Auto Club 400

Everything you need to know about Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Fontana

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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 Auto Club Speedway – Round 5 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Aerospace Ford)
· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 16.6
· Average Running Position of 12.8, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.8, seventh-best
· 217 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· 1,174 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.483 mph, sixth-fastest
· 2,405 Laps in the Top 15 (69.0%), eighth-most
· 649 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 11th-most
Clint Bowyer (No. 15 PEAK Toyota)
· Two top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 12.7
· Average Running Position of 13.1, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.4, 10th-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.052 mph, 10th-fastest
Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· One win, five top fives, 10 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 12.4
· Average Running Position of 15.0, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.6, 12th-best
· 1,275 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 2,204 Laps in the Top 15 (63.3%), 10th-most
· 673 Quality Passes, 10th-most
Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota)
· Two wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 10.7
· Average Running Position of 9.1, second-best
· Driver Rating of 109.2, second-best
· 243 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.627 mph, second-fastest
· 2,803 Laps in the Top 15 (80.5%), third-most
· 739 Quality Passes, third-most
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Subway Ford)
· One win, eight top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.4
· Average Running Position of 12.2, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 98.5, fifth-best
· 153 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.508 mph, fifth-fastest
· 2,651 Laps in the Top 15 (76.1%), fifth-most
· 708 Quality Passes, fourth-most
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 11 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 11.8
· Average Running Position of 10.4, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.2, sixth-best
· 202 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 1,273 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.399 mph, seventh-fastest
· 2,581 Laps in the Top 15 (74.1%), sixth-most
· Series-high 779 Quality Passes
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota)
· One top five, four top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 19.0
· Average Running Position of 13.9, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.7, 11th-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.205 mph, ninth-fastest
· 1,926 Laps in the Top 15 (64.6%), 12th-most
Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet)
· One win, four top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 15.4
· Average Running Position of 12.0, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.5, eighth-best
· 119 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 1,191 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.329 mph, eighth-fastest
· 2,557 Laps in the Top 15 (73.4%), seventh-most
· 707 Quality Passes, fifth-most
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Five wins, 12 top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 5.7
· Series-best Average Running Position of 6.1
· Series-best Driver Rating of 119.6
· Series-high 456 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 172.084 mph
· Series-high 3,247 Laps in the Top 15 (93.2%)
· 745 Quality Passes, second-most
Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet)
· One win, four top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.5
· Average Running Position of 14.4, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 92.9, ninth-best
· 107 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 1,210 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.051 mph, 11th-fastest
· 2,237 Laps in the Top 15 (64.2%), ninth-most
· 705 Quality Passes, seventh-most
Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Three wins, eight top fives, 14 top 10s
· Average finish of 10.1
· Average Running Position of 9.4, third-best
· Driver Rating of 105.5, third-best
· 133 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 1,149 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.547 mph, third-fastest
· 2,860 Laps in the Top 15 (82.1%), second-most
· 701 Quality Passes, eighth-most
Tony Stewart (No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Two wins, six top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.9
· Average Running Position of 9.9, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 102.0, fourth-best
· 226 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.511 mph, fourth-fastest
· 2,683 Laps in the Top 15 (77.0%), fourth-most
· 707 Quality Passes, fifth-most
source:
Auto Club Speedway History
· Groundbreaking for California Speedway, as Auto Club Speedway originally was known, took place in November 1995.
· The first race was a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race won by Ken Schrader on June 21, 1997.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on June 22, 1997 and won by Jeff Gordon.
· September 2004 was the first night race and that also was the first year both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series ran two races in a season there.
· The track name was changed to Auto Club Speedway (ACS) in February 2008.
Auto Club Speedway Notebook
· There have been 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Auto Club Speedway, the track hosted one NSCS race a season from 1997-2003, then two races per season from 2004-2010. In 2011 the track returned to a single-race season.
· 128 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club; 106 in more than one.
· Three drivers have participated in all 24 races: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, and Bobby Labonte.
· Joe Nemechek won the inaugural Coors Light pole (1997) with a speed of 183.015 mph (39.341 secs.).
· 15 drivers have poles at Auto Club Speedway, led by Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch with three each.
· Denny Hamlin (2011, 2012), Kurt Busch (2006 sweep) and Jamie McMurray (2010 sweep) are the three drivers to win consecutive poles at Auto Club Speedway. Hamlin has won the last two poles at ACS and could become the first in series history to win three-in-a-row at Auto Club.
· Youngest ACS pole winner: Kyle Busch (2/27/2005 – 19 years, 9 months, 25 days).
· Oldest ACS pole winner: Mike Skinner (4/30/2000 – 42 years, 10 months, 2 days).
· 14 different drivers have won at ACS, led by Jimmie Johnson (five). Three other drivers have multiple wins: Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth each have three wins, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch each have two.
· Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Auto Club Speedway with nine, followed by Roush Fenway Racing with seven and Stewart Haas Racing with two.
· California-native Jimmie Johnson became the first and only driver to win from the pole at Auto Club Speedway in 2008.
· Only two ACS races have been won from the front row both by six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson,  fall of 2008 (pole); and the fall of 2007 (second-place).
· Nine of the 24 (37.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Auto Club Speedway have been won from a top-five starting position.
· 13 of the 24 (54.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Auto Club Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Seven of the 24 (29.2%) races have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 31st, by Matt Kenseth in the spring of 2006.
· The most proficient starting position at ACS is pretty random. Three starting positions (third, ninth and 24th have produced three winners each.
· Youngest ACS winner: Kyle Busch (09/04/2005 – 20 years, 4 months, 2 days).
· Oldest ACS winner: Rusty Wallace (04/29/2001 – 44 years, 8 months, 15 days).
· Jimmie Johnson leads the series in runner-up finishes at Auto Club Speedway with five; followed by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon with four.
· Jimmie Johnson leads the series in top-five finishes at Auto club Speedway with 12; followed by Jeff Gordon (10), Matt Kenseth (eight) and Carl Edwards (eight).
· Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth lead the series in top-10 finishes with 14; followed by Carl Edwards (13) and Tony Stewart (12).
· Jimmie Johnson leads the series in average finish at ACS with a 5.737
· Jimmie Johnson (5.7)and Carl Edwards (8.4) are the only two only active drivers with an average finish in the top 10 at Auto Club Speedway.
· There have been two green-white-checkered finishes at Auto Club Speedway: 2005 (250/254) and 2006 (250/251).
· Carl Edwards posted his first NSCS Coors Light pole at Auto Club Speedway on September 4, 2005. Kyle Busch won his first pole (2/27/05) and first series win (9/4/05) at ACS in 2005.
· Greg Biffle (4/28/02) and J.J. Yeley (9/5/04) made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career starts at Auto Club Speedway.
· Jimmie Johnson posted his first series career win at Auto Club Speedway on April 28, 2002.
· Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to win consecutive races at Auto Club Speedway (fall of 2009 – spring of 2010).
· 12 of the 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Auto Club Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Jeff Gordon (1997 – inaugural event) and Jimmie Johnson (2002) are the only drivers to win at ACS in their first appearance.
· Tony Stewart competed at Auto Club Speedway 18 times before winning in the fall of 2010; the longest span of any the 14 winners. Only Stewart (18) and Kevin Harvick (17) have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Auto Club Speedway.
· Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte lead the series with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Auto Club Speedway without visiting Victory Lane at 24.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway was the (3/27/2011) race won by Kevin Harvick with a MOV of 0.144 second over Jimmie Johnson.
· Three reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions have gone on to win at Auto Club Speedway the following season: Tony Stewart (2012), Jeff Gordon (1999) and Jimmie Johnson – the only one to do it multiple times(2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010).
· Two drivers have won and Auto Club Speedway race and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same season: Jeff Gordon (1997) and Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010).
· Two female drivers have competed at Auto Club Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick. **Note:Robinson first attempted to qualify for the race at ACS on 4/29/2001 but failed to make the event.
Driver
Starting Position
Finishing Position
Date
Shawna Robinson
43
42
4/28/2002
Danica Patrick
40
26
3/24/2013

·   Only three car numbers have produced three or more Auto Club Speedway NSCS wins: No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson – 2002, 2007-2010), No. 17 (Matt Kenseth – 2006-2007, 2009), and No. 24 (Jeff Gordon – 1997, 1999, 2004).

NASCAR in California
· There have been 135 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among 15 different tracks in California.
· Auto Club Speedway has hosted the second most NSCS events among active California tracks.

Track Name
City
NSCS
Riverside International Raceway
Riverside
48
Sonoma Raceway
Sonoma
25
Auto Club Speedway
Fontana
24
Ontario Motor Speedway
Ontario
9
California State Fairgrounds
Sacramento
6
Carrell Speedway
Gardena
4
Ascot Stadium
Los Angeles
3
Bay Meadows Race Track
San Mateo
3
Marchbanks Speedway
Hanford
3
Oakland Stadium
Oakland
3
Redwood Speedway
Eureka
2
Willow Springs Speedway
Lancaster
2
Capitol Speedway
Sacramento
1
Merced Fairgrounds
Merced
1
Santa Clara Fairgrounds
San Jose
1

NASCAR in California
· 428 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as California.
· 36 drivers from California have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series. 24 of the 36 California native NASCAR winners have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Driver
NSCS
NNS
NCWTS
Jeff Gordon
88
5
0
Jimmie Johnson
66
1
0
Kevin Harvick
24
40
14
Marvin Panch
17
0
0
Ernie Irvan
15
3
0
Dick Rathmann
13
0
0
Dan Gurney
5
0
0
Eddie Gray
4
0
0
Parnelli Jones
4
0
0
Eddie Pagan
4
0
0
Robby Gordon
3
1
0
Ray Elder
2
0
0
Danny Letner
2
0
0
Marvin Porter
2
0
0
Dick Brooks
1
0
0
Marvin Burke
1
0
0
Jim Cook
1
0
0
Lou Figaro
1
0
0
Danny Graves
1
0
0
Johnny Mantz
1
0
0
Casey Mears
1
1
0
Bill Norton
1
0
0
John Soares
1
0
0
Danny Weinberg
1
0
0
Ron Hornaday Jr
0
4
51
AJ Allmendinger
0
2
0
Jason Leffler
0
2
1
David Gilliland
0
1
0
Joe Ruttman
0
1
13
Boris Said
0
1
1
Mike Skinner
0
1
28
Matt Crafton
0
0
3
Kyle Larson
0
0
1
Justin Lofton
0
0
1
Scott Speed
0
0
1
Brandon Whitt
0
0
1

CJ Wilson completes first test in Porsche GT3 Cup car

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Photo courtesy of CJ Wilson Racing
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CJ Wilson’s new career is officially underway, following his retirement from professional baseball and now having completed his first test last week at Texas World Speedway in his new 2017 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.

Wilson, who formally announced the news he’d be transitioning into racing full-time during Rolex 24 at Daytona race week, did a two-day test at the still active oval/road course combo track in College Station, Texas. Wilson tested one of the team’s Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsports (the team runs two in IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge) and then advanced into the Cup car.

Wilson got fairly close to teammate Marc Miller’s times during the test as he acclimated to both the Cup car and the Yokohama tires.

“It’s great to take another step towards my goals,” Wilson said. “We had a chance to burn through two sets of tires today and I made a lot of progress. Having Marc as my coach was incredibly helpful because we have a lot of faith in each other and communicate using the same terms. Having sat in driver debriefings for the past six years with the race team, I was able to take all the input logically and make progress each session.

“The only odd thing about the test is that nobody else was here, which was the first time I have ever been on a track completely alone, so when we did a race simulation I had to use my imagination. TWS is a really fast and bumpy track. Looking forward to getting back in the car in ten days and pick up where I left off.”

Miller added, “CJ did great job, but I expected as much. He is logical and methodical which makes him easy to help and that translated into a very quick progression along the learning curve. Like any professional athlete though he is never truly satisfied because he wants to be perfect. He took quickly to the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. It is confidence inspiring and such a capable platform so that suited him well in getting up to speed. Overall, it was a successful first outing and I look forward to working with CJ this season. I expect he will have a solid debut at Sebring. He better or I’m likely fired.”

A teaser of on-board footage is below, along with a couple other social posts from the test:

Danny Watts: ‘Staying hidden was nothing but torture and pain’

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  (l to r) Strakka Racing drivers Danny Watts, Nick Leventis and Jonny Kane pose during the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship Photo Call on March 22, 2013 at Potters Fields in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Watts (left) with Leventis and Kane in 2013. Photo: Getty Images
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Sports car veteran driver Danny Watts has announced his retirement from active competition, but is in the news for an entirely different reason on Monday.

The 37-year-old Brit has announced he’s gay, penning a first-person piece for the Huffington Post and also doing interviews with both Daily Sportscar and Autosport. The latter article features a well-written op-ed from author Matt Beer.

In the Huffington Post piece, Watts, an eight-time starter and 2010 LMP2 class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, wrote that hiding his sexuality in the heavily white male heterosexual world of motorsport was simply becoming too much to keep under wraps.

“There isn’t any one moment that stands out in my mind as the moment I realized I would need to live in the closet if I wanted my motorsport career to go anywhere; it was just a general feeling I got,” Watts wrote.

“All the other guys in the paddock had girlfriends, so I got one to blend in. When that relationship ended, I got another one, and so I continued pretending to be straight for seventeen years.

“Staying hidden was nothing but torture and pain.

“I hope that there are a few people who are supportive. If the response I’ve had from the queer motorsport community thus far is any gauge, I feel hopeful that I’ll find a supportive group to start driving change for my queer siblings in the sport I love.”

Within the motorsports world, Watts’ name is best known to the sports car paddock, and he was a regular with the Strakka Racing team alongside co-drivers Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis. But he isn’t particularly known to the racing world at large.

This announcement comes as Watts has opted to call time on his full-time driving career and instead will focus on coaching for the future. It also represents one of the higher profile names in racing announcing his sexual orientation, which makes it newsworthy.

Despite some detractors (as you might expect), a number of other drivers and key motorsports figures have revealed their support for Watts, and why this news matters, on social media today:

Marino Franchitti returns to Mazda at Sebring

SEBRING, FL - MARCH 15:  Left to right, Marino Franchitti, Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett celebrate after winning the 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway on March 15, 2014 in Sebring, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)
Franchitti (left) won at Sebring in 2014. Photo: Getty Images
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Marino Franchitti will make his return to a Mazda entry for next month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, to be run March 18, as third driver in the team’s No. 70 Mazda RT24-P with Joel Miller and Tom Long.

The Scotsman competed in the team’s RX-8 and 6 models in the GT ranks but has been out of a drive since his role with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing last season in one of the team’s Ford GTs in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Franchitti replaces James Hinchcliffe, who was the third driver in the No. 70 car at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He’ll test for the team later this week at Sebring prior to the race run in the second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of the year.

“A big part of those results are being with great teams and having great teammates. I’ve been fortunate in that regard,” said Franchitti, who co-drove to win overall at Sebring in 2014. “I love driving there, I always have since the first laps I did. It’s a proper old-school track. If you go over the limit, you crash, simple as that, rather than going onto some tarmac run-off like many tracks. I love the challenge of walking that tightrope. Of course, there’s the challenge of the bumps too, trying to get the car to handle over them and the beating the car and driver takes. There’s a reason people come from all over the world to endurance test their cars here, it’s the ultimate test of a vehicle and its durability.

No. 70 Mazda RT24-P. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 70 Mazda RT24-P. Photo courtesy of IMSA

“It’s so cool to be coming back into the Mazda family,” said Franchitti. “Like everyone else, I was blown away when I saw the first shots of the RT24-P and how incredible it looks, so there’s a lot of excitement at getting to drive it. I’m relieved I get a chance to test the car, as many times I’ve just jumped in and raced, so this is a bit of a luxury! Being a part of the development process of a car is something I’ve been lucky enough to do several times and it’s something I really love.”

Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan added, “He’s a proven winner there, and he’s been a part of the Mazda family for years. Just look at his record at Sebring! He has the experience that can really help our team. Because he’s driven with Mazda before, we know his personality is a great fit. That’s important to us, and it goes a long way in helping the team chemistry remain strong. He’s a great fit with Tom [Long] and Joel [Miller], just as Spencer Pigot has been great with Nunez and Bomarito.”

Pipo Derani set for IndyCar test with SPM at Sebring

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Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Pipo Derani has become a star in the sports car world the last couple years, courtesy of his drives primarily with Tequila Patron ESM.

Meanwhile for at least a day, the 23-year-old Brazilian will be returning to his open-wheel roots in a big way.

NBC Sports has learned Derani will test for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on March 1 in a rookie test for the Verizon IndyCar Series. Derani joins Mexican driver Luis Michael Dorrbecker, who will also make his test debut that day at that test at Sebring International Raceway’s 1.5-mile short course.

Derani raced a partial season in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series in 2014 with Team Pelfrey, before shifting to sports cars later that fall, starting with Murphy Prototypes.

Derani excelled with G-Drive in 2015 before his star turn with ESM last year. This year, his schedule grows even greater, as he’s been confirmed with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing for the first three races of the FIA World Endurance Championship season, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, sharing the No. 67 Ford GT with Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.

It’ll be interesting to see what Derani does on the Sebring short course in one of SPM’s Honda-powered entries. He’ll be back at Sebring a couple weeks after his IndyCar test, as he prepares to defend his win in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with ESM.