Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: JGR’s Awakening, Dillon Gets It Done and Dirt Racing at Its Finest

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 week, 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: Joe Gibbs Awakening – The Brickyard 400 may have lost some of its massive appeal over the years, mainly due to its single-file racing and the tire debacle of 2008.  While Jeff Gordon’s win at Indianapolis is big, both for him, and possibly the sport as he’s one of the few drivers whose name crosses over into the mainstream, the race also stands as a moment of demarcation.

The break before the race allows teams to prep the latest and greatest that they’ve got and while Indy, being a flat quad-oval has little to do with the 1.5 mile banked tracks on the schedule, the success shown at the track is often an indication of what is to come – hence the reasoning for tying drivers who have won the 400 to the championship.

2014 Indianapolis CUP Kyle Busch car CIA

Perhaps no team gave insight as to what’s to come as Joe Gibbs Racing, with its drivers taking second, third, and fourth.  While Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin both have wins this year, there’s been nothing remarkable about the team as a whole and their two wins seem like a fluke rather than a harbinger.  Their results at Indy show that they might have figured out something and are ready to challenge Hendrick, Stewart Haas, and Penske.  It’s kind of surprising that it may have taken a team like this one so long to get to that point.  Huston Ladner

Nationwide Series: Ty Dillon Gets it Done at Indy – Ty Dillon has made it a habit of winning his biggest races by overtaking Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Busch to do it. Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dillon powered by Busch on the final restart in the Lilly Diabetes 250 to grab his first career Nationwide Series win.

Dillon also became the first Nationwide Series regular to win at the speedway since the race was moved there in 2012. Just as he did for his first and second Truck wins, Dillon stole the show on a big stage. Indianapolis is rich in his family’s history as grandfather Richard Childress has now kissed the bricks on four different occasions.

Saturday, the story was all about family. Ty Dillon not only won with his grandfather but had his other brother there to celebrate and take care of him as he ailed from not having air conditioner all day. Mom and dad were there too and the party lasted long into the night.

So while Dillon still has a long NASCAR career ahead of him, having not hit the big leagues yet, he’s got something that not many drivers do: a win at Indianapolis. And it’s the biggest win a driver, especially a 22-year-old, will ever have. Kelly Crandall

NHRA: A Wally for Your Birthday? – Who wouldn’t want a Wally for their birthday? That’s what Khalid alBalooshi got for his when he defeated his Al-Anabi Racing teammate Shawn Langdon in the Top Fuel final with a pass at 3.912 seconds, 309.42 mph to Langdon’s 4.008 seconds, 271.35 mph at Sonoma Raceway. This weekend’s Sonoma Nationals were the second stop on the NHRA’s three race Western Swing.

“The trophy is exactly what I wanted,” said alBalooshi. “This is a very special birthday for me. This trophy is the best gift of my life, and [crew chief] Jason McCulloch gave it to me with all my crew guys.”

alBalooshi defeated Billy Torrence, Clay Millican, and Richie Crampton en route to the final round matchup with Langdon.

It was a father/daughter show in the Funny Car final as John Force faced off against daughter Courtney. Give this one to the younger generation as Courtney defeated her father with a run of 4.253 seconds at 296.24 mph to John Force’s tire spinning 4.405 seconds, 237.05 mph. Courtney also defeated Peter Russo, Bob Tasca, III, and Matt Hagan to get to the finals. This is Force’s fifth win and makes her the winningest female driver in the Funny Car category, breaking a tie with her sister, Ashley Force Hood.

In Pro Stock, Jason Line and KB Racing have had an up and down season but were able to put together a solid weekend with the Summit Racing Camaro in Sonoma, apparently in spite of the driver, to take the win over V. Gaines.

“Overall, I felt like my car was as good or better than any other one out here but I struggled this week,” said Line. “I did things that I’d normally never do. I botched a burnout, couldn’t stage, couldn’t cut a light, and couldn’t find the finish line. Other than that, everything was perfect.”

Line had a pass at of 6.548 seconds, 211.73 mph to Gaines’ 6.564 seconds, 211.30 mph. Line faced off against Joey Grose, Johnathan Gray, and Dave Connolly in the earlier rounds.

Eddie Krawiec was the winner in the Pro Stock Motorcycle division. Krawiec faced off against number one qualifier Jerry Savoie in the finals and won with a pass of 6.854 seconds, 193.99 mph.

For Pro Stock Motorcycle, it was a race within a race, as the division held the inaugural MiraMonte Records Pro Bike Battle on Saturday, a specialty bonus all star event that awarded $25,000 to winner Andrew Hines, who defeated Scotty Pollacheck.

“It’s a big deal for Vance & Hines and Harley Davidson,” Hines said. “It’s been awhile since we’ve had a specialty event in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. The crew has done a great job giving us motorcycles that can go rounds.”  Toni Montgomery

Formula One: Racing in the Rain – It seems a little bit of rain is what it takes to make a good race in F1, or at least that was the case on Sunday at the Hungaroring.  The race started in a typical 2014 fashion, with Nico Rosberg sitting in P1 and leading the field.  Sebastian Vettel slotted in behind him and it seemed like the race would conform to the standards that have been set so far.

But the wet track and the drying conditions made tyre selection and the decisions to pit a premium part of the strategy.  The McClaren team saw rain on the horizon and kept their drivers on intermediate wets, which ended his hopes of a victory.  Red Bull moved Daniel Ricciardo to soft slicks early and the decision proved to be the one that would catapult him to victory.

Perhaps the most interesting, or magnificent, element of the race was Fernando Alonso keeping the field at bay until the final few laps while driving on tyres that had gone well past having any life in them.  Following Alonso was Lewis Hamilton, who started the race from the pit lane after a fuel line issue set his Mercedes afire in qualifying.  Rosberg settled for fourth and the battle between the two teammates for the championship continues to remain tight.  Huston Ladner

Short Tracks: The Center of the Dirt Racing World – There are certain races that are signature events in racing. The Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, the Grand Prix of Monaco, the Knoxville Nationals and the Chili Bowl are events that casual fans and even non-fans have heard of. When you look at those races, none of them take place at the same venue. When it comes to the biggest names in race tracks, there are only a couple that have more than one major event. Daytona has the 500 and the 24 Hours of Daytona. Indianapolis has the 500 and the Brickyard 400. They did have the Formula 1 race but it is still only three events. Wednesday night, race fans of NASCAR, dirt racing and just race fans in general were treated to a spectacular race at the true epicenter of dirt track racing – Eldora Speedway.

There are different opinions about which races in different genres of motorsports are major events, but an informal survey of friends and cohorts came up with the following list of the biggest dirt racing events every year in no particular order: Knoxville Nationals, The Dream, IMCA Super Nationals, 4-Crown, Super DIRT Week, King’s Royal, Chili Bowl, The World 100, Camping World Truck Race at Eldora, and The World Finals.

There are certainly more big dirt races held throughout the country, and fans of the tracks and sanctioning bodies and regions of the country will stand up and scream that their favorites were left off of this list. The bottom line is that race fans who don’t follow dirt and even fans who don’t follow racing have heard of most of these races. One of the biggest indicators of an event’s stature is how well known it is among people who don’t follow the sport.

Looking at this list of events, there is one clear fact: Eldora is the place to go if you want to see the biggest dirt events. Out of the 10 races on this list, half of them take place in Rossburg, Ohio. There are many reasons that events become big. Some are from money, some are from reputation, some are just from pure longevity. Nothing becomes big without drawing the biggest names and putting on the best shows. The people at Eldora know how to put on an event and when the checkered flag flies, everyone knows that they were at a show. That is why, of the hundreds of dirt tracks in the world, Eldora is the biggest. Mike Neff

Sports Cars: No Sports Car Experience?  No Problem? – In TUSC’s Prototype Challenge class, some of the more steady driver lineups have been fielded by Paul Gentilozzi’s RSR Racing, formerly known as Rocketsports.  For much of the season, RSR Racing’s No. 08 has been shared by Chris Cumming and Alex Tagliani.  However, Tagliani has been caught up in two controversial crashes.  First, Tagliani suffered a wrist injury when he crashed into Gaston Kearby’s No. 87 entry from BAR1 Motorsports during the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in March.  That wreck, one of the more ridiculous crashes in recent years, resulted in Kearby being suspended one race for “unjustifiable risk.”

Flash forward to Watkins Glen in June and Tagliani spun his No. 08 in Turn 10 during practice.  He then rejoined the track in a lackadasical manner and was struck by the No. 85 JDC/Miller MotorSports PC entry.  After the race weekend, Tagliani was slapped with a one-race ban for unjustifiable risk.

Tagliani’s suspension left RSR Racing in need of a professional to fill the No. 08’s seat for the Brickyard Grand Prix.  Gentilozzi turned to Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Jack Hawksworth, last year’s Indy Lights Champion, and a driver who impressed a lot of people with his performance in the inaugural Indianapolis Grand Prix back in May.  Problem was, Hawksworth had never raced a sports car previously.The lack of experience did not turn out to be any problem at all as Hawksworth brought the No. 08 its first victory of the year on Friday evening.  RSR Racing’s second entry, the No. 09 driven by Duncan Ende and Bruno Junqueira, came home second to give RSR Racing a 1-2, beating the dominant core Autosport pairing of Jon Bennett and Colin Braun in the process.

Tagliani may need to look over his shoulder, as his spot within the team may not be guaranteed in the future.  The next TUSC race (the Road Race Showcase at Road America) does not clash with Hawksworth’s IndyCar commitments with Bryan Herta Autosport, so there is a chance that he could return to the No. 08 before the season is out.  Phil Allaway

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If true, the firewall blanking plates confiscated from the #11 highlight two of the problems that Nascar and its teams face. (a) that a mere 25-30 lbs of rear down force will take a car from an also ran to a contender, (b) that the extent teams have to go to get a slight edge means increased expense. Not in parts necessarily but in engineering and R&D time.
“Parity” may not be all its cracked up to be.


One look at the stands Saturday should have been enough to convince anyone that fans are all not that interested in seeing a half dozen or so Cup drivers run an extended practice session. That said I would have paid to listen to Kryle Busch’s radio as it became increasingly obvious that he was not going to win. The downside to being a bully is that on those infrequent occasions where the bully’s nose ends up being bloodied he looks especially pathetic. Maybe Kryle should stick to that Japanese truck series where there is no competition at all.

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