Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 2012 NASCAR season has reached its
halfway point, with the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series running at Daytona
International Speedway this weekend. IndyCar heads to Toronto, while Formula
One travels to Silverstone, England for the British Grand Prix.
Sprint Cup Series
Coke Zero 400 - Daytona International Speedway - Daytona Beach, FL
With the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season reaching its halfway point this weekend
at Daytona International Speedway, points and wins are becoming more important
in regards to determining the 12-driver field for the championship Chase.
Race wins are especially important in deciding who will start in the first
seed for the Chase, as well as who will secure the two wild card positions.
All qualifiers begin the playoffs with 2,000 points each. Drivers one through
10 in the rankings are awarded three bonus points per victory. The last two
spots in the field -- the wild cards -- will go to the non-top-10-ranked
drivers with the most wins, as long as they're ranked in the top 20 in points.
Brad Keselowski claimed his series-high third win of the season last Saturday
at Kentucky. Keselowski presently holds the 10th spot in the standings but has
a sizeable 34-point advantage over 11th-place Carl Edwards.
"I want to be the guy with the most wins and inside the top-10, and I want to
look forward to making sure that we stay inside the top-10, and hopefully can
climb up a few more spots to be safe," said Keselowski, who has now earned
nine bonus points so far for the Chase.
Teams will once again endure hot and humid conditions at Daytona but not as
muggy as last weekend at Kentucky, where air temperatures reached 100 degrees.
Temperatures for the Daytona Beach area are expected to be roughly 10 degrees
cooler than Kentucky.
Saturday night's 400-mile race at Daytona is expected to be much like we saw
earlier this year in the Daytona 500 and the spring event at Talladega. The
past two restrictor-plate events featured the return of the traditional pack
racing and the reduction of the two-car breakaways.
"I would expect a carbon copy of the Daytona 500," Keselowski said. "The
hotter temps certainly require a little more cooling in the engines, so I
think that will negate the effect of the bigger pop-off valve. So, I would say
I would expect the same thing as the Daytona 500, and the same group of guys
will probably be fast, while the same group of guys that were not fast will
Prior to this year's Daytona 500, which ran one day late on February 27 due to
rain, NASCAR made numerous modifications to the Sprint Cup cars for Daytona
and Talladega, including changes to the restrictor plates and the front grille
Two months ago, teams had to deal with overheating issues with the cars while
racing in packs at Talladega, where air temperatures exceeded 90 degrees.
Teams will likely face the same problems again this weekend.
"With the race being in July, the cooling isn't going to be better than it was
in February, so it will be interesting to find that balance as to how hard you
can push the engine and keep yourself in a position to be able to run up front
and hopefully win the race," said Kevin Harvick, who won the 2007 Daytona 500
and the 400-miler there in 2010.
Matt Kenseth comes to Daytona not only as the points leader but this year's
Daytona 500 winner as well. It's hard to believe, but it has been 30 years
since the same driver won both point races at this 2.5-mile superspeedway in
the same season. Bobby Allison recorded a season-sweep there in 1982. Fireball
Roberts (1962), Cale Yarborough (1968) and LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969) also
accomplished the same feat.
Kenseth has been stellar on the restrictor-plate tracks so far this season,
winning his second Daytona 500 and nearly pulling off the victory in May at
Talladega. His first Daytona 500 win came in 2009.
"I looked forward to going to Talladega more so than any plate race I have
ever looked forward to in my career, with as well as we ran at Daytona and how
fast our cars were in February," Kenseth said. "I feel the same way about
Daytona this weekend, and I am looking forward to getting down there.
"At Talladega, I felt we had the fastest car in the race and dominated the
race as much as you can, but I felt like I messed that up at the end when
(Roush Fenway Racing teammate) Greg (Biffle) and I somehow got separated. I
have been agonizing over that since Talladega, but I am looking forward to
getting some redemption this weekend and returning to Daytona coming off that
win in the 500."
Kenseth gave Roush Fenway Racing its second straight victory at Daytona five
months ago. David Ragan scored his maiden Sprint Cup win at this racetrack one
year ago when he drove for RFR. Ragan is now driving for Front Row
Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Coke Zero 400.
Subway Jalapeno 250 - Daytona International Speedway - Daytona Beach, FL
The 2012 Nationwide Series season has already featured three first-time race
winners, and there could be more on the way, maybe as soon as this weekend at
Daytona International Speedway.
Last Friday, rookie driver Austin Dillon claimed his first Nationwide victory
at Kentucky. Dillon put on a dominating performance by leading all but eight
of the 200 laps and crossing the finish line 9.8 seconds ahead of his closest
competitor, Kurt Busch. His maiden win in the series came in his 26th start.
Dillon also moved atop the Nationwide point standings, but his lead would be
short-lived when NASCAR penalized him with a loss of six points earlier this
week for a rules infraction that occurred at Kentucky. The rear of his car was
found to be too low during post-race inspection. Instead of holding a two-
point lead over Elliott Sadler, Dillon is now four points behind his Richard
Childress Racing teammate.
Nelson Piquet Jr., who is a regular in the Camping World Truck Series, became
a first-time Nationwide race winner on June 23 at Road America in Elkhart
James Buescher, who is Piquet's Nationwide and Truck Series teammate at Turner
Motorsports, won his first NASCAR national touring series race in the February
25 Nationwide season-opener at Daytona. Buescher avoided a big wreck on the
frontstretch and then miraculously pulled ahead of the field on the final lap
before NASCAR displayed the caution flag to end the 300-mile event at Daytona.
He was running in the 11th position just before the multi-car wreck occurred.
"Returning to Daytona is special for me and this entire No. 30 team," Buescher
said. "We had a great car here in the spring and rolled into victory lane.
That is something that everyone on this team is very proud of. To say that we
are Daytona champions is something we have all dreamed of."
Who has the potential to become the next first-time winner in Nationwide?
Danica Patrick is certainly a good candidate, especially at Daytona. A win for
Patrick would not only be very popular but a historical one as well. Patrick
set a record for the highest finishing female in one of NASCAR's top-three
series with her fourth-place run in the March 2011 Nationwide event at Las
When the series competed at Daytona earlier this year, Patrick became just the
second woman to win a pole position for a race. She joined Shawna Robinson,
who first did it in March 1994 at Atlanta. Patrick led the first two circuits
around the 2.5-mile superspeedway, but on lap 50, she crashed into the wall
after her JR Motorsports teammate, Cole Whitt, a rookie this season, bumped
her from behind. She ended up finishing 38th, which was her worst result in
four Nationwide starts at Daytona.
Patrick placed 10th one year ago at Daytona, sliding across the finish line
during a last-lap crash on the frontstretch. She led a Nationwide career-high
13 laps in that race.
"I'm just glad I can go to a place like Daytona in a stock car and have it be
a place where I run competitively and run well," Patrick said. "I think for me
at this point, Daytona is the first track that I'm going to have a good
opportunity at. It's pack racing. It's very fast. You don't lift off the
throttle, and it's also the most like IndyCar racing. That is what IndyCar
racing is like at anything bigger than one mile."
Joey Logano won the July 2011 Nationwide race at Daytona. Logano leads the
series with five victories this season. He is expected to make his 100th
career start in Nationwide on Friday night.
Logano is one of six Sprint Cup Series regulars competing in this race. Kurt
Busch, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are the
Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Subway Jalapeno
IZOD INDYCAR SERIES
Honda Indy Toronto - Streets of Toronto - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The IZOD IndyCar Series will re-introduce the overtake assist feature -- the
push to pass -- for the remaining five road/street races on the 2012 schedule,
beginning this weekend at Toronto.
Introduced to IndyCar in 2009, the push to pass allows a driver to add
turbocharger boost and additional RPM with the press of a button, located on
the steering wheel, to complete a pass.
The additional boost is added for a pre-determined amount of time, which is
set by IndyCar race officials for each road/street course. It will be 100
seconds for the scheduled 85-lap race on the 1.75-mile, 11-turn Toronto street
Push to pass will be disabled for practice and Saturday's qualifying session
but will be re-enabled for Sunday's warm-up session and race.
"It's going to be very interesting, with that push to pass, how much power are
we actually going to get, said Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dario
Franchitti. "I know the numbers of boost, but how much will it actually
translate on track, I think there's going to be quite a big difference. That,
combined with the fact that you are now allowed to defend again this year, is
going to make for some pretty interesting racing, and I think it will
definitely liven things up a little bit."
Franchitti is the defending race winner at Toronto. He also won the 2009
IndyCar race there. His victory on this course came in the 1999 Champ Car
"I've always loved racing in Toronto," Franchitti said. "I think it started
off in 1997 when I was driving for Carl Hogan and had a pretty good start
there, getting my first pole position. I've always enjoyed the track and the
challenge of the bumpy surface and the multiple surface changes there."
After finishing 25th at Iowa, Franchitti dropped to eighth in the point
standings. The three-time defending series champion is now 70 points behind
leader Will Power from Team Penske. Franchitti claimed the pole at Iowa but
blew an engine during the pace laps, which put him out of the race before the
green flag waved.
Ryan Hunter-Reay from Andretti Autosport is the hottest driver in IndyCar
right now. Hunter-Reay scored back-to-back victories at Milwaukee and Iowa. He
is just three points behind Power. Prior to Milwaukee, he was sitting seventh
in the rankings and trailed the leader by 75 points.
"It all comes down to consistency, and that's how championships are won,"
Hunter-Reay said. "We have to be consistent. We have to go week in and week
out and be consistently strong and be within the top-five, for sure, every
weekend and certainly the Penske team will and the Ganassi guys and also some
wild cards will show up on a lot of these street and road courses. So we have
to be good there."
Hunter-Reay has finished third in the last two races at Toronto.
Power won there in 2010, but last year, he finished 24th after Franchitti made
contact and spun him around during the mid-stages of the race. Franchitti was
originally assessed a drive-through penalty for the contact, but his team
successfully appealed the penalty moments later.
Twenty-five teams are on the entry list for the Honda Indy Toronto.
British Grand Prix - Silverstone Circuit - Silverstone, England
Fernando Alonso has a third Formula One world championship in mind right now.
Alonso, the 2005 and '06 world champion, became the first repeat winner in F1
this season with a come-from-behind victory last month in the European Grand
Prix in Valencia Spain. The Ferrari driver started way back in 11th, but to
the delight of his home crowd on hand, he grabbed the lead from Red Bull's
Sebastian Vettel just past the halfway point and took control from there in
the 57-lap race. Vettel, who had won the European GP the past two years,
stalled on the track due to a mechanical issue and was forced to retire.
Alonso claimed his 29th career F1 win, but this victory was perhaps his most
"I think from the emotional side this is the best one," he said. "The emotions
that I felt on the in-lap or during the podium ceremony, I think it doesn't
compare to anything before."
His first victory this year came in the March 25 Malaysian Grand Prix. The
season had featured a record seven different winners in as many races.
After winning the European GP, Alonso moved atop the championship standings.
He has accumulated 111 points so far, which is 20 points more than his closest
competitor, Mark Webber from Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton came to Valencia first
in the rankings but the McLaren driver fell 23 markers out of the lead after
finishing 19th. Vettel dropped to 26 behind following his 21st-place result.
This weekend's British Grand Prix in Silverstone, England will be round nine
on the 2012 calendar. Alonso is the defending winner of this event. The
British GP is the oldest race on the F1 schedule, but there has not been a
back-to-back winner in it since David Coulthard did it in 1999 and 2000.
Silverstone Circuit, located in Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire, England,
has been considered as the fastest circuit on the F1 schedule since the
mid-1980s, due to its high-speed corners.
"It's a great place to race," said Lotus driver and 2007 British GP winner
Kimi Raikkonen. "When I first raced there it was my real favorite. It's so
fast and demanding, which makes it very challenging. The corners really flow,
and it's all about long, sweeping high-speed corners and high downforce
levels. Somehow, it has been a good circuit for me since the very beginning.
It will be interesting to see how the new section changes a lap, but I'm sure
I'll learn it very quickly."
The British GP is a homecoming event of sorts for many F1 teams. Eight of the
12 teams -- Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus, Mercedes, Williams, Force India,
Caterham and Marussia -- are all based in the United Kingdom.
"Racing in Silverstone is a special moment every year," Mercedes driver and
three-time British GP winner Michael Schumacher said. "It's quite simply the
home of motorsports, and I'm always amazed by the knowledge and enthusiasm of
the British fans. As a racing driver, it's great to experience this passion
for our sport."
Schumacher's third-place finish in the European GP marked his first podium
appearance since coming out of retirement in 2010. Schumacher, the record
seven-time F1 champion, took a three-year break from the sport following the
"We want to take the momentum from our result in Valencia and put on a good
show in Silverstone, especially because this is one of our home races," he
added. "It goes without saying that we want to give everybody in Brackley and
Brixworth (England) a result to be proud of this weekend."
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