Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indy

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After the final off-weekend of 2014, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ drivers and teams will be working with extra motivation this week as they prepare to run at the world’s greatest racecourse.

If you’re a diehard, then you know by now that stock car racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway doesn’t always produce the most compelling on-track action.

Even so, it’s still Indy, and that means the Brickyard 400 is a race that everyone wants to win.

As former Cup driver and current NBCSN racing analyst Kyle Petty once said of Indy: “Stock cars, IndyCars, school buses – and that would be a heck of a place for a school bus race – no matter what they run there, it’s going to be big.”

And with five Chase Grid spots still up for grabs with seven regular season races to go, Sunday’s race is going to be very big indeed.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the notes and numbers to keep in mind for Round 20 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…

INDIANAPOLIS-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 NESN 30th Anniversary Ford)
· Three top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 13.2
· Average Running Position of 11.8, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.6, eighth-best
· 58 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 472 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 169.929 mph, seventh-fastest
· 1,027 Laps in the Top 15 (71.3%), seventh-most
· 205 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 10th-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota)
· Two top fives, two top 10s
· Average finish of 13.3
· Average Running Position of 14.8, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.6, 11th-best
· 487 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· 727 Laps in the Top 15 (56.8%), 11th-most
· 172 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota)
· Two top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 11.6
· Average Running Position of 12.8, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.5, fifth-best
· 48 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 502 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.047 mph, fifth-fastest
· 1,044 Laps in the Top 15 (72.5%), fifth-most
· 265 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 13.2
· Driver Rating of 84.4, 12th-best
· 44 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 519 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· 721 Laps in the Top 15 (50.1%), 12th-most
· 234 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Four wins, 11 top fives, 16 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 8.8
· Average Running Position of 11.5, third-best
· Driver Rating of 102.0, third-best
· 105 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 497 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.505 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 1,105 Laps in the Top 15 (76.7%)
· 284 Quality Passes, second-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota)
· One top five, three top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.9
· Driver Rating of 88.3, 10th-best
· 41 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.004 mph, sixth-fastest
· 738 Laps in the Top 15 (57.7%), 10th-most
· 190 Quality Passes, 11th-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 10.9
· Average Running Position of 14.4, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.2, ninth-best
· 904 Laps in the Top 15 (62.8%), eighth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Four wins, five top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.6
· Series-best Average Running Position of 10.8
· Series-best Driver Rating of 109.8
· Series-high 173 Fastest Laps Run
· 1,057 Laps in the Top 15 (73.4%), fourth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips/Shark Week Chevrolet)
· Three top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 14.2
· Average Running Position of 12.8, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 96.4, sixth-best
· 78 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 1,085 Laps in the Top 15 (75.3%), third-most
· 271 Quality Passes, third-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Six top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 15.1
· Average Running Position of 12.4, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.8, seventh-best
· 1,100 Laps in the Top 15 (76.4%), second-most
· 247 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 12 SKF Ford)
· One top five, two top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 20.3
· Average Running Position of 12.5, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.7, fourth-best
· 106 Fastest Laps Run, second-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Two wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 7.9
· Average Running Position of 11.1, second-best
· Driver Rating of 104.1, second-best
· Series-high 571 Green Flag Passes
· 1,037 Laps in the Top 15 (72.0%), sixth-most
· Series-high 292 Quality Passes

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway Track Data
Season Race #: 20 of 36 (07-27-14)
Track Size: 2.5-miles
Banking/Turns 1 & 2: 9 degrees
Banking/Turns 3 & 4: 9 degrees
Banking/Straights: 0 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 3,330 feet
Backstretch Length: 3,300 feet
Race Length: 160 laps / 400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Indianapolis
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 109.8
Tony Stewart……………………….. 104.1
Jeff Gordon………………………… 102.0
Juan Pablo Montoya………………. 96.7
Kyle Busch…………………………… 96.5
Kasey Kahne………………………… 96.4
Matt Kenseth………………………… 95.8
Greg Biffle……………………………. 94.6
Kevin Harvick………………………… 90.2
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 88.3
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 187.531 mph, 47.992 secs., 07-26-13
2013 race winner: Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 153.485 mph, (02:36:22), 07-28-13
Track qualifying record: Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 187.531 mph, 47.992 secs., 07-26-13
Track race record: Bobby Labonte, Pontiac, 155.912 mph, (02:33:56), 08-05-00

Indianapolis Motor Speedway History
· Indianapolis Motor Speedway has existed since 1909, and is the original “Speedway,” the first racing facility to incorporate the word into its name.
· With a permanent seating capacity for more than 250,000-plus people and infield seating that raises capacity to an approximate 400,000, it is the largest and highest-capacity sporting facility in history.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was August 6, 1994 – won by Jeff Gordon.
Notebook
· There have been 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway; one per year from 1994 through 2012.
· 132 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway; 104 in more than one.
· Four drivers have competed in all 20 races at Indianapolis: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin.
· Rick Mast won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Indianapolis in 1994 with a speed of 172.414 mph.
· 17 drivers have Coors Light poles at Indianapolis, led by Jeff Gordon with three.
· Two drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Indianapolis: Jeff Gordon (1995 and 1996) and Ernie Irvan (1997 and 1998).
· Youngest Indianapolis Coors Light pole winner: Reed Sorenson (07/29/2007 – 21 years, 5 months, 24 days).
· Oldest Indianapolis Coors Light pole winner: Mark Martin (07/26/2009 – 50 years, 6 months, 17 days).
· 12 different drivers have won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, led by Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson with four each.
· Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to have posted consecutive wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2008 and 2009).
· Youngest Indianapolis winner: Jeff Gordon (08/06/1994 – 23 years, 0 months, 2 days).
· Oldest Indianapolis winner: Bill Elliott (08/04/2002 – 50 years, 8 months, 11 days).
· Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Indianapolis in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with eight; followed by Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing with three each.
· Four different manufacturers have won at Indianapolis; led by Chevrolet with 15 victories; followed by Ford with three, Dodge and Pontiac each have one.
· Chevrolet has won the last 11 consecutive NSCS races at Indianapolis.
· 15 of the 20 winners were either past, future or reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions.
· Eight race Brickyard winners went on to win that season’s NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
· Only three of the 20 (15%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Indianapolis have been won from the Coors Light pole: Kevin Harvick (2003), Jimmie Johnson (2008) and Ryan Newman (2013).
· The pole and third starting positions are the most proficient starting positions in the field, each producing three winners – more than any other starting positions at Indianapolis.
· Four of the 20 (20%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Indianapolis have been won from the front row: three from the pole and once from second-place.
· 12 of the 20 (60%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Indianapolis have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Three of the 20 (15%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Indianapolis have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Indianapolis was 27th, by Jeff Gordon in 2001.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace leads the series in runner-up finishes at Indianapolis with three; followed Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth with two each.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-five finishes at Indianapolis with 11; followed by Tony Stewart with seven.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-10 finishes at Indianapolis with 15; followed by Tony Stewart and Mark Martin with 11 each.
· Juan Pablo Montoya leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Indianapolis with a 6.429.
· Tony Stewart leads in average finishing position at Indianapolis with an 7.933.
· Six of the seven active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners at Indianapolis Motor Speedway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Jeff Gordon won the Brickyard 400 in his first start at Indianapolis.
· Ryan Newman competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway 12 times before winning in 2013; the longest span of any the seven active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Indianapolis without visiting Victory Lane at 18.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the August 3, 1997 race won by Ricky Rudd over Bobby Labonte with a MOV of 0.183 second.
· Only one of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races have resulted with a green-white-checkered finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): 2004 (160/161).
· None of the 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions.
· Qualifying has not been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
· Reed Sorenson (07/29/07) is the only driver to post his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
· Paul Menard (07/31/11) is the only driver to have posted his first career series win at Indianapolis.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in laps led at Indianapolis with 488 laps led in 20 starts.
· Danica Patrick became the first female driver to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2013; she started 33rd and finished 30th.
· Shawna Robinson (08/05/01) is the only other female driver to attempt to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Indianapolis, but she failed to qualify for the event.

NASCAR in Indiana
· There have been 22 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among three tracks in Indiana: 20 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one at Funks Speedway (Winchester), and one at Playland Park Speedway (South Bend).
· 79 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Indiana. Eight of 79 have posted a win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
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Monaco apartment bet gives extra spice to race for P5 in Russia

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Remember that episode of Friends where Joey and Chandler go up against Rachel and Monica in a crazy quiz that ends in them swapping apartments for a while?

Well, Formula 1 might be doing its own version on Sunday in Russia.

With Ferrari and Mercedes over one second per lap clear of the rest of the pack, the top four positions seem settled, leaving Williams and Red Bull to battle for P5.

Red Bull has been the third-quickest team for much of the season so far, yet Williams looks more competitive in Russia, with Felipe Massa charging to sixth place in qualifying to split Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

“I predicted them to be quick here. It’s been one of their stronger circuits the last few years, and Massa’s always been pretty handy around here,” Ricciardo said of Williams.

“He got close, split Max and myself. I expect that battle to remain tomorrow. Not expecting to have the battle for the win, I think that’s between Ferrari and Mercedes, but we could have a nice little battle within ourselves for the top five.”

To add an extra twist to things, it turns out that Ricciardo, Massa and Verstappen all live inside the same apartment complex in Monaco – so why not add some extra incentive to the battle?

“I was saying whoever maybe wins our battle tomorrow can get the… Massa or Verstappen, they’ve both got pretty good-sized apartments, so maybe they can give the winner their apartment for the weekend as a bit of a token gesture!” Ricciardo joked to NBCSN after the session.

“Yeah I can give a good party and I will join,” Verstappen added.

Massa laughed before saying: “I hope I will win and I cannot give!’

The race between Red Bull and Williams may be tight, but somehow we doubt remembering that the TV guide goes to Miss Chanandeler Bong or that his job is a transpon… transponster (“that’s not even a word!”) will be much help to Ricciardo, Massa or Verstappen on Sunday.

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix, Saturday edition (VIDEO)

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Life as a rookie in Formula 1 is always tough, but for Williams’ Lance Stroll, his arrival on the grid has been particularly challenging.

Entering F1 as its second-youngest debutant and after an extensive private testing program with Williams last year, big things were expected of Stroll when he made his debut in Australia.

However, his first three races in F1 have been far from ideal, all of them ending in retirement.

The DNF is Australia was the result of a brake issue, while incidents in China and Bahrain – both of which were hard to pin on Stroll – mean the Canadian is without a classified finish to his name.

So how has he dealt with the struggles? To find out, Will Buxton brings you a special edition of NBC Sports’ original digital series ‘Paddock Pass’ to lift the lid on Stroll’s start to life in F1.

You can watch the video in full above.

JR Hildebrand returns in career-best third on grid at Phoenix

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – The last first-time winner in the Verizon IndyCar Series came on an oval, when Alexander Rossi captured last year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

The guy who could well have captured his first career victory five years earlier in 2011, JR Hildebrand, remains in search of ‘ol first win number one. But he’s got a good chance to do so tonight in his No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, as he’ll roll off from a career-best third on the grid in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The qualifying result for Hildebrand eclipses a previous best set twice: fourth at Iowa in 2011, and at Fontana in 2012, both with Panther Racing but in separate iterations of cars. This marks Hildebrand’s first top-five start since that Fontana race in September of that year, and easily eclipses his other 2017 starts of 19th and 15th on the two street course races to start the year.

In some respects Hildebrand’s pace this weekend is not a surprise; he was the pace-setter during the open test here in February. However, after missing Barber owing to his broken bone in his left hand, the more important aspect of his performance this weekend is that he’s back on song and comfortable – best as he can be – for today’s 250-lap race.

“I think with the kind of injury that I’m dealing with and the surgery that I had, an oval definitely is a little easier just literally turning left versus turning right even,” Hildebrand said after practice, when he was second to Josef Newgarden – who will start alongside him tonight on Row 2.

“So it felt better than honestly I thought it would in practice. I didn’t have any, like, major issues. I got a couple of different braces that I’m kind of playing around with and stuff like that. But felt like I got it pretty dialed in. Feel good about qualifying today and then the race tomorrow as well.”

Hildebrand was in a unique situation at Barber where he watched someone else in his car – a situation he hadn’t been afforded since Panther showed him the door after the 2013 Indianapolis 500. His starts since, it’s been Hildebrand in either a fill-in or extra entry, usually at Ed Carpenter Racing.

“It was definitely different to be watching in that situation than it was last year, you know, or in years past when I’ve been stepping in for testing or whatever and doing that on behalf of other guys,” he said. “It was painful to sit there and watch, but I think was in the end the only, you know, feasible kind of way to get through that weekend.”

That being said, Hildebrand wound up playing the mentor role well to Zach Veach, who methodically and consistently improved over the weekend on debut. It flashed back nicely to Hildebrand’s own debut at Mid-Ohio 2010 under nearly identical circumstances.

“I filled in for Mike Conway at Mid-Ohio back in 2010 in sort of similar conditions,” Hildebrand explained.

“Yeah, I mean, knowing this was going to be sort of a short-term thing, in particular, I wanted for the team’s sake to be able to get as much as they could out of having Zach in the car in my absence. That in some ways sort of requires that Zach is up to speed.

“But being a driver myself, being in that situation before, I know that it helps a lot to have somebody that, you know, is kind of just there to help you through whatever those difficulties and challenges are.

“Barber is a really tough place. He had some testing time at Sonoma, which is not really super relevant going into Barber. And on top of that, like, we were not great there when we tested there previously.

“You know, he was in for an uphill battle going in. He had a great attitude about the whole thing. I thought he made evident progression through the weekend. You know, was definitely helpful for the team and did a good job for himself.”

Hildebrand also noted that he wouldn’t have been in this position in the first place had he not had the contact with Mikhail Aleshin at Long Beach that put him into the wall and caused the hand injury.

“Yeah, he came over and told me he didn’t block me while I was still sitting in the car. Then he got a penalty 30 seconds later for doing that. Whatever,” Hildebrand deadpanned.

“I don’t have hard feelings about it, for sure. But, you know, I think that there’s definitely a track record that, you know, he’s begun to build up.”

Hildebrand will look for his second career podium at least if he can finish where he starts – in a weird quirk, his only career IndyCar top-three finish has come at a race where there is not the traditional podium ceremony for top-three finishers, that aforementioned 2011 Indianapolis 500.

Tonight gives him a great opportunity to break that run of tough luck and get a result to match his determination and will to return.

Alonso counting on incidents, torpedo repeat for Russia F1 points

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Fernando Alonso is skeptical of McLaren’s top-10 chances in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, believing it will take an incident or two for the team to score its first Formula 1 points of the season in Sochi.

Alonso and McLaren teammate Stoffel Vandoorne have endured a miserable start to the 2017 season due to a number of issues with the Honda power unit, which lacks both performance and reliability.

Alonso had another difficult qualifying in Russia on Saturday, finishing 15th as he dropped out in Q2 for the fourth race in a row, but the Spaniard was pleased with his own performance.

“I felt a good qualifying, I felt a good balance on the car,” Alonso told NBCSN. “I was able to push on the corners. The car was grippy and I think we performed a good laps, especially the Q1 lap, it was quite a good one.

“I was seven-tenths in front of Stoffel. He won all the categories to Formula 1, so I think my performance right now is quite OK and I feel very competitive.

“But yeah, we were losing 1.3 seconds on the first straight this morning, around 2.5 seconds on the straights in the whole lap. But that’s what it is at the moment.”

When asked about his points chances, Alonso admitted that a top-10 finish was unlikely barring some kind of incident such as the one caused by Daniil Kvyat in last year’s race, with the Russian driver earning the nickname ‘torpedo’.

“I think the deficit is too much. Also the fuel consumption will be huge for us due to the lack of power,” Alonso said.

“So I think it’s going to be difficult. To be in the points is going to be hard, so we need some help from the guys in front. Sometimes it happens like last year. The torpedo went into Turn 3 and we gained a lot of positions.

“We will do a good start and we will do a good strategy, and we will see what we can do at the end of the race. Hopefully a top 10.”

When jokingly told he should have a word with Kvyat, Alonso said: “I will!”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.