Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Chris Buescher Gaining Momentum, Elliott Sadler’s Big Win and Camping World Chaos in Canada

Sprint Cup: And Then There was One – Chris Buescher can officially prepare himself for one of the most stressful nights of his racing career, as he’ll attempt to race his way into the 2016 Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Championship next weekend.

Stealing the victory last month at Pocono Raceway, Buescher backed it up with a top-5 finish at Bristol two races later before cushioning his point lead to 30th place David Ragan.

(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)
After winning at Pocono, Chris Buescher has worked his way inside the top 30 in the standings. (Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

And that’s kind of important, as Buescher will have to reach the top 30 in points to be Chase eligible after Richmond.

Sunday night at Darlington Raceway brought another positive for Buescher, as the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford finished 17th, advancing the team’s gap to nine points heading into the regular-season finale at Richmond next week.

“Staying out of trouble is going to be the No. 1 priority,” Buescher said. “No. 2 on the agenda is to get the most points possible and be aggressive.”

With two goals in mind, Buescher and team will try to cap off the underdog story of the year on Saturday night. – Zach Catanzareti

XFINITY Series: Sadler Gets the Win, and the Bonus Points – After coming up short in a dozen previous tries, Elliott Sadler finally captured an XFINITY Series checkered flag at Darlington.  Yet more importantly for his championship hopes, Sadler picked up three more bonus points toward the Chase.

Sadler’s Chase chances have not been in doubt for several months.  His win earlier this season at Talladega virtually guaranteed him a spot in the inaugural XFINITY Series Chase.  However, Sadler’s Darlington win increases his bonus points total to six, the equivalent of six positions on the track.  Only Erik Jones has more, with three wins accompanied by nine bonus points.

Those extra three points could make a big difference for Sadler during the Chase.  Most of the Chase field will likely begin the postseason without a victory, giving Sadler a good head start to reach the Round of 8.  In fact, since the NXS Chase consists of only two eliminations, accumulating bonus points for the first round is an even bigger advantage than in the Sprint Cup Series.
With two races left in the regular season, many of the other XFINITY drivers who are locked into the Chase will be fighting for bonus points of their own.  As for Sadler, he might have his best shot at the XFINITY championship in years.  The No. 1 team will leave Darlington with a lot of momentum, and are one step (or maybe six) closer to the big prize. – Bryan Gable
Camping World Truck Series: Custer’s Big Loss Leads to Fight – Immediately after Cole Custer parked his truck on pit road following the race, he went charging after race winner John Hunter Nemechek, who was waiting to be handed the checkered flag at the finish line.

The two got together on the final lap, with Nemechek shoving Custer out of the way and right into the wall.

Roaring to Nemechek, who still had his helmet on at the time, Custer threw the fellow Chevrolet driver to the ground as the two did their best to imitate the Connor McGregor v. Nate Diaz UFC fight or a traditional Canadian hockey brawl. As the fight was broken up, Custer — rightfully so — showed true emotion for the first time since he began competing full-time in the Truck Series. – Joseph Wolkin

Formula 1: Bad Start Foils Hamilton, Rosberg Capitalizes – Lewis Hamilton looked to have everything in hand at the Italian Grand Prix this weekend. Having led the second and third practices, then taken the pole by almost a half second over his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, Hamilton seemed to have everything in hand. That all changed when the lights switched off and he didn’t get going. Rosberg sped away, and really, that was that.

The Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, racing at what is basically their home track, also raced past Hamilton, as did the Nico Hulkenberg of Force India. Falling that far back allowed Rosberg to gain all the advantage he needed to push out to a lead over the field and manage it for the rest of the race, taking his seventh win of the year and now moving just two points behind Hamilton in the championship standings.

Hamilton still finished second, with Vettel following in third. Kimi Raikkonen earned the fourth spot. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo made one of the overtakes of the year when he pipped Valterri Bottas of Williams after the two sped out of Parabolica and Ricciardo made a strong inside move into the chicane.

While the race result is one thing, the big story seems to be that Formula 1 will be sold this week to American businessman John Malone and his Liberty Media group. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this sale, even as to whether it will go through, but there does seem to be some strength to the notion that this one will pass. This development will be something to watch and could have an enormous impact on the sport. – Huston Ladner

Sports Cars: Mexico Has Something to Cheer About in the WEC – On Saturday, the FIA World Endurance Championship took on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, round No. 5 of the nine-round championship. The race was an up-and-down affair that was dominated first by the factory Audis, then by the Porsche 919’s. The No. 1 of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber won the race by over a minute over the No. 7 Audi of Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer (forced to race as a twosome because Benoit Treluyer was ruled out).

For the hometown Mexican crowd, the real story was in P2, where the Mexican RGR Sport by Morand team took class honors with the lineup of Filipe Albuquerque, Bruno Senna and team co-owner Ricardo Gonzalez. It is the team’s second victory of the season, but the first on native soil (for Gonzalez). The team’s drivers were serenaded on the podium by the assembled crowd, as can be seen on the team’s Facebook page.

RGR Sport by Morand has been bereft with near-constant change in recent years. The team’s name, for instance is something that changes on a near-regular basis as ownership and backing changes. The team has competed in major sports car events since 2012, when it was just Morand Racing, running a Morgan chassis in Europe. Eventually, the team became Morand-New Blood and had a fair amount of success in the European Le Mans Series.

For last season, the team entered into what became two disasterous agreements. One was with the Japanese SARD Corporation. The other was with Kairos Technologies, which acquired a stake in the team The plan was to run two full-time cars in the WEC. The second entry, No. 39, never appeared. There was also going to be an online reality series called “Race to 24” that was going to award a seat in the No. 39 at Le Mans, but it was scrapped before it began. The team skipped the first race at Silverstone, but ran the rest of the season with the No. 43. Oliver Webb and Pierre Ragues ran the last seven races of the year, while three other drivers shared the third driving position. Regardless, it was a tough season with issues behind the scenes.

Now, the team appears to be on stable ground financially. The team’s drivers are currently second in the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers Standings behind Signatech Alpine’s No. 36 and have momentum for the remaining four races. – Phil Allaway

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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