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

1 Comment

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.

IndyCar’s blue and white livery epidemic hits Pocono with two new ones

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

Imagine, for a moment, a radio call of this Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) which omitted the names of the drivers and teams and instead asked those on the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network to instead only call the race – and perhaps the finish – by car colors.

“There’s the blue and white car, side-by-side with another blue and white car, but a third blue and white car has entered the frame… let’s send it to Jake Query…”

“The blue and white car battle royale rolls through the Tunnel Turn, then into Turn 3, where a blue and white car makes a dive bomb on another blue and white car… Mark Jaynes, bring it home!”

“Get your cameras ready for a blue and white spectacular, photo finish as count ’em, one, two, three, maybe four blue and white cars run side-by-side to the line at Pocono!”

Such a scenario sounds fanciful… and then you look at the spotter guide for this weekend’s race and realize it’s not far fetched. At all.

There are very few gripes I have with the current Verizon IndyCar Series, but one thing that has consistently irked me all year – among others in the paddock – is the preponderance and overkill of blue and white (and red, white and blue) liveries gracing the Chevrolets and Hondas that make up the 21 or 22-car field.

Granted, this is what happens when the partners involved with most teams have blue and white in their corporate colors. And this isn’t a bad thing because teams need all the partners they can get.

However, there’s something to be said for variety in color schemes up and down the grid and when you have a third to half the field, on average, looking identical or close – it makes it very hard to distinguish and stand out, as well as a nightmare for the spotters or the people tasked with calling the race. Mistakes are far from inevitable and it’s not because the person would get it wrong intentionally; it just happens.

Just for Pocono alone, there are five more new or revived blue and white liveries to add to the litany of blue and white liveries this year.

The pair of NTT Data Hondas from Chip Ganassi Racing take on a new predominately white and blue hue for both Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan to look close to identical, after Dixon’s had a blue and white color scheme while Kanaan’s has been predominately blue only this year.

Takuma Sato, Marco Andretti, and Gabby Chaves, meanwhile, see their cars look nearly identical. Expedite Home Loans, an online division of Ruoff Home Mortgage, will be on Sato’s No. 26 Honda which makes it a light blue and white scheme, super close to Andretti’s No. 27 light blue and white United Fiber & Data Honda, which is close to Chaves’ light blue (can we call it teal?) and white No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet, back for the first time since Texas.

Since words are meaningless by this point, we thought it a good idea to instead post a picture of every blue and white car that’s raced in 2017. As you can see, this epidemic has spread throughout the grid and is not limited to just one team.

So, without further adieu, here’s a roundup of all the predominately blue, blue and white, or red, white and blue cars that have seen a green flag this year, before the new ones get added this weekend (All photos: IndyCar).

TEAM PENSKE

Simon Pagenaud, No. 1 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, St. Petersburg
Josef Newgarden, No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, Mid-Ohio
Helio Castroneves, No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet, Long Beach, Barber, Texas

CHIP GANASSI RACING TEAMS

Max Chilton, No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, full season
Scott Dixon, No. 9 GE LED Honda, St. Petersburg
Scott Dixon, No. 9 NTT Data Honda (all blue, gold trim), Long Beach through Indianapolis 500 qualifying
Scott Dixon, No. 9 Camping World Honda, Indianapolis 500 and Detroit
Scott Dixon, No. 9 NTT Data Honda (gold trim), Texas
Scott Dixon, No. 9 NTT Data Honda (red trim), Road America through Mid-Ohio
Tony Kanaan, No. 10 NTT Data Honda, most of season
Tony Kanaan, No. 10 NTT Data Honda (blue and chrome), Mid-Ohio
Charlie Kimball, No. 83 Novo Nordisk/Diabetes Canada Honda, Toronto

ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT

Takuma Sato, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, most of season
Takuma Sato, No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda, Indianapolis 500, Detroit and Mid-Ohio
Marco Andretti, No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda, most of season
Marco Andretti, No. 27 Magneti Marelli Honda, Detroit

*We should also note Andretti-Herta Autosport driver Alexander Rossi has had a blue car all season, but with either yellow (NAPA Auto Parts/Curb) or red (ShopAndretti.com) secondary colors alongside the primary blue, the No. 98 Honda doesn’t fall into the all blue or blue and white trap.

A.J. FOYT ENTERPRISES

Conor Daly, No. 4 ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet, all season
Carlos Munoz, No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet, all season

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING

Graham Rahal, No. 15 SoldierStrong/TurnsforTroops.com Honda, INDYCAR GP and Detroit
Oriol Servia, No. 16 Fifth Third Bank Honda, Detroit

DALE COYNE RACING

Esteban Gutierrez, No. 18 UNIFIN Honda, Detroit through Mid-Ohio (except Texas)
Ed Jones, No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda, most of season (except Indianapolis 500, raced with yellow accents)

ED CARPENTER RACING

JR Hildebrand, No. 21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet, multiple races
JR Hildebrand, No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet, Road America

SCHMIDT PETERSON MOTORSPORTS

Jay Howard, No. 77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Honda, Indianapolis 500

HARDING RACING

Gabby Chaves, No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet, Indianapolis 500, Texas, Pocono

NASCAR America: Shayna Texter on American Flat Track’s growth

Leave a comment

Richie Morris Racing rider Shayna Texter has been in the spotlight this year as a regular winner on the American Flat Track circuit (coverage of which airs Thursday nights on NBCSN, in ‘Overdrive’ block).

The 26-year-old became the first female to win a main event in the series’ history, capturing the AFT Singles win in Knoxville Raceway in 2011. She’s led the points throughout the season in the AFT Singles division.

She provided an update on both her own growth and development and the rise of the series itself on Thursday night’s episode of NBCSN’s NASCAR America.

How much higher — and faster — can NHRA Funny Car driver Robert Hight go?

Photo courtesy John Force Racing
Leave a comment

At the rate he’s been going, Robert Hight is going to keep going higher and higher.

During the week, Hight is the President of John Force Racing (and son-in-law of the legendary drag racer). On weekends, Hight transforms into one of JFR’s three Funny Car drivers.

But he’s been standing out above the rest of the NHRA Funny Car crowd of late – boy, has he ever.

As the NHRA heads to Minnesota for this weekend’s Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, Hight has been hotter than the flames that shoot out of the exhaust pipes on his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro.

He captured two of the last three NHRA national events – also known as the Western Swing – at Denver and Seattle (and reached the quarterfinals at Sonoma).

Robert Hight

And during last week’s off-weekend from the NHRA 24-race schedule, Hight kept his hot hand … err, foot … going, winning the Night Under Fire match race at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

“When you’re on roll like we’ve been on and the car’s running so well, this is what you want,” Hight said in a media release. “Even though last week was a match race, we still got the win, and we ran great.

“You don’t want this to ever end. It’s going to at some point, but we want to roll into Brainerd and get right back in there.”

If Hight’s good fortune continues at Brainerd, the next race on the schedule is the biggest race of the year each season, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana on Labor Day weekend.

In addition to his two wins, Hight has made a dramatic jump upward in the Funny Car point standings, climbing from eighth to third place.

He’s 166 points behind Funny Car points leader and defending series champ Ron Capps, but is just eight points behind second-ranked Matt Hagan.

But wait, there’s more:

* In addition, Hight has qualified No. 1 in three of the last four national events, and has qualified third or better in the last nine consecutive national events.

* He also made major news three weeks ago when one of those No. 1 qualifiers was the fastest speed ever seen in Funny Car annals: 339.87 mph at Sonoma.

Now he’s looking for even more speed this weekend – and maybe even more records to fall.

“If conditions are good, Brainerd can be a fast race track,” said Hight, the 2015 Brainerd winner. “I’m looking forward to going there, having a successful weekend.

“We have a good shot at getting up to second points, and going into Indy No. 2 would be pretty cool. We’re looking for another win.”

Hight also is on the verge of becoming part of another NHRA milestone. If he gets past the first round in Sunday’s final eliminations, it will be his 400th career round victory.

Only five other Funny Car drivers have ever earned 400 or more round wins, led by Hight’s boss and father-in-law, John Force, with 1,278 career round wins.

“That’s big,” Hight said. “You’ve got to get round wins before you get race wins, and that’s how you get race wins. John has 1,278 round wins, so 400 doesn’t seem like very much.

“I don’t know how 400 stacks up to other guys who have raced the similar amount of time, but I’m happy that the round wins are coming more frequently than there were for us. That’s encouraging, and that’s exciting.”

The first two rounds of qualifying at Brainerd on Friday are at 4:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. ET.

The final two rounds are Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET.

Final eliminations begin at Noon ET, with live coverage on Fox Sports 1 from 2-5 p.m. ET.

Want to learn more about Hight? Check it out:

  • Hight won the 2009 NHRA Funny Car championship. He’s going for his second title this year, being one of six Funny Car drivers that have already qualified for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
  • Hight has competed in 12 races at Brainerd, and has qualified for 11 races and every race since 2010.
  • Hight has advanced to the finals once at Brainerd, in 2015. He won that race, defeating Tommy Johnson Jr.
  • Hight is 9-10 all-time in 19 elimination rounds at Brainerd.
  • Hight’s best qualifying effort at Brainerd has been No. 3, which he has achieved three times – 2007, 2008 and 2010. Brainerd is one of two current tracks in which Hight is still looking for a No. 1 qualifier (Bristol being the other).
  • Hight has won five of his 11 first-round elimination matchups at Brainerd.
  • Hight’s 39 victories are the fourth most in Funny Car history, behind John Force (148); Ron Capps (55); and Tony Pedregon (43). He is tied with Del Worsham for 21st on the all-time professional victories list; Worsham has 31 wins in Funny Car and eight in Top Fuel.
  • Hight is one elimination round victory away from 400. His 399 round wins are 24th all-time in NHRA history. Angelle Sampey currently has 400 round wins.
  • Hight has been the No. 1 qualifier four times this season, and three times in the last four races. His 53 No. 1s are third most in Funny Car history, and he is tied for 11th with Larry Dixon across all professional categories. Only Force (155) and Cruz Pedregon (61) have more in the category.
  • In 2017, Hight has two victories, a 26-14 record in elimination rounds, and four No. 1 qualifiers. He holds a season-best 38 elimination-round wins in a season, in 2014. He has surpassed 30 elimination-round wins in a season seven times in 12 previous seasons.
  • Hight has set the fastest event speed a career-best nine times this season, which exceeds his previous season-best of seven set in his rookie season, 2005. He now has 50 fastest event speeds in his career, the 50th coming last month at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, where he set the NHRA record at 339.87 mph.
  • Hight has four final rounds this season and 61 in his career.
  • Hight has competed in 158 consecutive races, tied for 17th all-time with Doug Kalitta, dating back to the second race at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., in 2010.
  • Hight’s most recent NHRA victory – 2017 Northwest Nationals in Kent, Wash.
  • Hight’s most recent No. 1 qualifying effort – 2017 Northwest Nationals in Kent, Wash.
  • Hight’s best time/speed at Brainerd – 3.885 seconds (2016 E1); 330.31 mph (2016 Q1)
  • Hight’s best time/speed of career – 3.807 seconds (2017 Sonoma Q2; third quickest elapsed time in history); 339.87 mph (2017 Sonoma Q2; fastest speed in history)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

 

Newgarden thankful to be leading, not chasing, in IndyCar title push

Leave a comment

As the Verizon IndyCar Series prepares for its final four-race stretch of the 2017 season over the next five weeks, new points leader Josef Newgarden is thankful he’s made up a big deficit in the last two races rather than chasing as he pursues his first series championship.

Newgarden moved into the points lead for the first time in his career after winning the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course three weeks ago, his third win this season and second in a row. Heading into Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN), he has his first chance to win three races in a row in his career, and also to get his first Pocono win after banking three top-five finishes there in four past starts.

Just three races ago at Iowa, before he won at Toronto and Mid-Ohio, Newgarden was 56 points behind then-leader Scott Dixon, in fifth in points. He’s now leading, seven clear of Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, eight clear of Dixon and 17 clear of defending series champion Simon Pagenaud.

Naturally, Newgarden’s happy to be leading, but wary of any slip-ups at Pocono while in the No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet that could see him lose this slim gap.

“I think with the way I view it, I always prefer to be in the lead,” he said. “I don’t know why you ever wouldn’t want to be the leader. If you can be in a position where you’re leading the championship, I always think it’s better than having a deficit because to me, I don’t really approach a race weekend different if I’m leading or if I’m trying to catch up.

“I think for us it’ll be hard to hold on to it because everyone is so close, so you have one little mistake or one little mess-up in the next race and it’s very easy to slip back. So we’ve just got to try and stay out front if we can, and like I was saying before, the more that we can build a points gap, that only helps to Sonoma, so if we can’t do that, I think we need to just stay at least in touch with the lead as much as possible and make sure that we have a shot at winning the championship on our own terms when we go to Sonoma.”

Moving into the lead at Mid-Ohio puts Newgarden in an interesting position in recent IndyCar history.

Last year, Pagenaud’s decisive win against Will Power was a net 20-point swing in the championship and moved him into a 58-point lead over him with four races to go. That same 58-point spread now covers the top six entering this weekend’s race.

In 2015, Juan Pablo Montoya led Mid-Ohio winner Graham Rahal by nine points after that race, with two races to go. Eventual champion Dixon was third in points, 34 back.

Power led Castroneves by four after Mid-Ohio in 2014 with three races to go, and a dominant win the next race for him at Milwaukee helped seal his maiden championship win by Fontana a few weeks later.

There were still five races after Mid-Ohio in 2013. Castroneves led Dixon by 31 points, and Dixon came back to win that year’s title.

In 2012, Newgarden’s rookie season, Power led Ryan Hunter-Reay by five points out of Mid-Ohio with three races to go. Despite Power building the gap, he lost that year’s title in the last race to Hunter-Reay.

The 2015 title combatants… swap Pagenaud for Montoya and that’s all 2017’s title combatants. Photo: IndyCar

So how does Newgarden, who’s contending for a title in his first season at Team Penske, focus on the task at hand now that he’s thrust into a his first real title-contending scenario? Although he’s been on the fringes of it each of the last two years with Ed Carpenter Racing, he’s never quite been in this position.

Pagenaud seized his chance last year to win the 2016 title. It took Power three straight crushing end-of-year, last-race losses from 2010 to 2012 before he won his first and only title in 2014. Castroneves, despite an eternal number of runner-up finishes, has still never won a title. And Ryan Briscoe’s one shot at a title with Penske came unglued courtesy of an unforced error in 2009.

This is Newgarden’s first real chance at a title and as he explained, something he was hoping for once he joined the team.

“I definitely think I hoped I would be in a championship position. How could you not?” he said. “When joining Team Penske, I think you hope you’re going to just dominate.

“I didn’t know how the championship was going to unfold. I knew that we were going to have work in front of us.

“I feel like we’re still gelling, we’re still learning. So I’m a little bit surprised at how quickly we’ve hit the ground running, but I guess there’s also been moments where we could have been better and I could have been better and maybe as a team we could have been better, and I think with experience that will come.”

Newgarden (left) and Power (right) flank Rahal. Photo: IndyCar

Newgarden said he hasn’t drawn on his teammates for any advice in how they’ve handled other title-contending situations, and that makes sense because he’s also racing each of them for the title at the same time. The strength in numbers at Team Penske means the odds of one of the four drivers winning is strong, with only Dixon or Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal poised to steal it otherwise.

“It’s an interesting question,” Newgarden admitted. “I haven’t really spoken much to the other teammates specifically about their mindset or where it was at or where the team was at with regard to the championship.

“It’s actually kind of oddly quiet. You know, it’s almost like we’re just expected to be able to do our job. It’s not that we don’t get spoken to by various people within the teams to make sure we have what we need or make sure we understand what the game plan is, it’s just most of the big broad brush strokes.

“I think they’re just — for them they view it as it should be understood by us. We’re all pretty experienced within the series, and I think everyone that’s come into Team Penske has always had some level of experience.

“I think they expect for you to do the right thing. Penske wants us to work well together. They allow us to race. They allow us to do whatever we want to try and beat each other, but it’s just most important that we work together and take care of each other at the end of the day.

“We try and help the whole group be better, and if it’s not me winning a race or winning the championship, then we focus on trying to get at least one of the Penske cars to do that. You always hope it’s you. You want to be the best within the team. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to have one of the Team Penske cars succeeding, and that’s what we all work for.”