Joey Logano Blows Engine in Chicagoland’s Final Laps

Joey Logano and the No. 22 team gave another meaning to “blowing up” the race when they finished Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

With only six laps to go, a windshield tear-off was trapped on the front grill of Logano’s Ford Fusion, leading to airflow being restricted to the radiator and his race engine basically overheating.

“We hit a piece of debris with about five to go… I say ‘piece,’ but it was huge. I think it was a tear-off, and we got really hot, but the car started handling really good when it was on there, and we got another spot because of it,”  Logano said post-race.

When Logano crossed the finish line, smoke was billowing out from under the hood and into the driver compartment.

Despite his issues, Logano finished fourth at Chicagoland, and is currently sitting third in Sprint Cup Chase standings, behind elder statesman Jeff Gordon and teammate Brad Keselowski, who was the eventual winner.

The Sprint Cup Series heads to New Hampshire this weekend, where Logano is a past winner and has an average finish of 17th.

Tires Reportedly Stolen from Brian Vickers, Ryan Truex Teams

It’s a mystery that could go unsolved.

This past weekend on Saturday night after the Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300 at Chicagoland Speedway in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, multiple tires were mysteriously swiped from two Sprint Cup teams in the garage area.

According to a report by Motorsport.com tires were taken from the No. 55 Toyota of Brian Vickers for Michael Waltrip Racing and from the No. 83 Toyota of Ryan Truex and BK Racing.

Tires that were taken from the No. 55 team were later found in another area of the garage area, while the sets from the No. 83 team have yet to be found.

Vickers and the No. 55 Camry finished 24th, while Ryan Truex finished 42nd in the No. 83 machine.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in NASCAR Sprint Cup: Chicago – New Hampshire Edition

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in NASCAR Sprint Cup: Chicago – New Hampshire Edition
by Brad Morgan

The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is a chance for 16 of the best drivers to start anew, but with only ten races, divided into four segments, those drivers have very little time to make an impression and even less room for error before eliminations are made. Its a fragile state that promises to keep the outlook of Who’s Hot and Who’s Not constantly changing for weeks to come.

For now, there remain similarities in this Hot or Not to the final regular-season editions. After the first race of the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway, championship ineligibles continued to rise and fall in stock at an increasingly gradual pace, while many Chasers remained true to form despite a much smaller sample size. Here’s where the championship hopefuls (and others) rank in preparation for the second race of the Challenger Round (or Round 28 for everyone else).

HOT

Hot or Not isn’t all about the Chasers. There are 27 other drivers out there after all, but sometimes its impossible not to rank one or more of the 16 title contenders highly just because of their statuses. After what Brad Keselowski did at Chicagoland, this is one of those times.

Keselowski ended up in the same place as last week: Victory Lane and atop the Hot or Not board. The No. 2 team took all of its momentum from Richmond International Raceway and applied it to the 1.5-mile scene and the result was very similar. No, Keselowski didn’t blow everyone away with astounding laps-led totals, but he did come away with an automatic bid for the Contender Round, and that counts for much more than any single statistic.

Even though Keselowski isn’t the highest scoring driver in Cup lately, he leads the points and projects favorably for this week’s event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he is the defending winner and has three top fives over the last five races.

Speaking of drivers maintaining championship grade consistency, what about fellow Team Penske driver Joey Logano? Logano has been on a roll since Indianapolis, with seven top sixes over an eight-race span – the most in Cup.

Where Keselowski sets the precedent for Penske explosiveness, Logano holds his own as the organizations “steady Eddy” (and no, Sunday’s debris-induced blown engine during the final lap doesn’t count against him).

Outside of a runner-up performance from Jeff Gordon, Penske out performed Hendrick Motorsports, which didn’t have a terrible afternoon by any means, and that’s very, very impressive.

WARM

Those three drivers are at the forefront of the Chase battle at this early stage, and there are several other promising Chase showings vying for a Hot or Not mention, but its very hard to ignore some of the non-Chasers, specifically Kyle Larson.

From the way Larson drove in the closing moments of the Myafibstory.Com 400 some might think that the No. 42 Chevrolet was piloted by a grizzled veteran, had it not been for the rookie stripe and name across the front windshield. Larson’s battles with Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and then Gordon were extremely exciting, and also meaningful from a points perspective, but it wasn’t entirely unexpected. Larson has been showing the potential that caused Chip Ganassi to take a risk on the inexperienced 21-year-old driver for some time now. Over the past six races, Larson’s average finish of 13.5 ranks as that eighth best in Cup, and by placing third, he rose to 17th in the standings.

And what’s this, another auspicious matchup? Larson came home third in his July debut at New Hampshire. His continued improvement is just one half of a positive trend for Chip Ganassi Racing.

At Chicagoland, Jamie McMurray maintained the intensity that almost led to a win on more than one occasion leading up to the Chase. McMurray finished ninth despite a scare after the No. 1 Chevrolet brushed the wall and received minor cosmetic damage. His average finish over the same span as Larson’s 13.5 is slightly better (10.17), and his 101.9 average rating since Pocono ranks fourth in Cup.

COOL

Outside of CGR, non-Chase teams mostly ran behind Chasers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those Chasers impressed relative to their competition. Despite 12 Chasers’ abilities to finish in the top 15, things didn’t run very smoothly, and they’ll need to streamline things moving forward, or advancement won’t be easy without winning a race.

Problems were widespread, including pit road entry spins by Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth, but it didn’t stop there. Other drivers and crews experienced problems that cannot continue if they hope to be in contention in South Florida.

Ryan Newman was penalized for pitting before pit road was open and speeding during entry on Lap 99. He subsequently spent an expended period a lap off the pace before finishing 15th.

Meanwhile, Carl Edwards pitted before pit road was open with only 36 laps remaining and couldn’t recover fully, finishing 20th.

The least fortunate Chaser on pit road was Kasey Kahne, who was penalized on three occasions, twice during a lap-183 stop for speeding and for having too many crew members in contact with the pit service area.

In total, these Chase drivers were penalized seven times and rank no higher than ninth in the standings.

Greg Biffle wasn’t among those, but after finishing 23rd while battling poor handling, he ranks 15th in points, 38 points behind Keselowski. This is nothing new for a No. 16 team that has struggled to keep up with changing track conditions throughout the campaign.

COLD

Even with enough penalties to go around, that mistake-prone group of challengers didn’t completely bomb their 2014 Chase debuts. Unfortunately, Aric Almirola cannot say the same. Almirola’s race ended with a blown engine, just 37 laps before the checkered flag. The worst part is that the No. 43 was at its strongest when Almirola’s afternoon and possibly his chances of advancement went up in smoke.

Now, Almirola will likely need to be near-perfect to climb out of the 23-point hole between himself and Edwards, who holds onto 12th. The problem, discussed in last week’s Hot or Not, is that the No. 43 team is still behind most of the organizations its competing against in quality of equipment and postseason experience, and while Almirola’s race was headed towards a possible top 10, he hasn’t shown an ability to string such finishes together over the long term.

Almirola’s New Hampshire credentials don’t help either. In eight NHMS starts, he has just one top five and averages much worse (21.2), with no laps led in 2384 circuits. At least Almirola is in the Chase though, right?

Clint Bowyer cannot say the same after failing to record a win and coming up short in the regular-season finale. Bowyer followed that up with an accident and 39th at Chicagoland. Like Almirola, Bowyer appeared ready for a top 10 before losing a tire and making heavy contact with the wall.

Coming up oh-so-close has been a common theme for the No. 15 team for much of the season.

Corey LaJoie to Make Sprint Cup Series Debut at New Hampshire

Another second-generation racer is going to be making a splash in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Corey LaJoie, 22, is entered to run the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend for his Sprint Cup Series debut.

LaJoie will race the No. 77 Ford Fusion for Randy Humphrey Racing. The team started out the year with Dave Blaney behind the wheel, yet he made just four races for the organization. Michigan was the last race that Blaney attempted with the team before it took a short hiatus. Nelson Piquet, Jr. drove the team’s car to a 26th-place finish at Watkins Glen. Meanwhile, Joe Nemechek raced the Ford at Atlanta; finishing that race with a 37th-place result.

This weekend’s race will mark his fourth NASCAR-sanctioned race of the year.

After signing a developmental deal with Richard Petty Motorsports, LaJoie has run just two NASCAR Nationwide Series events, one of which was a race at Kentucky for Biagi-DenBeste Racing earlier this year. Additionally, he ran two events for Ricky Benton Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2014.

Over the course of his career, LaJoie has worked closely with his father, two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie.

His debut comes just a week after Richard Petty Motorsports announced that Marcos Ambrose will not return to the organization in 2015, instead moving back to Australia to race for Roger Penske and Dick Johnson in the V8 Supercars Championship.

Parker Kligerman Tests Indy Lights Car At Indianapolis Motor Speedway

For Parker Kligerman, 2014 was supposed to be his rookie season in the Sprint Cup Series.  Kligerman had some momentum coming into the season after running well in a couple of starts at the end of 2013 for Swan Racing.  However, it didn’t take long for the entire effort to fall apart.  An incredible amount of misfortune on-track, plus a lack of sponsorship, essentially doomed Kligerman’s rookie campaign from the start.  After spending much of the season as an analyst on NBC Sports Network’s NASCAR America, Kligerman tested an Indy Lights car on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test.

Ahead of the test, Kligerman was fairly confident of his skills.

“Ever since I drove a go-kart for the first time, my quest was to advance to the top levels of open-wheel racing,” Kligerman told FOXSports.com’s Samuel Reiman.  “I’ve always looked for opportunities that can further my career, so I want to thank Sam [Schmidt] and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for this opportunity in Indy Lights to test an open-wheel car for the first time in eight years. Although it will be a challenge, I’m looking forward to having fun and working with a championship-caliber, open-wheel team.”

Kligerman was one of four drivers testing an Indy Lights car at Indianapolis last weekend.  Despite having not raced an open wheeled race car on a road course in eight years, Kligerman was fairly quick out of the box.  Kligerman’s best lap of the road course was a time of 1:20.519 (108.048 mph), second fastest of the four drivers gathered.  Only Spencer Pigot, 2014′s Pro Mazda Series champion, was faster.

For his part, Kligerman appeared to be pleased with his effort.

“Damn, that was fun,” Kligerman tweeted following the test.  “Got within three-tenths of the Star Mazda champion Spencer Pigot!  Not too shabby for my first time!”

Previous to racing stock cars, Kligerman started out his racing career in the Skip Barber Series, winning on debut.  After his parents effectively cut off their monetary support of his racing after a year, Kligerman found backing and won the Formula TR 1600 championship before switching to USAC Midgets.

It should be noted that the four drivers gathered were testing the current Indy Lights car that has been in use since the beginning of the series, when it was known as the Infiniti Pro Series.  For 2015, Indy Lights will adopt a new package.  The new Dallara-built IL15 chassis, which ran some demonstration laps during the test, will be powered by a two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine built by Advanced Engine Research (AER), best known as a manufacturer of engines for sports cars.