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Everything you need to know for Saturday’s 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas

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Kansas Speedway’s first night race came in 2011 courtesy of ARCA, but this Saturday night, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will have its inaugural race under the lights on the 1.5-mile oval.

Last fall, Darlington Raceway’s lone Sprint Cup race and Kansas’ spring Cup race swapped dates, enabling the latter to become a night race – something the track had pursued for several years.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the important notes and numbers you need to know going into Saturday’s 5-Hour Energy 400 benefiting Special Operations Warrior Foundation – Round 11 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

KANSAS-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Novec Ford)
· Two wins, seven top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 10.3
· Average Running Position of 9.1, second-best
· Driver Rating of 106.9, third-best
· 205 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 165.911 mph, fourth-fastest
· 2,574 Laps in the Top 15 (81.7%), third-most
· 472 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), third-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Cherry 5-Hour ENERGY for Special Ops Warrior Foundation Toyota)
· Two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 13.2
· Driver Rating of 90.1, 10th-best

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· One top five, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.9
· Driver Rating of 89.9, 11th-best
· 773 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 165.549 mph, ninth-fastest
· 1,738 Laps in the Top 15 (60.2%), 12th-most
· 366 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford)
· Five top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 10.8
· Average Running Position of 12.3, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 96.6, sixth-best
· 125 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 820 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 165.678 mph, fifth-fastest
· 2,166 Laps in the Top 15 (68.7%), sixth-most
· 457 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Coatings Chevrolet)
· Two wins, nine top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 10.6
· Average Running Position of 9.8, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 99.6, fourth-best
· 109 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 735 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 165.943 mph, third-fastest
· 2,669 Laps in the Top 15 (84.7%), second-most
· 474 Quality Passes, second-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota)
· One win, three top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 14.8
· Average Running Position of 14.1, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.2, 12th-best
· 69 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· 1,942 Laps in the Top 15 (67.3%), ninth-most
· 378 Quality Passes, 11th-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet)
· One win, two top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.1
· Average Running Position of 12.2, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.9, seventh-best
· 140 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Series-high 900 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 165.653 mph, sixth-fastest
· 2,208 Laps in the Top 15 (70.1%), fifth-most
· 424 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Two wins, six top fives, 13 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 7.5
· Series-best Average Running Position of 7.4
· Series-best Driver Rating of 118.9
· Series-high 470 Fastest Laps Run
· 853 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 166.603 mph
· Series-high 2,812 Laps in the Top 15 (89.2%)
· Series-high 566 Quality Passes

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance/Thankamillionteachers.com Chevrolet)
· Three top fives, six top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 14.0
· Average Running Position of 14.0, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 91.1, ninth-best
· 133 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 856 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 165.547 mph, 10th-fastest
· 1,990 Laps in the Top 15 (63.1%), seventh-most
· 397 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Two wins, six top fives, nine top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 14.6
· Average Running Position of 9.6, third-best
· Driver Rating of 109.6, second-best
· 232 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 165.946 mph, second-fastest
· 2,564 Laps in the Top 15 (81.3%), fourth-most
· 400 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Two wins, six top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 12.3
· Average Running Position of 11.3, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.5, fifth-best
· 137 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 165.625 mph, eighth-fastest
· 1,984 Laps in the Top 15 (68.8%), eighth-most
· 401 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· Three top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 19.2
· Average Running Position of 13.8, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.5, eighth-best
· 131 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 165.627 mph, seventh-fastest
· 1,791 Laps in the Top 15 (62.1%), 11th-most

Kansas Speedway Track Data
Season Race #: 11 of 36 (05-10-14)
Track Size: 1.5-miles
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 17 to 20 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 17 to 20 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 10 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 2,685 feet
Backstretch Length: 2,207 feet
Race Length: 267 laps / 400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Kansas
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 118.9
Matt Kenseth……………………….. 109.6
Greg Biffle………………………….. 106.9
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 99.6
Tony Stewart…………………………. 97.5
Carl Edwards………………………… 96.6
Kevin Harvick………………………… 95.9
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 91.5
Kasey Kahne………………………… 91.1
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 90.1
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (12 total) among active drivers at Kansas Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 191.864 mph, 28.145 secs., 04-21-13
2013 race winner: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 133.611 mph, (02:59:51), 04-21-13
Track qualifying record: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 191.864 mph, 28.145 secs., 04-19-13
Track race record: Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 133.611 mph, (02:59:51), 04-22-12

Kansas Speedway History
· Groundbreaking was held on May 25, 1999.
· The official opening of Kansas Speedway was in 2001, with the first events being an ARCA race and a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race on the same day – June 2.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was on Sept. 30, 2001 – won by Jeff Gordon.
· During the 2012 season, between the April and October events the 1.5-mile track underwent a repave adding variable banking in the corners.

Kansas Speedway Notes
· There have been 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway, one NSCS event from 2001 – 2010 and two races per year since 2011.
· 111 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas; 83 in more than one.
· Seven drivers have started all 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway – Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman.
· Jason Leffler won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Kansas Speedway in 2001 with a speed of 176.499 mph.
· 11 drivers have Coors Light poles at Kansas, led by Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne with three each.
· Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to win consecutive Coors Light poles at Kansas Speedway (2007 and 2008).
· Youngest Kansas pole winner: Jason Leffler (09/30/2001 – 26 years, 0 months, 14 days).
· Oldest Kansas pole winner: Mark Martin (10/04/2009 – 50 years, 8 months, 25 days).
· 11 different drivers have won at Kansas Speedway, led by Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson with two each.
· Roush Fenway Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are tied for the most wins at Kansas in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with four each.
· Chevrolet leads the series in wins at Kansas with eight victories; followed by Ford with four wins.
· Four of the 16 (25%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway have been won from the Coors Light pole; Joe Nemechek (2004), Jimmie Johnson (2008), Matt Kenseth (spring 2013), Kevin Harvick (fall 2013).
· Five of the 16 (31.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway have been won from the front row: four from the pole and one from second-place.
· 10 of the 16 (62.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kansas Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Two of the 16 (12.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Kansas Speedway was 25th, by Brad Keselowski in the spring of 2011.
· Youngest Kansas winner: Ryan Newman (10/05/2003 – 25 years, 9 months, 27 days).
· Oldest Kansas winner: Mark Martin (10/09/2005 – 46 years, 9 months, 0 days).
· Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman are tied for theseries most runner-up finishes at Kansas Speedway with two each.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-five finishes at Kansas Speedway with nine; followed by Greg Biffle with seven.
· Jimmie Johnson leads the series in top-10 finishes at Kansas Speedway with 13; followed by Jeff Gordon (11), Edwards, Biffle, Kenseth and Stewart each have nine.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Kansas Speedway with a 10.800.
· Jimmie Johnson (7.533) leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Kansas Speedway – he is the only driver with an average finish in the top-10 at Kansas.
· There has been one NSCS race resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Kansas Speedway: fall of 2011 (267/272).
· Only one of the 16 races at Kansas Speedway has been shortened due to weather conditions: fall of 2007.
· Qualifying has never been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kansas Speedway.
· Denny Hamlin has participated in the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway without posting a DNF (11).
· Jason Leffler (09/30/2001) is the only driver to post his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Kansas Speedway.
· 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Austin Dillon (10/09/2011) and Denny Hamlin (10/09/2005) made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career starts at Kansas Speedway.
· Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth are the only two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers that have posted consecutive wins at Kansas Speedway: Gordon (2001 and 2002 – the first two NSCS events at Kansas) and Kenseth (fall of 2012, spring of 2013).
· Nine of the 10 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Kansas Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Jeff Gordon won at Kansas in his first appearance.
· Kevin Harvick competed at Kansas Speedway 15 times before winning last fall; the longest span of any the 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Kansas.
· Kevin Harvick (15) and Matt Kenseth (13)have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Kansas Speedway.
· Kurt Busch leads the series with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Kansas Speedway without visiting Victory Lane at 16.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kansas Speedway was the (10/10/2004) race won by Joe Nemechek with a MOV of 0.081 second.
· Jimmie Johnson leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Kansas Speedway with 562 laps led in 15 starts.
· Danica Patrick is the only female driver that has competed at Kansas Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series…Fall 2012: Started 40th, finished 32nd; Spring 2013: Started and finished 25th; Fall 2013: Started 29th, finished 43rd.
· All 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Kansas have taken place at Kansas Speedway.
· 17 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Kansas.
· Two drivers from Kansas have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series: Clint Bowyer (8 Cup, 8 NNS, 3 Truck) and Jim Roper (1 Cup).

Ecclestone shocked by Rosberg exit, thinks Alonso could move to Mercedes

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 16:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone talk in the Paddock during previews ahead of the European Formula One Grand Prix at Baku City Circuit on June 16, 2016 in Baku, Azerbaijan.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images,)
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Bernie Ecclestone was shocked to learn of Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire with immediate effect, announced on Friday.

Rosberg clinched his first drivers’ title in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, ending Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton’s reign as World Champion.

Ahead of the FIA prize giving in Vienna on Friday, Rosberg announced that he would not be defending his title in 2017, retiring from racing with immediate effect.

The racing world has been shellshocked by the news, with F1 CEO Ecclestone revealing that he had no idea that the sport would be without its champion for next season.

“It was just as big a shock to me as you,” Ecclestone told Reuters.

“I had dinner with Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team boss] last night and he obviously couldn’t say anything to me.

“[Rosberg] needs more time to spend his money, that’s all.”

Following Rosberg’s announcement, speculation has been rife regarding a possible replacement at Mercedes for 2017, with names such as Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Pascal Wehrlein being linked with the seat.

Ecclestone was open to the idea of Alonso leaving McLaren with one year to spare on his contract, suggesting that the recent management changes could allow the Spaniard to walk away.

“It’s possible I suppose, let’s see,” Ecclestone said.

“They’ve got new management now at McLaren. Maybe he’s fed up being there and they’re fed up having him.”

When asked if Vettel might be an option for Mercedes, Ecclestone said: “I think not. I don’t think Seb would want to be with Lewis.”

2017 will be the first year since 1994 that the defending World Champion has not raced in F1, with Alain Prost retiring at the end of his championship year in 1993.

Strategist shuffle set to take place in Andretti’s 2017 lineup

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 29:  Alexander Rossi of the United States, driver of the #98 Andretti Herta Autosport Honda Dallara, poses with team owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta during a photoshoot after winning the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 30, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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With the four-car lineup confirmed for Andretti Autosport’s Verizon IndyCar Series program following Takuma Sato’s official announcement, attention turns to the personnel fielding those cars.

With the signings of Eric Bretzman and Jeremy Milless to bolster the overall engineering side of the team, and with Milless replacing the departed Tom German as Alexander Rossi’s race engineer, there’s also a strategist shuffle that appears set to take part.

Although team principal Michael Andretti stopped short of formally confirming he’ll step off the box for son Marco in his No. 27 hhgregg Honda next year, he said barring any unexpected changes that’s what’s going to happen.

Since Andretti Autosport has multiple race programs in other series – the team has won the last two Red Bull Global Rallycross titles with Volkswagen, then has a two-car FIA Formula E and at least three, possibly four-car Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires effort – Andretti said he needs to be available to miss IndyCar weekends occasionally if there’s conflicts.

“It hasn’t been 100 percent confirmed, but it looks like it’s going that way,” Andretti told NBC Sports.

“It’s been a real challenge being a strategist and team owner; not only being a team owner in other series, but it never gave me the flexibility to miss an IndyCar race. There were a couple times where I couldn’t get to other events. It’s important for the overall team.”

As a case in point even though this isn’t directly IndyCar-related, the FIA Formula E new season opener was in Hong Kong the weekend of October 8-9, while the Red Bull GRC season finale was in Los Angeles the same weekend.

Andretti opted to be in LA there to watch Scott Speed edge Tanner Foust for his second straight Red Bull GRC program, while JF Thormann was Andretti’s lead team representative in Hong Kong at FE. Andretti expects to attend the next FE round in Buenos Aires, which isn’t until February 18, 2017.

With FE’s season shifting into the spring and summer of 2017, there are several IndyCar/FE conflicts. Red Bull GRC is yet to release its 2017 calendar.

Anyway, with Andretti set to step off the strategist box, he all but indicated Bryan Herta will move over to Marco Andretti’s car, and that Rob Edwards (director of race operations and engineering) would move to Rossi’s No. 98 car. Edwards was on the No. 26 car for Carlos Munoz this year, and his departure there, if it’s confirmed, would leave a vacancy on the No. 26 box for Takuma Sato.

“I love having Bryan on board,” Michael Andretti said. “Having him there, if it works out that way, is that he and Marco are very close. It’d be really positive. I know Bryan would be up for the challenge in trying to improve that side.

“If that happens… then where we’re leaning is that it could be Rob on Rossi. That’d be good. Rossi would seem to be happy.”

Andretti said one of the challenges in being a strategist is that it’s one of the most important positions on a race weekend, and being split between strategist and team owner roles causes something of a loss of focus.

The rise of Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing the last two years can be attributed to multiple things, including the fact Rahal’s dad Bobby Rahal stepped off the box in 2015 and let Ricardo Nault take over in that role.

“What would I miss about it? Not a lot, quite honestly!” Andretti admitted.

“It wasn’t my favorite thing to do. But I think, because of my experience, you can feel and see a race. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of guys out there that do that. We’re grooming guys to be in that place.”

Andretti did hail the immediate input Milless and Bretzman are having on the overall program. The team’s best road course performance of the year came at the Sonoma season finale in September, and it appears strides are following from there.

“It’s been great. I’m so excited and bullish on next year,” Andretti said. “In our first test with them, we’ve seen big results. There’s a lot more to come. I truly feel we’ll be a lot more competitive.

“We think we’re onto some things. We were onto some things going into Sonoma… and that wasn’t by mistake. We had found some things. We had the sense of where we needed to go. Getting these two in there, backed up where we were going, so that was a positive. I feel good about it.”

Takuma Sato formally confirmed with Andretti Autosport

HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 27: Takuma Sato of Japan, driver of the #14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara Honda sits in his car during practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix Of Houston at NRG Park on June 27, 2014 in Houston, Texas (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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Takuma Sato will join Andretti Autosport for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, and complete the team’s four-car full-season lineup.

The 39-year-old Japanese driver will begin his eighth season in IndyCar next year, in arguably his deepest opportunity yet driving the team’s No. 26 Honda.

“I am extremely excited that we were able to work out a deal with Michael and Andretti Autosport,” Sato said in a release. “With Honda an integral part of Andretti Autosport, it seemed like a great fit. The team has proven year after year that they are ultracompetitive on all types of circuits.

“Particularly the speed that team has shown in recent years at the Indy 500 were just incredible. I am also very impressed on how aggressively they have addressed their needs for 2017, and am really looking forward to working with my new environment and can’t wait to get started.”

Sato spent his first two seasons with the KVSH Racing team (then called KV Racing Technology), a year at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and the last four at A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

Sato delivered Foyt its first win in more than a decade when he won at Long Beach, 2013, and also has scored five poles in his career. While he’s yet to finish better than 13th in points, Sato has long been one of the more enjoyable drivers to watch in the series for his aggressive, “no attack, no chance” style.

Sato joins the returning trio of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi within the team.

Team principal Michael Andretti said Sato’s results over his IndyCar career to date really haven’t done his talent, ability or development work justice.

“We’re excited to have Takuma; we think he’ll surprise and turn some heads,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “I think he’ll be in a situation that should help him a lot.

“With three good teammates, I think he is personally excited. This will be his best chance to get results since being in IndyCar.

“To me I really believe he’s one of the fastest guys in the paddock. When it comes to qualifying… it’ll help us in that area. It’ll be good in that feedback. I’m real happy with having him on board. He’s such a great kid, he won’t upset the chemistry. It’s a positive all the way around.”

Andretti also noted how key it was to have all four full-time entries confirmed this early in the offseason. The Rossi car with Andretti-Herta Autosport was only finalized in late February last year.

“I don’t think it’s ever been done since I’ve owned the team,” Andretti admitted. “Where we have all four cars this early, it helps us in terms of putting it together. It’s not a last-minute thing. That makes it a better effort.”

Garrett Mothershead, who worked with the departed Carlos Munoz at Andretti last year, will be Sato’s race engineer. Munoz now replaces Sato at Foyt next season.

Andretti said he expects to see commercial partnerships for Rossi and Sato’s cars announced in mid-January.

Nico Rosberg’s F1 retirement came as no surprise to Lewis Hamilton

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Lewis Hamilton says he was not surprised by Mercedes teammate and Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg’s retirement announcement on Friday.

Hamilton lost out to Rosberg in the battle for the 2016 drivers’ championship, finishing five points shy of a fourth title in Abu Dhabi last weekend.

Rosberg announced on Friday ahead of the FIA prize giving in Vienna that he would be retiring from F1 with immediate effect, sending shockwaves through the sport.

However, Hamilton said that the news came as little surprise to him, given he has worked with Rosberg throughout his career and knows the German well.

“The sport will miss him but I wish him all the best,” Hamilton said at the press conference in Vienna, as quoted by F1i.

“I’m sure it was a surprise to many people. I’m probably one of the many people that it was not a surprise for but that’s because I’ve known him for a long, long time. But this is motor racing.

“This is the first time he’s won in 18 years, hence why it was not a surprise that he decided to stop. But also he’s got a family to focus on and probably wants to have more children. Formula 1 takes so much of your time.”

Rosberg’s decision brings an end to his fierce rivalry with Hamilton during their four years together as Mercedes teammates.

The two enjoyed a number of clashes both on- and off-track, but Hamilton said that he would miss not having Rosberg to go up against.

“We started karting when we were 13 and we would always talk about being champions,” Hamilton said.

“When I joined this team Nico was there which was something we spoke about when we were kids.

“It’s going to be very, very strange and for sure it will be sad to not have him in the team next year.”