Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Finally, Milestones, Big Home Track Wins & Rainy Days

Sprint Cup Series: Fourth Time’s The Charm – Finally. Martin Truex Jr. took his next step toward title contention this season by doing what race winners do: close the deal. Three straight times, Truex had led the most laps in a Cup Series race only to come up short. At Kansas, it was pit strategy and a rookie mistake by crew chief Cole Pearn on top of the pit box that burned them. Come Charlotte, Carl Edwards pulled the fuel mileage card, sneaking under the radar to sneak away with the lead and an unexpected victory late. Finally, at Dover, Truex’s hometown track it was a certain six-time champion that taught the virtues of when you peak with proper adjustments late in the race.

1, 2, 3 strikes you’re out, but no one in NASCAR history had led the most laps in four straight events without winning. So when Truex darted out front at Pocono, the pressure was on for him to finally turn the corner and cash in. This week, just like the last few there were no “gimmes” down the stretch; fuel was an issue, Truex running on E and he spent the last few laps fending off championship point leader Kevin Harvick. Harvick, who picked up a NASCAR record 10th top-two finish in 14 races was followed closely by Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and then Kurt Busch, arguably the fastest five cars all season.
For Truex to triumph, against the best of the best when they’re running AT their best shows how far his No. 78 team has come in such a short period. Can you believe this driver led only one lap last year? Can you believe it was this organization’s (Furniture Row) second Cup victory in a decade? Like Truex and girlfriend Sherry Pollex after a life-changing cancer fight, we must not take the success we’ve seen for granted. The New Jersey driver’s comeback, heartwarming a story as that is has a chance to become one of the biggest surprise seasons of all time. Homestead, once a pipe dream could now become the next goal left to achieve in this dream revival: a Cinderella coronation. – Tom Bowles

WOLKIN: Truex Victory Next Step To Title Contention

Camping World Truck Series: Cobb Celebrates a Milestone, Looks Ahead to Bigger Goals – On a weekend that ended with another Matt Crafton victory – what more is there to write there? – an underdog, making news after Dover continued to be a story. Jennifer Jo Cobb made her Truck Series debut as a driver/owner in 2010 with just four starts under her belt. When that year started with a crash on the first lap of the season opener, it would have been easy to understand if she just gave up. But fast forward to Friday night’s WinStar World Casino 400, her 100th career start, a race in which she started 20th and finished 19th. Having gone through a variety of trials and tribulations piloting her self-owned equipment, Cobb has kept an upbeat attitude and has always been grateful for what she can get.

“You always want to get better, and I felt like we were stronger at Charlotte than we were here. We were not as strong at Kansas, and all three races we finished 19th,” Cobb said from the garage at Texas Motor Speedway after her 100th start. “At the end of the day, [I’m] definitely happy to bring home another solid finish because it was a solid weekend. We practiced 22nd, qualified 20th and finished 19th. It wasn’t like we lucked out and there were a bunch of wrecks; we earned it. Our plan is working – we’re creeping up there.”

For Cobb, it’s a change from when, more often than not, she would end up in the garage area for some sort of a parts failure. And that means the goals for the No. 10 are changing as the team progresses on a limited budget.

“We’re starting to solidify those top-20 finishes, so our next level is to start solidifying top-15 finishes, and that’s going to mean a bigger budget and we’ll just keep working on it,” she said. “We’re working on everything from the inside out – inside the garage, outside sponsorships, everything is getting better. I couldn’t be more pleased to see that plan coming to fruition and hopefully seeing this momentum continue.”

With the exception of last week at Dover, the driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet has completed every race this season, and she has a trio of 19th-place finishes to go along with an 18th at Daytona. In fact, in her first full-time season (2010) she had four DNFs, compared to three combined for 2014 and one seven races into 2015.

Now for most drivers, a 19th-place result isn’t something to write home about, but when you consider the budget Cobb runs with, a top 20 is like a top 10 for most other teams. Instead of being disappointed by finishing multiple laps down, she’s keeping her head up, gradually pushing her goals ahead and not showing any signs of stopping. It’s a passion that’s almost unmatched in the national series and something the sport needs more of. – Beth Lunkenheimer

LUNKENHEIMER: Reddick and Jo Cobb Aren’t Talking

Formula 1: Make Up Race – Lewis Hamilton did in Montreal what he couldn’t do in Monaco. While the race slipped away from him a couple weeks ago with a miscommunication between his team and himself, there would be nothing of the sort this go round. Hamilton earned the pole position, launched out to the lead and never felt a significant pressure from anyone in the field. Nico Rosberg, his teammate, who started second, could never mount a serious threat to the championship point leader.

Aside from the dominance of the Mercedes duo, Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa proved to be two of the more interesting storylines of the race as they started deep on the grid and methodically advanced. The end result was bringing home points, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.

It was another terrible day for McLaren, who retired both of their cars before the race had reached the two-thirds mark. But on a positive note, Valterri Bottas earned the third spot on the podium, displaying both his own talent as well as the fact that at the right tracks William can shine. – Huston Ladner

NHRA: Milestones in New Jersey – Antron Brown scored his landmark 50th event win at the Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway in Englishtown, New Jersey, a most fitting place to hit such a career milestone for the Chesterfield native. This win was also his first Top Fuel triumph at his home track.

“We knew (my 50th win) was at stake when we came in here, but I put everything of what this race means to the side, and that’s what our team did,” Brown said. “We came in here and treated it like a race. Every race we come in, we put in all the hard work and put in our all. We had to remind ourselves of that each and every round. To do it in the hometown and in front of family means the world to me.”

Brown might not have been the most popular guy in setting the record, though as he denied Brittany Force her first career win, the second event in a row where he denied a female driver her first career victory after facing off in the finals against Leah Pritchett the last time out. Brown clocked a 3.843-second, 318.470 mph run to get the victory after Force spun the tires. Brown also defeated Jenna Haddock, Doug Kalitta and Dave Connolly en route to his matchup with Force.

Defending Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan found himself squaring off in the final against Alexis DeJoria and beat her in a close race, posting a run of 4.132 seconds at 299.530 mph to DeJoria’s 4.138 seconds (298.400 mph). Hagan took out John Force, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Ron Capps to make it to the finals.

Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson also hit a landmark earlier this season with his 75th career victory, but it took several years of trying for Anderson to get that elusive win. Number 76 proved to be a bit easier as he scored his second win of the season against Allen Johnson in Englishtown. Anderson’s 6.504 seconds at 214.310 mph was enough to best Johnson’s 6.537 seconds, 213.870 mph by about 14 feet. Anderson also beat Val Smeland, Bo Butner and V. Gaines to advance to the finals.

There are always upsets in NHRA, but the Pro Stock category in particular yielded some first round surprises at Englishtown, with both Jason Line and Erica Enders bowing out early.

Jerry Savoie took home the Pro Stock Motorcycle Wally with a 6.794-second run at 197.710 mph when final round competitor Jim Underdahl redlighted. Savoie had to get by Joe DeSantis, Eddie Krawiec, and Hector Arana Jr. before squaring off against Underdahl. – Toni Montgomery

Xfinity Series: Rivalry Still There – After a wild finish at Dover, Roush Fenway Racing teammates Chris Buescher and Darrell Wallace Jr. are still not happy with each other. In a race-deciding move, Buescher squeezed underneath Wallace, which caused the No. 6 car to have a flat tire with less than 10 laps to go. The two have been unhappy ever since, and with potential jobs at stake in the Cup Series, they have plenty of reasons to be that way. Buescher went on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio last week and said the team meeting “didn’t go as he expected” and that Wallace is still getting over the incident. For his part, Wallace has maintained distance from Buescher apart from this May 30th tweet about the incident…

WOLKIN: Buescher Rising In Xfinity Series

The off weekend while the Cup drivers are at Pocono provides the Xfinity Series teams a chance to regroup as the division nears the halfway point of the season. Buescher has extended his championship lead over Ty Dillon in recent weeks; continuing the momentum will be very important starting at Michigan. Hopefully, Wallace won’t get in the way. – Joseph Wolkin

Short Tracks: Pennsylvania Popular – NASCAR? What NASCAR? For the entire week of June Pocono festivities each year, the USAC National Sprints come to the general area for their “Eastern Storm” events. Unfortunately, Mother Nature wreaked havoc and wiped out the initial two nights of competition at Pennsylvania dirt tracks Grandview Speedway and Lincoln Speedway. The weather cleared for Thursday and Saturday action and it was latest sensation Robert Ballou who scored the victories at New Egypt Speedway (N.J.) and Port Royal Speedway (Pa.), his fifth and sixth wins of 2015. The series moved on to Susquehanna Speedway Park for their final night of competition on Sunday before returning to the Hoosier State for Sprint Week in July. – Aaron Creed

Sports Cars: A Little Something to Watch For at Le Mans – This upcoming weekend is the most important weekend of the year in sports car racing. On Saturday morning, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is set to begin. Teams will race for over 3,000 miles to determine who is the fastest and most reliable in the P1, P2, GTE-Pro and GTE-Am Classes. It should be a very interesting race. However, there are a couple of neutralization rules that you should know about.

Since the Circuit de la Sarthe is so long (8.469 miles), laps behind the Safety Car can take 10 minutes or more. As a result, some rules have been instituted to lower the amount of race neutralization. In previous years, multiple safety cars have been used so that the whole field doesn’t have to pack up together under the full-course yellow. That will continue, but likely in a much more rare capacity. It has been joined by one additional neutralization format, and a potential second one.

One is the full course yellow, which is new for 2015. Formula One’s equivalent is the virtual safety car, developed in the wake of Jules Bianchi‘s crash at Suzuka last year. Under these conditions, no safety cars are released on track. Drivers must maintain position at 80 kph (approximately 49 mph) for the entire lap. Such a situation will be noted on track with double yellow flags and a Full-Course Yellow (FCY) board. Race control can lift the FCY at any point on the track, not just at the start/finish line. It has been used in the first two World Endurance Challenge races and has generally been regarded positively.

The other is the slow zone, introduced last year after being used in various endurance races like the 24 Hours of Dubai under the name Code 60. This scenario creates a 60 kph (approximately 37 mph) speed limit, but only in the indicated sector of the track. As this limit is the same as the pit-lane speed limit, drivers will run through the affected sector on the pit-lane limiter button, then resume racing once out of the section. With the FCY in effect, it is currently unclear whether the Slow Zones will be used this year, but it is possible given the size of the track. – Phil Allaway

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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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