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…

MICHIGAN-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

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

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Chase Outlook (4 regular season races to go)
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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.
Notebook
· 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).
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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.
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IndyCar Paddock Pass: Indy Carb Day Special (VIDEO)

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INDIANAPOLIS – Alongside NBCSN’s coverage of Carb Day practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, we have the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, which this week features interviews from Indy 500 media day leading into Carb Day.

Anders Krohn is back in action, ahead of a busy day for him as he will be in the booth calling the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires’ Freedom 100.

Interviews took place with Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon and Fernando Alonso. Alonso’s coverage highlighted media day, as there was an absurd number of people populating around his station on Thursday.

Dixon has the pole for Sunday’s race, with Carpenter starting second, Alonso fifth and Andretti eighth.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


It’s ‘Indy Leist’ – Matheus Leist, Carlin dominate Freedom 100

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INDIANAPOLIS – Brazilian rookie Matheus Leist has his first career victory in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires following a flag-to-flag victory in the No. 26 Carlin Dallara IL-15 Mazda from pole position in the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It was a tough race, we had the pace and the car was just amazing. It was just an amazing race. It’s my first race on an oval and I couldn’t be happier,” Leist told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt.

The usual photo finishes that have been a staple of this race ceded to Leist’s dominance, with a win by 0.7760 of a second over Aaron Telitz, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires champion posting his second podium finisher of the year.

Telitz edged Dalton Kellett for second at the line by just 0.0641 of a second. Both drivers took shots at Leist but were unable to pass him.

“Definitely an exciting finish. I was trying to get around Matheus. Our car was good in traffic but they were more trimmed out. When I got alongside, I couldn’t get him,” Telitz told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis. “I had limited opportunities. I wore off my front tires, then went more aggressive on my roll bars. We had a great car but not the car to win.”

“It was a great move by Aaron. I had a big run on Leist and have another photo finish. I was trying to play with the apron. Aaron got me – it was great pass by him,” Kellett told Hargitt. “We go slower. It makes for great drafting.

Meanwhile with Kyle Kaiser and Nico Jamin having anonymous finishes in ninth and 10th, and with Colton Herta crashing out on the first lap, it’s brought the championship even tighter.

Herta’s boom-or-bust rookie season in the No. 98 Andretti/Steinbrenner Racing car rolled on. After starting second, the 17-year-old ran on the outside of teammate Dalton Kellett through Turn 2, but spun after contact between the two – and collected teammate Ryan Norman in the No. 48 car in the process. Kellett was lucky to avoid damage to the right front wheel and suspension, which touched the left rear of Herta’s car to send him spinning.

It shifted the order with Zachary Claman De Melo moving up to second off the start behind Leist, with Kellett third, Neil Alberico fourth and Aaron Telitz in fifth. Kyle Kaiser and Nico Jamin noved up to ninth and 11th from 11th and 13th in the incident, respectively.

“Well, I don’t know if I can say what he was thinking!” Bryan Herta, Colton’s father, told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt. “It’s a shame. They both had great cars. Looking at it, maybe he didn’t know Dalton was still on the inside. It’s not how you want to start the race. Unfortunately he is out early.”

Both drivers were understandably disappointed, but relieved to be OK after being checked and released from the infield care center, cleared to drive.

“I’m fine. Little X-Ray. No problem. I saw (Kellett) but I don’t really know what happened. I need to look at the data and video,” the younger Herta told Beekhuis.

Norman told Beekhuis, “I’m physically fine, but just really disappointed. It was our highest starting position. Wrong spot at the wrong time. Andretti gave me a great car all month. We’ll come back stronger at Road America.”

Kellett, post-race, told Hargitt about the incident: “I’m on the inside, it’s the first lap, caught some dirty air, I understeered up into him and that collected him, and collected Ryan. You never want to have contact with your teammates. At least we’ve got a podium finish.”

The restart occurred at the conclusion of Lap 5, and start of Lap 6, after the first and only caution flag of the race.

By Lap 15, Leist led by 0.6077 of a second but Kellett, Telitz and Alberico had moved up to second, third and fourth with Claman De Melo falling back from second down to fifth.

At half distance Telitz moved within striking distance of Leist into second. At the halfway mark it was Leist 0.3486 of a second ahead of Telitz with Kellett, Alberico and Claman De Melo in the top five.

Leist pulled away from there and the only photo finish this time around was for second, as Telitz got Kellett right at the line. The gap was a huge one by recent Indy Lights standards, 0.7760 of a second to Telitz and 0.8401 to Kellett.

Alberico and Santiago Urrutia, who started 12th but moved forward during the race, completed the top five.

Forgettable races occurred for points leaders Kaiser and Jamin, who ended ninth and 10th. Unofficially they still sit 1-2 in points with 151 and 137, Herta falls to third with 129 while Telitz and Alberico (122) and Leist (121) are within range.

Bourdais, Coyne upbeat during Carb Day practice check-ins (VIDEO)

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INDIANAPOLIS – Sebastien Bourdais hopes to be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, just over a week after his accident left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in an accident in qualifying.

The Frenchman has already been released from IU Methodist Hospital on Wednesday and during NBCSN’s coverage of Carb Day practice, checked in with the booth crew to update his recovery progress.

“I think I’m doing as well as I could have ever hoped for,” Bourdais told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee. “My surgery went well. I was walking two days after the wreck. It’s been a little weird! But the pain is managed.”

Team owner Dale Coyne also checked in on Bourdais’ progress as well.

“He’s feeling good. He moved out of hospital Wednesday,” Coyne told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt. “If all goes as planned, we’ll get him out here Sunday.”

As for when Bourdais can return to the cockpit?

“The surgeon said he’s out for season… of course Seb says he wants to do Le Mans!” Coyne laughed. “It’s going to be a long recovery. But Sonoma? Maybe.”

Also during the segment, NBCSN pit reporter Jon Beekhuis noted an older specification rear wing configuration on the back of Bourdais’ replacement, James Davison’s No. 18 GEICO Honda. This should help Davison on Sunday.

Hinchcliffe engine issue hits Carb Day practice, as Castroneves leads

Photo: IndyCar
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INDIANAPOLIS – Helio Castroneves has led the final one-hour practice session ahead of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, in the No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet, but it’s a Honda that made the bigger news during the extended session.

Another Honda engine issue – at least the eighth this month between the INDYCAR Grand Prix, practice and qualifying – now struck James Hinchcliffe during the final 20 minutes of the session in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

Heading into Turn 3, Hinchcliffe’s gold and black car took on a distinctly white hue by contrast, as smoke billowed out the back of the car. It littered the track between Turns 3 and 4.

Yet as Hinchcliffe, the 2016 race polesitter explained to NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt, the timing was as good as it could have been considering had it happened later it would have been in the race itself.

“I felt what the engineers would call a suboptimal rapid negative acceleration heading into Turn 3,” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN. “We’ve had some issues across the Honda camp. It’s less than ideal.

“I felt bad going into 3. I hope we weren’t leaking too badly. I’m happy it didn’t happen 20 minutes later, that would have been Lap 5 of the race. We’ll get an engine, we’ll put it in. But that was by far the best we’ve felt on the 5 car all month. Let’s put this thing to bed. The car feels really good in traffic.”

Hinchcliffe will start 17th on Sunday. He ended his truncated practice in 14th.

Photo: IndyCar

Behind another gold car – the gold-and-white No. 3 car of Castronves – Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan completed the top three, with Scott Dixon and Fernando Alonso completing the top five.

Speeds are below.