Cheez-It 355 at The Glen

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen

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With multiple teams having targeted Watkins Glen International as an opportunity to make the Chase, Sunday’s Cheez-It 355K at the New York State road course is shaping up to be quite a race.

Obviously, this is a big one for guys like Marcos Ambrose, Tony Stewart, A.J. Allmendinger, and Martin Truex Jr., who are all buried so far down in the standings to the point where they’re not making the post-season without a win.

Meanwhile, winless drivers Matt Kenseth (+78 points above 16th) and Ryan Newman (+52 points above 16th) still have good holds on the 12 and 13 seeds in the Chase Grid.

However, behind them are five drivers – Clint Bowyer in 14th, Kyle Larson in 15th, Greg Biffle in 16th, Kasey Kahne in 17th, and Austin Dillon in 18th – that are separated by just 29 points.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the notes and numbers to keep in mind as we head into Round 22 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series…


AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Scott Products Chevrolet)
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 9.2
· Average Running Position of 13.5, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.7, seventh-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.842 mph, seventh-fastest

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 STANLEY Ford)
· Two wins, five top fives, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 6.8
· Average Running Position of 8.6, second-best
· Driver Rating of 120.1, second-best
· Series-high 125 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 120.616 mph
· 425 Laps in the Top 15 (78.4%), 10th-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· One top five, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 19.8
· Driver Rating of 91.8, 10th-best
· 47 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 364 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.901 mph, sixth-fastest
· 475 Laps in the Top 15 (58.4%), eighth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· Two wins, four top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.1
· Average Running Position of 10.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 113.3, third-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 120.107 mph, fourth-fastest
· 616 Laps in the Top 15 (75.7%), third-most
· 175 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Kelloggs/Cheez-it Ford)
· Four top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.8
· Average Running Position of 12.6, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.6, eighth-best
· 15 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 405 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.630 mph, ninth-fastest
· 588 Laps in the Top 15 (72.2%), fourth-most
· 178 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)
· One top five, four top 10s
· Average finish of 19.5
· Average Running Position of 15.5, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 87.0, 12th-best
· 11 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 374 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.598 mph, 10th-fastest
· 416 Laps in the Top 15 (57.6%), 11th-most
· 158 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· One win, two top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 13.1
· Average Running Position of 15.7, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 88.3, 11th-best
· 10 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 390 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.442 mph, 11th-fastest
· 480 Laps in the Top 15 (59.0%), seventh-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.8
· Average Running Position of 10.2, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 100.6, sixth-best
· 27 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.971 mph, fifth-fastest
· 637 Laps in the Top 15 (78.3%), second-most
· 188 Quality Passes, second-most

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· Three top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 6.5
· Average Running Position of 12.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 102.8, fifth-best
· 29 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.842 mph, eighth-fastest

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Code 3/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Five wins, seven top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 7.9
· Series-best Average Running Position of 5.7
· Series-best Driver Rating of 120.4
· 106 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 120.465 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 678 Laps in the Top 15 (93.6%)
· Series-high 195 Quality Passes

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· Three top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 12.4
· Average Running Position of 12.0, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.8, ninth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.400 mph, 12th-fastest
· 519 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9%), sixth-most
· 179 Quality Passes, third-most



Watkins Glen International Data
Season Race #: 22 of 36 (08-10-14)
Track Size: 2.45-miles
Number of Turns: 7
Race Length: 90 laps / 220.5 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Watkins Glen
Tony Stewart……………………….. 120.4
Marcos Ambrose………………….. 120.1
Kyle Busch…………………………. 113.3
Juan Pablo Montoya…………….. 110.5
Brad Keselowski………………….. 102.8
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 100.6
AJ Allmendinger…………………….. 94.7
Carl Edwards………………………… 94.6
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 92.8
Kurt Busch……………………………. 91.8
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Watkins Glen International.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 128.241 mph, 68.777 secs., 08-09-13
2013 race winner: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 87.001 mph, (02:32:04), 08-11-13
Track qualifying record: Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 128.241 mph, 68.777 secs., 08-09-13
Track race record: Mark Martin, Ford, 103.030 mph, (02:11:54), 08-13-95

Watkins Glen History
· After several events were held on the streets of Watkins Glen, a permanent facility was opened in 1956.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was in 1957, won by Buck Baker (83.064 mph, 8/4/57).
· After a six-year absence, NASCAR returned to The Glen in 1964 and 1965.
· After a 21-year absence, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returned to The Glen, and has run one race a year there since 1986.

Watkins Glen Notebook
· There have been 31 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen International, one race per season.
· The first NSCS race at Watkins Glen was scheduled for 101.2-miles in 1957, the second race was 161.7-miles (1964) and the third race was 151.8-miles (1965). Every race since has been scheduled for 220.5-miles.
· 252 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen; 152 in more than one.
· Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip and Terry Labonte lead the series in starts at Watkins Glen with 22 each. Jeff Gordon leads the series among full-time active drivers with 21.
· Buck Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Watkins Glen in 1957 with a speed of 87.071 mph. Driver/owner Buck Baker went on to win the inaugural race from the pole.
· 19 drivers have Coors Light poles at Watkins Glen, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin with three each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with two.
· Mark Martin is the only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver to post consecutive Coors Light poles at Watkins Glen (three) – 1993, 1994, and 1995.
· Youngest Watkins Glen pole winner: Kyle Busch (08/15/2011 – 26 years, 3 months, 13 days).
· Oldest Watkins Glen pole winner: Morgan Shepherd (08/13/1989 – 47 years, 10 months, 1 day).
· 18 different drivers have won at Watkins Glen International in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, led by Tony Stewart with five wins.
· Jeff Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in road course wins with nine (Sonoma, five; Watkins Glen, four); Tony Stewart has the second most road course wins all-time with seven (Watkins Glen, five; Sonoma, two).
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison holds the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series record for the most wins at a single road course track with six – Riverside International Raceway.
· Four drivers have posted consecutive wins at Watkins Glen, including three consecutive by Mark Martin (1993, ’94, ‘95) and Jeff Gordon (1997, ’98, ‘99). The other two drivers to win consecutive races at Watkins Glen are Tony Stewart (2004, ’05) and Marcos Ambrose (2011, ’12).
· Youngest Watkins Glen winner: Kyle Busch (08/10/2008 – 23 years, 3 months, 8 days).
· Oldest Watkins Glen winner: Geoff Bodine (08/11/1996 – 47 years, 3 months, 24 days).
· Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing are tied for themost wins at Watkins Glen in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with six:
o Hendrick Motorsports: Jeff Gordon (four), Tim Richmond (one) and Ricky Rudd (one).
o Joe Gibbs Racing: Tony Stewart (four) and Kyle Busch (two).
· Six different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Watkins Glen; led by Chevrolet with 16 victories; followed by Ford with seven, Pontiac with four, Toyota with two and Buick and Mercury each have one.
· Nine of the 31 (29%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Kyle Busch in 2008.
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (nine) than any other starting position at Watkins Glen.
· 11 of the 31 (35.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen have been won from the front row: nine from the pole and two from second-place.
· 21 of the 31 (67.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen have been won from a top-five starting position.
· 22 of the 31 (70.9%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· None of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Watkins Glen was 18th, by Steve Park in the 2000.
· Brad Keselowski and Mark Martin lead the series in runner-up finishes at Watkins Glen with three each.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-five finishes at Watkins Glen with 12; followed by Ricky Rudd with eight. Tony Stewart leads all active drivers with seven.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen with 16; followed by Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace and Tony Stewart with 10 each.
· Tony Stewart leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Watkins Glen with a 6.286.
· Brad Keselowski leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Watkins Glen with a 6.500.
· All five of the active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Watkins Glen participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane.
· Kevin Harvick (2006) competed at Watkins Glen five times each before winning; the longest span of any the five active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Watkins Glen without visiting Victory Lane at 18. Nemechek is followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth with 14 each.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen is the 2001 race won by Jeff Gordon over Jeff Burton with a MOV of 0.172 second.
· There have been two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Watkins Glen (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): 2005 (90/92) and 2011 (90/92).
· Only one of the 31 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen has been shortened due to weather conditions – the 1992 race – only 51 of the scheduled 90 laps were completed.
· The 8/14/2011 race was the only NSCS race at Watkins Glen that has been postponed to another date due to weather (8/15/2011).
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen six times; most recently in 2008.
· One active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has posted his first career win at Watkins Glen: Marcos Ambrose (08/15/11).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Watkins Glen with 233 laps led in 21 starts.
· Danica Patrick and Patty Moise are the only two female NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers to compete at Watkins Glen International.
NASCAR in New York
· There have been 66 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among 15 tracks in the state of New York.
· 185 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as New York; 11 of them have posted at least one victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
· Only two of the New York natives have won at Watkins Glen International in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Geoff Bodine (1996) and Steve Park (2000).

When the Haas F1 Team discovered NASCAR evolution (VIDEO)

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Kyle Petty is on site at the NASCAR Hall of Fame with the Haas F1 Team to walk the museum and learn about at the evolution of NASCAR.

You can check out more from the NASCAR on NBC podcast, as Nate Ryan checks in with Haas’ pair of Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.

Here’s the full times and downloads for this weekend’s coverage of the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas.

United States GP Paddock Notebook – Thursday

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 20: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talks with Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Force India in the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 20, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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AUSTIN, Texas – The weather looks good, the words have been flying from the drivers’ mouths, and the anticipation is building for track action to commence at Circuit of The Americas for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix starting on Friday (FP1 is at 11 a.m. ET, FP2 is at 3 p.m. ET, both on NBCSN).

With the FIA Press Conference today for drivers, most of the focus centered on how Lewis Hamilton would react in his first meeting with the media since a trying weekend in Japan.

But with Nico Hulkenberg having confirmed his departure from Sahara Force India for Renault in 2017, the emerging driver silly season that occurs as a result was also something discussed in the paddock.

Here’s a roundup of news, features and other items from the paddock at COTA today (and some from Wednesday rolled into this post):




Welcome to the Lewis Conference

Thursday marked the FIA Lewis Conference in Austin – I mean Press Conference – because it was a decidedly one-man show among the six drivers selected to participate in the often relatively mundane, run-of-mill event.

Of the 22 questions asked from the floor, no less than 12 were addressed to Lewis Hamilton – many addressing his questioning of the press conference format itself, his social media presence, why certain users are blocked and rather little related to this race and this season itself.

I found it interesting that the most lucid answers came from Hamilton to three F1 part-timers – myself included – who asked questions outside the norm.

Hamilton, who works with UNICEF, addressed a question about Haiti by saying it’s devastating what’s happened there as a result of Hurricane Matthew. “I don’t know what I could do (to help), apart from taking a picture for social media, which is not really that helpful,” he said.

He also answered my own question asking him to take us inside the Mercedes factories in Brixworth and Brackley with a spirited answer of how it felt. “Honestly, it’s kind of daunting when you go back to the two factories, because there’s so many people,” he admitted. “I remember joining this team and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the majority of people that were in here, said that it wasn’t the right decision. I had the belief that this team would really go somewhere and I’ve been a part of that journey and very proud of it.”

Then he addressed what’s been another persistent issue this year – his starts. “I was at the factory last week and we were working very hard to cover up all areas so we hope that we have a slightly better formula this weekend.”

It appeared likely that the Mercedes brass had told Hamilton to respectfully engage and seem happy to be there, which he did well. That it made it a bit boring for the other five in the room was perhaps inevitable after Suzuka a fortnight ago.

A question posed by NBCSN’s Will Buxton about the format did elicit a bit of laughter though, Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean noting he’d taken a pic earlier in the conference illegally as a Microsoft ambassador, but holding another brand of phone. None of the others offered much in the way of suggestions as to how to improve the format, and the lack of ideas said as much as the words themselves.

Laser focus for Rosberg

Nico Rosberg is all-game face, all the time. Despite persistent efforts from the full-time F1 press corps, Rosberg would not budge in his media availability on Thursday about whether he’s allowing himself to think about a potential first World Championship.

Maybe this will serve him well if he achieves it, and his performances on track of late – particularly since the summer break as he’s won four of five Grands Prix – would back up that win-only focus.

Silly season starting to percolate

With this the first Grand Prix since Nico Hulkenberg’s confirmation at Renault, as my colleague Luke Smith noted in the U.S. Grand Prix preview this morning, we now have a silly season upon us in F1 after all.

Spots at Renault, Force India and even Haas are the biggest talking points. This is before we get to the lesser-rated drives at the moment with Sauber and Manor. And this doesn’t even get into the likelihood that Daniil Kvyat’s time with Toro Rosso seems near an end, especially with Pierre Gasly here and present this weekend not long after his run with Red Bull on Pirelli’s new 2017 tires at a warm Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi over the weekend (more on that below).

Sebastian Vettel didn’t seem interested in discussing his future with Ferrari during the press conference, but rest assured when 2017 rolls around his 2018 contract will be an early-season talking point.

Looking at the young guns waiting to get in the F1 door

Jordan King will make his F1 race weekend debut on Friday, taking over Pascal Wehrlein’s chassis for Manor in free practice one. The Englishman has had what he termed a “solid” season in GP2, although he regretted leaving some points on the table. Still fifth in points, King could move up with a solid weekend at Abu Dhabi, and may well enter the Manor race seat frame in 2017 if Pascal Wehrlein and/or Esteban Ocon moves on.

Pierre Gasly is another who could well be in an F1 race seat sooner rather than later. The Frenchman completed an important run of three days testing Pirelli’s 2017 wider tires at Abu Dhabi over the weekend for Red Bull, running nearly 300 laps in the process. While the GP2 runner-up at the moment will look to win that title first, he said as soon as he knows his 2017 plans, he’ll be keen to announce them. It would be a surprise to few if a shot to race with Toro Rosso arrives next season.

Haas test driver Santino Ferrucci isn’t immediately on F1’s race seat doorstep, but the talented teen is another of those on site this weekend for Haas’ home race. Ferrucci has become the first American to test for Haas in the team’s maiden Grand Prix season, earlier this year in Silverstone.

The man with the “Shoey” has some kick-ass shoes

The best way to end today’s Paddock Notebook is with the latest in “Shoey’s Shoes.”

Here’s the latest from Daniel Ricciardo as he has arrived in Austin, one of his favorite cities, with some kick-ass shoes that scream, ‘Merica.

See a post here from Red Bull Racing on Twitter:

NBCSN’s new show, Motorclub, premieres tonight at 11 p.m. ET

Photo: Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool
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A new five-episode series chronicling major athletes in rising extreme and motorsport competitions, called Motorclub, premieres tonight at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The first episode looks at Red Bull Global Rallycross’ season finale in Los Angeles, as Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross teammates Scott Speed and Tanner Foust battled for the title.

Foust, who’s been part of TV productions before as a host for Top Gear America (ran from 2010 until early this year), will serve as an executive producer of this show.

Other drivers/athletes expected to feature in the show include Travis Pastrana, Bucky Lasek, Brian Deegan and Ken Gushi, perhaps among others.

A trailer from the show is below, and a link to the show’s Facebook page with more information is linked here:

Rosberg maintains singular race-win only focus into COTA

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 08:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP sits in his car in the garage  during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 8, 2016 in Suzuka.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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AUSTIN, Texas – Nico Rosberg refuses to discuss the C-word – championship – and is maintaining his traditional, steadfast “I’m going for the race win” mentality heading into this weekend’s United States Grand Prix from Circuit of The Americas.

The German holds a 33-point lead over his teammate at Mercedes AMG Petronas, Lewis Hamilton, and could win his maiden World Championship in Formula 1 even if he finishes second to Hamilton in each of the final four races.

This would make him the second son of a World Champion (father Keke) to win a title if he does so. Both Graham and Damon Hill have won titles, and that’s the only father-son pairing.

But in Rosberg’s media availability today in Austin, he was more channeling his inner Marshawn Lynch, and “Beast Mode’s” famous/infamous “I’m here so I won’t get fined” Super Bowl availability – than allowing himself to think about the title.

“It’s not something I’ve been thinking about,” Rosberg said of the title.” I’m not sure how much pressure Lewis has put on himself. For me it’s business as usual. I’m just trying to win the race this weekend, like I have the last three years.”

Rosberg continued with the stoic focus for further questions.

“I definitely don’t put any thought into that at all,” he said about second places. “I’m going for the win this weekend and that’s it. I’m not going for second places or anything as such.”

He also refused to acknowledge his past record, noting he’s already carrying a nine-six win edge over Hamilton heading into the weekend and has proven he can win at tracks where he hasn’t in the past. In Austin, he’s come second to Hamilton each of the last two years after starting on pole.

“It’s something I don’t think about,” he said. “As we’ve seen so often this year it has no importance. I can win on any track against Lewis. This weekend for me we’re starting from scratch. It’ll be difficult against him always. He’ll be motivated. He’ll be at his best. We’ll see.”

This morning, Hamilton said if he didn’t win the World Championship, he’d “take it like a man.”

Rosberg wouldn’t answer how he’d feel if he didn’t win it, because, as he noted, he’s not thinking about it.

“I haven’t thought of that because I’m planning to go for more race wins at the moment, and that’s it,” he said. “If I can repeat what I’ve been saying. Negative thoughts, I’ll fully avoid. That won’t make me faster. How would I feel if I lose? That won’t work.”

But Rosberg did say why he was a happy camper for this session.

“All I’m thinking about is Austin GP weekend,” he said. “I just called my wife before speaking to you guys. That’s why I’m in a good mood.”