Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol

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During the Chase for the Sprint Cup, we often focus on the October race at Talladega Superspeedway as the “wild card” that can leave championship hopes in ruin.

But for the Race to the Chase – the final push by desperate drivers and teams to earn the last few post-season berths up for grabs – that particular role is filled by Bristol Motor Speedway.

With three races remaining in the regular season, four of those berths remain in play. And as we told you earlier today, some drivers are in better position than others.

But the momentum can change in an instant at Bristol, the most infamous half-mile in all of NASCAR. One mistake on the high banks can lead to disaster for many.

However, those without a win can’t afford to simply try and survive the night. If they have a chance to score a victory and lock themselves into the Chase, they must take it.

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 24 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…

BRISTOL-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 Hire Our Heroes Ford)
· Six top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.0
· Average Running Position of 13.1, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 93.7, sixth-best
· 325 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.319 mph, seventh-fastest
· 6,652 Laps in the Top 15 (69.9%), third-most
· 497 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), seventh-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Five wins, seven top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.8
· Average Running Position of 14.4, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.7, eighth-best
· 356 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 903 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.286 mph, eighth-fastest
· 5,859 Laps in the Top 15 (61.6%), ninth-most
· 509 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Doublemint Toyota)
· Five wins, eight top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 10.9
· Average Running Position of 13.0, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 101.7, third-best
· Series-high 598 Fastest Laps Run
· 848 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.413 mph, fourth-fastest
· 6,278 Laps in the Top 15 (66.0%), fifth-most
· 491 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
· Three wins, five top fives, eight top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 15.2
· Average Running Position of 14.7, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.3, 11th-best
· 397 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.198 mph, 11th-fastest
· 6,024 Laps in the Top 15 (63.3%), seventh-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Five wins, 16 top fives, 24 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 12.2
· Average Running Position of 9.8, second-best
· Driver Rating of 100.6, fourth-best
· 419 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 846 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.469 mph, third-fastest
· Series-high 7,730 Laps in the Top 15 (81.2%)
· 596 Quality Passes, second-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)
· One win, four top fives, eight top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 15.5
· Average Running Position of 14.5, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.7, ninth-best
· 387 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 893 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.250 mph, 10th-fastest
· 5,192 Laps in the Top 15 (61.0%), 12th-most
· 429 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet)
· One win, nine top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 14.3
· Average Running Position of 13.3, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 90.3, 10th-best
· 327 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 964 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.390 mph, fifth-fastest
· 5,943 Laps in the Top 15 (62.5%), eighth-most
· 463 Quality Passes, 11th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· One win, seven top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.4
· Average Running Position of 13.7, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.2, seventh-best
· 496 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 6,361 Laps in the Top 15 (66.8%), fourth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· One win, five top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.0
· Driver Rating of 88.9, 12th-best
· 424 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· 944 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.175 mph, 12th-fastest
· 5,245 Laps in the Top 15 (55.1%), 11th-most
· 521 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.5
· Average Running Position of 10.4, third-best
· Driver Rating of 102.7, second-best
· 508 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.505 mph, second-fastest
· 7,689 Laps in the Top 15 (80.8%), second-most
· Series-high 602 Quality Passes

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Wurth Ford)
· Two wins, three top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 14.3
· Average Running Position of 12.6, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.9, fifth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.331 mph, sixth-fastest

Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet)
· One top 10
· Average finish of 10.0
· Series-best Average Running Position of 7.5
· Series-best Driver Rating of 104.5
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 116.048 mph

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Bristol Motor Speedway Track Data
Season Race #: 24 of 36 (08-23-14)
Track Size: 0.533-miles
Banking/Turns 1 & 2: 24-28 degrees
Banking/Turns 3 & 4: 24-28 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 4-8 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 4-8 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 650 feet
Backstretch Length: 650 feet
Race Length: 500 laps / 266.5 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Bristol
Kyle Larson…………………………. 104.5
Matt Kenseth……………………….. 102.7
Kyle Busch…………………………. 101.7
Jeff Gordon………………………… 100.6
Brad Keselowski……………………. 95.9
Greg Biffle……………………………. 93.7
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 91.2
Kurt Busch……………………………. 90.7
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 90.7
Kevin Harvick………………………… 90.3
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Bristol Motor Speedway

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 128.969 mph, 14.878 secs., 08-22-13
2013 race winner: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 90.279 mph, (2:57:07), 08-22-13
Track qualifying record: Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 129.991 mph, 14.761 secs., 03-14-14
Track race record: Charlie Glotzbach, Chevrolet, 101.074 mph, (2:38:12), 07-11-71

Bristol Motor Speedway History
· Groundbreaking for Bristol International Speedway, as Bristol Motor Speedway was originally known, took place in 1960. The track was an exact half-mile.
· First NASCAR Sprint Cup race was July 30, 1961; Jack Smith won the event (with relief from Johnny Allen).
· In the fall of 1969, the track was reshaped and re-measured to .533-miles.
· The name changed to Bristol International Raceway in 1978.
· The first night race was held in the fall of 1978.
· The surface was changed from asphalt to concrete in 1992.
· The name changed to Bristol Motor Speedway in May 1996.
· The track was resurfaced between races in 2007, and the turns were ground down in 2012 to eliminate part of the progressive banking.

Bristol Motor Speedway Notebook
· There have been 107 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Bristol Motor Speedway since the first race in 1961, two races each season.
· All races have been scheduled for 500 laps, except for both races in 1976 and the second in 1977, which were 400 laps.
· 431 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol; 296 in more than one.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Bristol with 60. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 43 starts.
· Fred Lorenzen won the inaugural Coors Light pole with a speed of 79.225 mph.
· 47 different drivers have poles at Bristol, led by Mark Martin and Cale Yarborough with nine each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five.
· The race winner has started from the pole 22 times, the most productive starting position. The last driver to win from the pole was Carl Edwards, in the night race of 2008.
· Four drivers have won from the pole position multiple times: Bobby Allison (1972 twice), Cale Yarborough (1973, 1977 twice, 1980), Darrell Waltrip (1981 twice, 1982) and Rusty Wallace (1991, 1993, 1999, 2000).
· 10 different drivers have posted consecutive poles at Bristol Motor Speedway; Mark Martin is the only of the 10 to win four consecutive poles at Bristol: Fireball Roberts (swept 1962), Fred Lorenzen (swept 1963), Richard Petty (1967-’68), Bobby Allison (swept 1972), Cale Yarborough (swept 1973; swept 1977; swept 1980), Darrell Waltrip (swept 1981), Geoff Bodine (swept 1986), Mark Martin (swept 1995-1996– all four races; and swept 2009); Rusty Wallace (swept 1998), Jeff Gordon (swept 2002) and Denny Hamlin (fall 2013, spring 2014).
· Jeff Gordon leads (active drivers) the series in average starting position at Bristol with a 7.442.
· Youngest Bristol pole winner: Joey Logano (3/21/2010 – 19 years, 9 months, 25 days) – his first series career pole.
· Oldest Bristol pole winner: Harry Gant (8/27/1994 – 54 years, 7 months, 17 days).
· 41 different drivers have won at Bristol, led by Darrell Waltrip (12). Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch each have five wins, the most among active drivers.
· Junior Johnson leads the series in car owner wins at Bristol with 16; Rick Hendrick, Roger Penske and Jack Roush are tied among active car owners for the most wins at Bristol with 10 each.
· 12 drivers have won consecutive races at Bristol led by Darrell Waltrip with seven consecutive victories from 1981-1984. The other 11 are Fred Lorenzen (1963-1964 sweep), David Pearson (1968 sweep), Bobby Allison (1972 sweep), Cale Yarborough did it twice (1974 sweep and four straight from 1976-1977), Richard Petty (1975 sweep), Dale Earnhardt also did twice (1985 sweep and 1987 sweep), Alan Kulwicki (1992 sweep), Rusty Wallace (2000 sweep), Kurt Busch (2003 sweep and 2004 spring race), Kyle Busch (2009 sweep), and Brad Keselowski (2011 fall-2012 spring).
· Youngest Bristol winner: Kyle Busch (03/25/2007 – 21 years, 10 months, 23 days).
· Oldest Bristol winner: Dale Earnhardt (08/28/1999 – 48 years, 3 months, 30 days).
· Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Bristol; led by Chevrolet with 43 victories; followed by Ford with 34. Toyota is ranked fifth among Manufacturers with six wins at Bristol.
· 35 of the 107 (33.0%) races at Bristol have been won from the front row: Pole position (22 wins); second-place (13 wins).
· 85 of the 107 (32.7%) races have been won from a top-10 starting position; including 53 from the first four spots.
· Five of the 107 (4.6%) races have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 38th, by Elliott Sadler; in 2001.
· Richard Petty leads the series in runner-up finishes at Bristol with 10; Kevin Harvick leads all active drivers with four.
· Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty lead the series in top-five finishes at Bristol with 26 each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 16.
· Richard Petty has 37 top-10 finishes at Bristol, more than any other driver. Jeff Gordon leads the series among active drivers in top-10 finishes with 24.
· Kyle Busch leads the series (active drivers) in average finish at Bristol with a 10.895.
· Seven of the last 10 races have ended with a Margin of Victory of less than a second at BMS.
· There has been four green-white-checkered finishes at Bristol – all four were the spring race: 2007 (500/504); 2008 (500/506); 2009 (500/503); 2014 (500/503).
· Two of the 107 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Bristol Motor Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the event on 3/31/1996.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway three times; most recently August 25, 2012.
· Kurt Busch posted his first series career win at Bristol (2002), and Joey Logano won his first pole at Bristol (2010).
· Joe Nemechek leads the series (active drivers) with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Bristol without visiting Victory Lane with 38.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Bristol was the 3/25/2007 race won by Kyle Busch with a MOV of 0.064 second.
· Two female drivers have made NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Bristol: Janet Guthrie and Danica Patrick.
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· Four car numbers have produced eight or more Bristol NSCS wins: No. 11, 19 wins (Most recent – Denny Hamlin, 2012); No. 2, 12 wins (Most recent – Brad Keselowski, 2012); No. 17, eight wins (Most recent – Matt Kenseth, 2006); and No. 3, eight wins (Most recent – Dale Earnhardt, 1999).

NASCAR in Tennessee
· There have been 168 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Tennessee: 107 at Bristol Motor Speedway, 42 at Nashville Speedway, 12 at Smokey Mountain Raceway (Maryville), three at Kingsport Speedway, and two each at Chattanooga International Raceway and Tennessee-Carolina Speedway (Newport).
· 105 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Tennessee.
· 14 drivers from Tennessee have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series.

Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

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CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.

FIA to re-examine Vettel/Hamilton Baku clash

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The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.

Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.

The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.

Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.

On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

More to follow.

Wickens not interested in full-time IndyCar switch despite practice run

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Robert Wickens is not interested in making a full-time switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future despite his practice run-out at Road America last weekend for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Mercedes DTM driver Wickens was called up for Friday practice at the KOHLER Grand Prix in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after Mikhail Aleshin was unable to make it in time due to immigration issues.

Aleshin was able to return to the United States in time for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Road America, with Wickens stepping back down.

The Canadian got his first taste of an Indy car in a car swap with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in March, paving the way for his practice appearance at Road America.

However, Wickens is not looking to make a full-time move over to IndyCar anytime soon despite enjoying his run-out, with his focus lying with DTM.

“Not really, to be honest,” Wickens said when asked if IndyCar was something he would like to move into in Mercedes’ ‘Tales from the Paddock’ press newsletter.

“I just want to race cars. That’s the main thing. I have no urge to leave the DTM at the moment.

“Everything is going well, and I’m really happy with Mercedes.”

Wickens also went into detail about how rapidly things moved with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having only been told the day before practice that he was required for the running.

“I planned on having a relaxing weekend at home, but on Thursday afternoon I got a call from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the team that we did the ride swap with involving James Hinchcliffe back in April,” Wickens said.

“They asked if I could go to Road America and fill in for Mikhail Aleshin who had immigration issues. Fortunately, Toto [Wolff] was happy for me to do it and I was able to jump on a plane and get to Wisconsin.

“We didn’t get to the hotel until about 10pm on Thursday, and Free Practice 1 was on Friday morning very early. It took some getting used to.

“The practice itself was fun. The track was really good. It would be amazing to have a DTM race there one day.

“I definitely wanted to do the full weekend, but the full-time driver got his immigration stuff sorted and he made it to the race track by Friday night. My duties were finished, but it was still a really fun Friday.”

Force India’s Celis gets FP1 appearances in Austria, Hungary

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Force India youngster Alfonso Celis Jr. will make his first Formula 1 race weekend appearances of the season next month, taking part in first practice for the grands prix in Austria and Hungary.

Celis, 20, joined Force India as a development driver ahead of the 2016 season, enjoying six FP1 run-outs across the course of the year.

The Mexican driver returned for 2017, taking part in pre-season testing and the running following the Bahrain Grand Prix in April.

Force India confirmed on Wednesday that Celis will return for FP1 in Austria next week, before also featuring in practice in Hungary at the end of July.