Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Daytona 500 (well, almost)

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So many things have happened over the 55-year history of the Daytona 500 that you could write a book about all the highs, lows and in-betweens.

You say you can’t get enough of information and minituae about the Great American Race?

Well, the folks from NASCAR’s statistics department have you covered. Here’s everything (well, almost) you’ve ever wanted to know about the Daytona 500:

* The 2014 edition will be the 56th running of the Daytona 500.

* Although the first Daytona 500 was held in 1959, it has been the season-opener only since 1982.

* 523 drivers have competed in at least one Daytona 500; 311 in more than one.

* 35 drivers have won a Daytona 500.

* 10 drivers have won more than one Daytona 500, led by Richard Petty with seven victories.

* The 10 drivers who have won the Daytona 500 more than once: Richard Petty (seven), Cale Yarborough (four), Bobby Allison (three), Dale Jarrett (three), Jeff Gordon (three), Bill Elliott (two), Matt Kenseth (two), Jimmie Johnson (two), Sterling Marlin (two) and Michael Waltrip (two).

* A driver has won back-to-back Daytona 500s three times. Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95).

* Active Daytona 500 winners and the number of NSCS starts in their careers when they won: Jeff Gordon won his third Daytona 500 on his 402nd career start (2005). Gordon also posted his second Daytona 500 win on his 190th career start (1999). Jimmie Johnson posted his second Daytona 500 win on his 400th career start (2013) and Matt Kenseth won his second Daytona 500 on his 437th career start (2012). Michael Waltrip posted his second Daytona 500 win on his 535th career start (2003).

* Seven drivers posted their career-first victory with a win in the Daytona 500: Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994), Michael Waltrip (2001) and Trevor Bayne (2011).

* Three other drivers posted their career-first victory in (points-paying) qualifying races: Johnny Rutherford (1963), Bobby Isaac (1964) and Earl Balmer (1966).

* Lee Petty, who won the inaugural Daytona 500, and Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500 champion, are the only two drivers to win the Daytona 500 in their first appearance.

* Dale Earnhardt leads the series in runner-up finishes in the Daytona 500 with five; Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers with four.

* Dale Earnhardt had 12 top fives in his 23 Daytona 500 starts, more than any other driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin and Terry Labonte lead all active drivers in Daytona 500 top-five finishes with six.

* Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty each posted a series leading 16 top 10s in the Daytona 500. Terry Labonte and Mark Martin lead all active drivers in Daytona 500 top-10 finishes with 12; followed by Michael Waltrip with nine.

* Only 12 drivers have an average finish of 10th or better in the Daytona 500, five of those competed in the Daytona 500 only once.

* Clint Bowyer has an 11.9 average finish in nine appearances, the best of the active drivers who have competed in more than one Daytona 500.

* 28 of the 35 drivers who have won the Great American Race, participated in at least two Daytona 500s before visiting Victory Lane.

* Dale Earnhardt competed 19 times before winning his only Daytona 500 (1998), the longest span of any of the 35 race winners.

* Six drivers made 10 or more attempts before their first Daytona 500 victory: Dale Earnhardt (19), Buddy Baker (18), Darrell Waltrip (16), Bobby Allison (14), Michael Waltrip (14) and Sterling Marlin (12).

* The driver with the all-time most Daytona 500 starts without a victory is Dave Marcis with 33 races; the active drivers with the most starts without a Daytona 500 win is Terry Labonte (31 races), Mark Martin (29 races), Joe Nemechek (18) and Tony Stewart (15).

* Kevin Harvick’s 0.020-second margin of victory over Mark Martin in the 2007 Daytona 500 is the 12th-closest overall since the advent of electronic timing in 1993, and the closest in a Daytona 500.

* Nine of the 55 Daytona 500s (16.3%) have been won from the Coors Light pole. The last to do so was Dale Jarrett in 2000. Jeff Gordon is the only active driver to accomplish the feat (1999).

* Cale Yarborough (1968, 1984) and Bill Elliott (1985, 1987) are the only two drivers to win the Daytona 500 from the Coors Light pole more than once.

* 16 of the 55 Daytona 500s (29.0%) have been won from the front row.

* 27 of the 55 Daytona 500s (49.0%) have been won from a top-five starting position.

* 40 of the 55 Daytona 500s (72.7%) have been won from a top 10 starting position.

* Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 from the 39th starting position in 2009, the deepest a race winner has started.

* Five reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions have gone on to win the Daytona 500 the following season: Lee Petty (1959), Richard Petty (1973), Cale Yarborough (1977), Jeff Gordon (1999) and Dale Jarrett (2000).

* Five drivers have won the Daytona 500 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same season, Richard Petty has done it four times: Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2013), Jeff Gordon (1997), Richard Petty (1964, 1971, 1974, 1979), Cale Yarborough (1977) and Lee Petty (1959).

* Danica Patrick on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2013 became the first female in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history to win a Coors Light pole for the Daytona 500 posting a speed of 196.434 mph.

* Janet Guthrie previously held the record for top starting position by a female NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, starting ninth twice in 1977 – at Talladega Superspeedway on Aug. 7, 1977, and at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1977.

* In 2012, Danica Patrick became the third female driver to compete in a Daytona 500 joining Janet Guthrie and Shawna Robinson.

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Sainz: ‘No intention’ of breaking Red Bull F1 contract for 2018

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Carlos Sainz Jr. says he has “no intention” of breaking his Formula 1 contract with Red Bull for 2018 despite previously suggesting he could leave its Toro Rosso B-team.

Sainz made his F1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2015 after climbing the racing ladder with Red Bull backing, and has since become one of the sport’s brightest young talents.

Sainz said over the Austrian Grand Prix weekend that a fourth year with Toro Rosso in 2018 was “unlikely” as he pushed for a move up the grid, only for his bosses to hit back hard.

Red Bull F1 chief Christian Horner and Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost stressed Sainz remained under contract for next season, prompting the Spaniard to clarify his comments and clear the air.

Speaking to Spain’s SoyMotor, Sainz professed his happiness racing for Toro Rosso under the Red Bull umbrella and said he was not looking to break his contract for next year.

“As in life itself, a contract has a lot of importance in Formula 1,” Sainz said.

“Looking at my situation, I am happy where I am. I have no intention of breaking any contract.

“I think everything was taken out of context, both my statements and maybe the reaction on their part.

“We are all much calmer and happier now.”

While Sainz may not be looking to break out of his contract, Red Bull is willing to listen to offers for his services in 2018 should a rival team look to sign him.

Rosberg: Bottas’ mentality makes him ‘perhaps the perfect driver’

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Outgoing Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg has praised the mentality of Mercedes replacement Valtteri Bottas, saying his ability to concentrate solely on himself makes him “perhaps the perfect driver”.

Rosberg retired from F1 five days after winning his maiden world title with Mercedes in 2016, leading to Bottas’ arrival.

Since joining Mercedes, Bottas has claimed two race wins and charged to third place in the drivers’ championship, making himself a contender against teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for the title.

Speaking to Sport Bild, Rosberg praised Bottas’ approach and mentality in the championship fight, having himself struggled with mind games against Hamilton in their battles between 2014 and 2016.

“I’m really impressed. Mentally, he is perhaps the perfect driver because he can concentrate on himself,” Rosberg said.

“That makes him consistent and fast.”

Bottas has surprised many with his performances at Mercedes so far this season, stepping out of the expected number two shadow and challenging Hamilton on a number of occasions.

While Mercedes is yet to make a firm decision about Bottas’ future with the team beyond the end of the season, contract discussions have been opened, with at least a one-year extension to the end of 2018 expected to be agreed on.

Memo Gidley’s race comeback confirmed in PWC at Sonoma

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Some fantastic news below as Memo Gidley’s return to top-flight sports car racing has been confirmed. He’ll race a Porsche 911 GT3 R in the upcoming Pirelli World Challenge weekend at Sonoma Raceway in September.

The full release with details is below:

It’s been a long, winding road for race car driver Memo Gidley the past three and a half years. But that road will now take the popular 46-year-old driver from Sauslito, Calif., back to the racetrack next month.

After a devastating crash at Daytona International Speedway in 2014, Gidley has endured nine surgeries and three years of rehabilitation to return to the racing cockpit in the all-new No. 101 TKO Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R sports car.

On September 14-16, Gidley makes his racing return in the Pirelli World Challenge GT Sprint (50-minutes) doubleheader, just a few miles from his Northern California home at the 2.22-mile, 11-turn road circuit at Sonoma Raceway. The Pirelli World Challenge twin bill will be part of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma with the Verizon IndyCar Series finale.

“I have been waiting a long time for this announcement,” said Gidley, who suffered multiple fractures in a vicious crash in 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. “It was a long rehab process but I always wanted to get back into the race car and my friends at TKO Motorsports have given me this opportunity. And I am extremely grateful for this chance in the Pirelli World Challenge.”

Gidley, whose racing resumé includes IndyCars, prototype sports cars, formula cars, go karts and even sail boats, worked through his final back surgery (fusing vertebrae 3 to 4 and 4 to 5) in November, 2015 and was cleared to return to racing activities in November, 2016. Then it was back at the karting track at Sonoma Raceway and looking for a chance to drive with a race team.

“I want to give Dave Traitel and all of the TKO Motorsports team a big thank you for this opportunity to race at Sonoma Raceway in the big Pirelli World Challenge/IndyCar weekend,” said Memo. “They have worked hard to prepare a Porsche 911 GT3 R for me to compete in one of the best GT sports car series in the world. And I can’t wait to race again.”

Gidley’s comeback is one of spirit and determination that he questioned at times. With titanium rods and screws in several parts of his body, Memo fought through nerve pain, scar tissue and various rehab processes with included therapeutic pools, physical therapy and long walks.

“The nerve pain was the worst at times,” admitted Gidley. “It was difficult to deal with as I continued the rehab. I couldn’t even take the bumps on the city streets in the passenger car. But, eventually, that pain went away. Now, I can’t bend down and touch my toes with the fusion in the back. But I was able to continue my training and even karting regularly.”

On May 25, Gidley did jump back into a PWC GT sports car at Sonoma Raceway when former team owner Bob Stallings let Memo drive his GAINSCO “Red Dragon” Porsche 911 GT3 R in testing.

“The team was testing there with Jon Fogarty, an old friend,” said Gidley. “And then they wanted me to take a few laps too. It was awesome to get back in a race car. Now, I’m with the TKO Motorsports team and I have my own race car to compete in at Sonoma in September. To say I’m anxious would be an understatement.”

Last week, Gidley and TKO Motorsports squad tested with the rest of the Pirelli World Challenge GT sports field at Utah Motorsports Campus prior to the Grand Prix of Utah weekend.

“It just felt great to be back in the racing paddock with a team,” he said. “I saw so many old friends and racers and they were so nice to me and the team. Actually, we didn’t get as many laps in testing as we would have liked. But we talked to the PWC officials and other teams to get an idea of the Sonoma races. TKO Motorsports is a growing company but it has not raced in sports cars previously. So, Dave and the crew were gathering a lot of information for the future.”

TKO Motorsports, based in Reno, Nev., was established in 2008 with a racing background in off-shore boat racing, drag racing and off-road racing. And the company has been very successful constructing high-performance road machines. But sports car racing will be new to the group.

“We will test again before the Sonoma race weekend and continue to learn about the Porsche and the track,” said Gidley. “I saw the lineup of top teams and drivers for the Pirelli World Challenge at Utah. It has some of the best in the world. I know it won’t be easy for me and the TKO crew. But we are excited to get our car into the action at Sonoma. It’s been a long road back for me and I believe I’m ready to go.”

While the journey back to the track for Gidley has been difficult, he has been busy with his commercial charter boat business and racing sailing boats in the Bay area. Now, it’s time to get back to the road racing that he loves.

“Hey, racing is in my blood, whether it’s on the water or the track,” said Memo. “I’ve been racing a 35-foot sail boat recently and it is fun. But getting back in the race car is the ultimate for me. And now I get the chance at my hometown track in a world-class GT sports car. It’s the best for me.”

The Pirelli World Challenge weekend at Sonoma Raceway on Sept. 14-16 will include doubleheader features in the GT/GTA/GT Cup Sprint series as well as the GTS division. Practice gets underway on Friday (Sept. 14) with racing for the GT and GTS classes on Saturday (Sept. 15) and Sunday (Sept. 16).

Saavedra returns to SPM, again, for upcoming races

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Following the mutual parting of ways between Mikhail Aleshin and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the rest of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Sebastian Saavedra will once again be back in the team’s No. 7 Honda for the next two oval races at Pocono Raceway and Gateway Motorsports Park.

The Colombian impressed in a surprise one-off appearance in the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Toronto, as Aleshin was sat down for one race. Saavedra ran as high as seventh and finished 11th after improving from 20th on the grid.

“I am very excited to be back with the SPM organization,” Saavedra said in a release. “It’s another late call to jump in, but I take it with pride after a promising start of our relationship in Toronto. Looking forward to a challenging event as the Tricky Triangle can be, and support (James) Hinchcliffe in his pursuit of championship points. I’m thankful to my sponsors and my continued relationship with AFS Inc.”

“Delighted to have Sebastian back with the SPM team following what was a very encouraging performance at the Toronto event,” added Piers Phillips, General Manager of SPM. “He is experienced and competent, and I have no doubt he will contribute to the overall performance of the team. We’re heading to Pocono full of confidence as a team and we’re looking forward to hopefully seeing Sebastian and James at the front of the pack.”

The likable 27-year-old driver has enjoyed longtime support from Gary Peterson of AFS Racing throughout a stop-start IndyCar career since 2010, with more than 60 career starts and just a handful of top-10 finishes.

It remains to be seen what Saavedra and Peterson put together for 2018; at Mid-Ohio, Peterson indicated he was working towards an IMSA Prototype program next year.

As for the final two road course races this year at Watkins Glen and Sonoma, SPM has not yet announced that plan.

Robert Wickens, who filled in for Aleshin temporarily on the Friday of Road America weekend, made his case on Tuesday to “stir the pot” a bit in a social media post.

The Canadian doesn’t have any DTM conflicts either weekend and would be a popular selection if he does get the call.