already understand me.
“There’s a lot to learn coming from GP3, and the experience and method of working at ART Grand Prix is the reason they have won so many titles. I hope I will continue to proudly wear Thailand’s colours and those of my faithful Thai partners.
“I look forward to the new challenge and cannot wait for the season to begin!”
The new GP2 season will begin in Bahrain on April 15.