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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IndyCar Paddock Pass: Pocono (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues this weekend with the series trip to the “Tricky Triangle” for the ABC Supply 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass also continues for another episode from the three-turn oval, Pocono Raceway, in Long Pond, Pa.

NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter and Indy Lights analyst Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show, which you can see above.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power, and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led first practice; however was involved in a heavy accident in qualifying later Saturday afternoon and transported to a nearby hospital.

His status is unclear for Sunday.

Newgarden leads the championship but had a tough qualifying run – he was only 14th Saturday afternoon – while Power was second among Chevrolets and starts fifth. He is the defending Pocono race winner.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Chaves, Harding continue to shine at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – In two previous starts in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been shining stars, finishing ninth at the Indianapolis 500 and fifth at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, avoiding several crashes and incidents in both races to do so, and advancing from 25th and 20th on the grid, respectively.

Returning to the series for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Sunday 2:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the combination continues its remarkably strong form, qualifying eighth for Sunday’s race, third fastest of the Chevrolet runners.

And with the goal of turning the team into a full-time effort next year, Chaves and the team appear to be picking up right where they left off.

“We’re just here to improve our team, get it ready for next year,” Chaves told NBC Sports. “We’d like to go home with a great result of course, that’s always the aim. But I think the work we did throughout the practice improved the car enough to wear I was pretty comfortable at the end.”

Of course, even though the team is still very new to the world of racing (their first race was this year’s Indianapolis 500), it doesn’t stop Chaves from having lofty expectations.

“You always want to shoot for the win,” he asserted when asked about expectations for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500. “Obviously it’s never easy – with the limited time we have on track, it just makes it even harder on top of it. We’re always trying to keep our expectations high and do the best job we can to accomplish them.”

Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been very impressive out of the box. Photo: IndyCar

And perhaps Chaves is right to have big expectations given the team’s first two races. Ninth at Indianapolis and fifth at Texas are genuinely impressive results for the brand new team. And on the surface, they are a surprise, given the organization itself hadn’t run any races at any level prior to this year. But, Chaves explained that the people involved in the team are more than familiar with the sport and know how to build a successful operation.

“It’s just a matter of having the right people involved,” Chaves said of their early success. “Our team owner, Mike Harding, is very dedicated to making sure that we have the means to go out and hire the best people we can. It’s hard to do when the full-time teams have already got most of those guys, but there’s a few guys left out there who are very quality guys. Then that comes down to our team manager, Larry Curry, who has been able to track down these guys and give them a good offer to come on board with us. We’re just going to get better from here.”

Specifically, team manager Curry has been instrumental in recruiting talent and helping the team get ahead of the game, as Chaves explained.

“When it came down to our Indy deal, we started getting our car ready, and a little bit through his connections, we were able to get our mockup engine a little sooner, our body fit sooner – enough that we had the time to go out and test and do a shakedown run at Texas before Indy. It’s that type of experience and knowledge that Larry brings to the team that helps us out.”

NBCSN’s Robin Miller reported earlier this weekend in a piece for RACER.com that the team is ready for a full season in 2018, with Harding also telling the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Jake Query that “100 percent number” Miller cited is closer to 95 percent.

Chaves stopped short of going that far, but feels confident that a full-season effort will come together.

“Obviously, our plans are still to go out and run the full season. I’d say every day we get closer and closer to that. I’d say it’s looking really good. I know (Robin Miller’s report) mentions 100% – I think we’re close to that. But, it’s not done until it’s done. So I’ll just keep focused on my job here this weekend.”

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Power tops final practice at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – Team Penske’s Will Power topped final practice for tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway. Power’s best lap of 216.294 mph was turned late in the session and pipped teammate Simon Pagenaud for the top spot, making it a Team Penske 1-2 in final practice. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth, the best of the Honda teams, while Helio Castroneves rebounded from his earlier qualifying crash to end the session in fifth, putting three Penske cars in the top five.

Of note: pole sitter Takuma Sato was 11th quickest and Ed Carpenter was 16th, Carpenter having missed qualifying as Ed Carpenter Racing made repairs to his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and missed the lineup time for pre-qualifying inspection by only a few minutes.

Also: Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda, usually piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay, did not venture onto the track for final practice, with Hunter-Reay currently being evaluated at a local hospital following a qualifying crash.

Times are below. Tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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Pagenaud ‘quite satisfied,’ if still agitated, with P2 on Pocono grid

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The close-but-no-cigar, always slightly overshadowed nature of defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud’s 2017 season came to the fore again in Saturday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Pagenaud was on the verge of securing his second pole this season, and first on an oval since Iowa Speedway in July 2016, after knocking Charlie Kimball off the top spot.

But the driver of the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet got eclipsed by Takuma Sato, the final qualifier, right at the end to lose the pole and perhaps more critically, an additional point that went with it.

“(There’s) the word going through my mind and I’m not going to say it,” Pagenaud laughed in the post-qualifying press conference.

“Disappointing, of course. You can taste the win, and that’s what we’re all about. We’re racers. We want to win. I’m here to win, to be first, not to be second.

“In the meantime it’s a really good starting position. At the time it’s like gambling. You’re in the game and you feel like you could win, so it’s very exciting. That’s the roller coaster of racing in your life as a racer. It’s up and down, up and down your whole career. These moments are why I race. It’s happiness, satisfaction of doing the job.”

Pagenaud’s job satisfaction this year has come with his unrivaled consistency, if not outright pace, in defense of his 2016 title.

He leads the field with 10 top-five finishes in 13 races – no one else has more than seven – and he is the only driver to have completed all 1,738 laps of competition so far this year.

That underscores his consistency but it also reflects how much better his 2016 title-winning season was. He won five races last year to one so far this year (Phoenix), had eight poles (seven outright, one where he moved up a spot) last year to one this year, and has led only 133 laps this year – 116 of them at Phoenix.

That leads nicely into the point that Pocono is a key race for Pagenaud if he is to defend his title. He enters tomorrow’s race fourth in points but only 17 behind championship leader Josef Newgarden, his new teammate at Team Penske who’ll look to go one better in terms of winning a title for Roger Penske in his first season rather than in his second, as Pagenaud did last year.

Pagenaud’s title aspirations nearly came unglued at this race last year following his only DNF of the year. He crashed in Turn 1 and finished 18th while Will Power won and cut the gap from 58 points leaving Mid-Ohio to 20 leaving Pocono.

Now Pagenaud is even fewer points back but with more drivers to climb over, as IndyCar heads towards a grandstand finish to this year’s title between himself, Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon – and potentially Sato, Power and Graham Rahal if they can deliver a big points haul in Pocono.

“The championship is a lot more exciting for you guys this year,” he said. “I think it’s the beauty of IndyCar. We go on superspeedway, short oval next week, then completely different in two weeks, then Sonoma, which is a beautiful venue to finish the season.

“You know, that’s the beauty of this racing series, which I really love, because you have to show skills in every condition, every different aspect of track. So I’m very excited about it.

“If you can show strength in the last four, you deserve the championship, for sure.”

Pagenaud expects speeds to be slower in tonight’s final practice, a better preparation for Sunday’s race, as he estimated the rash of accidents today was owing to more drivers and teams chasing the temperatures for pole.

“This evening’s session is good so you can check your car in traffic, see how it behaves in the wake. But I think, you know, you’re still going to have to think about the race and the conditions being different, what to do on the race car to compensate for it,” he said.

“Tomorrow, we’re not going to be as fast as this because this is trim-out conditions, trying to go as fast as possible over two laps. Those are not the setups. The tires don’t last in those conditions.

“For the race, completely different story. You know, it’s a 500-mile race. There’s a lot of riding around, trying to balance your car for the end of the race. Trying to find the right level of downforce during the race is key as well. So you make a lot of adjustments, pit stops, get ready for the shootout, the last 60 laps really.

“For us, that’s going to be the plan. First goals were to be in the top five in qualifying. We were there. That’s checked. Now we need to run around in the front all day and be there to strike at the end.

“There’s also the fact that we’re playing for a championship here, so we have to be smart at the end.”

Pagenaud’s canny ability has kept him in the title fight as he looks to keep the No. 1 on his car for another season, which makes the frustration of losing a point today only slightly bittersweet as he looks at the bigger picture.

“Ben (Bretzman), my engineer, just nailed the gearing, the balance on the car. That was the best we could do,” he said.

“I’m quite satisfied. Front row start is really good, our best start here in Pocono. A 500-mile race, so a lot can happen.

“Today was pretty much ego day trying to get that pole position. For us it would have been nice to get another point. But overall I think we did our best and we’ll go to bed pretty satisfied with today.”