Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan

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Horsepower is always the name of the game at Michigan International Speedway, where the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will stage the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday.

With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske being the rabbits that everyone has to chase around the high-banked, two-mile oval.

But fuel strategy could also have a major impact. It did in June’s race at MIS, which was won by Jimmie Johnson after he pitted with 36 laps to go and then re-claimed the lead for good with nine to go thanks to the final pit cycle playing out entirely under green.

Meanwhile, the fight continues for those trying to lock themselves into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. With A.J. Allmendinger’s win last weekend at Watkins Glen, only four spots on the Chase Grid now remain open with four regular season races left.

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 23 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…


Greg Biffle (No. 16 Roush Performance Ford)
· Four wins, 10 top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.6
· Series-best Average Running Position of 8.9
· Series-best Driver Rating of 107.8
· 311 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Series-high 3,085 Laps in the Top 15 (82.5%)
· Series-high 864 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green)

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Two wins, four top fives, nine top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 20.9
· Driver Rating of 90.0, ninth-best
· 175 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 2,350 Laps in the Top 15 (62.9%), ninth-most
· 597 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota)
· One win, four top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 17.8
· Average Running Position of 14.8, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 91.1, eighth-best
· 139 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 2,464 Laps in the Top 15 (65.9%), seventh-most
· 685 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· Two wins, six top fives, 11 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 16.0
· Average Running Position of 12.6, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.5, fifth-best
· 189 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· 1,435 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.819 mph, sixth-fastest
· 2,513 Laps in the Top 15 (67.2%), sixth-most
· 786 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Kellogg’s / Cheez-It Ford)
· Two wins, nine top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 9.1
· Average Running Position of 10.9, third-best
· Driver Rating of 102.2, fourth-best
· 198 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 1,348 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 178.038 mph, fifth-fastest
· 2,925 Laps in the Top 15 (78.2%), third-most
· 850 Quality Passes, second-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Two wins, 18 top fives, 26 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 12.3
· Average Running Position of 14.1, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.2, seventh-best
· 184 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 2,351 Laps in the Top 15 (62.9%), eighth-most
· 637 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· One win, six top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.4
· Average Running Position of 14.8, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 88.7, 12th-best
· 138 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 1,516 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· 1,966 Laps in the Top 15 (52.6%), 11th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s / Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet)
· One win, five top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.2
· Average Running Position of 11.2, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 102.9, third-best
· Series-high 389 Fastest Laps Run
· Average Green Flag Speed of 178.387 mph, second-fastest
· 2,772 Laps in the Top 15 (74.1%), fourth-most
· 731 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· One win, eight top fives, 10 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 15.9
· Driver Rating of 89.1, 11th-best
· 174 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 1,447 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.658 mph, seventh-fastest
· 696 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Two wins, 12 top fives, 18 top 10s
· Average finish of 9.8
· Average Running Position of 10.2, second-best
· Driver Rating of 104.5, second-best
· 164 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 1,315 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 178.146 mph, fourth-fastest
· 2,989 Laps in the Top 15 (79.9%), second-most
· 833 Quality Passes, third-most

Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet)
· One top 10
· Average finish of 8.0
· Average Running Position of 13.6, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 89.7, 10th-best
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 178.478 mph

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1 / Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet)
· One win, 12 top fives, 20 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.7
· Average Running Position of 12.6, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.8, sixth-best
· 104 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 177.587 mph, eighth-fastest
· 2,610 Laps in the Top 15 (73.7%), fifth-most
· 735 Quality Passes, fifth-most


Chase Outlook (4 regular season races to go)

Michigan International Speedway Track Data
Season Race #: 23 of 36 (08-17-14)
Track Size: 2-miles
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 18 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 18 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 5 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 2 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 3,600 feet
Backstretch Length: 2,242 feet
Race Length: 200 laps / 400 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Michigan
Greg Biffle………………………….. 107.8
Matt Kenseth……………………….. 104.5
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 102.9
Carl Edwards………………………. 102.2
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 97.5
Tony Stewart…………………………. 95.8
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 91.2
Kyle Busch…………………………… 91.1
Kurt Busch……………………………. 90.0
Kyle Larson………………………….. 89.7
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Michigan International Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Joey Logano, Ford, 203.949 mph, 35.303 secs., 08-16-13
2013 race winner: Joey Logano, Ford, 144.593 mph, (02:45:59), 08-18-13
Track qualifying record: Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 204.557 mph, 35.198 secs., 06-13-14
Track race record: Dale Jarrett, Ford, 173.997 mph, (2:17:56), 06-13-99

Michigan International Speedway History:
· Michigan International Speedway sits on more than 1,400 acres in the “Irish Hills” of Southeastern Michigan. Ground-breaking took place on Sept. 28, 1967.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan was held June 15, 1969 – won by Cale Yarborough at a speed of 139.254 mph.
· The track was known as Michigan Speedway during the time Roger Penske was the primary owner (1996-99).
· The 2-mile speedway underwent a repave in 2012.
· There have been 90 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway since the first race there in 1969. Other than 1973, which had just one race, there have been two races each season since 1969.
· The first race was 500 miles in length; the second was scheduled for 600. The track was re-measured to 2.04 miles for the last race in 1970 and both races in 1971 – with the race distance being 402 miles. All other races have been scheduled for 400 miles.
· 372 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway; 269 in more than one.
· Bill Elliott leads the series in starts at Michigan with 61. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 43 starts.
· Donnie Allison won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Michigan in 1969 with a speed of 160.135 mph.
· 46 drivers have Coors Light poles at Michigan, led by David Pearson with 10. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five.
· Six drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Michigan. David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Michigan with five; fall 1976 through 1978.
· Four active drivers have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Michigan: Terry Labonte (1983 sweep), Bill Elliott (1984 sweep and 1988 sweep), Bobby Labonte (2003 sweep), and Brian Vickers (fall 2008 – 2009 sweep).
· Youngest Michigan pole winner: Joey Logano (08/16/2013 – 23 years, 2 months, 23 days).
· Oldest Michigan pole winner: Mark Martin (08/19/2012 – 53 years, 7 months, 10 days).
· 36 different NSCS drivers have won at Michigan International Speedway, led by David Pearson with nine wins; Greg Biffle leads all active drivers with four.
· Eight drivers have posted consecutive wins at Michigan International Speedway, including four consecutive by Bill Elliott (1985 sweep and 1986 sweep).
· Youngest Michigan winner: Joey Logano (08/18/2013 – 23 years, 2 months, 25 days).
· Oldest Michigan winner: Harry Gant (08/16/1992 – 52 years, 7 months, 6 days).
· Roush Fenway Racing has the most wins at Michigan in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 13: Mark Martin (four), Greg Biffle (four), Carl Edwards (two), Matt Kenseth (two) and Kurt Busch (one).
· Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Michigan; led by Ford with 34 victories; followed by Chevrolet with 21.
· 17 of the 90 (18.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Joey Logano in 2013.
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (17) than any other starting position at Michigan International Speedway.
· 25 of the 90 (27.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from the front row: 17 from the pole and eight from second-place.
· 68 of the 90 (75.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Six of the 90 (6.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Michigan was 32nd, by Mark Martin in the spring of 2009.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in runner-up finishes at Michigan with eight; followed by Darrell Waltrip with seven.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough leads the series in top-five finishes at Michigan with 21; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 18.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Michigan with 31; followed by Bill Elliott with 29. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 26.
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Michigan with a 8.800.
· Carl Edwards leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Michigan with an 9.050 Matt Kenseth (9.767)is the only other active driver with an average finish in the top 10 with more than one start.
· All active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Michigan International Speedway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Tony Stewart won at Michigan in his third appearance, the fewest previous starts among the active NSCS winners.
· Kevin Harvick competed at Michigan International Speedway 19 times before winning in the fall of 2010; the longest span of any the active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Among the active NSCS Michigan winners Kevin Harvick (19), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (17) Kyle Busch (13), Jeff Gordon (11), Brian Vickers (11) and Joey Logano (10) all made 10 or more attempts before their first win.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Michigan without visiting Victory Lane at 40.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway was the June 10, 2001 race won by Jeff Gordon over Ricky Rudd with a MOV of 0.085 second.
· There have been two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Michigan International Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): fall of 2011 (200/203); and fall of 2012 (200/201).
· Four of the 90 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the event on 6/18/2006.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway four times; most recently the spring of 2008 race.
· Three drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Michigan International Speedway: Jeff Burton (8/18/1996), J.J. Yeley (6/17/2007) and Marcos Ambrose (6/17/2012).
· Two active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver have posted their first career start at Michigan International Speedway: Carl Edwards (8/22/2004) and Landon Cassill (6/13/2010).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Michigan with 990 laps led in 43 starts.
· Four female drivers have competed at Michigan International Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie, Robin McCall, Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick. Of the four female drivers to compete at Michigan, Guthrie has the best finish (10th).

NASCAR in Michigan
· There have been 95 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at four tracks in Michigan: 90 at Michigan International Speedway (Brooklyn), two each at Grand River Speedrome (Grand Rapids) and Michigan State Fairgrounds (Detroit), and one at Monroe Speedway (Monroe).
· 98 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Michigan.

Ocon crowned GP3 champion after edging Ghiotto in finale

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Sunday 29 November 2015.
Esteban Ocon (FRA, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C8630
© GP3 Series
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Esteban Ocon became the sixth winner of the GP3 Series on Sunday in Abu Dhabi after edging out championship rival Luca Ghiotto in a tantalizing title decider at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Ocon entered the final race of the season leading Ghiotto by six points after taking pole position on Saturday and finishing fifth following a time penalty.

The two championship protagonists started fourth and fifth on the grid, but it was Ocon who made a better start to jump ahead of Ghiotto.

Contact was made between the duo, costing Ghiotto a small part of his front-wing endplate and dropping the Italian down to P7.

Ghiotto fought his way back up to fourth place, knowing that he had to catch and pass Ocon in third if he was to stand any chance of winning the title for Trident.

However, Ocon managed to eke out a small advantage over the laps that followed, dropping Ghiotto into the clutches of Jimmy Eriksson behind.

Although Ghiotto managed to stay fourth, he could not catch Ocon, who kept his cool to cross the line third and claim the series title.

Despite winning just one race all year long, a further 13 podium finishes in 18 races proved crucial as Ocon beat Ghiotto by eight points in the final standings.

“It’s what we wanted to achieve since the beginning of the season, and I’m very happy to finally achieve it,” Ocon said.

“It was a long season, and especially a long weekend, a lot of stress but yes, very happy to end up with the championship win.”

The Frenchman recently joined Mercedes’ driver academy as a full member, and has been tipped for a move into either GP2 or DTM for the 2016 season.

The race in Abu Dhabi was won by Campos Racing’s Alex Palou, marking the young Spaniard’s first victory in GP3. He beat Ferrari youngster Antonio Fuoco by 4.4 seconds as the Italian picked up his second podium finish of the year.

Hamilton nominated for BBC Sports Personality award

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks to the drivers' parade before the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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2015 Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has been nominated for the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

Hamilton won the award for the first time in 2014 after clinching his second F1 title, and will defend his crown at a ceremony in Belfast, Northern Ireland on December 20.

The BBC Sports Personality of the Year award celebrates the highlights of the British sporting year, and has previous winners including David Beckham, Steve Redgrave and Lennox Lewis.

From F1, Hamilton is not the only former winner: Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell and Jackie Stewart all winning the trophy in the past in recognition of their on-track feats.

Hamilton features on a shortlist of 12, and is joined by tennis player Andy Murray following Great Britain’s first Davis Cup win in 79 years, boxer Tyson Fury after his defeat of Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday night and Tour de France winner Chris Froome.

You can see the shortlist in full here.

GP2 season finale cancelled due to barrier damage

2015 GP2 Series Round 11.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Sunday 29 November 2015.
The cars queue up in the pit lane during the red flag.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _SBL0365
© GP2 Series
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The final race of the 2015 GP2 Series season in Abu Dhabi was cancelled on Sunday after a multi-car crash on the first lap caused damage to one of the barriers.

The crash was sparked by DAMS driver Pierre Gasly, who spun at turn two before trying to point his car back in the right direction, only to move into the path of the oncoming cars.

Nicholas Latifi, Artem Markelov, Daniel de Jong and Sean Gelael were all caught up in the accident, spearing into the barrier on the left-hand side of the track. Sergey Sirotkin and Arthur Pic also collided in a separate incident.

Race officials acted quickly to throw the red flag so that the cars could be recovered, only to find that the barrier had been severely damaged.

A lengthy wait followed as the marshals tried to repair it, but with the season-ending Formula 1 grand prix’s start time drawing ever nearer, the race eventually had to be called off.

Alex Lynn had been leading, but with less than a single lap completed, no points could be awarded for the race.

Subsequently, the standings following Saturday’s feature race in Abu Dhabi would stand as the final championship result with title winner Stoffel Vandoorne finishing the year 160 points clear of American driver Alexander Rossi in second place.

Sirotkin held onto third place despite not scoring in Abu Dhabi, while Rio Haryanto ended the year in fourth just one point further back. Mitch Evens ranked fifth in the final standings ahead of Lynn, Raffaele Marciello and Gasly who all finished on 110 points.

The GP2 teams will return to the track in Abu Dhabi later this week for the beginning of winter testing.

Despite late start, CGR Rallycross started first Red Bull GRC season strong

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MotorSportsTalk takes a look back at Chip Ganassi Racing Rallycross’ first season in the Red Bull Global Rallycross. First up is a look at how the season started, and how late things came together for the two-car effort, with a further look at the season after the first couple races coming in part two.

At the start of the season, Chip Ganassi said of his latest new racing project, a two-car Ford Fiesta effort in Red Bull Global Rallycross, “I’m the person that likes to come in and under promise and over deliver.”

Mission almost accomplished.

About the only thing the new CGR Rallycross program didn’t achieve in 2015 was a final round victory in its first year.

It sounds bad on the surface, but consider the competition level and the fact Ganassi didn’t win its first IndyCar race until its fifth season in 1994, and you get the sense CGR Rallycross is closer to a breakthrough than its IndyCar program was at the same time in its lifespan.

The fact the team even ran two cars this season was testament to an incredible last-minute effort of preparation, as the cars were received mere weeks before the season-opening round at Fort Lauderdale, May 31.

Team manager Carl Goodman explained how close it came to missing the planned debut.

“We only just got the first one just a couple weeks before,” Goodman told MotorSportsTalk. “We had three days of testing this year; a three-day test in Florida before season started. And the drivers had to share that car… it was only one car!

“We didn’t even know if we’d have a second car in moving from Ft. Lauderdale to Texas (for X Games). So every race weekend has been a test for us.”

The team’s lineup of Steve Arpin and Brian Deegan didn’t actually debut in full until X Games, and Jeff Ward filled in for Deegan at Daytona and Washington D.C. due to conflicts.

Arpin, who was the team’s only entry at Ft. Lauderdale, added more to how tight the timeline was.

“Honestly if stuff got pushed back one week, it would have been trouble,” said Arpin, driver of the team’s No. 00 Loenbro entry. “Once we got the cars, we were lucky because they were good off the boat.

“We just dove in. All these guys, except for Carl, it was their first time seeing and working on a rallycross car. We did some simulation stuff here at the stop. So we got acclimated, quickly.”

Speaking even more to the newness of the program, Goodman, Arpin and Deegan were the only team members who had any sort of past rally experience.

Goodman, an M-Sport veteran, was re-entering the rally world after eight years in NASCAR with Michael Waltrip Racing. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, given the Charlotte CGR team base and MWR’s own dwindling efforts in NASCAR.

“I was with M-Sport for about a month or two short of 10 years. But I left them at the end of 2006, just as they won a rally World Championship, the manufacturer’s championship,” he said.

“I moved to the U.S. and had my time with was MWR until about a year ago. So eight years of Cup years. When this opportunity came up, and with an M-Sport car, it just made it easier. I knew the car, how it’s built, all the parts fell together. It was a big professional team in CGR. All the parts came together at the right time. I’d had quite a break between M-Sport and rallycross.”

Goodman noted there were four full-time crewmembers, three with NASCAR experience, one with road racing and one with a dirt track background, with four others drawn from the workshop for race weekends.

“I think some of the guys were a bit daunted at first, but they’re all professional racers,” Goodman explained. “They all have that solid background of being at a track, so they’re not overwhelmed or awed by being there.

“They expected to know what to do, maybe not on this type of car, but they’re all very well versed in racing. It sounds on the face of it to be a completely different things, these cars blasting and jumping on the dirt, but they’re professionals and they adapted.”

Red Bull GRC courses, by their nature, are very different than any normal type of circuit racing. Some are more dirt-heavy, some more pavement-heavy but all have a dirt component, a jump and the Kobalt Tools Joker Lap.

Preparing the cars for these circuits helped take the crew out of their comfort zone, Goodman said.

“The main tools are there, with the springs, dampers and just your normal suspension tuning… the added tool is the differentials,” he said.

“In general the cars are quite soft. Everything is a compromise about them. Even if you have fast sections, you have tight and dirt sections. That can stop you from going too extreme, either direction.

“Barbados or even Daytona, they’re race tracks. You could turn up with a classic touring car. But with dirt and a jump, you can’t do that. You’re always governed by the fact that they have to get through the dirt. That’s the level of all the tracks.”

Things started well enough. Arpin was seventh at Ft. Lauderdale but a charge to second, a Silver medal, in only the team’s second ever start at the X Games at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, was one of the season highlights.

“X Games… Steve just raced great and drove through the field. That certainly showed the potential of the car,” Goodman said.

Arpin added, “For the rewards, the X Games was the standout, but the final race in Vegas was the best for us.”

In part two of our look at CGR Rallycross, we’ll look at the remainder of their season after those opening two rounds that laid the groundwork for a successful first campaign in the championship.