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…

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

source:

Chase Outlook (4 regular season races to go)
source:

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).
source:

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.
source:

Graham Rahal looks to repeat winning performance at Mid-Ohio

Phoenix International Raceway - Day 1
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Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. But for Verizon IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal, his heart will always be in Mid-Ohio.

That’s both the middle of the Buckeye State, where he grew up in the shadow of the capital city of Columbus, as well as – more importantly – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, 50 miles north in Lexington, Ohio.

Mid-Ohio was where Rahal watched his father, Bobby, race (best career showing there were a pair of third-place finishes), qualify, practice and test.

Mid-Ohio was where the younger Rahal learned a great deal of not only how to drive a race car, but more importantly, how to be a race car drive both inside and outside the cockpit.

If Rahal had a dollar for every time he dreamed about or fantasized about winning an IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio, he could probably own the track now.

Next to winning the Indianapolis 500, winning an IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio was right at the top of the younger Rahal’s bucket list – which he finally achieved in emotional fashion last year.

(Photo courtesy Chris Jones/IndyCar)
Graham Rahal celebrates in the winner’s circle at Mid-Ohio last year. (Photo courtesy Chris Jones/IndyCar)

Now, Rahal returns to Mid-Ohio to try and make it to the winner’s circle two years in a row in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (2 p.m. ET on CNBC/re-aired at 5:30 p.m. ET the same day on NBCSN).

“Mid-Ohio is home to me,” the younger Rahal said in a media release. “I grew up at the track and spent so many days there as a kid.

“Watching races there, being a part of it, seeing and loving what it’s all about is a big part of who I am. The way it all came together last year, every aspect of it made it perfect for me. Having the Buckeye helmet and gear, having my entire family there – which never happens, ever, since everyone is spread out – and having the crowd support, to have that sort of experience makes it impossible to tell anyone how much it means to me.

“The sense of accomplishment for me is so great. Everyone knows this but I love Ohio. I’m very proud to be from Ohio and that event means so much to me. To win it is a career accomplishment that I will never forgot or take for granted. It means just as much to me now as it did then. To me it’s one of the highlights of my lifetime, and definitely the most meaningful win of my career. I sure hope it happens again.”

Prior to last year’s win, Rahal’s best IndyCar finish at his home track was fifth in 2014.

(He previously won one other time at Mid-Ohio: at 16 years old became the youngest driver to ever win the SCCA National Formula Atlantic Championship Runoffs in 2005.)

Rahal’s only other IndyCar top-10 at his home track was eighth in 2009, when he drove for Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing (he’s now in his fourth season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing).

And even though he’d leave the 2.258-mile, 13-turn natural terrain road course time after time without the checkered flag, Rahal was determined to one day do it – and he did just that on August 2, 2015.

Rahal drove his Steak ‘n Shake/Maxim sponsored Honda to the winner’s circle, leading one-fourth (23 laps) of the 90-lap event, taking the lead for the first and only time of the day on Lap 68 and holding on the rest of the way.

“We had to rally last year,” Rahal recalled. “We started 13th which wasn’t great. We should have qualified better than that as our pace was certainly better than that.

“We ended up getting up to the top three on pure pace then I was held up in traffic. I said over the radio that I wanted to pit. I like to think about strategy a lot as a driver, which is the way my dad was. I knew that with the strategy we were running, we were in the window to pit, I knew I was getting held up so I made the call and told them I was coming in.

“It happened to go yellow right as we came in, which was absolutely perfect. It worked out great for us. … There was so much pride involved in that day. It’s hard for me to explain the feelings that I had to people. It was a great moment in my life and I just hope it carries over and we see a lot of support this year.”

Sunday will be Rahal’s ninth IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio, but there will be a definite change in the aura from last year. He came into and left the track ranked No. 2 in the series standings, earning his second win of the season.

That’s not the case this year.

Rahal and his team have had strong showings for the most part, but have struggled in their quest for the winner’s circle (none), and even podium finishes (just two in the first 11 races).

Firestone 600 - Practice

Even worse, they’re mid-pack in the series standings (11th), 140 points behind points leader Simon Pagenaud. On the flip side, Rahal is only eight points out of seventh place (occupied by Alexander Rossi), and just 52 points behind fifth-ranked Josef Newgarden (344).

Overall, Rahal has five top-five finishes and a per-race finishing average of a respectable 9.4. That includes finishes on permanent road courses of second and third at Barber and Road America, as well as street course runs of fourth at Indianapolis (Grand Prix) and Belle Isle Race 1.

But he also has six finishes between 11th and 16th (twice), including disappointing showings in the season’s last two races – at Iowa (16th) and Toronto (13th). He also struggled in street courses at St. Petersburg (16th), Long Beach (15th) and Belle Isle Race 2 (11th).

That’s why a little home cooking back in Mid-Ohio may be just what Rahal needs to get back on track and make a late season surge upward in the rankings.

“We have certainly had an up and down season, and are in need of a good result this weekend in a big way,” Rahal said. “It’s exciting to go back as the defending champion, but we want to do that again year in and year out. We just have to focus on the task at hand, and hopefully we can pull it off.”

Rahal may have an ace up his sleeve. Of 20 drivers that took part in an open test at Mid-Ohio on July 21, Rahal was the fastest Honda-powered driver.

“The test was good,” Rahal said. “We were focused on getting to the mileage limit on our Honda engine, which we successfully did.

“Now we turn our attention to finding little bits of speed we will need to be quick come this weekend. I hope we can get the balance a bit better, but it didn’t feel far off on the test day.

“I expect that we should be very competitive and our performance from the other road courses should carry over to Mid-Ohio. The tricky part is that everyone is competitive nowadays. There are no longer any bad teams or non-contenders. So I fully expect it to be a patented tight IndyCar race weekend and I hope the Steak ‘n Shake team can come out on top again!”

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NASCAR’s 2017 start times are out; worth keeping in mind for IndyCar times

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JULY 02: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Detroit Genuine Parts Ford, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 2, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
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So one of the fun things you can begin deducing about 2017 calendars is tea leaves you get from other series.

Today, NASCAR has released the start times of 2017 races for Sprint Cup (title sponsor to change), Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races.

And it’s with that knowledge that we post the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity weekend dates, channels and start times after NBC takes over the coverage, below through what would be the projected end of the Verizon IndyCar Series season:

Sprint Cup

7/1

Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway

NBC

7:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

7/8

Kentucky Speedway

NBCSN

7:30 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

7/16

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

NBCSN

3 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

7/23

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

NBC

3 p.m.

IMS / SiriusXM

7/30

Pocono Raceway

NBCSN

3 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/6

Watkins Glen International

NBCSN

3 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/13

Michigan International Speedway

NBCSN

3 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/19

Bristol Motor Speedway

NBC

7:30 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

9/3

Darlington Raceway

NBCSN

6 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/9

Richmond International Raceway

NBCSN

7:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/17

Chicagoland Speedway

NBCSN

3 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/24

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

NBCSN

2 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

Xfinity

6/30

Daytona International Speedway

NBCSN

7:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

7/7

Kentucky Speedway

NBCSN

8 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

7/15

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

NBCSN

4 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

7/22

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

NBCSN

3:30 p.m.

IMS / SiriusXM

7/29

Iowa Speedway

NBC

3:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/5

Watkins Glen International

NBCSN

2 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/12

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

NBCSN

3:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/18

Bristol Motor Speedway

NBCSN

7:30 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

8/27

Road America

NBC

3 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/2

Darlington Raceway

NBCSN

3:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/8

Richmond International Raceway

NBCSN

7:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/16

Chicagoland Speedway

NBCSN

3:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/23

Kentucky Speedway

NBCSN

8 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

The only IndyCar race dates publicly announced yet for July 2017 are Iowa (July 9) and Toronto (July 16).

If each weekend stayed identical to this year for the July through September IndyCar races, you’d have these 2017 dates:

  • Iowa, July 9
  • Toronto, July 16
  • Mid-Ohio, July 30
  • Pocono, August 20
  • Watkins Glen, September 3
  • Sonoma, September 17

That doesn’t factor in the possibility of any additional race – say maybe one at Gateway Motorsports Park, which could be a possibility to fall in the August gap between Mid-Ohio or Pocono.

But of those remaining rounds, note that Iowa would again fall on the Sunday after a Cup race and have no live racing TV competition.

With both of the New Hampshire and Pocono start times at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN on Sunday, July 16 and July 30, respectively, it’s possible IndyCar’s start times at Toronto and Mid-Ohio could be moved forward to finish ahead of the NASCAR start time.

Alternatively, a later start time would likely produce a head-to-head TV conflict, prompt a channel change and likely require an NBCSN replay after the NASCAR race – as has been done on a couple occasions the last two years.

The conundrum is that over the last couple years, later start times closer to primetime have helped IndyCar’s numbers on NBCSN, rather than earlier start times.

With Bristol a Saturday night race on August 19, that opens up a Sunday timeslot, again without the potential of a head-to-head TV conflict.

Darlington as a night race would follow any potential IndyCar race if Watkins Glen continues in the same time frame and date.

And Chicagoland, the Chase opener for 2017, could fall ahead of a late afternoon IndyCar finale at Sonoma.

Again, there’s a lot of theoreticals here, but the late-ish start times for NASCAR races to 3 p.m. ET on Sunday for potential IndyCar weekends could produce the potential to avoid head-to-head conflicts where you have both Cup and IndyCar running at the same time.

We’ll know more, most likely, once IndyCar releases its 2017 schedule – which is projected for August.

Handful of changes on Road America’s IMSA entry list

ELKHART LAKE, WI - AUGUST 10:  The #62 Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer is shown in action during the IMSA Tudor Series race at Road America on August 10, 2014 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)
Photo courtesy of IMSA
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The final four IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races will take place over August, September and October following a run of three events in four weekends in July.

The first of those, the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, takes place on August 7 at Road America and will see the resumption of all four classes back in action after Lime Rock Park did not see the Prototype class.

There’s a handful of changes in the 44-car entry list for the two-hour, 40-minute race:

Prototype

  • Sean Rayhall is back in his usual DeltaWing entry after running one of Starworks Motorsport’s PC cars at Lime Rock Park.

Prototype Challenge

  • Replacing Rayhall in Starworks’ No. 7 Aviation American Gin Oreca FLM09 with Jose Gutierrez co-driving is Gustavo Yacaman, back for his first start in IMSA this year.
  • BAR1 Motorsports is back to two cars with Bruno Junqueira also set for his IMSA return; the Brazilian joins Matt McMurry in the Brian Alder led-team’s No. 20 Gas Monkey Energy entry with Johnny Mowlem moving to the No. 26 Southwest Funding/Top 1 Oil car co-driven by Don Yount.

GT Le Mans

  • No changes in class but the No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE will be withdrawn (only confirmed for Petit Le Mans).

GT Daytona

  • Add a second WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT3 R for David MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette, the No. 77 car the third for Alex Job Racing at WeatherTech’s home race.
  • The No. 80 Lone Star Racing Dodge Viper GT3-R of Dan Knox and Mike Skeen makes its second 2016 appearance, first since Road America.
  • Sven Mueller is the latest co-driver of Black Swan Racing’s No. 540 Porsche alongside Tim Pappas, after Andy Pilgrim (Lime Rock) and Nick Catsburg (opening races of the year).
  • Subtract the No. 11 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, listed but won’t race.

All told it will be a 42-car field (8 P, 9 PC, 9 GTLM, 16 GTD) for one of the larger IMSA fields this year.

Mid-Ohio could be pivotal for Power, Pagenaud in championship battle

Simon Pagenaud, left, and Will Power
(Photos courtesy IndyCar)
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Will Power is closing in and may be ready to overtake Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud not only on the racetrack, but also in the Verizon IndyCar Series point standings.

Power, who has three wins and one runner-up finish in his last four starts, comes into Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio just 47 points behind Pagenaud, who has led the standings since after the second race of the season (Phoenix).

That he is so close to Pagenaud is almost incredulous, given that Power missed the season-opening race at St. Petersburg due to an inner-ear infection that was initially thought to be a potential concussion.

Missing an entire race worth of points (maximum of 54 points) is hard for any driver to bounce back from, but Power and his team have used that missed race to further heighten their motivation to win a second championship in the last three seasons.

“After a bit of a slow start this season, the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team has built a lot of momentum in the middle part of the season and we’ll look to keep it going at Mid-Ohio,” Power said in a media release.

And while Pagenaud won’t give up his own quest for his first IndyCar title without a fight, how he and Power emerge from Sunday’s race at Mid-Ohio — only four races remain after that — could potentially lay the groundwork to determine which driver ultimately winds up winning the championship.

“We’ve gotten ourselves into the championship fight, but it’s still a little early to be counting points,” Power said. “We just need to keep doing what we have been and let the points manage themselves.”

On paper, Pagenaud has a slight edge at the 2.258-mile natural terrain road course in Lexington, Ohio: five starts, three podium finishes (including a runner-up in the 2013 race at Mid-Ohio).

“I always look forward to competing at Mid-Ohio,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a classic event for the Verizon IndyCar series.

“I’ve been fortunate to have some success there over the years in both IndyCar and sports cars.”

Power, meanwhile, has an equally respectable record at Mid-Ohio: seven starts, two podiums (both runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2012) and two poles.

“I really enjoy racing at Mid-Ohio,” Power said. “The natural terrain creates a fast, yet technical, circuit.

“It is not a track that I’ve won at before, so this would be a great time to do that and we’ll need to work hard to accomplish that.”

Added Pagenaud, “The No. 22 team tested there last week (July 21) and we were pleased at the end of the day. We went through our list of tests to experiment, which will lead us in a good direction for the race weekend. We’re all ready to go.”

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