Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Dave Steele Killed at Desoto Speedway, Comebacks Galore in the Cup Series and Kyle Larson’s Winning Ways

Short Tracks: Dave Steele Succumbs to Injuries at Desoto Speedway – In a reminder that there is inherent danger in all forms of racing, USAC and open wheel superstar Dave Steele passed away from injuries sustained in a crash at Desoto Speedway in Bradenton, Florida. Steele was competing in a Southern Sprintcar Shootout Series race at the facility. The Southern Sprintcars are winged sprint cars that are light weight, high horsepower racing machines.

Steele won 60 career USAC races in all three of the disciplines of the sanctioning body. Steele was a two time National Champion in the Silver Crown division (2004 and 2005). He has 26 career Sprint wins, 18 career Midget wins and 16 career Silver Crown wins. He won the Turkey Night Grand Prix, one of the biggest Midget races in the country, twice.

Steele won the first five races in the history of the Southern Sprintcar Shootout Series and 14 in its short history and its inaugural championship. He was also a two-time winner of the Little 500 at Anderson Speedway. Steele won 100 races in the state of Florida.

At the start of the race at Desoto, he went to the outside of a car in the first turn. The cars touched wheels and Steele spun, hitting the wall with the left side of his car. The incident did not look exceptionally violent, but it was obviously hard enough to end Steele’s life. Thoughts and prayers go out to Steele’s family, friends and the entire racing community who always feel the pain of loss when one of our own is taken too soon.

Todd Gilliland is the 2016 K&N West champion. He has picked up where he left off in 2017. Gilliland has won all four pole positions this season and has won the last three races, including both ends of the twin 100s at Irwindale Speedway this weekend. He finished second to his Bill McAnally Racing teammate Chris Eggleston in the season opener at Tucson. Gilliland continues to build an impressive resume that should lead to a shot at a national touring series ride in the near future.

The PASS ran at Orange County Speedway Saturday. Matt Craig made a pass on Preston Peltier with two laps to go to secure the win. A dive bomb move by Craig into turn three resulted in Peltier making contact with the outside wall. That contact crippled Peltier’s car and relegated him to a third place finish. Craig’s car was also damaged and smoked its way to the finish as Ben Rowe charged hard but came up just short. Kodie Conner and Tate Fogelman rounded out the top five. PASS placed Craig on probation and fined him for rough driving.

Mike Neff

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Comebacks Galore Sunday at Auto Club Speedway – With many drivers falling behind the field due to accidents, penalties, bad restarts, etc., many came back to earn solid finishes at the competition of the Auto Club 400.

Starting up top, Brad Keselowski was the first man in trouble when the green flag waved, suffering rear-end damage to his No. 2 car after stacking up on the start of the race caused by Denny Hamlin. Just three laps later, Keselowski spun off the front bumper of Jimmie Johnson.

That was where he fond some luck as his front splitter was given mercy from the treacherous infield grass. The No. 2 car stormed to the front when it counted, coming home second.

In his path was a comeback story of a different kind in Clint Bowyer. The first-year Stewart-Haas Racing driver ran up front consistently for the first time in nearly two years toward a third-place result. He sure is having fun again.

Not far behind the No. 14 was Joey Logano, who at times joined Keselowski in the mid-pack storm after starting from the rear in his No. 22 car. He rebounded for fifth, while Daniel Suarez took advantage of a free pass late to score a second top-10 finish in a row in seventh.

Completing the top dozen were Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon, who each experienced pit road penalties on Lap 63 and rallied back in ninth and 11th.

Finally, Kevin Harvick had his toughest opening stage of a race in 2017 after suffering nose damage from the Lap 1 stack up. On Lap 25, the No. 4 had a flat tire, which kept him off the lead lap for a good bit of the race. Still, Harvick came back for a decent 13th.

The two drivers of the race may have been Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr., but the rest of the field sure had an interesting day. – Zach Catanzareti

XFINITY Series: Kyle Larson Scores Win, First Track with Multi-Triumphs 

Saturday marked the third race this season that the stars of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series dominated an XFINITY Series event. Reasons for the two they haven’t is one was a restrictor plate race, the other was a Dash 4 Cash race that limited Cup Series drivers in the race.

Logano and Kyle Busch dominated much of the race, leading all but 24 circuits. The No. 18 car gave the field a head start after qualifying 16th. However, by the end of the first stage, Busch worked his way up to the lead, winning stage Nos. 1 and 2.

Larson caught Logano with 20 laps to go, as the No. 42 car had much fresher tires. It took eight laps for him to finally pass the No. 22 car, only for their to be a caution four laps later when Brandon Jones had a tire explode.

Larson held on to solidify the victory, recording his second win at Auto Club Speedway, the other coming in 2014. It marks the first track that Larson has multi-wins at in any NASCAR series.

Despite the Cup Series regulars controlling the pace of the race, William Byron led one lap, and was the highest finishing XFINITY Series driver in fifth. It’s his second consecutive top-five finish, and he sits second in the championship standings, trailing his JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler by 17 markers heading into the series first off-week. – Dustin Albino 


Sports Cars: The WEC Changes Up Their Broadcast Team – Last week, the FIA World Endurance Championship announced changes to the broadcast team that provides commentary on the world feed.  In past years, John Hindhaugh and DailySportsCar.com’s Graham Goodwin provided the commentary.  That will not be the case in 2017.

For this season, Martin Haven and Toby Moody will share the play-by-play commentator role.  Haven, who has 20 years of commentary experience, is considered to be the primary play-by-play man and will front five of the eight races.  To American viewers, Moody is best known for coverage of Red Bull Global RallyCross events and the Dakar Rally.  Former Audi Sport Team Joest racer Allan McNish will be an expert analyst for six of the eight races.  The WEC did not specify which six events that McNish will be in the booth for.

While Hindhaugh will not have a TV presence in 2017, he will be still be a regular in WEC coverage. He will be on play-by-play for the WEC’s radio broadcasts.  Goodwin will likely join him there, but will still have an undisclosed role on WEC’s TV broadcasts.

The only personality that appears to be back for the full season is Louise Beckett, who will return as the broadcast’s pit reporter full-time.  The WEC’s press release describes Beckett as having a “… cool, unruffled presence [that] brings real added value to the broadcast team.”

WEC teams will be at Circuit Paul Ricard this week for the Prologue test.  The season opens with the 6 Hours of Silverstone on Apr. 16.   Coverage will air on FOX Sports. – Phil Allaway

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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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