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…


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


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

· 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.

· 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.
· 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.

Despite late start, CGR Rallycross started first Red Bull GRC season strong

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MotorSportsTalk takes a look back at Chip Ganassi Racing Rallycross’ first season in the Red Bull Global Rallycross. First up is a look at how the season started, and how late things came together for the two-car effort, with a further look at the season after the first couple races coming in part two.

At the start of the season, Chip Ganassi said of his latest new racing project, a two-car Ford Fiesta effort in Red Bull Global Rallycross, “I’m the person that likes to come in and under promise and over deliver.”

Mission almost accomplished.

About the only thing the new CGR Rallycross program didn’t achieve in 2015 was a final round victory in its first year.

It sounds bad on the surface, but consider the competition level and the fact Ganassi didn’t win its first IndyCar race until its fifth season in 1994, and you get the sense CGR Rallycross is closer to a breakthrough than its IndyCar program was at the same time in its lifespan.

The fact the team even ran two cars this season was testament to an incredible last-minute effort of preparation, as the cars were received mere weeks before the season-opening round at Fort Lauderdale, May 31.

Team manager Carl Goodman explained how close it came to missing the planned debut.

“We only just got the first one just a couple weeks before,” Goodman told MotorSportsTalk. “We had three days of testing this year; a three-day test in Florida before season started. And the drivers had to share that car… it was only one car!

“We didn’t even know if we’d have a second car in moving from Ft. Lauderdale to Texas (for X Games). So every race weekend has been a test for us.”

The team’s lineup of Steve Arpin and Brian Deegan didn’t actually debut in full until X Games, and Jeff Ward filled in for Deegan at Daytona and Washington D.C. due to conflicts.

Arpin, who was the team’s only entry at Ft. Lauderdale, added more to how tight the timeline was.

“Honestly if stuff got pushed back one week, it would have been trouble,” said Arpin, driver of the team’s No. 00 Loenbro entry. “Once we got the cars, we were lucky because they were good off the boat.

“We just dove in. All these guys, except for Carl, it was their first time seeing and working on a rallycross car. We did some simulation stuff here at the stop. So we got acclimated, quickly.”

Speaking even more to the newness of the program, Goodman, Arpin and Deegan were the only team members who had any sort of past rally experience.

Goodman, an M-Sport veteran, was re-entering the rally world after eight years in NASCAR with Michael Waltrip Racing. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, given the Charlotte CGR team base and MWR’s own dwindling efforts in NASCAR.

“I was with M-Sport for about a month or two short of 10 years. But I left them at the end of 2006, just as they won a rally World Championship, the manufacturer’s championship,” he said.

“I moved to the U.S. and had my time with was MWR until about a year ago. So eight years of Cup years. When this opportunity came up, and with an M-Sport car, it just made it easier. I knew the car, how it’s built, all the parts fell together. It was a big professional team in CGR. All the parts came together at the right time. I’d had quite a break between M-Sport and rallycross.”

Goodman noted there were four full-time crewmembers, three with NASCAR experience, one with road racing and one with a dirt track background, with four others drawn from the workshop for race weekends.

“I think some of the guys were a bit daunted at first, but they’re all professional racers,” Goodman explained. “They all have that solid background of being at a track, so they’re not overwhelmed or awed by being there.

“They expected to know what to do, maybe not on this type of car, but they’re all very well versed in racing. It sounds on the face of it to be a completely different things, these cars blasting and jumping on the dirt, but they’re professionals and they adapted.”

Red Bull GRC courses, by their nature, are very different than any normal type of circuit racing. Some are more dirt-heavy, some more pavement-heavy but all have a dirt component, a jump and the Kobalt Tools Joker Lap.

Preparing the cars for these circuits helped take the crew out of their comfort zone, Goodman said.

“The main tools are there, with the springs, dampers and just your normal suspension tuning… the added tool is the differentials,” he said.

“In general the cars are quite soft. Everything is a compromise about them. Even if you have fast sections, you have tight and dirt sections. That can stop you from going too extreme, either direction.

“Barbados or even Daytona, they’re race tracks. You could turn up with a classic touring car. But with dirt and a jump, you can’t do that. You’re always governed by the fact that they have to get through the dirt. That’s the level of all the tracks.”

Things started well enough. Arpin was seventh at Ft. Lauderdale but a charge to second, a Silver medal, in only the team’s second ever start at the X Games at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, was one of the season highlights.

“X Games… Steve just raced great and drove through the field. That certainly showed the potential of the car,” Goodman said.

Arpin added, “For the rewards, the X Games was the standout, but the final race in Vegas was the best for us.”

In part two of our look at CGR Rallycross, we’ll look at the remainder of their season after those opening two rounds that laid the groundwork for a successful first campaign in the championship.

Mercedes AMG Petronas tops its 2014 point total, despite fewer points available

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The end of the Formula 1 season just completed means a chance to compare stats and points standings year-on-year. So forgive the dive into nerddom, but it’s the most wonderful time of year to bust out the calculators.

We’ll start first with the double World Champions, Mercedes AMG Petronas, who have managed to top their tally in the Constructor’s Championship from 2014.

For the second consecutive year, Mercedes has won 16 of 19 races and gone 1-2 in the driver’s championship.

Where they’ve improved: they set the record for 15 front row lockouts, they took 12 1-2 race finishes after taking “only” 11 in 2014, and, perhaps most impressively, topped its overall points total despite having fewer points on offer.

The double points finale last year meant a maximum of 86 points was possible (50 and 36 for first and second rather than the 25 and 18).

Yes, Mercedes scored fewer points this year at Abu Dhabi than last… but still scored the maximum achievable (43 of 43 versus 50 of 86).

It meant Mercedes ended 2015 with two more points than it did in 2014 – 703 to 701. Lewis Hamilton’s own tally went down by three, from 384 to 381, but teammate Nico Rosberg made up the difference with a five-point gain from 317 to 322.

Percentage-wise, Mercedes scored 703 of a maximum possible 817 points – or 86.07 percent of the potential maximum number (43 points, times 19 races).

It’s an uptick from the still remarkable 81.51 percent of the potential maximum last year (701 of 860).

To put in perspective how dominant that number is by contrast to the rest of the field, Mercedes scored 703 of 1,919 total points (101 total points per race, times 19 races) on offer in 2015.

That meant as one team, Mercedes brought home 36.63 percent of all points available in 2015, which is up from 34.7 percent last year (701 of 2,020 points).

The remaining eight teams that scored were left to divide up the remaining 63 and change percent… or an average of 7.92 percent, per team, or so.

So for 2016, on top of wishing Ferrari and the rest of the field can up their game to match, one of the early story lines to watch will be whether Mercedes can sustain this incredible amount of statistical dominance from its on-track success.

Audi to test six young guns in its DTM car

Photo: Audi
Photo: Audi
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It’s not just Mercedes (and Kevin Magnussen) that’s testing young guns in one of its DTM cars this week at Jerez.

Audi announced that it would give a six-pack of youngsters a shot to test as well, from Tuesday to Thursday, at the same place in the Audi RS 5 DTM.

Those six include:

  • Matthew Brabham (21/USA)
  • Mitch Evans (21/New Zealand)
  • Antonio Giovinazzi (21/Italy)
  • Ben Hanley (30/Great Britain)
  • Alex Palou (18/Spain)
  • Arthur Pic (24/France)

Note most of these six have or had some level of open-wheel experience, with Evans having tried his hand successfully in a couple different sports cars this year. The young Kiwi finished second in his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after winning at Spa in his sports car debut, driving Jota Sport’s Gibson 015S Nissan.

Brabham comes over to test the DTM car after racing primarily in the Mazda Road to Indy the last four years. He won the 2012 USF2000 and 2013 Pro Mazda titles, then raced the full 2014 and partial 2015 seasons in Indy Lights; he’s also driven in Formula E for Andretti Autosport and in the Stadium Super Trucks.

Kevin Hart, Ludacris, Marco Andretti head to Abu Dhabi for F1 finale

Marco Andretti
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Marco Andretti has had a good run of attending season finale events.

Obviously, the 28-year-old grandson of Mario Andretti rounded out his 10th season in the Verizon IndyCar Series at its own season finale at Sonoma, finishing 11th and then ending the year ninth in points.

But Andretti told NASCAR Talk’s Nate Ryan, among other reporters, at Phoenix International Raceway where he’d tested his IndyCar and then made the promotional rounds that he’d have a busy next couple weeks ahead.

“I’m watching too many races. I need to be in them!” Andretti said. “(Homestead), I’m going as Jeff Gordon’s guest. Then going to Abu Dhabi Formula 1. (Our season) needs to be longer.”

Last week, he and fellow IndyCar stars Josef Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe made the trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway – incidentally, as did Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton – to witness Jeff Gordon’s final drive before hanging up his helmet after 23 incredible years at NASCAR’s top level.

This week, it was Marco’s turn to hit Hamilton’s usual turf, as he and his friends Ludacris and Kevin Hart made the trip to Abu Dhabi to witness the F1 finale.

Marco, who had a Honda Racing F1 test in the late 2000s but never was able to make the move to emulate both Mario and Michael, each of whom raced in F1, appeared wowed by the Yas Marina Circuit once he arrived from Chicago.

Abu Dhabi F1 quals!! @kevinhart4real @ludacris

A photo posted by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

Yas is hands down the most insane facility ! #AbuDhabi. Wish I was driving !!

A photo posted by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

Andretti, Luda, Hart and crew met up with Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo at the weekend.

Andretti is continuing the trip into this week, with further posts via his Instagram page.

Hart – one of this country’s most talented and recognizable comedians at the moment – also appeared to enjoy the atmosphere.

As did Ludacris, who posted this view from a yacht.

The only way to watch the F1 Race in Abu Dhabi. #yachtlife

A photo posted by @ludacris on

The vacation crew found Hamilton after the race on Sunday night.

Hamilton’s friend, another artist in Big Sean, who’d performed the halftime show at the Philadelphia Eagles-Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, also made the flight out to Abu Dhabi.

Complete with other more obscure, random celebrities like Rick Astley – who apparently “Rick-rolled” free practice two coverage on the world feed – Edgar Davids and Dwight Yorke, it was a weekend of interesting folks hitting Abu Dhabi. My MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith noted those three, below, in various tweets over the weekend.