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Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

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Another major “wild card” opportunity for drivers to break into the Chase for the Sprint Cup will come this Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.

The Coke Zero 400 is critical for everyone sporting a zero in the win column. For those that are high enough in the points standings to currently have spots on the Chase Grid, a victory puts that “points alone” scenario for making the post-season to rest.

But for those outside of the Top 16 cutoff, time is growing short and they may be feeling a little desperation about getting that win which will put them into the Chase. But they also know that restrictor-plate races can yield surprising victors.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here are all the notes and numbers to keep in mind going into Round 18 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…

DAYTONA-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 RK Motors Charlotte Toyota)
· Three top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 16.4
· Average Running Position of 17.3, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 83.5, ninth-best
· 77 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.524 mph, fourth-fastest

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· 10 top fives, 13 top 10s
· Average finish of 18.0
· Average Running Position of 16.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 88.9, sixth-best
· 70 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 3,692 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· 2,072 Laps in the Top 15 (60.3%), fifth-most
· 2,585 Quality Passes, third-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota)
· One win, five top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 18.6
· Series-best Average Running Position of 12.6
· Series-best Driver Rating of 97.1
· 84 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 3,851 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.532 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 2,413 Laps in the Top 15 (70.2%)
· Series-high 2,743 Quality Passes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.4
· Average Running Position of 14.0, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.0, third-best
· 85 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 4,036 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.528 mph, third-fastest
· 2,245 Laps in the Top 15 (65.3%), second-most
· 2,710 Quality Passes, second-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Subway Ford)
· Four top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 18.1
· Average Running Position of 17.6, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 82.1, 12th-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 4,026 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 1,815 Laps in the Top 15 (52.8%), eighth-most
· 2,549 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Pepsi Real Sugar Chevrolet)
· Six wins, 13 top fives, 20 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 16.3
· Average Running Position of 14.5, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 88.0, seventh-best
· 3,664 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· 2,030 Laps in the Top 15 (59.1%), sixth-most
· 2,333 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)
· Three top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 20.4
· Average Running Position of 16.1, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 85.5, eighth-best
· 79 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.471 mph, eighth-fastest

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Folds Of Honor Chevrolet)
· Two wins, six top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.8
· Driver Rating of 82.4, 11th-best
· Series-high 87 Fastest Laps Run
· 3,578 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 189.509 mph, sixth-fastest
· 1,990 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet)
· Three wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 17.0
· Average Running Position of 13.9, third-best
· Driver Rating of 89.0, fifth-best
· 2,194 Laps in the Top 15 (63.8%), fourth-most
· 2,372 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota)
· Two wins, six top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.1
· Average Running Position of 13.8, second-best
· Driver Rating of 92.9, second-best
· 77 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 3,566 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· 2,228 Laps in the Top 15 (64.8%), third-most
· 2,453 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops / Ducks Unlimited Chevrolet)
· Four wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.1
· Average Running Position of 16.5, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.0, fourth-best
· 76 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 1,898 Laps in the Top 15 (55.2%), seventh-most

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Chase Outlook (Following Kentucky)
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Daytona International Speedway Data
Season Race #: 18 of 36 (07-05-14)
Track Size: 2.5-mile
Banking/Turns 1 & 2: 31 degrees
Banking/Turns 3 & 4: 31 degrees
Banking/Straights: 3 degrees
Banking/Tri-Oval: 18 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 3,800 feet
Backstretch Length: 3,000 feet
Race Length: 160 laps / 400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Daytona
Kyle Busch…………………………… 97.1
Matt Kenseth………………………… 92.9
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 92.0
Tony Stewart…………………………. 90.0
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 89.0
Kurt Busch……………………………. 88.9
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 88.0
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 85.5
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 83.5
Kevin Harvick………………………… 83.1
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Daytona International Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light pole winner: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 193.723 mph, 46.458 secs, 07-05-13
2013 race winner: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 154.313 mph, (02:36:20), 07-06-13
Track qualifying record (July race): Cale Yarborough, Ford, 203.519 mph, 44.222 secs, 07-02-86
Track race record (July race): Bobby Allison, Mercury, 173.473 mph, (02:18:21), 07-04-80

Daytona History
· Groundbreaking for Daytona International Speedway was Nov. 25, 1957. The soil underneath the banked corners was dug from the infield of the track and the hole filled with water. It is now known as Lake Lloyd.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona was a 100-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20, 1959 – won by Bob Welborn.
· The first summer race at Daytona International Speedway was held on July 4, 1959 – won by Fireball Roberts (140.581 mph).
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty won his 200th career race on July 4, 1984 at Daytona.
· Lights were installed in the spring of 1998. However, the July race was delayed until October that year due to thick smoke from wildfires. The second Daytona race has been held under the lights ever since.
· The track underwent a repave in 2010.

Daytona Notebook
· There have been 134 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona International Speedway since the track hosted its first race in 1959: 56 have been 500 miles, 51 were 400 miles and four 250 miles. There were also 23 qualifier races that were point races.
· 438 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July race at Daytona International Speedway; 275 in more than one.
· Richard Petty leads the series in July race starts at Daytona with 32. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 21 starts.
· Fireball Roberts won the inaugural Coors Light pole for the July race at Daytona in 1959 with a speed of 144.997 mph.
· 37 drivers have Coors Light poles at Daytona for the July event, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough with eight. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in July race poles, with two. Gordon started first in 2007 due to qualifying being cancelled as well.
· Three drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles for the July race at Daytona: Cale Yarborough (1970-’71; 1980-’81, 1983-’84), Sterling Marlin (1991-’92) and Dale Earnhardt (1994-’95).
· Youngest Daytona pole winner: Austin Dillon (02/23/2014 – 23 years, 9 months, 27 days).
· Oldest Daytona pole winner: Mark Martin (07/02/2011 – 52 years, 5 months, 23 days).
· 34 different drivers have won the July race at Daytona International Speedway, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson with five wins. Tony Stewart leads all active drivers with four; followed by Jeff Gordon with three.
· Five drivers have posted consecutive wins in the July race at Daytona International Speedway, including three consecutive by David Pearson (1972 – 1974). Tony Stewart (2005-’06)is the only active driver to win consecutive July races at Daytona.
· Youngest Daytona winner: Trevor Bayne (02/20/2011 – 20 years, 0 months, 1 day).
· Oldest Daytona winner: Bobby Allison (02/14/1988 – 50 years, 5 months, 23 days).
· The Wood Brothershave the most wins at Daytona in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 15; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with 13.
· Seven different manufacturers have won the July NSCS race at Daytona; led by Chevrolet with 18 victories; followed by Ford with 16.
· A driver has swept both races (Daytona 500 and the July race) at Daytona five times: Fireball Roberts – 1962 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 250); Cale Yarborough – 1968 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 400); Lee Roy Yarborough – 1969 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 400); Bobby Allison – 1982 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 400); and Jimmie Johnson – 2013 (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola).
· Eight of the 55 (14.5%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Kevin Harvick in 2010.
· The Coors Light pole is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (eight) than any other starting position in the July race at Daytona International Speedway.
· 15 of the 55 (27.2%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona have been won from the front row: eight from the pole and seven from second-place.
· 41 of the 55 (74.5%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Daytona have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Four of the 55 (7.2%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Daytona was 42nd, by Tony Stewart in the 2012 July race.
· Buddy Baker leads the series in runner-up finishes in the July race at Daytona with five; followed by Richard Petty and Sterling Marlin with four. Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch lead all active drivers with two each.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the series in top-five finishes in the July race at Daytona with 13; followed by Richard Petty with 12. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven.
· David Pearson leads the series in top-10 finishes in the July race at Daytona with 19; followed by Dale Earnhardt with 18. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 11.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Daytona with a 10.440.
· Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Daytona with a 13.379.
· Greg Biffle won the July race at Daytona in his first appearance.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Daytona without visiting Victory Lane at 38.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway for the July race was the July 7, 2007 race won by Jamie McMurray over Kyle Busch with a MOV of 0.005 second.
· Four of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July races have resulted with a green-white-checkered finish at Daytona International Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): 2008 (160/162), 2010 (160/166), 2011 (160/170) and 2013 (160/161).
· Only one of the 55 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July races at Daytona International Speedway has been shortened due to weather conditions – July 6, 1996 – the race was called on Lap 117, 43 circuits shy of the 160 scheduled laps.
· Qualifying for the July race has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway three times: 2007, 2009, and 2010.
· Four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series active drivers have made their first career start at Daytona International Speedway, though none were during the July race: Tony Stewart (2/14/99), Casey Mears (2/16/03), Kasey Kahne (2/15/04), and Danica Patrick (2/27/12).
· Six active drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Daytona International Speedway: Greg Biffle (2/15/04), Kevin Harvick (7/6/02), Jimmie Johnson (2/17/02), Paul Menard (7/5/08), Danica Patrick (2/24/13) and Austin Dillon (2/23/2014).
· Four active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career win at Daytona International Speedway; two were during the July race: Trevor Bayne (2/20/11), Greg Biffle (7/5/03), David Ragan (7/2/11) and Michael Waltrip (2/18/01).
· Tony Stewart leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Daytona with 665 laps led in 31 starts. Stewart also leads the series among active drivers in laps led in the July race at Daytona with 366; followed by Jeff Gordon with 316 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 243.
· Six female drivers have competed in the July event at Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Danica Patrick, Janet Guthrie, Christine Beckers, Lella Lombardi, Patty Moise and Shawna Robinson. Below they are ordered by best finish:
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NASCAR in Florida
· There have been 175 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among eight tracks in the state of Florida.
· The first NASCAR premiere series race in the state of Florida was held at the Daytona Beach & Road Course in 7/10/1949. The 40 lap event was by won Red Byron (Oldsmobile, 80.883 mph).
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· 173 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Florida; 10 of the 173 (5.7%) have recorded at least one victory in NASCAR national series competition.
· Of the seven Florida native drivers who have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, only Fireball Roberts and LeeRoy Yarborough have won the July race at Daytona International Speedway.
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Pascal Wehrlein to make F1 debut with Manor Racing

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 19:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Mercedes GP arrives in the paddock before final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 19, 2015 in Singapore.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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2015 DTM champion and Mercedes junior driver Pascal Wehrlein will make his Formula 1 debut in 2016 after securing a seat with Manor Racing.

Wehrlein, 21, has previously tested F1 cars with both Mercedes and Force India as well as enjoying success in DTM, Formula 3 and the German Formula Masters series.

After a long winter of speculation about his future, Manor has now confirmed that it will field Wehrlein in one of its seats for the 2016 season as part of its new technical partnership with Mercedes.

“Manor Racing is a great place for me to start my Formula 1 racing career. I’m very pleased to be here,” Wehrlein said.

“It’s a small and totally focused team and I soon hope to know everyone. Though it’s my first F1 season my aim is to help Stephen and the guys achieve their goals.

“It will be a tough challenge but I think we should be able to challenge for points along the way. It’s going to be good fun.

“A word for my racing family at Mercedes-Benz, and particularly for Toto, who have guided my career this far and made this opportunity possible. Thanks for the incredible support to help me achieve my dream; now it’s down to me to grab the moment and perform on track.”

Manor team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick was pleased to confirm the signing of Wehrlein, and believes that the German can make an instant impression in F1.

“Pascal is a sharp driver with a very promising future; Manor Racing is excited to have him aboard,” Fitzpatrick said.

“We’re a small team up for a big challenge this season, so we’ve chosen a driver with the talent and hunger to match our own on-track ambitions.

“Pascal has impressed in testing for Mercedes and Force India, together with commanding performances in DTM, culminating in the championship win last year. Manor Racing is perfectly placed to help Pascal make a big impact in his first season. We’re looking forward to it!”

Wehrlein’s confirmation leaves just one seat remains open on the 2016 F1 grid, with the identity of his Manor teammate still to be decided.

American driver Alexander Rossi, Britain’s Will Stevens and GP2 race winner Rio Haryanto are all known to be in the running for the seat.

Grace Autosport continuing to build program towards May

L to R: Grace Autosports Team Principal Beth Paretta and race driver Katherine Legge launch an all-female Indy 500 team to contest the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 (PRNewsFoto/Grace Autosport)
Photo: Grace Autosport
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One of the newest teams planning to field an entry at this year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Grace Autosport, continues its preparations in what could be a hectic month of February.

The primarily female initiative, led by Beth Paretta with Katherine Legge as nominated driver, has gained traction in the last month or so with further meetings, STEM events and Legge’s standout drive in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening race, the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

While announced last May, time is of the essence for securing both an engine lease and a team partner, to go along with the crew already established.

The target to confirm both the engine and team partner is coming up next month.

“[We’d need to finalize] by the beginning of March to give it proper time,” Paretta told NBC Sports in an interview following the Rolex 24.

Paretta was on site at Daytona for the Rolex 24 for a number of meetings with manufacturers and other key industry stakeholders, to continue to promote the Grace Autosport message, brand and team.

“Yes, there were a few key meetings – some planned, some impromptu – which went very well,” she said.

“The awareness still surprises me. I was wearing a Grace Autosport hat in the paddock and a few people asked me about the team. Many people in the racing community have said they think the concept is cool and have offered help.

“I get offers for help from some guys that have worked on teams I’ve worked with in the past, which is lovely.”

Legge’s drive at Daytona in the DeltaWing DWC13 coupe didn’t hurt matters, either.

The Tim Keene-led team opted not to qualify in the treacherous, rain-soaked conditions. Legge started the car and went from 13th and last in the Prototype class field up to third within the first 20 minutes, and led by the end of the first hour.

In a career that’s had occasional standout drives, this was one of them, and came at a good time.

“Her drive in the DeltaWing was just fantastic. While she was leading overall I was talking with some other racing drivers in pit lane and one said, almost dismissively, ‘Well, that car was really fast,’” Paretta said of Legge.

“Yes, it was, but she has been an integral part of the development of that car and part of the reason why it’s become faster. Any IMSA fan knows that the DeltaWing project has had a lot of challenges so I think to see it running up front was a nice surprise for many fans. People like an underdog so I think it was really exciting to watch her climb through the field and run up front.”

Legge was due to share the car with Andy Meyrick, Sean Rayhall and Andreas Wirth before Meyrick got caught up in a strange accident, where a radio issue meant Meyrick didn’t fully hear there was another PC car stopped on course in the middle of Turn 1.

Although Meyrick braked earlier than normal to avoid it, proved by the data, he still wound up hitting Chris Cumming’s stranded car which took the DeltaWing out of the race. Cumming’s PC car was also severely wounded.

The DeltaWing aside, where Legge and Grace really seek to make strides is in STEM events. Legge and Paretta recently did an event in Indianapolis with the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc., last week.

The STEM portion is a major component of the Grace Autosport effort.

“STEM and education for girls is the foundation of Grace Autosport. It isn’t a throwaway comment connecting racing with a ’cause.’ It is why we are racing,” Paretta said.

“Even though we have yet to turn a wheel, we are working with different groups supporting educational initiatives for girls and young women. We participated in the Society of Women Engineers’ annual conference, which was held in Nashville in October, and this week Katherine and I will be delivering the keynote address to a conference for science teachers in the State of Indiana.

“So STEM education isn’t a pet cause for us, it is the cause for what we are doing. We will be making a few more announcements in the coming months that we will explain how we will connect our message to the community and the classroom.”

Jake Eidson steps up to Pro Mazda with Cape in 2016

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Jake Eidson came up short of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda championship last year, losing out to Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Nico Jamin.

Now, at the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, they’ll be teammates.

Jamin was confirmed last week with Cape for his step up from USF2000 into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and this morning Eidson, the 20-year-old out of Littleton, Colorado, was confirmed as Cape’s second driver.

“I’m extremely grateful and excited to enter my first season of Pro Mazda and to rejoin Cape Motorsport with Wayne Taylor Racing,” Eidson offered.

“After finishing second in last year’s USF2000 championship, we weren’t sure if moving up to Pro Mazda was possible. When the season was over, we tested with the Capes and quickly knew that they have a winning team. Fortunately, we were able to make the 2016 season achievable.

“I know that my goal, as well as the team’s goal, is to aim for the top spot in the Pro Mazda championship and I have a lot of confidence in their ability to make it happen. This is a dream come true and I can’t wait to get started!”

It’s a natural progression for Eidson, who ran two full seasons in USF2000. His first came with Cape in 2014 where he finished third in points, before he moved to Pabst Racing and was one of only two drivers (Aaron Telitz) to pose a threat to Jamin as the year progressed.

Eidson is supported in his efforts by Rising Star Racing, DA Lubricants Company, Bell Helmets, OMP, Team USA Scholarship, and SafeisFast.

The top three USF2000 drivers all moving up to Pro Mazda is important for the second rung on the ladder; they’ll race arguably the championship favorite in Garett Grist plus his three young, hungry teammates at Juncos Racing, with other driver announcements to come in the coming days.

Red Bull GRC confirms Wild Horse Pass for season opener

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Phoenix was listed as the season opener for the 2016 Red Bull Global Rallycross season, but a location was not confirmed.

Today though, the series has confirmed where the Phoenix round will be held: at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway.

It’s in Chandler, Arizona, technically, but it should still be a good spot for the season-opening doubleheader round.

The full release is below:

For the first time in series history, Red Bull Global Rallycross will visit the state of Arizona during the 2016 season. Red Bull GRC Phoenix, the season opener and first of four doubleheaders on the schedule, will take place at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, one of the most diverse motorsports playgrounds in the United States.

“The southwest is a crucial market for Red Bull GRC, with many of our most passionate fans located in the region,” said Red Bull GRC CEO Colin Dyne. “The opportunity to bring our unique brand of racing to the Phoenix market for the first time was something we couldn’t pass up. Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is the perfect setting for us as we look to open our finest season yet.”

Located just off of I-10, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is located only 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix, with ample parking and amenities on-site. Fans will be treated to a challenging and fast mile-long track, featuring the series’ signature 70-foot jump, and will be able to see all the action from great spectator areas overlooking the entire facility.

This will be the first time that a Red Bull GRC season begins with a doubleheader. Performing well in the opener has been a constant step towards winning a title, as no Red Bull GRC champion has ever finished worse than fourth in the first race of the year. Defending Supercar champion Scott Speed and defending GRC Lites champion Oliver Eriksson finished second and third in class, respectively, in last year’s opener; both drivers are expected to begin their title defense in Phoenix.