Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Congenial Richmond, KyBu Nationwide, other stuff

Cup:  The Race That Wasn’t – No one did anything surprising in the race at Richmond.  Well, that’s not correct.  The idiot who climbed the catchfence in turn 4 surely did something surprising.  While many people have done idiotic things at a race track, it’s doubtful that anyone anticipated a fan climbing the fence bordering the track and using it as a perch.  Aside from the unbelievable asininity, if you look at the photos, the idiot was so bored he wasn’t even watching the race.  No wonder.

No one short pitted to try out a different strategy.  No one used a bumper to knock someone out of the way.  The race took on a such a sense of normalcy that everyone seemed happy to drive the top line and avoid risk of trying to pass low.

The overall sense, however, is that the drivers in the Chase showed what kinds of teams they are, with Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick all showing that they’re continuing the season they’ve had.  On the flipside, drivers like AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, and Aric Almirola showed that they’re not really going to be a factor as things progress.  Huston Ladner

Credit: CIA Editorial Photography
After weeks of being shut out of Victory Lane, Kyle Busch returned in dominating fashion Friday night at Richmond. Credit: CIA Editorial Photography

Nationwide: Kyle Busch is Back – Though He Never Really Left – After being shutout from Nationwide Series Victory Lane since Dover in May, Kyle Busch got back into it by making sure no one else had a chance. Busch won the pole and led every lap of the 250-mile race on Friday night in Richmond on his way to win number four of the season. In doing so, Busch became the first driver since himself to accomplish the feat at Phoenix in 2011.

The domination comes after weeks and months of Busch coming up short to numerous others. He was second at Loudon to Brad Keselowski. Ty Dillon bested him on a late restart in Indianapolis before finishing second at Watkins Glen to Marcos Ambrose. There was the other late restart, this time in Bristol, where Ryan Blaney left him in the dust.

For the winningest driver in the series, Busch hasn’t been used to being upset on a continuous basis. So Friday, at a place he’s already racked up four wins, Busch stormed back and there wasn’t anyone who was going to get in his way. Kelly Crandall

Formula One: Hamilton Gets It Done – Lewis Hamilton earned the pole position for the Italian Grand Prix and looked like he would be the dominant car and be able to take the fight to his teammate who sits atop the points standings.  Then the race began.  Hamilton endured a problem with his Energy Recovery System (ERS) and failed to leap off the line like he should, allowing said teammate, Nico Rosberg to jump out to a lead.

Yet Hamilton recovered and did in fine fashion, racing his way back to the front and then being able to pip his teammate for the lead.  Hamilton’s victory closes the gap between he and Rosberg to 22 points with six races to go.  Though Rosberg maintains the advantage, it is Hamilton who has shown more outright speed the last couple races, and it appears that it is Rosberg who is starting to show a less stabile mentality.

Outside of the two-horse Mercedes race, Felipe Massa, the former Ferarri driver, earned the third spot on the podium – though he crossed the finish line some 22 seconds behind, showing how dominant the Mercedes team is.  His teammate, Valterri Bottas finished close behind, with the Red Bull Duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel taking fifth and sixth.

At Monza, which is considered Ferarri’s home track, Fernando Alonso lost his engine and Kimi Raikkonen finished a disappointing ninth.  As one of the stalwarts of the sport, Ferarri surely is looking to the offseason in a big way.  Huston Ladner

NHRA: The Playoffs Get Rolling – Last week’s Chevrolet Performance U. S. Nationals marked the end of the regular season for the drag racers of the NHRA’s Mello Yello Series. Next week at the Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway outside of Charlotte, NC, the Countdown begins. It’s the NHRA’s six race dash to the championship for the four top divisions. So how does the Countdown work?

It’s actually like a simplified version of NASCAR’s Chase in many ways, not terribly surprising as it was inspired by the Chase. After the “regular” season, the top 10 drivers in each of the top four divisions have their point totals reset. The leader starts at 2110 points, a 30 point gap on second place which is reset to 2080. Each driver after is given a new points total decreasing by increments of ten, through the tenth place driver, who starts the six race Countdown with a total of 2000 points.
These ten drivers are the only ones who are eligible to win the championship, something that is accomplished through the reset as the gap is large enough that 11th place on down cannot move up any further.
There’s no seeding based on wins, it’s simply a reset of the points with each driver starting in the points position they held after Indy. It does, however, close up a field that had spread out by hundreds of points over the course of the season. (Leaders in various divisions topped competitors by as much as 200 points at times through the year.) After the reset, the total gap between the first place and tenth place drivers is 110 points.
As with the NASCAR Chase, can someone get on a hot streak at the right time and take a championship they weren’t really in the running for before? Or can someone who ran strong up until this point and pulled out a huge margin suddenly experience a downturn in their luck and lose a championship they seemed to have all but locked up. Sure can. And they have. Stay tuned to see how it all turns out. Toni Montgomery
Sports Cars: Behind the Scenes Shake-up Announced – On Friday, IMSA announced new personnel and personnel shifts are intended to help out officiating issues in races and hopefully quell the ongoing Balance of Performances issues.  Beaux Barfield, most recently the Race Director for the Verizon IndyCar Series, has joined IMSA as their new Race Director for both TUSC and the Continential Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSC), replacing Paul Walter.  Barfield previously served as Race Director of the American Le Mans Series from 2008-2011 before being hired away by INDYCAR.
Walter will assume the role of IMSA’s Director of Racing Operations.  In that role, Walter will develop the supplemental regulations and event schedules for each weekend.  In addition, Walter will also be in charge of IMSA’s Rule Book and serve as Clerk of the Course.
Simon Hodgson has also joined IMSA as the new Managing Director of Racing Operations.  In that role, Hodgson will oversee all functions of racing operations (including race directors, logistics, administration and track services) and report to IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton.Scot Elkins, most recently an executive with IMSA, has taken on the role of Managing Director of Technical Regulations.  Elkins will oversee the rules aspects of IMSA’s series, including the all-important Balance of Performance.  In addition, Elkins will still serve as IMSA’s representative at FIA meetings.
IMSA’s hope is that the moves behind the scenes will benefit the organization as a whole.  While the races have been interesting to watch this season, there has also been a fair amount of anger behind the scenes.  The Balance of Performance, especially in TUSC’s Prototype class, has been an issue since before the season began.  Ryan Eversley brought BoP issues in the CTSC’s Street Tuner class to the forefront in an exclusive Frontstretch interview back in June.  Also, there have been outright mistakes in officiating this season that need to be shored up (Ex: Sebring, when the wrong car was penalized for avoidable contact, causing a swing in the class victories for at least one class).  Hopefully, Friday’s moves are the first step in fixing some of IMSA’s ills.  Phill Allaway

Short Track Pace Laps: Ben Rhodes is the K&N King – Ben Rhodes isn’t your typical 17 year-old. When he isn’t in school in Louisville, Kentucky, he is traveling to races around the country to compete for Turner Scott Motorsports. He is a member of the NASCAR Next family of drivers for the second year in a row, and on Saturday night he finished fourth at Greenville-Pickens Speedway to secure his first K&N Pro Series East championship. He has also already competed in the Camping World Truck Series for Turner Scott as well.

Rhodes has dominated K&N East this season, including a string of wins in May and June that was four straight victories at tracks including storied Bowman-Gray Stadium and Five Flags Speedway. He missed tying Ricky Craven for the most consecutive race wins when he failed to grab the trophy in Loudon for the fifth straight race. Rhodes’ first win of the season came at Greenville in the first visit by the series back in the spring. His season has been so strong that he clinched the title this weekend a full race before the end of the year.

While Rhodes didn’t win the race this time around, primarily due to an infraction on the initial start that resulted in a pass through penalty, that went to Austin Hill. Cameron Hayley came home second in the race, right in front of Gray Gaulding. Nick Drake rounded out the top 5.

Rhodes is not only a championship driver, he is also a championship student. Rhodes maintains a 4.0 GPA through hard work when in Louisville in class along and keeping up with his assignments when he has to miss school to compete in races. He spent last summer studying race cars in Mooresville, working in the shop every minute that his team was there working. He says it has improved his understanding of how the car works and greatly improved his feedback that he provides to his team.

Rhodes was not impacted by the recent financial issues at Turner Scott although his 2015 plans have not been announced. Mike Neff

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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I am supposed to be impressed when a Cup driver beats up on the next lower class? Kyle wasn’t so impressive Sunday against the big boys was he? How about trying to do something for NASCAR fans by reflecting the increasing disinterest in a non competitive series. Why not note for instance that the event drew about 3500 fans. If NASCAR doesn’t get the bullies out of the schoolyard no amount of PR bullsh-t will be able to save the series. Help us out a bit. If the racing press begins to mirror the racing fan NASCAR may listen. PS: I can beat my five year old grandson in a foot race every time, his father, not so much. Still, impressive right! I am the winningest grandpa in the house.


I agree. If we could get rid of Kyle, then the races would be better and the fans would fill the stands. The TV ratings would shoot up and the glory days would return. The sun would shine brighter and there would be peace on earth.

The last thing we need is one driver dominating like that. You sure don’t see that in the cup races…….Oh wait……


I know you don’t believe this but if Junior did it it would still be non competitive vanity bully racing and no one would watch. There is just nothing entertaining about watching a high school pitcher dominate a little league team. That is why EVERY competitive endeavor aside from Nascar has classes. That Kryle is a volcanic asshole may exacerbate the situation but he is definitely not the problem. His participation is an excuse for poor ratings but not the explanation.


I don’t even bother to watch nationwide or truck races any longer. Not in the slightest bit interested in watching the Busch, Hamlin, Kenseth, Logano (insert name of Cup driver here) with their big $ dominate the lower level series. It simply isn’t interesting and based on the fact that the stands looked pretty empty on Friday night, I think others agree with that assessment. The argument that Cup drivers racing in the Nationwide and trucks draws fans doesn’t hold up any longer.

JohnQ said it very well. The media needs to actually tell the truth about this nonsense instead of saying how great it all is that the Cup drivers are so successful before those series die out completely.

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