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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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.”

Sam Posey previews 2017 with ‘The Winds of Change’ (VIDEO)

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As the 2017 kicks off from Australia, our resident poet laureate Sam Posey has penned his latest essay on what’s to come ahead of the new year.

Here’s a look ahead to the new season, with Posey’s “The Winds of Change” looking at the vast transformation in the sport that occurred over the winter, from the change in ownership, to the change in cars, to the change in the lineups… and to the change in the pecking order.

An archive of Posey’s 2016 essays are linked here.

Sprint car veteran Dave Steele killed in accident at Desoto Speedway

Photo: Desoto Speedway
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Open-wheel veteran and occasional NASCAR racer Dave Steele was killed Saturday night in an accident at Desoto Speedway in Bradenton, Florida during a sprint car race. The veteran driver out of Tampa was 42 years old.

According to SPEED SPORT, Steele reportedly crashed while driving for position in his winged sprint car, in the Southern Sprintcar Shootout Series event.

The track confirmed Steele’s passing in a Facebook post, writing: “Desoto Speedway owners and staff are saddened by tonights passing of David Steele in the Sprint car feature. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends who were all in attendance, to see him try to win his 100th florida race.”

Steele made three starts in the Indy Racing League in 1998 and had been brought on by Panther Racing as a development driver for the team’s first crack at a two-car effort, then teammate to Scott Goodyear, the last two races of that season. He was entered as a second car for the 1999 Indianapolis 500 but did not qualify. He also drove in the Indy Lights series a few years later in a handful of races.

In USAC though, Steele was regarded as one of the top drivers on the circuit, with a sterling record. As of the end of 2016, he had 26 USAC National Sprint Car wins, 16 Silver Crown wins (third all-time) and 18 National Midget wins, for a total of 60 wins that proved his versatility in USAC’s three primary types of cars, both on pavement and on dirt.

A number of tributes and condolences have already come in on social media. Note the one from Michael Lewis, an up-and-coming sports car driver out of California who’s won races in Pirelli World Challenge, and whose father Steve Lewis was the architect of the old Beast/Pink entries, which Steele used to drive for.