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Everything you need to know for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono

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Less than two months after Dale Earnhardt Jr. won there, Pocono Raceway will again host the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend for the GoBowling.com 400.

With six regular season races left, six drivers have officially clinched a post-season berth: Earnhardt, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, and Sunday’s winner at Indianapolis, Jeff Gordon.

But with time running out, the focus will be on those still trying to get a win that will lock them into the Chase Grid.

While Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman are still looking good to make the Chase on points alone if need be, the fates of other winless drivers such as Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart remain undetermined.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the notes and numbers to keep in mind for Round 21 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…

POCONO-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Two wins, 11 top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.8
· Average Running Position of 10.4, third-best
· Driver Rating of 105.5, third-best
· 312 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 162.147 mph, third-fastest
· 2,521 Laps in the Top 15 (76.6%), fifth-most
· 722 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), eighth-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet)
· One win, eight top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.8
· Average Running Position of 14.4, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.8, 11th-best
· 79 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.624 mph, ninth-fastest
· 2,147 Laps in the Top 15 (62.2%), 11th-most
· 664 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
· Two wins, five top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 14.8
· Average Running Position of 14.4, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 96.0, sixth-best
· 176 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.774 mph, eighth-fastest
· 2,238 Laps in the Top 15 (64.8%), eighth-most
· 701 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet)
· Six wins, 19 top fives, 30 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 10.0
· Average Running Position of 10.2, second-best
· Driver Rating of 101.8, fourth-best
· 143 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 1,477 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 162.014 mph, fifth-fastest
· 2,626 Laps in the Top 15 (76.1%), second-most
· 827 Quality Passes, third-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota)
· Four wins, nine top fives, 11 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 12.1
· Average Running Position of 10.8, fourth-best
· Series-best Driver Rating of 109.0
· Series-high 434 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 162.311 mph
· 2,404 Laps in the Top 15 (78.9%), sixth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Five top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 14.0
· Average Running Position of 14.0, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.7, 12th-best
· 1,668 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 744 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 17 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 8.7
· Series-best Average Running Position of 9.8
· Driver Rating of 108.7, second-best
· 272 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 162.201 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 2,723 Laps in the Top 15 (78.9%)
· 819 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet)
· Two wins, five top fives, seven top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 18.2
· Driver Rating of 91.5, 10th-best
· 297 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 1,529 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.869 mph, sixth-fastest
· 2,057 Laps in the Top 15 (59.6%), 12th-most
· 732 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford)
· One win, three top fives, four top 10s
· Average finish of 12.3
· Driver Rating of 92.8, ninth-best
· 96 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most

Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 5.0
· Average Running Position of 13.3, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 96.0, seventh-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 162.080 mph, fourth-fastest

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet)
· One win, nine top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 11.5
· Average Running Position of 11.2, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.8, eighth-best
· 1,522 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.617 mph, 10th-fastest
· 2,598 Laps in the Top 15 (75.3%), third-most
· Series-high 851 Quality Passes

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Code 3 / Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Two wins, 12 top fives, 22 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 11.0
· Average Running Position of 11.8, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 98.9, fifth-best
· 99 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 1,620 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 161.830 mph, seventh-fastest
· 2,549 Laps in the Top 15 (73.8%), fourth-most
· 840 Quality Passes, second-most

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Pocono Raceway Track Data
Season Race #: 21 of 36 (08-04-14)
Track Size: 2.5-miles
Banking/Turn 1: 14 degrees
Banking/Turn 2: 8 degrees
Banking/Turn 3: 6 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 3,740 feet
Backstretch Length: 3,055 feet
Shortstretch Length: 1,780 feet
Race Length: 160 laps / 400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Pocono
Denny Hamlin………………………. 109.0
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 108.7
Kurt Busch………………………….. 105.5
Jeff Gordon………………………… 101.8
Tony Stewart…………………………. 98.9
Carl Edwards………………………… 96.0
Kyle Larson………………………….. 96.0
Ryan Newman……………………….. 95.8
Brad Keselowski……………………. 92.8
Kasey Kahne………………………… 91.5
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Pocono Raceway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 180.654 mph, 49.819 secs., 08-02-13
2013 race winner: Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 129.009 mph, (03:06:02), 08-04-13
Track qualifying record: Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 181.415 mph, 49.610 secs., 06-06-14
Track race record: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 145.384 mph, (03:26:21), 06-12-11

Pocono Raceway History
· Opened in 1968 as a three-quarter-mile track, Pocono Raceway held the first race on the 2.5-mile track in 1971.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was in 1974 – won by Richard Petty, Dodge, 115.593 mph, 08/04/1974.
· The 2.5-mile track was repaved during the fall of 2011.

Pocono Raceway Notebook
· There have been 73 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono Raceway, one race from 1974 through 1981, and two per year since.
· 2012 marked the first season the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono were scheduled for 400 miles. Prior to 2012 all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races were 500 miles at Pocono Raceway.
· 322 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway; 222 in more than one.
· Ricky Rudd leads the series in starts at Pocono with 55. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 43 starts.
· Buddy Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Pocono in 1974 with a speed of 144.122 mph.
· 39 drivers have posted Coors Light poles at Pocono, led by Bill Elliott and Ken Schrader with five each; Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin lead all active drivers with three each.
· Five drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Pocono. Bill Elliott holds the record for most consecutive poles at Pocono with three; fall 1984 and both races in 1985.
· Two active drivers have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Pocono: Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep) and Joey Logano (fall 2011 and spring 2012).
· Youngest Pocono pole winner: Joey Logano (08/07/2011 – 21 years, 2 months, 14 days).
· Oldest Pocono pole winner: David Pearson (06/10/1984 – 49 years, 5 months, 19 days).
· 32 different drivers have won at Pocono Raceway, led by Jeff Gordon with six wins.
· Six drivers have posted consecutive wins at Pocono Raceway, including three consecutive by Bobby Allison (1982 sweep and spring 1983) and Tim Richmond (1986 sweep and spring 1987).
· Dale Earnhardt Jr., winner of the June Pocono race, will attempt to capture the second season sweep of his career, and first since Talladega in 2002.
· Youngest Pocono winner: Joey Logano (06/10/2012 – 22 years, 0 months, 17 days).
· Oldest Pocono winner: Harry Gant (06/17/1990 – 50 years, 5 months, 7 days).
· Hendrick Motorsportshas the most wins at Pocono in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 16: Jeff Gordon (six), Tim Richmond (three), Jimmie Johnson (three), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (one), Kasey Kahne (one), Geoff Bodine (one) and Terry Labonte (one) – including the last four consecutively.
· Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Pocono; led by Chevrolet with 29 victories; followed by Ford with 21.
· 15 of the 73 (20.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Jimmie Johnson (June, 2013).
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (15) than any other starting position at Pocono Raceway.
· 24 of the 73 (32.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from the front row: 15 from the pole and nine from second-place.
· 51 of the 73 (69.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Five of the 73 (6.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Pocono is 29th, by Carl Edwards in the spring of 2005.
· Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Pocono with seven; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-five finishes at Pocono with 20; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 19.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Pocono with 34; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 30.
· Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Pocono with a 6.176.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Pocono with an 8.720.
· Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are the only two active drivers towin at Pocono in their first appearances.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Pocono without visiting Victory Lane at 38; followed by Matt Kenseth with 29 and Kevin Harvick with 27.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway was the July 23, 2000 race won by Rusty Wallace over Jeff Burton with a MOV of 0.126 second.
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Pocono Raceway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): spring of 2005 (200/201); fall of 2005 (200/203); spring of 2010 (200/204).
· Six of the 73 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the event on 8/5/2012.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway five times; most recently the spring of 2013.
· Casey Mears (8/1/2004) posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Pocono Raceway.
· One active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has posted his first career win at Pocono Raceway: Denny Hamlin (06/11/06).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Pocono with 974 laps led in 43 starts.
· Two female drivers have competed at Pocono Raceway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie and Danica Patrick.
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NASCAR in Pennsylvania
· There have been 107 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among nine tracks in Pennsylvania.
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· 141 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Pennsylvania.
· Three of the 141 have won in NASCAR’s premiere series: Dick Linder (3 Sprint Cup), Jimmy Spencer (2 Cup, 12 Nationwide, 1 Truck), and Mark Donohue (1 Cup).

‘Fast Jack’ Beckman back to living up to his nickname at Gateway

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“Fast Jack” Beckman came into this weekend’s AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in a big predicament.

He didn’t live up to his colorful nickname during last week’s Carolina Nationals, the opening race of the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

Beckman was actually more like “Slow Jack,” as he failed to advance past the first round at Carolina in last Sunday’s eliminations.

He also failed to advance past the first round in the final pre-Countdown qualifying race, the U.S. Nationals, which he won last season.

All those things combined have put even more pressure on Beckman. He left Charlotte eighth in the 10-driver Funny Car Countdown standings.

2016_Jack_Beckman headshot

Being scored 110 points behind Funny Car points leader Ron Capps, Beckman had his work cut out for him heading into this weekend’s race at Gateway, in Madison, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

And as he has done numerous times in his career, when the pressure was on him, Beckman responded, qualifying No. 2 on Saturday for Sunday’s eliminations.

Robert Hight earned the No. 1 qualifier position (3.893 seconds at 328.38 mph), but Beckman wasn’t far behind (3.907 seconds at 325.22 mph).

That’s a big start for Beckman, who won at Gateway in 2012 and ended up second in last year’s championship battle that was won by fellow veteran Del Worsham. Beckman will face Dale Creasy Jr. in the first round of eliminations.

Last season, Beckman won seven races in the 24-race NHRA national event schedule. This season has been much different, as he has just one win (Chicago in July).

But that doesn’t mean he still can’t win each of the five remaining Countdown races – which obviously would go a long way towards earning him his second career Funny Car championship (and in five seasons).

Beckman isn’t panicking after Charlotte. He’s finished first, third and second in three of the last four seasons. He knows he and his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger have the capability to make a serious championship run.

In addition to hoping he wins Sunday, Beckman is defending champion of next week’s Dodge Nationals at Maple Grove (Pa.) Raceway.

“Since you can’t control how the leading cars do, really the goal is simple: you just need to win the race,” Beckman said in a media release. “At some point we have to win the race if we have a chance.

“There’s not any other path to a championship. We lost ground we couldn’t afford to lose (at Charlotte) and we can’t afford to lose any more ground. I don’t see those teams not continuing to perform well and the only way we win the championship is to outperform them. It’s imperative we get back to our capabilities.”

A major change for Saturday’s qualifying effort paid off handsomely with his No. 2 spot for Sunday – although admittedly it was a gamble of sorts for Beckman and crew chief Jimmy Prock.

“We’re still running a five-disc clutch and we have one disc on there that when it works it’s great and when it doesn’t it smokes the tires instantly and becomes too aggressive,” Beckman said. “We’re going to take that one out and take our chances with a brand new disc. We’re taking a calculated risk but I think it’s the only choice we have.

“We have to take baby steps but we have to take them quickly or we run out of races. Before we can go quick consistently we have to get back our predictability and we have to do that by the end of (this weekend’s race at) St. Louis.

“All we can control right now is our lane. Because we’re running out of rounds, every single pass becomes more important. But if you dwell on that, there’s a high likelihood you’re not going to do as well as you want.

“As the season winds down, the pressure goes up, but if you let it affect you, you’re not going to be at your best. The only thing you can do is take a positive mindset every time you go up there.”

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Touring car legend Yvan Muller to leave WTCC after 2016

STRASBOURG, FRANCE - OCTOBER 04:   Yvan Muller of France attends the FIA pre event press conference at rally headquarters after the Shakedown of the WRC France on October 04, 2012 in Strasbourg , France.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)
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Touring car racing legend and four-time world champion Yvan Muller will leave the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the end of the 2016 season.

Muller made his name in the British Touring Car Championship before making the switch across to WTCC in 2006 with Seat.

The Frenchman claimed his first world title in 2008 before enjoying further successes in 2010, 2011 and 2013, the latter three championships won while behind the wheel of a Chevrolet.

Muller joined Citroen following its arrival in WTCC for the 2014 season, but has been unable to add to his haul of championship as teammate Jose Maria Lopez romped to three straight crowns.

With Citroen set to leave WTCC at the end of the year, Muller has decided that the time is right to follow suit and call time on a stint in the series that has seen him score 47 wins, 119 podium finishes and over 2,600 points.

“I am not sure that age is the main factor when it comes to ending a career. It’s more a matter of desire and motivation,” Muller said.

“With all the testing, the simulator sessions, the physical training and the travel to the race venues, a season of professional motor racing requires a level of personal commitment that I am no longer prepared to put in.

“At the same time, I am at a time of my life where I want to do something else and I am happy to be able to make that decision after eleven seasons of FIA WTCC.

“I’ve had some great experiences over my career. These three seasons with Citroën Racing have been particularly special, even though I never managed to be world champion with this team. But I will always be proud of having helped to build our racing programme and develop the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. I have also met some great people who are passionate about their job and have a fierce competitive spirit.

“Driving has been part of my daily life for so long that I can’t see myself stopping racing entirely. But I am going to spend more time with my family and developing my team, Yvan Muller Racing. Before that, though, I am going to put everything I’ve got into meeting the team’s goals.”

Lopez is also set to leave WTCC at the end of the year, having agreed a deal to race for Citroen sub-brand DS in Formula E for the all-electric series’ third season.

The 2016 WTCC season closes on November 25 at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.

Report: Sam Schmidt to receive America’s first driver’s license for semi-autonomous car

2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
May 29, 2016
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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team owner Sam Schmidt is set to receive America’s first driver’s license for a semi-autonomous vehicle, according to a report from Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Schmidt sustained a spinal cord injury in a testing accident at Walt Disney World Speedway ahead of the 2000 IRL season, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Schmidt went on to establish Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with programs in IndyCar and Indy Lights, both of which he still heads up.

Schmidt has previously completed laps behind the wheel of a modified 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray at Indianapolis in 2014 and in Long Beach last year, dubbed the ‘SAM project’ – semi-autonomous motorcar – developed with Arrow Electronics.

Schmidt controls the car using a breathing tube for acceleration and braking, and steers using his head movements that are picked up by infrared cameras.

Now, the SAM project is set to hit the road, with Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles will grant Schmidt the first road license for a semi-autonomous car in the country.

The report says that Arrow has worked closely with the Nevada DMV to update regulations so that Schmidt is able to drive on state roads.

“Nevada is leading the nation in promoting autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle technologies that can bring mobility and independence to people with physical disabilities, including our wounded warriors,” officials from the Nevada DMV said.

Robert Kubica scores podium finish on Renault Sport Trophy debut at Spa

16 KUBICA Robert (POL) HAMON Christophe (FRA) RENAULT RS 01 Team Duqueine action during the 2016 Renault Sport series  at Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, September  23 to 25  - Photo Eric Vargiolu / DPPI
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Robert Kubica enjoyed a successful debut in the Renault Sport Trophy at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, finishing third alongside Christophe Hamon.

Former BMW and Renault Formula 1 driver Kubica announced last week that he would be entering the race weekend at Spa after accepting an invitation from the French manufacturer.

Kubica spent five seasons racing in F1 and won the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix for BMW before having his stint in the series cut short after a rally crash ahead of the 2011 season.

Severe injuries sustained to his right arm and hand meant left Kubica spending a lengthy spell in rehabilitation before making his return to motorsport in the World Rally Championship.

The Pole made his final WRC appearance in January at the Monte Carlo Rally before making his circuit racing return in the 12 Hours of Mugello with Mercedes.

Kubica enjoyed his first qualifying session since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday ahead of the Renault Sport Trophy weekend, finishing third.

After seeing Hamon complete the first 10 laps of the race and suffer contact, Kubica completed the final 17 behind the wheel of the Renault R.S.01 car.

A late charge saw Kubica rise from P6 with 10 minutes remaining to cross the line third, six seconds behind race winners Raoul Owens and Fredrik Blomstedt.

Curiously, Kubica’s last F1 podium finish also came at Spa in 2010, finishing third for Renault behind Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber.

Kubica will return to Spa on Sunday for the sprint race, where he will race in the Pro class.