Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Chase’s Mixed Emotions and Jones’ Frustrations

Sprint Cup: Mixed Feelings for Chase Elliott Heading into Chase – Making the Chase in your rookie season? How can that not be a confidence boost?

Well, for Chase Elliott, who has been documented as being hard on himself following near-wins this season, simply making the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship on try No. 1 isn’t enough to have him smiling.

At face value, 2016 has seen some of Elliott’s best moments behind the wheel of a racecar in his short time in NASCAR. Finishing second during both events at Michigan, he has tallied up a further five top-5 and 11 top-10 finishes, including two poles and 163 laps led.

For Elliott, however, momentum has been a tough find since the season flipped to summer, which has seen only two top 10s in the last 11 races.

Following Saturday’s regular-season finale at Richmond, Elliott had one of his most all-around difficult weekends this year, starting a career-low 34th before cutting a tire and finishing 19th.

Joining Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson in the 16-driver Chase, the 20-year-old, in his short-and-sweet quirk, has his eyes set on reality, knowing the speed side if only half the battle.

“You have to have the mentality that we can make it a long way and hope for the best,” he said. “If we don’t leave here tonight with the mentality of ‘We can make it to Homestead’ then we might as well let the guy behind us in the Chase.”

Perhaps a fairly negative outlook heading into the Chase isn’t as bad as it sounds. After Tony Stewart won the 2011 championship, stating he didn’t even belong in the Chase to begin with, Elliott could turn that confidence around. – Zach Catanzareti

XFINITY Series: One More Chance to Win Before the Chase – After finishing second at Richmond on Friday night, Erik Jones likely voiced the frustrations of several XFINITY Series regulars.

(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)
After battling for the XFINITY Series championship in 2016, Erik Jones will compete full-time in the Sprint Cup Series next year for Furniture Row Racing. (Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

“It’s unfortunate,” Jones said.  “We want to win, and I feel like we had a car that could do it, just not against Kyle [Busch] and the 18.”

Remember that this is coming from the winningest XFINITY Series regular in 2016.  Jones has three victories and, until Elliott Sadler’s triumph at Darlington last week, nobody else had more than one.  Yet eligible drivers for the XFINITY Chase have combined to win only six times through 25 races.  Even Jones, who has won more than anyone but also finished second five times this year to Sprint Cup drivers, is not satisfied with his win total.
Next week’s race at Chicagoland Speedway is the last one before the Chase begins.  That means it is also the last race for an XFINITY regular to pick up bonus points.  Most of the Chase field is already set, so while it is possible that someone could race their way in with a victory, the more likely scenario is that the top XFINITY Series drivers will compete among themselves for one more win before the postseason kicks off.  Yet the most likely outcome is that Busch or another Cup driver will claim another trophy before the spotlight shifts to the championship battle. – Bryan Gable
Sports Cars: Jorge de la Torre Returns to the Seat – Back in May, Pirelli World Challenge owner/driver Jorge de la Torre was seriously injured in a crash at Lime Rock Park during a morning warm-up.  De la Torre had gone off course on his own, then spun around in the paved runoff at the end of the Sam Posey Straight in order to rejoin the course.  Before he could, he was hit by the Bentley of Andrew Palmer, who had suffered some kind of mechanical failure on the frontstretch and flown off-course unabated.  In Palmer’s case, there have been no official updates on his condition since a press release was made public in June.
De la Torre spent 11 days at Hartford Hospital being treated for multiple injuries, the extent of which was never made public, before being released on Jun. 8.  Since then, de la Torre has been back in his native Texas, rehabilitating and living life.  Now, he’s back in the drivers’ seat.
NASportscar.com is reporting that de la Torre tested his Aston Martin for the first time since the crash at MSR Houston last week.  The plan appears to be that de la Torre will compete in the Pirelli World Challenge season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October.  That race weekend is also the final weekend of Sprint-X for 2016, a division that de la Torre planned to compete in full-time.  Ultimately, he only competed in the first weekend of racing at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in May before getting hurt. – Phil Allaway

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Carl D.

I’m not even going there with the Xfinity chase and cup drivers stealing wins in the Xfinity series. I have no desire to beat that dead horse any longer.

Bill B

Yep, why bother. No one seems to be listening. Just let the low ratings and lack of fans in the stand kill off the series. If I turn on the X-finity race and a cup guy is leading I quickly change the channel and watch something else.

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