Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Racers Rally Around Justin Wilson

IndyCar: Racing Community Rallies in Support Following Wilson Injury – The racing community is as vast and all-encompassing as any organization in the world, but few groups are as close in times of controversy.

Following Justin Wilson’s accident at Pocono Raceway, one that left him hospitalized in a coma, as announced by INDYCAR, racers worldwide took to social media to issue he and his family support.

The greatest sign of caring and respect came from three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and one-time IndyCar champion Tony Stewart, who offered his plane to Wilson’s family so they could fly to Allentown, Pa. to support the injured driver.

Wilson remains hospitalized after a lap 179 crash in Sunday’s ABC Supply 500. Fans are encouraged to show their support for Wilson and his family by using the hashtag #PrayersForJustin on Twitter. – Aaron Bearden

Sprint Cup Series: Championship Preview At Bristol? A cleaner-than-usual race at Bristol turned into a dogfight during the final laps between eventual winner Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. A classic game of cat and mouse involved Harvick using a different line to diamond through the corners and catch Logano’s No. 22 car, reaching the back bumper on several occasions and in position to use the classic “bump and run.” At least once, Logano shut the door on the No. 4 car but there was no significant contact as both drivers are locked in the Chase; Harvick, realizing the risks simply allowed his rival to pull away. To his credit, Logano did adjust the line of his own Shell/Pennzoil Ford down the stretch and diced through lapped traffic quick enough to earn his place in Thunder Valley’s Victory Lane.

It wrapped up a good night for fans of the new Bristol, 14 lead changes marking a track filled with new, multiple grooves that still brought old faces up front. For Logano, the win marked his second in three Sprint Cup races while trimming Harvick’s lead in the points standings to 43. At the moment, their “battle” for the regular-season points title is little more than a fight for pride; barring a late surge neither one will even be the top playoff seed. That honor goes to Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson, both of whom have four wins apiece.

However, Bristol may have served as a bit of a championship preview for what we’ll see come November. Logano now has three wins to his credit, could easily have doubled that amount so far this season and has been one of the sport’s most consistent drivers through midsummer. Two of his three worst finishes have come through the perils of restrictor plate tracks (22nd at Daytona in July, 33rd at Talladega in the spring). Other than that, his only blemish outside the top 20 was a 40th at Bristol in the spring, a bad result I think he made up for Saturday night.

Harvick, meanwhile has been racking up the accolades, posting his 15th top-three finish of the season Saturday night. It’s incredible only two of those have turned into victories, but that type of total makes it clear just how much the reigning champion continues to dominate the circuit. His 1,406 laps led are tops in the series by nearly 600 over the next-best competitor. Who might that runner-up man be, you ask? None other than Mr. Logano.

Right now, the run to the Chase has people focused on who’s trying to fill out the 16-driver field. But with NASCAR clearing up the final 10 races, choosing to use the package Logano/Harvick have been most successful with, it’s unlikely we’re going to see a darkhorse emerge to challenge who’s been best at it. Up through this point, the answer has been Harvick, then Logano and even the brutal Bristol bullring couldn’t stop their momentum. Others, like Johnson, both Kyle and Kurt Busch and even Martin Truex Jr. will challenge this fall, yet the No. 4 and No. 22 appear well on their way to the head of the class – again (both made the Homestead Final Four in 2014). Next time, though Logano should be careful when he shuts the door; that move inside the playoffs might lead to a different result from Mr. Harvick’s hard-hitting front bumper. – Tom Bowles

Formula 1: Mercedes Returns to FormLewis Hamilton earned the pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix with a blistering lap.  Even as his Mercedes team has shown to be the class of the field, Hamilton’s lap showed he was on top his game – especially after his teammate, Nico Rosberg, said he had nothing for him.

That trend continued on Sunday when Hamilton basically cruised to another victory for the 2015 season and further distanced himself from his main challenger – that being his teammate. At least Rosberg managed to take second place after a poor start as he fell from second to fifth on the first lap of the race. The pace of the Mercedes proved too much and the duo crossed the line about five seconds apart, but still well ahead of third-place finisher Romain Grosjean.

The race had an element of the battle of attrition as Nico Hulkenberg failed to start, while defending race winner Daniel Ricciardo endured a car failure and washed out. Then, in the final laps of the race, Ferrari kept Sebastian Vettel out for 37 laps on his hard-compound Pirellis, only to watch a tire fail and a podium finish slip away.

The outcome may not have been surprising, but the Belgian Grand Prix remains one of the best owing to its high speeds and tough turns. – Huston Ladner

Xfinity Series: Another Dominating Night for JGR – It’s really getting to be impossible to stop Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske in the Xfinity Series. The two organizations have combined to win 13 of the 22 races thus far into the season, including Friday evening’s spectacle at Bristol.

Kyle Busch went to Victory Lane once again, continuing his incredible comeback this year. Holding off a hard-charging Kyle Larson, Busch showed his dominance once again at arguably his best track. However, teammate Denny Hamlin gave him a run for his money, leading 106 laps at Bristol prior to finishing third in the No. 20 car.It was a rough end to the evening for championship leader Chris Buescher. The No. 60 car led 106 laps at the half-mile track, but finished 12th after having to pit for fuel. His lead is down to 19 points over Ty Dillon, who is steadily climbing his way back into the title hunt after dropping back behind Chase Elliott. Daniel Suarez took home his first Dash for Cash award, and is expecting to continue to do the same heading forward as the No. 18 car has been one of the quickest NXS teams on a weekly basis. – Joseph Wolkin

NHRA: Winners and Records in BrainerdTop Fuel driver Richie Crampton is very quietly putting together a solid season, posting his fourth win of the year at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. Crampton faced off against Brittany Force in the finals and held her off with a stout 3.695 seconds, 325.30 mph to Force’s 3.771 at 293.79 mph, leaving her still looking for her first career victory.

“This race is going to go down in the history books,” said Crampton. “It was just some amazing racing today and there were some super-fast racecars out there. I keep forgetting that I ran a 3.69 in the final, because winning the event is so important. You want to carry momentum into the Countdown. The last two rounds showed what kind of racecar we have and we are right where we need to be for Indy and for the Countdown.”

Crampton also defeated Morgan Lucas, Larry Dixon and Shawn Langdon en route to this final round matchup with Force.

Robert Hight carried the day for John Force Racing, beating Tommy Johnson Jr. in the Funny Car final with a run of 3.956 seconds, 323.58 mph to Johnson’s 4.130 seconds, 316.52 mph. It was Hight’s first win in over a year. He also defeated Ron Capps, Brian Stewart and Tim Wilkerson to advance to the final.

Erica Enders took home the Wally for the fifth time this season and the points lead in Pro Stock after defeating Jason Line in the finals. Enders won on a hole shot, posting a .014 reaction time to Line’s .043 to make her 6.552 second, 210.34 pass the winner over Line’s quicker, but losing 6.541, 211.06. Enders also defeated Mark Hogan, Bo Butner and Chris McGaha before her meeting with Line.

Pro Stock Motorcycle came down to a battle of teammates, as Eddie Krawiec took the win over Andrew Hines. Krawiec posted the win with a run of 6.844 seconds, 194.30 mph to Hines’s 6.894 seconds, 190.06 mph. Krawiec also had to get by Hector Arana, LE Tonglet and Matt Smith to advance to the finals.

In other event news, records were falling in chilly conditions in Brainerd. The official NHRA Funny Car elapsed time national record now belongs to Jack Beckman, who posted a time of 3.901 seconds in qualifying and then backed it up with a 3.903 run on Sunday. Matt Hagan was the first Funny Car driver in the 3.8s, and not by a little bit either, posting a 3.879, 329.58 mph for the quickest and fastest run ever in the class in the first round on Sunday, but he was unable to back up the time up, leaving Beckman holding the E.T. record, while he took possession of the national speed record. Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown also got in on the record-breaking action as the first Top Fuel driver to complete a run in less than 3.7 seconds with a 3.680, resetting the nationa Top Fuel E.T. record. The Top Fuel national speed record now belongs to another DSR competitor, Spencer Massey, who put down a run at 332.75 mph. – Toni Montgomery

Camping World Truck Series: Setting up an Epic Championship Battle – Heading into Bristol Motor Speedway last Wednesday, the half-mile bullring could have ended up having serious implications for the three drivers embroiled in a very tight battle for the championship. Instead, Tyler Reddick, Matt Crafton and Erik Jones only managed to bring the battle even closer.

Jones, Crafton and Reddick finished sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. Since Jones and Crafton finished ahead of the points leader, the margin now sits at seven with no sign of stopping any time soon. The Truck Series heads north of the border next weekend for a road course showdown, but Crafton is the only one of the three that has raced at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park before. While Jones and Reddick will need to spend practice time acclimating themselves to the track, Crafton holds the advantage of top-10 finishes in both of his starts there.

With that said, Reddick and Jones have been quick to learn throughout their short careers, and they’ll likely find their way pretty quickly, even if there are some question marks at this point. This championship battle is going to be one for the ages, and you don’t want to miss it. – Beth Lunkenheimer

Short Tracks: The annual NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour North/South combination event at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday night fought showers and thunderstorms enough to officially complete the originally scheduled 150-lap race. An accident on lap 2 involved north championship contender Doug Coby among several others and brought out a lengthy caution period. During that time the skies opened up and due to delays, the event was pushed back to following the conclusion of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event.

When the race resumed, Ryan Preece patiently worked on leader and pole winner Woody Pitkat. The 2013 series champion took the lead for good on lap 75 and after a caution on lap 96 the rain returned ending the race on lap 103. Preece and Pitkat are separated by only two points going into the next tour race at Riverhead Raceway on Long Island.

With a sixth-place finish overall, Andy Seuss was the highest Southern tour finisher and was awarded the win for that division. He moves within four points behind Jason Myers, who leads his brother Burt by two. – Aaron Creed

Sports Cars: Pirelli World Challenge Raced in Utah… Without K-Pax Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports? – Yes, that headline is true. This past weekend, Pirelli World Challenge held races for all their classes at Miller Motorsports Park (MMP), a 4.5 mile natural terrain road course in Utah’s Tooele Valley about 40 miles west of Salt Lake City. Racing at Miller Motorsports Park brings some extra challenges for the organizers due to Miller Motorsports Park’s location in the high desert (the track’s elevation is roughly 4,400 feet above sea level) and very hot weather. Granted, this past weekend was an exception to the rule, but previous race weekends have seen ambient temperatures above 105 degrees with next to no humidity.

Anyone who’s watched an NHRA event at Colorado’s Bandimere Speedway knows the choking effects that the thin air can have on engines. Bandimere typically sees the slowest times of the year as a result. Naturally aspirated sports cars are no different. They lose power as well. Since Pirelli World Challenge features both naturally aspirated and turbocharged cars, rule changes are necessary in order to equalize the two types of engines.

In this case, that meant a lowering of the acceptable level of boost for turbocharged engines, like the McLaren 650S GT3’s that K-Pax Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports runs. Within reason, that’s OK. Prior to the team’s collaboration with the Lizards, K-Pax Racing won last year’s season finale at MMP with Robert Thorne with their old McLaren MP4-12C GT3. However, there’s only so much they could cut the boost. Pirelli World Challenge officials wanted a bigger boost cut this year that was unworkable. The team stated in a press release that the boost level was impossible to achieve with the turbo and engine as homolgated by series officials and the FIA. It’s not like they didn’t try to do it or put up a fight. Based on the release, it wasn’t based around trying to gain an advance so much as the car wouldn’t work with those rules. After a failed appeal to Pirelli World Challenge officials by the and McLaren, the team withdrew the McLarens that Robert Thorne and Kevin Estre were set to race this weekend.

It’s a big hit in the points for both drivers, but especially for Estre, who entered the weekend fourth in points. The GT-class has three races remaining, two next weekend at Sonoma Raceway as support to the IndyCar season finale and one in September at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. – Phil Allaway

About the author

A writer for Frontstretch since 2002, and editor since 2006, Toni heads up the NHRA coverage for the site. She’s responsible for post-race coverage in the weekly Pace Laps multi-series round-up along with the weekly Nitro Shots column featuring news and features from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. An award-winning former writer for the Presbyterian Church, Toni works in web design and freelances with writing in North Carolina.

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when i watch the indy race at pocono i feared something would happen. those cars on big wide track. seeing them fan out like nascar does was great, but the speed at which the open wheel cars travel is way too high.

prayers to justin wilson.

Robert B.

Don’t think Buescher pitted for fuel at the end, car sputtered coming out of Turn 2 on the final restart.

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