Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Pocono 400 at the “Tricky Triangle”

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The halfway point of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season is upon us this weekend at Pocono Raceway, which hosts the Pocono 400 on Sunday afternoon.

Perhaps the most unique track on the Sprint Cup circuit, the triangular 2.5-mile oval boasts three turns of different radii, three different sets of banking (14 degrees in Turn 1, 8 degrees in Turn 2, 6 degrees in Turn 3), and three different lengths of straightaway.

All of these characteristics make finding a solid set-up all the way around very tough – or rather, tricky. This place is nicknamed the “Tricky Triangle,” after all.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know for Round 14 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…

POCONO-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford)
· One win, three top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 16.4
· Average Running Position of 14.2, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 88.1, 12th-best
· 97 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 1,434 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.042 mph, 12th-fastest
· 2,221 Laps in the Top 15 (67.5%), seventh-most
· 711 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), sixth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Two wins, 10 top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.2
· Average Running Position of 10.6, third-best
· Driver Rating of 104.7, third-best
· 306 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.616 mph, third-fastest
· 2,378 Laps in the Top 15 (75.9%), fifth-most
· 674 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· Seven top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.3
· Average Running Position of 14.8, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.1, 11th-best
· 63 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.073 mph, 10th-fastest
· 1,995 Laps in the Top 15 (60.6%), 11th-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Kellogg’s/Cheez-It Ford)
· Two wins, five top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 13.3
· Average Running Position of 14.4, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 97.3, sixth-best
· 176 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.300 mph, sixth-fastest
· 2,117 Laps in the Top 15 (64.3%), eighth-most
· 663 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Six wins, 19 top fives, 29 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 10.0
· Average Running Position of 10.3, second-best
· Driver Rating of 101.1, fourth-best
· 125 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 1,396 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.473 mph, fourth-fastest
· 2,481 Laps in the Top 15 (75.4%), third-most
· 778 Quality Passes, third-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)
· Four wins, eight top fives, 10 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 12.6
· Average Running Position of 11.0, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 109.1, second-best
· Series-high 434 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 161.830 mph
· 2,257 Laps in the Top 15 (78.2%), sixth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· Five top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 14.0
· Average Running Position of 14.1, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 89.6, ninth-best
· 1,564 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· 2,042 Laps in the Top 15 (62.0%), 10th-most
· 712 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 16 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 8.8
· Series-best Average Running Position of 9.7
· Series-best Driver Rating of 109.3
· 271 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.731 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 2,610 Laps in the Top 15 (79.3%)
· 775 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· Two wins, five top fives, seven top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 17.0
· Average Running Position of 14.6, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 92.8, eighth-best
· 296 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 1,407 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.404 mph, fifth-fastest
· 1,988 Laps in the Top 15 (60.4%), 12th-most
· 701 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Three top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 14.9
· Average Running Position of 13.4, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 89.6, 10th-best
· 1,405 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.143 mph, ninth-fastest
· 706 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 WIX Filters Chevrolet)
· One win, nine top fives, 12 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 11.7
· Average Running Position of 11.0, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.4, seventh-best
· 1,409 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.157 mph, eighth-fastest
· 2,527 Laps in the Top 15 (76.8%), second-most
· Series-high 823 Quality Passes

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1 / Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet)
· Two wins, 12 top fives, 22 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 11.0
· Average Running Position of 11.9, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 98.5, fifth-best
· 83 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 1,524 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.293 mph, seventh-fastest
· 2,416 Laps in the Top 15 (73.4%), fourth-most
· 792 Quality Passes, second-most

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Pocono Raceway Data
Season Race #: 14 of 36 (06-08-14)
Track Size: 2.5-miles
Banking/Turn 1: 14 degrees
Banking/Turn 2: 8 degrees
Banking/Turn 3: 6 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 3,740 feet
Backstretch Length: 3,055 feet
Shortstretch Length: 1,780 feet
Race Length: 160 laps / 400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Pocono
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 109.3
Denny Hamlin………………………. 109.1
Kurt Busch………………………….. 104.7
Jeff Gordon………………………… 101.1
Tony Stewart…………………………. 98.5
Carl Edwards………………………… 97.3
Ryan Newman……………………….. 96.4
Kasey Kahne………………………… 92.8
Kevin Harvick………………………… 89.6
Matt Kenseth………………………… 89.6
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Pocono Raceway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: None due to weather
2013 race winner: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 144.202 mph, (02:46:26), 06-09-13
Track qualifying record: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 180.545 mph, 49.819 secs. 08-04-13
Track race record: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 145.384 mph, (03:26:21), 06-12-11

Pocono Raceway History
· Opened in 1968 as a three-quarter-mile track, Pocono Raceway held the first race on the 2.5-mile track in 1971.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was in 1974 – won by Richard Petty, Dodge, 115.593 mph, 08/04/1974.
· The 2.5-mile track was repaved during the fall of 2011.

Pocono Raceway Notebook
· There have been 72 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono Raceway, one race from 1974 through 1981, and two per year since. This marks the 40th anniversary of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing at Pocono.
· 2012 marked the first season the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono were scheduled for 400 miles. Prior to 2012 all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races were 500 miles at Pocono Raceway.
· 315 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway; 221 in more than one.
· Ricky Rudd leads the series in starts at Pocono with 55. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 42 starts.
· Buddy Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Pocono in 1974 with a speed of 144.122 mph.
· 39 drivers have Coors Light poles at Pocono, led by Bill Elliott and Ken Schrader with five each; Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers with three.
· Five drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Pocono. Bill Elliott holds the record for most consecutive poles at Pocono with three; fall 1984 and both races in 1985.
· Two active drivers have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Pocono: Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep) and Joey Logano (fall 2011 and spring 2012).
· Youngest Pocono pole winner: Joey Logano (08/07/2011 – 21 years, 2 months, 14 days).
· Oldest Pocono pole winner: David Pearson (06/10/1984 – 49 years, 5 months, 19 days).

· 31 different drivers have won at Pocono Raceway, led by Jeff Gordon with six wins.
· Six drivers have posted consecutive wins at Pocono Raceway, including three consecutive by Bobby Allison (1982 sweep and spring 1983) and Tim Richmond (1986 sweep and spring 1987).
· Youngest Pocono winner: Joey Logano (06/10/2012 – 22 years, 0 months, 17 days).
· Oldest Pocono winner: Harry Gant (06/17/1990 – 50 years, 5 months, 7 days).
· Hendrick Motorsportshas the most wins at Pocono in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 15: Jeff Gordon (six), Tim Richmond (three), Jimmie Johnson (three), Kasey Kahne (one), Geoff Bodine (one) and Terry Labonte (one) – including the last three consecutively.
· Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Pocono; led by Chevrolet with 28 victories; followed by Ford with 21.
· 15 of the 72 (20.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Jimmie Johnson (June, 2013).
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (15) than any other starting position at Pocono Raceway.
· 24 of the 72 (33.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from the front row: 15 from the pole and nine from second-place.
· 50 of the 72 (69.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Five of the 72 (6.9%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Pocono was 29th, by Carl Edwards in the spring of 2005.
· Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Pocono with seven; followed by Jeff Gordon with six.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-five finishes at Pocono with 20; followed by Jeff Gordon with 19.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Pocono with 34; followed by Jeff Gordon with 29.
· Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Pocono with a 6.500.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Pocono with a 8.833.
· Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are the only two active drivers towin at Pocono in their first appearances.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Pocono without visiting Victory Lane at 38; followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth with 28.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993 the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway was the July 23, 2000 race won by Rusty Wallace over Jeff Burton with a MOV of 0.126 second.
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Pocono Raceway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): spring of 2005 (200/201); fall of 2005 (200/203); spring of 2010 (200/204).
· Six of the 72 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the event on 8/5/2012.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway five times; most recently the spring of 2013.
· Casey Mears (8/1/2004) posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Pocono Raceway.
· One active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has posted his first career win at Pocono Raceway: Denny Hamlin (06/11/06).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Pocono with 972 laps led in 42 starts.
· Two female drivers have competed at Pocono Raceway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie and Danica Patrick.

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NASCAR in Pennsylvania
· There have been 105 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among nine tracks in Pennsylvania.

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· 141 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Pennsylvania.

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Maverick Vinales wins MotoGP opener in Qatar after rain delays start

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Maverick Viñales made a flying start to life with Yamaha in MotoGP by winning on his debut with the factory team in Qatar on Sunday night.

Rain throughout the weekend had already forced qualifying to be cancelled on Saturday, with Viñales claiming pole by virtue of setting the fastest time in practice.

Officials decided early on Sunday that they would not be amending its schedule for races, with the Moto2 and Moto3 events going ahead as planned.

Just minutes before the MotoGP race was set to get underway at 11pm local time, rain started to fall once again over the Losail International Circuit, prompting the stewards to delay the race start after a number of riders went off during an installation lap.

A 45-minute delay followed as a number of officials from both MotoGP and the teams remonstrated on the grid before being asked to take their discussions inside, away from the cameras and the watching world.

With the rain easing to a light drizzle, the stewards confirmed the race would start as planned, albeit reduced to 20 laps.

On a moist track, Viñales made a tentative start from pole, dropping to fifth as Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone made the best getaway to lead into the first corner.

Iannone was quickly passed by Tech3’s Johann Zarco, who completed his first lap in MotoGP as the race leader, and soon began to forge a lead over the chasing pack.

Zarco’s hopes of a debut win were dashed when he slid off the track in the tricky conditions, allowing Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso to assume the lead ahead of Iannone.

When Iannone fell and third-placed Marc Marquez began to drop off the pace as his tires faded, Viñales and Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi began to close on Dovizioso, setting up a grandstand finish.

Viñales found a way past Dovizioso, only to lose the lead a couple of laps later, before then taking it back with two laps to go, curbing the Ducati’s straight-line speed advantage as they headed into Turn 1 for the final time.

From there, Viñales was able to keep his cool and cross the line half a second clear of Dovizioso to record his second MotoGP victory, his first coming with Suzuki last year at Silverstone.

Rossi crossed the line a close third, much to his surprise after a torrid pre-season, while Marquez was left to settle for fourth place to begin his riders’ title defence.

Dani Pedrosa finished one place behind his Honda teammate in fifth, while Aleix Espargaro was one of the unsung heroes of the race, crossing the line sixth for Aprilia.

Scott Redding wound up seventh ahead of Jack Miller and Alex Rins, while Tech3 debutant Jonas Folger rounded out the top 10.

Three-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo had a forgettable debut with Ducati, finishing a lowly 11th after an off-track excursion on the opening lap.

The MotoGP season continues with round two of the season in Argentina on April 9.

Ocon picks up maiden F1 point in Australia, finishes as top rookie

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Esteban Ocon picked up his first point in Formula 1 during his maiden outing for Force India in Australia on Sunday, finishing the race 10th and as the top rookie.

Ocon made his F1 debut in Belgium last year with the backmarker Manor team, completing the final nine rounds of the season before moving into a seat with Force India for 2017.

Embarking on his first full season of F1 (and therefore still a rookie) in 2017, Ocon qualified 14th in Australia on Saturday before spending much of the race battling with Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg, the trio going three-wide down the main straight at one point.

Ocon was able to come out on top, clinching the final point on offer in Melbourne by finishing P10 to complete a double-points finish for Force India after Sergio Perez ended up seventh.

“Very happy with today. It’s been a tough weekend but a great reward at the end,” Ocon told NBCSN after the race.

“Fighting with Alonso made things difficult. It was side by side. Then I had the better pace with him. It’s so much harder to overtake, but I made the pass and got the point.

“I’m learning all the time. It’s good what we’ve done here. This is good for the team. We hope we can score many more for the championship.”

Ocon emerged as the top rookie in Melbourne, with Antonio Giovinazzi and Stoffel Vandoorne finishing 12th and 13th respectively. Williams’ Lance Stroll – making his first start in F1 – retired due to a brake disc issue.

F1 Paddock Pass: Australian Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

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And so, the 2017 Formula 1 season is officially underway with the Australian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari are on top, having beat Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes both on strategy and on pace to kick off this new era in the sport’s history.

A recap of the day from the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne occurs below in the latest edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series, Paddock Pass, as F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales go into the paddock to run down the stories of the day.

MORE: Full Australian Grand Prix event replay; Mosaic replay

The podium saw Vettel ahead of Hamilton, with Mercedes’ new driver Valtteri Bottas coming third on debut for the team.

Other interviews that occurred during NBCSN’s post-race coverage on F1 Extra included with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen, who came fourth and fifth respectively, with Force India’s Esteban Ocon who scored his first career point, and with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who doggedly dragged his McLaren Honda into a potential points-paying finish before a late-race retirement.

Paddock Pass is in three parts and can be viewed below.

Haas’ sophomore F1 season starts badly with double DNF in Australia

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The Haas Formula 1 team’s sophomore campaign got off to a bad start on Sunday as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were both forced to retire from the Australian Grand Prix.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation into F1 last year, making its debut in Australia 12 months ago.

Grosjean scored a memorable sixth-place finish on that day in Melbourne, and looked poised to repeat the result in 2017 after qualifying sixth on Saturday.

A poor start was Grosjean drop to seventh, but he managed to hold position through the opening stint of the race ahead of the pit stop cycle.

However, Grosjean had no chance to wield some strategic genius as Haas did last year, with a water leak forcing him to retire while inside the top 10.

“I suddenly lost a lot of power. I told the guys, then the next thing I knew I had to slow down the car,” Grosjean explained.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result, but again, right now I’m hot and we’re all disappointed to lose a seventh-place position, but the car was there in qualifying in P6. The start wasn’t ideal, so we need to improve that. I felt I was faster than the Williams, so there’s huge potential in the car.

“I guess the key for us is to keep the momentum and get the consistency we didn’t have last year, where I’d be fifth in Bahrain then 19th in China. I really want to improve on that and get more consistency in terms of results. If we do that, then I’m sure there are going to be plenty of races where we can score good points.”

Grosjean’s new teammate for 2017, Kevin Magnussen, suffered an early setback when he clashed with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson on the first lap, and ultimately retired due to a suspension issue stemming from the incident.

“I had Ericsson on the outside and I understeered into the side of him, which was unfortunate. I lost my front wing and damaged the car a little bit,” Magnussen said.

“We changed the front wing and then I went for a long test session to feel the car and learn a bit more about it, which was good. It feels good and the car is fast.

“That’s the really positive thing from this weekend. The car is there. We just have to make it finish and score points.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “Not the race we wished for, or we expected. With Romain it looks like we had a water leak. We don’t know yet where that came from.

“Obviously, Kevin’s race was destroyed in the third corner after the contact with Ericsson. He then ended up later with a suspension failure, which we still have to investigate why.

“The good thing we take out of here is that the car seems to be fast. We need to work on a few parts and, hopefully, we can get back strong again in China in two weeks.”