Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Martinsville Madness and XFINITY Point Battles

Sprint Cup: Racing for every point, right? – With the Sprint Cup Series Chase now down to eight drivers, only half of them will move on to the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

You didn’t have to tell Denny Hamlin that as the No. 11 held off Joe Gibbs Racing teammates in the closing laps to hang on to the third position in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

“Holding off” may be a stretch phrase, as Kyle Busch expressed much frustration with nine-year teammates Hamlin, saying he held the line up and gave Jimmie Johnson the race victory.

Said Busch: “You had the slowest Gibbs car [Hamlin] holding up the rest of the line and all we did was let somebody else from another organization pass us and go up there”

Can you think of anything worse than teammates butting heads during the heat of the Chase? Perhaps Joe Gibbs can sit down with Gene Haas, whose drivers Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick had a confrontation last week at Talladega.

It is understandably known that when the younger Busch doesn’t win, he isn’t happy. Period.

However, the question Sunday is how he would’ve raced Hamlin if the tables were turned. With every point on the line, the last thing NASCAR nation wanted was team orders. With that not becoming an issue, Hamlin simply raced Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth like he would’ve raced Jamie McMurray or Austin Dillon.

That may be a tough thing to counter, but how Busch takes this into next week at Texas Motor Speedway – the second three races in the Round of 8 – could be the next step toward a second straight Sprint Cup Series championship. – Zach Catanzareti

XFINITY: No One is Safe Yet – Through four of the seven Chase races in 2016, two victories have gone to XFINITY Series regulars, and two have gone to Sprint Cup drivers.  Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez both picked up wins in the Round of 12, guaranteeing their advancement to the next stage of the Chase.  Meanwhile, Joey Logano closed out the first round with a win of his own at Charlotte, and Kyle Busch took the checkered flag at Kansas in the first Round of 8 race.

Under the rules that NASCAR will implement next year, neither Logano nor Busch will be able to compete in any of the XFINITY Chase races.  Had they not been able to race this season, Sadler could have potentially won both events, and the Kansas win would have assured him a chance at the championship at Homestead.
In reality, nobody is in great shape as far as the final round is concerned.  Sadler and Suarez are the most comfortable at 12 points above the cutoff, but that gap could easily disappear if they encounter a problem at Texas. Wins will still be hard to come by with the Sprint Cup regulars out in full force, so expect a tight points battle in the next two races to finish off the XFINITY Round of 8. – Bryan Gable

NHRA: The Penultimate Round – The Toyota NHRA Nationals from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway mark the second from last event of the 2016 season and one championship has already been decided, with Top Fuel’s Antron Brown winning his second consecutive championship and third overall.

Brown would bow out in the third round however to J.R. Todd, who went on to face off against Steve Torrence in the final. Give the Wally to Torrence, who ran 3.734 seconds, 323.81 mph to beat Todd who ran 3.762 seconds, 321.96 mph.

Torrence also beat Richie Crampton, Doug Kalitta (whose defeat sealed the championship for Brown), and Leah Pritchett on his way to the finals.

Funny Car was a family affair, with John Force taking on daughter Courtney Force for the win. The John Force Racing contingent is too far back to bring home a championship, so they set their focus on winning races and it paid off. Force the elder ran 3.884 seconds, 327.19 mph to beat his daughter’s 3.906 seconds, 325.85 mph.

Force ran by John Bojec, Chad Head, and Matt Hagan before facing off against Courtney.

Funny Car also put up the highlight reel of the week when Cruz Pedregon went up into a huge wheelstand during the first round. Pedregon managed to hang on to it and even beat Robert Hight. He crossed the finish line beams on just the rear tires. Unfortunately, when bringing it back down to earth, the impact bent the frame rails on the car, putting Pedregon out for the remainder of the day.

Pro Stock racer Shane Gray recently announced he would be stepping out of the seat of the family ride next season to make way for his son, Tanner. With just a few races remaining, though, he also wanted to bring home one more Wally before stepping aside. He managed to do just that, running 6.719 seconds, 204.76 mph to beat Drew Skillman who had problems off the starting line.

“It was a great weekend,” said Gray. “It was a really good weekend for me. We were talking out there I think I’ve been to nine semis this year and I haven’t won since U.S. Nationals in 2014. It was a great day. I’ve got one more race to run and then my son is getting in the car so I can’t think of a better time to win. Awesome day.”

Gray also beat Deric Kramer, Bo Butner, and Greg Anderson in earlier rounds.

Jerry Savoie made things interesting in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class when he beat Andrew Hines in the final, setting up a three driver battle separated by just three points for the championship in Pomona. Teammates Hines and Krawiec are tied for first with Savoie just three behind them. Hines had an uncharacteristic redlight, handing the win to Savoie who ran a 6.915 second, 194.13 mph pass for the record.

Savoie got by Scotty Pollacheck, LE Tonglet, and Matt Smith en route to the final round matchup with Hines. – Toni Montgomery

Sports Cars: ORECA Officially Reveals the ORECA 07 – On Wednesday afternoon, French constructor ORECA revealed their new LMP2 challenger, the ORECA 07, for the first time at Paul Ricard Circuit.  The new car, which replaces the rarely seen in America ORECA 05, will compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) starting next season.
According to ORECA, the new 07 is based upon the outgoing 05, but features “radically different aero[dynamics] as well as significantly increased efficiency and downforce.”  WEC and ELMS regular Nicolas Lapierre had the honors of shaking down the chassis on Wednesday and took the car on several runs to develop a baseline for the car’s development over the next month and change.  Lapierre was rather pleased with what he experienced.
“Sensations on board the ORECA 07 were immediately very good,” Lapierre was quoted as saying by ORECA.  “The ORECA 07 really represents a significant step forward from the ORECA 05. The level of attention brought to detail is impressive and really shows in the car’s excellent behaviour. A while ago, engineers shown me a really beautiful car, improved on all aspects. And I could just really feel that concretely from the moment I started testing it. I’m loving it already! We’ve just kept on running without any trouble and that was a really good working session, really calm. It actually makes me want to get back to the track again. The ORECA 07 really ushers in a new era for the LMP2 class.”
Here in the United States, the ORECA 07 will be eligible to race in two different versions.  One is a regular LMP2 version, while the other would be a DPi version with an upgraded engine from a GT3 car and special bodywork.   As of right now, only the regular version of the car has been confirmed for IMSA in 2017.  The regular LMP2 version of the ORECA 07 with the Gibson V8 engine will be fielded full-time by JDC/Miller MotorSports next season.  No drivers have been announced as of yet.  No teams have stepped up to create a DPi prototype based on the ORECA 07 as of yet, but it is possible. – Phil Allaway

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When is Kyle not whining? Oh yeah, when things go his way. It comes down to character! He has not changed. Don’t care what the fawning media says, if it was someone else….”they have a bad attitude”. The guy is a Richard Head.


And Brian is Gordon Gekko. He hasn’t found out that greed is not good.

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