Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Truex’s Triumph and Jones’ Rough Luck

Sprint Cup: Truex’s Pace was the biggest Monster of all in Dover

As Chris Buescher studied the finishing order of Sunday’s Citizen Soldier 400, a face of disbelief joined many others.

“Man, that was a wild pace,” he said.

For sure, Dover International Speedway saw one of the quickest paces in recent memory, as race winner Martin Truex, Jr. left only six cars on the lead lap at the end of 400 miles of racing.

Assisted by a 208-lap green-flag run to end the event, Truex was able to maintain a six-to-10-second gap on second-place Kyle Busch en route to winning by 8.9 seconds – the longest winning margin since New Hampshire in September 2015.

Additionally, the four cautions of the day tied the least at Dover since 1997 when Mark Martin won with just one caution flag flying.

With a lack of opportunity for teams to make adjustments, it was also a lack of bounce-back time as seen by Jimmie Johnson, who was busted on pit road from the race lead. The No. 48 finished eighth, one lap down.

Truex seems to have something on the field as we head into the Round of 12 a Charlotte Motor Speedway, the track that saw a record-breaking performance by the team in May’s Coca-Cola 600. – Zach Catanzareti

XFINITY: Chicagoland Top Five Could be Championship Four

The field for the first ever XFINITY Series Chase is finally set.  By winning his fourth race of the season, Erik Jones firmly established himself as the championship favorite.  Jones’ biggest competition, however, may come from the other NXS drivers who finished in the top five at Chicagoland.

Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez, and Justin Allgaier finished third through fifth respectively.  During the regular season, Sadler and Suarez were the only other Chase-eligible drivers to win races.  Both of them also spent several weeks leading the season-long points standings.  Sadler in particular has shown remarkable consistency, scoring 23 top 10s through 26 races.

(Photo: Russell LaBounty/NKP)
Erik Jones had a tough day in Dover. (Photo: Russell LaBounty/NKP)
Allgaier, Sadler’s JR Motorsports teammate, has logged the second most top 10s with 21.  Although JRM has not had the speed to match Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Jones and Suarez for most of the season, Sadler and Allgaier have been the best at maximizing points in most races.
The inaugural XFINITY Chase is likely to be an unpredictable affair.  However, JGR has established itself as the team to beat, with JRM not far behind.  The four NXS regulars who claimed top fives at Chicagoland are all good bets to reach the championship race at Homestead. – Bryan Gable
Sports Cars: DP Farewell Understated
Saturday’s Petit Le Mans presented by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort marked the end of an era in American Sports Car Racing.  It was the final race for the Daytona Prototypes after 14 seasons.  Over that time, the DP’s changed a lot.  The cars are a lot quicker today.  In 2003 when the DP’s debuted at the Rolex 24, the fastest one qualifed at 110.512 seconds (115.969 mph).  Today, that lap would not even be a competitive qualifying lap in GT Daytona.  2014 saw GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing win the overall pole with their Chevrolet Corvette DP with a time of 98.270 seconds (130.416 mph).
During the time period that the DP’s ran, they were often derided as being ugly and inferior to the prototypes that raced in the American Le Mans Series.  The move towards cars such as the Corvette DP largely slowed those complaints, but going into Road Atlanta, it was worth it to see what (if anything) IMSA would do to actually commemorate the DP’s.
In practice, it really wasn’t all that much.  There were no special processions of DP’s around the 2.54-mile road course.  There was a Daytona Prototype display in the vendor gallery with four older Daytona Prototypes.
This was one of the original DP’s, a Fabcar, raced by Brumos Racing.  The car ran quite competitively back then.  The Brumos Fabcars (the team raced two of them, the No. 59 and a Red Bull-sponsored No. 58) were the class of the DP field for most of the first year before Doran Racing’s self-built Doran JE4 came into its own.
2004 brought more chassis, such as the Crawford seen here.
Tony Stewart co-drove this car in the Sahlen’s 200 at the Glen with Andy Wallace.  That particular race is best known for a heavy downpour and a huge wreck that occurred due to standing water on-course.

Stewart was not in the car at the time and the No. 20 would finish a lap down in eighth.
For some, letting the DP era go quietly is just fine.  To others, it is something worth noting and perhaps something more should have been done. – Phil Allaway
NHRA: Weather Beaters
Rain plagued NHRA all weekend for the NHRA Keystone Nationals from Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania, but they managed to get the third race of the championship Countdown in the books on Sunday.
Don Shumacher Racing was certainly happy. Their Top Fuel pilot Antron Brown got off the starting line first to beat Brittany Force on a holeshot with a pass of 3.721 seconds, 317.34 mph to Force’s 3.721 seconds, 324.67 mph. The win helps first place Brown pad his lead in the Top Fuel standings. He’s won two of the three championship round races, adding Maple Grove to his Charlotte trophy.
Brown also beat J.R. Todd, Clay Millican, and Shawn Langdon en route to the finals on a tricky track that drivers and teams did not get a lot of time on after rain cancelled much of qualifying.
DSR took all four semi-final spots in Funny Car, insuring an all DSR final that ended up pitting points leader Ron Capps up against Tommy Johnson, Jr., runner up in the previous two Countdown races. Johnson got the win this time, making a 3.895 second, 330.63 mph pass to edge out his teammate’s 3.911 seconds, 324.12 mph.
“You want to have a strong start in the Countdown; we knew that going into it,” said Johnson Jr., who was runner-up at this event in 2014. “We went from seventh to fourth in Charlotte – a runner-up is good – then we went to St. Louis and got a another runner-up and went to second, and I said I’d be happy with four more runner-ups, but when you look in the other lane and it’s Capps, who’s leading the points, it’s a must-win. You’ve got to gain some ground.”
Johnson got by Cruz Pedregon, Mike Smith, and Jack Beckman in earlier rounds.
Vincent Nobile was understandably upset with himself for redlighting and losing the Seattle final earlier this season so he definitely didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. He got off the starting line clean this time and from there drove off to beat Greg Anderson. Nobile’s pass was 6.575 seconds, 209.85 mph compared to Anderson’s 6.582 seconds, 210.37 mph.
Nobile had to race his way past Drew Skillman, Erica Enders, and Shane Gray in order to take on Anderson for the win.
Rookie Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Cory Reed struck a huge blow when he took out points leader Andrew Hines in the semifinals, but was not able to repeat the feat in the finals when he faced off against Hines’ teammate Eddie Krawiec. Krawiec posted a 6.818 second, 193.88 mph run to beat Reed’s 6.958 seconds, 186.43 mph. Krawiec beat Angelle Sampey, Karen Stoffer, and LE Tonglet in earlier rounds. – Toni Montgomery
Formula 1: Sepang Surprises; Red Bull Capitalizes
What looked like another typical race for Mercedes turned into something quite different at the Malaysian Grand Prix.  The team had the chance to clinch the constructor’s championship at the Sepang International Circuit but had things go awry in rather dramatic fashion.
Lewis Hamilton started on the pole and got away clean.  His teammate, Nico Rosberg, started second, and as he looked to slide into second place at the first turn found Sebastian Vettel bouncing into his right rear and spinning him out.  Vettel’s day ended while Rosberg, the championship leader, looked to recover after dropping as far back as 17th.
Hamilton looked to be on his way to cruising to his 7th win of the year and one that would have changed the driver’s championship in his favor when his Mercedes power unit let go – gifting the top spot to Daniel Ricciardo.  Ricciardo faced some pressure from his teammate Max Verstappen but nothing contentious emerged and the two came home with a clean one-two finish for Red Bull.
Rosberg, even with a ten-second penalty for on-track contact with Kimi Raikkonen, managed to ascend to the third position on the podium and extend his points lead.
The Red Bull victory was just one of the surprising storylines as Raikkonen, finishing fourth, again carried the flag for Ferrari while Fernando Alonso taking seventh and Jenson Button earning ninth gave McLaren a rare double points position. – Huston Ladner

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If Truex was that fast why did Johnson catch him?

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