NASCAR Bristol Auto Racing

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

1 Comment

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…


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



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.
· 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.

DiZinno: COTA, Austin shake off nightmare 2015 with bounce back 2016

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 23: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP, Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing, Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari line up on the grid before the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

AUSTIN, Texas – The old adage in the restaurant service industry is that good service can often overcome poor food, but good food does not necessarily overcome poor service.

Such an analogy serves as a perfect transition to describe the last two contrasting years of the United States Grand Prix in Austin at Circuit of The Americas, a city where the food itself is actually never in question.

Consider the race weekend on site as a whole the comparative meal, here.

In 2015, call the race the “good food,” and the overall weather and atmosphere the “poor service.”

The race itself was excellent, aided in large part by the mixed weather conditions, heavy attrition, a late Safety Car and a subsequent pass for the lead and win which netted Lewis Hamilton his third World Championship.

But the weekend on the whole felt underwhelming and disappointing, owing primarily to the heavy rain that interrupted the weekend proceedings through Saturday.

As COTA Chair Bobby Epstein said so bluntly about the resulting attendance and financial hit, “I think we’re screwed.”

That left the 2016 version of the USGP weekend having a point to prove: deliver a weekend on par with the first three weekends and seek to overcome the poor fan turnout a year ago with a big bounce back.

In other words, the service needed to deliver more than the food.

In a two-word answer, it did.

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 23:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo leads Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo, Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer, Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer and the rest of the grid at the start during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX – OCTOBER 23: Race start during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

The 2016 United States Grand Prix race – the food here in this analogy – was not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. The quality of F1 racing itself is another topic for another day. But thanks to the collective efforts of the track and organizers in partnership with F1, by the race start time it didn’t need to be to make this a successful weekend on the whole.

This race saw Hamilton pretty much ran away and hide, Daniel Ricciardo lose a sure second-place to Nico Rosberg thanks to a Virtual Safety Car period inadvertently caused by his teammate Max Verstappen and Spanish countrymen Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz Jr. perform some late-race theatrics. Otherwise, it was a largely forgettable 56 laps, particularly as it lacked that “signature” moment as Hamilton had delivered with passes for the win in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

But why the weekend worked was how COTA, which has often been in the crosshairs over the years for its volatile financials, leadership, staff turnover and possibly inflated attendance figures (I’m looking at sports car weekends in particular, having been to four of them in the last four years), pushed on to create a near-perfect weekend it absolutely had to have after last year’s disaster.

COTA’s push to make Austin 2016 a successful weekend was, to use your stick-and-ball equivalent example, the equivalent of Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary pass for the Green Bay Packers to break the Detroit Lions’ hearts last year or Miguel Montero’s pinch-hit grand slam for the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS this year to break a tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was not a case where they’d gather a few singles to bring in a run on a sacrifice bunt or assemble a 17-play, 94-yard, eight-minute drive full of methodical three and four-yard run and pass plays.

No, COTA threw down the gauntlet and went big to bring in Taylor Swift, for her first and only planned concert this year. And make no mistake, her “squad” brought it in a big way.

Had she not delivered the crowd she did – which was officially pegged by COTA at 83,000 although reports ranged lower than that by some reporters and higher than that to some members of her fan “squad” – it would have been trouble when she walked in.

That alone generated significant buzz on a day when the qualifying order was all but decided going in, when you knew it would either be Hamilton or Rosberg scoring the pole a couple hours earlier.

I was fortunate to be out walking the grounds Saturday afternoon after qualifying, and seeing the crowds hanging out for the remainder of the day’s races – Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and Historic Masters Racing were also on tap – as well as prepping for T-Swift were very much present between the grandstands, the bar area, the food trucks and then prepping to get in line to waltz onto the Super Stage lawn assembled inside Turn 11.

Once 5:30 p.m. hit and the crowd was released to get in line, 90 minutes before the show started, the line stretched from the entry point past Turn 7 all the way to the Fly Emirates bridge at Turn 2, with more fans continuing to stream in across the bridge. Mind you, that’s the length of the entire Esses section and then back across the way, into the infield.

Sunday’s crowd was also strong, with fans getting to the track early and already a good number of folks already on hand at the hillside several hours before the lights were out.

Between the old Grand Prix cars and Supercup preliminary races, there was some genuine appreciation there.

Yes, mostly gentlemen drivers pushing 1970s to 1980s-era F1 cars at 60 or 70 percent is not the same spectacle as the actual drivers in their heyday, but for younger fans and students of the sport, it’s vitally important you get that chance to witness – and listen to – living F1 history in motion.

Supercup, meanwhile, provided a tasty appetizer of a race with some clean, fair fighting for the lead between Porsche Juniors Mathieu Jaminet and Matteo Cairoli, a deserving new champion in Sven Mueller, and a great Supercup weekend debut for American Alec Udell in his step up from Pirelli World Challenge’ GT Cup class.

Regarding the announced attendance figure of 269,889, it is worth noting that COTA’s attendance numbers have been called into question in the past, primarily for its sports car weekends. This could be an optimistic number, but if so, it’s not to the same degree as on sports car weekends.

For reference, although I wasn’t at the initial USGP race here in 2012 (more than 265,000), I have been to the last four. This weekend number was pegged higher than the 2013 number of 250,324, and while I would say the Friday number was lower this year compared to then, the Saturday and Sunday numbers appeared higher.

If possible, it would benefit COTA to provide a deeper news release and analysis of the figure beyond just the number itself, to dismiss any potential doubts or red flags. But flying out of the Austin airport Monday morning and seeing how packed it was, with many folks still dressed in team kit, was a sign there was a very good turnout this weekend.

The celebrity presence at COTA, while something of a running joke and perhaps source of frustration among hardcore fans and observers, is actually something to be embraced if I’m honest.

Part of the reason Monaco works – and has worked for as long as it has – is it’s because it’s a glamorous destination that attracts some of the world’s richest, most beautiful and popular people. You can choose to not like that fact, saying it takes away from the action on track, and that’s fine. But the allure of an event is amplified when people with big audience consider it worthy of their time to attend.

AUSTIN, TX – OCTOBER 22: San Antonio Spurs basketball player Patty Mills watches the action in the Red Bull Racing garage with skier Lindsey Vonn during qualifying for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2016 in Austin, United States. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Lindsey Vonn’s presence among others this weekend was a perfect example. Vonn, the star skier, appears to be a burgeoning racing fan in her own right with her interest piqued by Red Bull, a brand that understands the value of getting stars outside the norm to an event.

The fact Vonn was tweeting about F1 during the weekend (by the way, sending thanks from my colleague Luke and I for a RT of one from @F1onNBCSports) to her hundreds of thousands of followers must be considered a good thing from an “F1 in America actually being taken note of” standpoint.

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talks with actors Christoph Waltz and Rosa Salazar in the garage  during final practice for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX – OCTOBER 22: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talks with actors Christoph Waltz and Rosa Salazar in the garage during final practice for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2016 in Austin, United States. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Add in the random Christoph Waltz and Rosa Salazar sightings, tennis star Venus Williams (who I almost inadvertently bumped into in the airport this morning), Gerard Butler’s Red Bull podium “shoey,” Gordon Ramsey and Jeff Gordon, and it was a full plate of celebrities here this weekend. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that we didn’t get the obligatory Matt LeBlanc at COTA shot, and unless he was hiding, this would have been the first one he’s missed.

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 23:  Actor Gerard Butler does a shoey on the podium with Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing after Daniel finished third in the race during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX – OCTOBER 23: Actor Gerard Butler does a shoey on the podium with Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing after Daniel finished third in the race during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

If you create a race weekend that people want to go to and make it a proper full-on experience, it can make it a bigger draw to add stability for an event going forward. And if there’s one thing F1 in the U.S. has perpetually lacked, it’s that: stability. Ultimately, that is the key takeaway I have from the 2016 USGP weekend.

Hamilton, who’s more or less adopted the U.S. as his second home, actually has become something of an unofficial ambassador for this race, and this city of Austin in particular.

In the buildup to the race, Hamilton made a big deal about going on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and for good reason. Ellen has massive audience, and it’s not the usual hardcore race fan. And Hamilton, admittedly, isn’t her usual guest.

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 23: Lewis Hamilton (C) of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates with Kirby Bumpus (2nd-L), Gayle King (2nd-R) and Lindsey Vonn (R) during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX – OCTOBER 23: Lewis Hamilton (C) of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates with Kirby Bumpus (2nd-L), Gayle King (2nd-R) and Lindsey Vonn (R) during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Then in his post-race interview with NBCSN’s Will Buxton, Hamilton described why he feels the way he does about this country, and the race in Austin itself.

“This is such a beautiful country,” he said (perhaps he hasn’t been following the 2016 presidential election that closely).

“This race, the whole weekend in Austin, with the ambiance and atmosphere, it’s the only Grand Prix I go out to dinner every night. No other Grand Prix do I do that. Since Wednesday, I’ve gone out to dinner every night. It’s great food, great service, and the people here make us feel so welcome.

“The crowd … is almost like the British Grand Prix. There’s the crowd on the whole front straight when we’re on the podium.

“I’m so glad we still have the grand prix here. I hope it continues. I hope more and more people get exposed to it. Being on The Ellen Show the other day, I hope has done so to get more.”

When Hamilton, who’s a student of the sport and has carved his own legacy within it by winning his 50th Grand Prix of his career this weekend, compares a race site in its fifth year to a race that has graced the calendar all but annually since 1950 (Silverstone), it speaks volumes of that race’s place having established a foothold on the F1 calendar.

COTA has now set the bar from a service standpoint to its fans, and done so in spite of the fact the F1 race itself Sunday wasn’t the best showcase of the sport.

It has now set a standard to meet, to keep the full race weekend as strong as it was this year.

For one year at least, COTA and Austin have shaken off the 2015 blues, thus making it harder for haters to hate.

Schmidt confirms Mikhail Aleshin’s return for 2017

FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 12:  Mikhail Aleshin of Russia, driver of the #7 SMP Schmidt Peterson Honda, sits in his pitbox during a rain delay prior to the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 12, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedways)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the first time since expanding to a two-car team, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will continue with the same two drivers on a year-to-year basis.

Team co-owner Sam Schmidt confirmed to that the “mad Russian,” Mikhail Aleshin, will be back for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season alongside James Hinchcliffe.

“Now that we’ve got those two done, it’s a matter of firming up with all of the key individuals on the team and hopefully continue on and win races,” Schmidt told

“This deal is all about chemistry and continuity and it’s been a building process for us. Starting in 2011 with one car and then having two cars from 2012 on, we’ve never had the same guy in the second car for a second season.

“Really, Mikhail coming back for a second season, even though there was a year gap, I think you can really see the chemistry and the morale and the continuity building toward the last half of the season, when we were clearly the fastest Honda at most tracks if not all and right up to the front with the top five to eight guys, which is where we want to be.”

Schmidt took over the former FAZZT Race Team, which then featured Alex Tagliani as the driver, prior to 2011. Schmidt had a technical partnership with the Bryan Herta Autosport team that won the 2011 Indianapolis 500 with the late Dan Wheldon.

Wheldon later replaced Tagliani in Schmidt’s No. 77 Honda for Kentucky and ultimately his final start in Las Vegas.

New signing Simon Pagenaud asserted himself as team leader from 2012 through 2014, with Tristan Vautier (2013) and Aleshin (2014) coming on board as second full-time driver. Hinchcliffe then took over as SPM lead driver in 2015 when Pagenaud left for Team Penske, before his injuries sustained at the Indianapolis 500 forced a change of driver for the balance of the season.

Owing to a mix of sponsorship and political issues, Aleshin was unable to continue into 2015 with James Jakes filling the spot. But Aleshin came back for a one-off in a third SPM car at the 2015 Sonoma season finale, which blossomed back into the full-time seat once more last year.

With these two Honda seats now secure, it remains to be seen whether SPM will run a third car beyond the month of May, which it has done the last four seasons (driven by Oriol Servia in 2016, Conor Daly in 2015, Jacques Villeneuve in 2014 and Katherine Legge in 2013).

NBC Sports understands a third IndyCar for SPM could run a handful of races next season (three to five a possible range), but would likely be dictated by crew and engine availability.

SPM has traditionally run a four-car program in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series, although that program dipped to two full-time cars only starting at Road America this year. SPM looks to reassert itself as the dominant force in that series, in the midst of a three-year title losing drought after more or less controlling the title most years between 2004 and 2013.

These seats are still yet to be finalized/revealed:

  • Andretti Autosport (car four)
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (car four)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (cars one and two)
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (car one, and road/street races in car two)
  • Dale Coyne Racing (car two)
  • KVSH Racing (car one)

Antonio Felix da Costa joins grid for Macau Grand Prix

FIA Formula E Hong Kong e-Prix.
Qualifying Session.
Antonio Felix da Costa (PRT), Amlin Andretti, Spark-Andretti, ATEC-02.
Hong Kong Harbour, Hong Kong, Asia.
Sunday 9 October 2016.
Photo: Adam Warner / FE / LAT
ref: Digital Image _14P5958
© FIA Formula E
Leave a comment

Antonio Felix da Costa has become the latest driver to sign up for the prestigious Macau Grand Prix, linking back up with Carlin for next month’s Formula 3 event.

Da Costa has contested the Macau race three times before, winning on his most recent appearance in 2012 with the Carlin team against a field that included current Formula 1 drivers Carlos Sainz Jr., Pascal Wehrlein and Felipe Nasr.

Since winning at Macau, da Costa has raced in Formula Renault 3.5, DTM and Formula E, the latter becoming his priority for the 2017 season with Andretti.

Da Costa will return to his roots on the November 20 weekend, joining Carlin’s line-up for the race that comes one week after the next Formula E round in Marrakech, Morocco.

“Yes it’s Macau and it’s happening. I will be back to Macau F3 GP with Carlin!” da Costa wrote on his Facebook page.

“Macau is a special place, it’s just pure driving. There is no special aim as such as going back for me, I’m doing it for the love of the sport, so when I got the call from Trevor [Carlin] I couldn’t say no.

“There will also be a few Macau winners going back as well as a lot of talented young guys so it will be a fun weekend. Thanks to BMW Motorsport for supporting my Macau comeback.”

Da Costa will be joined in the field by fellow Formula E racer Felix Rosenqvist, who is chasing an unprecedented third straight Macau victory.

Americans Askew and Kirkwood have strong runs at Formula Ford Festival

Photographs courtesy of Jack Mitchell/JAM Motorsport Photography.
Leave a comment

While Formula One was in the U.S. for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas, several American open-wheel racers had a strong go of it at the Formula Ford Festival in Brands Hatch, England.

See the release below for more info on who:

Team USA Scholarship drivers Oliver Askew and Kyle Kirkwood continued to impress during a thrilling Formula Ford Festival Final on Sunday. Fellow American Chase Owen also posted a strong drive in the 20-lap finale, finishing sixth in another Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray.

The distinctive pair of red-white-and-blue Rays of Askew and Kirkwood lined up fourth and 16th on the grid after finishing second and eighth, respectively, in the morning’s Semi Final race. The Final began in cold but dry conditions and the opening stages delivered some scintillating action as polesitter and former British Formula Ford champion Scott Malvern held onto a tenuous lead over 2016 BRSCC Avon Tires British FF1600 champion Niall Murray and a vast, snarling pack of hungry young drivers all seeking to claim Festival glory.

Askew made another excellent start to move into third place at the first corner, only to fall to fourth when a defensive Malvern bottled up the pack under braking for Clearways and Luke Williams took the opportunity to drive around the outside of two of his rivals, including Askew, to run third. Askew lost another position on the following lap when an attempt to pass Williams at Graham Hill Bend was strongly rebuffed and the hard-charging American lost momentum on the exit and was promptly passed by two cars on the Cooper Straight, including Malvern’s teammate Chris Middlehurst.


Undeterred, Askew quickly fought back, regaining fourth on the next lap as Murray brilliantly squeezed past Malvern for the lead under braking for Paddock Hill Bend … after the pair had run with interlocked wheels for virtually the entire length of the Brabham Straight! Murray quickly pulled away to snag a well-deserved victory.

Askew aggressively regained third position on Lap 9 and initially reduced the small gap to Malvern, pulling clear of Middlehurst until Malvern’s obstructive tactics slowed them both appreciably and allowed the pack to close in again. The battled continued to be hot and heavy until Lap 14, when Askew abruptly slowed and headed for the pits with a punctured tire after being forced over the curb on the exit of Druid’s hairpin.

“Fantastic weekend up until about halfway through the Final,” said Askew with a broad smile. “I had a puncture and had to pull off the track unfortunately, but the car was unbelievable. Cliff Dempsey nailed the tire pressures and the setup. It was unreal. I had more grip than anyone around me. I was super-fast and had speed for at least second. I was passing for third when the  puncture happened.”

Kirkwood, meanwhile, was embroiled in a typically fraught battle in the midst of the 30-car field. He lost a place in the early stages before finding his feet and making a series of strong passes, especially under braking for Clearways, before finally crossing the finish line in seventh.

“Overall the race was good,” said Kirkwood. “I just had to pick people off left and right. After a couple of laps it almost seemed like you had to get the car in front of you comfortable with you in their mirrors and then make a move on them when they left the door open.”

The pair will return to action for the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone on November 5/6.