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

Leave a comment

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:

More misery for Alonso as he fails to start Russian GP after engine issue (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Fernando Alonso’s miserable start to the 2017 Formula 1 season continued on Sunday in Russia as he failed to start the race following an engine issue on the formation lap.

Alonso and McLaren entered the Sochi weekend without a point to their name due to a number of issues with the Honda power unit, which has been lacking both reliability and performance.

Alonso fought his way to P15 in qualifying, but did not fancy his chances of scoring points given the Honda power unit’s lack of straight line speed in Sochi.

However, Alonso did not even get the chance to start the race in Russia after reporting an issue on the formation lap with his power unit that ultimately forced him to park up at the side of the track.

The Spaniard trudged back to the pit lane on foot, the disappointment clear in his body language after his fourth straight point-less weekend came to an early end.

“Well, same as every weekend. Nothing new today,” Alonso said of the incident on NBCSN after the race.

“I am trying to anticipate the plane [to Indianapolis] but it’s not here apparently! Have to wait for it at the normal time. [I’ll] eat ice cream.”

Alonso’s last DNS came at the infamous 2005 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which will be his next destination as he prepares to enjoy his first IndyCar test with Andretti Autosport on Wednesday ahead of his Indy 500 run later in the month.

Red Bull’s Verstappen, Ricciardo see season slipping away

Getty Images
Leave a comment

SOCHI, Russia (AP) For Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, the podium is starting to look a long way off.

Mercedes and Ferrari’s tussle for wins in Formula One has left Verstappen and Ricciardo in the cold, an uncomfortable sensation for drivers who each won a race last year and were podium regulars.

And the gap to the top two teams is getting bigger.

“For us, I think, at the moment the best we can do is fifth, so that’s like a victory for us,” Verstappen said Saturday.

In qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix, Ricciardo’s fifth place downplayed the gulf between Red Bull and the leaders. Ricciardo was 1.7 seconds off pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, and more than 1.1 off Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in fourth.

Verstappen, who lit up the sport a year ago with a win in Spain on his Red Bull debut, was almost two seconds off the pace in seventh.

“As a team, we know where we have to improve, and that’s both chassis and engine,” Verstappen said. “We have to deal with it and hopefully soon we can improve it on both sides.”

Vettel’s title with Red Bull in 2013 was the last time the team could fight for regular wins, but it did manage two victories and 15 podium finishes last year, often when the dominant Mercedes team slipped up.

This campaign, Red Bull’s hopes of adding more podiums to Verstappen’s third place in China earlier this month likely rest on an anticipated package of upgrades to the car. That’s due in time for the May 14 Spanish Grand Prix.

“It will probably dictate whether we’re going to be on the podium or not” in what remains of the first half of the season, Ricciardo said. “It’s our best hope, for sure.”

WATCH LIVE: Russian GP on NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 7am ET

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ferrari continued its impressive start to the 2017 Formula 1 season on Saturday as Sebastian Vettel stormed to pole position for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

F1 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX LIVE STREAM

Vettel edged out teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the final stage of qualifying as Ferrari swept to its first front-row lock-out in almost nine years, leaving Mercedes to settle for the second row of the grid.

Ferrari has never won a grand prix in Russia, but Vettel has a golden opportunity to extend his championship lead and stamp his authority on the early part of this year’s championship today.

However, Mercedes will be plotting a response courtesy of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, the latter chasing a third win in Sochi on Sunday.

You can watch the Russian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

You can also try out a new ‘Mosaic View’ for the race that includes the race simulcast, in-car cameras, driver tracker and pit lane cam. CLICK HERE to watch the Mosaic View live stream.

Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call, with pit reporter Will Buxton on the ground in Sochi providing updates and interviews throughout the race.

Also be sure to follow the @F1onNBCSports Twitter account for live updates throughout the race.

What to watch for: Russian Grand Prix (NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 7am ET)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Following his second victory of the 2017 Formula 1 season in Bahrain two weeks ago, Sebastian Vettel continued his impressive march at the head of the field by taking Ferrari’s first pole in 18 months on Saturday in Russia.

Vettel edged out teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the final stages of qualifying to head up a Ferrari one-two, the first since the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Mercedes was left searching answers for its lack of pace as Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were left to settle for the second row of the grid, with the team’s 18-race run of pole positions ending.

With Vettel on the brink of extending his championship lead and Ferrari’s threat to Mercedes’ dominance looking more and more real, the German marque is in need of a response on Sunday in Russia.

You can watch the Russian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Here is what to watch for in today’s race.

2017 Russian Grand Prix – What to watch for

Vettel has best chance yet to tighten grip on championship lead

It may still be very early days in the race for the 2017 F1 championship, but victories at the start of the year can prove crucial come the end – and for Sebastian Vettel, a third win in four races would surely signal the reality of Ferrari’s title bid.

Vettel has been in supreme form so far this season, rarely putting a foot wrong, and now has the chance to deliver a display reminiscent of his Red Bull heyday from the front of the field.

Ferrari’s race pace has been its real strength so far this year, giving Vettel a boost heading into Sunday in what has the potential to be quite a straightforward victory. If Kimi Raikkonen can play a good rear-gunner, then this should be Vettel’s for the taking.

Mercedes needs to dig deep

The odds are firmly stacked in Ferrari’s favor, with Mercedes requiring quite the turnaround to get in contention for victory.

While starting on the second row is certainly not the end of the world given the long straights at the Sochi Autodrom that offer plenty of scope for slipstreaming, Mercedes’ ultra-soft struggles so far this season makes it difficult to see how it can get the upper hand on Vettel at the front.

Valtteri Bottas may in fact be its best chance for victory in Sochi, with the Finn boasting a good track record in Russia and looking more comfortable with the Mercedes W08 car than esteemed teammate Lewis Hamilton throughout the weekend so far.

Should Hamilton find himself stuck behind Bottas again as he was in Bahrain, it will be interesting to see if Mercedes opts to invoke team orders and swap the cars around, even at this early stage in the championship.

The One With The Apartment

Quite a fun story came out of qualifying on Saturday in the form of an apartment bet harking back to the one in Friends.

Mercedes and Ferrari are so far clear that the race for the likes of Red Bull and Williams is for P5 at best, with Daniel Ricciardo, Felipe Massa and Max Verstappen seemingly in that fight this weekend.

It turns out all three live in the same apartment block in Monaco, prompting Ricciardo to suggest that whoever finishes ahead in Russia should be given the biggest one for a week as a prize.

In all seriousness though: do keep an eye on the battle for fifth this weekend. Apartment bet aside, it will be a good gauge of just how close Red Bull is to Williams and how far clear the leading two teams are.

One-stop strategy the way to go

Tire degradation levels in Russia are so low that a one-stop strategy is the only way to go on Sunday. In fact, the most logical option will be to complete the race on the two softest compounds – ultra-soft and super-soft – with the soft being kept on the shelf.

Should an early safety car come out in the event of another ‘torpedo’ incident as in 2016, then some may even opt to come in immediately and perhaps complete all but one lap on the super-soft tire.

While there is little scope to get imaginative with strategy in Russia, the push for track position amid the undercut or overcut could decide which way the race goes.

Can McLaren finally score points?

Probably not is the answer to this one. Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were left frustrated once again after qualifying, and will start today’s race 15th and 20th respectively, the latter dropping back due to an engine-related grid penalty.

McLaren made good progress during the test following the Bahrain Grand Prix, but its hopes of points in Russia look slim. Alonso claimed on Saturday that the team is losing 2.5 to three seconds per lap on the straights alone, such is the deficit of the Honda power unit. The fuel-hungry nature of the Sochi Autodrom will also hurt McLaren, forcing the team to ease back even more.

Another tough day is in store for McLaren, it seems.

2017 Russian Grand Prix – Starting Grid

1. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
3. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes
4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
5. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
6. Felipe Massa Williams
7. Max Verstappen Red Bull
8. Nico Hulkenberg Renault
9. Sergio Perez Force India
10. Esteban Ocon Force India
11. Lance Stroll Williams
12. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
13. Kevin Magnussen Haas
14. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso*
15. Fernando Alonso McLaren
16. Jolyon Palmer Renault
17. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
18. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
19. Romain Grosjean Haas
20. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren**

Carlos Sainz Jr. takes a three-place grid penalty following an incident in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
** Stoffel Vandoorne takes a 15-place grid penalty after power unit changes earlier in the Russian Grand Prix weekend.

You can watch the Russian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.