_Did you see all of the race action this weekend? Or, like a lot of busy fans, did you miss a late-night adventure, a Friday controversy, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch during the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed for the coming week no matter what series you might have missed, all in this week’s edition of Pace Laps!_
*NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Is Reutimann’s Job In Jeopardy?* Even as David Reutimann was making some of the competition and their fans angry at Martinsville when his failure to get to pit road following a blown engine with fewer than five laps to go, his No. 10 team was falling out of the top 35 in car owner points. In fact, the reason that Reutimann stayed on the track to force the caution was a desperate attempt to make the two laps the team needed to gain one point, which would have kept them in the top 35.
David Reutimann’s recent stretch of poor performances, highlighted by Martinsville’s gaffe may put Danica Patrick in position to have to qualify on speed at Darlington.
Although this one finish is not necessarily a disaster in and of itself, in this team’s case, there’s more to it than whether or not Reutimann can make the field at Texas in two weeks. Though owned by Tommy Baldwin Racing, the No. 10 is under an agreement with Stewart-Haas Racing, and the idea behind the partnership and the plan to put Reutimann in the car was to keep it in the top 35 in owner points for the handful of races in which rookie Danica Patrick will attempt to qualify it. And if Reutimann can’t do that, will Baldwin be forced to try and find a driver who can?
It’s an unfortunate situation for Reutimann, since the part failure on his car wasn’t his fault. But the reality is that this team is pressured to keep that top-35 spot by more than just the promise of a guaranteed starting spot for Reutimann. It’s all about Danica being in the field at Darlington next month, and there will be pressure from Tony Stewart for Baldwin to make that happen… any way he can. _–Amy Henderson_
*Izod IndyCar Series: Houston, We Have an IndyCar Race* The IZOD IndyCar Series announced the addition of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston to the schedule in 2013. The race will be run next October 6 on a 10-turn, 1.7-mile temporary concrete circuit set up in the parking lot of the Reliant Park sports complex, home to the Houston Astrodome. It will be the third time that Houston will host an open-wheel series. CART raced on a temporary street circuit downtown from 1998 until 2001 until construction forced the cancellation of the event and Champ Car returned to race on the Reliant Park course beginning in 2006. That event was canceled with the merger of the Champ Car World Series and IndyCar in 2008. A local organizing committee was formed in 2010 to find a title sponsor in an effort to bringing open-wheel racing back to the Texas hotspot once again.
It’s also a huge national boost for the series. Houston is the fourth most-populated city in the United States, so series officials and team owners see this as an important addition to the schedule.
“It fits so well with what we’re trying to do: to take IndyCar to the biggest cities in the United States and reach not only our purists, but also that new demographic,” says IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard.
Teams and drivers look forward to the challenge that the concrete track provides as they set up their cars to adjust to tire wear on the difficult surface. Current series competitor Sebastien Bourdais won the 2006 and 2007 events on this course. _ –Toni Montgomery_
*Formula 1: How Long Can Massa Keep His Seat?* Following Sergio Perez’s spectacular near race-win at the Malaysian Grand Prix, the pressure has been piling up on the struggling Felipe Massa. The affable Brazilian’s position hasn’t been helped by the fact that Perez is part of Ferrari’s young driver academy, so there would likely be little resistance from Sauber should Ferrari want to pinch him from the Swiss team.
Massa is nothing if not honest, and has agreed that his performance so far this season has been below par. It’s also surprising; after ending the year with two fifth-place finishes, he’s 17th and 15th in the first two races and hasn’t kept the momentum rolling from 2011. But those numbers stand out particularly when considered alongside that of his teammate, the championship-leading Fernando Alonso. Now for anyone, being compared to Alonso generally means you’re going to come off second-best, but Massa is really going to have to step up his game over the next few races to ensure he sees out the season with the Italian marque. _-Andy Hollis_
Justin Lofton is just one of several experienced drivers right on rookie John King’s tail in the Camping World Truck Series standings. The top-5 drivers are separated by a mere eight points two races into 2012.
*NASCAR Camping World Truck Series:* Following an oddly tame Kroger 250 at Martinsville, John King maintains the points lead by just one point over Timothy Peters and Justin Lofton. But how long can he hold onto it? Not only does he have two much more experienced drivers right on his tail, but the top 5 is separated by a mere eight points. Plus, you’ve got James Buescher, who made a strong run at the championship last season despite having missed the second race of the season at Phoenix, sitting pretty in sixth, up ten spots after a solid third-place finish. Add in the big question mark of the season — Rockingham’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 presented by Cheerwine Sunday, April 15th — and you’ve got the recipe for a pretty strong race ahead.
Speaking of the Truck Series’ “newest” venue, I have a personal message to fans in and around the area: you wanted NASCAR back at the Rock, so prove it. The only way the sanctioning body will even consider more events at the 1.017-mile oval is if you turn up in droves to support it. Will the crowd show up? That’s one side story to keep watching as fans’ excitement ratches up over the championship points race. _–Beth Lunkenheimer_
*Grand-Am:* At Barber Motorsports Park, the Daytona Prototypes stood out amongst the entire field. The No. 90 Corvette, driven by Richard Westbrook and Antonio Garcia, ran the 2.38-mile road course with little challenge from the rest of the DP cars. At one point with Garcia behind the wheel, he was seven seconds ahead of second place. When a full course caution flew with about seven minutes of racing to go, the No. 90 easily pulled away from its rivals on the restart, never relinquishing the spot and it took the checkered flag for their first win in the “Spirit Of Daytona” Corvette. It was actually a fitting redemption for the team after the win by a Ford at Daytona in the season opener.
However, if you were tired of watching the No. 90 team dominate the field there was plenty of action on the GT series. For the first third of the race, Camaro outran Ferrari, but later on it was the No. 70 Mazda RX8 that took the top spot. The No. 69 Ferrari, driven by Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal, also ran strongly despite fading tires at the finish.
Also of note, the announcing team reported that NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson are considering running the GP event at Indianapolis in July, part of the newly reconstructed Brickyard 400 weekend. I’ll have more information as it becomes available. _-Rick Lunkenheimer_
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