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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).

How watching a go-kart race changed F1’s Valtteri Bottas’ life forever

xxxx during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 22, 2015 in Spa, Belgium.
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It was 21 years ago, but Valtteri Bottas remembers as if it was yesterday — the day that would change his life forever.

Bottas, just six years old at the time, was riding in a car with his father in their native Finland when they came upon a go-kart race taking place.

It was love at first sight for little Valtteri – and dad, too. Although they were supposed to continue on to a neighboring town of Lahti, they decided to postpone the trip and spent the rest of the day watching the racing action.

It was also the first step Bottas would take towards becoming a race car driver. It’s a journey that two decades later has now, as of Monday, brought him to a seat with the sport’s most dominant team in recent years, Mercedes AMG Petronas, and made him teammates with three-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

Along the way to the present, Bottas became a go-kart champion, won countless races across a number of series, and now has just one thing in mind that he’s focusing on:

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Winning a Formula 1 championship with his new team.

As the driver chosen to replace the now-retired 2016 F1 champion Nico Rosberg, Bottas’ dreams have come true. But at the same time, expectations have never been higher or more demanding upon Bottas, who spent the last four seasons with the Williams F1 team.

Bottas finished 17th in his first season with Williams in 2013, then scored a career-best fourth-place showing the following season. Bottas was fifth in 2015 before slipping to eighth last season, as the car regressed.

But now, Williams is in Bottas’ rearview mirror and all he hopes to see is clear pathways going forward, hopefully with him in the lead and every other driver chasing his Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Silver Arrow.

Yet having the best team in the sport is no guarantee of success, Bottas prudently says.

“It would be nice to know the answer to the question of how you become Formula 1 World Champion,” Bottas said in a story on the MercedesAMGF1.com website. “But there are so many factors involved. It’s not just about you as an individual.

“Even if you’re the best driver, you’re not going to win anything if your engine packs up ten times during the season. As a driver, you have to concentrate on your performance and give everything for the team. On your own, you don’t stand a chance.”

But one of the reasons Mercedes chose Bottas over other F1 drivers is his determination and drive – both in the car and in life.

It’s something that traces back to the first two times he climbed into a go-kart to begin his path to F1: finishing third in his first race and winning his second. A few years later at the age of 13, even though he was larger and heavier than most of his competitors, Bottas would win the Finnish go-kart championship.

“I had to do everything I could to make my dream come true,” Bottas said. That included going on a diet and physical regimen that strengthened both his body as well as his championship-winning chances.

F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews
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“This was the turning point, at which I became professional and saw racing as more than just a hobby and a fun ride,” Bottas said.

Now he has perhaps the most fun – and demanding – ride he’s ever had. But just like he did when he climbed behind the wheel of his first go-kart at the age of seven, one thing has remained a constant for the flying Finn.

“I never give up,” Bottas said. “I still cherish my ambition of winning the world title. I will do everything I can to achieve that. It’s my life goal right now.

“There is no better feeling than being in the pits on Sunday – race day. The mechanics start the engine; you hear it and you feel it, and you know this precious gem will be in your hands for the next two hours. It’s now all up to you.”

And while Bottas readily admits “I’m living the dream every day,” he’s not letting the team he’s with, or the success it has had over the years, get to his head.

“Ultimately, I’m just an average guy from Nastola (his hometown of 15,000) in Finland, who just happens to be a Formula One driver.”

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Loyalty brought Felipe Massa out of retirement, back to Williams

Just a few months after waving goodbye to F1, Felipe Massa is waving hello again with his return to Williams for the 2017 season.
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Felipe Massa is a number of things, including a great driver, a fan favorite, a mentor to young drivers and a great representative for Formula 1.

But perhaps above all those attributes are the word that best describes Massa: loyal.

When Massa retired at the end of the 2016 F1 season from Williams, he was pretty sure his F1 days were forever behind him. But when teammate Valtteri Bottas surprised everyone by leaving the team to replace retired champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, Massa’s sense of loyalty kicked in.

The Brazilian driver knew that 2017 would be a very important year for Williams, as the organization celebrates its 40th anniversary. He also knew young teammate Lance Stroll needed a mentor to guide him through the rigors of F1.

Given all Williams had done for him the past three seasons, Massa felt he owed his old team something back: namely himself and his talent behind the wheel.

Ergo, goodbye retirement, welcome back to Williams. It wasn’t about money, but something much more valuable that you can’t put a price on.

“I have a strong love for Williams,” Massa said in a Q&A on WilliamsF1.com. “I have enjoyed the last three years with the team, and therefore coming back to help give stability and experience to drive things forward in 2017 was something that felt right to do.

“When I joined Williams back in 2014 I found a team – and a family – that I have loved being a part of. I certainly haven’t lost the desire to race and fight on track. Whatever I would have turned my hand to this year, I would have been putting 100 percent effort into doing the best job that I can, and if I didn’t have that passion, I would not have agreed to return.”

While the 35-year-old Massa said his return to F1 and Williams is just for 2017, with all the elements in play, particularly since Bottas left, Massa feels reinvigorated. It may seem like he’s racing for a new team, even though he’s returning to the same team he left less than two months ago.

And that’s where the beauty of his loyalty truly is: Massa made it very clear that the only F1 team he would ever consider ending retirement for was, one and the same, Williams.

“My return is not about seeing Formula 1 as the best option, but is about seeing the role at Williams as the best option,” Massa said. “I would not have returned for any other team.”

And if retirement for the second time is in his future after the 2017 season, Massa will leave with no regrets.

“Whatever happens this season, I will always leave the sport with my head held high,” he said.

While he wishes Bottas the best with his new team, Massa is also very keen on working with Stroll.

“I’m looking forward to working with Lance, having known him for a long time,” Massa said. “He has proved in the championships he has competed in so far that he deserves this opportunity, and it’s great to welcome new talent into Formula 1.

“Lance may be young, but Williams has a history of bringing young drivers into the sport. He knows there is a steep learning curve ahead, but motorsport is a team sport and I look forward supporting him in any way I can.

“Valtteri has been offered a fantastic opportunity and, as a result, an opportunity arose for me. When the media began reporting that I might return, I was touched by the response from so many fans who wanted to see me back in the sport.

“That was certainly a factor in the decision, so I’d like to thank the fans for their support. But, at the end of the day, when I received the call it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was Williams!”

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Porsche sets sail for new voyage with new 911 RSR into 2017

Nos. 911 and 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR. Photo courtesy of IMSA
Nos. 911 and 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR. Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Porsche and 911 are as inextricably linked as bread and butter. Porsche and a mid-rear-engined 911, however, are as disparate as chalk and cheese.

Yet for 2017, the new era of Porsche’s 911 – its flagship car – marks its most radical reinvention from its usual rear-engine flat-six engine that is the hallmark, with the engine now ahead of the rear axle.

The new 911 is a normally aspirated beast and shakes up the norm for all its drivers, its engineers and its team.

Per Porsche: “The suspension, body structure, aerodynamic concept, engine and transmission have all been designed from scratch for the 2017 season. Depending on the size of the restrictor, the motor, which is now positioned in front of the rear axle, puts out approximately 510 hp. Thanks to the modern, lightweight normally aspirated engine, the designers were able to install a larger rear diffuser than in years past. Combined with a top-mounted rear wing, the level of downforce and the aerodynamic efficiency have been significantly improved.”

This new car looks to add to Porsche’s legacy at Daytona. From 1966 to Daytona, Porsche has 22 overall wins (11 straight from 1977 to 1987) and a total of 76 class wins. The most recent class victory came with the North American debut of the previous generation 911 RSR in 2014. That record is made of 27 GT class wins, one SGS class and GX class win each.

In the stacked GT Le Mans class, Porsche stands alone with the only all-new car for 2017, while Ford (second year of the GT), Ferrari (second year of the 488 GTE), BMW (second year of the M6 GTLM) and Chevrolet (fourth year of the Corvette C7.R) are all well into their current cycles of their newest cars.

That makes Porsche an outlier and arguably the manufacturer to watch throughout the year, as the new car progresses from start-to-finish over the course of the season in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship, where the rebranded Porsche GT Team has parallel two-car programs.

On the IMSA front, it’s not just the car that’s new, but also both driver lineups – only two years removed from a dream 2015 season that saw them dominate the GTLM class and score a shock, but well-judged, overall win in the torrential rains at Petit Le Mans.

Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber earn justifiable promotions to Porsche’s LMP1 team in the WEC, but it left a couple openings on the GTLM team. With Fred Makowiecki then shifted away from a full-season IMSA ride, that meant three spots opened up.

For the Morgan Brady-led, CORE autosport-run U.S. Porsche team, Patrick Pilet, the 2015 GTLM champion and lone holdover, will continue into 2017 with ex-privateer Porsche driver and past factory BMW driver Dirk Werner in the No. 911 car.

An entirely new lineup of Laurens Vanthoor (formerly of Audi) and Kevin Estre will be in the No. 912 car, and this presents arguably the most intriguing of pairings given both drivers’ youth but already ton of experience. Makowiecki (No. 911) and Richard Lietz (No. 912) are the third drivers. The two cars clocked 1,824 miles at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test.

Estre. Photo courtesy of IMSA
Estre. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Estre, who joined Porsche as a factory driver last year, said he and Vanthoor already get on great from their European racing experience, and are looking forward to combining as teammates rather than trying to beat each other.

“We drove one time together in Le Mans in LMP2 with OAK (in 2015, in a Ligier JS P2 Honda),” Estre told NBC Sports. “We know each other as teammates, but more as competitors. It’s been really good so far. We’re both speaking French and have a German wife!

“The connection is really important for endurance races. It’s good to feel confident, and speak about a lot of stuff. So far it’s perfect. I’m confident we’ll work well together with our ways, being pretty similar of GT3 to Porsche. It’s quite new and with Porsche in GTLM.”

Estre offered advice for Werner and Vanthoor, who join Porsche as new factory drivers this year, on how to integrate into the culture of one of the world’s most successful manufacturers.

“I’ve done a lot before with Porsche in German Carrera Cup and Supercup,” he explained. “I knew the German culture. But being new as a factory driver is a bit special. You need to understand the team… you need to know CORE, Manthey, and Porsche AG in general.

“Everything is new. It’s a lot different. But with time, you know the people. You know where to go if you have a problem, or which question to ask to which people. I’m a lot more confident and more experienced now.”

Estre, who starred with McLaren in Pirelli World Challenge in 2015, had a mixed season in 2016 where he ran a mix of IMSA and European races. Having a single focus back on North America full-time is exciting for the Frenchman.

“I was happy to do different things but knowing you’re doing just one championship is different than three races here or there. As a driver, you look forward to winning something and to have a full season here is good for the U.S. I did IMSA three years ago in GTD, so GTLM will be new.”

Marco Ujhasi, Director of GT Factory Motorsports for Porsche, said the test went well for the design of the program.

“The test miles that we covered over the last three days in preparation for the race were very important. We managed to tick off all the points we’d scheduled for ourselves and now we have a much better understanding of the car on this racetrack,” he said in a release.

“In addition, we experienced changeable and very diverse track conditions. It was dry and wet, warm and cold – precisely what you need in race preparations to be primed for all eventualities. We feel very well prepared for the race and the premiere of our new 911 RSR. In this respect, these three days in Florida were very successful.”

As noted above, Porsche won in GTLM in the U.S. debut of its previous 911 RSR in 2014, with Tandy, Pilet and Lietz. An encore with this car’s debut would be another interesting story in and of itself.

Race Of Champions has stellar field looking for home run in Miami

Sebastian Vettel is the defending champion of the Race of Champions, having won the last ROC in 2015.
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Contestants in this weekend’s Race Of Champions will be going for both a win and home run.

The win is understandable, but the home run aspect of it is due to the host location: Miami Marlins Park, home of the Major League Baseball team of the same name.

The entire infield and outfield will be turned into a challenging circuit of numerous turns and side-by-side racing. The course layout is below.

“This is all about having a good time,” IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves said. “I respect all of the drivers and every one of them competing has some amazing qualities, plus switching cars throughout the event means the advantage will constantly be shifting. That’s why this is such a great event.”

Added fellow IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, “To see a race track taking shape here in Marlins Park – where I bring my family for games – is incredible. And I also think it’s the best layout yet. I’m a home-town guy so hopefully the crowd will be cheering me on against two former ROC champions in my group.”

The two-day ROC will be divided between one-on-one races on Saturday, with team racing on Sunday.

Among Saturday’s marquee matchups:

* NASCAR’s Kyle Busch vs. F1’s Jenson Button.

* NASCAR’s Kurt Busch vs. Tom “Mr. Le Mans” Kristensen.

* Two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya vs. World Rallycross’s Petter Solberg, action sports’ Travis Pastrana vs. four-time F1 champ and reigning ROC champ Sebastian Vettel.

* IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe vs. fellow IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan.

* IndyCar’s Ryan Hunter-Reay vs. former ROC Champion of Champions David Coulthard.

* 2-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya vs. World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg, F1’s Pascal Wehrlein vs. fellow F1 pilot Felipe Massa.

* Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves vs. the winner of a play-off between Global Rallycross Champion Scott Speed and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi.

* Other drivers in the field include Gabby Chaves (IndyCar), Stefan Rzadzinski and Gabriel Glusman, the latter two having won ROC Factor North America fan votes to get into the competition.

The top two drivers in each group will advance to the quarterfinals, and then a knockout tournament from there leads to crowning the Champion of Champions.

The top two drivers in each group progress to the quarter-finals. Then it’s a knockout tournament all the way to the Grand Final, when this year’s Champion of Champions will be crowned.

In Sunday’s Nations Cup competition, it’ll be America vs. The World in a Ryder Cup-style team battle:

Group A: Team USA NASCAR (Kyle and Kurt Busch), Team USA IndyCar (Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay) and Team USA Rally X (Travis Pastrana and Scott Speed) will all have to battle Team ROC Factor Canada (James Hinchcliffe and Stefan Rzadzinski).

Group B: Team Germany (Sebastian Vettel and Pascal Wehrlein), Team Great Britain (Jenson Button and David Coulthard) and Team Nordic (Tom Kristensen and Petter Solberg).

Group C: Team Brazil (Felipe Massa and Tony Kanaan), Team Colombia (Juan-Pablo Montoya and Gabby Chaves) and Team ROC Factor Latin America (Helio Castroneves and Gabriel Glusman).

Miami Marlins Park becomes the eighth different host site – and first in the United States – in recent years for the ROC, which returns after a one-year hiatus in 2016: Stade de France in Paris (2004-2006), London’s Wembley Stadium (2007-2008), Olympic Stadium in Beijing (2009), Düsseldorf’s Esprit Arena (2010-2011), Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok (2012), Bushy Park Barbados (2014) and London’s former Olympic Stadium (2015).

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