Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Harvick’s Speeding Issues, Kyle Busch Dominates XFINITY and Christopher Bell Sends a Message

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Kevin Harvick was literally too fast for Atlanta Motor Speedway – Leading 293 of 325 laps, pole-sitter Kevin Harvick looked to be home free in his second race with Ford. Lightning-fast pit stops, the top spot on every restart and playoff points in both stages. It sure was a perfect day in the making.

And then it all came to an end on the final pit stop as Harvick was busted for being too fast on pit lane. The massive mistake opened the door for Brad Keselowski to take the win, his first at Atlanta.

Surprisingly, Harvick is still winless at Atlanta Motor Speedway since his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win in 2001.

“This place, for whatever reason, I just feel like I’m snake-bitten,” Harvick said. “It’s my own doing today. I thought I was being conservative, apparently, I wasn’t. I was just pushing it too hard.”

Leaving the racetrack in an embrace with team owner Tony Stewart and crew chief Rodney Childers, Harvick can hold his head high. It may be early, but after Kurt Busch’s Daytona 500 win and his wicked Atlanta pace, Harvick and Co. sure have proved the Ford-doubting naysayers wrong. – Zach Catanzareti

XFINITY Series: Cup Series regulars dominate – For the second time in his career, Kyle Busch took the checkered flag at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the XFINITY Series. Starting from the pole, the No. 18 car was out front for 26 circuits, making the final pass for the lead off pit road with less than 20 laps to go.

The first four finishers on Saturday were all Cup Series regulars. Combined, Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick led all of the 163 laps. The No. 41 car dominated the middle portion, pacing the field for a race-high 64 laps.

Elliott Sadler was the first XFINITY Series driver in the running order. The comeback story of the race was Darrell Wallace Jr. after he smacked the wall in the opening stage, coming within inches of going a lap down. But the No. 6 car came back to finish sixth.

Next week, the series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the annual NASCAR Goes West tour. Busch is the defending winner of the Boyd Gaming 300,leading all but one lap, picking up his first career XFINITY Series victory at his home race track. – Dustin Albino

Christopher Bell poses with the winner’s trophy after claiming his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of 2017. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)

Camping World Truck Series: Christopher Bell Sends a Message to the Field – Last weekend at Daytona International Speedway, the top-three finishers were virtual unknowns after a last-lap crash saw several top contenders collected. But fast forward to Atlanta, where Christopher Bell made a statement that he’s here to race for the championship this season.

After being involved in multiple incidents at Daytona, Bell and the No. 4 team still managed to walk away eighth-place finish. This week, he started on the pole and outraced team owner Kyle Busch, while leading 99 of 130 laps. Though he lost some ground during the final stage of the race, Bell kept his cool and methodically worked his way to the front once again when it mattered most. As it stands now, he’s the only driver this season to have top-10 results in both races.

Obviously, two races is hardly a flash in the pan for the season. However, Bell has shown that he’s matured quite substantially since his rookie season. And that could make the difference coming down the stretch later this year. – Beth Lunkenheimer 

Sports Cars: Trans Am Coverage Returns to CBS Sports Network; Machavern Wins Season-Opener – On Friday, the Trans-Am Race Company announced a new contract that will see tape delayed coverage of six of the series’ 13 race weekends aired on CBS Sports Network.  Each weekend will have two race broadcasts.  One will be a multi-class race featuring the headlining TA-class, along with the TA3 and the TA4 classes that feature production-based racers.  The other will be an exclusive race for the TA2 class, which features purpose-built race cars based on pony cars (Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger) and close action.

The six race weekends that will be televised are Detroit, Indianapolis, Brainerd, Mid-Ohio, Road America and Circuit of the Americas.  The Detroit races support the Verizon IndyCar Series, while the Mid-Ohio and Road America events support the NASCAR XFINITY Series.  The other three are standalone weekends.

Carolinas Broadcast Group will produce the race broadcasts and owner Rick Benjamin will be back on play-by-play duties for the broadcasts.  In the past, Michael McDowell has served as Benjamin’s booth analyst.

The TV deal doesn’t kick in until Round No. 4 of the Championship.  The season actually got underway this weekend at Sebring International Raceway.  In the TA race, Cliff Ebben won the season opener in his Ford Mustang over Tomy Drissi.  This was Drissi’s first race back after a year-long suspension following antics at Mid-Ohio in 2015.  Fall-Line Motorsports owner Mark Boden won the TA3 class while Brian Kleeman won the TA4 class in his Ford Mustang.  In the TA2 race, CTSC regular Dillon Machavern led flag-to-flag to claim victory over 74 Ranch Racing’s Gar Robinson and Shane Lewis. – Phil Allaway

Formula one: Ferrari Fast in Barcelona – The first round of offseason on-track testing is complete for teams competing in F1 this season. All the cars who recorded times feature the new designs for 2017, and the early reactions have been positive.

The re-designs were also something that many hoped would mitigate Mercedes’ stranglehold on the competition, and right now there may be a sliver of a reason to believe that to be the case. While Mercedes held its customary position near the top of the leaderboard on all four days of testing, February 27 – March, 2, Ferrari also proved that they have made gains in their time since last season’s finale. On the second and fourth day of testing, Kimi Raikkonen led the way for the Marinello outfit.

The British press, in their ever eager way to throw cold water on the situation purported that Mercedes were not running their engines at full song and were instead focusing on reliability and handling. That may be the case, but the season would open with a greater deal of excitement should there be a team or two able to race with the Silver Arrows at the front. – Huston Ladner

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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