Quaker State 400

Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky

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Intermediate-sized ovals make up the majority of the landscape in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

You see them so often that sometimes, you forget that they have their own little quirks and quickly slap them with the “cookie cutter” tag.

That’s not the case, however, with Kentucky Speedway, which will host the Sprint Cup circus this Saturday night in the Quaker State 400.

This 1.5-miler is bumpy and rough. Handling is important here, and with no repaves in over a decade, multiple grooves have formed up for drivers to use. All the elements for a good, big track show are in place.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know heading into Round 17 of the 2014 Sprint Cup regular season…

KENTUCKY-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Two top 10s
· Average finish of 11.3
· Average Running Position of 13.3, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.6, 10th-best
· 21 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 202 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.530 mph, 12th-fastest
· 92 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), ninth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· One win, two top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 5.3
· Average Running Position of 5.4, second-best
· Driver Rating of 125.2, second-best
· 104 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.765 mph, second-fastest
· 740 Laps in the Top 15 (92.4%), third-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 UPS Ford)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 15.3
· Average Running Position of 9.8, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.5, seventh-best
· 20 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.987 mph, sixth-fastest
· 643 Laps in the Top 15 (80.3%), fourth-most
· 104 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 7.7
· Average Running Position of 13.2, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.8, eighth-best
· 31 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 230 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.854 mph, seventh-fastest
· 514 Laps in the Top 15 (64.2%), ninth-most
· 119 Quality Passes, second-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 16.3
· Average Running Position of 12.5, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 98.1, sixth-best
· 34 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.223 mph, fifth-fastest
· 531 Laps in the Top 15 (66.3%), eighth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· One top 10
· Average finish of 12.3
· Average Running Position of 12.2, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.5, 11th-best
· 225 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.830 mph, eighth-fastest
· 628 Laps in the Top 15 (78.4%), fifth-most
· 110 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· One top five, three top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 6.0
· Series-best Average Running Position of 3.9
· Series-best Driver Rating of 125.9
· Series-high 118 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 172.196 mph
· Series-high 783 Laps in the Top 15 (97.8%)
· 108 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 8.7
· Average Running Position of 14.0, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 98.2, fifth-best
· 52 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Series-high 313 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.289 mph, fourth-fastest
· 472 Laps in the Top 15 (58.9%), 11th-most
· 116 Quality Passes, third-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· One win, one top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 4.7
· Average Running Position of 8.3, third-best
· Driver Rating of 109.3, third-best
· 67 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.542 mph, third-fastest
· 775 Laps in the Top 15 (96.8%), second-most
· Series-high 157 Quality Passes

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· One win, one top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 13.7
· Average Running Position of 13.2, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 104.8, fourth-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 573 Laps in the Top 15 (71.5%), sixth-most

Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 13.3
· Driver Rating of 87.2, 12th-best
· 202 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· 92 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· Two top 10s
· Average finish of 11.0
· Average Running Position of 12.6, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 90.7, ninth-best
· 203 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.746 mph, ninth-fastest
· 555 Laps in the Top 15 (69.3%), seventh-most
· 101 Quality Passes, eighth-most

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Track Data
Season Race #: 16 of 36 (06-28-14)
Track Size: 1.5-miles
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 14 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 14 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 8 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 8 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 1,662 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,600 feet
Race Length: 200 laps / 300 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Kentucky
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 125.9
Kyle Busch…………………………. 125.2
Matt Kenseth……………………….. 109.3
Brad Keselowski………………….. 104.8
Kasey Kahne………………………… 98.2
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 98.1
Carl Edwards………………………… 94.5
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 91.8
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 90.7
Kurt Busch……………………………. 90.6
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (three total) among active drivers at Kentucky Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 183.636 mph, 29.406 secs., 06-29-13
2013 race winner: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 131.948 mph, (03:02:07), 06-30-13
Track qualifying record: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 183.636 mph, 29.406 secs., 06-29-13
Track race record: Brad Keselowski., Dodge, 145.607 mph, (02:45:02), 06-30-12

History
· In 1998, the track broke ground in Sparta, Kentucky, and opened as a 1.5-mile speedway in 2000.
· The original owners, Jerry Carroll and four other investors owned the track until 2008, when current owners, Speedway Motorsports Inc. purchased the facility.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was held in 2011 – won by Kyle Busch.

Notebook
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kentucky Speedway since the first race in 2011 – one race per season.
· 53 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway; 42 in more than one.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying at Kentucky was cancelled due to weather. The starting line-up was set per the Rule Book.
· Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the only two drivers that have won Coors Light poles at Kentucky.
· Youngest Kentucky pole winner: Jimmie Johnson (06/30/2012 – 36 years, nine months, 13 days).
· Oldest Kentucky pole winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (06/30/2013 – 38 years, eight months, 20 days).
· Three different NSCS drivers have won at Kentucky Speedway: Kyle Busch (07/09/2011), Brad Keselowski (06/30/2012) and Matt Kenseth (6/30/2013).
· Youngest Kentucky winner: Kyle Busch (07/09/2011 – 26 years, two months, seven days).
· Oldest Kentucky winner: Matt Kenseth (06/30/2013 – 41 years, three months, 20 days).
· Joe Gibbs Racing leads the series in wins at Kentucky with two (2011, 2013); followed by Penske Racing (2012) with one.
· Two different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Kentucky: Toyota (2011, 2013) and Dodge (2012).
· Kyle Busch won the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky from the first starting position. Due to the qualifying session being cancelled for the 2011 race it was not from the Coors Light pole.
· One of the three (33.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kentucky have been won from the front row.
· Two of the NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kentucky have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Kentucky was 16th, by Matt Kenseth last season.
· Three different drivers have posted NSCS runner-up finishes at Kentucky: David Reutimann (2011), Kasey Kahne (2012) and Jamie McMurray (2013).
· Kyle Busch leads the series in top-five finishes at Kentucky with two.
· Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth lead the series in top-10 finishes at Kentucky with three each.
· Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Kentucky with a 2.333.
· Matt Kenseth leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Kentucky with a 4.667. Kyle Busch (5.333), Jimmie Johnson (6.000), Jeff Gordon (7.667), and Kasey Kahne (8.667)are the other active drivers with an average finish in the top 10.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kentucky Speedway was the July 9, 2011 race won by Kyle Busch over David Reutimann with a MOV of 0.179 second.
· None of the three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kentucky Speedway have resulted with a green-white-checkered finish.
· None of the three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kentucky Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kentucky Speedway once; the 2011 race.
· Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Kentucky with 243 laps led in three starts. Jimmie Johnson has led the second-most with 203.
· Danica Patrick is the only female driver to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kentucky Speedway.
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· There have been four NASCAR Sprint Cup races among two tracks in Kentucky: 3 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, and 1 at Corbin Speedway in Corbin.
· 42 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Kentucky; three have posted wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
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Firestone: the tire that Indianapolis 500 and Verizon IndyCar Series ride upon

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More Indianapolis 500 winners have driven to Victory Lane on Firestone tires than all other tires combined.

The synergy and history between Firestone, parent company Bridgestone and Indianapolis Motor Speedway is nothing short of legendary.

MotorSportsTalk has compiled some very interesting facts about the relationship between Firestone, IMS and the Indy 500:

* Firestone has issued tires to all teams in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 that will carry names of all the drivers who have won the 500 on Firestone rubber inscribed on the sidewalls of the tires.

* Other names included in the sidewall inscriptions include Louis Meyer (the first driver to drink milk in Victory Lane), and Mario Andretti (Voted Driver of the Century).

firestone indy 500 tires 2016

* Firestone produced over 5,000 tires with the commemorative Indy 500 sidewalls to be used during the month of may for practice, qualifying and the historic race itself on Sunday.

* Firestone has accounted for exactly two-thirds of the wins at the Indy 500 – 66 of 99 races contested to date.

* Firestone has won the Indy 500 in 1911, 1913, 1920 through 1941, 1946-1966, 1969-1971, 1996 and 1997, and 2000-2015.

* Firestone has carried more drivers to Indy 500 wins than all other tire manufacturers combined. Goodyear has won 29 races, BFGoodrich won two, Michelin won one and Palmer Cord Tires won one.

* The first winner on Firestone rubber was also the first winner of the Indy 500 – Ray Harroun in 1911.

* Tires will also carry red and white Firestone “F shield” logos that are unique to the Indy 500 and indicate which tires will go on which side of each race car: red for right side and white for left side tires.

firestone racing logo* Firestone Racing joined the IndyCar Series in 1996 and has been at every race since. It competed vs. Goodyear for four years (1996-99) until becoming the exclusive tire provider for the 500 in 2000, a position it has held ever since.

* Firestone became the Official Tire of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 in 2002. The current contract for both of those roles runs through the 2018 season (originally extended in Dec. 2012).

* Firestone also sponsors the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. It is also the Official Tire of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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Simon Pagenaud has tunnel vision about Indy 500 — but that’s a good thing

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(Photos: IndyCar)
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To say Simon Pagenaud is a thinking man’s driver is an understatement.

The French driver has one of the most analytical minds in the Verizon IndyCar Series. It seems like he’s always thinking, always figuring out different scenarios, trying to outthink his fellow competitors.

He’s certainly had a lot to think of recently. He’s riding a three-race winning streak. He’s part of Team Penske’s 50th anniversary celebration.

But right here, right now, Pagenaud has just one race on his mind. As far as he’s concerned, Belle Isle next week is 10 years away, while Texas the week after that is 20 years away.

And don’t even ask Pagenaud if he’s thinking about winning the IndyCar championship.

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To say Simon Pagenaud is pumped up for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 is an understatement.

The only thing on Pagenaud’s mind is winning Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Not only would it be the biggest win in the Frenchman’s career, it would also extend team owner Roger Penske’s record to 17 Indy 500 victories.

“I’m thinking about the race itself, statistics are after the race,” Pagenaud told NBC Sports. “It’s hard on the last lap if you think about it! I’m always focused on the task itself. Prepare the best we can and try to win.

“When you step into the car, you have to think about how to do the best job you can with your machine. It’s you and your machine, you and your team, let’s get the best strategy possible, make the best pit stops and make no mistakes.

“So you have to be clear-minded and focused on the task. It’s a tunnel vision thing. I’m not thinking of anything else. I’m not thinking about the 50th anniversary of Team Penske, or it being the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

“If I was, I tell you what, they wouldn’t work really well. It’s about being in the moment and not thinking about anything else.”

Even with his three-race winning streak (Long Beach, Birmingham Grand Prix of Indianapolis), preparations for the 500 have not gone as well as Pagenaud would like.

“It’s not as good as I wanted to be honest,” said Pagenaud, who will start in eighth position, the middle of Row 3 on the starting grid. “We’re not as dominant as we were last year. It’s been tough. It’s not been easy to get speed out of the car. We’ve done a good job of trying, but we haven’t found the speed of the Hondas.”

But as concerned as Pagenaud may seem, Penske is more confident than concerned.

“Obviously he’s a hot hand right now and he’s shown how good he is,” Penske said of Pagenaud. “That’s the reason we hired him a year ago.

“I think he wasn’t as happy with his performance in 2015. This is a different race. This race is wide open. It’s a long-distance race. It’s four different corners, lots of strategy.

“Certainly executing in the pits, you saw how good he was last year and bumped into a back marker when he was trying to make a pass there. So I think he’s going to have a great chance. He’s certainly excited.

“John Menard (Pagenaud’s primary sponsor of Menard’s Home Improvement Stores) coming on board is probably one of the great things of the month for us because John has spent a lot of time and a lot of money here over the years.

“(It was) great to see his car in the Winner Circle at the Angie’s road race here a couple of weeks ago. I think (Pagenaud’s) on his way to a championship. We’ve just got to continue to stay focused.”

Winning the biggest race in the world would also help Pagenaud’s countrymen.

“It’s great news that there’s a lot of interest (in France) in IndyCar,” Pagenaud said. “They’re showing races there. It’s big. There’s also half a large plane coming to the race from my hometown (Poitiers, France).

“I know it’s an American sport, but it’s a worldwide event. The last time a Frenchman won in Indy was 1920. It was Gaston Chevrolet, and I’m driving a Chevrolet! Hopefully, it’s my year.

“What would it mean (if he won)? I don’t know, to be honest. It wouldn’t be a bad time. We’re having a tough time in France right now, so a little bit of joy from the sport would be good.

“It’d be awesome to go back to France with that trophy and that ring on my finger.”

Tony DiZinno contributed to this report

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Honda bullish ahead of pivotal Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  James Hinchcliffe of Canada, driver of the #5 ARROW Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Chevrolet,  drives  on Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Honda Performance Development president Art St. Cyr feels bullish about the manufacturer’s chances in the 100th Indianapolis 500, believing all of its cars stand a serious chance of winning Sunday’s race.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe ended a long drought for Honda in qualifying last weekend, claiming its first pole position since Simon Pagenaud won the Verizon P1 Award at Houston in 2014.

Sunday’s ‘500 is a pivotal one for Honda given the occasion and its standing among its numerous motorsport programmes, and is made all the more crucial given its winless start to the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“We weren’t expecting the outcome of the first few races that we got this year,” St. Cyr conceded.

“We thought we were going to be OK. But obviously when we first came out at St. Pete, especially Phoenix, we had to focus on those, as well.

“I wouldn’t say the beginning part of the season went according to plan. But we kind of know what we have right now and where we’re going with this one.

“We’re working and the other side is working as well to try to improve as much as you can.”

The Honda-powered cars impressed throughout practice and qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, appearing to make a significant step up in performance from the Angie’s List GP of Indianapolis two weeks ago.

Besides Hinchcliffe getting pole, the Andretti Autosport cars regularly ran quickest through the speed trap with Ryan Hunter-Reay qualifying third, while Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal has looked strong in race trim.

“The Indy 500 is a major focus for Honda. We really worked hard for 12 months on this particular race,” St. Cyr said.

“We used two of our three allocated boxes from an aerodynamic standpoint on this race. We have a pretty major upgrade of our engine specification for this race.

“As you’ve seen, it’s fairly competitive at this point. Really our whole goal is to get all of our teams with a package that is capable of winning this race.”

And providing such a package is something that St. Cyr believes Honda has achieved.

“It’s pretty great,” he said. “The Andretti guys, the whole Andretti team, all five of their cars, have been fast. They unloaded fast. They typically do really well here. We expect good things out of them.

“The Schmidt Peterson Racing group, all three of them have just had stellar months. You want to give some shouts out to Dale Coyne and those guys who have shown pretty good speed, with people that don’t have a lot of experience running around this track.

“A.J. Foyt and Takuma Sato showed something at the end of qualifying. They qualified third in the last group, right? Graham, we expect him to have a real good race, as well.

“All of our teams have legitimate contenders to win this race, so we’re actually really thrilled about that.”

PWC: Bentley confirms Andrew Palmer sustains head injury

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Photo: Bentley Team Absolute
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Following an accident in practice ahead of today’s Pirelli World Challenge race at Lime Rock Park, Bentley Team Absolute driver Andrew Palmer has sustained a head injury following contact with another car, an Aston Martin driven by Jorge de la Torre.

Just after 6:30 p.m. ET, Bentley released the following statement:

“Bentley Motorsport can confirm that Bentley Team Absolute driver Andrew Palmer will remain in hospital following an incident at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut earlier today. He has sustained a head injury and is being closely monitored after treatment by specialists.

“Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush, comments: “Everyone at Bentley Motorsport is thinking of Andrew and we all send him our best wishes. We are a close-knit community and we have team members at the hospital with him and his family. We will continue to offer our support to them at this difficult time. Our thanks go to the trackside team at Lime Rock Park and the medical professionals who have helped Andrew so far.”

“No further update is expected today. Bentley Motorsport will release another statement in due course.”

An additional statement came from WC Vision just before 10 p.m. ET:

“As an update to the earlier released news on Andrew Palmer and Jorge De La Torre:

“Both drivers remain under treatment at Hartford Hospital. Bentley has provided the statement below regarding Andrew Palmer. WC Vision will release further information on the condition of both drivers when Hartford Hospital provides any updates.

That came after the first update issued by World Challenge officials which read as follows, and was released after 1 p.m. ET:

“Both Andrew Palmer and Jorge De La Torre were transported to Sharon Hospital where they were stabilized for transportation to Hartford Hospital.  That is all we know at this time.”

K-PAX Racing driver Alvaro Parente won his second race of the weekend in his No. 9 McLaren 650S GT3 in the afternoon, although the results of which matter little in the face of Palmer’s accident and injuries.

Our thoughts and best wishes go out to the drivers and their families affected at this time.