NRA 500

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas

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After an entertaining race won by Kurt Busch at Martinsville, the Sprint Cup Series will make the first of its two visits this year to the high-banked, 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the important numbers and notes you need to know going into Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 – Round 7 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

TEXAS-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M/Give Kids A Smile Ford)
· Two wins, eight top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.1
· Average Running Position of 12.3, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 101.8, third-best
· 465 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 1,194 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.396 mph, third-fastest
· 4,457 Laps in the Top 15 (74.0%), fourth-most
· Series-high 742 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green)

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Willie’s Duck Diner Toyota)
· Three top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 12.8
· Average Running Position of 12.6, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.3, ninth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.094 mph, eighth-fastest

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· One win, three top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 15.3
· Driver Rating of 88.0, 12th-best
· 191 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 1,372 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 578 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota)
· One win, six top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.0
· Average Running Position of 11.0, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 101.6, fourth-best
· 331 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.452 mph, second-fastest
· 4,158 Laps in the Top 15 (73.1%), sixth-most
· 597 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· One win, four top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 13.7
· Average Running Position of 11.5, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 93.8, seventh-best
· 216 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 1,343 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.134 mph, seventh-fastest
· 4,624 Laps in the Top 15 (76.8%), third-most
· 736 Quality Passes, second-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
· Three wins, six top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.6
· Average Running Position of 12.3, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.5, sixth-best
· 358 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 1,164 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.320 mph, fourth-fastest
· 4,425 Laps in the Top 15 (73.5%), fifth-most
· 703 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta/Texas A&M School of Engineering Chevrolet)
· One win, eight top fives, 11 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 17.8
· Average Running Position of 14.5, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.6, 10th-best
· 307 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 172.965 mph, 11th-fastest
· 3,727 Laps in the Top 15 (61.9%), eighth-most
· 629 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota)
· Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 10.7
· Average Running Position of 12.7, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 93.3, eighth-best
· 167 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 1,301 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 172.998 mph, 10th-fastest
· 3,596 Laps in the Top 15 (67.2%), 12th-most
· 696 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s “Spring is Calling” Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.7
· Average Running Position of 10.3, second-best
· Driver Rating of 106.4, second-best
· Series-high 488 Fastest Laps Run
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.319 mph, fifth-fastest
· 4,660 Laps in the Top 15 (77.4%), second-most
· 681 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Two wins, 13 top fives, 16 top 10s
· Average finish of 8.3
· Series-best Average Running Position of 9.0
· Series-best Driver Rating of 107.2
· 350 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· 1,360 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 173.482 mph
· Series-high 4,827 Laps in the Top 15 (80.1%)
· 709 Quality Passes, third-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Two wins, six top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.1
· Average Running Position of 10.8, third-best
· Driver Rating of 99.1, fifth-best
· 344 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.180 mph, sixth-fastest
· 4,023 Laps in the Top 15 (70.7%), seventh-most
· 596 Quality Passes, 11th-most

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· Two top fives, eight top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 15.0
· Average Running Position of 13.7, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.1, 11th-best
· 1,164 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.017 mph, ninth-fastest
· 3,605 Laps in the Top 15 (63.4%), 11th-most

source:

Texas Motor Speedway Data
Season Race #: 7 of 36 (04-06-14)
Track Size: 1.5-mile
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 24 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 24 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 5 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 2,250 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,330 feet
Race Length: 334 laps / 501 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Texas
Matt Kenseth……………………….. 107.2
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 106.4
Greg Biffle………………………….. 101.8
Kyle Busch…………………………. 101.6
Tony Stewart…………………………. 99.1
Carl Edwards………………………… 97.5
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 93.8
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 93.3
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 92.3
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 90.6
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Texas Motor Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 196.299 mph, 27.509 secs., 04-12-13
2013 race winner: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 144.751 mph, (03:27:40), 04-13-13
Track qualifying record: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 196.299 mph, 27.509 secs., 04-12-13
Track race record: Greg Biffle, Ford, 160.577 mph, (3:07:12), 11-14-12

Texas Motor Speedway History
· Construction on Texas Motor Speedway began in 1995.
· The first NASCAR national series race at TMS was a NASCAR Nationwide Series event on April 5, 1997 – won by Mark Martin.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was on April 6, 1997 – won by Jeff Burton.
· The track underwent a repave between the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
· In 2011, the spring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was moved from Sunday to Saturday night under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway.
· Texas Motor Speedway hosted its first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on November 6, 2005 – won by Carl Edwards.

Texas Motor Speedway Notebook
· There have been 26 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway, one NSCS event from 1997 – 2004 and two races per year since 2005.
· 134 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas; 109 in more than one.
· Four drivers have made all 26 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway – Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton and Mark Martin.
· Jeremy Mayfield was the first Coors Light pole winner, in 1998 with a speed of 185.906 mph. The inaugural Coors Light pole at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997 was cancelled due to weather conditions.
· 19 drivers have Coors Light poles at Texas, led by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. with two each.
· Two drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Texas Motor Speedway: Bobby Labonte (2003 and 2004) and Ryan Newman (2005 sweep).
· Youngest Texas Coors Light pole winner: Brian Vickers (11/05/2006 – 23 years, 0 months, 12 days).
· Oldest Texas Coors Light pole winner: Bill Elliott (4/08/2002 – 46 years, 6 months, 0 days).
· 17 different drivers have won at Texas Motor Speedway, led by Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson with three each.
· Seven drivers have multiple wins at Texas Motor Speedway: Carl Edwards (three), Jimmie Johnson (three), Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart each have two.
· Roush Fenway Racing leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in wins at Texas Motor Speedway with nine; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with five and Joe Gibbs Racing with four.
· Three of the 26 (11.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from the Coors Light Pole; Kasey Kahne (2006), Jimmie Johnson (2012) and Kyle Busch (2013).
· The third-place starting position is the most proficient starting spot in the field at Texas Motor Speedway, producing more wins than any other starting position in the field (five) – most recent: Jimmie Johnson last fall.
· Six of the 26 (23.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from the front row: three from the pole and three from second-place.
· 20 of the 26 (76.9%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Four of the 26 (15.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Texas Motor Speedway is 31st, by Matt Kenseth in 2002.
· Youngest Texas winner: Ryan Newman (03/30/2003 – 25 years, 3 months, 22 days).
· Oldest Texas winner: Dale Jarrett (04/01/2001 – 44 years, 4 months, 6 days).
· Jimmie Johnson leads the series in runner-up finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with five; followed by Matt Kenseth with four.
· Matt Kenseth leads the series in top-five finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with 13; followed by Jimmie Johnson with 10.
· Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are tied for the series lead in top-10 finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with 16 each; followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 13.
· Jimmie Johnson leads active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Texas Motor Speedway with an 8..476. Johnson is the only active driver with an average starting position at Texas in the top 10.
· Two active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top 10 at Texas: Matt Kenseth (8.3) and Jimmie Johnson (8.7).
· There have been three NSCS green-white-checkered finishes at Texas Motor Speedway: fall 2006 (334/339), spring 2008 (334/339), and fall 2012 (334/335).
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions twice in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway; the inaugural event in 1997 and spring 2007. The race has never been rain shortened.
· Kevin Harvick has participated in the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway without posting a DNF (22).
· Jeff Burton (4/06/1997) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4/02/2000) won their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career race at Texas Motor Speedway.
· David Ragan (4/09/2011) and Martin Truex Jr. (11/04/2007) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Texas Motor Speedway.
· 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski (11/02/2008) and Trevor Bayne (11/07/2010) made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career starts at Texas Motor Speedway.
· Two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted consecutive wins at Texas Motor Speedway: Carl Edwards (2008 sweep) and Denny Hamlin (2010 sweep).
· Nine of the 12 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Texas Motor Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Texas in their first appearance; Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman won in their second appearance at TMS.
· Jeff Gordon competed at Texas Motor Speedway 16 times before winning in the spring of 2009; the longest span of any the 12 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Only three of the 12 winning drivers have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Texas Motor Speedway: Jeff Gordon (16) Kyle Busch (15) and Kurt Busch (13).
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway without visiting Victory Lane at 23.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway was the (4/4/2004) race won by Elliott Sadler with a MOV of 0.028 second.
· Two female drivers have made NSCS starts at Texas Motor Speedway: Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick
· Matt Kenseth leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Texas Motor Speedway with 775 laps led in 23 starts.
· One NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has won at Texas Motor Speedway in two different manufacturers: Jeff Burton (1997 – Ford; 2007 – Chevrolet).

NASCAR in Texas
· There have been 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among three tracks in the state of Texas. Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway has hosted 26 of them. Additionally, Texas World Speedway in College Station hosted eight, and Houston’s Meyer Speedway hosted one.
· 80 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Texas.
· Nine drivers from Texas have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series. Six of the nine Texas native NASCAR winners have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

  • Terry Labonte (22 Cup, 11 NNS, 1 Truck)
  • Bobby Labonte (21 Cup, 10 NNS, 1 Truck)
  • A.J. Foyt (7 Cup)
  • Billy Wade (4 Cup)
  • Bobby Hillin Jr. (1 Cup, 2 NNS)
  • Johnny Rutherford (1 Cup)
  • James Buescher (1 NNS, 6 Truck)
  • David Starr (4 Truck)
  • Colin Braun (1 Truck)

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.