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).

Ken Block tackles Pikes Peak in ‘Climbkhana’ (VIDEO)

Photo: Hoonigan Racing Division
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Ken Block’s latest adventure with his 1965 Ford Mustang ‘Hoonicorn’ RTR didn’t involve a traditional type of course. It did, however, include the legendary Pikes Peak Hill Climb.

The release and details about “Climbkhana” presented by Toyo Tires for the film co-directed by veteran creative man, photographer and Porsche enthusiast Jeff Zwart is below.

Climbkhana presented by Toyo Tires, is the next generation of Ken Block’s wildly successful and award winning Gymkhana series of viral videos. The all-new concept is a hybrid of the driving showcased in the previous films, blended with a rally-road style attack on unique roads around the world. To kick off this new series, Ken Block chose what is arguably one of the most famous roads out there: The Pikes Peak Highway outside Colorado Springs, CO.

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the most well known hill climb in the world, Billed as America’s second oldest, continually running race (the Indianapolis 500 is first), it’s also one of the first places Block ever raced in his career.

“When I was young, I caught the The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on TV once or twice,” said Block. “Even as a kid I remember dreaming about racing there some day because it looked so epic. Eventually I did, back in 2005, but it was in a Group N rally car which didn’t have much power up in that high and thin air! It was an underwhelming experience because of the horsepower issue, but I loved the road and mountain – and I had always wanted to go back and do it right. So, to drive it like I get to drive in my Gymkhana videos – and do it in the Hoonicorn with 1,400 horsepower – well, that truly is a dream come true!”

For Block, filming Climbkhana at Pikes Peak was a unique opportunity. While the road closes once a year for the Hill Climb, no one has ever been given the access to turn the landmark location into a playground. For production duties, Block once again brought his long-time friend and business partner at Hoonigan, Brian Scotto, to direct, but they also added a new face to the Hoonigan Media Machine formula: Eight-time Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Champion and Radical Media Director Jeff Zwart.

“I have raced at Pikes Peak for 16 years and through the years I thought I had seen everything, but to witness Ken’s skills on basically my home mountain and get to direct him at the same time, it was truly something amazing,” explains Jeff Zwart, Climbkhana’s co-director. “Nothing but respect for him and his whole team, both on the racing side and production side!”

To tackle the extreme elevation gains experienced along the way up Pikes Peak, Block knew that he needed more horsepower for his 1965 Ford Mustang Hoonicorn RTR. So, Hoonicorn V2 was born. A 1,400 horsepower, twin-turbo, methanol-fueled machine that lights up its sticky Toyo Proxes R888R tires in every corner and properly updates the infamous build made famous in Gymkhana SEVEN, Wild in the Streets Los Angeles. Unfortunately, extreme engine builds and altitudes can prove challenging. Block and his crew experienced multiple production setbacks, having to go to the mountain on three separate occasions over 12 months due to both weather and development issues to be able to finish the film.

“This car is insane,” said Block. “I feel it genuinely wants to kill me! Before we added the twin turbos, it was the most fun car I’ve ever driven. Now it’s still quite fun to drive, but it melts tires ridiculously quick. To have this thing be such a beast and then take it to this very dangerous mountain, well, I thought I’d maybe finally taken on a project that might be too much for me to handle. This is the most powerful AWD-type car in the world to be driven this way, so I’m genuinely glad I didn’t die making this video!”

Toyo Proxes R888R tires deliver the enhanced grip and stability Block needs when maneuvering the 1,400-horsepower Hoonicorn V2 around the famous curves of Pikes Peak. Learn more about the Proxes R888R DOT competition tire and find a dealer at toyotires.com/tires/competition-tires.

The film was produced by Hoonigan Media Machine and premiered last night at The Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. It is presented by Toyo Tires, Ford and Pennzoil. To watch it now, click the link below.

Even without racing, IndyCar has a busy 2017-’18 offseason ahead

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So, there’s been a full week now complete since the Verizon IndyCar Series season ended at Sonoma Raceway. The offseason is now underway.

Almost all the first round of pieces have been written or filmed in the wake of Josef Newgarden’s popular first championship, achieved in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Meanwhile official news has been sparse, but figures to intensify in the coming weeks as teams need to fill seats.

And with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit now set for its final test in INDYCAR’s hands on Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway’s short course – the closest thing IndyCar has to a street course simulation – testing the new car will be a major topic over the months ahead.

Here’s what’s on tap for IndyCar’s offseason ahead:

TESTING, TESTING, 1…2…3…

Juan Pablo Montoya in the new 2018 IndyCar. Photo: IndyCar

As noted above, tomorrow marks the final day INDYCAR will run the testing program of the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit at Sebring’s short course, before the new kits and cars are delivered to manufacturers Honda and Chevrolet for the next couple months of testing.

Team Penske (Chevrolet, Juan Pablo Montoya) and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Honda, Oriol Servia) have operated the cars but with INDYCAR itself dictating the testing program through the first three tests done in July and August on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (super speedway), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (road course) and Iowa Speedway (short oval).

From here, Chevrolet and Honda have six tests each with the car through mid-November, before team testing begins in January, 2018. Teams such as Chip Ganassi Racing (Honda) and Ed Carpenter Racing (Chevrolet) will be those running the cars as part of the manufacturer testing program.

Part of the reason Spencer Pigot was confirmed by ECR as early as he was for 2018 was so that he could be part of this degree of manufacturer testing, and that’s good news for him in his development process. Pigot has already excelled driving one new car when it was introduced – the Dallara IL-15 Mazda in its first season in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires – and will now have his first full offseason to do IndyCar testing of its new car. Pigot has also helped to develop sports cars for Mazda in its prototype program the last couple years. Pigot, who turns 24 on Friday, will have a key role to play for Chevrolet’s testing in the coming weeks, starting on Tuesday at Sebring.

Ganassi has only formally confirmed Scott Dixon as part of its 2018 lineup so any new driver would be testing later, once confirmed. Ganassi managing director Mike Hull outlined the testing process over the coming months below.

2018 SCHEDULE RELEASE IMMINENT

The good news for Verizon IndyCar Series fans is that most of the 2018 IndyCar calendar is known already, via dates released either from tracks themselves or other series set to compete at said tracks.

The lone hold-up for the full release, which was expected out this week but NBC Sports now understands will be held a bit further, is whether Mexico will be added as an 18th race along with the 17 races set to return next year.

Given that country’s situation with its massive 7.1 earthquake on Sept. 19 and its associated aftershocks, it’s not a shock that the country has slightly bigger issues to press on with at the moment.

And the good news we’ve discovered in our talks with INDYCAR officials is that we’re heading into a schedule release without a large number of lingering questions. The schedule stability and date equity assembled over the last couple years has been a welcome contrast to the fluidity in years previous.

Along with the 2018 schedule, movement on IndyCar’s future TV direction and entitlement sponsorship are likely to be big items behind-the-scenes at the INDYCAR offices. The current TV contract with NBCSN and ABC ends after 2018, as does Verizon’s tenure as title sponsor.

OFFICIAL CONFIRMATIONS AT/OF CERTAIN TEAMS

Most of the Verizon IndyCar Series field is set for 2018 (silly season update one, post-Mid-Ohio and two, during Sonoma). There are 13 driver/team combinations made official thus far:

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
FORT WORTH, TX – JUNE 09: Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, speaks with James Hinchcliffe, driver of the #5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, during qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Beyond that, there are a wealth of “all but official” scenarios including:

  • James Hinchcliffe all but set to stay with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
  • Tony Kanaan set to move to Foyt
  • Ed Jones planning to re-up with Coyne
  • Max Chilton, Carlin announcing a likely step-up
  • Gabby Chaves, Harding Racing locking down its program
  • Brendon Hartley moving from sports cars into Ganassi
  • Indy Lights champion Kyle Kaiser confirming his team choice

What that means on Sept. 25 is that realistically there’s only three or four rides for 2018 yet to be determined if all those “all but official” scenarios become official in the coming weeks. Those would be the second seats at SPM and Foyt, the likely second seat at Carlin and the road/street course seat at Carpenter.

Like Harding and Carlin, Juncos Racing is also poised to run at least some IndyCar races, but whether it’s a full-season remains to be seen. And like Carlin and Juncos, there’s a wealth of Indy Lights drivers keen to make their way into IndyCar.

As it is, the fact most of the IndyCar grid is known or almost set before October 1 – even if many programs haven’t been officially announced – is both rare and awesome to see at the same time. Teams need as much time to test their drivers with the new kits in the offseason, and so there’s been a mad rush to get next year locked down ASAP.

It seems hard to believe, but the days of “TBA” appearing on an IndyCar entry list days before St. Petersburg may be at an end.

HELIO’S OFFICIALLY UNOFFICIAL SWAN SONG

What a couple weeks it’s been for Helio Castroneves. Despite yet another top-five finish in the championship, Castroneves’ Sonoma race felt like a goodbye to full-time competition in IndyCar, especially as he thanked members of the media in the race’s aftermath.

Still, reports emerged heading into the weekend a fourth car full-time with Team Penske was still on the table. And partners Hitachi and Pennzoil also tweeted about Castroneves and his excellent season, which Castroneves re-tweeted.

Castroneves has tested Team Penske’s new Acura ARX-05 sports car last week (video below) and his departure from full-time driving in IndyCar seems all but inevitable at this point.

Despite Castroneves’ best efforts, it appears as though he’s had his swan song. He’ll be an asset to the Penske Acura program provided he winds up there, but IndyCar would feel his loss on the full-time grid. He’s been someone to appreciate for 20 years, the last 18 at Team Penske.

This is VERY interesting!! Oia isso!!

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OTHER INDYCAR DRIVERS IN SPORTS CARS

With Motul Petit Le Mans set for October 7, at least three IndyCar drivers – Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay – will be in action at the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Road Atlanta. Dixon and Bourdais will be third drivers in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs while Hunter-Reay will be third driver in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, with the Taylor brothers.

Petit Le Mans and the Rolex 24 at Daytona always offer up a bevy of IndyCar drivers making guest appearances in sports car land. The latter event, with Team Penske premiering the aforementioned Acura ARX-05 there, figures to have a wealth of IndyCar interest – and quite likely IndyCar drivers – split among its two cars.

WHAT OFFSEASON FUN, ANTICS ARE IN STORE?

Last year, IndyCar had James Hinchcliffe on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” to carry it through the offseason.

Some of the other items IndyCar has released in recent years included Damien Power’s offbeat “Exclusive: Behind the Scenes” interview series with drivers in 2015 and “The Offseason” digital shorts as modeled after NBC’s “The Office.”

There’s usually some degree of entertainment, fun and games that emerges from the IndyCar offices over the offseason and what the creative minds there come up with will be interesting to see.

Or, there’s always more Visor Cam, which was utilized in-race this year starting at the Indianapolis 500 through to the Sonoma finale. Thanks to IMS Productions, this was one of racing’s coolest innovations in years. Considering how much testing is scheduled, some more Visor Cam would easily satisfy the appetite of the IndyCar fan base heading into the five or six-month period without IndyCar racing.

MRTI’S OFFSEASON PLANS

We’ll have more on this separately, but the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires also has a bit to look forward to this offseason. The two key items are the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy test, the traditional event that takes place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course October 20-22, and the delivery and debut for teams with the new Tatuus PM-18 chassis in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series. Some teams have taken delivery of those now in anticipation of running next month.

Driver movement will also be afoot there as the next generation of IndyCar drivers seek to position themselves for 2019 and beyond.

IndyCar world comes to Nazareth for Marco Andretti’s wedding

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Fresh off the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, a large percentage of the field made its return to Nazareth to celebrate Marco Andretti and Marta Krupa’s wedding.

Andretti, who turned 30 in March, wed his longtime girlfriend on Saturday in his and his Andretti family’s hometown.

The Andrettis are one of racing’s elite families and judging by a number of driver posts on Instagram, it looked like they put on an incredible night.

“We did the damn thing!” Andretti posted on Instagram, one of several driver posts on Instagram.

We did the damn thing !!! #MK2MA

A post shared by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

@freaks4live killed it for us last night. #MK2MA

A post shared by Marco Andretti (@marcoandretti) on

Other drivers included Andretti’s close friends James Hinchcliffe, Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi along with Will Power, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay, among others.

A number of social posts are below.

Congrats @marcoandretti @marta_krupa ! We love you guys #WeddingSeason #MK2MA

A post shared by Conor Daly (@conordaly22) on

Great night with these guys. Congratulations to Marta and Marco #mk2ma

A post shared by Will Power (@12willpower) on

This picture pretty much sums up our night!!! Pinky out @tkanaan 🥂🕺🏻#mk2ma

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🇺🇸 Great night with great friends. 🇧🇷 Noite agradável com ótimos amigos.

A post shared by Tony Kanaan (@tkanaan) on

NEWGARDEN SPENDS WEEKEND AS A WEDDING OFFICIANT

Newly crowned Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden, meanwhile, had a wedding of his own to attend to this weekend – one he was a part of in an entirely different manner.

Newgarden’s longtime friends Nicholas Jordon Love and Katie Donnar got married this weekend in Indianapolis and Newgarden, who had arrived in the city a couple days earlier as part of his championship media tour, was the wedding officiant/celebrant.

A couple photos of that are below.

"Some souls just understand each other upon meeting." n.r. hart

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Fitting that both Andretti and Newgarden would be involved with weddings only a week after both celebrated milestone starts in their IndyCar careers – Andretti’s 200th, and Newgarden’s 100th.

Final Malaysian Grand Prix comes up this week on NBCSN

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Formula 1 has six races remaining this year and four of them in the month of October, with two sets of back-to-back races coming up.

First on that list is F1’s final trip to the Sepang International Circuit at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, for the 19th and last scheduled Malaysian Grand Prix.

The circuit announced earlier this year due to rising costs that it would end its contract one year early.

So if you’re a night owl or early riser, you can watch all the Malaysian Grand Prix sessions live via NBCSN and/or the NBC Sports App. On NBCSN, free practice two is on Friday, Sept. 29, at 3 a.m. ET, qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 5 a.m. ET and pre-race coverage Sunday, Oct. 1 at 2 a.m. leading into lights out at 3 a.m. ET. Free practices one and three are on the NBC Sports App.

The Mercedes AMG Petronas team has, surprisingly, won only once in Malaysia in its history when Lewis Hamilton won in 2014. That’s also Hamilton’s only win here. But this was the site of his first podium for Mercedes, third in 2013 behind the Red Bull pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, Vettel having prevailed that day in the infamous “Multi 21” team orders controversy.

A devastating engine failure for Hamilton this race last year was the death knell in his title hopes for the season, and opened the door for Daniel Ricciardo to take a surprise win for Red Bull Racing.

Vettel, who is now on the back foot in this year’s championship fight after he, teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen all collided on the run to the first turn in Singapore, is the active wins leader at Malaysia with four triumphs (2015 with Ferrari; 2010, 2011, 2013 with Red Bull).

Hamilton leads Vettel by 28 points with six races remaining as a result of Hamilton’s win and Vettel’s DNF in Singapore.

Raikkonen is twice a winner in Malaysia, having taken his maiden Grand Prix win here in 2003 with McLaren Mercedes and adding a second triumph with Ferrari in 2008.

Fernando Alonso, who became F1’s youngest polesitter at the time in that 2003 race, is the other active winner in the field, having won three times for three different teams (2005 with Renault, 2007 with McLaren and 2012 with Ferrari).

Ricciardo’s win here last year was a Red Bull 1-2 over Verstappen – the team’s most recent 1-2 finish.

Here’s the schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Thursday, Sept. 28, 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Sept. 29, 3 a.m.-4:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 2 (Replay): Friday, Sept. 29, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2 a.m.-3 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Sept. 30, 5 a.m.-6:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Oct. 1, 2 a.m.-3 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Oct. 1, 3 a.m.-5 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Oct. 1, 5 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Oct. 1, 9 p.m.-11 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Monday, Oct. 2, 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Japanese Grand Prix, on October 8.