Fedex 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s FedEx 400 at Dover

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For a while, Dover International Speedway had another nickname outside of its longtime handle of the “Monster Mile.” The mile-long track’s promoters dubbed it “White Lightning” as a nod to its concrete racing surface.

Both of them apply very well to Dover. At only a mile long and with banking all the way around (24 degrees in the turns, nine degrees on the straights), drivers indeed go Lightning-quick on the concrete.

But with high speeds come big accidents and thanks to that banking, it’s not uncommon to see a car hit the outside wall and then slide into the inside wall for another impact.

The result is a car that looks like it’s been literally chewed up and spit out by a Monster.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s what you need to know going into Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks – Round 13 of the 2014 Cup championship.

DOVER-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford)
· Two wins, six top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.3
· Average Running Position of 10.7, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 101.0, fifth-best
· 434 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· 772 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 143.808 mph, fourth-fastest
· 5,443 Laps in the Top 15 (75.6%), fourth-most
· 497 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)
· One top five, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 12.6
· Average Running Position of 12.5, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.6, eighth-best
· 178 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 143.580 mph, seventh-fastest
· 4,654 Laps in the Top 15 (72.7%), eighth-most
· 379 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· One win, six top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 18.2
· Average Running Position of 13.2, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.5, seventh-best
· 275 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 762 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 143.525 mph, eighth-fastest
· 4,284 Laps in the Top 15 (59.5%), 10th-most
· 399 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Peanut Butter Toyota)
· Two wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.8
· Average Running Position of 10.8, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 106.0, third-best
· 396 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 143.914 mph, third-fastest
· 5,574 Laps in the Top 15 (77.4%), third-most
· 471 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Subway Ford)
· One win, eight top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 10.0
· Average Running Position of 10.4, third-best
· Driver Rating of 101.3, fourth-best
· 487 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 734 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 143.732 mph, sixth-fastest
· 5,239 Laps in the Top 15 (72.7%), sixth-most
· Series-high 498 Quality Passes

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Four wins, 17 top fives, 24 top 10s; four poles
· Average finish of 11.6
· Average Running Position of 12.5, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 93.7, sixth-best
· 261 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 759 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 143.735 mph, fifth-fastest
· 5,415 Laps in the Top 15 (75.2%), fifth-most
· Series-high 498 Quality Passes

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet)
· Eight wins, 12 top fives, 17 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 8.7
· Series-best Average Running Position of 6.8
· Series-best Driver Rating of 121.1
· Series-high 990 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 144.276 mph
· Series-high 6,261 Laps in the Top 15 (86.9%)
· 376 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Two wins, 13 top fives, 19 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.4
· Average Running Position of 9.1, second-best
· Driver Rating of 107.9, second-best
· 452 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 695 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 144.018 mph, second-fastest
· 5,827 Laps in the Top 15 (80.9%), second-most
· 480 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· One win, two top fives, two top 10s
· Average finish of 16.0
· Average Running Position of 14.7, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.9, 12th-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 143.297 mph, 11th-fastest

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· Three wins, six top fives, 12 top 10s; four poles
· Average finish of 12.9
· Average Running Position of 12.3, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 89.4, 10th-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 143.328 mph, 10th-fastest
· 4,891 Laps in the Top 15 (67.9%), seventh-most
· 367 Quality Passes, 11th-most

source:

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· One win, one top five, six top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 17.0
· Average Running Position of 14.9, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.4, ninth-best
· 243 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 143.396 mph, ninth-fastest
· 3,995 Laps in the Top 15 (62.4%), 12th-most
· 363 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Dover International Speedway Data
Season Race #: 13 of 36 (06-01-14)
Track Size: 1-mile
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 24 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 24 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 9 degree
Banking/Backstretch: 9 degree
Frontstretch Length: 1,076 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,076 feet
Race Length: 400 laps / 400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Dover
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 121.1
Matt Kenseth……………………….. 107.9
Kyle Busch…………………………. 106.0
Carl Edwards………………………. 101.3
Greg Biffle………………………….. 101.0
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 93.7
Kurt Busch……………………………. 92.5
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 91.6
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 89.4
Ryan Newman……………………….. 89.4
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Dover International Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 157.978 mph, 22.788 secs., 05-31-13
2013 race winner: Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 123.172 mph, (03:14:51), 06-02-13
Qualifying record: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 161.849 mph, 22.243 secs., 09-27-13
Race record: Mark Martin, Ford, 132.719 mph, (03:00:50), 09-21-97

Dover International Speedway History
· The official opening of Dover International Speedway, then called Dover Downs International Speedway, was in 1969.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on July 6, 1969 – won by Richard Petty.
· The first two races at Dover were 300 miles. The race length was changed to 500 miles in 1971.
· The track surface was changed to concrete in 1995.
· The race length was changed to 400 miles beginning with the second race in 1997.
· The track name was changed to Dover International Speedway in 2002.

Dover International Speedway Notebook
· There have been 88 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Dover International Speedway, one race in 1969 and 1970, two races per year since 1971.
· 375 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway; 271 in more than one.
· Ricky Rudd leads the series in starts at Dover with 56. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 42 starts; followed by Joe Nemechek with 39.
· David Pearson won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Dover in 1969 with a speed of 130.430 mph.
· 37 drivers have Coors Light poles at Dover, led by David Pearson with six. Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman lead all active drivers in poles with four each.
· Nine drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Dover. David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Dover with three; from 1973 to the spring race of 1974.
· Two active drivers have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Dover: Ryan Newman (fall 2005 and spring 2006), and Denny Hamlin (fall 2012 and spring 2013).
· Youngest Dover pole winner: Jeff Gordon (06/04/1995 – 23 years, 10 months, 0 days).
· Oldest Dover pole winner: Mark Martin (06/01/2012 – 53 years, 4 months, 23 days).
· 34 different drivers have won at Dover International Speedway, led by Jimmie Johnson with eight wins (2002 sweep, fall 2005, 2009 sweep, 2010 fall, spring 2012 and fall 2013).
· 12 drivers have posted consecutive wins at Dover International Speedway, including three consecutive by David Pearson (fall 1972 and 1973 sweep), Rusty Wallace (fall 1993 and 1994 sweep) and Jeff Gordon (fall 1995 and 1996 sweep).
· Youngest Dover winner: Kyle Busch (06/01/2008 – 23 years, 0 months, 30 days).
· Oldest Dover winner: Harry Gant (05/31/1992 – 52 years, 4 months, 21 days).
· Hendrick Motorsportshas the most wins at Dover in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 15: Jimmie Johnson (eight), Jeff Gordon (four), Geoff Bodine (one), Ken Schrader (one) and Ricky Rudd (one).
· Nine different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Dover; led by Chevrolet with 34 victories; followed by Ford with 25.
· 13 of the 88 (14.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Dover have been won from the Coors Light pole; the two most recent were Jimmie Johnson in 2009 and 2010.
· The second-place starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (15) than any other starting position at Dover International Speedway.
· 28 of the 88 (31.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Dover have been won from the front row: 13 from the pole and 15 from second-place.
· 69 of the 88 (78.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Dover have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Five of the 88 (5.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Dover have been won from a starting position outside the top 20 – most recently: Tony Stewart, spring2013(22nd-place starting position)
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Dover was 37th, by Kyle Petty in the spring of 1995.
· Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Dover with eight; followed by Dale Earnhardt with five. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with four.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-five finishes at Dover with 24; followed by Dale Earnhardt with 19. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 17.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Dover with 33; followed by Richard Petty and Ricky Rudd with 26 each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 24.
· Ryan Newman leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Dover with a 9.042.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Dover with an 8.667; Carl Edwards (10.000) is the only other active driver with an average finish in the top 10.
· 11 of the 12 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Dover International Speedway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Jimmie Johnson won at Dover in his first two appearances.
· Jeff Burton competed at Dover International Speedway 25 times before winning in the fall of 2006; the longest span of any the 16 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Among the 16 active NSCS Dover winners Kurt Busch (22) and Matt Kenseth (14) made 10 or more attempts before their first win.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Dover without visiting Victory Lane at 39; followed by Kevin Harvick with 26.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Dover International Speedway was the September 25, 2005 race won by Jimmie Johnson over Kyle Busch with a MOV of 0.08 second.
· There has been one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Dover International Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): fall of 2005 (400/404).
· Not one of the 87 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Dover International Speedway has been shortened due to weather conditions.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Dover International Speedway five times: fall of 1984, spring of 2001, fall of 2003, spring of 2005 and spring of 2011.
· Three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series active drivers have made their first career start at Dover International Speedway: Matt Kenseth (9/20/98), Kurt Busch (9/24/00) and David Ragan (9/24/06).
· Two active drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Dover International Speedway: Matt Kenseth (06/02/02) and Michael Waltrip (06/03/1991).
· One active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has posted his first career win at Dover International Speedway: Martin Truex Jr. (06/04/07).
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Dover with 2,704 laps led in 24 starts.
· If Jimmie Johnson leads 296 laps or more this weekend he will surpass the 3,000 laps led mark at Dover International Speedway, becoming the seventh driver in series history to lead 3,000 or more laps at a single track. Jeff Gordon is the only other active driver to accomplish the feat (Martinsville – 3,593 laps led).
· Two female drivers have competed at Dover International Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie and Danica Patrick…Guthrie: 1976 – Started 11th, finished 33rd, 1977 – Started 15th, finished 11th; Patrick:
Fall 2012 – Started 38th, finished 28th, Summer 2013 – Started 39th, finished 24th, Fall 2013 – Started 31st, finished 29th.

NASCAR in Delaware
· There have been 88 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Delaware, all at Dover International Speedway.
· Eight drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Delaware. None of them have earned a NASCAR national series victory.

Rosberg rallies to German GP pole at Hockenheim

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 30: Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 30, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg bounced back from an electronic issue on his car in qualifying to secure pole position for his home Formula 1 race at Hockenheim in Germany.

Rosberg edged out Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton by one-tenth of a second in Q3 to take pole on home soil for the second time, his first coming two years ago at Hockenheim.

Rosberg and Hamilton were neck-and-neck through their first flying laps in Q3, only for Rosberg to slow in the final sector before pulling into the pits due to an electronic error. Hamilton completed his lap, going six-tenths of a second faster than everyone else to take provisional pole.

With the error resolved, Rosberg emerged from the pits early for his final Q3 run, having the track to himself. The German driver went one-tenth of a second faster than Hamilton to wrestle away provisional pole, piling the pressure on the Briton ahead of his final run.

Hamilton went faster than Rosberg through the first sector, but the rest of the lap fell away from him, meaning he could gain just 0.02 seconds to stay in second place, handing his rival pole.

Daniel Ricciardo qualified third ahead of teammate Max Verstappen, as the two Red Bulls once again defeated Ferrari with relative ease. Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth for the Scuderia, two-tenths clear of Sebastian Vettel in P6.

Nico Hulkenberg led Force India’s charge in P7 ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, with their respective teammates Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa following in P9 and P10.

Haas came close to picking up its first Q3 appearance in F1 as Esteban Gutierrez qualified 11th, having been pushed out of the top 10 after late improvements from Perez and Massa. Teammate Romain Grosjean failed to match Gutierrez for pace, finishing 15th, but will drop to P20 on the grid due to a gearbox penalty.

McLaren was unable to repeat its double-Q3 run from Hungary as Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso qualified 12th and 14th respectively, split by Carlos Sainz Jr. in the lead Toro Rosso in P13. However, Sainz will have to speak to the stewards after appearing to impede Massa’s hot lap during Q2.

Renault enjoyed mixed fortunes as Jolyon Palmer made his way through to Q2, qualifying 16th, but teammate Kevin Magnussen was narrowly edged out in Q1 after a late improvement from Sainz. The Dane eventually finished the session in 17th.

Pascal Wehrlein finished just one-tenth of a second shy of a Q2 berth in P18, with Manor teammate Rio Haryanto two places further back. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat split the pair, enduring another tough session by qualifying 19th. Sauber drivers Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson locked out the back row of the grid, half a second adrift from Q2.

Stefan Johansson’s latest blog: On F1’s rule changes, Rosenqvist Indy debut

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 24: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H Ferrari 059/5 turbo (Shell GP) leads Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 24, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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Formula 1’s seemingly ever evolving rules and regulations changes – notably the radio communications clampdown – and a highly impressive IndyCar test debut for Felix Rosenqvist are among the highlights in Stefan Johansson’s latest blog, which we’ve been chronicling throughout the year on NBCSports.com.

In his latest conversation with Jan Tegler, Johansson looks back at the Hungarian Grand Prix and Rosenqvist’s test debut in Scott Dixon’s No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, among other items.

Jenson Button spoke out heavily against the radio restrictions when he had his braking issues, and was later assessed a drive-through penalty.

Here’s what Johanasson had to say about the rules, many of which exist, yet few of which seem to have real clarity:

“Unfortunately, F1 is mirroring what’s happening in the real world where more and more rules and laws are added but none are ever cancelled it seems. In the end it becomes so convoluted that the outcome of a dispute in civilian life often depend on who has the best lawyers, really. Sadly, it now seems to be heading in the same direction in racing too,” he writes.

“There are now so many grey areas in F1 that allow conflicts to be argued in so many ways that it’s difficult to follow. The rules should never be enforced by a subjective judgment. In my opinion, one of the major problems with the rule making in Formula One is that they don’t nip some of things in the bud before they become glaring issues. This is why we end up with this endless stream of knee jerk rules to fix a problem that should never have existed in the first place.

“They’ve created their own monster with these ultra-complicated cars. When you have an issue like Jenson had, being advised over the radio how to address it, is clearly not going to lead to a performance improvement. And if there’s a safety issue, I can’t see why you shouldn’t be allowed to relay that to a driver.”

On the Kimi Raikkonen/Max Verstappen battle for position:

“It’s a perfect example. What is blocking? Is it one move? Is it two? Is it a move and a wiggle?

“I can totally sympathize with Raikkonen because he went one way then Verstappen moved, so he went the other way and committed to it but Verstappen moved again. It wasn’t really a big move but it was enough that Kimi couldn’t avoid him. At that point, you’re already 100% committed, you’re braking on the limit and you don’t have even five inches of margin to make another change.

“If the driver in front changes his mind, there’s literally nowhere to go. It’s lucky that Raikkonen didn’t hit Verstappen harder.”

And on Rosenqvist, the talented young Swede’s, maiden IndyCar test at Mid-Ohio and Indy Lights domination in Toronto:

“Felix was amazing, he just cleaned up in both races. So did Scott but unfortunately he got hosed on strategy again. Until the last pit stop he had everyone under control and looked like he was cruising to the easy win on top of the pole he got in qualifying. Unfortunately things have worked against Scott for the last three races.

“Going for the championship title is going to be very tough now. Scott’s had two engine failures that left him with no points – that’s at minimum 80 points that he missed out on, plus the win in Toronto. He probably could have won at Detroit and would have been 2nd at worst at Road America. That’s a lot of points to give away.”

There are several more great nuggets within Johansson’s latest blog, which you can view in its entirety here.

Previous linkouts to Johansson’s blog on MotorSportsTalk are linked below:

Additionally, a link to Johansson’s social media channels and #F1TOP3 competition are linked here.

Mercedes fined for unsafe release, Hamilton avoids grid drop

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 29: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP sits in his car in the garage during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 29, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Mercedes has been fined €10,000 for unsafely releasing Lewis Hamilton into the pit lane during the final Formula 1 free practice session for the German Grand Prix.

Hamilton was released into the fast lane at the start of FP3, forcing Haas driver Romain Grosjean to hit the brakes and come to a stop.

The stewards confirmed they would be investigating the incident after the session, meeting with Hamilton and a team representative at 12:30pm local time.

Hamilton entered the weekend with two reprimands to his name already in 2016, with a third resulting in a 10-place grid penalty.

The precedent for unsafe releases was unclear, with penalties ranging from a reprimand to a grid drop and a fine.

The stewards at Hockenheim opted to go with the latter, fining Mercedes €10,000 for the incident, meaning Hamilton avoided any individual penalty.

Qualifying for the German Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.

RC Enerson stars in first official day in Coyne’s No. 19 IndyCar

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – On Friday, 19-year-old rookie RC Enerson delivered arguably one of the most impressive debut days in an IndyCar in recent memory – if not ever.

With only one day of testing, Enerson took what he learned from his first day last week and translated it into some seriously impressive practice pace for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Honda Indy 200.

Enerson went from 1.1042 seconds off the pace in the first 75-minute practice session in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 21st, all the way to within 0.5322 off in the second – all the way up to seventh in that session and second Honda in the field, only behind defending Honda Indy 200 race winner Graham Rahal.

That time in free practice two left Enerson a combined 10th on the day, again second among the Hondas only to Rahal.

It didn’t really surprise those who’ve followed his career in the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires closely. However, it did wow the paddock at large.

It was fitting, perhaps, Enerson was behind Rahal and then was sat next to Scott Dixon in the day end press conference because Rahal also starred as a teenager in his first season in open-wheel – 2007 in Champ Car – while Dixon became IndyCar’s then-youngest winner at age 20 in his first season in CART in 2001… before Rahal beat that in 2008 at age 19.

“I grew up watching a lot of these guys race,” Enerson explained during the post-practice press conference. “My first Indy 500 was when I was three years old, and seeing these guys go around, and now I’m 19 years old and there’s a lot of the same guys still there.

“It’s kind of like I get to race with my idols, really,” he added, to a room full of laughter.

Dixon followed, “We must have had a good generation, I think.”

But putting aside the obvious “yeah, he’s young” line – trust me as the youngest full-time member in the IndyCar press corps I get that joke at least once per weekend – what Enerson did on Friday was take in a wealth of information the team was throwing at him and translate it into pace on paper.

“It was incredible. It’s completely different than anything I’ve driven, and coming from — every time I come here, I always tend to do alright, and it’s one of my favorite tracks,” he said.

“It’s got this thing about it that it fits the driving style really well, and I’m just excited to be here, and this is probably — it’s probably the best track to make my debut at.”

Enerson, as he told me prior to his race debut last week, noted the difference in the step up from the Cooper tires he used throughout his Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires career versus the Firestones now.

Enerson was really good at learning tire conservation there since there are no pit stops. But he noted the change in grip level on the Firestones, especially since the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is one of the highest grip tracks on the calendar.

“These ones tend to — after the first couple laps where you get your fast time, they tend to not fall off very much and you can keep your speeds up, and it’s amazing. It’s a completely different experience, and it’s challenging,” he explained.

On the tire note, where Enerson will have to learn, and learn quickly, is once he gets his first crack at the Firestone red alternates for qualifying later on Saturday, provided the session is dry.

“With the reds, we don’t get to see them. I’ve never driven on them, so the first time I’m going to get to see them is qualifying,” he said.

“So that’s what I think is the biggest thing for the rookies, I guess, is they don’t get to see those until it’s when it counts, so it’s hard to extract all that not knowing going into it, and I think that’s what comes with the experienced drivers where they’re able to know how much grip they’re actually going to gain to be able to push it to the max right off the bat.”

Still though, his debut impressed many in the IndyCar paddock.

Teammate Conor Daly in the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda told IndyCar Radio of Enerson, “We have RC here this weekend, and he’s new – but he’s doing a great job.”

Daly’s engineer Michael Cannon, himself a key talent evaluator in his long career in the sport, told me Enerson has “taken like a duck to water” to an IndyCar and is handling everything the team is throwing at him with aplomb.

And Dixon, arguably one of the best drivers of his generation? He knows what it’s like to “wow” people when you’re the new kid on the block, as he did some 15 years ago.

“I think it’s great to see young talent coming through. It’s part of the sport. It’s part of what we need to see,” he said.

“We’ve had a good influx of recent, and it’s pretty cool in the fact that we have a series that, okay, so there’s some bigger teams and some more teams that have done better jobs, but in layman’s terms, you pretty much have the similar equipment. So it’s nice that you can come, and if you’re good you can get close.

“The only hard part with rookies now is the testing program. At least this year was a little more open. It was good that RC had the opportunity to test here last week, but still, you’re competing against guys that have been coming here for years and they’ve had a ton of test days.

“It’s so close right now that you’re looking for hundredths and tenths of a second to make the difference.”