Food City 500

Everything you need to know about Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol


Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the important numbers and notes you need to know going into this coming weekend’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway – round 4 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.


Greg Biffle (No. 16 Meguiar’s Ford)
· Six top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.0
· Average Running Position of 12.7, third-best
· Driver Rating of 94.8, fifth-best
· 318 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 764 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.009 mph, fourth-fastest
· 6,393 Laps in the Top 15 (70.9%), third-most
· 483 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), fifth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Five wins, seven top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.0
· Average Running Position of 14.3, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.0, sixth-best
· 338 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 850 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 114.978 mph, sixth-fastest
· 5,657 Laps in the Top 15 (62.8%), seventh-most
· 480 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Skittles Toyota)
· Five wins, eight top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 9.9
· Average Running Position of 13.0, fourth-best
· Series-best Driver Rating of 101.8
· Series-high 585 Fastest Laps Run
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.066 mph, third-fastest
· 6,008 Laps in the Top 15 (66.7%), fifth-most
· 456 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· One win, seven top fives, 14 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.5
· Average Running Position of 13.6, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 89.3, 10th-best
· Series-high 1,003 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 114.918 mph, seventh-fastest
· 5,656 Laps in the Top 15 (62.8%), eighth-most
· 485 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Kelloggs/ Frosted Flakes Ford)
· Two wins, four top fives, seven top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 15.9
· Average Running Position of 15.1, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 87.7, 12th-best
· 340 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 114.798 mph, 11th-fastest
· 5,590 Laps in the Top 15 (62.0%), ninth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet)
· Five wins, 16 top fives, 23 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 12.3
· Series-best Average Running Position of 9.5
· Driver Rating of 101.2, third-best
· 409 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.110 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 7,413 Laps in the Top 15 (82.2%)
· 523 Quality Passes, third-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota)
· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.1
· Average Running Position of 14.9, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.3, eighth-best
· 382 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 833 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 114.874 mph, ninth-fastest
· 4,689 Laps in the Top 15 (58.5%), 12th-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· One win, nine top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.4
· Average Running Position of 13.6, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 89.8, ninth-best
· 285 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 887 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 114.994 mph, fifth-fastest
· 5,523 Laps in the Top 15 (61.3%), 10th-most
· 406 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet)
· One win, seven top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.3
· Average Running Position of 13.2, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.4, seventh-best
· 469 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 114.793 mph, 12th-fastest
· 6,247 Laps in the Top 15 (69.3%), fourth-most
· 411 Quality Passes, 11th-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet)
· One win, five top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.4
· Driver Rating of 87.9, 11th-best
· 399 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 861 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· 4,785 Laps in the Top 15 (53.1%), 11th-most
· 443 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota)
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.5
· Average Running Position of 10.6, second-best
· Driver Rating of 101.8, second-best
· 470 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 115.129 mph
· 7,226 Laps in the Top 15 (80.2%), second-most
· Series-high 563 Quality Passes

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· Two wins, three top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 14.4
· Average Running Position of 13.2, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.9, fourth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 114.916 mph, eighth-fastest

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2014 Top 10 at Bristol Motor Speedway

Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating
1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 28 0 1 7 14 1 11.5 89.3
2 Brad Keselowski 8 0 2 3 3 0 14.4 94.9
3 Jimmie Johnson 24 1 1 7 13 1 15.3 91.4
4 Joey Logano 10 1 0 1 2 1 19.9 77.4
5 Jeff Gordon 42 5 5 16 23 6 12.3 101.2
6 Carl Edwards 19 2 2 4 7 2 15.9 87.7
7 Matt Kenseth 28 1 3 11 18 4 12.5 101.8
8 Denny Hamlin 16 1 1 4 7 1 16.1 90.3
9 Ryan Newman 24 3 0 1 13 3 17.1 88.6
10 Kyle Busch 18 1 5 8 12 0 9.9 101.8

* – Based on last 18 races at Bristol Motor Speedway (2005 – 2013).

Bristol Motor Speedway Data
Season Race #: 4 of 36 (03-16-14)
Track Size: 0.533-miles
Banking/Turns 1 & 2: 24-28 degrees
Banking/Turns 3 & 4: 24-28 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 4-8 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 4-8 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 650 feet
Backstretch Length: 650 feet
Race Length: 500 laps / 266.5 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Bristol
Kyle Busch…………………………. 101.8
Matt Kenseth……………………….. 101.8
Jeff Gordon………………………… 101.2
Brad Keselowski……………………. 94.9
Greg Biffle……………………………. 94.8
Kurt Busch……………………………. 92.0
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 91.4
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 90.3
Kevin Harvick………………………… 89.8
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 89.3
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Bristol

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 129.535 mph, 14.813 secs. 03-15-13
2013 race winner: Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 92.206 mph, (2:53:25), 03-17-13
Track qualifying record: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 129.535 mph, 14.813 secs. 03-15-13
Track race record: Charlie Glotzbach, Chevrolet, 101.074 mph, (2:38:12), 07-11-71

Bristol Motor Speedway History
· Groundbreaking for Bristol International Speedway, as Bristol Motor Speedway was originally known, took place in 1960. The track was an exact half-mile in length.

· First NASCAR Sprint Cup race was July 30, 1961; Jack Smith won the event (with relief from Johnny Allen).

· In the fall of 1969, the track was reshaped and re-measured to .533-miles.

· The name changed to Bristol International Raceway in 1978.

· The first night race was held in the fall of 1978.

· The surface was changed from asphalt to concrete in 1992.

· The name changed to Bristol Motor Speedway in May 1996.

· The track was resurfaced between races in 2007, and the turns were ground down in 2012 to eliminate part of the progressive banking.

Bristol Motor Speedway Notebook
· There have been 106 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Bristol Motor Speedway since the first race in 1961, two races each season.

· All races have been scheduled for 500 laps, except for both races in 1976 and the second in ‘77, which were 400 laps.

· 423 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol; 295 in more than one.

· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Bristol with 60. Terry Labonte leads all active drivers with 58 starts.

· Fred Lorenzen won the inaugural Coors Light Pole with a speed of 79.225 mph.

· 47 different drivers have poles at Bristol, led by Mark Martin and Cale Yarborough with nine each. Martin swept both poles at Bristol in 2009.

· The race winner has started from the pole 22 times, the most productive starting position. The last driver to win from the pole was Carl Edwards, in the night race of 2008.

· Four drivers have won from the pole position multiple times: Bobby Allison (1972 twice), Cale Yarborough (1973, 1977 twice, 1980), Darrell Waltrip (1981 twice, 1982) and Rusty Wallace (1991, 1993, 1999, 2000).

· 10 different drivers have posted consecutive poles at Bristol Motor Speedway; Mark Martin is the only of the 10 to win four consecutive poles at Bristol: Fireball Roberts (swept 1962), Fred Lorenzen (swept 1963), Richard Petty (1967-’68), Bobby Allison (swept 1972), Cale Yarborough (swept 1973; swept 1977; swept 1980), Darrell Waltrip (swept 1981), Geoff Bodine (swept 1986), Mark Martin (swept 1995-1996– all four races; and swept 2009); Rusty Wallace (swept 1998) and Jeff Gordon (swept 2002).

· Jeff Gordon leads (active drivers) the series in average starting position at Bristol with a 7.476.

· Youngest Bristol pole winner: Joey Logano (3/21/2010 – 19 years, 9 months, 25 days) – his first series career pole.

· Oldest Bristol pole winner: Harry Gant (8/27/1994 – 54 years, 7 months, 17 days).

· 41 different drivers have won at Bristol, led by Darrell Waltrip (12). Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch each have five wins, the most among active drivers.

· Junior Johnson leads the series in car owner wins at Bristol with 16; Rick Hendrick, Roger Penske and Jack Roush are tied among active car owners for the most wins at Bristol with 10 each.

· 12 drivers have won consecutive races at Bristol led by Darrell Waltrip with seven consecutive victories from 1981-1984. The other 11 are Fred Lorenzen (1963-1964 sweep), David Pearson (1968 sweep), Bobby Allison (1972 sweep), Cale Yarborough did it twice (1974 sweep and four straight from 1976-1977), Richard Petty (1975 sweep), Dale Earnhardt also did it twice (1985 sweep and 1987 sweep), Alan Kulwicki (1992 sweep), Rusty Wallace (2000 sweep), Kurt Busch (2003 sweep and 2004 spring race), Kyle Busch (2009 sweep), and Brad Keselowski (2011 fall-2012 spring).

· Youngest Bristol winner: Kyle Busch (03/25/2007 – 21 years, 10 months, 23 days).

· Oldest Bristol winner: Dale Earnhardt (08/28/1999 – 48 years, 3 months, 30 days).

· Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Bristol; led by Chevrolet with 43 victories; followed by Ford with 33. Toyota is ranked fifth among Manufacturers with six wins at Bristol.

· 85 of the 106 (80.1%) races have been won from a top-10 starting position; including 53 from the first four spots.

· 35 of the 106 (33.0%) races at Bristol have been won from the front row: Pole position (22 wins); second-place (13 wins).

· Five of the 106 (4.7%) races have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.

· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 38th, by Elliott Sadler; in 2001.

· Richard Petty leads the series in runner-up finishes at Bristol with 10; Kevin Harvick and Terry Labonte lead all active drivers with four each.

· Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty lead the series in top-five finishes at Bristol with 26 each. Terry Labonte leads the series among active drivers with 19 followed by Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin (16).

· Richard Petty has 37 top-10 finishes, more than any other driver. Terry Labonte leads the series among active drivers in top-10 finishes with 33; followed by Jeff Gordon with 23.

· Kyle Busch leads the series (active drivers) in average finish at Bristol with a 9.889.

· Seven of the last nine races have ended with a Margin of Victory of less than a second at BMS.

· There has been three green-white-checkered finishes at Bristol – all three were the spring race: 2007 (500/504); 2008 (500/506); 2009 (500/503).

· Two of the 106 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Bristol Motor Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the event on 3/31/1996.

· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway three times; most recently August 25, 2012.

· Kurt Busch posted his first series career win at Bristol (2002), and Joey Logano won his first pole at Bristol (2010).

· All 15 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Bristol Motor Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane – among the active winners Kurt Busch won in the fewest starts (third) at Bristol.

· Jeff Burton competed at Bristol Motor Speedway 28 times before winning (2008 spring race); the longest span of any the 15 active winners. Burton is the only active driver to have made 20 or more attempts before his first win at BMS. Kasey Kahne, who won in the spring of 2012 made 18 previous starts before his win at BMS.

· Bobby Labonte leads the series (active drivers) with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Bristol without visiting Victory Lane with 42.

· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Bristol was the 3/25/2007 race won by Kyle Busch with a MOV of 0.064 second.

· Two female drivers have made NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Bristol: Janet Guthrie and Danica Patrick.

· Four car numbers have produced eight or more Bristol NSCS wins: No. 11, 19 wins (most recent – Denny Hamlin, 2012); No. 2, 12 wins (Brad Keselowski, 2012); No. 17, 8 wins (Matt Kenseth, 2006); and No. 3, 8 wins (Dale Earnhardt Sr., 1999)

NASCAR in Tennessee
· There have been 167 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Tennessee: 106 at Bristol Motor Speedway, 42 at Nashville Speedway, 12 at Smokey Mountain Raceway in Maryville, 2 at Chattanooga International Raceway, and 2 at Tennessee-Carolina Speedway in Newport.

· 104 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Tennessee.

· 14 drivers from Tennessee have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series.

  • Darrell Waltrip (84 Cup, 13 Nationwide)
  • Sterling Marlin (10 Cup, 2 Nationwide)
  • Bobby Hamilton (4 Cup, 1 Nationwide, 10 Truck)
  • Joe Lee Johnson (2 Cup)
  • Trevor Bayne (1 Cup, 2 Nationwide)
  • Paul Lewis (1 Cup)
  • Bobby Hamilton Jr. (5 Nationwide)
  • Jeff Purvis (4 Nationwide)
  • L.D. Ottinger (3 Nationwide)
  • Mike Alexander (2 Nationwide)
  • Casey Atwood (2 Nationwide)
  • Brad Teague (1 Nationwide)
  • Chad Chaffin (2 Truck)
  • John King (1 Truck)

MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: 2016 Mexican GP

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 27:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing arrive at the circuit in full Dia de Muertos face paint during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 27, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Formula 1 returns to Mexico this weekend with memories of last year’s exuberant event still fresh and the championship battle finely poised.

Nico Rosberg may have lost out to Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton last weekend in Austin, Texas, but the German is still 26 points clear heading to Mexico City.

Rosberg can mathematically win the championship this Sunday, but needs Hamilton not to score and would have to win the race himself.

What can we expect in Mexico this weekend? MST F1 writers Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno make their picks.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton was effortless flawless in Austin. I’ll say he’ll carry that form through to Mexico on Sunday and tick another track off his win list.

Surprise Finish: Sergio Perez. While I doubt Perez can hit the podium, I reckon he could get among the Ferrari drivers and take home another top five finish for Force India on home soil.

Most to Prove: Esteban Gutierrez. At his first home grand prix weekend, Gutierrez needs to impress as he bids to remain with Haas for 2017.

Additional Storyline: Rosberg’s approach. Will Rosberg play things safe in Mexico? Or could he try and finish what he started with a 10th victory of the season? Keep an eye on his on-track attitude.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. It may not matter for the championship if Nico Rosberg finishes second but thanks to his on-form weekend in Austin, I think Hamilton can carry the momentum to Mexico and add this circuit to his tally of victories. A win here would tie him with Alain Prost for second all-time on 51.

Surprise Finish: Sergio Perez. Going to peg the Mexican for at least a top-five finish on home soil in Mexico City. A Mercedes-powered Williams got on the podium here last year, and I’m going to be so bold as to see Perez scores P3 here thanks to some abnormal circumstances taking the Red Bulls and Ferraris from podium contention.

Most to Prove: Renault’s current pair. I wrote the same last week, but after both Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer had a weekend to forget in Austin, either or both of them need to step up this weekend. Problem here is, it will be extra difficult considering neither raced here last year.

Additional Storyline: Mexico year two. Much as we always look at how COTA does year-on-year, will Mexico’s second outing of its return to the calendar feature the same festive crowd, atmosphere and presence or will there be a drop off?

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Sergio Perez Force India

Aoyama to replace injured Pedrosa for Malaysia MotoGP round

MOTEGI, JAPAN - OCTOBER 15:   Hiroshi Aoyama of Japan and Repsol Honda Team (rides in place of Dani pedrosa of Spain) heads down a straight during the practice during the MotoGP of Japan - Qualifying at Twin Ring Motegi on October 15, 2016 in Motegi, Japan.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Honda test rider Hiroshi Aoyama will return to the MotoGP grid this weekend in Malaysia, deputizing for the injured Dani Pedrosa.

Pedrosa sustained a fractured collarbone after crashing during practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, with Aoyama stepping in for the remainder of the weekend at Motegi. The Japanese rider finished 15th, scoring one point.

American rider Nicky Hayden stood in last weekend in Australia, but is unable to race in Malaysia due to a clash with the World Superbike Championship. As a result, Aoyama will return for the race weekend at the Sepang International Circuit.

“I’m very glad to have the chance to ride for the Repsol Honda Team again, as in Japan it was a bit challenging to start Saturday morning from FP3, to adapt to the bike and to try and find my rhythm,” Aoyama said.

“I hope this time things will work out well and I can find a good feeling with the bike since the beginning. All of us wish for Dani coming back soon, but until he is recovered I’ll do my best for Honda and for the Repsol Honda Team.

“Tuesday was my 35th birthday and I’m simply happy to be here in Malaysia, which is a country I particularly like and I look forward to enjoy racing at the Sepang Circuit.”

Rosberg focused on winning the race, not the championship, in Mexico

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 27:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP talks in the Drivers Press Conference during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 27, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg insists that he is only focused on winning the race and not the championship this weekend when Formula 1 visits Mexico City.

Rosberg is able to clinch his maiden F1 drivers’ championship this Sunday in Mexico, but only if he wins the race and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton fails to score any points.

The German has long insisted that he is approaching the championship on a race by race basis, and won’t change that stance in Mexico.

“I’m well aware of that,” Rosberg said when reminded he could win the title on Sunday.

“It’s been a great season so far which has put me in this position. It’s exciting to be in this championship battle with Lewis towards the end of the season.

“For me, my way of achieving the best possible result is to focus on the things that are in my control. In Mexico, that’s winning the race.

“For the championship, it’s not really in my control if I get it this weekend. It’s about winning the race and then see what happens.”

Rosberg maintained the approach when asked what winning the world championship would mean to him.

“It’s a childhood dream. But that’s where it ends for me,” Rosberg said.

“For me important this weekend is winning the Mexican GP.”

Rosberg was also asked about F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone’s suggestion over the United States Grand Prix weekend that the German winning the title would not be as good for F1 as if Hamilton won it.

“I spoke to him personally and he said that’s not exactly the way he said it,” Rosberg said.

“But for me it’s not something that’s important to me. I focus on my thing. That’s it.”

Rosberg won last year’s grand prix in Mexico when F1 returned after 23-year hiatus, and is relishing the opportunity to race in front of a passionate home crowd.

“I have great memories from here last year, winning here was awesome,” Rosberg said.

“The podium is one of the best in the year in the baseball stadium, it was absolutely phenomenal.”

Red Bull’s ‘Mad Max’ Verstappen adds flair and drama to F1

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 23: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing sits in his car in the garage before the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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It’s been a wild season for young Max Verstappen.

The talented Dutch teenager has been promoted to Red Bull, become the youngest winner in Formula One history and bickered with some of the top teams and drivers in the sport. His aggressive tactics have even prompted a rules clarification for safety.

“Mad Max” is brash, won’t be intimidated and to many, he’s a much-needed dose of excitement for Formula One and a future champion. The kid seized on his chance to be fast and famous and won’t let go.

“Why wait?” Verstappen said. “I have a great car, a great team, and I want it all as quickly as possible.”

Verstappen is squeezing everything he can into this season as Formula One races this week in Mexico City. At the U.S. Grand Prix in Texas last week, Verstappen provided days of drama worthy of a 19-year-old still learning how to navigate a grown-up sport.

The teams had barely left Japan two weeks earlier when Mercedes considered, then opted not to file a complaint over his defensive moves against Lewis Hamilton in a braking zone. Verstappen finished second and Hamilton’s third-place finish pushed him further back in the 2016 title chase against teammate Nico Rosberg.

By the time drivers got to Austin, several used their Friday meeting to complain about their precocious rival. Having heard similar comments several times this season, Formula One officials issued a rule clarification: blocking during braking would be deemed illegal and punished. It took about 10 minutes for the media to call it the “Verstappen Rule.”

He shrugged.

“Maybe they can get past (me), now,” Verstappen said.

Conflicts have also flared in the Red Bull garage.

After getting an early warning during the race to save his tires, Verstappen barked over his car radio that he’s “not here to finish fourth!” A few laps later, he mistakenly went into a pit stop without a team order. He was out of the race a few laps later with a gearbox problem.

Even that disrupted teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Unable to race but still mobile, Verstappen tried to nurse his car around the track before he eventually pulled over and stopped. That brought out a yellow flag, which meant Ricciardo lost valuable time in his battle for second with Rosberg. Ricciardo finished third.

“When I saw Max out there, I thought, ‘Ah hell, my boy’s done it again.’ That was a devastating moment, but we’ll keep soldiering on,” Ricciardo said.

Team leadership was not amused.

“We have 80 engineers and strategists, but it’s all useless if a driver decides alone to come into the pits,” Red Bull racing consultant Helmut Marko told Autoweek.

Verstappen is the son of race driver Jos Verstappen, who made 106 career Formula One starts, and his talent caught a lot of attention from teams growing up. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff tried to sign Verstappen when he was 14 before Red Bull snagged him.

Wolff, whose drivers are chasing each other for the team’s third consecutive championship, has alternately called Verstappen “refreshing” and “dangerous” and has even compared him to Formula One’s revered Ayrton Senna.

“He comes in here with no fear, no respect, puts the elbows out,” Wolff said earlier this season.

That approach has worn thin on some teams, most notably Ferrari and its two former world champion drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen has warned Verstappen could cause a “massive accident” with his driving.

But Verstappen’s critics have done most of their shouting at him from the rear. Before his car failed him in Texas, Verstappen finished second in Malaysia and Japan. His five podium finishes in the last 10 races are three more than Vettel and Raikkonen combined.

And back in Spain, when the Mercedes cars knocked each other out in a first-lap crash, Verstappen leaped to the front and doggedly held off Raikkonen for his first career victory in his first race for Red Bull.

Verstappen drives with swagger and a win Sunday in Mexico would come on his 20th birthday. His critics have done little damage to his confidence or skills behind the wheel.

“No,” Verstappen said. “I am a grown-up boy.”