Pennsylvania 400

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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BRDC: Reports Silverstone will definitely drop British GP ‘speculative and wrong’

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  The grid at the start of the race during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 10, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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The British Racing Drivers Club has issued a statement dismissing suggestions that Silverstone will definitely drop its Formula 1 race following the 2019 season.

Doubt was cast over the future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone following a leaked letter from BRDC chairman John Grant, in which he admitted to concerns about the cost of hosting the race.

Grant admitted that BRDC officials were considering triggering a clause in Silverstone’s F1 contract that would allow it to end its commitment after 2019 due to “ruinous” costs.

In a statement issued on Friday, the BRDC stressed that no final decision had been made and that suggestions a final decision to drop the race had already been made were incorrect.

“The British Racing Drivers Club wishes to make clear that recent press reports suggesting that talks have been unsuccessful and that the British Grand Prix will definitely be dropped after 2019 are speculative and wrong,” the statement reads.

“Our objective is to preserve the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come but, of course, we can only do this if it makes economic sense,” Grant added.

“As I have said before, we will be considering over the next six months if we should give notice of our intention to exercise the break clause in our grand prix contract at the end of 2019. No decision has been made, or will be made, until mid-July.

“In the meantime, we will be using this period to explore all interested parties, hopefully in private, various ways in which we might work out a more sustainable proposition.”

Jacques Villeneuve: Indy 500 ‘the biggest, most important race in the world’

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 25: Jacques Villeneuve of Canada driver of the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara Honda during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
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1995 CART champion Jacques Villeneuve has called the Indianapolis 500 “the biggest, most important race in the world”, believing that its long-running traditions are key to its enduring appeal.

Villeneuve won the Indy 500 in 1995 en route to the CART title, having finished second at the Brickyard the previous year.

Villeneuve moved into Formula 1 following his CART title victory, becoming world champion with Williams in 1997 before ultimately leaving the series mid-way through the 2006 season.

Villeneuve appeared in his third ‘500 in 2014, finishing 14th for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (pictured above).

Speaking at Autosport International last week, Villeneuve spoke warmly of his experiences at the ‘500, saying it dwarfed any other race in motorsport.

“[You’re] running at an average speed of 230 mph in traffic, in a place where you’re still allowed to risk your life basically because it’s marginally safer than 20 years ago, and half a million people in the grandstands,” Villeneuve said.

“Back then it was an event that lasted three weeks. You would build on it so the energy was incredible. It felt like a big gladiatorial ring from the Roman Empire. It was very special.

“It is the biggest, most important race in the world. Obviously an F1 championship is bigger, but as a one single event, it’s the biggest one.”

Villeneuve said that he did not appreciate the enormity of the event until he finally raced at the ‘500, having followed F1 more closely as a child by virtue of his father, Gilles, who raced for Ferrari.

“The Indy 500, I didn’t grow up with it. I grew up with Formula 1, so I didn’t really know what it represented,” Villeneuve said

“I didn’t think about it until I raced in Atlantics and I thought ‘oh wow, there’s half a million people here, that’s cool’.

“I still didn’t really understand why there was one toilet where they didn’t put the door because one year there was a driver who didn’t close his door and they decided to keep it like that for the next 40 years.

“There’s lots of stuff in America that’s very important, the history of why things have happened. Why do you drink milk when you’ve won the Indy 500? It’s because – I don’t know which driver – in the past was thirsty and asked for a jug of milk. They gave it to him and it became tradition.

“All these little things keep it alive. To get a race where people come almost daily for three weeks, that takes a lot of passion. But when you’re in it, OK it’s just a race and there’s lots of people, great, but it’s a stepping stone to F1.

“When you’re out of it, you realize first of all I survived it, and then you’ve won it. And then you realize that it’s still present and alive.

“And then you realize that that win was 22 years ago, and then you understand the meaning of what you accomplished.”

Niki Lauda confident Valtteri Bottas can be F1 world champion with Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas
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Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda believes that Valtteri Bottas can become Formula 1 world champion following his move to Mercedes ahead of the 2017 season.

Bottas was formally announced as a Mercedes driver on Monday, replacing Nico Rosberg following the German’s shock decision to retire following his world title win at the end of last year.

Speaking to RTL, Lauda expressed his belief that Bottas can be just as fast as Rosberg has been and is also capable of winning a world championship.

“We took Bottas because it was the best option. He is a driver who can be just as fast as Nico and I think he can win the world championship,” Lauda said.

“It was not easy to solve the problem of Rosberg, because we were looking for a driver who could do well in our team.

“So far we have always had the best two drivers who were both capable of fighting for the championship. The Nico-Lewis pairing is a good example, because they were two top drivers and fought head-to-head.”

Lauda is sure that Bottas can hit the ground running at Mercedes, proving to be a safe option with four seasons of F1 experience already under his belt.

“In the last three years we have won everything there was to win and that’s why we involved Bottas, who brings experience and speed to the team,” Lauda said.

“We can start the season very quietly and safely with these two drivers.”

Lauda also believes that Bottas will not become involved in any intra-team tension with new teammate Lewis Hamilton, the Briton having enjoyed a particularly fiery rivalry with Rosberg during their time together at Mercedes.

“Bottas is Finnish, he is calm, doesn’t talk much, but works hard,” Lauda said.

“I am sure that he will fit perfectly in the team and will not have any problems with Hamilton.”

After a down season in 2016, Ryan Hunter-Reay is looking up in 2017

Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600
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The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season was one Ryan Hunter-Reay would likely rather forget.

If you were an IndyCar driver, you’d want to forget it too, as Hunter-Reay endured his worst season in the last eight:

* He failed to win even one race since 2009, his last season outside Andretti Autosport.

* He managed just three podium finishes (same as 2015, but he also had two wins that season).

* After finishing seventh, sixth and sixth in the previous three seasons, Hunter-Reay finished 12th in the IndyCar standings in 2016, his worst showing since finishing 15th in 2009.

* He had an average starting position of 11.8 and an average finish of 10.9.

All in all, 2016 was very much a hit-and-miss season, with more emphasis on the miss rather than the hit.

“2016 I think was just a season of missed opportunities, especially when I look at the big one that got away, which was the Indy 500,” Hunter-Reay said during Wednesday’s annual IndyCar preseason Media Day. “I knew after halfway through that race that I had a car to win it, it was just a matter of getting to that sprint, to that fight at the end.”

Unfortunately, RHR finished 24th in that event, two laps behind winner Alexander Rossi, following contact in the pits.

“And then Pocono, again, same situation, 500-mile race, very similar circumstances,” Hunter-Reay said, although he finished third at Pocono as opposed to how he did at Indy. “Those were two wins I feel like got away.”

It’s something he can’t help but lament because had things turned out differently, Hunter-Reay likely would not have finished as low in the standings as he did.

“It being my first ever season not winning a race with a full-time program – those two hurt when I think about them,” he said.

Another thing that hurt and was a miss was his performance in street courses. While he started the season strong with a third-place finish at St. Petersburg, that was the lone street course highlight of 2016.

At Long Beach, he finished 18th. He bounced back with finishes of seventh and third in the two Belle Isle races, but wound up 12th at Toronto.

“It was a season of struggles on the street courses for Andretti Autosport as a whole,” Hunter-Reay admitted. “We have been going back to look at that and we’re going to bring some changes in this year.

“We’ve obviously had some personnel changes at Andretti Autosport, and we’ve also had a directional change on the way we’re going to approach street circuits.

“We had a couple good street course races. You know, we finished on the podium at two last year, but it’s not enough. That’s something that we need to get on top of.”

Like his fellow IndyCar peers, Hunter-Reay is over 2016 and it’s on to 2017, with a hunger that can only be fed with greater success.

“Absolutely,” said the 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. “I’m always so motivated no matter what when I get in the race car.

“That’s how I’ve always been my whole career, just because I’ve always had to get in and prove myself to keep my ride. I have a lot of stability now with DHL (renewed at the end of last season). Obviously this is a great, great partner. It’s great for the series. I have four years left on my deal right now, and that stability within IndyCar, so big thanks to DHL and Andretti Autosport on that.”

While IndyCar will have a decidedly different race car in 2018, Hunter-Reay does not anticipate 2017 being similar to his 2016 campaign.

“I don’t want to make it seem like it’s a lame duck year for us,” he said. “This is something that we can progress on. We know the areas we need to improve in, and we’ve been focusing on that this off-season. I think we can improve there.

“There’s no reason why we can’t, and there’s no excuse not to, so that’s something that we’re very focused on, and I feel like we have a great opportunity to win four or five races this season, hopefully more. But it’s something where we’re going to have to go out and prove it.”

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