Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Bowman’s Big Day, Sadler’s Penalty and a Wet Brazilian Grand Prix

Sprint Cup: Career Day for Alex Bowman in Phoenix – It seems like Alex Bowman has truly made the most of every opportunity he’s found in 2016.

That statement hit the ceiling in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, when Bowman became the fastest driver in the Sprint Cup Series, leading 194 of 324 laps.

Becoming the pied piper in Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s car, Bowman turned a pole-winning Chevrolet into a sixth-place finish despite being involved in a late-race crash with race leader Matt Kenseth.

“I was up against the inside wall when him and I made contact,” Bowman said. “Just unfortunate, I hate that for Matt.”

Though he battled from Lap 1 to Lap 324 against all the top Chase contenders, Bowman showed the maturity to put the intensity to the side to battle in what could’ve been the biggest race of his career.

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” he said with a smile. “I sure hope so. We’ll find out in Daytona.” – Zach Catanzareti

Camping World Truck Series: William Byron, Tyler Reddick Face Need to Perform at Homestead – While all eyes will be on the Championship 4, and for good reason, Tyler Reddick and William Byron would each love nothing more than to play Chase spoiler next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. For Byron, it would be redemption for the disappointment after a blown motor at Phoenix dropped him out of the championship battle, despite the substantial amount of success he’s seen this year. No matter what happens Friday night, Byron will move on to race with JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series next season, so the perfect way to cap off the year he’s had would be celebrating in Victory Lane in his final race with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Meanwhile, Reddick will be racing for the next step in his career. Last week, the driver of the No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford revealed he will not return to the team next season. Speculation is that Reddick will end up in the second Team Penske ride as the organization expands its XFINITY Series effort, but because nothing has been announced, Reddick could very well be racing to prove his worth to potential future partners. – Beth Lunkenheimer

XFINITY Series: Elliott Sadler and his Team will be Put to the Test – The good news for Elliott Sadler is that after a strong season, he and the No. 1 team will race for a championship next week at Homestead.  The bad news is that he will race without crew chief Kevin Meendering.  NASCAR found that Sadler’s car had multiple loose lug nuts following Saturday night’s XFINITY Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.  As a result, Meendering has been suspended for the final race of the season.

Sadler joins teammate Justin Allgaier, as well as Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez in the Championship Round.  Without Meendering, an already tough road to the tile gets even tougher.  The team has not determined who will fill in for Sadler as crew chief, but JR Motorsports competition director Ryan Pemberton is one possibility.
A crew chief suspension is not a fatal blow to Sadler’s title hopes.  Meendering will not be at the race track, but he can help prepare the car at the shop and be in touch with the team during the race.  The bigger concern for the No. 1 team is that this is the second week in which the team left lug nuts loose at the end of a race.  Sadler has stayed in the game all season by avoiding mistakes and making bad days as good as possible.  Yet at Phoenix, the No. 1 team made a major mistake during a race in which the plan was obviously to avoid mistakes, considering Sadler hovered around 10th all evening.
In his post race remarks, Sadler noted that he would have to be a leader at Homestead and pull his team together.  As a veteran of the sport who has raced for championships before, Sadler is up to the task.  But the No. 1 team must have one more race without any major issues if it expects to take home the big prize. – Bryan Gable
Sports Cars: VisitFlorida.com Racing to Race Riley Mk. XXX; 14 entered for Daytona Open Test – With the Daytona Prototype era coming to an end at Road Atlanta last month, the question of what cars the teams that raced DP’s would use next season has been at the top of many sports car fans’ minds. Officially, only a couple of announcements have been made, none of which from teams that were full-time Prototype squads in 2016 that plan on racing full-time this year.  VisitFlorida.com Racing (also known as Spirit of Daytona Racing) broke that record on Thursday.
VisitFlorida.com Racing announced that they will be starting the 2017 season with a Riley Mk. XXX chassis with the Gibson V8 engine.  Under the new Prototype rules for 2017, the Riley chassis is one of the four approved LMP2 chassis in both IMSA and the WEC for the 2017 season.  In IMSA, those chassis can run in regular setup with the Gibson engine, or in DPi-spec with a GT3 engine and manufacturer-specific bodywork.  Regardless of the choice, the cars will be balanced in order to be competitive with each other.
VisitFlorida.com Racing has not received their new Riley chassis as of yet.  The team’s press release indicates that they will receive the chassis sometime next month.  Because of that, the team will miss this week’s open test at Daytona International Speedway.
Currently, 14 cars are entered in the test.  PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports will debut their new Ligier JS P217-Gibson with Tom Kimber-Smith, Jose Gutierrez and returning driver (from 2013) Mike Guasch.  Two PC teams and one GTLM squad (BMW Team RLL) will be present.  However, it is the GTD class that is the most interesting.  The test will mark the American public debut of the new Lexus RC-F GT3 with the lineup of Scott Pruett, Sage Karam, Robert Alon and Jack Hawksworth driving.  Michael Shank Racing’s two Acura NSX GT3’s will also be out to play.  Joining the four full-season drivers announced a couple of weeks ago will be Mark Wilkins and IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge veteran Tom Dyer.  Finally, SunEnergy1 Racing will be on-track with their No. 75 Mercedes AMG GT3 for owner/driver Kenny Habul, Boris Said and Tristan Vautier (all three drivers drove together in Daytona back in January for Stevenson Motorsports). – Phil Allaway

NHRA: That’s a Wrap on 2016 – NHRA wrapped up the 2016 season today in the same place they started it with the 52nd Annual Auto Club NHRA Finals from Pomona, California. Three champions were crowned (Antron Brown locked Top Fuel up in Las Vegas) and four event winners, none of whom were the champions, also earned a Wally on Sunday.

Ron Capps had previously been the winningest driver in NHRA to not win a championship, and had finished in the runner-up spot four times, but that all changed when Capps locked up his first Funny Car title during qualifying on Saturday.

“I can’t even tell you how focused (crew chief) Rahn Tobler has been this year,” Capps said. “I almost gave up trying so hard and wishing so hard and just focused on winning races. With everything we got this year-my 50th career win, passing some people I really looked up to in the sport with wins-that’s mind-boggling for me. This was the toughest Funny Car class ever and the 50th anniversary of the Funny Car, which was awesome. What a great, great season.”

He bowed out in the second round on Sunday to John Force, who would go on to the finals to take on Capps’ teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.

Johnson, Jr. was able to beat Force on a holeshot to parlay his 3.918 second, 321.81 mph pass into a winner over Force’s 3.918 mph, 321.81 seconds. Johnson also got by Dave Richards, Robert Hight, and Courtney Force in earlier rounds to advance to the finals. The win also put Johnson into second in the final Funny Car driver standings.

Top Fuel’s second place 2016 driver Doug Kalitta also capped off his season with a win when he faced off against teammate J.R. Todd in the finals. Kalitta also won a holeshot with a 3.745 second, 326.63 mph pass to Todd’s 3.704 seconds, 327.90 mph.

Kalitta also beat Shawn Reed, Tony Schumacher, and Shawn Langdon on his way to the matchup with Todd.

Rounding out the holeshot wins in the finals was Greg Anderson, who went 6.580 seconds, 210.24 mph to beat teammate Jason Line’s 6.570 seconds, 211.43 mph. The win was Anderson’s 86th career victory, good for sole possession of 2nd spot on the all-time wins list. Anderson also beat Aaron Strong, Shane Gray, and Bo Butner to face off against Line.

Anderson will leave knowing he did everything he could do to secure his fifth championship, but it wasn’t quite enough as Line, who led by about two rounds of racing coming into the race, also marched through the ladder and locked it up with a semi-final win over Erica Enders-Stevens. Anderson had to settle for second.

Pro Stock Motorcycle had the tightest of battles coming in, with teammates Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines tied for first and Jerry Savoie right behind them. Savoie locked up fastest qualifier and passed the teammates for the lead, and then proceeded to work his way through the ladder. He went out in the semifinals to Angelle Sampey, but he’d already won the championship when both Hines and Krawiec fell out in the second round.

The race would go to Matt Smith, who scored the first win for Victory Motorcycles when he defeated Sampey in the finals. Sampey tripped the red light while Smith ran 8.044 seconds, 117.34 mph to cruise to the win.

“It’s been a long time coming – three years since I have won and the first one for Victory so it’s pretty special,” said Smith.

He also beat Hector Arana, Eddie Krawiec, and Hector Arana, Jr. in earlier rounds. – Toni Montgomery

Formula 1: Soaked Track Mars Brazilian Grand Prix – Lewis Hamilton scored another win for Mercedes and teammate Nico Rosberg finished second to keep his title hopes in view as the series heads to Abu Dhabi for the finale.

Rain influenced the entirety of the race with it beginning behind the safety car before finally going green. While at one point the rain looked like it might dissipate but that idea proved to be nothing but a mirage. Sebastian Vettel’s spin illustrated that fact and precipitated one of the two red flags that confused the running of the event.

Teams attempted varying strategies to move their way forward in the wet conditions but the wet tyres were the way to go. Red Bull had switched Max Verstappen onto intermediate wets in hoping he might put the fight to Hamilton but that never came to pass.

Verstappen took the third spot on the podium while Sergio Perez took fourth with Sebastian Vettel, recovering from an early spin, to take fifth. Six drivers failed to finish the race after suffering through the conditions.

Rosberg needs to finish second at the season finale to earn his first driver’s championship regardless of where Hamilton may cross the line. The race will take place in two weeks. – Huston Ladner

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The rain in Brazil certainly caused some drama throughout the field yesterday. Of course the two Mercedes out in front were in a league of their own, but for everybody else it was a lottery. The different tire strategy made for some uncertainty that Nascar could certainly use.


In my 45 year state of arrested development, “wet Brazilian” made me laugh.

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