Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

Leave a comment

The first of two road course races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar goes off this Sunday at Sonoma Raceway with the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

The 1.99-mile, 12-turn layout is a highly technical circuit filled with multiple elevation changes. As with any road course, track position is important, so expect various fuel/pit strategies to come into play.

Last season, Martin Truex Jr. broke a 218-race winless streak in the California wine country. Don’t be surprised if this race yields our 11th different Sprint Cup winner this season, as well as another spot filled on this year’s Chase Grid.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know for Round 16 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…

SONOMA-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 DeWALT Ford)
· Two top fives, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.8
· Average Running Position of 10.5, second-best
· Series-best Driver Rating of 108.0
· 58 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 89.904 mph
· 544 Laps in the Top 15 (81.6%), ninth-most
· 207 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), seventh-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-Hour ENERGY Toyota)
· One win, five top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 9.1
· Average Running Position of 14.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 95.2, seventh-best
· 35 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 530 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.543 mph, sixth-fastest
· 216 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· One win, six top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.0
· Series-best Average Running Position of 10.0
· Driver Rating of 107.8, second-best
· 56 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.869 mph, third-fastest
· Series-high 761 Laps in the Top 15 (76.3%)
· 201 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Pretzel Toyota)
· One win, one top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 20.4
· Driver Rating of 88.0, eighth-best
· 50 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.529 mph, seventh-fastest
· 518 Laps in the Top 15 (52.0%), 11th-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford)
· Two top fives, four top 10s
· Average finish of 15.6
· Average Running Position of 15.5, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 86.8, 10th-best
· 27 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· Series-high 548 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.482 mph, eighth-fastest
· 544 Laps in the Top 15 (54.6%), ninth-most
· 196 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Panasonic Chevrolet)
· Five wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 8.2
· Average Running Position of 12.6, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 101.6, fourth-best
· 64 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 493 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.707 mph, fourth-fastest
· 666 Laps in the Top 15 (66.8%), fourth-most
· 230 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 13.4
· Average Running Position of 12.5, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.3, fifth-best
· 52 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.470 mph, 10th-fastest
· 717 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9%), third-most
· 240 Quality Passes, second-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· One win, two top fives, three top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 20.4
· Average Running Position of 16.1, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.3, 12th-best
· 32 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 552 Laps in the Top 15 (55.4%), eighth-most
· 210 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· Two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 13.1
· Average Running Position of 14.4, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 88.0, eighth-best
· 507 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.464 mph, 11th-fastest
· 572 Laps in the Top 15 (57.4%), sixth-most
· 185 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1 / Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet)
· Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.0
· Average Running Position of 11.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 102.4, third-best
· Series-high 79 Fastest Laps Run
· 475 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.881 mph, second-fastest
· 740 Laps in the Top 15 (74.2%), second-most
· Series-high 261 Quality Passes

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· One win, one top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 19.1
· Driver Rating of 86.5, 11th-best
· 42 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 487 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.559 mph, fifth-fastest

source:

Sonoma Raceway Track Data
Season Race #: 16 of 36 (06-12-14)
Track Size: 1.99-miles
Number of Turns: 12
Race Length: 110 laps / 219 miles / 350 Kilometers

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Sonoma
Marcos Ambrose………………….. 108.0
Kurt Busch………………………….. 107.8
Tony Stewart……………………….. 102.4
Jeff Gordon………………………… 101.6
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 97.3
Juan Pablo Montoya………………. 95.5
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 95.2
Kyle Busch…………………………… 88.0
Ryan Newman……………………….. 88.0
Carl Edwards………………………… 86.8
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Sonoma Raceway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 94.986 mph, 75.422 secs., 06-21-13
2013 race winner: Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 76.658 mph, (02:51:20), 06-23-13
Track qualifying record: Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 95.262 mph, 75.203 secs., 06-22-12
Track race record: Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 83.624 mph, (02:39:55), 06-24-12

Sonoma Raceway History
· The track opened as a 2.52-mile road course and drag strip in 1968.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on June 11, 1989 – won by Ricky Rudd at a speed of 76.088 mph.
· The first nine races were 300 kilometers and switched to a 350k format in 1998.
· The track was reconfigured to 1.949 miles in 1998 with the installation of an 890-foot chute between the original Turns 4 and 7.
· The track was reconfigured to 2.0 miles in 2001 and re-measured at 1.99 miles in 2002.
Notebook
· There have been 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Sonoma Raceway since the first race there in 1989 – one race per season.
· 191 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway; 133 in more than one.
· Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte and Terry Labonte lead the series in starts at Sonoma with 21 each.
· Rusty Wallace won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Sonoma in 1989 with a speed of 90.041 mph.
· 15 drivers have Coors Light poles at Sonoma, led by Jeff Gordon with five.
· Two drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Sonoma Ricky Rudd and Jeff Gordon. Ricky Ruddholds the record for most consecutive poles at Sonoma with three; fall 1990 through 1992.
· Jeff Gordon is the only active driver to have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Sonoma: 1998-‘99 and 2004-’05.
· Youngest Sonoma pole winner: Joey Logano (06/26/2011 – 21 years, 1 month, 2 days).
· Oldest Sonoma pole winner: Rusty Wallace (06/25/2000 – 43 years, 10 months, 11 days).
· 17 different NSCS drivers have won at Sonoma Raceway, led by Jeff Gordon with five wins. Tony Stewart has the second most wins (two) among active drivers at Sonoma.
· Jeff Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in road course wins with nine (Sonoma, five; Watkins Glen, four); Tony Stewart has the second most road course wins all-time with seven (Watkins Glen, five; Sonoma, two).
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison holds the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series record for the most wins (six) at a single road course track – Riverside International Raceway.
· Jeff Gordon is the only driver to post consecutive wins (three total) at Sonoma Raceway (1998 and 1999 each from the pole and 2000 from the fifth starting position).
· Youngest Sonoma winner: Kyle Busch (06/22/2008 – 23 years, 1 month, 20 days).
· Oldest Sonoma winner: Ricky Rudd (06/23/2002 – 45 years, 9 months, 11 days).
· Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Sonoma in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with six: Jeff Gordon (five) and Jimmie Johnson (one).
· Six different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Sonoma; led by Chevrolet with 10 victories; followed by Ford with six and Toyota with three.
· Five of the 25 (20%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Jeff Gordon in 2004. Gordon is the only NSCS driver to win from the pole at Sonoma more than once.
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more wins (five) than any other starting position at Sonoma Raceway.
· Eight of the 25 (32%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from the front row: five from the pole and three from second-place.
· 18 of the 25 (72%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Sonoma have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Seven of the 25 (28%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.
· Two of the 25 (8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma 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 Juan Pablo Montoya in 2007.
· Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Sonoma with four; followed by Tony Stewart with three.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-five finishes at Sonoma with 13; followed by Ricky Rudd with 10.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-10 finishes at Sonoma with 17; followed by Mark Martin with 13.
· Marcos Ambrose leads the series in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Sonoma with a 4.500.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Sonoma with an 8.238. Clint Bowyer (9.125) is the only other active driver with an average finish in the top 10.
· Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin competed at Sonoma Raceway eight times each before visiting Victory in Lane; the longest span of any the eight active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners. Johnson won in 2010 and Martin won in 1997.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Sonoma without visiting Victory Lane at 16.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway was the June 27, 1999 race won by Jeff Gordon over Mark Martin with a MOV of 0.197 second.
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Sonoma Raceway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): 2008 (110/112); 2009 (110/113) and 2012 (110/112).
· None of the 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions.
· Qualifying has never been cancelled in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway.
· Boris Said posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Sonoma Raceway (6/22/2003).
· Juan Pablo Montoya posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Sonoma Raceway (6/24/2007).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Sonoma with 454 laps led in 21 starts.
· Danica Patrick is the only female driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to compete at Sonoma Raceway.
source:

NASCAR in California
· There have been 134 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at 15 tracks in California.
source:
· 429 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as California.
source:

Castroneves obliterates track record for Phoenix pole (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Helio Castroneves has shattered the previous track record at Phoenix International Raceway en route to his second pole of the Verizon IndyCar Series season and Team Penske’s fourth in four races to kick off 2017. In the process, he also won his 49th pole of his INDYCAR career (7 CART/42 IRL/IC), which puts him in a tie for third all-time in series history with Bobby Unser.

The Brazilian, driving the No. 3 REV Group Chevrolet, also set the pole at Phoenix last year but at a two-lap average of 192.324 mph.

Tonight, under the lights with temperatures of 72 degrees Fahrenheit ambient and 83 for track, Castroneves’ average was a staggering 194.905 mph.

“People don’t realize that qualifying is extremely difficult,” he said. “I took it to the limit – I had one eye closed and one eye open. Experience is a big part of this and today was really, really good. The conditions were really difficult today in practice – the gusting winds were horrendous. We worked mostly on the race setup (in practice). My engineer did a phenomenal job and obviously everybody at Team Penske – the REV Group car was really fast. Qualifying is one thing – the race is another – but I’m really confident going into tomorrow.”

Teammate Will Power starts second for Saturday night’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Power was only the second car to run, but put down what looked to be an incredible two-lap average of his own – the first driver over 194 mph – before Castroneves beat him under slightly cooler and less windy conditions later in the session.

Young Americans JR Hildebrand, in his first race back after missing Barber, and Barber winner Josef Newgarden will share Row 2 with Simon Pagenaud fifth in Chevrolet’s first top-five qualifying sweep of the season, a result which was somewhat expected given Chevrolet’s edge in the aero department on a downforce-heavy short oval aero kit package at Phoenix.

It was Tony Kanaan, who was feted along with Castroneves on Thursday night in a separate event at the Heard Museum honoring both drivers’ 20 years in IndyCar, who led Honda’s charge in sixth. Mikhail Aleshin, Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti and points leader Sebastien Bourdais completed the top 10.

Of note, Long Beach winner James Hinchcliffe was 11th, his worst start thus far this year, and Ed Carpenter’s team was able to get his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet back out after a fuel leak in practice, and a rapid fuel cell change. But his luckless run in his oval races continues and he’ll start 21st and last tomorrow night.

Qualifying results are below.

AVONDALE, Arizona – Qualifying Friday for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.022-mile Phoenix Raceway, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine and speed:

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 194.905
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 194.017
3. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 193.912
4. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 193.676
5. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 193.414
6. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 192.539
7. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 192.327
8. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 192.050
9. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 191.387
10. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 191.349
11. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 191.194
12. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 190.799
13. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 190.768
14. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 190.565
15. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 190.405
16. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 190.029
17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 189.786
18. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 189.779
19. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 189.301
20. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 188.536
21. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 186.360

Phoenix weekend, Friday notes

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Days are weird when the track activity for the Verizon IndyCar Series doesn’t start until 4 p.m. PT and local time. Qualifying is tonight from 8 to 9 p.m. PT and local time, online via NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App at http://indystream.nbcsports.com.

That then makes the notes we gather a little different.

  • Thursday night kicked off the weekend with an honoring and fun night of storytelling from Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan, moderated by veteran open-wheel and NBA reporter Gary Gerould. The event, held at the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix, offered a lot of camaraderie, laughs and memories shared for the pair of Brazilians. We’ll have a full recap of the event on Saturday.
  • Oberto premieres on Marco Andretti’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda this weekend as a primary sponsor. In a “convenient coincidence,” Oberto is also on Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross’ No. 41 Beetle GRC for two-time defending champion Scott Speed in this weekend’s Red Bull Global Rallycross opener in Memphis (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, NBC). The red-and-white No. 27 car had a primary sponsorship vacancy for most races this year in the wake of hhgregg’s financial issues, with United Fiber & Data only on for selected races.
  • Fernando Alonso’s entry is getting most of the attention among one-off Indianapolis 500 cars, but he’s not the only one. Per Spanish site IndyCarAlDiaJuncos Racing is set to run at least one car on the same May 3 date as Alonso will make his debut, as Ricardo Juncos’ team gets close to making its announcement for its driver or drivers it will have in this year’s race.
  • Alonso’s livery for his No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti is set to be revealed either the Tuesday before his test on May 2 or the morning of his test on May 3, itself. The @McLarenIndy account tweeted a sneak pic of the livery earlier this week.
  • The Jay Howard Team ONE Cure Honda-powered entry for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports doesn’t yet have its engineer set, but the team is getting close to finalizing the crew for that car.
  • Zach Veach’s No. 40 IWiT Championship Chevrolet will be revealed Wednesday night, May 10, at AJ Foyt Racing’s Indianapolis shop.
  • On a Red Bull Global Rallycross note: Andretti, Bryan Herta Rallysport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have both IndyCar and GRC efforts running this weekend, so four of the 10 Supercars. The rest of the GRC field features Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE (three cars), Subaru Rally Team USA (two cars) and Loenbro Motorsports, the former Ganassi team (one car).
  • Be on the lookout for a pair of digital pieces on NBCSports.com later this weekend. NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter Katie Hargitt caught up with Helio Castroneves for Rapid Fire, while she’ll also fill in for Anders Krohn – who’s on Red Bull GRC duty in Memphis – hosting IndyCar Paddock Pass. Hargitt caught up with Barber winner Josef Newgarden, series returnee JR Hildebrand and Hildebrand’s Barber fill-in Zach Veach in this week’s episode.

Newgarden, Chevy top Phoenix practice

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

Friday’s two-hour practice for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix started out slowly, with only a handful of drivers turning laps in the opening 30 minutes. However, the second hour, and the final 30 minutes in particular, turned into a frenzy, with drivers making several runs and completing qualifying sims.

Josef Newgarden topped the speed charts with an average speed of 192.108 mph, the only lap above the 192 mark of the session.

JR Hildebrand enjoyed a strong run on his return after suffering a broken hand at Long Beach to run second in practice. Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power completed the top five, making it a Chevrolet sweep of the top five spots.

Heavy winds wreaked havoc on the session, with sand blowing onto the track surface throughout practice. Conditions became severe enough that practice was halted a couple minutes prior to its scheduled conclusion.

Of note: driver Ed Carpenter, in his first race outing of 2017, suffered a shortened practice due to mechanical issues and the crew reportedly was working on swapping out the fuel cell on his No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

Times and qualifying order are below. Qualifying begins at 11:00 p.m. ET (8:00 local time).

 

 

Honda defends decision to redesign F1 power unit for 2017

McLaren/LAT
Leave a comment

Honda Formula 1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa has defended the decision to redesign its power unit layout for 2017 despite suffering a number of reliability and performance issues at the start of the season.

Entering its third year since returning to F1 as an engine supplier, Honda looked to make gains by revising the layout of its power unit to mirror that of pace-setter Mercedes.

The decision appeared to backfire, though, with a lack of both performance and reliability leaving customer team McLaren frustrated and without a single point after three races.

Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference in Russia, Hasegawa was asked if the decision to revise the power unit layout was a mistake, and defending the move despite admitting to the ongoing problems.

“I don’t think we made a complete mistake from last year’s performance. We knew that we have to change everything, not only the package but also the combustion, so we tried to modify all areas,” Hasegawa explained.

“Some areas we succeeded, to reduce the weight and lower the center of gravity, but yeah, definitely we couldn’t get enough power from the combustion. So, yeah, it is just an excuse, but we still need time.

“But we don’t think we made a huge mistake, the direction was right. We are very much disappointed with our current situation.

“But because the base concept is correct, we believe we can make good progress in the middle of the season.”

McLaren’s hopes of scoring its first points of the year in Russia took a hit on Friday when Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to take new elements for his power unit, triggering a 15-place grid drop for the race.