Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Marcos Ambrose, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

NASCAR Sprint Unlimited stats, heading into tonight

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Of the 18 drivers who will race in tonight’s Sprint Unlimited, 16 have past starts. Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. haven’t yet competed in the race.

Past winners entered include: Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Terry Labonte.

Here’s a stats breakdown, per NASCAR, of how everyone else has fared in the non-points opener that kicks off the 2014 season.

Marcos Ambrose – No. 9 Stanley Ford
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2012 3   21  9   82   1     1 Running
2013 11  10  9   75           Running

Kurt Busch – No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2002 14  1  97   70   1     3  Running
2003 11  3  97   70   1     11 Running
2005 6   6  97   70            Running
2007 3   19 2    70   2     6  Running
2008 18  1  2    70            Running
2009 9   12 2    78            Running
2010 23  22 2    32            Accident
2011 1   17 22   75   3     3  Running
2012 17  6  51   82            Accident
2013 13  18 78   15            Accident

Kyle Busch – No. 18 M&M’s Toyota
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2006 15  14 5   72   2     4   Running
2007 7   6  5   70   3     39  Running
2009 10  10 18  78   2     6   Running
2010 4   17 18  76             Running
2011 16  21 18  41   2     2   Accident
2012 1   2  18  82   2     3   Running
2013 16  13 18  14             Accident

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2001 6   10 8   70             Running
2002 2   16 8   70   1     20  Running
2003 1   19 8   70   4     13  Running
2004 2   19 8   70             Running
2005 7   12 8   70             Running
2006 2   19 8   72   1     1   Running
2007 14  17 8   70             Running
2008 1   7  88  70   7     47  Running
2009 18  9  88  64   4     23  Accident
2010 11  11 88  76             Running
2011 19  1  88  27   3     4   Accident
2012 20  8  88  54   2     12  Accident
2013 8   16 88  75             Running

Carl Edwards – No. 99 Fastenal Ford
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2006 16  11 99  71             Running
2008 12  20 99  70   1     1   Running
2009 7   11 99  78   2     11  Running
2010 17  1  99  74   2     42  Accident
2011 21  3  99  33             Accident
2012 9   11 99  82             Running
2013 12  1  99  75             Running

Jeff Gordon – No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
1994 1   6  24  20   1     2   Running
1995 4   5  24  20             Running
1996 9   7  24  20             Running
1997 1   3  24  20             Running
1998 14  5  24  25             Engine
1999 15  8  24  25             Running
2000 2   6  24  25             Running
2001 11  6  24  70             Running
2002 3   22 24  70             Running
2003 2   18 24  70   2     31  Running
2004 5   2  24  70   2     16  Running
2005 3   11 24  70             Running
2006 19  10 24  23             Accident
2007 21  11 24  31             Electrical
2008 4   22 24  70   1     1   Running
2009 4   28 24  78   2     2   Running
2010 6   23 24  76             Running
2011 6   12 24  75   1     1   Running
2012 15  14 24  73   3     16  Accident
2013 17  7  24  14             Accident

Denny Hamlin – No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2006 1   15 11  72   3     16  Running
2007 17  21 11  70             Running
2008 9   12 11  70             Running
2009 13  5  11  78   2     4   Running
2010 5   24 11  76             Running
2011 12  4  11  75             Running
2012 5   16 11  82             Running
2013 15  5  11  14             Accident

Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2003 9   16 29  70             Running
2004 3   5  29  70   2     10  Running
2006 20  18 29  15             Engine
2007 5   20 29  70   2     11  Running
2009 1   27 29  78   1     1   Running
2010 1   2  29  76   5     21  Running
2011 7   18 29  75             Running
2012 22  22 29  54   3     4   Accident
2013 1   17 29  75   3     37  Running

Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 KOBALT TOOLS Chevrolet
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2003 7   2  48  70   1     4   Running
2004 9   17 48  70             Running
2005 1   17 48  70   1     16  Running
2006 5   2  48  72   3     12  Running
2007 4   8  48  70             Running
2008 3   18 48  70             Running
2009 14  21 48  77   1     2   Accident
2010 13  16 48  76             Running
2011 4   23 48  75   2     7   Running
2012 14  18 48  74   1     1   Accident
2013 14  11 48  14             Accident

Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Dollar General Toyota
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2003 3   5  17  70   3     6   Running
2006 6   16 17  72             Running
2009 8   25 17  78   1     1   Running
2010 16  8  17  74             Accident
2011 13  19 17  74             Running
2012 21  23 17  54             Accident
2013 5   12 20  75   2     25  Running

Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Miller Lite Ford
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2012 4   3  2   82             Running

Terry Labonte – No. 32 C&J Energy Services Ford
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
1982 2   1  44  20             Running
1983 10  11 44  19             Accident
1984 9   11 44  20             Running
1985 1   11 44  20   1     16  Running
1986 5   8  11  20             Running
1987 9   5  11  0              Accident
1988 9   5  11  20             Running
1989 3   4  11  20             Running
1992 13  7  94  20             Running
1996 4   11 5   20             Running
1997 11  1  5   20   1     10  Running
2001 15  12 5   69             Running
2002 7   7  5   70             Running
2003 14  17 5   70             Running
2004 8   6  5   70   3     17  Running
2013 19  19 32  2              Accident

Joey Logano – No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2009 28  19 20  3              Accident
2010 7   21 20  76             Running
2011 18  22 20  27             Accident
2012 18  10 20  54   1     1   Accident
2013 3   9  22  75             Running

Jamie McMurray – No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2004 17  3  42  69   2     8   Accident
2006 8   17 26  72   1     1   Running
2008 22  4  26  24             Accident
2009 2   15 26  78   4     16  Running
2010 3   9  1   76   2     2   Running
2011 2   14 1   75             Running
2012 16  4  1   73   5     11  Accident

Ryan Newman – No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2002 15  8  12  70             Running
2003 4   15 12  70             Running
2004 16  16 12  69   1    4    Accident
2005 2   7  12  70   1    4    Running
2006 17  7  12  68             Accident
2007 20  9  12  46             Engine
2008 23  17 12  70             Running
2010 19  4  39  74             Accident
2011 3   8  39  75  3    18    Running
2012 7   13 39  82             Running

Tony Stewart – No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet
                     Times Laps
Year Fin St Car Laps Led   Led Status
2000 4   3  20  25             Running
2001 1   7  20  70             Running
2002 1   3  20  70   2     31  Running
2003 15  12 20  70             Running
2004 7   18 20  70             Running
2005 4   8  20  70             Running
2006 3   3  20  72   3     7   Running
2007 1   14 20  70   2     11  Running
2008 2   10 20  70   2     9   Running
2009 3   6  14  78   1     4   Running
2010 9   13 14  76   2     6   Running
2011 11  2  14  75   3     4   Running
2012 2   15 14  82   1     7   Running
2013 4   15 14  75   2     5   Running

Firestone: the tire that Indianapolis 500 and Verizon IndyCar Series ride upon

firestone indy 500 tires 2016
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More Indianapolis 500 winners have driven to Victory Lane on Firestone tires than all other tires combined.

The synergy and history between Firestone, parent company Bridgestone and Indianapolis Motor Speedway is nothing short of legendary.

MotorSportsTalk has compiled some very interesting facts about the relationship between Firestone, IMS and the Indy 500:

* Firestone has issued tires to all teams in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 that will carry names of all the drivers who have won the 500 on Firestone rubber inscribed on the sidewalls of the tires.

* Other names included in the sidewall inscriptions include Louis Meyer (the first driver to drink milk in Victory Lane), and Mario Andretti (Voted Driver of the Century).

firestone indy 500 tires 2016

* Firestone produced over 5,000 tires with the commemorative Indy 500 sidewalls to be used during the month of may for practice, qualifying and the historic race itself on Sunday.

* Firestone has accounted for exactly two-thirds of the wins at the Indy 500 – 66 of 99 races contested to date.

* Firestone has won the Indy 500 in 1911, 1913, 1920 through 1941, 1946-1966, 1969-1971, 1996 and 1997, and 2000-2015.

* Firestone has carried more drivers to Indy 500 wins than all other tire manufacturers combined. Goodyear has won 29 races, BFGoodrich won two, Michelin won one and Palmer Cord Tires won one.

* The first winner on Firestone rubber was also the first winner of the Indy 500 – Ray Harroun in 1911.

* Tires will also carry red and white Firestone “F shield” logos that are unique to the Indy 500 and indicate which tires will go on which side of each race car: red for right side and white for left side tires.

firestone racing logo* Firestone Racing joined the IndyCar Series in 1996 and has been at every race since. It competed vs. Goodyear for four years (1996-99) until becoming the exclusive tire provider for the 500 in 2000, a position it has held ever since.

* Firestone became the Official Tire of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 in 2002. The current contract for both of those roles runs through the 2018 season (originally extended in Dec. 2012).

* Firestone also sponsors the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. It is also the Official Tire of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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Simon Pagenaud has tunnel vision about Indy 500 — but that’s a good thing

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(Photos: IndyCar)
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To say Simon Pagenaud is a thinking man’s driver is an understatement.

The French driver has one of the most analytical minds in the Verizon IndyCar Series. It seems like he’s always thinking, always figuring out different scenarios, trying to outthink his fellow competitors.

He’s certainly had a lot to think of recently. He’s riding a three-race winning streak. He’s part of Team Penske’s 50th anniversary celebration.

But right here, right now, Pagenaud has just one race on his mind. As far as he’s concerned, Belle Isle next week is 10 years away, while Texas the week after that is 20 years away.

And don’t even ask Pagenaud if he’s thinking about winning the IndyCar championship.

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To say Simon Pagenaud is pumped up for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 is an understatement.

The only thing on Pagenaud’s mind is winning Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Not only would it be the biggest win in the Frenchman’s career, it would also extend team owner Roger Penske’s record to 17 Indy 500 victories.

“I’m thinking about the race itself, statistics are after the race,” Pagenaud told NBC Sports. “It’s hard on the last lap if you think about it! I’m always focused on the task itself. Prepare the best we can and try to win.

“When you step into the car, you have to think about how to do the best job you can with your machine. It’s you and your machine, you and your team, let’s get the best strategy possible, make the best pit stops and make no mistakes.

“So you have to be clear-minded and focused on the task. It’s a tunnel vision thing. I’m not thinking of anything else. I’m not thinking about the 50th anniversary of Team Penske, or it being the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

“If I was, I tell you what, they wouldn’t work really well. It’s about being in the moment and not thinking about anything else.”

Even with his three-race winning streak (Long Beach, Birmingham Grand Prix of Indianapolis), preparations for the 500 have not gone as well as Pagenaud would like.

“It’s not as good as I wanted to be honest,” said Pagenaud, who will start in eighth position, the middle of Row 3 on the starting grid. “We’re not as dominant as we were last year. It’s been tough. It’s not been easy to get speed out of the car. We’ve done a good job of trying, but we haven’t found the speed of the Hondas.”

But as concerned as Pagenaud may seem, Penske is more confident than concerned.

“Obviously he’s a hot hand right now and he’s shown how good he is,” Penske said of Pagenaud. “That’s the reason we hired him a year ago.

“I think he wasn’t as happy with his performance in 2015. This is a different race. This race is wide open. It’s a long-distance race. It’s four different corners, lots of strategy.

“Certainly executing in the pits, you saw how good he was last year and bumped into a back marker when he was trying to make a pass there. So I think he’s going to have a great chance. He’s certainly excited.

“John Menard (Pagenaud’s primary sponsor of Menard’s Home Improvement Stores) coming on board is probably one of the great things of the month for us because John has spent a lot of time and a lot of money here over the years.

“(It was) great to see his car in the Winner Circle at the Angie’s road race here a couple of weeks ago. I think (Pagenaud’s) on his way to a championship. We’ve just got to continue to stay focused.”

Winning the biggest race in the world would also help Pagenaud’s countrymen.

“It’s great news that there’s a lot of interest (in France) in IndyCar,” Pagenaud said. “They’re showing races there. It’s big. There’s also half a large plane coming to the race from my hometown (Poitiers, France).

“I know it’s an American sport, but it’s a worldwide event. The last time a Frenchman won in Indy was 1920. It was Gaston Chevrolet, and I’m driving a Chevrolet! Hopefully, it’s my year.

“What would it mean (if he won)? I don’t know, to be honest. It wouldn’t be a bad time. We’re having a tough time in France right now, so a little bit of joy from the sport would be good.

“It’d be awesome to go back to France with that trophy and that ring on my finger.”

Tony DiZinno contributed to this report

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Honda bullish ahead of pivotal Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  James Hinchcliffe of Canada, driver of the #5 ARROW Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Chevrolet,  drives  on Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
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Honda Performance Development president Art St. Cyr feels bullish about the manufacturer’s chances in the 100th Indianapolis 500, believing all of its cars stand a serious chance of winning Sunday’s race.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe ended a long drought for Honda in qualifying last weekend, claiming its first pole position since Simon Pagenaud won the Verizon P1 Award at Houston in 2014.

Sunday’s ‘500 is a pivotal one for Honda given the occasion and its standing among its numerous motorsport programmes, and is made all the more crucial given its winless start to the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“We weren’t expecting the outcome of the first few races that we got this year,” St. Cyr conceded.

“We thought we were going to be OK. But obviously when we first came out at St. Pete, especially Phoenix, we had to focus on those, as well.

“I wouldn’t say the beginning part of the season went according to plan. But we kind of know what we have right now and where we’re going with this one.

“We’re working and the other side is working as well to try to improve as much as you can.”

The Honda-powered cars impressed throughout practice and qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, appearing to make a significant step up in performance from the Angie’s List GP of Indianapolis two weeks ago.

Besides Hinchcliffe getting pole, the Andretti Autosport cars regularly ran quickest through the speed trap with Ryan Hunter-Reay qualifying third, while Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal has looked strong in race trim.

“The Indy 500 is a major focus for Honda. We really worked hard for 12 months on this particular race,” St. Cyr said.

“We used two of our three allocated boxes from an aerodynamic standpoint on this race. We have a pretty major upgrade of our engine specification for this race.

“As you’ve seen, it’s fairly competitive at this point. Really our whole goal is to get all of our teams with a package that is capable of winning this race.”

And providing such a package is something that St. Cyr believes Honda has achieved.

“It’s pretty great,” he said. “The Andretti guys, the whole Andretti team, all five of their cars, have been fast. They unloaded fast. They typically do really well here. We expect good things out of them.

“The Schmidt Peterson Racing group, all three of them have just had stellar months. You want to give some shouts out to Dale Coyne and those guys who have shown pretty good speed, with people that don’t have a lot of experience running around this track.

“A.J. Foyt and Takuma Sato showed something at the end of qualifying. They qualified third in the last group, right? Graham, we expect him to have a real good race, as well.

“All of our teams have legitimate contenders to win this race, so we’re actually really thrilled about that.”

PWC: Bentley confirms Andrew Palmer sustains head injury

PalmerBentley
Photo: Bentley Team Absolute
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Following an accident in practice ahead of today’s Pirelli World Challenge race at Lime Rock Park, Bentley Team Absolute driver Andrew Palmer has sustained a head injury following contact with another car, an Aston Martin driven by Jorge de la Torre.

Just after 6:30 p.m. ET, Bentley released the following statement:

“Bentley Motorsport can confirm that Bentley Team Absolute driver Andrew Palmer will remain in hospital following an incident at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut earlier today. He has sustained a head injury and is being closely monitored after treatment by specialists.

“Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush, comments: “Everyone at Bentley Motorsport is thinking of Andrew and we all send him our best wishes. We are a close-knit community and we have team members at the hospital with him and his family. We will continue to offer our support to them at this difficult time. Our thanks go to the trackside team at Lime Rock Park and the medical professionals who have helped Andrew so far.”

“No further update is expected today. Bentley Motorsport will release another statement in due course.”

An additional statement came from WC Vision just before 10 p.m. ET:

“As an update to the earlier released news on Andrew Palmer and Jorge De La Torre:

“Both drivers remain under treatment at Hartford Hospital. Bentley has provided the statement below regarding Andrew Palmer. WC Vision will release further information on the condition of both drivers when Hartford Hospital provides any updates.

That came after the first update issued by World Challenge officials which read as follows, and was released after 1 p.m. ET:

“Both Andrew Palmer and Jorge De La Torre were transported to Sharon Hospital where they were stabilized for transportation to Hartford Hospital.  That is all we know at this time.”

K-PAX Racing driver Alvaro Parente won his second race of the weekend in his No. 9 McLaren 650S GT3 in the afternoon, although the results of which matter little in the face of Palmer’s accident and injuries.

Our thoughts and best wishes go out to the drivers and their families affected at this time.