Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Tony Stewart’s Solid Return, Four-Wide and Fast for Brittany Force and Ford Looking for XFINITY Series Magic

Sprint Cup: Tony Stewart Solid in Sprint Cup Return – Though there was literal smoke for the driver nicknamed “Smoke” at one point during Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Starting 18th after Sprint Cup qualifying was rained out on Friday, Tony Stewart was a consistent character inside the top 25 as he battled the likes of Chase Elliott and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Danica Patrick in the early going.

The most interesting moment of Stewart’s afternoon was the fight to stay on the lead lap as eventual race winner Carl Edwards approached the Mobil 1 Chevrolet. Holding the leader off for about 20 laps, Stewart lost the lap, missing the free pass position shortly there after.

“I was real happy that he was back until about five laps into that battle,” Edwards joked about the race with Stewart. “He was wheeling the heck out of it.”

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2016 Toyota Owners 400

The day turned sour for Stewart when he and Joey Logano made contact on a Lap 268 restart, cutting Stewart’s left-rear tire and causing the race’s fourth caution flag.

The three-time champion failed to lose momentum as he sliced though lapped traffic to crack the top 20 in the final 70 laps. Crossing the line in 19th, his first top 20 since Martinsville last November.

Hot on the radio and intense on the race track, it appears Tony is back to his common ways. – Zach Catanzareti

NHRA Pace Laps: Four-Wide First – It was a long-time coming for Brittany Force to get that first win last month at the Gatornationals but it didn’t take her long to score the second, as she takes home the Wally at the Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina. Force also has the distinction of being the first female winner in a Nitro category at the Charlotte track, and the first female winner in any Pro category in the four-wide format.

NHRA 2016 Charlotte Tim Wilkerson and Dan Wilkerson credit Toni Montgomery
Four-Wide Nationals Funny Car winner Tim Wilkerson (r) with his son Daniel, who also raced in Funny Car in Charlotte. Photo: Toni Montgomery

“It’s big enough that we won, but to do it at the Four-Wide [Nationals] where it wasn’t easy for me. It was a struggle,” said Force. “I didn’t sleep last night. I had nightmares coming off [the final qualifying round] and you know you have to clear your mind and come into it. So to be able to overcome that and have a decent light in the final round when we really needed it, it feels good.”

Force edged out two-time Four-Wide Nationals winner Antron Brown, who came in runner up in a final quad that also included Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican, with a 3.764 second, 319.98 mph pass to Brown’s 3.779 seconds, 316.75 mph. Force also continues as the Top Fuel points leader, and increased her lead to 63 points over Brown with win.

Force also becomes the first repeat winner of the year in Top Fuel, joining Tim Wilkerson who scored the victory in Funny Car to become the first repeat winner of 2016 in that category. Wilkerson faced off against Cruz Pedregon, Matt Hagan and Ron Capps and made a pass of 3.967 seconds, 315.56 mph to edge out Pedregon’s 3.995 seconds, 313.37 mph.

“We don’t come here to chase girls and drink beer, we are here to kick some butts and go home,” Wilkerson said. “I got this off my bucket list. I’ve been in the finals at this one twice, so I am really happy to get it done. I am excited about it. The whole year has really been exciting, especially with the new TV package and the way everything has been going. My buddy Brittany has won twice, so that’s really cool, too. I was happy to see her win. The Four-Wide is really a neat deal, especially since I won.”

Pro Stock remains the KB Racing show. While top qualifier Greg Anderson was knocked out in round two after confusion at the starting line, teammates Jason Line and Bo Butner carried the team flag into the finals against Chris McGaha and Drew Skillman. Butner got off the starting line first but it was Jason Line who ran him down for the win with a 6.565 second, 211.33 mph pass to Butner’s 6.591 seconds, 210.77 mph.

Harley Davidson teammates Andrew Hines and weekend fast qualifier Eddie Krawiec took the win and runner up spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle over Chip Ellis and Matt Smith. Hines ran 6.844 seconds, 195.42 mph to beat Krawiec’s 6.849 seconds, 194.44 mph. This is the third consecutive victory for Hines at the Four-Wide Nationals. Toni Montgomery

XFINITY Series: When will Ford reach victory lane? – Through the first eight races of the XFINITY Series season, the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing have been the most dominant cars on the track, winning five times.  Chevrolet has managed to claim three wins, thanks to the efforts of JR Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing pulling into Victory Lane with Austin Dillon’s last lap pass at Auto Club. Ford, however, has yet to reach victory lane.

Among all the XFINITY Series Ford teams, it seems hardest to believe that Team Penske’s No. 22 car will stay shut out of victory lane for very long. However, the combined efforts of Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have yet to produce any really strong runs. Logano even admitted in the broadcast booth that the team was a little bit behind where they expected to be. Meanwhile, Roush Fenway Racing drivers Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Ryan Reed have struggled to find consistency.

It is possible that relief could come next week at Talladega, where Logano went to victory lane last year. But even if it doesn’t, do not expect the Ford camp to remain down for long. – Bryan Gable

Sports Cars: Let the SIN Begin – Besides being a relatively funny line from the 2000 film Little Nicky, that is exactly what the Pirelli World Challenge’s GTS Class brought to the table this past weekend in Alabama. While KPAX Racing’s Alvaro Parente and Cadillac’s Michael Cooper split the two GT races, GTS was all about the SIN.

For the uninformed, SIN is a English-Bulgarian company that produces a limited-production car known as the R1. It’s got a 6.2 liter Chevrolet V8 that produces 450 horsepower. The racing version of that vehicle, the SIN R1 GT4, is raced in Pirelli World Challenge by Racers’ Edge Motorsports. So far in 2016, its been a struggle. COTA saw both cars get wrecked. The crashes forced the team to sit out St. Petersburg.

For rounds five and six, they returned to the track with two new drivers and a lot of speed. In the primary No. 45 car was Jade Buford, most recently of Multimatic Motorsports in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (he was Austin Cindric’s teammate last season). Buford was the main tester for the team and developed the R1 GT4. Buford was joined by a newcomer to sports cars, Scott Heckert, previously of HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.

The teammates proceeded to dominate the weekend. Buford won the pole for round No. 5 on Friday, eventually leading the rain-plagued race from flag-to-flag to take the SIN R1 GT4’s first victory in North America. Heckert finished a strong fourth. Buford started round No. 6 on pole by virtue of setting the fastest lap in round No. 5, but spun on the first lap and dropped to the rear of the field. Heckert rose from fourth to take the lead away from a fading Lawson Aschenbach.

It looked good for the rookie to take his first PWC win, but he made an unenforced error and spun out on his own with only six laps to go. Heckert’s spin gave the lead to Buford, who charged from nearly 20 seconds behind without the aid of a full course caution to sweep the weekend. Heckert came home in fifth. Pretty amazing for a team in only their second weekend with new cars. – Phil Allaway


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Quick Question;

If Landon Cassill sweeps the 3 remaining restrictor plate races-misses two races due to an injury suffered while he is participating in a triathlon-finishes in the tope thirty-does he get a waiver?

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