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: Tires Again a Concern - It didn’t take long for Denny Hamlin to wad up his car by nailing the wall in the Quaker State 400. He gingerly removed himself from his car and made his way to its front and scanned it, checking out the damage with possibly the hope of returning to the race. No go. Hamlin earned last place and his strange season continues. He’s a race winner, Talladega, but he’s hardly been a competitive force each week
Maybe it’s not all his fault.
Hamlin wasn’t the only driver to endure front-right tire issues. Kyle Larson also tried to knock down the wall after his went down. Matt Kenseth avoided that fate by pitting just in time. It’s easy to blame Goodyear for this issue, but for a change, the tech aspect of TNT’s coverage gave a good look at the reason for these issues.
With the new rules package, the tire has become more than just the connection of the car to the road. It has become a de facto shock absorber. Tires have always played a role in energy absorption, but it seems that the ride height has now placed even more stress on them. There’s no clear-cut fix here, and not everyone had a tire issue, but maybe the situation is asking a little too much of the Goodyear Eagles. Huston Ladner
IndyCar: Huertas’ Win Just Another Example of the Parity in IndyCar - It was messy, it was fluky, it was unusual. But guess what? A win is a win, and that is exactly what rookie Carlos Huertas did in Race 1 of the Verizon IndyCar Series Shell and Grand Prix of Houston.
Many will call Huertas’ win into question, and say that any number of things ranging from strategy, weather, and attrition were what truly won the young Colombian driver the race, but the reality is that the kid had a shot to win the race and took advantage of it, regardless of the circumstances around him.
All told, Huertas’ victory was yet another example of what has become a firm reality in the world of IndyCar in 2014: anyone in the field can win these races. IndyCar currently has it’s deepest field of drivers in perhaps the history of the series (dating back to 1996), and the current rules make it such that the cars and teams face a great deal of parity. If the driver is up to par, any car in the field can visit Victory Lane.
There is little question that Saturday’s race was messy, but do not let that overshadow this young Colombian driver’s moment in the sun. All too often in the modern day racing world, surprise winners are derided for their accomplishments instead of praised for them. People are far too quick to blame outside circumstances instead of giving a driver credit for capitalizing on an opportunity presented to them.
Mr. Huertas certainly capitalized on one of those opportunities on Saturday, and he will now be remembered as a winner in the IndyCar history books as a result. Matt Stallknecht
Nationwide Series: Harvick’s Mistake-Free Race - Not even in the Nationwide Series can Kevin Harvick escape the mistakes of pit road. But unlike in the Sprint Cup Series, he was able to overcome them on Friday night and pick up his 42nd career Nationwide win at Kentucky Speedway.
Harvick brought new sponsors Crest, Kroger and P&G to victory lane as well as JR Motorsports. Their fifth win is a career high in a season as they continue to prove they are the team to beat for the championship. And yet, it’s the first time all year that one of their drivers – Regan Smith or Chase Elliott – is not leading the points.
As Smith suffered another Kentucky stumble, Elliott Sadler took advantage. Chase Elliott got an earful from Trevor Bayne after the two made contact with eight laps to go. Only Harvick seemed to escape unscathed.
But speaking of trying to escape, that will be hard to do this coming weekend in Daytona. Drafting – but not tandem as James Buescher learned in February – will be the name of the game and carnage lurks around every corner. The championship picture continues to change and more than just fireworks for the Fourth of July on Friday night are bound to do it once more. Kelly Crandall
Camping World Truck Series: Busch’s Truck Fails Post-Race Inspection – Following yet another victory in the Truck series Thursday night at Kentucky Speedway, NASCAR announced through the series Twitter page that Kyle Busch’s winning truck was found too low in post race inspection. The truck was taken to the R&D center, and the sanctioning body will address the issue early this week. A couple months ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, NASCAR determined that a truck too low stood as a P2 penalty on their new chart when Chase Elliott’s truck came out too low. The resulting penalty was that crew chief Greg Ives was placed on probation for the remainder of the year, so it’s likely that Eric Phillips will suffer the same fate come penalty day.
By the rulebook, a P2 penalty can result in a loss of ten points for both owner and driver, a fine of $2,500 to $6,000, crew chief suspension for one or more races, probation for six months or the end of the calendar year for the crew chief, or a combination of the bunch. The problem is that no penalty will be enough for Busch, who isn’t racing for points in the series. For him, the only thing that really matters is the trophy on the shelf and the owner points that he’s clearly got plenty of at this stage of the season. The time has come for NASCAR to put their foot down and quit tolerating rules violations and start taking away wins. I’m not advocating that the win be given to anyone else, but that statistic should not be in the record books, nor should the team reap the benefits if the truck wasn’t legal to race.
Sadly, I can guarantee with very little uncertainty that the most that will happen is a ten point loss in owner standings, probation for Eric Phillips and maybe a fine (though that’s likely a big maybe). So in other words, they get away with a slap on the wrist … again. Beth Lunkenheimer
NHRA: It’s a Family Affair - For the second week in a row, it was a family affair in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final, this week seeing a father and son tandem as Hector Arana, Sr., faced off against his son and teammate, Hector Arana, Jr. Youth and enthusiasm prevailed as Arana, Jr. got the win with a pass of 6.925 at 193.93 mph versus his father’s 6.946 at 192.82 mph.
“We won together,” said Arana Jr., who advanced to the final with victories against Steve Johnson, Andrew Hines and Shawn Gann. “I would not be here without [Hector Sr.]. To race him in a final is a dream come true. We’ve been trying to do this for four years and it finally happened. Now we just need a brother-brother final with me and Adam [Arana].”
Brittany Force took another swing at earning her first Wally, advancing to the finals for Top Fuel where she’d have a rematch against Antron Brown, who denied her the win in her first final round appearance back in Phoenix. Hand the trophy to Brown once again, but he had to earn it, with Brittany racing him hard the whole way. He would prevail with a 3.814 at 317.34 mph to her 3.850, 320.89 mph. This is Brown’s fourth win of the season.
Funny Car came down to an all Don Schumacher Racing party with Matt Hagan versus teammate Tommy Johnson, Jr. Hagan scored his first win of the season with a pass of 4.098 seconds, 310.48 mph to Johnson’s 4.147, 308.50 mph. Hagan, who won five times last year, was still searching for success this year.
Pro Stock also came down to teammate versus teammate as Vincent Nobile took on fellow KB Racing driver Jason Line. Nobile posted a 6.655 at 208.01 to earn a holeshot win over Line who posted a 6.637 at 209.26 mph. It was also Nobile’s first win of the season. Toni Montgomery
Short Tracks: King of the Ohio - When you mention the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars, the first name that comes to mind is Steve Kinser. The 20-time champion of the series is synonymous with the winged rocket ships. In the UNOH All Star Circuit of Champions, Dale Blaney is rapidly ascending to the same level of royalty. Ohio Sprint Speedweek wrapped up on Saturday night and Blaney put an emphatic stamp on the week as the King of Ohio.
Blaney entered the week with a single victory in All Star competition this season. He exits the week with five, having secured four checkered flags throughout the week’s events. Blaney never finished lower than second in any races around the Buckeye state throughout the week. Three of the races were rained out so Blaney had top-2 finishes in six races.
Blaney’s triumph in Ohio Speedweek is his fifth in his career. He is the only driver to accomplish that feat. The strong week gave Blaney a huge boost as he chases his fifth All Star National Championship. No driver has more than four national titles, but Blaney is pushing hard to become the first, since he already has four in his career. Blaney is also the career win leader in the All Stars, having scored his 100th career All Star win earlier this season. After this week he now has 104 career wins in All Star competition.
Blaney’s win on Saturday night was at Fremont Speedway. It is the only track to host multiple races during the week and Blaney took the wins in both of them. His 100th win earlier this year was also at Fremont. He has 22 career feature wins at Fremont and 16 of them have come in All Star competition. While he has a long way to go to reach 20 titles, he is at the threshold of claiming the title of King of the All Stars. Mike Neff
Sports Cars: Spirit of Daytona Claims Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen - Watkins Glen International was the venue this past weekend for another battle between the Daytona Prototypes and P2 cars. In this case, the P2′s were on equal footing to the DP’s. OAK Racing’s Morgan-Nissan shared by Alex Brundle, Ho-Pin Tung and Gustavo Yacaman won the pole on Saturday, but got swamped on the start, dropping to fourth.
However, a long race with only a couple of full course yellows allowed OAK Racing to get back out front. Unfortunately, Brundle was looking at a splash n’ go in the final minutes despite a near 30 second lead. Then, the PC-class No. 08 driven by Alex Tagliani for RSR Racing and the No. 23 GTD-class Alex Job Racing/Team Seattle Porsche 911 GT America driven by Ian James collided and went into the tires at Turn 15 (Turn 11 on the short course), bringing out the third full course yellow.
While the yellow cleared up the fuel issue for Brundle, it brought the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet Corvette DP Evo driven by Richard Westbrook up close to the rear end of Brundle. On the restart with 12 minutes to go, the No. 9 Action Express Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP Evo driven by Burt Frisselle tried to get back onto the lead lap. Frisselle was successful, then fell into a Bandit role (blocker) to Westbrook’s Snowman. The move allowed Westbroook to run down Brundle and make the pass for the lead prior to the Inner Loop. Afterwards, Brundle was very unhappy with Frisselle, claiming on the radio that what Frisselle did “…is not racing.”
A few corners later, Scott Pruett in Chip Ganassi’s No. 01 Ford EcoBoost-powered Riley was spun into the tires by the No. 8 PC-class entry driven by Renger van der Zande for Starworks Motorsport. Another full course yellow came out that everyone expected would end the race, but did not. Westbrook then held Brundle off on a one-lap shootout to take the overall win. Brundle was second for OAK Racing, while the No. 5 Chevrolet Corvette DP Evo shared by Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi for Action Express Racing.
In Prototype Challenge, it was the trio of Jon Bennett, former Camping World Truck Series regular Colin Braun and James Gue that dominated the proceedings to take the win and a sixth-place finish overall. For Bennett and Braun, they have won all three Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races so far (Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen). It is also their fourth win in five races this year. Only the duo of Mirco Schultis and van der Zande broke the streak at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. BAR1 Motorsports’ No. 88, shared by Doug Bielefeld, David Cheng and Martin Plowman finished second in class, while the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry shared by Gunnar Jeannette and Frankie Montecalvo rounded out the podium.
GT-Le Mans was won by the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R shared by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. It is the duo’s third consecutive victory after previous wins at Long Beach and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. SRT Motorsports’ two entries, sporting 2000 Rolex 24 throwback paint schemes, rounded out the podium with the No. 91 of Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens and Jonathan Bomarito second. The No. 93 of Bomarito, Goossens and Kuno Wittmer was third. Finally, in GT-Daytona, the No. 94 BMW Z4 of Dane Cameron and Markus Palttala claimed victory for the second time this year. AIM Autosport’s Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell were second in their Ferrari, while Magnus Racing’s Sebastian Asch, John Potter and Andy Lally were third. Lally drove in Sunday’s race with burned feet after issues with his Camaro Z/28.R in Saturday’s Continental Tire 150 at the Glen.
The next TUSC event is the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix presented by Hawk Performance at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on July 13. The race will feature the Prototype, GT-Le Mans and GT-Daytona classes. Phil Allaway