Sprint Cup: Kyle Larson’s Race That Won’t Be Remembered – It was all happening behind Kyle Larson. The cameras, the eye balls, the tension – all of it centered around the Championship 4 drivers, who fought tooth and nail for the 2016 Sprint Cup Series championship.
While the title drivers of Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch pushed one another to the limit in the 400-mile season finale, Larson put on a clinic.
Leading 132 laps – the most in his Cup career for a single race – Larson kept his head on his shoulders during multiple battles with Edwards to solidify himself as the one to beat in the year’s biggest race.
Then again, nobody was surprised.
Larson, who ran in both the Camping World Truck and XFINITY Series races at Homestead, led a total of 99 laps leading up to Sunday, proving to be a favorite for Sunday.
However, it was a bit out of character to see a dominating performance from a Chip Ganassi Racing car in 2016 and Larson has struggled to stay off the Miami walls in past races.
Despite the concerns, it wasn’t until an Overtime restart where we saw Larson lose the top spot when eventual race winner and champion Jimmie Johnson made the pass with two laps to go.
With the lack of attention – which was understandable due to the stellar level of competition for the title – Larson put up his best fight for his second Cup win. – Zach Catanzareti
XFINITY: Daniel Suarez Finishes Strong Again – Nearly a year ago, much was made about how Daniel Suarez would have been the 2015 XFINITY Series champion if NASCAR used the elimination-style Chase format. After an up and down start, Suarez capped off 2015 with a great run of strong finishes. Six straight top 10 finishes would have vaulted Suarez to the title under the Sprint Cup postseason rules.
Now, at the end of the 2016 XFINITY season, there are no what-ifs for Suarez. In his second year on the tour, Suarez got off to a much better start, but the way he finished the season really made the difference. Through all seven Chase races, Suarez never finished outside the top five. It was a remarkable run, demonstrating the ability of the No. 19 team to perform at its best in the races that mattered most. And of course, Suarez’s win at Homestead was the perfect way to end a nearly-perfect Chase. – Bryan Gable
Truck Series: Johnny Sauter Breaks Through, What Will The Future Be For GMS? –
Johnny Sauter spent seven years being the bridesmaid at Thorsport Racing. Teammate Matt Crafton
captured multiple titles while Sauter suffered through bad luck and missed opportunities.
It only took one year for the veteran to turn the tables. Joining GMS Racing this offseason, a risky move considering the comfy confines of his former job Sauter was rewarded quickly. The No. 21 team won their first race together, at Daytona in February and went on to earn 19 top-10 finishes over 23 races, a career best for both sides.
The partnership peaked in the first ever Truck Series Chase, an eight-race stint that saw Sauter win twice and never run lower than 10th in the final eight races. A 1-1-2-3 ending to his season, culminating with a third-place charge at Homestead produced the series title he’s long sought. In a touch of irony it was old teammate Crafton who got passed down the stretch; the former champ faded while the future one fought his way to the front.
GMS and owner Maurice Gallagher, Jr. rode the wave of Sauter’s success. Their team, just a one-truck effort three years ago has burst on the scene with impressive results. Four full-time trucks registered six wins, two Chase appearances and four poles; only Kyle Busch Motorsports had more.
It’s a rise that has many wondering where, and how GMS moves forward from here. Spencer Gallagher is rumored to be full-time XFINITY next season, a further expansion as the money pours in and more sponsorship accumulates. Is Gallagher building a foundation that will lead to Cup? The owner claims he’s “distant” from the team but all signs certainly point there. Let’s hope GMS is on a march in that direction because the sport could certainly use some fresh owners trying to work their way up. – Tom Bowles
Sports Cars: Tears and Fears for Audi – For Audi Sport, this past weekend marked the very end for the company’s wildly successful prototype program. After 18 years and over 100 victories, the LMP1 program shutdown in the best possible way with a 1-2 finish in the season finale for the FIA World Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of Bahrain.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Sport, was an emotional mess for much of the race, but broke down in tears in the final minutes as the trio of Lucas Di Grassi, Loïc Duval and Oliver Jarvis brought the No. 8 Audi R18 home for a dominant victory. The No. 7 Audi R18 of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoit Tréluyer was 16.419 seconds back in second. Porsche Team’s No. 1 919 Hybrid featuring Mark Webber in his final career race in third, 77 seconds behind.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, there was an invitational race for GT3-spec cars on the streets of the autonomous territory known as Macau. The Macau Grand Prix is historically best known as the biggest race in the world for Formula 3 racers. In recent years, the race weekend has been expanded with motorcycle racing, (until recently) races for the World Touring Car Championship, and for this year, the FIA GT World Cup.
In the main race, an early crash slowed the proceedings considerably and put the race on time. Audi’s Laurens Vanthoor was leading the race with a little more than 15 minutes to go when Porsche’s Earl Bamber was able to slip past and take the lead. Exiting the next turn, this happened:
Vanthoor clipped the inside curb in turn 2 (the Hotel Mandarin Oriental Bend), which shot his Audi into the outside wall. The contact sheared the rear wing off of Vanthoor’s Audi R8 LMS GT3. From there, nature took over. Vanthoor’s Audi rode the wall and blew up and over. Given the speed that the crash occurred, Vanthoor proceeded to slide for several hundred feet on his head before coming to a stop, still upside down.
Vanthoor was able to extricate himself from the car and walked away, unhurt. The race ended up being red-flagged for track cleanup. Due to the earlier wreck and time concerns, the race was considered complete. When that happens in FIA-sanctioned races, there is a countback that occurs. Because of that, Vanthoor was declared the winner despite flipping his car. Only five of the scheduled 18 laps were completed when the race was halted. – Phil Allaway
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