Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Pair of Winless Streaks Snapped by Ryan Newman and Justin Allgaier in the Desert, Along with Sebring Chaos

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Ryan Newman Snaps Personal and RCR Winless Streak – Ryan Newman might just be the epitome of the phrase “where did he come from” for the past ten years. In four of his last six victories, the “rocket man” led 12 or less laps on his way to victory.

Three of those four wins came as the result of a strategy call on the final caution of the race, with just a handful of laps to go.  Sunday’s Camping World 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway is just the latest example of this, where Newman led just the final six laps on his way to his 18th Cup Series victory.

Compare that to Kyle Larson, who finished second for the third consecutive weekend in a row. Larson comes out of Phoenix as the points leader, but after being so close in the first four races of 2017 (He also led on the final lap of the Daytona 500 before running out of gas), it has to be getting a bit frustrating at this point to be so close, yet so far, from Victory Lane.

Newman caught a bit of a lucky break — it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and he is from South Bend, Indiana, after all. But at this point, Larson has to just want a win in any way. – Michael Finley 

XFINITY Series: Justin Allgaier Puts a Whoopin’ on the Field – Leading 85 laps, and picking up 54 points, Justin Allgaier went on to win his fourth career XFIINTY Series race, and first for JR Motorsports.

Allgaier came from the fifth starting position to record his first victory since 2012 at Circuit Gilles Villenueve, competing for Turner Scott Motorsports. On that summer day, he passed hometown hero Jaques Villenueve on the final lap. At Phoenix, the No. 7 team controlled the race.

Finishing ahead of a pair of Cup Series regulars Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones, Allgaier became the first XFINITY Series regular to win an event in 2017. He also claimed an additional $100,000 bonus in the Dash 4 Cash for being the first XFINITY Series driver in the running order.

Looking ahead to Auto Club Speedway, Austin Dillon is the defending winner, passing Kyle Busch in the final corner of last year’s race. Brennan Poole and Michael Annett are each riding a wave of momentum, coming off their first top-10 finish of 2017 at Phoenix. – Dustin Albino

NHRA: Fresh Faces at the Gatornationals – Neither Leah Pritchett or Matt Hagan were able to make it three wins in a row to open the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season as a host of fresh faces hoisted the Wally at the end of the day in Gainesville as winners at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.
While Pritchett came up short, the win still stayed in the Don Schumacher Racing Family as teammates Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown contested the final in Top Fuel. Schumacher prevailed with a run of 3.703 seconds, 329.26 mph to Brown’s 3.764 seconds, 322.65 mph. Schumacher also defeated Smax Smith, Clay Millican, and Steve Torrence in earlier rounds.
DSR got shut out of the Funny Car final as John Force took on rookie driver Jonnie Lindberg. Lindberg who moved up to the Nitro classes and replaced Chad Head in the Head, Inc. Funny Car for this season. It was an impressive run to the finals for Lindberg, but John Force was unstoppable most of the weekend and ran a 3.928 second, 328.14 mph lap to beat Lindberg’s 3.971 seconds, 314.83 mph and score his eighth Gatornationals win.
“I’ve lived on music in my old Chevy,” Force said. “I can remember when I was 15 years old driving around without a driver’s license and the music carried me. Every day, the Beach Boys, Merle Haggard. I lived that life and you find yourself. I don’t go to a race without believing I can win. The day I don’t believe I can win, then it’s time for me to quit. It’s like a roller coaster ride and I’m still a kid driving that ’54 Chevy listening to the Beach Boys, and I found the music. They are going to be sorry I found the music, trust me.”
Force also got by Del Worsham, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. on his way to the finals.
Shane Gray was supposed to retire, but has been running the “test car” for the family team to help his son, Tanner, who is making his rookie run this year. It might be a test car, but it was fast enough to defeat Greg Anderson in the finals, running 6.535 seconds, 212.96 mph to Anderson’s 6.560 seconds, 213.43 mph.
“I wasn’t supposed to win,” Gray said. “When you’re testing parts you’re not supposed to win which is basically what we’re doing with my car. We had a lucky day today. There were some round wins when the car pulled me out of the hole and there were a couple rounds where I pulled the car out of the hole. It was a complete team effort today.”
Gray raced his way past Allen Johnson, Erica Enders and Chris McGaha before meeting up with Anderson.
Pro Stock Motorcycle made its 2017 debut in Gainesville, seeing Eddie Krawiec face off against Vance & Hines teammate Andrew Hines in the finals where Krawiec turned on the win light for his second consecutive and fifth total time at Gainesville. Krawiec ran 6.763 at 199.76 to beat Hines’ 6.802 second, 197.10 mph rug n.
Krawiec got by Mike Berry, Matt Smith and Joey Gladstone en route to the finals. – Toni Montgomery
Sports Cars: Sebring Once Again Shows Reputation as Car-Breaker – Sebring International Raceway is one of the oldest permanent road courses in the United States.  Parts of the course still have original concrete from when the track was Hendricks Army Airfield, a World War II-era training base.  As can be assumed with 70-plus-year old concrete, it is incredibly bumpy.  The track has a reputation for being hard on cars and Saturday’s 12 Hours of Sebring was no exception.
Yes, the Cadillac DPi-V.R.’s went 1-2-3, but even they weren’t immune to issues as the No. 31 entry spun and stalled in the middle of Sunset Bend to bring out a yellow.  Both Mazdas had issues, including rear brake failure for the No. 70 of Joel Miller that led to a crash.  Tequila Patron ESM’s Nissan DPi entries had numerous issues.  The pole sitting ORECA 07-Gibson for REBELLION Racing went through three alternators before retiring.  Despite Corvette Racing’s No. 3 winning the GT Le Mans class, the No. 4 dropped out early due to overheating issues.
Another unusual issue was the left front issue that ultimately put the WeatherTech Racing Mercedes out of the race.  The car was running great until the left front corner broke on the car.  Cooper MacNeil was forced to limp a car with a mind of its own back to the pits.  The car was retired shortly afterwards. – Phil Allaway
Short Tracks: Solomito Scores Modified Win, Eggleston Nabs First K&N West Victory, Schatz and Gravel Top World of Outlaw Sprints – The new unified Whelen Modified Tour kicked off Saturday with the first ever visit by the tour to Myrtle Beach Speedway. The Southern Tour ran a race there in 2009. The race was a cornucopia of strategies with new live pit stop rules limiting teams to changing one tire on any given pit stop.
The race saw comers, goers and a couple large wrecks in the closing laps that eliminated some strong cars and put a damper on a few drivers’ plans. In the end, Timmy Solomito put all of the pieces together and survived a green-white-checkered finish to grab the first ever trophy for the unified Whelen Modified Tour. Rob Summers, Andy Seuss, Ryan Preece and Max Zachem rounded out the top five.

As part of the Performance Plus 300 race day at Myrtle Beach, the regular season opened for the local divisions, including Late Models. The first race of the season was also the inaugural race in the Daytona 1 Beach Madness. Lee Pulliam scored his second victory at the track in 2017 having also grabbed the big trophy in the IceBreaker at the beginning of February. Four-time track champion Sam Yarbrough came home second. Brian Vause, Justin Milliken and Jeremy McDowell made up the remainder of the top five.

Donny Schatz has owned the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series for the last few years. He is not letting off of the gas this season, scoring his sixth win of the year at Tulare on Saturday night. Schatz made a spirited charge from third to first in the closing laps to snag the victory. On Friday night it was David Gravel who passed Shane Stewart with two laps to go to grab his first win of 2017.

The K&N West series kicked off their 2017 season at Tucson Speedway on Saturday night. Todd Gilliland started on pole and led the first four laps before outside front row starter Chris Eggleston snared the top spot. Eggleston led 20 laps before Gilliland went back to the point. The two drivers swapped the lead a couple more times before Gilliland went on a 60-lap tear to Lap 91. Eggleston went back around the 16-year-old and drove to the victory over the final 59 laps. Two restarts in the final 24 laps made things interesting, but Eggleston held on to score his first ever K&N West race. – Mike Neff

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