NASCAR Bristol Auto Racing

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.

Force India gives Renault tips ahead of Hulkenberg’s arrival for 2017

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 11:  Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM09 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 11, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Force India has sent Renault an early Christmas present by giving tips on how to look after Nico Hulkenberg ahead of his arrival at the team for the 2017 Formula 1 season.

Hulkenberg announced back in October that he would be leaving Force India at the end of the 2016 season, joining Renault for its second year back in F1 as a constructor.

In a tongue-in-cheek post on Force India’s Twitter account, the team gave Renault some advice on how to look after Hulkenberg.

“He answers the name of ‘Nico’, but ‘Hulk’ will do in public,” it reads.

“He has been a beloved member of our family for longer than we can remember, but it is time for him to go and find his own feet.

“Nico is friendly and of good nature, but there are just a few, simple rules to follow to take care of him:

  • Do not feed him after midnight.
  • Do not get him wet. Actually, just kidding. He’s pretty good in the wet.
  • Even though the resemblance can be uncanny, do not refer to him as ‘Johnny Bravo’ (if you do, let us know how it goes.

“And most importantly, and we can’t stress this enough…

  • Do NOT make him angry.

“Best of luck for your life together, your friends at Sahara Force India.”

Force India had previously left Hulkenberg’s helmet and race suit under its Christmas tree as a gift for Renault.

Porsche was quick to chip in on the claim that you shouldn’t feed Hulkenberg after midnight, with the German having ran pretty well in the early hours at Le Mans en route to victory in 2015.

The F1 season may be over, but the Twitter fun between the teams will continue through the winter.

Ricciardo: Verstappen’s arrival at Red Bull pushed me on

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - OCTOBER 02:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates with Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing after their 1-2 finish during the Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit on October 2, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Daniel Ricciardo says that Max Verstappen’s arrival at Red Bull four races in to the 2016 Formula 1 season helped him to raise his game as a driver.

Verstappen  swapped seats with Daniil Kvyat after the Russian Grand Prix in May, with Ricciardo’s former teammate moving back down to Red Bull’s feeder team, Toro Rosso.

Ricciardo and Verstappen enjoyed a strong 17-race stint as teammates through 2016, each taking one win and enough points to lift Red Bull up to second place in the constructors’ championship.

Reflecting on his season, Ricciardo admitted that he was unsure about how quickly Verstappen would fit in at Red Bull and get up to speed, but that he soon realized the quality of the Dutchman.

“It was a big thing. Especially that first weekend in Spain which was pretty crazy, and not just because he won,” Ricciardo said.

“I suspect the team didn’t know how good Max was and where he was going to fit. His win really gave us good energy and pushed us on to get stronger.

“In Spain everybody was watching, wondering if we’d made a mistake swapping Dany and Max around. I think his win was a relief more than anything. And it definitely pushed us on. Certainly it pushed me on.

“I think I’d been at the right level from the start of the season, which may have caused some of the commotion in the first place because I had a better start than Dany.

“With Max, I felt we were pushing each other from the off. He was closer to me in qualifying and so naturally that provides a spur because you’re looking at each other’s data and finding an extra bit here and there. It makes you better.”

Ricciardo conceded that the amicable relationship with Verstappen could become tense in 2017 should the pair become embroiled in a title fight, but hopes they can retain their mutual respect.

“Well, I’m not naïve. If we’re fighting for wins I’m sure the pressure and tension will rise,” Ricciardo said.

“But hopefully we’ll be able to look each other in the eye and say ‘good job’ afterwards.”

F1 2016 Driver Review: Lewis Hamilton

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates his win on the start finish straight after the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 10, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton

Team: Mercedes AMG Petronas
Car No.: 44
Races: 21
Wins: 10
Podiums (excluding wins): 7
Pole Positions: 12
Fastest Laps: 3
Points: 380
Laps Led: 566
Championship Position: 2nd

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Lewis Hamilton’s year was an odd one. While he was at his brilliant best on a number of occasions, racking up 10 wins – more than any driver not to win the championship in F1 history – there were a handful of costly errors that ultimately cost him the title.

Yes, the reliability woes with the Mercedes power unit through the year hurt his title bid enormously. But that’s racing; bad luck is part and parcel of it, just as Nico Rosberg found out at points in 2014 and 2015.

Instead, Hamilton needs to look at himself to see where he could have done better in 2015. Poor starts in Australia, Bahrain, Italy and Japan were all damaging to his title challenge, as were weekends he was off the boil in Singapore and Baku.

Hamilton proved once again that he has a good balance between his life outside of F1, which he continues to quite clearly enjoy, judging by his Snapchat escapades, and his efforts on-track. He remains the strongest driver in the field. But this year, his old, successful mind-games were unable to knock Rosberg down. Nico had the answer this time around. Let’s see what 2017 brings for the Briton as he searches for a fourth World Championship.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

The year of Lewis revolved as much around him off-track as it did on it. Sometimes, his on-track runs ended through a spate of Mercedes mechanical woes, which were as unexpected as they were frustrating after a flawless winter.

Then there were his spats with the press, his Snapchat antics in Suzuka and his otherwise nonchalant approach to some outside-the-car commitments. From the outside, it seemed Hamilton was less engaged this year until he needed to be, then made peace with the fact he’d done all he could do as the year went on.

The year was defined, performance-wise, by his starts – and how poor some of them were. A number of wins were lost as a result. Even so, he still beat Rosberg 10-9 in wins and 12-8 in poles. The area he beat Rosberg in a category he wouldn’t want is DNFs – that crushing engine failure in Malaysia joined with the pair’s clash in Spain.

Hamilton was his usual peerless self at times though, and his rally to end the season with four straight wins was admirable in the face of a roller coaster year up to that point. His drive at Abu Dhabi was tenacious and smart; he backed Rosberg into the field as his only shot of snatching the title. He remains F1’s most fascinating character and out-and-out fastest driver, if not its current World Champion.

F1 2016 Driver Review: Nico Rosberg

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates with his second place trophy after securing the F1 World Drivers Championship during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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As part of MotorSportsTalk’s review of the 2016 Formula 1 season, Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno look back on each driver’s year, starting today with World Champion Nico Rosberg.

Nico Rosberg

Team: Mercedes AMG Petronas
Car No.: 6
Races: 21
Wins: 9
Podiums (excluding wins): 6
Pole Positions: 8
Fastest Laps: 6
Points: 385
Laps Led: 489
Championship Position: 1st

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Assuming that he doesn’t backtrack on his decision to retire from racing at any point in the future, 2016 will be remembered as the strongest year of Nico Rosberg’s motorsport career. Twice burned by championship defeats to Lewis Hamilton, the German bit back in 2016 with a new approach that yielded the ultimate reward.

Sure, his “one race at a time” rhetoric was boring; we like our champions to have some fire in their bellies. However, it worked wonders. Rosberg was no longer taking baggage and stress from race to race as he was through 2014 and 2015. Each race was a clean slate.

There were low moments, such as the clash with Hamilton on-track in Austria, but Rosberg recovered from his mid-season wobble nicely. Four second places is hardly the way to sign off a championship-winning season, but Rosberg cared little – he’d got the job done.

The greatest shame for 2017 is that we won’t get the chance to see if Rosberg can build on this breakthrough year and beat Hamilton again. Instead, he’s ‘one and done’; that’s it.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

In the last year of the current regulations, Nico Rosberg always needed to win this year’s World Championship if he was to ensure he ever won one in his career. Rare do you think of him as being 31 years old, in the sport 11 seasons, because he still has a fresh face look – albeit not as young as his initial “baby face” days with Williams, and the birth of a potential mullet to match his World Champion father Keke.

Alas, Rosberg had whatever momentum carried over from winning the last three races of last season, and opened the year with four wins on the trot. The 2016 version of Rosberg did not crack despite the contact with Lewis Hamilton in Spain, nor really, through Hamilton’s midsummer run of six wins in seven races. Only in Austria did it ever look like Rosberg was really on the back foot.

His starts helped propel him all season and that crucial post-summer run of form with wins in Spa, Monza, Singapore and Suzuka was what shifted the momentum back in his corner. He trailed Hamilton by as many as 19 points but by Suzuka was up 33. He brought it home as needed to the finish, and is a deserving World Champ.