Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond

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400 miles. 2 Chase Grid spots. And one, 3/4-mile track with a penchant for having great racing and triggering short tempers.

Put it all together, and a wild Saturday night should be in store at Richmond International Raceway for the grand finale of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season.

For those already in the post-season, it’s their last chance to earn three more bonus points for the Chase reset with a win.

But for Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and a host of others, it’s their last chance to enter the hunt for a championship (CLICK HERE to see the clinch scenarios for that bunch).

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know for the Federated Auto Parts 400…

RICHMOND-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 DEWALT Ford)
· One top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 19.5
· Average Running Position of 21.8, 24th-best
· Driver Rating of 70.1, 23rd-best
· 35 Fastest Laps Run, 32nd-most
· 608 Green Flag Passes, 29th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.710 mph, 25th-fastest
· 1,197 Laps in the Top 15 (27.2%), 25th-most
· 174 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 26th-most

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Call Before You Dig Ford)
· Two top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.9
· Average Running Position of 17.1, 18th-best
· Driver Rating of 81.5, 17th-best
· 176 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· 893 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.067 mph, 14th-fastest
· 3,871 Laps in the Top 15 (50.8%), 15th-most
· 355 Quality Passes, 17th-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota)
· Two wins, three top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 12.0
· Average Running Position of 10.9, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 98.7, fourth-best
· 185 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 857 Green Flag Passes, 15th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.279 mph, seventh-fastest
· 5,232 Laps in the Top 15 (76.8%), fifth-most
· 485 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Austin Dillon (No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet)
· Average finish of 27.0
· Average Running Position of 25.8, 36th-best
· Driver Rating of 54.9, 39th-best
· 2 Fastest Laps Run, 47th-most
· 33 Green Flag Passes, 51st-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.322 mph, 38th-fastest
· 1 Laps in the Top 15 (.3%), 49th-most
· 0 Quality Passes, 50th-most

Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet)
· Average finish of 16.0
· Average Running Position of 22.1, 26th-best
· Driver Rating of 66.1, 25th-best
· 0 Fastest Laps Run, 51st-most
· 53 Green Flag Passes, 49th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.569 mph, 29th-fastest
· 47 Laps in the Top 15 (11.8%), 45th-most
· 7 Quality Passes, 44th-most

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet)
· One top five, four top 10s
· Average finish of 22.0
· Average Running Position of 18.5, 20th-best
· Driver Rating of 74.8, 20th-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, 19th-most
· 1,017 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.936 mph, 20th-fastest
· 3,042 Laps in the Top 15 (39.9%), 18th-most
· 305 Quality Passes, 18th-most

Paul Menard (No. 27 Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 24.5
· Average Running Position of 25.1, 35th-best
· Driver Rating of 58.8, 36th-best
· 17 Fastest Laps Run, 38th-most
· 727 Green Flag Passes, 25th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.486 mph, 33rd-fastest
· 685 Laps in the Top 15 (11.4%), 30th-most
· 68 Quality Passes, 32nd-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· One win, six top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.3
· Average Running Position of 11.6, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.0, seventh-best
· 122 Fastest Laps Run, 16th-most
· 977 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.241 mph, eighth-fastest
· 5,747 Laps in the Top 15 (75.5%), third-most
· 591 Quality Passes, second-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pros Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 19 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.1
· Average Running Position of 12.7, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.5, sixth-best
· 276 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 903 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.374 mph, fourth-fastest
· 4,756 Laps in the Top 15 (65.9%), seventh-most
· 462 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Brian Vickers (No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota)
· Three top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 24.6
· Average Running Position of 22.1, 25th-best
· Driver Rating of 65.9, 26th-best
· 68 Fastest Laps Run, 20th-most
· 733 Green Flag Passes, 24th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.699 mph, 26th-fastest
· 1,609 Laps in the Top 15 (26.7%), 22nd-most
· 178 Quality Passes, 25th-most

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Richmond International Raceway History
· Originally known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds, Richmond International Raceway held its first race in 1946 as a half-mile dirt track.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was April 19, 1953 won by Lee Petty.
· The spring 1964 race was run on a Tuesday night under temporary lighting.
· The track name changed to Virginia State Fairgrounds in 1967.
· The track surface was changed from dirt to asphalt between races in 1968.
· The track name changed to Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in 1969.
· The track was re-measured to .542-mile for 1970.
· The track was rebuilt as a three-quarters-mile D-shaped oval following the Feb. 21, 1988 race.
· The first race under permanent lights was Sept. 7, 1991.
· The first season with both races as night races was 1999.

Richmond International Raceway Notebook
· There have been 116 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway, one NSCS event from 1953 – 1958 and two races per year since 1959.
· 477 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond; 308 in more than one.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Richmond with 63. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 43 starts.
· Buck Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Richmond in 1953 with a speed of 48.465 mph.
· 52 drivers have Coors Light poles at Richmond, led by Richard Petty and Bobby Allison with eight each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six.
· Seven drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Richmond. Bobby Allison holds the record for most consecutive poles at Richmond with five (1972 – 1974).
· Youngest Richmond pole winner: Brian Vickers (05/15/2004 – 20 years, 6 months, 21 days).
· Oldest Richmond pole winner: Mark Martin (04/28/2012 – 53 years, 3 months, 19 days).
· 49 different drivers have won at Richmond International Raceway, led by Richard Petty with 13. Kyle Busch leads all active drivers with four.
· Petty Enterprises has the most wins at Richmond in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 15; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with 10, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing with nine each.
· Chevrolet leads the series in wins at Richmond with 36 victories; followed by Ford with 30 wins and Toyota with seven.
· 22 of the 116 (18.9%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from the Coors Light pole. Only three active drivers have been able to accomplish the feat: Kasey Kahne (2005), Jimmie Johnson (2007) and Kyle Busch (2010).
· The pole starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing the more winners than any other starting position at Richmond (22).
· 35 of the 116 (30.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond have been won from the front row: 22 from the pole and 13 from second-place.
· 90 of the 116 (77.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· 13 of the 116 (11.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Richmond International Raceway was 31st, by Clint Bowyer in the spring of 2008.
· Youngest Richmond winner: Richard Petty (04/23/1961 – 23 years, 9 months, 21 days).
· Oldest Richmond winner: Harry Gant (09/07/1991 – 51 years, 7 months, 28 days).
· Bobby Allison and Richard Petty are tied for thelead in runner-up finishes at Richmond with nine each. Jeff Gordon, tied with Dale Earnhardt, leads all active drivers with seven.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Richmond with 34.
Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 17; followed by Kyle Busch with 13.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Richmond with 41. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 27; followed by Tony Stewart with 19.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Richmond International Raceway with an 8.047.
· Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Richmond International Raceway with a 7.000.
· Two active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top 10 at Richmond: Kyle Busch (7.0) and Denny Hamlin (9.7).

Top 10 Drivers with the Best Regular Season Average Finish During the Chase Era (2004-2014)
Jimmie Johnson – 12.435
Jeff Gordon – 13.067
Matt Kenseth – 13.168
Tony Stewart – 13.556
Carl Edwards – 13.624
Kevin Harvick – 14.249
Kyle Busch – 14.576
Dale Earnhardt Jr – 14.779
Denny Hamlin – 14.816
Clint Bowyer – 15.363
*Four drivers have come from outside the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup cut-off to make the Chase at Richmond in the previous championship format: Jeremy Mayfield in 2004 made up a 55-point deficit; Ryan Newman in 2005 made up a one-point deficit; Kasey Kahne in 2006 made up a 30-point deficit; Brian Vickers in 2009 made up a 20-point deficit.

· Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin are the two drivers that clinched the Wild Card in 2011 to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Keselowski was 11th in points with three wins; Hamlin was12th in points with one win.
· Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon are the two drivers that clinched the Wild Card in 2012 to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Kahne was 11th in points with two wins; Gordon was 12th in points with one win.
· Due to a rare instance in the final race of the regular season that resulted in penalties being issued; a 13th car (Jeff Gordon’s No. 24) was added to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
· There have been two NSCS race resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Richmond International Raceway: spring of 2008 (400/410) and spring of 2013 (400/406).
· Only four of the 116 races at Richmond International Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions: spring of 1962, spring of 1977, spring of 1982 and spring of 2003.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Richmond International Raceway six times; most recently fall of 2008.
· Brian Vickers (05/15/2004) posted his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Richmond.
· Tony Stewart (09/11/1999) and Kasey Kahne (05/14/2005) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Richmond.
· Eight drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have posted consecutive wins at Richmond International Raceway. Richard Petty leads the series in consecutive wins at Richmond after posting seven consecutive wins from the fall of 1970 – 1973. Jimmie Johnson (2007 sweep) is the only active driver with consecutive wins at Richmond.
· All of the 15 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Richmond International Raceway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart won at Richmond in their second appearance.
· Joe Nemechek competed at Richmond International Raceway 18 times before winning in 2003; the longest span of any the 15 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Joe Nemechek (18), Kevin Harvick (11) and Jimmie Johnson (10) all made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Richmond International Raceway.
· Greg Biffle leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Richmond without visiting Victory Lane at 24.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Richmond International Raceway was the (09/12/1998) race won by Jeff Burton with a MOV of 0.051 second.
· Two female drivers have competed at Richmond in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:
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· Danica Patrick posted her career-best finish (sixth) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this past weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

NASCAR in Virginia
· There have been 284 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among nine tracks in Virginia.
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· Martinsville Speedway held the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Virginia in 1949; Richmond International Raceway was the second track to host the NSCS in 1953.
· 171 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Virginia.
· 19 drivers from Virginia have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series; 11 have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
· 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott and 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame driver/owner Glen Wood are the only two drivers from the state of Virginia to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
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Bottas feels at home at Mercedes as a challenger, not No. 2

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Valtteri Bottas feels like he finally belongs at Mercedes, and that is not as a support driver to Lewis Hamilton.

The Finnish driver has exceeded expectations since joining from Williams as an emergency replacement for Nico Rosberg, who dramatically retired days after winning last year’s Formula One championship.

“I feel very much part of the team, I feel I can definitely perform at my best level,” Bottas said Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix. “(There is) plenty more to come.”

The widely held perception was that Bottas, who had never won a race before this season, was clearly arriving as the No. 2 behind Hamilton, a three-time F1 champion.

Yet at the halfway point of the 20-race season, Bottas is in third place overall, 22 points behind Hamilton and 23 behind four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari. That puts him within touching distance.

Bottas won in Russia and Austria, and finished second in Canada, Azerbaijan and Britain. With four straight podium finishes, he has good momentum for the Hungarian GP, the last race before a month-long summer break.

If not for his failure to finish the Spanish GP in May, Bottas could be even closer to Hamilton and Vettel.

“I feel like I am getting up to speed now. In a way I hope there wasn’t a break,” Bottas said Thursday. “I always set targets higher. I didn’t expect myself to be behind (Hamilton) all the time. I’ve shown it is possible to battle and show my skills.”

Asked if he thinks he can win the title, the 27-year-old Bottas says “everything is wide open,” adding “I believe I can fight for the pole (position) here.”

The twisting nature of the 4.4-kilometer (2.7-mile) Hungaroring circuit may favor Ferrari more than Mercedes, however.

Mercedes struggled at this season’s Monaco GP, which is a similarly tight-turning track where overtaking is much harder. Vettel won in Monaco from pole, while Bottas was fourth for Mercedes and Hamilton managed only seventh spot.

“We’ve learnt a lot since Monaco,” Bottas said. “I think it will be a good test for our car, we’re expecting a close battle.”

F1 Paddock Pass: Hungarian Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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Formula 1’s final race before the summer break takes place this weekend with the Hungarian Grand Prix from the Hungaroring in Budapest.

It’s a busy time of year and a highly important weekend on the calendar, with the two championship combatants only separated by one point and all the silly season talk about 2018 heating up – particularly with the two-day young driver test set to run on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week after the race.

And with the confirmation the Halo device is set to be introduced next year, what are the drivers thoughts on that?

All that makes for ideal timing of this weekend’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass with Will Buxton checking in from the ground in Hungary.

Here’s the pre-race episode, below.

Drivers divided over F1 halo cockpit device

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) The “halo” cockpit head protection system that will be mandatory on Formula One cars next season protects drivers from the potentially fatal impact of objects like a loose wheel traveling at up to 225 kph (140 mph).

Motor sport’s governing body, FIA, has been looking at ways to improve cockpit protection and limit the risk of head injuries, after French F1 driver Jules Bianchi died in July 2015 and British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died a month later.

“The halo will become the strongest part of the car, a secondary wall structure (along with the helmet) and can take about 15 times the car’s weight,” FIA safety director Laurent Mekies said at a news conference Thursday. “We know that our resistance against small objects has stepped up.”

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – JULY 27: FIA Race Director, Charlie Whiting and Laurent Mekies, FIA Deputy Race Director and Safety Director talk in a press conference regarding the halo device during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 27, 2017 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Drivers remain divided over the move.

The halo design forms a semi-circular barrier around the driver’s helmet in the front half of the cockpit, protecting against debris without completely closing the cockpit. When first tested ahead of 2016, drivers were split as to whether they liked it with some – such as three-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton – criticizing it on aesthetic grounds.

Tests were done from the front and side of the car with a loose wheel weighing 20 kilograms. Researchers took in various factors: car-to-car contact, car-to-environment contact and external objects, such as a wheel. They also analyzed real-life accidents, including those with fatalities.

In terms of manufacturing design, FIA race director Charlie Whiting said “it’s going to be a one-part (piece) made by one company, so they all have to fit the same one.”

The device is expected to weigh about 8 kilograms, Whiting said. The manufacturer has yet to be decided, although several companies have been contacted. Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas both expressed concern that the extra weight will impact driving, particularly on cornering speeds.

Other safety devices were considered before the halo was approved by the FIA last week.

At the British Grand Prix two weeks ago, a transparent open canopy system constructed using polycarbonate, and known as the “shield,” was tested at Silverstone by four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel.

The Ferrari driver was critical.

“I wasn’t a big fan of the shield,” Vettel said. “For sure you need to get used to the halo, but at least it didn’t impact on the vision.”

Bianchi died at the age of 25, several months after massive head injuries sustained at the Japanese GP in October 2014.

Bianchi’s accident at Suzuka occurred at the end of the race in rainy, gloomy conditions, when his Marussia team car slid off the track and ploughed into a crane picking up the Sauber of German driver Adrian Sutil, who had crashed at the same spot one lap earlier.

Wilson died in August 2015, a day after being hit on the helmet by debris from another car at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.

“We believe (the halo) would have changed dramatically the outcome of the accident,” Mekies said.

Vettel, who emotionally dedicated his 2015 win at Hungary to Bianchi, said the change was justified.

“We would all take it, to help save his life. We can’t turn back the clock,” the German driver said. “But knowing something is there that would help us is stupid to ignore. Overall it’s supposed to help us, so that’s what we should remember.”

While Hamilton and others have been critical of the halo’s appearance, Vettel championed it.

“Times are changing and moving forward,” Vettel said. “It helps us in the car in case something goes very wrong.”

Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso is also in favor.

“If we could go back in time and save lives we would all be happy,” the Spanish driver said. “That’s the first and only thing we should talk about. The aesthetics I don’t care too much (about).”

Several drivers disagree.

“Doesn’t look too good,” Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg said. “Not sure that this additional protection is necessary because all the other areas (of safety) are improving.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean are also against it.

“I didn’t like the visibility and the thing in front of you, it’s not great,” the 19-year-old Verstappen said. “I don’t think you will lose the wheel very easily (anyway) and when there are parts flying around the car it’s not going to protect you. So I don’t know why we need it.”

Magnussen took a sarcastic tone.

“F1 cars aren’t meant to be ugly. That is the reason that a Ferrari is more exciting than a Mazda,” the Danish driver said. “I think there is a limit where it becomes too safe to be exciting. We could make the cars go 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour and it would be boring.”

Grosjean said “it was a sad day for Formula 1 when it was announced, and I am still against it.”

Sergio Perez wants 2018 F1 contract secured by Spa

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Sergio Perez is keen to swiftly define his Formula 1 future and secure a contract for next season by the time the paddock reconvenes in Belgium at the end of August after the summer break.

Perez has been one of the stand-out drivers in F1 this year, sitting seventh in the drivers’ championship as the leading midfielder behind those racing for Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.

The Mexican’s future has become a regular talking point during F1’s ‘silly season’, with links to Ferrari being thrown about for 2018 as it mulls over Kimi Raikkonen’s position.

Force India has been punching well above its weight in F1 this year, much to Perez’s delight, and he hopes to have a new contract with the team sorted for next year within the next month.

“I think the team has been moving forwards every year. Although last year we achieved the same position which we have now which is fourth, I think we have consolidated that fourth place,” Perez said.

“I think the team is moving forwards; there is a lot more interest in terms of sponsorship into the team, more investment but it’s not easy to make the next step with the big boys, with the big teams, it’s not easy.

“In terms of my future, I just hope that once I come back to the next race, after the summer break, I can have a new contract.”

When asked if he meant a new contract with Force India, Perez said: “That would be good you know, but you never know what will happen.”