Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

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With the Easter break now over, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to short-track action this weekend with the first of two annual visits to the 3/4-mile Richmond International Raceway.

RIR may be a short track but its style of racing is something you’d find at a typical superspeedway, making it a favorite among NASCAR faithful. Side-by-side action is common under the lights, and you can expect to see a fair amount of rubbin’ as well.

A old slogan called the track “Racing Perfection” and for many stock car fans, RIR is just that.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the important numbers and notes you need to know going into Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 – Round 9 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

RICHMOND-SPECIFIC STATS

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 AAA Insurance Toyota)
· Two wins, three top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 10.1
· Average Running Position of 9.5, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 100.7, fourth-best
· 183 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 851 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.414 mph, fifth-fastest
· 5,140 Laps in the Top 15 (80.1%), fifth-most
· 485 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), fourth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· One win, five top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 17.3
· Average Running Position of 14.4, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.2, seventh-best
· 364 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.386 mph, sixth-fastest
· 4,338 Laps in the Top 15 (60.1%), ninth-most
· 428 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· Four wins, 12 top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 7.2
· Average Running Position of 7.8, second-best
· Driver Rating of 111.9, second-best
· 529 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.749 mph, second-fastest
· 6,271 Laps in the Top 15 (86.9%), second-most
· 533 Quality Passes, third-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 FordAlwaysRacing Ford)
· One win, four top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.7
· Average Running Position of 14.9, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.1, ninth-best
· 291 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 957 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.290 mph, ninth-fastest
· 4,276 Laps in the Top 15 (59.3%), 10th-most
· 429 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Two wins, 16 top fives, 26 top 10s; six poles
· Average finish of 14.1
· Average Running Position of 13.8, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 96.0, sixth-best
· 343 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.375 mph, seventh-fastest
· 4,518 Laps in the Top 15 (62.6%), eighth-most
· 436 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)
· Two wins, seven top fives, nine top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 8.9
· Series-best Average Running Position of 6.6
· Series-best Driver Rating of 114.8
· Series-high 584 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 116.782 mph
· 5,361 Laps in the Top 15 (89.2%), fourth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet)
· Three wins, seven top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.3
· Average Running Position of 7.9, third-best
· Driver Rating of 110.0, third-best
· 458 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 854 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.658 mph, third-fastest
· Series-high 6,617 Laps in the Top 15 (91.7%)
· Series-high 613 Quality Passes

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet)
· Three wins, five top fives, eight top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 17.3
· Average Running Position of 16.2, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 88.5, 10th-best
· 274 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.232 mph, 11th-fastest

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet)
· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 18.0
· Driver Rating of 86.8, 11th-best
· 341 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 923 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· 4,088 Laps in the Top 15 (56.7%), 12th-most
· 433 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet)
· One win, six top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.4
· Average Running Position of 11.7, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.6, eighth-best
· 921 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· 5,419 Laps in the Top 15 (75.1%), third-most
· 550 Quality Passes, second-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 19 top 10s
· Average finish of 10.6
· Average Running Position of 12.1, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.5, fifth-best
· 276 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 875 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.498 mph, fourth-fastest
· 4,755 Laps in the Top 15 (69.8%), sixth-most
· 462 Quality Passes, fifth-most

source:

Richmond International Raceway Track Data
Season Race #: 9 of 36 (04-26-14)
Track Size: 0.75-miles
Banking/Turns 1 & 2: 14 degrees
Banking/Turns 3 & 4: 14 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 8 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 2 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 1,290 feet
Backstretch Length: 860 feet
Race Length: 400 laps / 300 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Richmond
Denny Hamlin………………………. 114.8
Kyle Busch…………………………. 111.9
Kevin Harvick………………………. 110.0
Clint Bowyer………………………… 100.7
Tony Stewart…………………………. 96.5
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 96.0
Kurt Busch……………………………. 92.2
Ryan Newman……………………….. 91.6
Carl Edwards………………………… 90.1
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 88.5
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Richmond International Raceway

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light pole winner: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 130.334 mph, 20.716 secs., 04-25-13
2013 race winner: Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 92.141 mph, (03:18:17), 04-27-13
Track qualifying record: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 130.599 mph, 20.674 secs., 09-04-13
Track race record: Dale Jarrett, Ford, 109.047 mph, (02:45:04), 09-06-97

Richmond International Raceway History
· Originally known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds, Richmond International Raceway held its first race in 1946 as a half-mile dirt track.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was April 19, 1953 won by Lee Petty.
· The spring 1964 race was run on a Tuesday night under temporary lighting.
· The track name changed to Virginia State Fairgrounds in 1967.
· The track surface was changed from dirt to asphalt between races in 1968.
· The track name changed to Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in 1969.
· The track was re-measured to .542-mile for 1970.
· The track was rebuilt as a three-quarters-mile D-shaped oval following the Feb. 21, 1988 race.
· The first race under permanent lights was Sept. 7, 1991.
· The first season with both races as night races was 1999.
Notebook
· There have been 115 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway, one NSCS event from 1953 – 1958 and two races per year since 1959.
· 472 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond; 306 in more than one.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Richmond with 63. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 42 starts.
· Buck Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Richmond in 1953 with a speed of 48.465 mph.
· 52 drivers have Coors Light poles at Richmond, led by Richard Petty and Bobby Allison with eight each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six.
· Seven drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Richmond. Bobby Allison holds the record for most consecutive Coors Light poles at Richmond with five (1972 – 1974).
· Youngest Richmond pole winner: Brian Vickers (05/15/2004 – 20 years, 6 months, 21 days).
· Oldest Richmond pole winner: Mark Martin (04/28/2012 – 53 years, 3 months, 19 days).
· 48 different drivers have won at Richmond International Raceway, led by Richard Petty with 13. Kyle Busch leads all active drivers with four.
· Petty Enterprises has the most wins at Richmond in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 15; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with 10, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing each have nine.
· Chevrolet leads the series in wins at Richmond with 36 victories; followed by Ford with 29 and Toyota with seven.
· 22 of the 115 (19.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from the Coors Light pole. Only three active drivers have been able to accomplish the feat: Kasey Kahne (2005), Jimmie Johnson (2007) and Kyle Busch (2010).
· The pole starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners than any other starting position at Richmond (22).
· 35 of the 115 (30.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond have been won from the front row: 22 from the pole and 13 from second-place.
· 90 of the 115 (78.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· 13 of the 115 (11.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Richmond International Raceway was 31st, by Clint Bowyer in the spring of 2008.
· Youngest Richmond winner: Richard Petty (04/23/1961 – 23 years, 9 months, 21 days).
· Oldest Richmond winner: Harry Gant (09/07/1991 – 51 years, 7 months, 28 days).
· Bobby Allison and Richard Petty are tied for the lead in runner-up finishes at Richmond with nine each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Richmond with 34; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 16.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Richmond with 41. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 26.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Richmond International Raceway with a 7.643.
· Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Richmond International Raceway with a 7.222.
· Two active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top 10 at Richmond: Kyle Busch (7.2) and Denny Hamlin (8.9).
· There have been two NSCS race resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Richmond International Raceway: spring of 2008 (400/410) and spring of 2013 (400/406).
· Only four of the 115 races at Richmond International Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions: spring of 1962, spring of 1977, spring of 1982 and spring of 2003.
· Bobby Labonte (09/11/1993) and Brian Vickers (05/15/2004) posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Richmond.
· Tony Stewart (09/11/1999) and Kasey Kahne (05/14/2005) posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Richmond.
· Eight drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have posted consecutive wins at Richmond International Raceway. Richard Petty leads the series in consecutive wins at Richmond after posting seven consecutive wins from the fall of 1970 – 1973. Jimmie Johnson (2007 sweep) is the only active driver with consecutive wins at Richmond.
· All of the 13 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Richmond International Raceway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart won at Richmond in their second appearance.
· Joe Nemechek competed at Richmond International Raceway 18 times before winning in 1994; the longest span of any the 13 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Dave Blaney leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Richmond without visiting Victory Lane at 26.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993, the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Richmond International Raceway was the (09/12/1998) race won by Jeff Burton with a MOV of 0.051 second.
· Two female drivers have competed at Richmond in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:
Janet Guthrie: 2/27/1977 – Started 13th, Finished 12th; 9/11/1977 – Started 14th, Finished 12th
Danica Patrick: 4/27/2013 – Started 30th, Finished 29th; 9/7/2013 – Started 36th, Finished 30th

NASCAR in Virginia
· There have been 283 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among nine tracks in Virginia: Martinsville 131, Richmond 115, South Boston 10, Langley Field (Hampton) 9, Old Dominion (Manassas) 7, Southside (Richmond) 4, Starkey (Roanoke) 4, Norfolk 2, Princess Anne (Norfolk) 1.
· 171 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Virginia.
· 19 drivers from Virginia have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series; 11 have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Joe Weatherly – 25 Cup
Denny Hamlin – 23 Cup, 11 NNS, 2 Truck
Ricky Rudd – 23 Cup, 1 NNS
Jeff Burton – 21 Cup, 27 NNS
Curtis Turner – 17 Cup
Ward Burton – 5 Cup, 4 NNS
Glen Wood – 4 Cup
Elliott Sadler – 3 Cup, 9 NNS, 1 Truck
Emanuel Zervakis – 2 Cup
Lennie Pond – 1 Cup
Wendell Scott – 1 Cup
Tommy Ellis – 22 NNS
Jimmy Hensley – 9 NNS, 2 Truck
Rick Mast – 9 NNS
Hermie Sadler – 2 NNS
Elton Sawyer – 2 NNS
Stacy Compton – 2 Truck
Jon Wood – 2 Truck
Jeb Burton – 1 Truck

Road America weekend, Thursday notes

Brett Hundley with Will Power and Mario Andretti. Photo: IndyCar
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – It’s a busy day of testing, practice and qualifying for all the series not named the Verizon IndyCar Series on Thursday at the KOHLER Grand Prix weekend.

IndyCar sessions begin on Friday and as such there wasn’t meant to be as much to report on that end… until late Thursday afternoon when Schmidt Peterson Motorsports confirmed Mikhail Aleshin’s temporary absence and Robert Wickens to fill in.

Meanwhile with Esteban Gutierrez having been confirmed for the rest of the season at Dale Coyne Racing, it’s anticipated he will have his first oval test next week at Iowa Speedway, to have his first running on an oval ahead of the July 9 Iowa Corn 300.

Here’s a couple other IndyCar notes…

DIXON’S SURPRISE TO A YOUNG FAN

Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network reporter Jake Query, who will also be hosting this weekend’s Indy Lights coverage from Road America on NBCSN, found a fan letter from a young girl named Lucy addressed to INDYCAR after Scott Dixon’s wild ride at the Indianapolis 500. Lucy proceeded to thank INDYCAR for its safety efforts in keeping Dixon intact.

Well, between the efforts of Query and the IndyCar PR staff, a meeting between the two was arranged. You can see the video of that, below.

PACKERS QB TAKES A RIDE WITH MARIO

Not that Packers QB though.

Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Brett Hundley had a ride today with Mario Andretti in Honda’s Fastest Seat in Sports, the two-seat IndyCar. He posted on it below.

Elsewhere, here is a bit more from the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires and Pirelli World Challenge ranks.

MRTI

  • First practice is in the books for USF2000 and rather than Oliver Askew being on top for Cape Motorsports, it was actually the Pabst Racing team that went 1-2-3 with Dutchman Rinus VeeKay ahead of Guyana driver Calvin Ming and Brazilian Lucas Kohl. Not bad for Augie Pabst’s Oconomowoc, Wis.-based team. Askew was fourth, and David Malukas was an impressive fifth. Full results are here.
  • In first qualifying for Pro Mazda, Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni took the pole with a best time of 2:06.5835, ahead of Cape Motorsports’ Anthony Martin at 2:07.9055. Team Pelfrey’s trio of Carlos Cunha, TJ Fischer and Nikita Lastochkin completed the top five. Full results are here.
  • Overall, the USF2000 field grows by one from the projected 18 up to 19 with F4 driver Jacob Loomis moving up to Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 Tatuus USF-17 Mazda, filling in for Ayla Agren. Agren’s full-season teammates Robert Megennis and Kaylen Frederick paid tribute to Agren, who is still here this weekend, with tribute cool shirts.
  • Meanwhile the Pro Mazda field dips by two. Neither Phillippe Denes, who was seventh in points heading into the weekend, nor Kevin Davis is here. It leaves the field at 15 cars, including series debutantes Kris Wright (who has tested with JDC Motorsports), Dave Zavelson and Kevin Bury. Zavelson’s car number switches from 4, listed initially, to 2.
  • Max Hanratty, who returns, has a new livery on his No. 6 ArmsUp Motorsports entry.
  • Anthony Martin is confident any issues with his Cape Motorsports Pro Mazda car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course have been sorted. The Australian proved that point by leading the opening practice session with a best time of 2:13.1661 in mixed conditions. Full times from that are linked here.
  • The reduced USF2000 field sees a couple drivers here who may be back later this year but others who may be done for the year. Agren, out at Team Pelfrey this weekend, is here and working towards a return later this season. Her past teammate at Pelfrey, Luke Gabin, is also here and is unsure whether he’ll be back in action for Exclusive Autosport.
  • Meanwhile Darren Keane, who makes his debut with Newman Wachs Racing in USF2000 this weekend, is expected to return to the team for remaining races. He’ll miss Iowa Speedway but plans to return at Mid-Ohio. Ozz Negri coaches Keane in USF2000; Tom Dyer, another Acura NSX GT3 driver, coaches the Pelfrey USF2000 drivers.

PWC

  • The PWC grid drops by a couple this week with a couple changes in the GT and GTA ranks. Bentley Team Absolute is down to one car with Yufeng Luo not here in his No. 78 Bentley Continental GT3, leaving only Adderly Fong. Fong, however, will miss the Mid-Ohio weekend owing to a schedule clash with the China GT Championship. Pablo Perez Companc, who was also due to race in GTA in the No. 69 Mercedes-AMG GT3, is another no-show this weekend.
  • K-PAX Racing has eclipsed the 100-podium plateau in recent rounds. The team’s three-car lineup resumes this weekend with Alvaro Parente, Bryan Sellers and Mike Hedlund, Parente and Hedlund having just returned from the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
  • Austin Versteeg makes his debut in the GTS class No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-BOW GT4, a car that’s won this season in the hands of Nico Jamin. Jamin is here this weekend in his Andretti Autosport Indy Lights car.
  • PWC had several test and practice sessions during the day.

Wickens set to substitute for Aleshin until further notice at Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Robert Wickens will temporarily fill in for Mikhail Aleshin at this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America.

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team released a statement on Thursday afternoon confirming Aleshin’s absence for at least Friday owing to immigration issues, with that potentially set to stretch into the remainder of the weekend if the situation is not resolved.

The statement is below.

Hinchcliffe has also posted a tweet going into the weekend. The two participated in a ride-swap earlier this year where Wickens made his IndyCar test debut at Sebring (recap here) and Hinchcliffe ran in Wickens’ DTM car in Italy after the St. Petersburg opener (recap here).

The two drivers were teammates in A1 Grand Prix about a decade ago; Wickens has race experience at Road America as he finished seventh in a Formula Atlantic race in 2007. Hinchcliffe was 14th in the same race.

Beyond his DTM commitments, Wickens raced in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with Starworks Motorsport, and ran 100 laps during the week in a PC class Oreca FLM09 he shared with a handful of others. Conor Daly and Sean Rayhall were among the notables in the other car.

Barrichello: F1 needs ‘a little cuddle’ to rediscover romanticism

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Rubens Barrichello believes that Formula 1 needs “a little cuddle” in order to rediscover some of its romanticism that has been hurt by an influx of pay drivers on-track and a lack of fan engagement off-track.

Barrichello raced in F1 between 1993 and 2011, making a record 322 starts and twice finishing as runner-up in the drivers’ championship.

The Brazilian spent a year in IndyCar before moving into his national Stock Car championship in 2013, where he continues to race, and made his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last weekend.

Barrichello remains a keen observer of F1, and expressed his dismay about the influx of pay drivers to the sport who bring large amounts of financial backing to secure a seat, having lost his drive with Williams at the end of 2011 as a result.

“It was difficult to adjust [to life after F1] because I wasn’t expecting it to be honest with you. And it is the story of Formula 1 nowadays,” Barrichello told reporters in Le Mans last week.

“There are just drivers there that are using their balloon and package of money to get in. This is a little bit less romantic in my opinion. Whenever I lost my place, it was to that.

“t was difficult for the first couple of days. I ended up signing for IndyCar and it was a good decision. I should have waited another 10 days to actually talk to all of the teams, because I just went in, boom, I got the first offer and I said OK I’m racing.

“It’s almost like it was the girlfriend just gives you a no and then you just get the next one that gives you a yes. It was that kind of thing.”

Barrichello went on to say that he believes F1 should work harder to be closer to the fans, having seen first hand in Brazilian Stock Cars how much interacting closely with his followers can mean.

“I think Formula 1 needs to be closer to the public. What they made last week with the [Senna] helmet in the middle of the chicane, that’s already closer,” Barrichello said.

“To be honest with you, in Stock Cars, we have an hour of signing before the race. All I hear is: ’Rubens I’ve been after you for 19 years, I could never get close to you’. And I have a chance to hug them, I have a chance to say thank you very much. So this is great.

“And that’s what Formula 1 needs, a little cuddle, people together a little more. Because Formula 1 is almost a ‘no’. ‘Can I have a pass?’ ‘No.’ It’s not that we need the whole paddock full of people, but we need a little more together.”

Barrichello is confident that Ross Brawn, his former team boss and F1’s new sporting managing director, has the ability to bring some of the romanticism back to F1 in the coming years.

“I think Ross has what it takes to bring that back to Formula 1,” Barrichello said.

“I saw a picture on Instagram the other day. It was James Hunt inside of Niki Lauda’s Ferrari, just for fun.

“Somebody would have a fight if that happened nowadays! ‘Get the f**k out of there, rah rah rah!’

“So for sure, it’s less romantic, but Formula 1 is getting back. What I saw from Lewis [Hamilton in Montreal], I really enjoyed.”

F1 Paddock Pass: Azerbaijan Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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Formula 1 returns to Europe this weekend with the renamed Azerbaijan Grand Prix from the Baku City Circuit. The track is the second longest on the schedule and the race is renamed after being called the European Grand Prix last year (all times for the weekend via NBCSN or CNBC here).

Here with the latest from the paddock in Baku is the latest edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, with F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton joined by producer Jason Swales.

Swales celebrates his 300th Grand Prix on site this weekend, a major milestone after his 250th was celebrated a couple seasons ago at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas. As you can see below, McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso has joined in the festivities.

There’s plenty of fun to recap and plenty of important angles to preview in this week’s show, which you can see below in three parts.