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Pace Laps: NASCAR Innovation, IndyCar Iowa, and More
Joey Logano and Morgan Shepherd spin at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Credit: CIA)

Pace Laps: NASCAR Innovation, IndyCar Iowa, and More

Did you miss an event during this busy week in racing? How about a late-night press release, an important sponsorship rumor, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each Monday, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch going forward for the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed, no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!

Sprint Cup Series: What Is Missing - Television has long been a fascinating aspect of the production of sports.  As sports have become the most valuable content for networks there’s a strange divid that exists between the investment in a sport and what is being shown.  This week’s Cup race at New Hampshire showcased this element in full.

The first example is Jimmie Johnson’s wreck which took him out of the race and happened while TNT was in a commercial break.  The break to pay the bills isn’t the issue here.  The fact that they had so little footage of what happened to Johnson is.  Rather than having a decent shot of Johnson and his exploding tire, there was just some scant footage.

The second example was more egregious, that being the tangle between Morgan Shepherd and Joey Logano.  Once again, there was little in the way of footage to get a good grasp of the situation.  However, the interview with Logano sure did seem to give an appropriate angle.

The summary of this situation is that other sports have a wonderful blend of technology accompanying their broadcasts.  In the NFL, there’s things like the pass-tracker, which offers information about the speed and distance a ball traveled.  In MLB, there’s the pitch locations, speed, and how a batter hit it.  Fill in etc, etc, for the other sports.  As for NASCAR, they seemed to toy around with interesting broadcast technologies, infra-red and overhead cams, only to ditch them to go back to more stolid and prosaic aspects.  While other things in NASCAR broadcasting may seem to get the major criticisms (looking at you Fox Sports), the lack of innovation may be its most problematic.   Huston Ladner

IndyCar: INDYCAR needs more races like Iowa - Anyone catch the IndyCar race on Saturday night in Iowa? If you missed it, you missed a helluva show. Iowa has traditionally been a great race for IndyCar, and Saturday night’s Iowa Corn Indy 300 helped maintain the track’s sterling reputation amongst the open-wheel crowd. All night long, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, and others battled hammer and tong for the lead, with not a single driver ever gaining a significant advantage over the field (well, kinda sorta…Kanaan led 247 laps, but his lead was always under attack nonetheless). Kanaan and Castroneves’s battles were especially intense, as they traded the lead back and forth lap after lap for long stretches of the event.

Then of course, to top it all off, a late caution bunched the field up for a NASCAR-esque eight lap brawl to the finish. Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was running 10th on the restart with fresh tires, then proceeded to blow his way through the field at a furious pace, passing nine cars including Kanaan to take both the lead and the win. It was a spectacle, a truly awe-inspiring finish, one that IndyCar fans will remember for years to come.

2014 IndyCar Iowa Dixon Power Hunter-Reay racing

Everyone will likely remember that stunning finish (for good reason), but the real takeaway IndyCar fans and observers ought to glean from the race is Iowa Speedway puts on a damn fine show for this sport. Whether it’s the aero package, the nighttime conditions, the tire, or what, I don’t really know, but the reality is that the IndyCar/Iowa combination has now firmly established itself as a primo event for this sport, and it ought to serve as a template for the kind of racing this series needs to replicate going forward. Matt Stallknecht

Nationwide Series: Familiar Story - Brad Keselowski won again. Regan Smith regained the point lead and earned a $100,000 bonus in the process. And in the end there really wasn’t much else to say.

Keselowski dominated in his Penske Ford to earn his second win of the Nationwide Series season ahead of Kyle Busch. Smith, while appreciative of his Dash 4 Cash bonus, fought his JR Motorsports machine all day on his way to a 10th place finish. He does, however, take back the point lead as he continues on toward a championship he once let slip away.

The point battle though, is the only commanding story coming out of New Hampshire and heading into the standalone weekend of Chicagoland. Last year it was Elliott Sadler in victory lane and after he again got spun at New Hampshire late, he’s again looking for revenge. He also gets to now go for that $100,000 Dash 4 Cash.

The Nationwide Series continues on its summer stretch of races and while the names continue to remain the same, the picture continues to change.  Kelly Crandall

Short Tracks: Whelen All-Star Shootout - In the first ever Whelen All-Star Shootout for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour it was a Sprint Cup Series veteran who went to victory lane. Ryan Newman used a last-lap pass on the backstretch to take the lead and the win away from Justin Bonsignore.

Bonsignore made his move going into turn one and cleared Newman for the lead, but Newman was back underneath Bonsignore almost immediately. The two drivers ran side-by-side down the backstretch before Newman rocketed to the lead going into turn three. That was all Newman needed as Bonsignore wasn’t able to get another chance.

Newman, Bonsignore, Mike Stefanik, Ron Silk and Bobby Santos completed the top five.The race was scheduled for 40 laps but had a hard time limit of 30 minutes. NASCAR ended the race after 37 laps due to the time limit. Rob Blount

Sports Cars: OAK Racing Dominates at CTMP & Practice Incidents Wreak Havoc - OAK Racing was denied a near assured victory in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen by a one-lap shootout playing into the hands of Daytona Prototypes.  However, the duo of Olivier Pla and Gustavo Yacaman dominated the proceedings to claim the first overall victory for the French team, and the first overall win for the Morgan-Nissan combination in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

In GT-Le Mans, Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia kept up their strong form by taking their fourth consecutive class victory on Sunday.  The duo are undefeated since April.  Finally, in GT-Daytona, the Riley Motorsports No. 33 SRT Viper GT3-R shared by Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen picked up their first-ever win in exciting fashion.  Bleekemolen ran down the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche shared by Kevin Estre and Patrick Lindsey (driven by Estre at the time) from eight seconds back in the final minutes of the race while Estre was in heavy traffic.  A bump from the GT-Le Mans class No. 912 Porsche driven by Michael Christensen nerfed Estre wide in Turn 3, allowing Bleekemolen to move past.  Bleekemolen managed to hold on for the remaining lap and a half to pick up the win.

The race ended up running the full 165 minutes caution-free.  However, the practice sessions were rather punitive.  On Friday, the No. 0 DeltaWing driven by Andy Meyrick ruptured a fuel line during the second practice session.  The spilled fire sparked a significant fire that damaged the chassis.  The car can be saved, but it could not be repaired at the track, forcing the DeltaWing Racing team to withdraw.

Friday also saw Boris Said crash the Whelen-sponsored No. 31 Chevrolet Corvette DP Evo in Turn 1, damaging the car, breaking the engine and seat mounts, and dislodging the firewall.  With no backup car readily available, Marsh Racing was forced to withdraw.  The team is currently thrashing in order to get the car repaired in time for Indianapolis a week from Tuesday (even though the race is Friday, July 25, teams are scheduled to park in the garage at Noon on Tuesday, July 22).

Said was taken to a local hospital and diagnosed with a broken rib, but was released Friday night.  It also appears that he was knocked out briefly in the crash.

“He doesn’t remember [the accident] at all,” Marsh Racing owner Ted Marsh said to Sportscar365.com’s John Dagys.  “He didn’t remember going off track.  When he hit [the tire barrier], he didn’t open the door immediately, which made me nervous and he wouldn’t talk to me on the radio.  I was in Turn 1 trying to talk to him and there was no response.  The next thing I know, I saw the corner workers come over and they started to open the door and Boris then opened the door.  He pushed it open and then stood up and walked to the ambulance.”

Sunday saw the final warmup take place in a downpour.  A number of incidents occurred here, including one that saw Michael Shank Racing’s No. 60 Riley FordEcoboost spin and back into the wall.  Later, Memo Rojas crashed Chip Ganassi’s No. 01 DP on a recon lap an hour before the start of the race.  That crash resulted in the No. 01 starting the race 54 laps behind, but both Rojas and Scott Pruett were able to put in enough drive time in order to earn points for their ninth-place finish in class.  Phil Allaway

About Huston Ladner

Huston Ladner
Promoted to editor this season, Huston works through some of the site’s biggest columns while writing one of his own: Happiness Is… (Fridays). “Stranded” on the islands of Hawaii, the aspiring college professor also helps anchor our IndyCar and Formula One racing coverage while coordinating Pace Laps, our multi-series news update (Mondays) each week.

2 comments

  1. I did catch the last 60 laps or so of the Iowa race and found the coverage to be really good compared to what we see on the NASCAR side, (especially with FOX). I thought it odd too that there really wasn’t any coverage for Johnson’s exploding tire. I thought it humorous that JJ implied that Goodyear tires were the issue yet no other team had tire issues. I’m starting to believe that JJ is only good with rock hard tires. Granted his tire issues were in the first 10-17 laps of the race which clearly shouldn’t be an issue of tire wear which makes JJ’s comments even funnier. I’d be curious as to what was happening in the corner of that car but whatever the case I highly doubt that JJ will offer Goodyear an apology.

  2. Possibly the lack of innovation in NASCAR broadcasts is simple economics. With interest waning networks are already not seeing much if any return on their investment. There is probably a well founded reluctance to throw good money after bad to improve a telecast that fewer people view week to week.