Phoenix International Raceway

Fast Facts: With Daytona now in the rearview mirror, NASCAR heads to Phoenix

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Like the news, the mail and the economy, NASCAR’s crack stat crew seems to never sleep.

Here we are, less than 48 hours after Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s big win in Sunday night’s rain-delayed Daytona 500, and NASCAR has already moved on and begun preparations for Sunday’s second Sprint Cup of the season at Phoenix International Raceway.

If you’re heading to the race, watch it on TV or plan to be there in spirit, there’s lots of facts about PIR and the race itself that you might find interesting:

* Construction was completed in January 1964. The facility consisted of a one-mile oval and a 2.5-mile road course.

* Alan Kulwicki won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix on Nov. 6, 1988. (To celebrate, Kulwicki performed his now-famous “Polish Victory Lap,” circling PIR backwards after taking the checkered flag.

* The first spring race was held on April 23, 2005 and also the first night race, which was won by Kurt Busch.

* The track underwent its first repave in 2011. The construction began in March and concluded in September of that year.

* The following changes were made during the construction period (March – Sept. 2011):

— Widened the frontstretch from 52 to 62 feet

— Reconfigured pit road with the installation of concrete pit stalls

— Pushed the dog-leg curve between Turn 2 and Turn 3 out 95 feet

— Tightened the turn radius of the dog-leg from 800 to 500 feet

— Implemented variable banking to ensure the immediate use of two racing grooves, including 10-11 degree banking between Turn 1 and Turn 2; 10-11 degree banking in the apex of the dog-leg; and 8-9 degree banking in Turn 4.

* There have been 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix International Raceway, one per season from 1988-2004 and two each season since.

* 186 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix; 138 in more than one.

* Mark Martin leads series in starts at Phoenix with 34; followed by Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte with 30 each.

* Geoff Bodine won the first pole in 1988 at a speed of 123.203 mph (29.220 sec.).

* There have been 19 different Coors Light pole winners, led by Ryan Newman with four.

* Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards are the only drivers to win consecutive poles. Newman won three straight (2002-04), while Gordon won the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2007. Edwards won the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011.

* Denny Hamlin (November, 2005) and AJ Allmendinger (April, 2010) won their first career Coors Light poles at Phoenix International Raceway.

* There have been 23 different NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners at Phoenix, eight have won more than once, led by Jimmie Johnson, with four – (’07 Chase race, ’08 spring race and Chase race, ’09 Chase race).

* The eight drivers who have won more than once at Phoenix: Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick lead the series in wins (four each), Davey Allison (two), Jeff Burton (two), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two), Jeff Gordon (two) Carl Edwards (two) and Mark Martin (two).

* Of the eight drivers with multiple wins at Phoenix International Raceway, Mark Martin is the only driver to win in two different manufacturers: Ford (1993) and Chevrolet (2009).

* Four of the 35 (11.4 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from the Coors Light pole: Jeff Gordon (spring 2007), Jimmie Johnson (fall 2008), Mark Martin (spring 2009) and Carl Edwards (fall 2010).

* Seven of the 35 (20 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix have been won from the front row: four from the pole and three from second-place.

* Of the 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix, 17 (48.5 percent) have been won from a starting position inside the top 10.

* Jimmie Johnson leads the series in average finishes at Phoenix with a 6.3; he is the only active driver with an average finish inside the top 10.

* Ricky Rudd won the 1995 race from the 29th-place starting position, the furthest back a race winner has started.

* Matt Kenseth won the 2002 race from the 28th-place starting position, the furthest back an active race winner has started.

* 18 of the 35 (51.4 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.

* 3 of the 35 (8.5 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.

* Five drivers have won consecutive races at Phoenix: Davey Allison (1991,1992); Jeff Burton (2000, 2001); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003, 2004); Kevin Harvick (swept 2006); Jimmie Johnson is the only one of the five to win three consecutive races (fall 2007, swept 2008).

* Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Phoenix with nine, followed by Roush Fenway Racing with seven.

* Two perfect Driver Ratings of 150.0 have been recorded at Phoenix, Kurt Busch in April of 2005 and Kevin Harvick in November of 2006.

* Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Phoenix with five; followed by Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart with three each.

* Jimmie Johnson leads the series in top-five finishes at Phoenix with 14.

* Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Bobby Hamilton (10/27/1996) are the only two drivers to post their first NASCAR Sprint Cup career win at Phoenix International Raceway.

* 21 of the 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers who have won at Phoenix participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Tony Stewart (11/7/1999) are the only two drivers to win at Phoenix in their first appearance.

* Jeff Gordon competed at Phoenix International Raceway 16 times before winning (4/21/2007); the longest span of any the 23 winners.

* Six drivers have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Phoenix: Jeff Gordon (16), Ryan Newman (15), Kasey Kahne (14), Denny Hamlin (13), Carl Edwards (12) and Rusty Wallace (11).

* Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix was the April 10, 2010 race won by Ryan Newman with a MOV of 0.13 seconds.

Magnussen set for Mercedes DTM test next week

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 15:  Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and McLaren Honda waves to the fans during the drivers' parade before the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 15, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Former McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen will try his hand at a DTM car next week in Spain at a test with Mercedes.

Magnussen raced for McLaren in 2014 before being dropped to make way for Fernando Alonso in 2015, and was released from his contract earlier this year after the team opted to retain Alonso and Jenson Button for next season.

The Dane is known to be evaluating his options in Formula 1 for next year, and has said that he would be open to another reserve role with a team.

Magnussen enjoyed a successful test with Porsche in Barcelona earlier this month, trying out the LMP1 919 Hybrid car that he called “the most advanced race car in the world”.

Magnussen had been tipped as a candidate to take Nico Hulkenberg’s place in the third Porsche entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, but it was confirmed on Saturday that the German marque would be scaling down to just two cars for 2016.

Now, Magnussen will test at DTM car with Mercedes at Jerez next week at the series’ annual rookie test.

“Yes, I’m going down there testing,” Magnussen told Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet.

“It’ll probably be on the third day [Thursday]. It will be a great experience and I appreciate the opportunity. I’m looking forward to trying another new race car for the first time.

“They are evaluating drivers and might need one for next season, but I’m not tied to anything for next year. For me it will be a great chance to try a racing car I’ve never driven before and then we’ll see what the future brings.”

Magnussen is set to be joined at the test by another ex-F1 driver, Giedo van der Garde, who will also be testing for Mercedes according to a report from Autosport.

Hamilton laughs off criticism about his lifestyle

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain waves after he captured the second position at the qualifying at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. The Emirates Formula One Grand Prix will take place on Sunday.  (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Lewis Hamilton has laughed off criticism from former boss Ron Dennis about his lifestyle and behavior, saying that his activities away from Formula 1 have had a positive impact on his on-track performances.

Hamilton was signed to McLaren by Ron Dennis at the age of 13 before making his F1 debut with the team nine years later in 2007.

He won his first drivers’ championship with McLaren the following year, but left for Mercedes after the 2012 season.

Since then, Hamilton has gone on to win two more world titles and establish himself as one of F1’s all-time greats, while McLaren has failed to claim a single race victory in the same period.

Earlier this week, Dennis said that Hamilton’s celebrity lifestyle and behaviour would not be tolerated if he still were at McLaren, and that he looks at the Briton with “mixed emotions”.

When asked about the comments on Saturday, Hamilton laughed them off.

“I don’t know why he is touching on that subject,” Hamilton said. “Maybe he has nothing else positive to talk about!

“Who I am today, regardless of whom I was working for, is my own creation. I do a lot of things outside the sport, and I think it has a positive impact on my career.”

Hamilton admitted earlier this month that excessive partying following his third world title success in the USA had left him feeling “run down”, and also attributed his busy schedule to a minor car accident in Monaco ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Grosjean takes grid penalty, Merhi to start from pit lane in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 28:  Romain Grosjean of France and Lotus drives during final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 28, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Romain Grosjean will start Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the back of the grid after receiving a penalty for changing the gearbox on his Lotus car.

Grosjean failed to set a time in the second stage of Saturday’s qualifying session after a gearbox issue forced him to park up at the side of the track.

The Frenchman was classified 15th, but will now drop to P20 for the start of the race after taking a new gearbox to resolve the issue.

As a result, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Marcus Ericsson and Will Stevens all move up one place, filling out positions 15-18 on the grid.

Grosjean will start 19th after the stewards found that Manor had changed the suspension setup on Roberto Merhi’s car after qualifying, breaking parc ferme rules. The Spaniard is now required to start from the pit lane.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7am ET on Sunday.

WATCH LIVE: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on NBCSN, Live Extra from 7am ET

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany steers his car during the first free practice at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. The Emirates Formula One Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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It all ends here – the 2015 Formula 1 season comes to a close under the floodlights of the Yas Marina Circuit today with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

2015 will by no means go down as a classic season – those experiencing the kind of dominance Lewis Hamilton enjoyed rarely do – but it has nevertheless been an entertaining, interesting and intriguing one that has laid plenty of foundations for the future.

Nico Rosberg is one man who is looking firmly ahead to 2016 already, having rediscovered the kind of form that made him a title contender at this point last year. With six poles in a row and two wins on the bounce, the German will be gunning to make it a hat-trick on Sunday.

However, with Hamilton starting alongside him on the front row and an engine that is a little more overworked than most, Rosberg knows he faces a stiff challenge to end the year on a high and gain more momentum ahead of the new campaign.

This fascinating dynamic sets us up for a thrilling duel between Rosberg and Hamilton once again in Abu Dhabi, one year on from their scrap for the championship.

You can watch the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Few eras are ending on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, but it will nevertheless mark an important point for most on the grid. Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Felipe Nasr will all finish their rookie years; Manor will have done what many doubted it could do by finishing a full season; quite whether drivers Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi will return with the team next year remains to be seen.

Alas, the end of the season is always a time for pressure to be released. After a busy year of jetting all over the world, the paddock will be afforded two months of respite before pre-season testing kicks into gear – a much-needed relief for many.

For those at home, make sure you enjoy the final race of the season and get your F1 fix in before the long winter kicks in.

You can watch the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.