Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan

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One of NASCAR’s fastest tracks is coming up this weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway plays host Sunday for the Quicken Loans 400.

With a wide racing surface, sweeping corners, and long straightaways, MIS emphasizes sheer horsepower.

With no restrictor plates to hold back performance, drivers are often going well north of 200 miles per hour into the turns.

But those high speeds put lots of stress on their equipment, particularly the engines. Reliability in that department is always critical but especially so at this track.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics, here’s everything you need to know for Round 15 of the 2014 Sprint Cup regular season…

MICHIGAN-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Military Salute Ford)
· Four wins, 10 top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.2
· Series-best Average Running Position of 8.3
· Series-best Driver Rating of 110.0
· 311 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 1,261 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 177.840 mph
· Series-high 3,047 Laps in the Top 15 (86.1%)
· 849 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), second-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Two wins, four top fives, nine top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 21.2
· Average Running Position of 15.5, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.6, 11th-best
· 174 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 2,165 Laps in the Top 15 (61.2%), ninth-most
· 550 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· One win, four top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 16.5
· Average Running Position of 14.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 92.0, seventh-best
· 137 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 1,249 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.018 mph, seventh-fastest
· 2,386 Laps in the Top 15 (67.4%), sixth-most
· 669 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard / Superman Chevrolet)
· Two wins, six top fives, 10 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 16.3
· Average Running Position of 12.8, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.0, fifth-best
· 182 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· 1,379 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.234 mph, fifth-fastest
· 2,347 Laps in the Top 15 (66.3%), seventh-most
· 749 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
· Two wins, nine top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.3
· Average Running Position of 10.2, third-best
· Driver Rating of 104.7, third-best
· 198 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 1,290 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.639 mph, fourth-fastest
· 2,925 Laps in the Top 15 (82.7%), second-most
· Series-high 850 Quality Passes

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Two wins, 18 top fives, 25 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 12.5
· Average Running Position of 14.4, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 89.8, ninth-best
· 159 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 2,195 Laps in the Top 15 (62.0%), eighth-most
· 609 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota)
· Two wins, five top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 15.0
· Average Running Position of 14.2, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 89.7, 10th-best
· 98 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 176.841 mph, ninth-fastest
· 1,913 Laps in the Top 15 (60.9%), 11th-most
· 633 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet)
· Four top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 16.8
· Average Running Position of 11.5, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 101.4, fourth-best
· Series-high 357 Fastest Laps Run
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.796 mph, second-fastest
· 2,583 Laps in the Top 15 (73.0%), fourth-most
· 691 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet)
· One win, seven top fives, nine top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 16.4
· Average Running Position of 15.6, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.3, 12th-best
· 170 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 1,340 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.130 mph, sixth-fastest
· 2,033 Laps in the Top 15 (57.4%), 10th-most
· 665 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Two wins, 12 top fives, 18 top 10s
· Average finish of 9.6
· Average Running Position of 10.0, second-best
· Driver Rating of 105.6, second-best
· 164 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.665 mph, third-fastest
· 2,868 Laps in the Top 15 (81.0%), third-most
· 801 Quality Passes, third-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· One win, 12 top fives, 20 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.7
· Average Running Position of 12.7, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.9, sixth-best
· 100 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.009 mph, eighth-fastest
· 2,447 Laps in the Top 15 (73.3%), fifth-most
· 685 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Brian Vickers (No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota)
· One win, two top fives, eight top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 14.9
· Driver Rating of 91.5, eighth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 176.779 mph, 12th-fastest

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Michigan International Speedway Track Data
Race 15 of 36
Track Size: 2 Miles
Banking: 18 degrees in turns, 5 degrees in frontstretch, 2 degrees in backstretch
Frontstretch Length: 3,600 feet
Backstretch Length: 2,242 feet
Race Length: 200 laps/400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Michigan
Greg Biffle – 110.0
Matt Kenseth – 105.6
Carl Edwards – 104.7
Jimmie Johnson – 101.4
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 97.0
Tony Stewart – 95.9
Kyle Busch – 92.0
Brian Vickers – 91.5
Jeff Gordon – 89.8
Denny Hamlin – 89.7
(Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races among active drivers at MIS)

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Carl Edwards, Ford, 202.452 mph, 35.564 seconds (06/14/13)
2013 race winner: Greg Biffle, Ford, 139.278 mph, 2hr52min19secs
Track qualifying record: Joey Logano, Ford, 203.949 mph, 35.303 seconds, 08/16/13
Track race record: Dale Jarrett, Ford, 173.997 mph, 2hr17min56secs, 06/13/99

Michigan International Speedway History
· Michigan International Speedway sits on more than 1,400 acres in the “Irish Hills” of Southeastern Michigan. Ground-breaking took place on Sept. 28, 1967.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan was held June 15, 1969 – won by Cale Yarborough at a speed of 139.254 mph.
· The track was known as Michigan Speedway during the time Roger Penske was the primary owner (1996-99).
· The two-mile speedway underwent a repave in 2012.

Michigan International Speedway Notebook
· There have been 89 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway since the first race there in 1969. Other than 1973, which had just one race, there have been two races each season since 1969.
· The first race was 500 miles in length; the second was scheduled for 600. The track was re-measured to 2.04 miles for the last race in 1970 and both races in 1971 – with the race distance being 402 miles. All other races have been scheduled for 400 miles.
· 366 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway; 269 in more than one.
· Bill Elliott leads the series in starts at Michigan with 61. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 42 starts.
· Donnie Allison won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Michigan in 1969 with a speed of 160.135 mph.
· 45 drivers have Coors Light poles at Michigan, led by David Pearson with 10. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five.
· Six drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Michigan. David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Michigan with five; fall 1976 through 1978.
· Four active drivers have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Michigan: Terry Labonte (1983 sweep), Bill Elliott (1984 sweep and 1988 sweep), Bobby Labonte (2003 sweep), and Brian Vickers (fall 2008 – 2009 sweep).
· Youngest Michigan pole winner: Joey Logano (08/16/2013 – 23 years, 2 months, 23 days).
· Oldest Michigan pole winner: Mark Martin (08/19/2012 – 53 years, 7 months, 10 days).
· 35 different NSCS drivers have won at Michigan International Speedway, led by David Pearson with nine wins; Greg Biffle leads all active drivers with four.
· Eight drivers have posted consecutive wins at Michigan International Speedway, including four consecutive by Bill Elliott (1985 sweep and 1986 sweep).
· Youngest Michigan winner: Joey Logano (08/18/2013 – 23 years, 2 months, 25 days).
· Oldest Michigan winner: Harry Gant (08/16/1992 – 52 years, 7 months, 6 days).
· Roush Fenway Racing has the most wins at Michigan in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 13: Mark Martin (four), Greg Biffle (four), Carl Edwards (two), Matt Kenseth (two) and Kurt Busch (one).
· Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Michigan; led by Ford with 34 victories; followed by Chevrolet with 20.
· 17 of the 89 (19.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Joey Logano in 2013.
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (17) than any other starting position at Michigan International Speedway.
· 25 of the 89 (28%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from the front row: 16 from the pole and eight from second-place.
· 67 of the 89 (75.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Six of the 89 (6.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Michigan was 32nd, by Mark Martin in the spring of 2009.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in runner-up finishes at Michigan with eight; followed by Darrell Waltrip with seven.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough leads the series in top-five finishes at Michigan with 21; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 18.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Michigan with 31; followed by Bill Elliott with 29.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Michigan with a 9.292.
· Carl Edwards leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Michigan with an 8.316. Matt Kenseth (9.621)is the only other active driver with an average finish in the top 10.
· All active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Michigan International Speedway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Tony Stewart won at Michigan in his third appearance, the fewest previous starts among the active NSCS winners.
· Kevin Harvick competed at Michigan International Speedway 19 times before winning in the fall of 2010; the longest span of any the active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Among the active NSCS Michigan winners Kevin Harvick (19), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (17) Kyle Busch (13), Jeff Gordon (11), Brian Vickers (11) and Joey Logano (10) all 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 Michigan without visiting Victory Lane at 40.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway was the June 10, 2001 race won by Jeff Gordon over Ricky Rudd with a MOV of 0.085 second.
· There have been two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Michigan International Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): fall of 2011 (200/203); and fall of 2012 (200/201).
· Four of the 89 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the event on 6/18/2006.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway four times; most recently the spring of 2008 race.
· Three drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Michigan International Speedway: Jeff Burton (8/18/1996), J.J. Yeley (6/17/2007) and Marcos Ambrose (6/17/2012).
· Two active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver have posted their first career start at Michigan International Speedway: Carl Edwards (8/22/2004) and Landon Cassill (6/13/2010).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Michigan with 954 laps led in 42 starts.
· Four female drivers have competed at Michigan International Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie, Robin McCall, Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick. Of the four female drivers to compete at Michigan, Guthrie has the best finish (10th), but Patrick has the best average finish (18th).
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NASCAR in Michigan
· There have been 94 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at four racetracks in Michigan.
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· 98 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Michigan.
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WATCH LIVE: IndyCar at Phoenix (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Coverage of the fourth round of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, takes place today starting at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com (stream link here). The coverage comes after an encore presentation of Phoenix qualifying, which begins at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Rick Allen will be in the booth with Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller will be in pit lane.

Coverage will run from 6 to 9 p.m. PT and local time, so 9 p.m. to midnight ET.

Each of the top three drivers on the grid, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and JR Hildebrand, seek their first wins of the year. The first three race winners start fourth (Josef Newgarden), 10th (points leader Sebastien Bourdais) and 11th (James Hinchcliffe).

Track position is expected to be key for the 250-lap race, the first oval event of the season, with passing projected to be difficult – albeit not impossible.

Beyond the top three, some of the other story lines to watch include these:

  • On the inside of Row 3, is Simon Pagenaud positioned to secure his first oval victory?
  • Will any of the Hondas be able to make significant inroads on the Chevrolets?
  • Is anyone going to be able to make enough gains on pit road to move up the order?

The starting lineup is below:

Monaco apartment bet gives extra spice to race for P5 in Russia

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Remember that episode of Friends where Joey and Chandler go up against Rachel and Monica in a crazy quiz that ends in them swapping apartments for a while?

Well, Formula 1 might be doing its own version on Sunday in Russia.

With Ferrari and Mercedes over one second per lap clear of the rest of the pack, the top four positions seem settled, leaving Williams and Red Bull to battle for P5.

Red Bull has been the third-quickest team for much of the season so far, yet Williams looks more competitive in Russia, with Felipe Massa charging to sixth place in qualifying to split Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

“I predicted them to be quick here. It’s been one of their stronger circuits the last few years, and Massa’s always been pretty handy around here,” Ricciardo said of Williams.

“He got close, split Max and myself. I expect that battle to remain tomorrow. Not expecting to have the battle for the win, I think that’s between Ferrari and Mercedes, but we could have a nice little battle within ourselves for the top five.”

To add an extra twist to things, it turns out that Ricciardo, Massa and Verstappen all live inside the same apartment complex in Monaco – so why not add some extra incentive to the battle?

“I was saying whoever maybe wins our battle tomorrow can get the… Massa or Verstappen, they’ve both got pretty good-sized apartments, so maybe they can give the winner their apartment for the weekend as a bit of a token gesture!” Ricciardo joked to NBCSN after the session.

“Yeah I can give a good party and I will join,” Verstappen added.

Massa laughed before saying: “I hope I will win and I cannot give!’

The race between Red Bull and Williams may be tight, but somehow we doubt remembering that the TV guide goes to Miss Chanandeler Bong or that his job is a transpon… transponster (“that’s not even a word!”) will be much help to Ricciardo, Massa or Verstappen on Sunday.

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix, Saturday edition (VIDEO)

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Life as a rookie in Formula 1 is always tough, but for Williams’ Lance Stroll, his arrival on the grid has been particularly challenging.

Entering F1 as its second-youngest debutant and after an extensive private testing program with Williams last year, big things were expected of Stroll when he made his debut in Australia.

However, his first three races in F1 have been far from ideal, all of them ending in retirement.

The DNF is Australia was the result of a brake issue, while incidents in China and Bahrain – both of which were hard to pin on Stroll – mean the Canadian is without a classified finish to his name.

So how has he dealt with the struggles? To find out, Will Buxton brings you a special edition of NBC Sports’ original digital series ‘Paddock Pass’ to lift the lid on Stroll’s start to life in F1.

You can watch the video in full above.

JR Hildebrand returns in career-best third on grid at Phoenix

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – The last first-time winner in the Verizon IndyCar Series came on an oval, when Alexander Rossi captured last year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

The guy who could well have captured his first career victory five years earlier in 2011, JR Hildebrand, remains in search of ‘ol first win number one. But he’s got a good chance to do so tonight in his No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, as he’ll roll off from a career-best third on the grid in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The qualifying result for Hildebrand eclipses a previous best set twice: fourth at Iowa in 2011, and at Fontana in 2012, both with Panther Racing but in separate iterations of cars. This marks Hildebrand’s first top-five start since that Fontana race in September of that year, and easily eclipses his other 2017 starts of 19th and 15th on the two street course races to start the year.

In some respects Hildebrand’s pace this weekend is not a surprise; he was the pace-setter during the open test here in February. However, after missing Barber owing to his broken bone in his left hand, the more important aspect of his performance this weekend is that he’s back on song and comfortable – best as he can be – for today’s 250-lap race.

“I think with the kind of injury that I’m dealing with and the surgery that I had, an oval definitely is a little easier just literally turning left versus turning right even,” Hildebrand said after practice, when he was second to Josef Newgarden – who will start alongside him tonight on Row 2.

“So it felt better than honestly I thought it would in practice. I didn’t have any, like, major issues. I got a couple of different braces that I’m kind of playing around with and stuff like that. But felt like I got it pretty dialed in. Feel good about qualifying today and then the race tomorrow as well.”

Hildebrand was in a unique situation at Barber where he watched someone else in his car – a situation he hadn’t been afforded since Panther showed him the door after the 2013 Indianapolis 500. His starts since, it’s been Hildebrand in either a fill-in or extra entry, usually at Ed Carpenter Racing.

“It was definitely different to be watching in that situation than it was last year, you know, or in years past when I’ve been stepping in for testing or whatever and doing that on behalf of other guys,” he said. “It was painful to sit there and watch, but I think was in the end the only, you know, feasible kind of way to get through that weekend.”

That being said, Hildebrand wound up playing the mentor role well to Zach Veach, who methodically and consistently improved over the weekend on debut. It flashed back nicely to Hildebrand’s own debut at Mid-Ohio 2010 under nearly identical circumstances.

“I filled in for Mike Conway at Mid-Ohio back in 2010 in sort of similar conditions,” Hildebrand explained.

“Yeah, I mean, knowing this was going to be sort of a short-term thing, in particular, I wanted for the team’s sake to be able to get as much as they could out of having Zach in the car in my absence. That in some ways sort of requires that Zach is up to speed.

“But being a driver myself, being in that situation before, I know that it helps a lot to have somebody that, you know, is kind of just there to help you through whatever those difficulties and challenges are.

“Barber is a really tough place. He had some testing time at Sonoma, which is not really super relevant going into Barber. And on top of that, like, we were not great there when we tested there previously.

“You know, he was in for an uphill battle going in. He had a great attitude about the whole thing. I thought he made evident progression through the weekend. You know, was definitely helpful for the team and did a good job for himself.”

Hildebrand also noted that he wouldn’t have been in this position in the first place had he not had the contact with Mikhail Aleshin at Long Beach that put him into the wall and caused the hand injury.

“Yeah, he came over and told me he didn’t block me while I was still sitting in the car. Then he got a penalty 30 seconds later for doing that. Whatever,” Hildebrand deadpanned.

“I don’t have hard feelings about it, for sure. But, you know, I think that there’s definitely a track record that, you know, he’s begun to build up.”

Hildebrand will look for his second career podium at least if he can finish where he starts – in a weird quirk, his only career IndyCar top-three finish has come at a race where there is not the traditional podium ceremony for top-three finishers, that aforementioned 2011 Indianapolis 500.

Tonight gives him a great opportunity to break that run of tough luck and get a result to match his determination and will to return.