Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Martin Truex, Jr.’s Treasure and Ty Dillon’s Title Hunt

Sprint Cup: Treasured Trophy for Martin Truex, Jr. – From top to bottom, Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 was one for the record books thanks to Martin Truex, Jr. The Furniture Row Racing driver broke long-standing NASCAR records as he led the most miles ever in a race [588 of 600], the most laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway [392 of 400] and won the quickest 600 in its 57-year history.

“I told Marcus [Smith, Charlotte track president] in Victory Lane that I was really sorry I stunk up the show,” Truex said. “I was not about to let off.”

Starting from pole, the early pace brought Truex to a multi-second advantage in the opening 25-lap stint and virtually every section of the race thereafter. The speed was nothing new as the No. 78 had similar showings at Kansas and Texas.

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2016 Coca-Cola 600

Unlike the previous two races, however, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn connected both ends of the sport’s longest race to take their first victory in nearly a year.

What made the difference? Determination. The straight refusal of defeat. The hunger of returning to Victory Lane. Whatever you call it, Truex and the team from Denver, Colorado showed what they can do when they complete a race without shooting themselves in the foot.

“This is a home game for most of everybody and for us to come from Denver and take that trophy out of here is pretty special to them,” Truex said. “Above all, for a guy like me to win a race like this is a big deal.”

Speaking of winning, the New Jersey native embarks on Pocono Raceway this weekend; it’s a track where he found victory last June. Momentum can build quickly in motor racing and with a Chase ticket in the bag, the sly smile given by Pearn after the checkered flag Sunday night could be a sign of things to come for the No. 78. – Zach Catanzareti

McLAUGHLIN: Truex Flat Out Dominates Coca-Cola 600

XFINITY Series: Will History Repeat Itself with Another Dillon in the No. 3? – One third of the way through the XFINITY Series season, Ty Dillon is not making a lot of noise.  That’s not to say it’s been a bad season for him but the No. 3 team has not spent a lot of time contending for race wins. Dillon has not led more than 11 laps in any race this year; his laps led total is just 24 spread out over the entire season.

(Photo: Russell LaBounty / NKP)
Ty Dillon is looking to follow in his brother’s footsteps, with a move to the Sprint Cup Series likely coming in 2017. (Photo: Russell LaBounty / NKP)

What Dillon lacks in raw speed, though he has made up for in avoiding bad finishes.  Dillon has not placed lower than 19th this year, completing all but one lap in the XFINITY Series.  That leaves the driver a steady fourth in points, 24 markers behind leader Daniel Suarez and a virtual lock to make this year’s Chase.

Dillon’s consistency will easily get him into the postseason. But how big of a championship threat will he be if he cannot run up front?  The answer may be brighter than you think. It is actually not a bad spot for the No. 3 team, a car which won a championship with Ty’s brother Austin in 2013.  Through the first 11 races of that season, Austin Dillon was also winless.  He had led only 50 laps and was fifth in points, 53 behind Regan Smith for the lead in the standings.  Austin had two top 5s (compared to Ty’s three), six top 10s (compared to Ty’s seven) and an average finish of 11.8 (compared to Ty’s 9.3).

Austin, of course, never did win a race in his championship season.  What he did do was rally over the course of the last two-thirds of the year to close the points gap and challenge for more wins.

Three years later, Ty has the same opportunity.  His challenge will be a little bit different thanks to the inaugural XFINITY Series Chase.  But if his brother’s performance with the No. 3 team is any guide, Ty Dillon may not be far away from repeating the type of history that will add another championship trophy to the mantle at Richard Childress Racing. – Bryan Gable

IndyCar: Who, exactly is Alexander Rossi? That’s what the majority of racing America is thinking this morning after a rookie stole the show late in the 100th Indianapolis 500. Rossi, driving for the No. 98 Bryan Herta-owned team that had tasted victory with the late Dan Wheldon in 2011 spent most of the day trapped midpack while many of the sport’s superstars dueled up front. The car, which had merged with Andretti Autosport in the offseason due to funding issues seemed to be the weakest on track when compared to teammates Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti, Townsend Bell, and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

But as the smoke cleared and the race wore on, other Andretti teams slowly fell by the wayside. Bell and Hunter-Reay found themselves involved in a pit road accident that killed their chances. Marco? The handling on his Honda went south over the race’s second half. In the meantime, Rossi and company developed a sound strategy to save fuel during what turned out to be a long green-flag run to the finish. As all other cars expected a caution over the final 34 laps, especially considering the aggressive side-by-side competition and passing this rookie made a gamble that slow and steady wins the race. Sure enough, all the contenders peeled off to pit during the final few laps and Rossi was able to baby his car to the finish, running 36 laps on one tank of gas and posting a last-lap speed of less than 180 mph — more than 30 miles an hour slower than second-place finisher Munoz.

This little-known Californian, just 24 years old had been labeled the best American Formula One prospect in Europe. However, it remains to be seen if his unlikely dash to the trophy, an “Alexander who?” in water cooler talk will do enough to continue the momentum for this sport beyond the 500. A sold out crowd in Indianapolis of 350,000 did witness 54 lead changes, second all-time in track history and phenomenal competition with passing throughout the field. Yet at Detroit this coming weekend? Let’s just say last year the race struggled to reach one-quarter of the ratings Indianapolis gives the sport. Even worse, overnights posted Monday morning showed a decline in Indy 500 viewership despite the great racing, historic number (100th edition) and quick pace where the race was over well before 4:00 p.m.

So who, exactly is Alexander Rossi? We’re about to discover how many people care to find out beyond Sunday afternoon. – Tom Bowles

NEFF: Breaking Down The 100th Indy 500

BEARDEN: Meet Alexander Rossi

BEARDEN: Munoz Left Empty After Runner-Up Finish

BEARDEN: The Most Improbable Indy 500 Victory

BEARDEN: Hunter-Reay, Bell Tangle On Pit Road, Ruin Indy 500 Chances

BEARDEN: Montoya’s Quest For Back-To-Back Ends Early In Indy 500

Sports Cars: Prayers For Palmer, De La Torre The racing at Lime Rock Park this weekend for the Pirelli World Challenge Series was overshadowed by a serious accident involving Andrew Palmer and Jorge de la Torre. No update to their conditions was released Monday but both were airlifted to Hartford Hospital following their Saturday morning tangle. Palmer suffered a head injury while de la Torre has multiple fractures. Click the links below for more information and details about the serious crash. – Frontstretch Staff

ALLAWAY: Lime Rock Warmup Crash Causes Palmer, De La Torre To Be Flown To Trauma Center

ALLAWAY: Parente Earns Lime Rock GT Sweep

About the author

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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