Jeff Gordon

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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Graham Rahal looks to repeat winning performance at Mid-Ohio

Phoenix International Raceway - Day 1
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Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. But for Verizon IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal, his heart will always be in Mid-Ohio.

That’s both the middle of the Buckeye State, where he grew up in the shadow of the capital city of Columbus, as well as – more importantly – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, 50 miles north in Lexington, Ohio.

Mid-Ohio was where Rahal watched his father, Bobby, race (best career showing there were a pair of third-place finishes), qualify, practice and test.

Mid-Ohio was where the younger Rahal learned a great deal of not only how to drive a race car, but more importantly, how to be a race car drive both inside and outside the cockpit.

If Rahal had a dollar for every time he dreamed about or fantasized about winning an IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio, he could probably own the track now.

Next to winning the Indianapolis 500, winning an IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio was right at the top of the younger Rahal’s bucket list – which he finally achieved in emotional fashion last year.

(Photo courtesy Chris Jones/IndyCar)
Graham Rahal celebrates in the winner’s circle at Mid-Ohio last year. (Photo courtesy Chris Jones/IndyCar)

Now, Rahal returns to Mid-Ohio to try and make it to the winner’s circle two years in a row in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (2 p.m. ET on CNBC/re-aired at 5:30 p.m. ET the same day on NBCSN).

“Mid-Ohio is home to me,” the younger Rahal said in a media release. “I grew up at the track and spent so many days there as a kid.

“Watching races there, being a part of it, seeing and loving what it’s all about is a big part of who I am. The way it all came together last year, every aspect of it made it perfect for me. Having the Buckeye helmet and gear, having my entire family there – which never happens, ever, since everyone is spread out – and having the crowd support, to have that sort of experience makes it impossible to tell anyone how much it means to me.

“The sense of accomplishment for me is so great. Everyone knows this but I love Ohio. I’m very proud to be from Ohio and that event means so much to me. To win it is a career accomplishment that I will never forgot or take for granted. It means just as much to me now as it did then. To me it’s one of the highlights of my lifetime, and definitely the most meaningful win of my career. I sure hope it happens again.”

Prior to last year’s win, Rahal’s best IndyCar finish at his home track was fifth in 2014.

(He previously won one other time at Mid-Ohio: at 16 years old became the youngest driver to ever win the SCCA National Formula Atlantic Championship Runoffs in 2005.)

Rahal’s only other IndyCar top-10 at his home track was eighth in 2009, when he drove for Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing (he’s now in his fourth season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing).

And even though he’d leave the 2.258-mile, 13-turn natural terrain road course time after time without the checkered flag, Rahal was determined to one day do it – and he did just that on August 2, 2015.

Rahal drove his Steak ‘n Shake/Maxim sponsored Honda to the winner’s circle, leading one-fourth (23 laps) of the 90-lap event, taking the lead for the first and only time of the day on Lap 68 and holding on the rest of the way.

“We had to rally last year,” Rahal recalled. “We started 13th which wasn’t great. We should have qualified better than that as our pace was certainly better than that.

“We ended up getting up to the top three on pure pace then I was held up in traffic. I said over the radio that I wanted to pit. I like to think about strategy a lot as a driver, which is the way my dad was. I knew that with the strategy we were running, we were in the window to pit, I knew I was getting held up so I made the call and told them I was coming in.

“It happened to go yellow right as we came in, which was absolutely perfect. It worked out great for us. … There was so much pride involved in that day. It’s hard for me to explain the feelings that I had to people. It was a great moment in my life and I just hope it carries over and we see a lot of support this year.”

Sunday will be Rahal’s ninth IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio, but there will be a definite change in the aura from last year. He came into and left the track ranked No. 2 in the series standings, earning his second win of the season.

That’s not the case this year.

Rahal and his team have had strong showings for the most part, but have struggled in their quest for the winner’s circle (none), and even podium finishes (just two in the first 11 races).

Firestone 600 - Practice

Even worse, they’re mid-pack in the series standings (11th), 140 points behind points leader Simon Pagenaud. On the flip side, Rahal is only eight points out of seventh place (occupied by Alexander Rossi), and just 52 points behind fifth-ranked Josef Newgarden (344).

Overall, Rahal has five top-five finishes and a per-race finishing average of a respectable 9.4. That includes finishes on permanent road courses of second and third at Barber and Road America, as well as street course runs of fourth at Indianapolis (Grand Prix) and Belle Isle Race 1.

But he also has six finishes between 11th and 16th (twice), including disappointing showings in the season’s last two races – at Iowa (16th) and Toronto (13th). He also struggled in street courses at St. Petersburg (16th), Long Beach (15th) and Belle Isle Race 2 (11th).

That’s why a little home cooking back in Mid-Ohio may be just what Rahal needs to get back on track and make a late season surge upward in the rankings.

“We have certainly had an up and down season, and are in need of a good result this weekend in a big way,” Rahal said. “It’s exciting to go back as the defending champion, but we want to do that again year in and year out. We just have to focus on the task at hand, and hopefully we can pull it off.”

Rahal may have an ace up his sleeve. Of 20 drivers that took part in an open test at Mid-Ohio on July 21, Rahal was the fastest Honda-powered driver.

“The test was good,” Rahal said. “We were focused on getting to the mileage limit on our Honda engine, which we successfully did.

“Now we turn our attention to finding little bits of speed we will need to be quick come this weekend. I hope we can get the balance a bit better, but it didn’t feel far off on the test day.

“I expect that we should be very competitive and our performance from the other road courses should carry over to Mid-Ohio. The tricky part is that everyone is competitive nowadays. There are no longer any bad teams or non-contenders. So I fully expect it to be a patented tight IndyCar race weekend and I hope the Steak ‘n Shake team can come out on top again!”

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NASCAR’s 2017 start times are out; worth keeping in mind for IndyCar times

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JULY 02: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Detroit Genuine Parts Ford, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on July 2, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
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So one of the fun things you can begin deducing about 2017 calendars is tea leaves you get from other series.

Today, NASCAR has released the start times of 2017 races for Sprint Cup (title sponsor to change), Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races.

And it’s with that knowledge that we post the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity weekend dates, channels and start times after NBC takes over the coverage, below through what would be the projected end of the Verizon IndyCar Series season:

Sprint Cup

7/1

Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway

NBC

7:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

7/8

Kentucky Speedway

NBCSN

7:30 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

7/16

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

NBCSN

3 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

7/23

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

NBC

3 p.m.

IMS / SiriusXM

7/30

Pocono Raceway

NBCSN

3 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/6

Watkins Glen International

NBCSN

3 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/13

Michigan International Speedway

NBCSN

3 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/19

Bristol Motor Speedway

NBC

7:30 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

9/3

Darlington Raceway

NBCSN

6 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/9

Richmond International Raceway

NBCSN

7:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/17

Chicagoland Speedway

NBCSN

3 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/24

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

NBCSN

2 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

Xfinity

6/30

Daytona International Speedway

NBCSN

7:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

7/7

Kentucky Speedway

NBCSN

8 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

7/15

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

NBCSN

4 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

7/22

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

NBCSN

3:30 p.m.

IMS / SiriusXM

7/29

Iowa Speedway

NBC

3:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/5

Watkins Glen International

NBCSN

2 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/12

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

NBCSN

3:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

8/18

Bristol Motor Speedway

NBCSN

7:30 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

8/27

Road America

NBC

3 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/2

Darlington Raceway

NBCSN

3:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/8

Richmond International Raceway

NBCSN

7:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/16

Chicagoland Speedway

NBCSN

3:30 p.m.

MRN / SiriusXM

9/23

Kentucky Speedway

NBCSN

8 p.m.

PRN / SiriusXM

The only IndyCar race dates publicly announced yet for July 2017 are Iowa (July 9) and Toronto (July 16).

If each weekend stayed identical to this year for the July through September IndyCar races, you’d have these 2017 dates:

  • Iowa, July 9
  • Toronto, July 16
  • Mid-Ohio, July 30
  • Pocono, August 20
  • Watkins Glen, September 3
  • Sonoma, September 17

That doesn’t factor in the possibility of any additional race – say maybe one at Gateway Motorsports Park, which could be a possibility to fall in the August gap between Mid-Ohio or Pocono.

But of those remaining rounds, note that Iowa would again fall on the Sunday after a Cup race and have no live racing TV competition.

With both of the New Hampshire and Pocono start times at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN on Sunday, July 16 and July 30, respectively, it’s possible IndyCar’s start times at Toronto and Mid-Ohio could be moved forward to finish ahead of the NASCAR start time.

Alternatively, a later start time would likely produce a head-to-head TV conflict, prompt a channel change and likely require an NBCSN replay after the NASCAR race – as has been done on a couple occasions the last two years.

The conundrum is that over the last couple years, later start times closer to primetime have helped IndyCar’s numbers on NBCSN, rather than earlier start times.

With Bristol a Saturday night race on August 19, that opens up a Sunday timeslot, again without the potential of a head-to-head TV conflict.

Darlington as a night race would follow any potential IndyCar race if Watkins Glen continues in the same time frame and date.

And Chicagoland, the Chase opener for 2017, could fall ahead of a late afternoon IndyCar finale at Sonoma.

Again, there’s a lot of theoreticals here, but the late-ish start times for NASCAR races to 3 p.m. ET on Sunday for potential IndyCar weekends could produce the potential to avoid head-to-head conflicts where you have both Cup and IndyCar running at the same time.

We’ll know more, most likely, once IndyCar releases its 2017 schedule – which is projected for August.

Handful of changes on Road America’s IMSA entry list

ELKHART LAKE, WI - AUGUST 10:  The #62 Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer is shown in action during the IMSA Tudor Series race at Road America on August 10, 2014 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)
Photo courtesy of IMSA
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The final four IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races will take place over August, September and October following a run of three events in four weekends in July.

The first of those, the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, takes place on August 7 at Road America and will see the resumption of all four classes back in action after Lime Rock Park did not see the Prototype class.

There’s a handful of changes in the 44-car entry list for the two-hour, 40-minute race:

Prototype

  • Sean Rayhall is back in his usual DeltaWing entry after running one of Starworks Motorsport’s PC cars at Lime Rock Park.

Prototype Challenge

  • Replacing Rayhall in Starworks’ No. 7 Aviation American Gin Oreca FLM09 with Jose Gutierrez co-driving is Gustavo Yacaman, back for his first start in IMSA this year.
  • BAR1 Motorsports is back to two cars with Bruno Junqueira also set for his IMSA return; the Brazilian joins Matt McMurry in the Brian Alder led-team’s No. 20 Gas Monkey Energy entry with Johnny Mowlem moving to the No. 26 Southwest Funding/Top 1 Oil car co-driven by Don Yount.

GT Le Mans

  • No changes in class but the No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE will be withdrawn (only confirmed for Petit Le Mans).

GT Daytona

  • Add a second WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT3 R for David MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette, the No. 77 car the third for Alex Job Racing at WeatherTech’s home race.
  • The No. 80 Lone Star Racing Dodge Viper GT3-R of Dan Knox and Mike Skeen makes its second 2016 appearance, first since Road America.
  • Sven Mueller is the latest co-driver of Black Swan Racing’s No. 540 Porsche alongside Tim Pappas, after Andy Pilgrim (Lime Rock) and Nick Catsburg (opening races of the year).
  • Subtract the No. 11 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, listed but won’t race.

All told it will be a 42-car field (8 P, 9 PC, 9 GTLM, 16 GTD) for one of the larger IMSA fields this year.

Mid-Ohio could be pivotal for Power, Pagenaud in championship battle

Simon Pagenaud, left, and Will Power
(Photos courtesy IndyCar)
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Will Power is closing in and may be ready to overtake Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud not only on the racetrack, but also in the Verizon IndyCar Series point standings.

Power, who has three wins and one runner-up finish in his last four starts, comes into Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio just 47 points behind Pagenaud, who has led the standings since after the second race of the season (Phoenix).

That he is so close to Pagenaud is almost incredulous, given that Power missed the season-opening race at St. Petersburg due to an inner-ear infection that was initially thought to be a potential concussion.

Missing an entire race worth of points (maximum of 54 points) is hard for any driver to bounce back from, but Power and his team have used that missed race to further heighten their motivation to win a second championship in the last three seasons.

“After a bit of a slow start this season, the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team has built a lot of momentum in the middle part of the season and we’ll look to keep it going at Mid-Ohio,” Power said in a media release.

And while Pagenaud won’t give up his own quest for his first IndyCar title without a fight, how he and Power emerge from Sunday’s race at Mid-Ohio — only four races remain after that — could potentially lay the groundwork to determine which driver ultimately winds up winning the championship.

“We’ve gotten ourselves into the championship fight, but it’s still a little early to be counting points,” Power said. “We just need to keep doing what we have been and let the points manage themselves.”

On paper, Pagenaud has a slight edge at the 2.258-mile natural terrain road course in Lexington, Ohio: five starts, three podium finishes (including a runner-up in the 2013 race at Mid-Ohio).

“I always look forward to competing at Mid-Ohio,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a classic event for the Verizon IndyCar series.

“I’ve been fortunate to have some success there over the years in both IndyCar and sports cars.”

Power, meanwhile, has an equally respectable record at Mid-Ohio: seven starts, two podiums (both runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2012) and two poles.

“I really enjoy racing at Mid-Ohio,” Power said. “The natural terrain creates a fast, yet technical, circuit.

“It is not a track that I’ve won at before, so this would be a great time to do that and we’ll need to work hard to accomplish that.”

Added Pagenaud, “The No. 22 team tested there last week (July 21) and we were pleased at the end of the day. We went through our list of tests to experiment, which will lead us in a good direction for the race weekend. We’re all ready to go.”

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