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Pace Laps: Kyle Busch’s Rough Weekend, Driver Errors and Winding Down
Credit: CIA Editorial Photography

Pace Laps: Kyle Busch’s Rough Weekend, Driver Errors and Winding Down

Credit: CIA Editorial Photography

Kyle Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers tangled on the team radio Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

Sprint Cup Series: Kyle Busch, Dave Rogers Quarrel – Bristol Motor Speedway is often known for its beating, banging and tempers flaring, and Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race was no different. Several drivers left angry with a fellow competitor for a variety of reasons, but it was a bit of a different scenario for Kyle Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers. The duo managed to put another strong car on the track, leading eight laps early on. But a pit road speeding penalty put Busch back in the field and the night unraveled for the driver of the No. 18 Toyota. He got caught up in the third caution, sustaining heavy damage and capping off a dismal trip to Bristol where he blew a tire late in the Truck Series race while running second and got beat by Ryan Blaney on a late restart in the Nationwide race.

For the fourth time in as many races, Busch finished outside the top 35 and continued his freefall from sixth to 17th in the standings. The No. 18 team will be in the Chase, but perhaps the bigger problem behind the scenes came when the younger Busch brother and Rogers engaged in a war of words over the team radio according to a report from MRN’s Dustin Long.

“I need a whole new right front suspension, a whole new right front suspension,’’ Busch radioed Rogers. “I will be behind the wall in about two (expletive) laps.”

Rogers responded: “Park it behind the truck and take your whiny little ass to the bus.’’

After the race ended, the pair sat down and talked through their confrontation, and Rogers told Fox Sports’ Bob Dillner “I think we’ll be better for it going forward.” Of course he’s going to say that – the last thing the No. 18 team needs is drama to add onto their poor finishes lately. However, if these things don’t straighten out for Busch and Rogers in the very near future, they may find themselves outside of the Chase within the blink of an eye, and I’d be willing to bet that if the pair falters in the final ten races, they won’t be working together next season. On the flip side, if they can put the last four races behind them and mount a serious charge to the championship, even if they don’t win they’re likely to stick together for another year. Beth Lunkenheimer

Nationwide Series: Blaney Beats BuschRyan Blaney beat the Bristol master. And he did so in one of Kyle Busch’s area of expertise: restarts. Blaney aced the final restart of the Food City 300 while Busch sputtered to get going and turned it into his second career Nationwide Series win. For the Team Penske driver, it capped off a wild week in which he was announced as the new Sprint Cup driver for the Wood Brothers but had two disastrous Truck Series races that knocked him down in points.

The 20-year-old is becoming a star and with that comes the ups and downs. While he celebrated on Friday night, he also had to apologize for getting into Kyle Larson and ending his night. Blaney clearly regretted the incident and it appeared to hamper his victory.  But a win is a win, and for Blaney, there will be more like Friday night. Kelly Crandall

IndyCar Series: Dixon Shines While Power Falters in SonomaScott Dixon pulled another rabbit out of the hat yesterday, winning his second race of the year (both courtesy of strategy), and in doing so moved up to fifth on the all time win list for the series. It was a joyous and momentous day for Dixon, who has struggled with underperforming Ganassi cars all season long. But unfortunately for Mr. Dixon, he was not the main story on Sunday.

The real story of the day concerned championship leader Will Power, who meandered his way to a 10th-place finish and embroiled himself in controversy for what seems like the umpteenth time this season. The Aussie standout had a boatload of momentum heading into the race and appeared strong early, as he started on pole and led a number of laps in the first half of the show. For a moment, it appeared that Power was all set to expand on the already large lead he padded the week before in Milwaukee

But on Lap 40, it all came crashing down.

Power made a rare driver error, spinning in Sonoma’s turn 7, causing him to lose all of his track position and forcing him to fight back through the field to gain all of the lost points. He climbed up to ninth on the final lap, but what can only be described as flat out dirty driving on the last lap towards both Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais landed Power in hot water with IndyCar officials.

Power managed to actually expand on his points lead a bit, and now leads second place Helio Castroneves by 51 points. But with a double points finale looming ahead next week in Fontana, a tiny mistake or error could erase Power’s lead entirely. And with how disastrous his day was yesterday, one has to wonder if his all important momentum has evaporated.

Mental mistakes and hot-headedness have bit Power in the past, and ultimately, they hurt him again yesterday. While it’s far from time to hit the panic button on Power’s championship chances, he’ll need to keep himself in check next Sunday if he wants a chance to win his first series championship. Matt Stallknecht

Credit: Mike Neff

Johnny Sauter leads the points as one of several drivers in contention for the championship. But can he hold onto the top spot? (Credit: Mike Neff)

Camping World Truck Series: A Championship Far From Decided - Just two races ago, Ryan Blaney held a seven point lead over Johnny Sauter in the championship standings, thanks to four straight top-5 finishes from Kentucky through Pocono. But back-to-back finishes outside the top 10 have cost the driver of the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford 31 point swing. He now sits fourth in the standings, 24 markers behind leader Johnny Sauter, who has put on one of his strongest seasons to date. Just 13 races in, the driver of the No. 98 Toyota has a long win at Michigan, seven top 5s and 11 top 10s, enough to put him in the catbird seat in the championship battle to date.

However, with nine races remaining on the schedule, so many things can change at the top. Without needing a Chase system to make the championship battle exciting, the top 5 in the standings currently have a realistic shot at taking over the top spot, but a little good luck for those outside the top 5, combined with bad luck for the leaders could even give everyone back to ninth-place driver Ben Kennedy a shot at taking home the big trophy. With the wildcard of Talladega and the series’ second road course race still to come, there are plenty of opportunities for those hunting for a championship to capitalize on their competition’s misfortune. There’s no clear favorite consistently standing out above the rest at this point in the season, so it’s really anyone’s championship to lose. Mosport should present a unique challenge to the field that will likely shake up the standings yet again. This battle is far from over, and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to who will emerge victorious come Homestead in November. Beth Lunkenheimer

Formula One: Team Dysfunction at Mercedes – Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are the epitome of a sour relationship.  The duo certainly won’t be spending time together on one of their yachts, but apparently it’s getting to a point where they can’t even be on the same racetrack.  On the second lap of the race, Rosberg appeared to drive into Hamilton, causing a rear tyre puncture that would send Hamilton to the back of the pack and then later force him to retire before the end of the race.

Rosberg, of course, benefitted from Hamilton’s lackluster result, but also cost himself a chance to win, as his pit stop to repair his front wing allowed Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to pop into first and hold on for another victory.  Valtteri Bottas took third and Kimi Raikkonen, who’s season has been mostly forgettable, finished fourth.  Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top 5.

The note to be taken from the race, however, had to do with Hamilton-Rosberg exchange, with Hamilton claiming that Rosberg hit him on purpose, as some kind of payback from the race three weeks ago.  Apparently the break didn’t give them enough time to work things out back at the shop.  Huston Ladner

ARCA Racing Series: The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same – The chase for the ARCA championship is, for all intents and purposes, a two horse race. Mason Mitchell leads Grant Enfinger by 25 points. They headed into Madison International Speedway with five races on the schedule trying to put their stamp on the championship. When the checkered flag flew it was Justin Boston who had put his own stamp on Madison by winning the race, leading 26 of the final 28 laps. Last year’s Madison winner Kyle Benjamin, in only his second career ARCA start, chased Boston to the line and ended up second. Brandon Jones, Frank Kimmel and Tom Hessert rounded out the top 5.

Mitchell and Enfinger started on the front row and Mitchell took the initial lead at the drop of the green. Enfinger led twice for 120 laps to get the bonus point for most laps led, but broke a rear gear on lap 173, which knocked him out of the race. Mitchell led at the drop of the green flag on the restart from Enfinger’s caution only to lose power on the back straight of that lap and fall out of the race with a battery failure. The end result for the point title combatants were finishes of 14th for Mitchell and 15th for Enfinger. After everything that happened in Wisconsin, nothing changed at the top of the points. The big mover was Frank Kimmel who has now closed to within 140 points of the leader, which is closer than he’s been in weeks.

The final four races of the ARCA season are going to test the skills of these two title contenders and will give Kimmel a chance to sweep in and steal another title if they get too focused on each other. Next week the tour heads to DuQuoin State Fairgrounds for their second race on dirt in three weeks. Two weeks later they head to Salem Speedway, which will present the contenders a very big opportunity to get caught up in someone else’s mess. They go to Kentucky Speedway the following week before closing out the season at Kansas in the beginning of October. The title most likely will go down to the last weekend so make sure you stay tuned. Mike Neff

Short Tracks: Bringing Down the Curtain at the Stadium – Another season of racing has come and gone at the longest running NASCAR sanctioned weekly track with the drop of the checkered flags on Saturday night at Bowman-Gray Stadium. A season that might be called unusual or extraordinary finished up with just another night at Bowman-Gray. There was some sort of controversy in just about every feature on Saturday night with one championship being decided by a post-race tech disqualification and others settled through rough driving or timing and scoring calls.

Danny Bohn was crowned the champion in the Modifieds thanks to his win on Saturday night and his position in relation to Lee Jeffreys in the final rundown led to his claiming the title. Jeffreys entered the night as the points leader and had to finish within four spots of Bohn or Jason Myers. Myers was wrecked by Jonathan Brown with just a handful of laps to go to eliminate him from title consideration. Brown was ironically driving Bohn’s backup car, but the champion claims there was never a plan in place for Brown to take out his title rival. Jeffreys protested the finish claiming he should have started further forward after the incident that took out Myers which would have put him in a position to win the title.

Taylor Branch was awarded the season title in the Sportsman division after Ryan Robertson was disqualified in post race inspection for an illegal carburetor. Robertson had finished in sixth thanks to some aggressive driving in the final laps of the feature to try and secure the title. Chase Hunt took home the Street Stock title thanks to a last lap dustup. Brian Wall had the title in hand coming out of the fourth turn to the checkered flag when John McNeal got into him and took him out. The resulting 12th-place finish handed the title to Hunt. Chuck Wall won the Stadium Stock title.

In a season where the Madhouse truly lived up to its name, it’s no surprise that the Modified champion is a new and different name. Since 1996 there have only been three drivers who have won the title in the feature division at the Stadium. Tim Brown has won the title nine times since ’96. Burt Myers has taken home the title six times. Junior Miller won it in 2000 and 2006. Bohn becomes the first driver since Robert Jeffreys in 1995 other than those three drivers to take home the season long championship.

Interestingly Miller and Myers had a confrontation on the track that led to Miller vowing that Myers would not win the title. During that confrontation Myers attempted to flatten a tire on Brown’s car to cost him points. Two weeks later Brown and Myers had an altercation with their cars on track that led to them being put on double secret probation. Brown did not return to the track until this weekend while Myers continued to race accepting his fate that his title hopes were gone.

2015 will mark the 67th year of NASCAR competition at BGS and it can’t get here soon enough. Mike Neff

Sports Cars: Could a Re-Profiling of the Esses in the Future for VIR? - During Sunday’s Oak Tree Grand Prix, Jonathan Bomarito got too close to his SRT Motorsports teammate Marc Goossens while traveling through the Esses and popped a sizable wheelie as well.  Naturally, there is no control when both front wheels are off the ground.  As a result, Bomarito’s SRT Viper GTS-R, once it landed, flew off the road and gathered up a good chunk of Virginia grass, but it wasn’t your garden variety off-course excursion.  FOX Sports’ commentators noted that it was not far off from having the potential for an outright blowover.  That should get the attention of track and series officials.
There have been instances of front flip blowovers in the past in sports car racing.  For example, such a crash was the impetus for the construction of the original chicane at Lime Rock Park in the late 1980′s.  You have a somewhat similar setup at VIR.  A sharp uphill and a right turn, along with the potential to be close to other drivers.  At Lime Rock, slower classes still use the original layout.  It results in interesting picture-taking opportunities when slightly faster vehicles make their appearance known, like the IMSA GT3 Cup back in May.  When TUSC travels to Lime Rock next July for a PC/GTD round, they’ll use the Climbing Turn bypass in order to prevent blowovers.
While SRT Motorsports officials didn’t seem too concerned about the potential of their V10-powered Viper GTS-R blowing over, it could be a concern as speeds continue to increase on the newly repaved 3.27-mile road course.  The most likely solution the track will probably consider would be the cutting down of some of the taller curbs in the Climbing Esses.  However, the airflow threat will always be there with the steep hills.  The hills help give VIR its character, but they can work together with airflow to create a serious situation. Phil Allaway

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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

2 comments

  1. Kyle Busch has a ton of talent and a personality disorder. While I often joke that JGR should hire Jimmy Spenser to slap some man into him the truth is that he does need help. With all the money a NASCAR team makes hiring a counselor or even a psychiatrist would be a reasonable expense. Otherwise Kyle Busch’s erratic behavior will certainly keep him from reaching his full potential.

    • And I put a lot of the blame on Joe Gibbs. He is enabling this behavior without a thought as to the others well being in having to be around it all the time. Cannot be a positive experience. Joe and JD are all about the sponsors, well how about some growth from your drivers? Hamlin and this tool are the worst. I have something nasty to say about a entitled member of the Mars family, but I won’t.