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…

WATKINS GLEN-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

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

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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.
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NASCAR in New York
· There have been 66 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among 15 tracks in the state of New York.
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· 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).
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Longtime Knoxville Raceway promoter, Ralph Capitani, dies

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Photo via @KnoxvilleRaces Twitter
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Knoxville Raceway likely wouldn’t be what it is as one of the country’s most renowned short tracks without the work of Ralph Capitani.

Capitani has died following a battle of cancer (according to Speed Sport), news of which was announced Monday by the track. The longtime promoter at the track was born in 1932.

Capitani, better known as “Cappy,” oversaw a huge rise in the stature and popularity of the track’s premier event – the Knoxville Nationals – after taking the reins as the track’s new race director and promoter in 1978.

Some of the elements Capitani worked to implement were improved facilities, purses, safety standards, car counts and audience, the latter of which saw the Knoxville Nationals eventually make it to TV. He also established the Knoxville Raceway Hall of Fame.

In his 40th year at Knoxville in 2007, Capitani said the prestige of the Knoxville Nationals remained incredible.

“I think the Knoxville Nationals is the best sprint car race of the year, bar none,” he said in 2007, via InLappedTraffic. “It is the only time you see ALL of the best sprint car drivers competing on the same playing field. It is a United States and Internationally wide event.”

He retired from the track at the end of 2011.

Knoxville Raceway released a statement confirming Capitani’s passing, and thanking him for all he did to put the track and race on the map.

A portion of the statement reads: “A visionary in the sport, Cappy aimed to make sprint car racing at Knoxville Raceway grander, the purses bigger and the grandstands fuller. He achieved them all with a smile on his face and a hearty handshake for every team owner, driver, crew member and fan that ever crossed his path.”

IndyCar’s last big pre-season test occurs this week at Sebring

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Conor Daly. Photo: IndyCar
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Pre-season testing for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season will conclude this week with all eight full-season teams having two days at Sebring International Raceway’s short course on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sebring marks the closest venue to simulate street course conditions; four of the first eight races are street races while only one street race, Toronto, occurs in the second half of the season.

Although this is private testing, this will be a de facto “spring training” on the 1.5-mile road course for teams to see what the others are running all at once. IndyCar’s official spring training, the Prix View test at Phoenix International Raceway’s 1-mile oval, occurred on February 10-11.

The bulk of the field runs tomorrow, with seven of the eight teams set to test – the only exception is Andretti Autosport. Andretti is listed to test on Wednesday.

All but one of the 21 full-season drivers expected for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener on March 12 will test this week. The one not listed is Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing; Bourdais and Ed Jones tested at Sebring in January prior to the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

They’ll be joined by the three drivers making their test debuts, all for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Robert Wickens, Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani and Luis Michael Dorrbecker.

Wickens tests tomorrow as part of his planned ride swap with James Hinchcliffe, with Derani and Dorrbecker set to test on Wednesday.

Sebring is usually a hotbed for tests over the IndyCar offseason. This year saw A.J. Foyt Enterprises (in late January with Chevrolet) and Chip Ganassi Racing (in early January with Honda) premiere their new manufacturers and aero kits at Sebring, among other teams that have tested here.

Although the test season has seen an increase in interest this year, the regular season starts in St. Petersburg and returns to NBCSN with Long Beach on April 9.

F1 Paddock Pass: 2017 launch roundup (VIDEO)

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The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass returns today with a recap of the remaining launches of the 2017 Formula 1 cars that occurred over the weekend.

Williams was first to reveal a rendering of its 2017 car, but it wasn’t a formal launch. Sauber’s online launch properly kicked off proceedings last Monday, before Renault, Force India and Mercedes did actual launches, and then Ferrari (online) and McLaren (in Woking) both launched on Friday.

Official launches then followed for Williams, Red Bull, Haas and Toro Rosso over the weekend. Haas had pictures of its car leak the day before its planned launch as it was a filming day on track.

In this edition of Paddock Pass, NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales recap the remaining cars revealed over the weekend.

Previous Paddock Pass editions from this week are below:

Testing continues this week with days two through four of the first test at Barcelona.

Alonso’s McLaren struggles on first day of F1 tests

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track  during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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MONTMELO, Spain (AP) Troubled Formula One team McLaren has gotten off to a wretched start in preseason testing.

Fernando Alonso spent most of the first day waiting to get back out of the garage after his car broke down following just one lap at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Monday.

What the team identified as an “oil system” malfunction to its Honda-made engine kept the two-time world champion out of action until after the lunch break. Back behind the wheel, his 29 total laps was the lowest amount of the 11 drivers who participated.

Alonso also posted the second-slowest time, more than three seconds off the leading pace set by Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes. Only Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was slower.

“It’s disappointing,” Alonso said. “You work for three months and at the track on the installation lap something breaks down and you lose the day.”

This misstep is the latest technical hiccup to plague McLaren since it paired up with Honda.

One of F1’s most successful teams with eight constructor titles and 12 driver titles, the British outfit has struggled since it switched from Mercedes to the Japanese automaker before the 2015 season.

After earning just a combined 27 points from Alonso and Jenson Button in the first year with Honda, the team showed some growth last season with 76 points and two fifth-place finishes. But that is still a far cry from the glory days of the Woking-based team whose last race win was in Brazil in 2012.

For his part, Alonso hasn’t won a race since he claimed his 32nd victory back in 2013 at the Spanish Grand Prix while with Ferrari.

“It is fair to say that after the difficulties we had the last three seasons, it’s a nice temptation for the media,” Alonso said.

“From the point of view of the team, we are disappointed and sad to arrive to the first day of testing and not run.

“We are focused on what we have to do to make up the lost time. We know that we have four days for each driver and now one day is gone to prepare for the world championship.”

Stoffel Vandoorne, who has replaced Button, will get his turn for McLaren on Tuesday.

McLaren team chief Eric Boullier acknowledged that the relationship with Honda is far from perfect.

“It is like any marriage, you can have some ups and downs,” Boullier said. “We went through a lot of stress through the last couple of years, but we have a positive and constructive relationship and I don’t expect this to change in the future.”

The opening test will run through Thursday.

The track near Barcelona will host a second round of testing from March 7-10 before the season starts at the Australian GP on March 26.